Newsline Extra for June 2, 2008

“Celebrating the Church of the Brethren’s 300th Anniversary in 2008”

“…Who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old” (Matthew 13:52b)


1) General Board approves resolution of merger with ABC.
2) Pre-registration for Ministers’ Association meeting closes June 10.
3) Farm labor leader to speak at Global Mission Partnerships Dinner.


4) A year of anniversaries in 2008.
5) McPherson College choir to sing in Germany.
6) Brethren bits: Annual Conference and the 300th Anniversary.

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1) General Board approves resolution of merger with ABC.

The Church of the Brethren General Board has approved its portion of the resolution of merger with the Association of Brethren Caregivers, in preparation for the related business item to come before the 2008 Annual Conference. The General Board met in a special conference call on May 13.

The General Board reviewed the documents related to the merger including year end financial statements from both agencies, and approved the resolution without opposition, after making several minor corrections to the documents. The resolution included the plan and agreement of merger of the two agencies.

The formal documents related to the merger agreement will be posted to the Annual Conference website prior to the 2008 Annual Conference in July, when the delegate body will take official action on the item.

2) Pre-registration for Ministers’ Association meeting closes June 10.

Pre-registration closes soon for the Church of the Brethren Ministers’ Association continuing education event in Richmond, Va., on July 11-12, prior to the 2008 Annual Conference. Pre-registration forms and fees need to be postmarked by June 10. Go to www.brethren.org/ac and click on “Info Packet” under “Annual Conference 2008,” then click on “Specific Conference Events” to find a pdf document including the registration form and detailed information.

“Ways to Worship: Words, Images, and Music in Service to God and Neighbor” is the theme for the event, which will begin with worship at 1 p.m. on July 11, and close with worship at 12 noon on July 12. Bethany Theological Seminary professor Dawn Ottoni Wilhelm, Modesto (Calif.) Church of the Brethren co-pastor Russ Matteson, and Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership director Jonathan Shively will provide leadership.

The event will celebrate three centuries of Brethren worship, and explore the traditions, values, and practices that inform corporate worship among the Brethren. Presentations will be offered on “Better Than Burnt Offerings” (Mark 12:28-34), “The Sights, Sounds, and Technology of Worship,” and “The Music of Worship.” Also, a Ministers’ Association Business Meeting will be held, and an offering will be taken for the Ministry Assistance Fund. A picnic is offered the evening of July 11, for an extra fee.

Cost is $60 per person for those who pre-register, or $90 at the door. A discount is available for clergy couples and seminary, EFSM, or TRIM students. A per-session individual fee also is offered. Child care is $5 per child. Continuing education certificates will be available.

3) Farm labor leader to speak at Global Mission Partnerships Dinner.

Baldemar Velásquez, president and founder of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), AFL-CIO, will speak on “Immigration and Farm Labor: Toward Faithful Policy” at the Global Mission Partnerships Dinner at the 2008 Annual Conference. The event is scheduled for 5 p.m. on July 14 in Salon E of the Richmond (Va.) Marriott.

“Few persons know the pulse of, or speak the voice of farm workers with more authority than Baldemar,” said Phil Jones, director of the Brethren Witness/Washington Office and host for the dinner. “He is well positioned to apply Christian faith values to the current immigration debate. A second generation US farm worker himself, Baldemar has lived within the struggle and violence that affects the agricultural workers of our nation, along with their families. Out of this experience he has committed his life’s work as an adult to organize and advocate for and with the estimated 1.8 million unjustly treated workers who are instrumental in providing food for our tables.”

The Church of the Brethren denomination has a history of partnership with the National Farm Worker Ministry, as one of 40 national, state, and local interfaith religious bodies supporting farm workers’ efforts for justice, Jones noted.

The dinner also will feature vocal and instrumental selections by folk singer Peg Lehman, a member of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., whose songs promote peace and social justice.

–Janis Pyle is mission connections coordinator for the Church of the Brethren General Board.

4) 300th Anniversary update: A year of anniversaries in 2008.

The year 2008 marks the 300th Anniversary of the Brethren movement, but also is a significant anniversary for several denominational programs and institutions.

70 years: Church of the Brethren Credit Union. The Church of the Brethren Credit Union celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. The credit union originally received its Illinois charter on March 17, 1938. It held a reception to celebrate the anniversary and to launch its new program offering checking accounts with debit cards on March 17, at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

60 years: Brethren Volunteer Service. BVS is celebrating its 60th anniversary, since its formal beginning in Sept. 1948 with the arrival of the first volunteers for orientation at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Actions initiating BVS, however, began as early as the 1930s when youth and congregations brought queries to Annual Conference regarding a volunteer service. M.R. Zigler challenged the church’s youth to begin volunteering as early as 1942, but it was not until after a combined work camp and peace institute was held in Salina, Kan., during the summer of 1947 that a true dedication to creating a volunteer service evolved. During the 1948 Annual Conference, Ted Chambers, with the support of Alma Moyers (Long) and General Brotherhood Board staff member Dan West, presented a “Special Statement from Brethren Youth” containing a call for immediate action regarding the instigation of a volunteer service. His proposal was followed by a unanimous vote by the Annual Conference delegates to adopt the resolution. Now, 60 years later, BVS supports 67 volunteers across the US, and 26 placed internationally in locations such as Northern Ireland, Japan, Nigeria, and Central America. To commemorate the anniversary, events have been arranged including the BVS Luncheon at the 2008 Annual Conference, an insight session at Annual Conference with representatives from the six decades of volunteering, a booth at Annual Conference, and a gathering for BVS alumni at the Brethren Service Center on Sept. 26-28. The theme will be, “Faith in Action: BVS Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow.” Online registration at http://www.brethren.org/ will be available soon.

50 years: Ordination of women. This year marks the 50th anniversary of “full and unrestricted rights” for the ordination of women in the Church of the Brethren. Women have been involved in leadership among the Brethren since the first baptisms in 1708, when three of the eight founding members of the movement were women, but it was not until the 1958 Annual Conference that all restrictions were removed from female ministers. Several different celebrations are planned including an Insight Session and a Clergywomen’s Breakfast at the 2008 Annual Conference. The Insight Session will focus on the actual decision-making process at previous Annual Conferences regarding the ordination of women, while the breakfast will focus on women’s involvement in the church prior to 1958. In addition, the Clergywomen’s Retreat planned for 2009 will feature a special worship service on women in the ministry. The National Older Adult Conference this fall is planning a celebration to take place on the first day, including drama, singing, and choral readings.

50 years: Celebration of National Youth Conference (NYC) at National Older Adult Conference (NOAC). During the summer of 1958, 2,800 Brethren youth gathered at the shore of Lake Junaluska, N.C., for National Youth Conference. Fifty years later, many of those same “youth” will once again gather by the same lake shore for the 2008 National Older Adult Conference. In honor of those who are returning after 50 years, a celebration has been planned during NOAC, on Sept. 3. The event is open to all, regardless of participation in the 1958 NYC. Go to http://www.brethren-caregivers.org/ to see photos from the NYC at Lake Junaluska 50 years ago, and more information about this year’s NOAC, to be held on Sept. 1-5 on the theme “Come to the Water” from Isaiah 41:18.

25 years: Global Food Crisis Fund. The fund is a ministry of the Global Mission Partnerships of the General Board, established in 1983 and currently celebrating its 25th anniversary. The Global Food Crisis Fund is the Church of the Brethren’s main program created to assist hungry people by developing food security programs around the world. Grants have been provided in many countries including Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nigeria, and North Korea. These grants are used to fund livestock, seed, tools, and other necessary elements to help fight hunger. The fund also is involved in efforts to support small economic ventures, improve dietary practices, encourage resources for studying advocacy and hunger issues, and oil conservation measures. Celebrations of the anniversary include the Kids Regnuh Poster Contest for children ages 6-14 to take interest in helping to stop world hunger. The children’s artwork will be displayed at Annual Conference and on the Global Food Crisis Fund website. Another initiative of the anniversary year is an effort to increase the number of Brethren-led growing projects from 17 in 2007 to 25 in 2008. Growing projects are a joint program with the Foods Resource Bank, with start-up grants provided by the Global Food Crisis Fund, supported by neighboring or community churches, businesses, and community groups.

10 years: Congregational Life Ministry. Created 10 years ago during the redesign of the General Board, the denomination’s Congregational Life Ministry is composed of the Youth and Young Adult Ministry and five Congregational Life Teams, each related to a specific geographical area of the country. The ministry was created to help existing churches answer questions about aspects of church and community life. It also offers resources and leadership training to help strengthen individual and congregational responses to God’s call. In addition to a booth at Annual Conference, the anniversary will be recognized by an article in “Messenger” magazine.

–Jamie Denlinger contributed this report while working as an intern with Brethren Press. The editor invites submissions of milestone anniversaries in 2008 of other institutions related to the Church of the Brethren; e-mail to cobnews@brethren.org including any plans for celebration events.

5) McPherson College choir to sing in Germany.

On May 18, the McPherson (Kan.) College European Choir presented a concert previewing a selection of pieces from the program that the choir will sing in Europe this summer.

Several years ago the McPherson College Choir was selected as the Church of the Brethren college choir invited to sing for the church’s 300th anniversary celebration in Schwarzenau, Germany, on Aug. 2-3. The choir will perform a concert as a part of a weekend-long celebration to several thousand American and German guests, and will sing at the Sunday morning celebratory worship service.

On July 18, 46 choir members and choir alumni will depart for a three-week tour that includes Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, and Holland. In addition to performances in Germany and the Netherlands, the choir will hike the Austrian Alps above Innsbruck, tour Buchenwald Concentration Camp, visit the birthplace of Bach, and experience many of the sights and sounds of central Europe. At each stop, Herb Smith, professor of religion, will present on the role of Protestant Reformers in that particular region.

The McPherson College Choir has given students opportunity for similar tours since the mid-1970s. A special part of the tours has been home stays and time for cultural interaction, made possible with the leadership of retired German professor Jan van Asselt.

The choir is directed by Steven Gustafson, who is completing his 28th year on the McPherson College faculty. Accompanists are Stephanie Brunelli, associate professor of piano, and Leah Fitzjarrald, sophomore music major.

6) Brethren bits: Annual Conference, 300th Anniversary.

  • New Enterprise (Pa.) Church of the Brethren has announced a “Tour de Dunker Riders” bicycle ride to the 2008 Annual Conference in Richmond, Va., celebrating the Church of the Brethren 300th Anniversary. The Tour de Dunker Riders plan a three-day ride to Richmond, leaving the New Enterprise area on July 10, to arrive for opening ceremonies of the Conference on the evening of July 12. Riders will head home by motor vehicles on Sunday, July 13. For more information contact 814-793-3451.
  • A special Annual Conference exhibit is planned by Virlina District to highlight the fact that “Virginia is not only the ‘birthplace of presidents’; it is also the birthplace of many Church of the Brethren leaders,” according to an announcement in the district e-newsletter. The district has been collecting names of Virginians who have served in “beyond-the-local church capacities” in the denomination, to include in the exhibit.
  • Enten Eller will lead an Annual Conference insight session on “Innovations in Communication: Technology for Theology,” on July 14 at 12:30-1:30 p.m. Eller is director of Distributed Education for Bethany Theological Seminary. The session will explore some of the newer forms of communication, from podcasting and blogging to websites and wikis, and discuss how these tools are beginning to play a role in theological education and ministry preparation. Seminary admissions staff will be present to assist prospective students explore their call at Bethany.
  • A luncheon for Bridgewater (Va.) College alumni and friends during Annual Conference in Richmond, Va., will be held at noon on Sunday, July 13, at the Marriott Richmond Downtown Hotel. The program will include a campus update from college president Phillip C. Stone and an introduction by Stephen L. Longenecker, professor of history, of a new book published by the Church of the Brethren colleges in commemoration of the denomination’s 300th anniversary. The Merlin E. and Dorothy Faw Garber Award for Christian Service will be presented to Dale Ulrich, former provost, dean, and professor of physics, emeritus, and his wife, Claire; and to Dan Rudy, a senior philosophy and religion major from Mt. Airy, Md. Shirley Fulcher Wampler, a member of West Richmond Church of the Brethren, will preside at the luncheon. Tickets are $17 and may be ordered by sending a check payable to Bridgewater College to Office of Church Relations, College Box 186, Bridgewater College, Bridgewater, VA, 22812, before June 27. Contact Ellen Layman at elayman@bridgewater.edu.
  • “Sunlight streamed in through the open door of the Dunker Church at Antietam National Battlefield Sunday, falling in stripes across the wooden pews as those gathered inside sang hymns copied from a hymnal more than 100 years old,” began a May 19 article in the “Herald-Mail” of Hagerstown, Md. Congregations from the Church of the Brethren and the Brethren Church joined for the special worship service celebrating the 300th Anniversary of the Brethren movement. “Today we have attempted to add some flavor of the way Brethren have done things in the past,. The more you know about where you come from, the better able you will be to see where you were going,” Church of the Brethren member Lester Boleyn told the newspaper. Go to www.herald-mail.com/?cmd=displaystory&story_id=194184&format=html to read the full article.
  • Timbercrest Senior Living Community in North Manchester, Ind., has been holding a series of events marking the heritage of the Church of the Brethren, including a slide show from Schwarzenau, Germany, where the church originated; showing of the film, “By Water and the Word”; a Brethren hymn sing; and more. The final event was the dedication of a peace pole on May 31. The pole was presented to Timbercrest in honor of its Church of the Brethren heritage by Seniors for Peace, and features the message “May peace prevail on Earth” in six different languages. An article in the “Wabash Plain Dealer” at
    www.wabashplaindealer.com/articles/2008/05/27/local_news/local3.txt reports on the events.
  • Middle Pennsylvania District is planning its 300th Anniversary celebration and 2008 District Conference to be held at Camp Blue Diamond on Sept. 26-28 in conjunction with a Heritage Fair. The theme will be “Continuing a Heritage of Faithfulness…Let Us Run with Perseverance” (Hebrews 12:1). District leaders plan to emphasize worship and celebration, focusing attention on the heritage the denomination will celebrate this year, and then reflect on the responsibility to maintain that faith and pass it to the generation(s) to follow. The meeting will be held in a large tent, adjacent to the lodge at the camp. Special leadership will be provided by Nancy Faus, Andy and Terry Murray, and Bonnie Kline Smeltzer. A Wall of Faith project also is planned to recognize the district’s “cloud of witnesses.” Robert Sell will serve as moderator.

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board, cobnews@brethren.org or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with other special issues sent as needed. The next regularly scheduled issue is set for June 4. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. For more Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine, call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.

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