Newsline for July 2, 2008

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

“…Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1b).


1) Brethren runner among 2008 Olympians.
2) Pennsylvania church takes lead in program with New Orleans churches.
3) Children’s Disaster Services winds down response to flooding.
4) Pacific Southwest engages in aggressive grant program for growth.
5) Jr. BUGS help kids go green at Manassas Church of the Brethren.
6) Brethren bits: Correction, remembrance, personnel, job, GFCF grant, more.


7) Todd Bauer begins as Latin America/Caribbean specialist.


8) Dateline June 24, Chalmette, La.

For Newsline subscription information go to For more Church of the Brethren news go to, click on “News” to find a news feature, links to Brethren in the news, photo albums, conference reporting, webcasts, and Newsline archive.

1) Brethren runner among 2008 Olympians.

Most Brethren don’t take the verse “Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Cor. 9:24b) quite as literally as Woodbury (Pa.) Church of the Brethren member Brian Sell.

Brian qualified for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, with a third-place finish in the US marathon trials last November, and he will represent the United States at the Games in August. He had led the 2004 qualifying race before fading the last few miles, so going this time fulfills a dream.

“After that I realized I could do it,” says Sell, who turned 30 in April. “I really made it a goal to make it in 2008.”

He started running as a way to stay in shape for football, but soon running became the focus. His college career began at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., before he transferred to Saint Francis University in Loretto, where he received a partial scholarship. Now, Sell appears on the cover of Saint Francis’ magazine, part of his newfound celebrity status.

“We’re getting a lot of attention we never got before,” says Brian’s mother, Lois Sell, who lives in Woodbury. “A lot of people come up and congratulate us. We’re really happy for Brian.”

She said the Woodbury congregation-which includes many other Sell family members, and where Brian’s great-grandfather preached-has been praying regularly for Brian. And about 100 church members and friends traveled to New York for the November race. “They announced that (Brian) had the biggest cheering section there,” she says. “We were most appreciative of that.”

Brian currently lives with his wife, Sarah (from Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren), and baby daughter in the Detroit area, where he runs with the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. When he’s finished running, though, likely in the next year or two, he plans to move back to Woodbury and the church that has cheered him on in his latest endeavors.

“My Sunday school teachers and everyone have written me letters,” Brian says. “It’s a big source of support.”

His parents and wife and daughter will all make the trip to Beijing in August to do some more cheering. The marathon takes place on Aug. 24, the last day of the Games.

–Walt Wiltschek is editor of the Church of the Brethren “Messenger” magazine. This piece will appear in the July/August issue.

2) Pennsylvania church takes lead in program with New Orleans churches.

Several Church of the Brethren congregations are exploring taking part in Churches Supporting Churches, the ecumenical effort to partner with congregations in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. University Baptist and Brethren Church in State College, Pa., has made the commitment to participate and has been partnered with St. John’s Baptist Church in New Orleans.

The Church of the Brethren is one of six denominations and three ecumenical organizations that have joined together in the National Council of Churches working group. Brethren Disaster Ministries and the Brethren Witness/Washington Office are representing the denomination. David Jehnsen, a Church of the Brethren member from Columbus, Ohio, serves as vice-chair to the working group and was instrumental in its formation.

Members of the University Baptist and Brethren youth group recently visited and worshiped with the St. John’s church prior to their participation in a denominational work camp. Brittany Hamilton, one member of the youth group, commenting on the spirit of the worship, said, “They were really praising Jesus.” The youth group and the congregation anticipate hosting members of St. John’s Baptist Church as they make a visit to State College in late fall.

Altoona (Pa.) 28th Street Church of the Brethren hosted an informational program on Churches Supporting Churches for Altoona area churches on June 22, and has expressed interest in developing a partner relationship with one of the 32 New Orleans congregations identified by the Churches Supporting Churches National Working Group. In addition, a leader in the Church of God, from Martinsburg, Pa., attended the gathering and is organizing partner possibilities in that area.

At the Altoona gathering, Phil Jones, director of the Brethren Witness/Washington Office and a Church of the Brethren representative to the working group, presented details of the program and gave an update on the New Orleans area almost three years following Katrina.

“Hope is still alive,” he said. “Even as you walk through the completely devastated area of the Lower Ninth Ward, where almost no rebuilding has occurred, even here you find hope. Hope is found in a small, modest, brightly painted home that has been rebuilt within site of the levee that broke and poured the mighty Mississippi into their homes.” He said an elderly woman at the home proclaimed that it is “a beacon…an invitation” for the community to return. Many of the partner churches of Churches Supporting Churches are located in this community and desperately want to return, Jones said.

First Central Church of the Brethren in Kansas City has been holding regular collections for Churches Supporting Churches.

Jones has traveled numerous times to New Orleans since Katrina, in order to attend meetings related to Churches Supporting Churches. Zach Wolgemuth, associate director of Brethren Disaster Ministries, has helped provide some resources for longterm recovery and rebuilding efforts, and has helped explore the possibility of responding to rebuilding needs in church neighborhoods.

Nearly three years after Hurricane Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast in Aug. 2005, many churches, particularly in the hardest hit areas of New Orleans, are still struggling to carry out their ministries. Pastors are attempting to function with depleted resources, while the social problems in poverty-stricken communities have mounted.

The goal of Churches Supporting Churches is to help 36 congregations in 12 predominantly African-American neighborhoods that have been destroyed by the hurricane. The mission is to “restart, reopen, and repair or rebuild the churches in order for them to be agents for community development and to recreate their community.” Church of the Brethren congregations are being encouraged to become “Katrina Church Partners” by adopting churches that have been affected, and making a commitment to support their efforts of rebuilding and renewing their community for a three-year period.

For more information about Churches Supporting Churches, contact the Brethren Witness/Washington Office, 337 N. Carolina Ave., SE, Washington, DC 20003;; 800-785-3246. Further information and application profiles will be available at Annual Conference.

3) Children’s Disaster Services winds down response to flooding.

Children’s Disaster Service is winding down its response to the flooding in Iowa and Indiana. “We have one center left open in Iowa (there were five), the one in Indiana closed on Saturday,” reported associate director Judy Bezon. “We determine the date of closing after numbers of children show a steady decline.”

The program has had five teams of childcare volunteers caring for children of families affected by flooding in Iowa and Indiana. The teams representing a total of 29 volunteers have worked in seven different locations. Children’s Disaster Services has cared for approximately 550 children in the response to the midwest flooding.

“There were over 40 additional volunteers ready to go had the need lasted longer,” Bezon said, giving credit to the volunteers who were willing to “put their lives on hold and serve those in need.”

The program also has monitored the need for Children’s Disaster Services centers in the response to the wildfires in California. Bezon reported that there have been only three shelters open in California, with 19, 8, and no clients respectively, with no need for Children’s Disaster Services.

4) Pacific Southwest engages in aggressive grant program for growth.

The Church of the Brethren’s Pacific Southwest District has begun a program of “Grants for Growth.” The district board, chaired by Bill Johnson, completed its first review of grants in Nov. 2007.

Recent sales of district property have added new resources to increase grant amounts and loans to local congregations. Over the last two years 2006-07, the district invested approximately $1.25 million dollars into ministry grants. “In 2008 we are committed to do that in one year alone,” reported Johnson.

The district board’s report on the grant program noted that the process actually has been in effect for many years, beginning with very small pastoral support and church development grants. Expansion began in 2001, and now grants are being given in a wide variety of categories.

The categories of grants include a Companion Grant to support an additional staff person in a congregation to “staff for growth”; an Exceptional Needs Grant to assist congregations with issues that could severely impair or threaten vital ministries; loans for building programs, repairs, and capital improvements; matching grants that may be used by congregations for any reason “consistent with the spirit of the Church of the Brethren”; a Partnership Grant for new cooperative ministries between congregations and Brethren-affiliated agencies in the area, such as camps, retirement communities, and the University of La Verne; a Transformation Grant to provide assistance to congregations that have discerned a need to change, redirect, or create new ministries; and a wide-open category of “other grants.” The district also helps nonprofits across the country apply for the “Margaret Carl Trust–Bible/Tract Grant” to help distribute Bibles, Testaments, Gospels, and tracts teaching temperance ideals.

The new district board structure uses task groups to work on funding, training existing church leaders, and training and credentialing leaders for new church growth. “Because of the aggressive growth of the new church plants and the aggressive application of the companion grant (second minister) we have created a new but good problem,” the board said.

During the January district board retreat an organizational specialist with the Alban Institute facilitated a district board “brain storming” session on the new shape of the district’s work.

The district has published a booklet to describe the grant program and its requirements, and has posted information on its website, to encourage congregations to be creative and forward looking in their ministries.

“While some of our congregations will need assistance in repairing infrastructure, the hope of district leadership is that congregations will begin to focus on their community’s needs and emphasize the need to develop relationships with persons beyond their walls,” the board report said. “Jesus did not just preach within the confines of the temple, or give discourse only within the synagogues, but walked and lived among the people. Though it is important to meet the needs of the congregation in terms of pastoral care, we also need to be missional, sharing Christ through word and deed.”

In its first review of the grant program, the district board concluded that “while progress was pretty good at most locations, it was not positive at some locations…. We are looking for growth in each location. Our desire is to move funds where positive results are being found, and to question the use of grant dollars where results in growth are stagnant or negative.”

Go to for more information.

5) Jr. BUGS help kids go green at Manassas Church of the Brethren.

BUGS are everywhere at Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren. But the church isn’t infested with insects; rather it is growing an intergenerational green church program called BUGS, which stands for Better Understanding of Green Stewardship.

Manassas Church of the Brethren is one of the winners of the Great Green Congregations contest sponsored by the Eco-Justice Program of the National Council of Churches. In May, the call went out for stories to be submitted of what local congregations were doing across the country to protect God’s Creation. Winners have been announced in eight categories.

The Manassas church won in the Children’s Ministry category. The program’s goal is to find practical solutions to green issues in the church, including recycling, composting, gardening, and energy conservation. Krista Kimble, an adult BUGS member, decided to start a program for elementary-age children called Jr. BUGS. The group meets weekly to learn about the roles kids can play in caring for creation.

“Always, our weekly lessons are connected to scripture, such as the creation story, various psalms, or a parable,” said Kimble. Members earn badges for participating in various activities. The “Wanda Worm” badge rewarded kids who learned the recipe for compost and searched through some of the church’s compost for critters that help break down the waste. The “Lucy Ladybug” badge recognized the Jr. BUGS who helped plant seeds indoors and who will plant and care for seedlings in the church garden over the summer. As produce grows in the garden, the children will share it with local food pantries as well as older people in the church who are no longer able to care for a garden.

Members recite the Jr. BUGS pledge at each meeting: “As a Jr. BUGS member, I pledge to: Learn more about the earth that God created; explore ways that I can be a better steward of the environment; help to make the world a better place; and teach others to do the same.” In the summertime, the group plans field trips for litter cleanup and site visits to places like the local recycling facility.

Others winning congregations are Madison (Wis.) Christian Community in the Food and Faith category; St. Marks Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, Calif., recognized as the Audubon Society’s ‘Greenest in the Nation’ in the Green Building category; First Grace United Methodist Church in New Orleans in the Energy Conservation category; Kern Road Mennonite Church in South Bend, Ind., in the Alternative Transportation category; All People’s Church in Milwaukee, Wis., in the Environmental Justice category; Wesley United Methodist Church in Yakima, Wash., in the Recycling category; and Maryland Presbyterian Church in Baltimore in the Comprehensive Program category.

The winner of each category received a $500 grant to continue the work. To view a collection of the stories submitted, visit

–Jordan Blevins, a Church of the Brethren member, is assistant director of the NCC Eco-Justice Program and contributed to this report. The report also includes information from an NCC press release by Philip E. Jenks.

6) Brethren bits: Correction, remembrance, personnel, job, GFCF grant, more.

  • Correction: The correct date for the group photo of Brethren Pension Plan members and spouses who are in Schwarzenau, Germany, for the 300th Anniversary celebration, is Saturday, Aug. 2, at 5 p.m.
  • Lillian Dako, funding system specialist for the Centralized Resources department of the Church of the Brethren General Board, passed away unexpectedly at her home during the early morning hours of June 30. The General Board has requested prayer for her daughter, Susan, and her brother, Bob. Dako had worked at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., for almost 14 years, having begun work for the General Board on Aug. 8, 1994. She filled a position with the finance and funding areas, and her work included processing donations and accounts receivable, as well as work with fundraising efforts. A high point of her work took place in early 2005, when she processed a record amount of giving to the Emergency Disaster Fund, representing the generous response of Brethren to the tsunami in southeast Asia–close to 10 times the amount given in the same period in the previous year. Interviewed for a Newsline article in Feb. 2005, Dako called the response “astounding,” and noted with excitement that each day that January she received about the number of gifts that usually arrive in a month. Dako is survived by her brother, Bob, and her daughter, Susan. The community at the General Offices gathered for a time of prayer and scripture in her memory on the afternoon of her death. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, July 5, at 2-4 p.m. at Geils Funeral Home in Wood Dale, Ill.
  • Katie O’Donnell of Royersford, Pa., has completed her term of service as a community outreach worker in Campo Limpo, Brazil, with the Global Mission Partnerships of the Church of the Brethren General Board. She was serving through Brethren Volunteer Service. O’Donnell plans to begin a master’s degree program in English as a second language and linguistics at the University of Arizona in the fall.
  • Ryan Richards of Coupeville, Wash., has completed his term of service at Miguel Angel Asturias Academy, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, where he was working through Brethren Volunteer Service. His work was funded by the Global Mission Partnerships of the Church of the Brethren General Board. He will begin a master’s degree program in public administration at New York University in the fall.
  • Camp Bethel is accepting resumes for the fulltime, year-round position of food services director. The position is available immediately. It is a salaried position for a dependable, caring worker with good interpersonal and leadership skills. Culinary experience or training is required, and staff management experience is preferred. The starting benefits package includes a salary of $28,050, family medical insurance, a pension plan, a travel allowance, and professional growth funds. An application form, a position description, and more information is available at or send a letter of interest and an updated resume to Barry LeNoir at Camp Bethel is an outdoor ministries center of the Church of the Brethren’s Virlina District, located near Fincastle, Va.
  • The Global Food Crisis Fund has given a grant of $13,760 to the Foods Resource Bank. The grant represents the fund’s 2008 allocation for operational support of Foods Resource Bank. The Global Food Crisis Fund is a ministry of the Church of the Brethren General Board.
  • On Earth Peace is inviting congregations to join the World Council of Churches’ 2008 International Day of Prayer for Peace on Sunday, Sept. 21. “Will your church be praying for peace?” said the invitation. The announcement noted that hundreds of thousands of people from churches, synagogues, and mosques around the world are expected to join together in the annual International Day of Prayer for Peace. For those participating through On Earth Peace, there will be opportunities to connect with other congregations concerned about violence, access to On Earth Peace resources, and guidance on how to make praying and acting for God’s peace an ongoing activity. Go to for more information about the event and to register. On Earth Peace is an agency rooted in the Church of the Brethren, helping people faithfully discern “the things that make for peace” (Luke 19), see or call 410-635-8704.
  • Work has begun to replace the air conditioning “chillers” at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The building’s two air conditioners are 50 years old, and were scheduled for replacement in 2009. However, last October one failed and is not worth repairing as it has outlived its useful life. In March, the General Board approved a new thermal ice storage system that chills water and make ice in large exterior storage tanks. The ice will be made in the tanks at night when energy costs and temperatures are lower. The building is then cooled by circulating water through the tanks that were frozen the previous night. The project also includes related asbestos abatement, and cross connection of chilled water pipes to allow the one functioning chiller to cool the entire building during the replacement process. The installation contract has been awarded to Mechanical, Inc. The entire project is expected to be completed by August 10.
  • Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., was one of more than 275 congregations across the country that displayed anti-torture banners during June. According to the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the congregations were of a wide variety of faiths. The anti-torture banners commemorated Torture Awareness Month, and read “Torture is a Moral Issue” or “Torture is Wrong.” Go to to learn more, or contact the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, 316 F St. NE, Suite 200, Washington, DC, 20002; 202-547-1920.
  • La Porte (Ind.) Church of the Brethren has set a date for the workday to replace its fellowship hall ceiling. The workday will be held Sept. 8. Contact the church at 219-362-1733.
  • Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren is hosting a Mission Seminar sponsored by the Brethren World Missions group on July 23, from 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. The seminar will be led by members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The morning session will be on the topic, “The Muslim-Christian Conflict and the EYN Response,” and the afternoon session will be on “Strategies for the Growing Church in Nigeria.” Cost is $6 for lunch. Continuing education credit is available for a $10 fee. Call 717-626-2131 for reservations for the seminar, the deadline is July 14. An evening rally will follow at Hempfield Church of the Brethren, where about 30 members of EYN are expected to attend. Several will tell stories of life in Nigeria and the health of the church. African-style worship and music will be shared.
  • Members of South Waterloo Church of the Brethren in Waterloo, Iowa, have been helping clean up following the flooding. “This last week we had an outpouring of volunteers from South Waterloo who assisted two church families with after-flood clean-up,” reported church board chair Sandy Marsau in the Northern Plains District e-mail newsletter. Approximately 75 people from the church assisted at three different clean-up times to remove items from the two homes. One family was still unable to return to their home as it had sustained much damage and required inspection.
  • Northern Plains District also reported that Sheldon (Iowa) Church of the Brethren has donated $2,500 for disaster response. Sandi Cox, treasurer of the Sheldon church, contacted the district to share that the congregation voted to send the money for district disaster relief efforts. In addition, donations to the District Disaster Fund have been coming in from individual members, the district said.
  • Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village in Boonsboro, Md., is hosting its Fourth Annual Summer Festival on Aug. 2, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. The festival features free admission and family fun including a Landmark Search with a $250 cash prize, childrens’ crafts, games, a water park, a petting zoo, a Classic Car Cruise-In, arts and crafts vendors, “The Magic of Dean Burkett,” and a bake sale. Go to or call 301-671-5000 or -5001 for more information.
  • Church of the Brethren member Rachel W.N. Brown has authored a children’s Christmas book, “Small Camel Follows the Star.” Illustrations are by Giuliano Ferri, an Italian artist. The hardback book is published by Albert Whitman and Company. The nativity story follows Wise Balthazar, Small Camel, and his mother as they follow the star across the desert to look for a baby king. Brown is a quilt artist who has for many years helped organize the Annual Conference quilt auction of the Association for the Arts in the Church of the Brethren. The story of Small Camel was born as she researched details for a special Christmas quilt. Order the book from Brethren Press for $16.95 plus shipping and handling.

7) Todd Bauer begins as Latin America/Caribbean specialist.

Todd Bauer began July 1 as Latin America and Caribbean specialist for the Church of the Brethren General Board. This is a part-time position with Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) and Global Mission Partnerships. He will work with the BVS office in placing and supervising volunteers in the field, and will work in project oversight and development.

Bauer has most recently worked with Pastoral Social, the social ministry of the Guatemalan Catholic Church, in the department of Huehuetenango in northwest Guatemala bordering Chiapas, Mexico. Placed there as a volunteer after the 2001 winter unit of BVS, he has served in Guatemala for five years as a fulltime volunteer and then as a fulltime employee.

His work has included ecological balance and poverty reduction services. A reforestation and appropriate technology component of the program of Pastoral Social is supported by the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Crisis Fund. His experience in Latin America also includes work with the Guatemalan Accompaniment Project.

He holds a degree in civil engineering from the University of Vermont, with additional training in appropriate technology and permaculture design.

8) Dateline June 24, Chalmette, La.

Greetings from the hot, humid south. The Little Swatara Workgroup has made it through it’s second, and so far hottest day of disaster relief at the Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding site in Chalmette, La.

This embedded photographer has been painting, trimming, sanding, and sweating with the rest of the crew. Other than a flat tire on route 59 in Mississippi, we have been unhindered by problems and spirits are high–although some youth may have been slower to wake up this a.m.

We have been working in conjuction with the Brethren Disaster Ministries’ St. Bernard project, and as a result have met folks from Sacramento, Calif., as well as volunteers from Americorp.

Having been in New Orleans last year, it’s sad to see the effects of three years after Hurricane Katrina. Many houses have been demolished, indicating the low return rate. Daily we see the demolition teams moving through the neighborhoods as they demolish house after house. Equally impressive is the thoroughness of the removal. The concrete pad is left behind and in one day’s time, it’s hard to tell that a house was just removed.

Neighbors who return appear to have a bond that can only come from weathering through such a common disaster. Their spirit is undiminished, even if it has been tested. Spray-painted messages on make-shift signs and fences attest to the love of community and their neighbors.

As we traveled south down 59 (after the flat tire) we were witness to the visual spectacle of field after field, thousands upon thousands of FEMA trailers, parked in fairly even rows. Picture the largest camper dealership you can imagine and then multiply this view a hundred fold.

After a number of workgroup visits, we sadly also encountered a first, which pointedly expressed the worst of the disaster. The now infamous spray-painted house inspection cross that indicated date of inspection, who inspected, the number of bodies and pets found, has often been explained, but always illustrated with a sample that indicated no deaths. Today we witnessed one inspection cross that may have indicated a death.

Amid the almost mythical retelling of the event, the modest but proud stories of helping to rebuild, the final tally and tragedy of Hurricane Katrina is too easily pushed to the recesses of the imagination and the back page of news and history.

The most often expressed wish from locals as they discuss their situation and the event that so changed their lives, is the desire that their plight not be forgotten. Their request is that others not forget.

We’re not even halfway through this work week, and yet the opportunity to connect as a broader community is evident. The youth, advisors, coordinators, and a Brethren Volunteer Service worker continue to enjoy the closeness of shared effort, sweat, and community. And we are eating and sleeping very comfortably in a home that was repaired by Brethren volunteers.

God didn’t will the destruction and tragedy. However, He has blessed the response in support, and the tested will of those in the flood. God’s love is here…holy ground.

–Glenn Riegel sent this report from the Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding site in Chalmette, La., where he was working with a group from Little Swatara Church of the Brethren, Bethel, Pa.

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board, or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Dave Ingold, Phil Jones, Jon Kobel, Karin Krog, Michael B. Leiter, Janis Pyle, Joe Vecchio contributed to this report. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with other special issues sent as needed. The next regularly scheduled issue is set for July 16. 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.

[gt-link lang="en" label="English" widget_look="flags_name"]