Cincinnati Church Starts BVS Volunteer Community House

Church of the Brethren Newsline
Oct. 23, 2009

Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) and Cincinnati (Ohio) Church of the Brethren have partnered to open a BVS House as part of an initiative to develop community living opportunities for volunteers.

The initiative, which was announced last year, envisions a number of volunteer community houses supported by BVS and local congregations, each housing four-to-six volunteers serving in full-time BVS projects and committed to intentional practices of life together.

The BVS House opened in early October in Cincinnati and has welcomed four fulltime BVS volunteers: Katie Baker of Taneytown, Md.; Ben Bear of Nokesville, Va.; Laura Dell of Holmesville, Neb.; and Anne Wessell of Hershey, Pa. All are Church of the Brethren members.

On Sunday, Oct. 11, the congregation held a dedication service for the volunteers. The Cincinnati church has rented a house for the volunteer community and provides spiritual support including weekly meetings of congregation members and volunteers. For their part, the volunteers have committed to worship with the congregation, take part in the program of the church in the local community, and provide 40 hours a week of work for a local project.

Ben Walters is one of the co-pastors of the Cincinnati congregation, along with co-pastor Roger Cruser, and has provided much of the impetus for the church’s involvement, according to BVS director Dan McFadden. Having served as a BVS volunteer at the Washington Office in the 1990s, Walters was one of the first to express interest in the BVS House initiative, and has worked with BVS staff since then to make it a reality. He even personally visited the most recent BVS orientation to recruit prospective volunteers and “talk up” the project.

The Cincinnati church is in the Walnut Hills neighborhood of the city, which borders upscale areas as well as rough neighborhoods, McFadden said. In a recent communication with BVS, Walters wrote that the congregation is “building a new model of church in Cincinnati, where most of our work is outside our walls.”

Two of the four volunteers at the BVS House in Cincinnati will work with the congregation’s program for children and other programs in the community surrounding the church. The others will serve at Interfaith Hospitality Network, an ecumenical agency partnering with local congregations to provide housing for homeless families, and Talbert House, a large agency providing a community-wide network of social services.

The new community emphasis in BVS is part of a partnership with Volunteers Exploring Vocation through the Fund for Theological Education (FTE) and a grant from the Lilly Foundation. Dana Cassell is helping to guide the initiative as the BVS volunteer staff for Vocation and Community Living.

“I am excited that this is a reality, that a BVS House exists,” she told the Church of the Brethren’s Mission and Ministry Board during a recent report. “This is a partnership of something new–which actually is really old, the concept of intentional Christian community–with something established.”

For more information contact  .


The Church of the Brethren Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Contact  to receive Newsline by e-mail or to submit news to the editor. For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.


Brethren in the News

“Corn grown in Western Md. helps farmers in Nicaragua,” Frederick (Md.) News Post (Oct. 19, 2009). Corn grown in Frederick County, Md., is helping farmers in Nicaragua become sustainable. That’s the premise behind the Growing Project, a labor of love for eight churches: the Grossnickle, Welty, Myersville , Hagerstown, Harmony and Beaver Creek churches of the Brethren, the Christ Reformed United Church of Christ of Middletown, and the Holy Family Catholic Community.


“Elgin-area Church gives woman human rights award,” Daily Herald, suburban Chicago, Ill. (Oct. 18, 2009). Tana Durnbaugh, a member of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., is the 2009 recipient of the Elgin-South Elgin Church Women United Human Rights Award. Her peace and justice ministry includes activities with Fox Valley Citizens for Peace and Justice, Christian Peacemaker Teams and the Friends in Chicago. She is a retired nurse educator and works with the Honduran Mission Project of Northern Illinois and serves on the board of Pinecrest Community in Mount Morris, Ill.


“Mountain View: Invisible world,” Southwest Virginia Today (Oct. 16, 2009). Columnist Mark Sage tells the story of an incident from the life of Geraldine Plunkett, a Church of the Brethren member in her eighties who lives in an assisted-living facility in Roanoke, Va. An incident in the home reminded Plunkett of “the foot-washings her Brethren church had regularly held throughout her life. She suddenly understood, on a raw level, the symbolism of that kind of kneeling-to-serve, and the hidden world of God’s kingdom that could open up through an ordinary act here in grubby, imperfect old molecule-land.”


“Churches will ‘Rock the Block,'” Clovis (N.M.) News Journal (Oct. , 2009). Three churches in north Clovis, N.M., are teaming up to host a block party, including Clovis Church of the Brethren, Highland Baptist Church, and Kingswood United Methodist Church. Pastor Jim Kelly with the Church of the Brethren said the event helps the churches get acquainted with the neighborhood and vice versa.


Obituary: Angela F. Kania, Staunton (Va.) News Leader (Oct. 15, 2009). Angela Faith Kania, 16, died on Oct. 14 at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, of injuries sustained in a car accident. Angela was a daughter of Phillip Michael Kania and Cathy Irene (Cupp) VanLear. She was a member of Lebanon Church of the Brethren in Mount Sidney, Va., and served on the Shenandoah District Church of the Brethren Youth Cabinet.


“Public theology and historic peace churches topic of Menno Simons Lectures,” Bethel College News, North Newton, Kan. (Oct. 14, 2009). Theology, culture, and peace are topics that Scott Holland of Bethany Theological Seminary will treat in the 58th annual Menno Simons Lectures at Bethel College Nov. 1-3. Holland is completing a decade at Bethany, the Church of the Brethren seminary and graduate school. As associate professor of theology and culture, he teaches in the general area of church and society, which includes directing both the peace studies and cross-cultural studies programs.


Obituary: Lizzie R. Pleasants, Staunton (Va.) News Leader (Oct. 14, 2009). Lizzie Frances Reid Pleasants, 91, passed away on Oct. 13 at Envoy Health of Staunton, Va. She was a member of Forest Chapel Church of the Brethren in Crimora, Va., where she was active in Sunday school and the Women’s Group. She was preceded in death by her husband, Paul Pleasants.

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