Brethren Bits for May 31, 2012

— Correction: The Ministry Excellence Project referred to in the Newsline of May 16 is a joint program of both Church of the Brethren districts in Indiana under a grant from Lilly Endowment: Northern Indiana District and South Central Indiana District.

— The National Council of Churches (NCC) has elected a new transitional general secretary: nationally known change management consultant and active Congregational laywoman Peg Birk. She is president and CEO of Interim Solutions, Minneapolis, Minn., a former City Attorney of St. Paul, former adjunct faculty member of the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, and a former interim president for the Fund for Theological Education, among other positions. She is a member of Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis, which is affiliated with the United Church of Christ. The transitional general secretary will be in place for 18 months to work with the NCC board and staff to seek a new vision and clarity of mission for the NCC, according to a release.

— Rebekah Houff has been named coordinator of outreach programs for Bethany Theological Seminary, to begin June 1. She is a 2012 graduate, having earned a master of divinity degree with an emphasis in youth and young adult ministry. In this one-year position, she works with Russell Haitch, associate professor of Christian education and director of the Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults, to expand the institute’s current programs, explore implementation of pilot projects for future programs, and assess ways for Bethany to strengthen outreach in youth and young adult ministry. Her responsibilities include facilitation of educational opportunities for congregations, current Bethany students pursuing a youth and young adult ministry emphasis, and leaders in this ministry field, as well as events for youth and young adults themselves. A key responsibility is to plan and facilitate the 2013 Exploring Your Call, a 10-day seminar for high school students finishing the sophomore, junior, or senior year to consider how faith, vocation, and God’s call intersect in their lives. Exploring Your Call is held June 15-25 at the seminary campus in Richmond, Ind. Houff has previously served in the denomination’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry, coordinating national conferences and workcamps, and has provided youth ministry leadership in several districts and congregations.

— Francine Massie began May 22 as administrative assistant for the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, working out of the academy offices on the campus of Bethany Seminary in Richmond, Ind. She holds an associate’s degree in applied business from Bowling Green State University and has 20 years of experience in a variety of office settings. She has served as a marketing secretary at Friends Fellowship Community and a secretary at First Christian Church, both in Richmond, and as office manager/secretary at KC Creations in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Most recently she was an administrative assistant for the Area 7 Workforce Investment Board in Springfield, Ohio, where she coordinated support for the central office and 43 county sites.

— Sarah Long, a member of Grottoes (Va.) Church of the Brethren, has accepted the part-time position of financial secretary and clerical assistant in the Shenandoah District office. She began her work on May 7, succeeding Jennifer Rohrer, who is working in North Carolina.

— Brethren Village, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in Lancaster, Pa., has announced that Bethany Seminary student Mary Alice Eller is its summer intern with the pastoral ministry.

— The 2013 national workcamp assistant coordinators will be Katie Cummings and Tricia Ziegler. Cummings is a recent graduate of Bridgewater (Va.) College, where she majored in sociology and minored in peace studies. She comes from Shenandoah District. Ziegler, a 2011 graduate of Bridgewater College, hails from Atlantic Southeast District. She graduated with a biology major and has been pursuing a secondary teaching certificate this year. Both women will begin their work to plan the denomination’s 2013 workcamp season in August.

— Congregational Life Ministries is welcoming J. Curtis Dehmey as an intern this summer, serving at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Dehmey is a student at Lancaster (Pa.) Theological Seminary. He has already participated in the New Church Planting Conference and will attend National Young Adult Conference and Annual Conference, assisting in a variety of capacities.

— Brethren Disaster Ministries continues to seek skilled volunteer electricians to work in Minot, N.D., where flooding last year damaged or destroyed thousands of homes. A shortage of local licensed electricians has created a backlog of work that threatens to hinder the recovery. The need is immediate, with dozens of homes waiting for wiring to be completed before reconstruction can continue. Volunteers will work under the direction of the disaster recovery organization in Minot. Specific criteria for volunteer electricians: needed immediately and through the next several months; must have Journeyman’s or higher license; must be willing to serve for a minimum of two weeks. Through Brethren Disaster Ministries’ partnerships, selected individuals will be provided with round-trip transportation, food, and lodging. Call the Brethren Disaster Ministries office at 800-451-4407 or e-mail for details.

— The church’s Global Mission and Service staff congratulate India Brethren member Vivek Solanky on his recent graduation from Bethany Theological Seminary. Solanky attended the seminary with support from the denomination’s Global Mission office, accompanied by his wife Shefali Solanky. He completed his studies at the campus in Richmond, Ind., with a master of arts degree with a concentration in Brethren Studies. His presentation was titled, “History of the Conflict Between the Church of the Brethren-India and Church of North India: A Possible Step Toward Conflict Resolution.” Solanky’s path to seminary began when he attended the Historic Peace Church meeting in Asia in 2007, where he became curious about peacemaking and was encouraged to pursue studies at Bethany by American Brethren leaders. He currently is applying to a doctor of ministry program to continue his theological studies in the United States.

— Jay A. Wittmeyer, executive director for Global Mission and Service, has been appointed as the Church of the Brethren representative to the Board of Directors of Heifer International. Wittmeyer will represent the founding denomination of Heifer, which began as the Church of the Brethren’s Heifer Project.

— Advance registration ends June 11 for the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in St. Louis, Mo. The Annual Conference will be held July 7-11 at America’s Center in St. Louis. Both online registration and hotel reservations end Monday, June 11, at 10 p.m. (central time). The nondelegate registration fee of $105 per adult for the whole Conference goes up to $140 after June 11, when registration will only be available onsite. For advance registration go to .

— New at : Bethany Theological Seminary president Ruthann Knechel Johansen speaks of her hopes and dreams for the seminary as she enters her last year of the presidency. Johansen has announced her retirement effective July 1, 2013. Find the video clip at .

— The Brethren Historical Library and Archives has posted a list of used books for sale online at . The list includes more than 1,500 titles ranging from minutes of annual meetings, to histories of Brethren congregations and districts, to books of theology and biblical study, to old Brethren Press titles, and more. Contact the BHLA staff for more details, including pricing, at or 800-323-8039 ext. 368.

Photo by Robert and Linda Shank
Students at work at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) in North Korea, where Church of the Brethren members Robert and Linda Shank are on the faculty.

— Harvey E. Good, professor of Biology emeritus at the University of La Verne, Calif., has been instrumental in providing a shipment of 20 boxes of scientific instruments and laboratory supplies to Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) in North Korea. The donated materials support the teaching effort of Robert and Linda Shank, Church of the Brethren members who serve on the PUST faculty with support from the church’s Global Mission and Service office. Robert Shank is dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences at PUST and reported that his students were “ecstatic” about the new opportunities they will receive through the donated supplies. He added that he and others on the faculty count on the new equipment sent by Good and the university “to provide the next step in stocking our labs and supporting grad student thesis research.” In his e-mail to announce that the shipment had left La Verne, Good wrote to the Shanks: “We sincerely hope that the donation of this equipment will in some small way will help to alleviate the famine and lack of nutrition in North Korea.”

— The denomination’s Deacon Ministry is offering a number of opportunities for congregations and church leaders to enhance their own deacon ministries. A series of deacon workshops is being planned for this fall, see the preliminary fall schedule at . There also are pre-Annual Conference events for deacons in St. Louis, Mo., in early July, register at or download a registration form from . Order a copy of the new “Deacon Manual” in two volumes from Brethren Press at or call in orders to 800-441-3712. The “Deacon Manual” will be available in July. Another resource is a bibliography used during deacon workshops, find it online at . Those who are interested in e-mail updates from the Deacon Ministry may sign up at .

— During the recent NATO meetings in Chicago the Red Cross asked Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) to put five teams of volunteers on “high alert,” according to associate director Judy Bezon. The request for five teams meant 20 volunteers had to be recruited. “I received many responses and the teams were placed on alert,” Bezon reported via e-mail. “One volunteer told me that she was available and would be staying with her daughter in the area, but there would not be any room for others as her daughter had planned for a long time to have a houseful of guests that would be protesting the NATO meetings. One man lived nearby, but would be in Pennsylvania (at the time). He said he considered that to be within driving distance and…offered to take his travel trailer to our work site for a place to get away for breaks and to house six volunteers if necessary…. I truly have phenomenally thoughtful and generous volunteers.”

— In more news from CDS, volunteers who served in Joplin, Mo., following last year’s devastating tornado were featured in an anniversary report on the disaster by WHSV TV in Harrisonburg, Va. Bob and Peggy Roach had traveled to Joplin from Fenix, Va., to help care for children who were affected. See the video clip at

— Bear Run Church of the Brethren in Mill Run, Pa., celebrated 90 years on March 25.

— Plumcreek Church of the Brethren in Shelocta, Pa., is having a 150th anniversary celebration and homecoming on June 3 with morning worship at 10:30 a.m., followed by a meal, and a 2 p.m. anniversary service. RSVP to or 724-354-4108.

— Crest Manor Church of the Brethren in South Bend, Ind., recently finished a project of creating 38 Clean Up Buckets for Church World Service (CWS). The disaster kids of give gallon buckets filled with cleaning supplies are warehoused and distributed through the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. “In all, we collected the materials for these buckets, one item per week, through Lent and finally finished, blessed them a few weeks ago and sent them off,” reports pastor Bradley Bohrer.

— Richard Yowell, pastor of Cedar Run Church of the Brethren in Broadway, Va., is raising money for Special Olympics by demonstrating his block-breaking strength, according to the Shenandoah District newsletter. On June 6, at SunTrust Bank in Harrisonburg, Va., he will attempt to break six stacks of five patio blocks each in 30 seconds, as the Special Olympics torch arrives in Harrisonburg. Yowell also will join in the Special Olympics torch run.

— Milledgeville (Ill.) Church of the Brethren is hosting a 3.16 mile run/walk on June 9 in place of the usual 5K. Think John 3:16. “While the event celebrates scripture, it promotes a healthy lifestyle,” said the Illinois and Wisconsin District newsletter. Pastor Rick Koch is a devoted runner. Proceeds will send children to Camp Emmaus and support disaster relief.

— During the Pacific Southwest District Youth Retreat at Camp La Verne in April, the entire cast and crew of the “Grey’s Anatomy” television show was onsite filming the season finale. “It involves a plane crash,” reported district youth advisor Dawna Welch. “It was very exciting!” Camp La Verne is located at an altitude of 6,900 feet, in the mountains above San Bernardino, Calif. The show aired earlier this month on ABC.

— The Shenandoah District Disaster Ministries Auction has published preliminary results: estimated proceeds of $195,000 (with additional income anticipated), 1,121 diners served at the Friday evening oyster-ham dinner, 311 people enjoyed omelets and 197 chose pancakes at the Saturday morning breakfast, 219 people were served lunch on Saturday, the blood drive collected 27 units. “Thanks again to everyone for a great effort on behalf of Brethren Disaster Ministries!” said the district newsletter.

— McPherson (Kan.) College has given its annual Citation of Merit awards to alumni. This year’s recipients are Harold and Lynda Connell, Eldred Kingery, and John Ferrell. Since their retirement, the Connells have volunteered in a number of venues especially the Red Cross, Civitan, and Brethren Volunteer Service, and have given time on more than 95 national-scale disasters. Kingery is president and CEO of Calvin Community, a Presbyterian retirement community in Des Moines, Iowa, and has been a member of the McPherson College Board of Trustees and former staff at the Cedars, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in McPherson. Ferrell has been principal, registrar, dean of students, director of admissions and vice-president of advancement and admissions at Central Christian College, and was named “Hometown Hero” in 2002 by the McPherson County United Way and Chamber of Commerce.

— Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., has received a $1 million research grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to implement and integrate a Genomics Leadership Initiative into the curriculum. It combines and expands Juniata’s existing teaching and research in genomics with a developing curriculum designed to provide a solid foundation in the ethical, legal, and societal issues surrounding discoveries in genomics. Juniata is one of 47 colleges and universities nationwide to receive more than $50 million from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

— World Council of Churches general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit has condemned the violence in Syria. “I express my deep pain over the massacre of innocent people and especially children that took place last Sunday in Taldou village, in the area of Houla, near Homs, in Syria,” said Tveit in his recent statement. “We, as churches, cannot but condemn this inhumane act and manifest our feelings of solidarity with the families of the victims, mourning their beloved ones.” Tveit expressed grave concern over the cycle of violence that has been continuing in Syria for more than a year. Find the statement at .

– The “Brethren Voices” community television show produced by Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren features Brethren author, historian, and storyteller Jim Lehman in the second of a two-program series this month. Lehman, a member at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., is author of “The Old Brethren” and a number of children’s books, among other writings. In “Brethren Voices” he discusses writing and storytelling and tells one his favorite stories about how Brethren Volunteer Service was begun by young adults at the 1948 Annual Conference. In June, “Brethren Voices” features the youth of Palmyra (Pa.) Church of the Brethren who were instrumental to the beginnings of the community’s Caring Cupboard. Contact producer Ed Groff at for copies. “Brethren Voice” is available for use as a Sunday school resource as well as for distribution on community access cable.

— Church of the Brethren ordained minister Sam Smith is in his eighth year of organizing a peace recruitment booth at the Cornerstone Music Festival, a summer Christian music festival held in Bushnell, Ill. The festival takes place July 2-7. Smith reports that “we need your help both financially and through your physical presence in running the booth. We’ve averaged 75 young people every year signing the ‘I Will Not Kill’ statement,” which is promoted through the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Contact Smith at 630-240-5039 or .

— Shawn Kirchner, pianist/organist/composer-in-residence at La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren, has been named Swan Family Composer in Residence with the Los Angeles Master Chorale. “The Los Angeles Master Chorale has often presented Kirchner’s choral pieces in their concerts at LA’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, and commissioned his 2007 setting of the Pablo Neruda sonnet, Tu Voz and his most recent concert suite, Behold New Joy: Ancient Carols of Christmas,” said an announcement on the chorale website. A tenor with the chorale, Kirchner also sings regularly with the LA Philharmonic. His TV/film credits includes music director for the Church of the Brethren’s 2004 Christmas Eve Special on CBS, and singing on feature film soundtracks including “Avatar” and “Horton Hears a Who,” among others. He was music coordinator for several National Youth Conferences and has led music at Annual Conference.

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