Newsline for Dec. 13, 2012

“She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7b, NIV).

Quote of the week:

On the twelfth day of Christmas
What shall this Savior prove?
His mission is mercy,
His ministry is love.

— The closing verse of “12 Days of Christmas,” published in the Dec. 18, 1969, “Messenger” with lyrics by Kenneth I. Morse set to a new tune written by Morse with harmonization by Wilbur Brumbaugh. Find the full carol at . This is the first in an occasional Newsline series in the run-up to Annual Conference 2013, which meets on a theme from Morse’s popular hymn, “Move in Our Midst.” Newsline will take a look back at Morse’s work on the editorial staff of the “Messenger” magazine during the turbulent 1960s and ’70s, when he made creative contributions that still speak today.

1) Brethren Disaster Ministries celebrates with Pulaski.
2) Fund makes grants to start new Brethren disaster project, aid Congolese refugees.
3) Brethren make efforts to support Nigerians in the face of violence.
4) Nigerian Brethren development center graduates 167 women.
5) Pacific Northwest District announces its new name.
6) New Life Ministries concludes its ministry, passes baton to E3.
7) ‘Brethren Voices’ is now broadcast across the country.

8) Mission office sends new program volunteers to South Sudan, Nigeria.

9) Dranesville holds Peace Service marking anniversary of Civil War battle.
10) Workcamp office highlights ‘We Are Able’ event.
11) Springs of Living Water Academy in Church Renewal launches in 2013.

12) Advent reflection: 75th anniversary of the disappearance of China missionaries.

13) Brethren bits: Remembrances, jobs, internships, volunteer opportunities, Advent celebrations, and more.


1) Brethren Disaster Ministries celebrates with Pulaski.

Brethren Disaster Ministries started its Pulaski, Va., project site in August last year. Since then, several hundred volunteers have given their time to help rebuild what two tornadoes tore down in April 2011.

Volunteers who served at the Pulaski site got the pleasure of sleeping in the First Christian Church outreach building. The church graciously donated the use of this building for close to 15 months following the tornadoes. The building was large and comfortable, giving volunteers and project leaders room to relax after working all day, get a good night’s sleep, and cook some delicious meals.

The church members were incredibly kind as well, helping out when needed, inviting volunteers and leaders to church services and events, and even sharing their own stories of the tornado.

Thanks to willing volunteers, donors, the town of Pulaski, and First Christian Church, Brethren Disaster Ministries was able to rebuild 10 houses and repair numerous others.

This November the work in Pulaski was completed. To celebrate, First Christian Church sent out an invitation to all of the volunteers, townspeople, and office workers who helped bring Pulaski back. On Nov. 14 more than 100 people piled into the outreach center for an evening of fellowship, food, and giving thanks.

Randy Williams, pastor of First Christian Church, welcomed everyone and said thank you to a few of the key people who really ran the project. Afterward, Pulaski mayor Jeff Worrell, who is also on the church board, gave his own personal thank you. “A person, I guess, only has one hometown and Pulaski is mine. To see it laid low like it was on April 8, 2011, and then over the past 18 months to see it all come back, to see it rebuilt, a lot of areas better than they were before the tornado–it overwhelms me when I think about it…. There is no way we could have recovered from the tornado without this group.”

Worrell surprised Brethren Disaster Ministries with a check for $10,000 from First Christian Church. The church had decided to “pay it forward” to the next project of Brethren Disaster Ministries, so that the Brethren could continue to rebuild towns like Pulaski.

Zach Wolgemuth, associate director for Brethren Disaster Ministries, thanked the church for the check and for all they did, remarking, “The word ‘no’ isn’t in this church’s vocabulary….  Everything BDM needed they managed to provide for us.” He presented the church with a plaque commemorating its support in rebuilding Pulaski.

The night ended with hugs, tears, and laughter as everyone gave thanks and recalled their time in Pulaski.

— Hallie Pilcher is serving at Brethren Disaster Ministries as a Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) worker.

2) Fund makes grants to start new Brethren disaster project, aid Congolese refugees.

Grants from the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) have been given to start up a new Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding site in southeastern Indiana, and to help a church group that is aiding Congolese refugees fleeing violence on the border with Rwanda.

An allocation of $20,000 opens a new Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding project site in Holton, Ind., following a tornado that destroyed nearly 20 homes and damaged dozens of others in March.

This fall, district disaster coordinators in the region were contacted by the local recovery agency seeking volunteers to assist with construction of new homes to replace those that had been destroyed. In response, Brethren Disaster Ministries staff have been collaborating with district coordinators to develop a joint response that couples regional and national resources to address the need.

The EDF grant will underwrite operational expenses related to volunteer support including housing, food, and travel expenses incurred on site as well as volunteer training, tools, and equipment needed for rebuilding and repair.

A grant of $8,000 has been made to Gisenyi Friends Church located on the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in an area where violence has been a part of life for years as different armed groups fight with government forces or each other.

Recent violence has focused around the city of Goma, in an area considered the front line between government troops and the M23 rebel group. The ACT Alliance, in which the Church of the Brethren participates, has expressed “extreme” concern for the situation of displaced Congolese civilians in the province, especially children and other vulnerable groups.

Gisenyi Friends Church, a Quaker congregation, is at the edge of this area and has been receiving many Congolese people displaced by the violence. Pastor Etienne is a graduate of Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Ind., a sister school to Bethany Theological Seminary. The town of Gisenyi is near Goma but across the border in the country of Rwanda.

The Gisenyi church’s committee on social justice has appealed for help with immediate needs for the displaced Congolese. The church hopes to support at least 275 families, and is attempting to care for the most needy and vulnerable, particularly women and abandoned children, as well as rape survivors. The grant will help the Gisenyi Friends purchase corn and beans for refugees and will cover transportation costs for delivery of the food.

3) Brethren make efforts to support Nigerians in the face of violence.

Several efforts to support and encourage Nigerian Brethren affected by violence are being made by American Brethren, responding to concern for Nigeria expressed during the Annual Conference in July and to news of continuing incidents of terrorist violence including the recent shooting of a Nigerian Brethren pastor and 10 church members (see the report at ).

A season of prayer for Nigeria has been announced by Annual Conference moderator Bob Krouse. The moderator read scripture and called the Brethren to pray for those affected by violence in Nigeria in a short online video, standing alongside general secretary Stan Noffsinger who prayed for the Nigerian Brethren, and Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer. View the video on the denomination’s home page at (double click to view the video at full size).

Wittmeyer invites American Brethren to offer words of encouragement that will be shared with Nigerian families who have suffered loss, and is requesting contributions to the Compassion Fund of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

The Compassion Fund was initiated by EYN as a mechanism for Nigerian Brethren to demonstrate mutuality in support of one another. A primary focus of the fund is to financially support the surviving spouses of clergy who have been killed in the terrorist-type violence that has rocked northern Nigeria in recent years, Wittmeyer said. The fund also supports church members who have lost homes or businesses to the violence.

“Many Church of the Brethren members in the US have been in prayerful support of the Nigerian Brethren and have sent cards and condolences, as well as financial support to rebuild churches,” Wittmeyer said. “The Compassion Fund is an important means of offering our support for our sister church community.”

In one recent example, the congregation of Turkey Creek Church of the Brethren has given $10,000 to the EYN Compassion Fund out of moneys made available as the congregation merges with Nappanee (Ind.) Church of the Brethren. Former pastor Roger Eberly and his wife Mim took part in a goodwill delegation to Nigeria in Jan. 2010, and during their trip began hearing stories of the violence that Nigerian Brethren have suffered. Since then, he said in a telephone interview today, the couple have followed news from Nigeria. As they began hearing of increased violence recently, he said the time seemed right for such a gift.

Ironically, Nappanee was started as a “daughter” church to Turkey Creek, Eberly said, adding that Turkey Creek “came to a greying time” after a vibrant history in which it planted several daughter congregations. The opportunity to make significant gifts has helped make the congregation’s move more meaningful. Among other gifts made by Turkey Creek, which met for worship for the last time on Sept. 30, is a donation to help Camp Mack rebuild key facilities lost to a fire in 2010, a Bethany Seminary scholarship for students studying church planting, and gifts to a number of other organizations including Heifer International and Habitat.

Virlina District also is among the US Brethren announcing projects of support and encouragement for the church in Nigeria.. The district reports in its recent newsletter that a project started at the Sept. 2012 Virlina District Peace Sunday Service, in response to the sharing about Nigeria that occurred at Annual Conference this summer. “In addition to remembering our Nigerian brothers and sisters in prayer, the Peace Affairs Committee is asking for individuals and congregations to write a brief message of encouragement and care,” the newsletter said. Wittmeyer, who is planning a late January trip to Nigeria, personally will carry the collection of postcards to the Nigerian Brethren.

Contributions to the EYN Compassion Fund and words of encouragement for Nigerian Brethren may be offered online at or sent by mail to Church of the Brethren, Attn: EYN Compassion Fund, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.

4) Nigerian Brethren development center graduates 167 women.

The Women Development Center of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) has graduated 167 women at its 11th graduation ceremony.

The graduation ceremony was held at the EYN Conference Center in Kwarhi. The group of girls and a few married women received three or six months of training in sewing, knitting, cooking, and computer use.

Principal Mrs. Safiratu and Mrs. Aishatu Margima presented the certificates of attendance on behalf of the EYN Director of Education.

The students presented a wedding cake during the ceremony to show one of the things that they can produce after the training. The center enrolls new students again in its January 2013 class.

— Zakariya Musa reports on the work of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria in EYN”s “Sabon Haske” publication.

5) Pacific Northwest District announces its new name.

The former Oregon and Washington District is changing its name to Pacific Northwest District. “Our District Conference in September affirmed this change and the board took official action at our October meeting,” reports district executive minister J. Colleen Michael.

The legal status of the district’s name change is pending with the Attorney General of Oregon, Michael said by e-mail.

The Pacific Northwest District is using a new e-mail address: .

The district’s mailing address and phone number continue to be the same: Pacific Northwest District Church of the Brethren, P.O. Box 5440, Wenatchee, WA 98807-5440; 509 662-3211.

6) New Life Ministries concludes its ministry, passes baton to E3.

After more than 16 years of service to Anabaptist congregations, New Life Ministries (NLM) will officially conclude its ministry on Dec. 31. Official action to conclude New Life Ministries took place at the fall board meeting of NLM on Oct. 19.

Commenting on NLM’s long run of ministry, board chair Paul Mundey reflected: “What an honor to ‘come alongside’ the life and witness of so many Brethren Church, Church of the Brethren, and Mennonite Church congregations, as we worked together toward new expressions of faithful, inviting ministry, centered in Jesus.”

Over the years, New Life Ministries has been known for its unapologetic commitment to Anabaptist values, and a conviction that Anabaptist values needed to be shared with unchurched and churched alike. New Life Ministries has specialized in resources promoting hospitality, faith-sharing, and congregational growth and vitality.

Along with providing written resources, New Life Ministries also offered personalized consultation, workshops, and conferences featuring speakers such as Tony Campolo, Eddie Gibbs, Myron Augsburger, and Ron Sider. New Life Ministries also maintained a popular website, utilized not only by Anabaptist congregations but also by congregations from a variety of Christian denominations across the US.

In addition to taking formal action to conclude its ministry at its fall board meeting, New Life Ministries also affirmed the ministry of E3 Ministry Group, LLC, an exciting new organization focused on church renewal. As NLM concludes its work in the area of congregational vitality, the NLM board acted to “affirm the new call of E3 to resource congregations for vitality and growth. We give our blessing and unqualified support, praying that God will use E3 in mighty ways.”

For more information on E3, contact John Neff, E3 Ministry Group, LLC, 1146 La Casa Court, Moneta, VA 24121; 540-297-4754; .

As New Life Ministries concludes its ministry, “passing the baton” to E3, it does so with a continuing conviction that Christ’s church needs to develop even greater expressions of faithfulness and outreach. Reflecting on this conviction, NLM ministries board chair Paul Mundey concluded: “The Church of Jesus Christ, and the particular values of the Anabaptist movement, are more relevant and needed than ever before. Thus externally focused, vital, faithful congregations are more needed than ever before.”

— This article is from a New Life Ministries press release.

7) ‘Brethren Voices’ is now broadcast across the country.

“The brothers and sisters in the faith that I’ve learned about through ‘Brethren Voices’ make me proud (in the humblest Brethren way) to be part of the Church of the Brethren!” says Melanie G. Snyder of Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren.

What was meant to be a local community television program informing others about the Church of the Brethren has now taken on a much wider scope. In its 8th year of production, “Brethren Voices,” the community television program of Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren, is being broadcast in communities on the East Coast and West Coast and places in between.

Easy, a producer at CMTV Channel 14–the community access station of Spokane, Wash.–has taken “Brethren Voices” under his wing. After receiving copies of the show a few years ago, Easy told us that “Brethren Voices” should be on every community access station in the country. He really appreciated the appeal of a program promoting peace and justice with wonderful examples of community service.

As a result of his appreciation, Easy placed “Brethren Voices” on the website (PublicEducationGovernment). Community access cable television stations can now download the program from this site and broadcast it in their communities.

During the past two years, the program has been picked up by 12 to 14 stations in areas of the country where there are few or no Brethren congregations. Between six to eight community access stations in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Vermont have been broadcasting “Brethren Voices.” Other stations in Alabama, Montana, California, and Illinois also have shown “Brethren Voices” in their communities.

To date, stations have downloaded various “Brethren Voices” programs just under 200 times. Church of the Brethren congregations could do the same thing by requesting the local access stations to broadcast “Brethren Voices.” The cost is 70 cents for each time the program is downloaded. Easy and “Brethren Voices” have paid this expense, amounting to about one-third of the cost of mailing copies by postal mail.

Since its beginnings, there have been Church of the Brethren congregations in Westminster, Md.; York, Pa.; Springfield, Ore.; La Verne, Calif.; and New Carlisle, Ohio, that have submitted “Brethren Voices” to their local community access stations. Many more Brethren congregations have community access stations in their areas who depend on viewers to request programing. Why not let others see what the Brethren are doing as a matter of their faith?

“Brethren Voices” also is receiving viewership on YouTube thanks to Adam Lohr of Palmyra (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. While presenting the premier showing of a “Brethren Voices” program concerning child slavery in the chocolate industry, Lohr, son of pastor Dennis Lohr, suggested that the show should be made available on YouTube. Adam said, “More youth would see the programs if they were on YouTube.”

A proposal of Adam’s idea was presented to the Peace Church of the Brethren board and by consensus we agreed to give it a try. There are now 25 “Brethren Voices” programs to be viewed on the channel at . Now over 1,100 views of the channel have been made, of the various “Brethren Voices” programs that feature Annual Conference moderators, Brethren Disaster Ministries, Brethren Volunteer Service, New Community Project Learning Tours, and guests such as David Sollenberger and Wendy McFadden.

“Brethren Voices” has a mailing list of 40-plus congregations and individuals who each receive a DVD of the programs. Some congregations use the 30-minute productions as visual resources for Sunday School classes and worship services.

We’re currently working on program 92 featuring an interview with Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger. Another program in the works features Annual Conference moderator Bob Krouse. Just completed is a program with pastor Audrey DeCoursey of Living Stream Church of the Brethren, the first online church plant of Pacific Northwest District.

— Ed Groff produces “Brethren Voices” on behalf of Portland Peace Church of the Brethren. Contact him at for more information and samples of “Brethren Voices” programs.

8) Mission office sends new program volunteers to South Sudan, Nigeria.

A new volunteer has begun serving in South Sudan on behalf of the Church of the Brethren, and two new staff soon will arrive in Nigeria. The three are program volunteers for the denomination’s Global Mission and Service office, and will work as seconded staff for Sudanese and Nigerian organizations respectively.

Jocelyn Snyder of Hartville (Ohio) Church of the Brethren has begun work in South Sudan through Brethren Volunteer Service. She is working in the area of Yei with a focus on HIV/AIDS and as a youth minister. In South Sudan, she joins two other Church of the Brethren program volunteers: Jillian Foerster, who is serving with RECONCILE, and Athanasus Ungang, working to establish and build a new Brethren Mission Center in the town of Torit.

In related news, Global Mission and Service is planning a workcamp to South Sudan in the spring of 2013 to work on construction of the new Brethren Mission Center. Indicate interest in the workcamp by e-mailing .

Carl and Roxane Hill have been named seconded staff to Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). They will teach at Kulp Bible College, on the headquarters compound of EYN. The couple hope to leave for Nigeria before Christmas. In Nigeria, they join Carol Smith who is serving as a Church of the Brethren teacher at the EYN Secondary School.

9) Dranesville holds Peace Service marking anniversary of Civil War battle.

At the start of the Civil War, Union and Confederate troops met at Dranesville, Va., in a short, bloody battle that left more than 50 dead and 200 wounded. Today, part of the battlefield belongs to Dranesville Church of the Brethren, a pacifist church that has resisted war for more than three centuries. On Dec. 16, at 7 p.m., the congregation will gather to remember the battle and pray for peace.

The Battle of Dranesville started Dec. 20, 1861, as Confederate troops under J.E.B. Stuart started out from their Centerville camp, looking for winter forage for their horses. At the same time, Union troops under E.O.C Ord set out looking for the same thing.

Stuart and Ord selected Dranesville for the same reason. The town, larger then than it is today, was a hotbed of secessionism. Local farmers owned an average five to ten slaves. Nearly all residents voted to secede from the Union. Stuart figured local farmers would give to the Confederate cause. Ord figured the same thing–and aimed to get the forage before the Confederates did.

Shortly after noon, Union troops arrived in Dranesville. Ord set out with 10,000 men, but left 5,000 in reserve at Colvin Mill. Ord took five regiments of infantry, one regiment of cavalry, and a small artillery battery to Dranesville.

Stuart’s troops arrived at about the same time. The flamboyant cavalry leader had about 2,500 men: four regiments of infantry, one of cavalry, and one artillery battery. Stuart also had virtually every haywagon in the Army of Northern Virginia.

The troops started skirmishing outside Dranesville, and soon fell into battle formation across the Leesburg Pike. Most of the action took place between Ord’s artillery position near the present site of the church and down the hill towards the old town of Dranesville–near the present site of the Dranesville Tavern.

A reporter described the three-hour battle as “one incessant firing.” Green Confederate troops fired at each other in the confusion of their first battle. Unusually accurate Union cannon fire blasted Stuart’s artillery, killing six–three by decapitation. Stuart got his haywagons to safety and retreated to Frying Pan meeting house.

Stuart claimed victory, but Confederate forces took the far greater casualties: 43 dead, 150 wounded. Union forces had seven dead, 60 wounded. The North, which had been trounced earlier in the first Battle of Manassas and the disaster at Balls’ Bluff, near Leesburg, hailed the battle as a great Union victory.

Dranesville Church of the Brethren arrived about 50 years later, in 1903. The Brethren, like the Quakers and Mennonites, have a long tradition of pacifism. During the Civil War, the Brethren, then called Dunkers, paid dearly for that belief. The Battle of Antietam, the single bloodiest day of the war, swirled around a Brethren meeting house. Brethren farmers owned many of the fields around Antietam–and Gettysburg, too.

The Brethren refusal to fight in the Civil War impressed even Stonewall Jackson, the famous Confederate general. He urged Jefferson Davis to grant them conscientious objector status: “There lives a people in the Valley of Virginia,” Jackson wrote, “that are not hard to bring to the army. While there, they are obedient to their officers. Nor is it difficult to have them take aim, but it is impossible to get them to take correct aim. I, therefore, think it is better to leave them at their homes that they may produce supplies for the army.”

Jackson’s enemy, Abraham Lincoln, had similar views on the Brethren: “These people do not believe in war,” Lincoln wrote. “People who do not believe in war do not make good soldiers. Besides, the attitudes of these people has always been against slavery. If all our people had held the same views about slavery as these people hold there would be no war.”

The Brethren congregation in Dranesville began worshiping at the Liberty Meeting House, now Dranesville Methodist Church. In 1912, they built their own meeting house. As it turned out, the donated land was where General Ord had placed his cannons.

Brethren hold an annual peace service at the Dunker church on the Antietam battlefield. Dranesville Church of the Brethren has decided to hold its own peace service on Sunday, Dec.16. Congregation members have discovered the names of about 35 of the 50 men who died at Dranesville that day in 1861. At the service, candles will be lit in their memory–and then extinguished, one by one, to symbolize war’s terrible cost in human suffering.

The service will start at 7 p.m. at the Dranesville chapel. A small exhibit on the battle–including a few artifacts found near the church–will be in the downstairs meeting hall. Information about the Brethren and their stand on peace will be available as well. Contact the church for further information at 703-430-7872.

— This article by John Waggoner is reprinted from the newsletter of Dranesville Church of the Brethren, with permission.

10) Workcamp office highlights ‘We Are Able’ event.

The Church of the Brethren’s Workcamp Office is highlighting a special workcamp to take place next summer: the “We Are Able” workcamp for intellectually and physically disabled young adults.

The workcamp “is a wonderful opportunity for intellectually and physically disabled young adults,” reports Tricia Ziegler, assistant workcamp coordinator. “The workcamp is going to take place in New Windsor, Md., and will be accompanied by a Young Adult Assistant Workcamp. This workcamp is provided as an opportunity for disabled young adults (ages 16-23) to have a chance to serve others and be successful at the same time.”

The workcamp is four days long, from June 10-13, 2013. Participants will have opportunities to meet new people, have fun, and work and worship together.

“Spread the word about this awesome ministry, and together let us make this a great summer for workcamps,” Ziegler said.

Go to for more information and a full list of next summer’s workcamps for young adults, senior high and junior high youth, and intergenerational groups. Workcamp registration opens online on Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. (central time). Please note that a parental consent form must be filled out prior to registration for junior high events.

11) Springs of Living Water Academy in Church Renewal launches in 2013.

The Springs of Living Water initiative for church renewal is announcing a new academy for pastors and church leaders, which will offer courses with formal learning objectives that participants will localize in their own settings.

The first course offered will be “Foundations for Christ-centered Church Renewal,” with basic texts “Springs of Living Water, Christ-centered Church Renewal” by David S. Young with foreword by Richard J. Foster, and “Celebration of Discipline, the Path to Spiritual Growth” by Richard J. Foster.

The course consists of five interactive two-hour telephone conference calls taught by Springs founder David S. Young, with guests telling stories from churches. Dates are Saturday mornings on Feb 9, March 2 and 23, April 13, and May 4, from 8:30-10:30 a.m. (eastern time). Register by Jan. 30, 2013. Cost is $185 plus $10 for continuing education units. Scholarships according to need may be available. Participants will call an 800 number to connect with the conference calls.

Participants will learn to: enlist a congregation in renewal, spiritually discern and train a renewal team; help individuals and churches in a spiritual journey using disciplines folders; use servant leadership from scripture to approach the life cycle of a church; be a renewal pastor in all its dimensions including modeling, equipping, and shepherding; guide a church in a seven-fold path for renewal, in which the church builds on it strengths; help a church spiritually discern a scripture, vision, and ministry plan; assist a congregation to implement a renewal plan of focused ministries.

Participants can engage in spiritual disciplines using Springs folders during the course. Also a few people from the congregation will walk alongside the participant through the course. A seminal solidifying paper will reflect both course content and application in a local setting of ministry.

For a fuller description of this course and for the Springs of Living Water Academy of Church Renewal brochure, contact Young at or 717-615-4515. To register for the academy send name, address, phone number, fax number, and payment to David S. Young, c/o Springs of Living Water, 464 Ridge Ave., Ephrata, PA 17522. Make checks payable to David. S. Young. For more information go to .

12) Advent reflection: 75th anniversary of the disappearance of China missionaries.

On Dec. 2, 1937, Minneva Neher was serving as a Church of the Brethren missionary in China, along with Alva and Mary Harsh. Times were difficult in the place she was serving; Japan and China were at war, and there were many Japanese soldiers in the area in which she lived. Hardship was all around.

And yet Minneva was not without hope, for the difficult times were providing ample opportunity to preach the gospel. In a letter to her parents written that day, Minneva wrote that many people in the area had moved into the mission compound, trusting that it would be a place of refuge and safety in the midst of the violence of war. She wrote, “their being here is giving us the most unique opportunity to preach the gospel that I have seen since I have been in China, as many of these folks never had anything to do with the mission before.” She and the Harshes led–among other things–daily evangelistic services.

Her hope in God in the face of difficult circumstances is a source of optimism; yet that is not the end of the story. Later that very day, she and the Harshes were called to come outside the compound to provide assistance for someone in need. They were never heard from again.

An investigation into their disappearance yielded no clues as to their whereabouts. It is presumed that they were martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ on that day. Seventy-five years later, my own Church of the Brethren congregation began our Advent preparation by remembering the faith of these co-laborers for Christ.

This story from our faith tradition sheds light on our Advent preparation in two directions. The story sheds light backward onto Mary’s story, helping us understand the great risks God sometimes asks us to take on His behalf. Mary’s choice to say yes to God is almost absurd when you consider how much she had to lose: a marriage and the source of economic security and social status that came with that; and even her very life, as she might have been executed for becoming pregnant out of wedlock. But even with these very real risks, this young girl found within herself the courage to say yes to God, and thus give birth to our Savior. Such faith ought to provoke some questions in our lives: Would I have said yes to God? Do I believe that following Jesus might involve this level of sacrifice?

The story of the Brethren martyrs in China sheds light forward into our own day, when society seems almost in a frenzy to solve all of our woes through the power of the consumer. Christmas shopping displays, carols, and TV ads appear earlier each year, and Black Friday has begun a very noted creep backward into Thanksgiving Day itself. We may ask a second set of questions about our own discipleship: With how much intention are we living our lives? What might we be willing to sacrifice in order to say “yes” to God? Do we believe that God would ask something this big of us?

When seen from these two directions, our Advent preparations take on a different tone. For what are we preparing? The coming–and coming again–of Jesus? The coming of many family members, with all the attendant presents to purchase and food to prepare? In the midst of this, might God do something else in our lives? Could Advent, with all of its extra worship, caroling, and devotional reading, become a time when something new is born in our lives? To what lengths may we go in order to say “yes” to God?

These are not simple questions. Perhaps the greatest gift we can give ourselves this Advent is the gift of time–time to examine the depths of our own commitment to Christ and the church.

— Tim Harvey is past moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference and pastor of Central Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va. A short video on the disappearance of the Brethren missionaries is at . Dec. 2 marked 75 years since Minneva Neher of La Verne, Calif.; Alva Harsh from Eglon, W.Va.; and Mary Hykes Harsh from Cearfoss, Md., disappeared from their post in Shou Yang in Shansi Province.

13) Brethren bits.

— Remembrance: John D. Metzler Jr., 89, a former treasurer for the Church of the Brethren General Board who also served for a few years as executive of the General Services Commission, died on Dec. 1 in Goshen, Ind., after a short illness. He began as treasurer for the denomination in the spring of 1981, when he also was named one of three associate general secretaries. By the time he retired in the spring of 1985 he had served the Church of the Brethren or related ecumenical organizations in various capacities for almost 40 years. He first worked for the denomination in 1947 as staff for Brethren Service, working in publicity and then in relief efforts. In 1949 he went to Puerto Rico to become director of education at a private high school run by the Brethren Service project in Castañer. Returning to the US in 1952, he began 28 years with CROP, then the constituency education and fundraising unit of Church World Service (CWS) based in Elkhart, Ind. At CROP/CWS he began as a printer, and progressed eventually to serve as associate national director and financial officer, with responsibilities over the years ranging from printing to communications, fundraising, and financial management. In volunteer roles, he was a member of the General Board and chaired the World Ministries Commission in the late 1960s. He was born March 15, 1923, in Payette, Idaho, and grew up in Bourbon, Ind. He was a long-time member of Nappanee (Ind.) Church of the Brethren. He held a degree from Manchester College (now Manchester University) and had studied for a year at Bethany Theological Seminary. He was married to Anita Flowers Metzler, who passed away in 2004. She had served as a district program coordinator for Northern Indiana District. He is survived by six children: Margaret (Bill) Warner, Nappanee; Susan (Frank) Chartier, Columbia City, Ind.; Michael (Marcea) Metzler, Dexter, Mich.; Patt (Tom) Cook, W. Lebanon, Ind.; Steven Metzler, Dexter, Mich.; and John (Fei Fei) Metzler, Ann Arbor, Mich.; grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at Nappanee Church of the Brethren on Jan. 12 at 2 p.m. Memorials are received to Manchester University, Greencroft Retirement Community in Goshen, Ind., and Oglala Lakota College in Kyle, S.D.

— Ruby Sheldon died on Nov. 28, reports Pacific Southwest District. A member of Papago Buttes Church of the Brethren, she is remembered as a noted woman pilot who in 2010 at age 92 was “only” 70 years older than the younger pilots in the 34th annual “Air Race Classic” in which some 100 women pilots flew 2,000 miles in four days from Fort Myers, Fla., to the Mississippi River and back to Frederick, Md. After many years as an Air Race Classic Director, she was made an Air Race Classic Honorary Director by her peers. She was one of the top 10 finishers of the race in 2008, 2005, 2002, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995(when she won first place), and many more years. An aviation pioneer, flight instructor, and charter pilot, she was inducted into the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame in 2009. “We have also experienced Ruby as an active member of Papago Buttes Church of the Brethren,” said the district note. “Attending and helping at past District Conferences. Encouraging all of us. Hosting District Board members in her home. Thank you Ruby for being a light on our path.”

— Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., is inviting applications for faculty positions in Brethren Studies and in Reconciliation Studies.

A full-time, potential tenure-track faculty position in Brethren studies begins fall 2013. Rank: open; PhD preferred; ABD considered. The appointee will be expected to develop and teach the equivalent of an average of five graduate courses per year, including at least one online course per year, and offer one Academy-level course biennially. Some of these courses may include introductory offerings in the history of Christianity or theological reflection. Other duties include student advising, supervision of MA theses in the area of Brethren studies as needed, serving on at least one major institutional committee annually, participating in the recruitment of new students through interviews and informal contacts, and regular participation in faculty meetings. The area of expertise and research may come from a variety of fields such as historical studies, theological studies, Brethren heritage, or sociology and religion. Commitment to the values and theological emphases within the Church of the Brethren is essential. Bethany specifically encourage applications from women, minorities, and persons with disabilities. The application deadline is Jan. 11, 2013. The appointment begins on or before July 11, 2013. Send a letter of application, CV, and names and contact information for three references to Brethren Studies Search, Attn: Dean’s Office, Bethany Theological Seminary, 615 National Road West Richmond, IN 47374; . Find the full position announcement online at .

A half-time faculty position in Reconciliation Studies begins fall 2013. Rank: open; PhD preferred; ABD considered. The appointee will be expected to develop and teach two graduate courses per year (one in conflict transformation offered annually), including at least one online course per year, and offer one Academy-level course biennially. Other duties include student advising, supervision of MA theses in the area of reconciliation studies as needed, serving on at least one major institutional committee annually, participating in the recruitment of new students through interviews and informal contacts, and regular participation in faculty meetings. Commitment to the values and theological emphases within the Church of the Brethren is essential. Bethany specifically encourages applications from women, minorities, and persons with disabilities. The application deadline is Jan. 1, 2013. The appointment will begin July 1, 2013. Send a letter of application, CV, and names and contact information for three references to Reconciliation Studies Search, Attn: Dean’s Office, Bethany Theological Seminary, 615 National Road West, Richmond, IN 47374; . Find the full position announcement online at .

— The Ecumenical Campus Ministries (ECM) at the University of Kansas invites applications for a half-time position as Campus Minister to begin July 1, 2013. ECM’s corresponding denominations include the Church of the Brethren. A comprehensive compensation package between $25,000 to $35,000, depending on the applicant’s qualifications and experience, will be offered. Complete information on qualifications and specific duties for the position, the history and reviews of current programs, and additional information about ECM can be found at . The full position listing and how to submit an application can be found at . The application deadline is Jan. 15, 2013.

— The new Sunday school curriculum to be produced by Brethren Press and MennoMedia is accepting applications to write for Preschool, Primary, Middler, Multiage, and Junior Youth age groups for the curriculum years 2014-15. The new curriculum will seek to follow the Gather ‘Round curriculum in providing quality Anabaptist/Pietist materials. Writers produce well-written, age-appropriate, and engaging material for teacher’s guides, student books, and additional resources. All writers will attend an orientation April 22-25, 2013, in Milford, Ind. See Job Opportunities at . The application deadline is Feb. 9, 2013.

— The World Council of Churches (WCC) is seeking young communications professionals from its member churches to join the 10th Assembly communications team. A release said the goal is to offer a unique opportunity to work with a diverse team of communication professionals from around the world during the most significant event in the life of the WCC and the ecumenical movement. By inviting young professionals, the WCC would like to add their unique perspective in sharing the story of the assembly to audiences across the globe. The young professionals will work side-by-side with seasoned communicators. In addition to gaining valuable experience, these positions also offer an opportunity for ecumenical formation. Requirements include 3-5 years or more of professional media and communications experience either for the church or public media; age between 22 and 30; involvement in church, youth, or ecumenical activities in the local community; speaking and writing English fluently unless a member of a specific language team, then knowledge and ability to speak English preferred; available to work at the assembly in Busan, Republic of Korea (South Korea), from Oct. 27-Nov. 10, 2013. To apply, review the job profiles online and submit a letter of intention and curriculum vitae. In the letter, explain why you would like to join the WCC communication team and attend the assembly, and write about your work experience and involvement in youth and ecumenical work. In the CV list education, training, and work experience. Those interested in writing, photography, and videographer positions must be prepared to submit writing samples, photos, and video, if requested. The application process ends Jan. 31, 2013. Selection of candidates will be completed Feb. 28. Send letter of intention and CV to the WCC Communication Dept., c/o Linda Hanna, at Only those sending a letter of intention and CV will be considered and responded to. In the letter clearly state the position you are interested in. Find more information and job profiles at .

— Apply now for the WCC Assembly Stewards Program in 2013. Young Christians from around the world are invited to apply for a three week hands-on volunteer learning experience at the WCC 10th Assembly on Oct. 23-Nov. 10, 2013, in Busan, Republic of Korea (South Korea). Applicants must be between 18 and 30 years old. Before the assembly begins, stewards will follow an online and onsite ecumenical learning program, exposing them to the key issues of the worldwide ecumenical movement. During the assembly they will assist in the areas of worship, plenary productions, documentation, communications, and other administrative and support tasks. Following the meeting, they will design ecumenical projects to implement in their churches and communities upon their return home. The WCC Assembly is the “supreme legislative body” of the WCC and meets every seven years. Some 150 volunteer stewards help to make this event happen. Completed application forms are due to the WCC youth program no later than Feb. 7, 2013. More information and the application form may be downloaded from .

— Odyssey Networks seeks a library intern to help sort and organize its growing body of work. Odyssey Networks is a nonprofit multi-faith media organization based in Morning Side Heights, near Columbia University in New York. Its products include documentary and scripted programs for major market cable networks, short-form documentary series and news features for a video-centric website and for other major Internet outlets. More about Odyssey Networks is at . Key responsibilities of an intern will be to work in the New Media Department of Odyssey Networks with the network librarian to marry video educationally appropriate metadata, log in received media and place in physical storage, e-mail recipients of newly received content, alert producers of all content received for the mobile application “Call on Faith” which needs to be reformatted, work on metadata from a resource library for a clip library (extensive metadata logging). The network hopes to find someone to work part time, either from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. or from 1-5 p.m. weekdays. Compensation is $20 a day travel and lunch stipend. Apply by sending a resume to with the subject line “Library Intern.”

— The Church of the Brethren hosted a meeting of the Council of Moderators and Secretaries of Anabaptist Churches (COMS) and the Canadian Council of Anabaptist Leaders (CCAL) on Dec. 7-8. The meeting was at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Member denominations of CCAL include Brethren in Christ Canada, Mennonite Church Canada, Chortitzer Mennonite Conference, Evangelical Mennonite Conference, Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference, Can. Conf. Mennonite Brethren Churches, MCC Canada, Sommerfeld Mennonite Conference. Members of COMS are the Brethren in Christ US, Mennonite Brethren, Church of the Brethren, Mennonite Church USA, Conservative Mennonite Conference, Missionary Church.

— An Action Alert on “Pentagon Spending and the Fiscal Cliff” calls Brethren to help take action on the level of military spending in the federal budget, as politicians work on agreements as the year-end deadline nears. The Church of the Brethren’s Advocacy and Peace Witness Ministry issued the alert noting that “the importance of these ongoing budget talks cannot be stressed enough. What is and what is not cut will say a lot about what our nation prioritizes. We’ve heard both sides of the aisle plead and preach about what can and cannot be cut, and whether taxes should be raised, but what we have not heard is a strong voice that is willing to point out the giant elephant in the room: Pentagon spending.” An online form is offered to help church members respond to their representatives in Congress on the issue. Find the alert at .

— Congregational Life Ministries staff are posting additional questions and prayers on the Brethren blog ( related to the Church of the Brethren’s Advent devotional, “The Advent Road” by Walt Wiltschek. The devotional can be purchased at in print or e-book.

— Online registration has opened or will open soon for church events in 2013. Unless otherwise noted, find registration links at . Registration is open now for the Christian Citizenship Seminar for high schoolers and their adult advisors on March 23-28 in New York City and Washington, D.C. Registration opens Jan. 4, 2013, for the National Junior High Conference to take place June 14-16 at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College (online parental consent form required to register). Registration opens Jan. 9, at 7 p.m. (central), for the summer’s workcamps. For 2013 workcamp sites, cost, and more information see .

— English River Church of the Brethren in South English, Iowa, has received “a big thank you” from Kids Against Hunger for helping package meals in November, reports the church newsletter. “We packaged 16,416 meals on that one day alone.”

— The Shenandoah District, through the generous support of its annual Disaster Ministries Auction, has donated an additional $25,000 to the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund in response to recent natural disasters and Hurricane Sandy. “This donation is in addition to the major gift that was forwarded to the EDF this fall after financial accounts were completed for the 2012 auction,” reported the district newsletter.

— Southern Ohio District has rescheduled its gathering to assemble disaster relief kits, due to a delay in receiving a large order of laundry soap from a supplier. The assembly of Emergency Clean-Up Buckets is now planned for Dec. 14 at 6 p.m. at Eaton (Ohio) Church of the Brethren. “We have funds to do 400 buckets in the next shipment,” said the district announcement.

— Florin Church of the Brethren in Mount Joy, Pa., is hosting an Emergency Clean-Up Buckets assembly on behalf of the Church of the Brethren Disaster Relief Auction. The assembly takes place Friday, Dec. 14., starting at 6 p.m. Set up will be 9 a.m.-5 p.m. The group hopes to complete 1,000 buckets. Contact 717-898-3385 or 717-817-4033.

— Camp Bethel near Fincastle, Va., has announced a Winter Camp Retreat for children and youth on Dec. 29-30. “Give yourself a Christmas gift and send the kids to Winter Camp,” said the announcement. The event is for campers in first through twelfth grades led by a reunited summer staff. Cost is $60 and includes four meals, lodging, and all programing. Go to .

— Also holding a Winter Camp is Brethren Woods, near Keezletown, Va. The Winter Camp will be Jan. 4-6, 2013, for fourth through eighth graders. The fee of $110 includes meals, snow-tubing or ice skating, transportation, lodging, a T-shirt, supplies, and materials. Registration and a $55 deposit are due Dec. 15. Contact 540-269-2741 or .

— A student photographer at McPherson (Kan.) College has earned a landmark award in the 29th annual Five-State Photography Exhibition in Hays, Kan. Casey Maxon became the first McPherson student to receive any of the juried exhibition’s 12 awards when he took home a Juror’s Merit Award, said a release from the college. The photograph is called “Tucked In” and depicts an antique vehicle wrapped in a plastic sheet to protect it for the night, see it at .

— The Middle Eel River Watershed Initiative led by Manchester University has received the 2012 Education and Information Award of the Hoosier Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society.

— The beating death of a student athlete and charges against two McPherson College students has garnered attention from “USA Today” and “Sports Illustrated.” Both have run lengthy articles about the incident and the issues faced by small colleges attempting to recruit and field successful sports teams. See and .

— The US economic blockade against Cuba has forced postponement of the 6th General Assembly of the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI), said a joint release of the World Council of Churches and the Latin American and Caribbean Agency of Communication. The meeting was scheduled for Feb. 19-24, 2013, in Havana, until the American branch of the Ecuadorian bank Pichincha in Miami, Fla., froze a deposit of $101,000 made by the CLAI headquarters in Ecuador. “The transfer to Cuba was to cover costs of food and lodging for the 400 delegates and other participants,” the release said. “This is greatly disappointing to the member churches of CLAI and to the entire constituency of the World Council of Churches,” said WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit. “It is simply not acceptable that the US government through regulations of its banking system has decided to create these obstacles for a significant Christian body that cannot meet, whether it is in Cuba or elsewhere. The United States has an obligation and has repeatedly expressed the commitment to uphold religious freedom.”

— More Advent celebrations have been announced by Church of the Brethren congregations, districts, camps, retirement communities, and other groups across the country. Among them:

Wakeman’s Grove Church of the Brethren in Edinburg, Va., presents “Walk Through Bethlehem” from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 14 and 15, and Sunday, Dec. 16, from 2:30-4:30 p.m.

Mt. Pleasant Church of the Brethren in Harrisonburg, Va., presents its 11th Live Nativity from 7-8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 13 and 14, and 6:30-8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 15.

Danville Church of the Brethren near Keyser, W.Va., invites everyone to come and join them in a “Living Christmas” on Dec. 21 and 22, 2012 from 6-9 p.m. at Narrow Gate Farm on Route 220.

On Dec. 16, the Iowa Peace Network holds an Open House and Gift Faire from 1-3 p.m. at Stover Memorial Church of the Brethren in Des Moines, Iowa (see a full list of the Advent and Christmas programs in Northern Plains District at ).

The Eshbach Family Railroad in Pennsylvania, presents its Annual Benefit Show supporting the Children’s Aid Society on Saturday, Dec. 15, at 2 p.m., 4 p.m., and 6 p.m., and on Sunday, Dec. 30 at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Call for reservations, 717-292-4803.

York (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren is one of the Pennsylvania churches making cookies for the Carlisle Truck Stop Ministry this Advent. “We had 214 bags for the truckers,” the church newsletter said (more about this unique ministry is at ).

Lacey (Wash.) Community Church, affiliated jointly with the Church of the Brethren and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), hold its Christmas Cookie Sale and Alternative Giving Bazaar on Dec. 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. featuring Christmas cookies for sale by the pound, fair-trade SERRV merchandise, and more.

The McPherson (Kan.) College Choir will give a special performance of Christmas music on Sunday, Dec. 16. “Christmas at McPherson: From Darkness to Light” will begin at 7 p.m. at McPherson Church of the Brethren. A free-will offering will help underwrite expenses.

Something exciting occurs the Sunday before Christmas near Bruceton Mills, W.Va., thanks to Salem Church of the Brethren. West Marva District reports that for about 30 years now, the roadway for some two miles leading up to the Salem Church comes alive with luminaries. Preparation begins in August when pastor Don Savage brings a flatbed trailer of sand to the church and members work together to fill the 2,000 paper bags. On the Sunday evening before Christmas, teams place the luminaries along the road carefully measured with a rope marked with knots every 10 feet. After candles are lit, a Worship Hour begins in the church sanctuary.

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Anna Emrick, Don Knieriem, Colleen Michael, Nancy Miner, Sean Weston, Jenny Williams, Roy Winter, Jay Wittmeyer, David Young, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Look for the next regularly scheduled issue on Dec. 26. Newsline is produced by the News Services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at Newsline appears every other week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To unsubscribe or change your e-mail preferences go to

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