Brethren Bits for August 8, 2013


When Church of the Brethren member Clair Mock took his annual birthday motorcycle ride on July 25, the “Bedford Gazette” featured the event with an article and photos–noting that at 108 Mock is the second oldest resident of Pennsylvania. Mock celebrated the day with a motorcycle ride on the back of his nephew Neal Weaver’s Harley, and a trip to the County Fair where he was greeted by Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture George Grieg. Present for the occasion were his daughter and former Annual Conference moderator Elaine Sollenberger, granddaughter Lori Knepp, and great granddaughter Morgan Knepp, among other family, friends, and well wishers. Newsline thanks Frank Ramirez for being present to take this photograph and be one of those at the motorcycle ride send off!

— Material Resources director Loretta Wolf has passed along a plea for more donations of Church World Service (CWS) kits. CWS kits are among the disaster relief materials that are processed, warehoused, and distributed by the Church of the Brethren Material Resources program at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Currently there is a good stock of Hygiene Kits but the stock of School Kits, Baby Care Kits, and Emergency Clean-Up Buckets is very low. “More materials are needed to respond to pending requests and be ready for future emergencies.” To find out how to put together kits, go to . Kit contents have been selected with care based on years of experience to make them as useful as possible, wherever and whenever they are sent following disasters in the US and around the world.

— Save these dates! Events announced for 2014 include the Church of the Brethren Clergy Women’s Retreat on Jan. 13-16 at the Sierra Retreat Center in Malibu, Calif., on the theme “Hand in Hand, Heart to Heart: On the Journey Together” (Philippians 1:3-11) with speaker Melissa Wiginton, vice president for Education Beyond the Walls at Austin (Texas) Seminary; and the church planting conference “Plant Generously, Reap Bountifully: Toward an Intercultural Future” (1 Corinthians 3:6) on May 15-17 at Bethany Seminary in Richmond, Ind., with speakers Efrem Smith of the Pacific Southwest Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church, Alejandro Mandes director of Hispanic Ministries of the Evangelical Free Church of America, and Annual Conference moderator Nancy Sollenberger Heishman.

— Bethany Theological Seminary is one of the schools taking part in a new event on Sept. 18. According to an invitation from the Church of the Brethren seminary in Richmond, Ind.: “You are invited to attend the first-ever Seminary and Theological Grad School Virtual Fair on Sept. 18. The Virtual Fair will allow you to have your admissions questions answered by representatives from multiple graduate institutions during this live event.” The online event will offer information about seminary and theological graduate school programs, the opportunity to meet school representatives in live chat sessions, upload resumes prior to the event, and more. Register at . For more information contact Gayle Oliver-Plath at 770-980-0088 or .

— Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren is hosting a Bridgewater College Alumni Choir concert at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 18. The Alumni Choir was founded by Jesse E. Hopkins, the Edwin L. Turner Distinguished Professor of Music Emeritus at Bridgewater College. In addition to Hopkins, the 30-member choir will be directed by several other alumni including David L. Tate, Curtis Nolley, Ryan E. Keebaugh, and Melissa Dull. Mary Beth Flory will serve as accompanist. Hopkins retired in 2012 after 35 years on the college faculty. He served as music director at the Bridgewater Church of the Brethren for many years and is conductor of the Schola Cantorum of Waynesboro, Va.

— The Vital Ministry Journey is launching in Southern Ohio District with an introductory event on Aug. 10 for pastors and teams of lay leaders from each congregation. “Congregational health and vitality is a priority for the Southern Ohio District,” said an announcement in the district e-newsletter. “We want you to be alive in Christ and thriving in your local community.” The Vital Ministry Journey initiative will be a partnership of the Church of the Brethren Congregational Life Ministries and the district’s Missional/Renewal Commission.

— In more news from Southern Ohio, the district e-newsletter has publicized results from a Special District Conference held July 27 to receive a report and recommendations from the District Board in regard to Outdoors Ministries and Woodland Altars: “After much discussion, the delegates voted 67-50 to reject the board’s recommendation on selling Woodland Altars. The board will be meeting sometime during the first full week of August to consider next steps as the lessee is vacating the lease as of the end of August. Your prayers are requested as the board deals with this important matter facing our district.”

— The World Hunger Auction in Virlina District is Saturday, Aug. 10, starting at 9:30 a.m. at Antioch Church of the Brethren in Franklin County, Va. The district newsletter reports the auction will include crafts, quilts, toys, produce, baked and canned goods, special services, and more. “Items of special interest to be sold include two tickets to the Virginia Tech-Virginia football game at Charlottesville. The seats are in the lower level, approximately 10 yard line, 7th row. A ticket package to the August 31st Nationals-Mets game in the first row of the Diamond Club which includes waiter service, pre-game gourmet buffet, and reserved parking are up for bid.” A number of congregations partner with Antioch in the auction including Bethany, Bethlehem, Boones Mill, Cedar Bluff, Germantown Brick, Monte Vista, Oak Grove (South), Roanoke-Ninth Street, and Smith Mountain Lake. For more information go to .

— Virlina District is offering a Fall Foliage and West Virginia Bus Tour on Oct. 12, departing from the new Virlina District Resource Center at 3402 Plantation Road, N.E., in Roanoke, Va., at 7:30 a.m., returning around 9 p.m. Ticket cost is $29.99. Monnie R. Martin, Spruce Run Church historian, and David K. Shumate, district executive minister, will narrate the tour. Reports by congregational historians will be presented at some of the stops. Ministers may receive continuing education credits. Churches to be highlighted include Olean in Giles County, Va., Smith Chapel in Mercer County, W.Va., Crab Orchard in Raleigh County, W.Va., First Brethren in Oak Hill, W.Va., Pleasant View, W.Va., the former Bethany Church at Charmco, W.Va., and Greenbrier (Frantz Memorial) Church near Dawson, W.Va. A lunch stop with time for shopping will be at Tamarack in Beckley, W.Va. A stop will be made at the New River Gorge overlook providing a view of the highest steel arch bridge in the world. For reservations contact the Virlina Resource Center at 540-362-1816 or 800-847-5462.

— Michigan District Conference will be held Aug. 16-17 at Camp Brethren Heights, Rodney, Mich.

— Ambitious goals for the 17th annual COBYS Bike and Hike: $100,000 and 550 participants. The event is Sept. 8, beginning at 1:30 p.m. at Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. COBYS Family Services is affiliated with the Atlantic Northeast District of the Church of the Brethren. Its mission is to educate, support, and empower children and adults to reach their full potential through adoption and foster care services; counseling for children, adults, and families; and family life education programs offered in partnership with church, school, and community groups. “We’ve been steadily climbing toward the $100,000 mark,” said event planner Don Fitzkee. “We think this is the year, and we’re asking people to give a little extra to help us reach a significant milestone.” The Bike and Hike is COBYS’ signature event, and includes a 3-mile walk through Lititz, 10- and 25-mile bicycle rides on rural roads around Lititz, and the 65-mile Dutch Country Motorcycle Ride. Each participant receives a free t-shirt (while supplies last), ice cream and refreshments, and an opportunity to win one of dozens of door prizes donated by area businesses. Those who raise certain levels of support can earn additional prizes. Junior and senior high youth groups who raise $1,500 or more win a free gym and pizza night. Grand prizes donated by area businesses will be awarded to the top three fundraisers. WJTL FM 90.3 will broadcast live from the event. Information about fees, a brochure, routes, and more is at . Contact Don Fitzkee, director of Development for COBYS Family Services, at 717-656-6580 or .

— Shepherd’s Spring, a Church of the Brethren camp and retreat center in Sharpsburg, Md., holds a “Celebrate Summer” event on Aug. 17 with activities for all ages. Events start at 10 a.m. and include tours and demonstrations at the Heifer Global Village and animal visits, “Lunch Under the Big Top,” an open swim time, live music, family games, a scavenger hunt, story tellers, tomato tasting, closing with worship at the pool at 3:30 p.m. Events are free, but donations are welcome. The camp requests notice from those who plan to attend, call 301-223-8193.

— Bridgewater (Va.) Retirement Community will hold a “Laying the Foundation” ceremony on Aug. 27 at 2:30 p.m., announces the Shenandoah District newsletter. The event will recognize the legacy of founders of the Bridgewater Home and celebrate the vision for new construction and renovations at the Huffman Health Center. The event is open to the public.

— Pinecrest Community, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in Mt. Morris, Ill., has announced that with the help of several regional foundations and donations, it will be replacing every bed in its Manor nursing home and Terrace Alzheimer’s care center. The announcement made in the Illinois and Wisconsin District newsletter noted that to date, old beds (from the 1960s) already have been replaced in several wings. In 2012-13, Pinecrest received a total of $20,000 from the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois and two other $1,000 grants dedicated to purchasing new beds. “Many other donations were given by people affiliated with Pinecrest who wanted to help when the need became apparent,” said the newsletter. “Sufficient funding was finally realized in 2013 to replace each old bed with a state of the art Elite Riser.” The program is called “Pinecrest Pathways,” an overall health-related visionary program to direct services to residents dedicated to improving health and well-being. Future Pathways projects under consideration include an Arts and Music program and a Trails program. For more information contact Diana Roemer, director of Advancement and Marketing, at 815-734-4103.

— The Springs of Living Water initiative for church renewal has announced next classes for pastors. “After an exciting class for pastors this spring, two classes will be offered this fall in the Springs academy, done over the phone,” said the announcement. Five conference calls are spread over a 12-week period September through December. The introductory class, Foundations for Church Renewal, begins Sept. 11. A Level Two class, Servant Leadership for Church Renewal, begins Sept. 14. Three weeks between classes allows for reading and “shepherding” calls to each participant. The release explained: “In the introductory class, participants learn the spiritually centered, servant-led approach to church renewal which provides a path for renewal for congregations. Pastors learn how to nurture spiritual vitality for their church using spiritual disciplines folders for the entire congregation. They learn five key roles of a renewal pastor. Rather than find out what is wrong and fix it, they help their church discern their strengths and build on them…. Level Two goes deeper into application of a vision of leadership and spiritual formation of individuals and congregations.” Primary texts for Level 1 are “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard Foster and “Springs of Living Water, Christ-Centered Church Renewal” by David Young. For Level Two, the class will use “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and “Servant Leadership for Church Renewal, Shepherds by the Living Springs” by David Young. Continuing education units are available. More information including course descriptions, learning objectives, and testimonials from past participants are at . Contact David and Joan Young at or 717-615-4515.

— McPherson (Kan.) College president Michael Schneider has been selected for the prestigious Higher Education Doctorate Program at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, according to a release. Starting in August, Schneider will enter the 22-month program that leads to a Doctorate in Higher Education Management. Founded in 2001, the program takes an innovative approach by matching those enrolled in the program with cohorts in similar positions but with diverse backgrounds. The program involves independent study and two days per month on the Pennsylvania campus, which will allow Schneider to earn the doctorate without sacrificing his work for McPherson.  “The board fully supports Michael as he pursues his doctorate,” said Rick Doll, chair of the McPherson Board of Trustees, in the release. “I’m sure we’ll get as much out of it as he does.”

— Bridgewater (Va.) College is one of the best colleges and universities in the Southeast,  according to the Princeton Review. “The New York City-based education services company selected Bridgewater as one of 138 institutions it recommends in its “Best in the Southeast” section on its website feature, ‘2014 Best Colleges: Region by Region,’” reported a press release from the college. “In the profile on Bridgewater at, the college is described as one concerned with ‘personally developing students in every aspect of life and making each individual physically, academically, socially, and mentally fit for the real world.’” Robert Franek, vice president of publishing at The Princeton Review, commended Bridgewater and all the schools named as ‘regional best’ colleges. “We chose Bridgewater mainly for its excellent academic programs, but we also took into account what students reported to us about their campus experiences on our 80-question student survey.” Students were surveyed on a range of issues from accessibility of professors to quality of campus food.

— In more news from Bridgewater, the college has announced its line up of arts and events for the community this fall. Events are free and open to the public. Presentations will be at 7:30 p.m. in Cole Hall unless otherwise noted. Among speakers coming to campus:
Tony Mendez, former CIA officer and subject of “Argo,” winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture for 2012, will speak on Sept. 10.
Collins Tuohy, a member of the family on which the movie “The Blind Side” is based, will speak on Oct. 17.
Nontombi Naomi Tutu, peace activist and daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, will speak on Oct. 21.
Shane Claiborne will speak on Nov. 5, in the Carter Center for Worship and Music, as part of Fall Spiritual Focus. Claiborne was one of the speakers at the Church of the Brethren’s National Youth Conference in 2010 and is a leader of the Simple Way, a faith community in inner city Philadelphia.
John H. “Jack” Gordon, President John F. Kennedy assassination scholar, will speak on Nov. 18. November 22 marks the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination.
For a listing of all events, go to

— Manchester University is giving away 1,000 children’s books in downtown North Manchester, Ind., on Aug. 9 at Fun Fest by the River. The books are provided through a partnership with Better World Books. “From ‘Where the Wild Things Are,’ to ‘The Cat in the Hat’ and ‘The Hungry Caterpillar,’ the mountain of books is a library of favorites and adventures in reading,” according to a release. Said Carole Miller-Patrick, director of the university’s Center for Service Opportunities: “Our goal is very simple: to increase literacy. To develop readers at a young age.” Manchester’s partnership with Better World Books includes the providing of 100 books each month to distribute in the community. Beneficiaries will include the scores of elementary students that Manchester students tutor in area schools as well as books donated to local doctors’ offices for children to take home. Part of the project is the collection of used books in bins on campus, which Better World Books collects and ships to communities around the world, and also sells at extremely reduced prices in a Mishawaka, Ind., outlet store. Read the full release at .

— Grace Zhao has been Artist in Residence at the University of La Verne, Calif. A pianist who has played in concert at the national Center for the Arts in Beijing, China, the Nixon Library in southern California, the recital hall of the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, she has been a top prize winner at the Los Angeles International Liszt Competition and the Ettlingen International Competition for Young Pianists among others, according to a feature article in the university’s “Voice” magazine. At ULV she has been director of Piano Studies, and also was recently appointed visiting professor at Sichuan Music Conservatory in China.

— Womaen’s Caucus has announced two new steering committee members: Sara Davis of La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren who is serving as treasurer, and Jonathan Bay, also of the La Verne Church and currently a master’s degree student at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, who will be reworking the group’s online presence. Find the website at .

— Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) has started a petition to ask US Secretary of State John Kerry “to heed Israeli jurists’ and writers’ petitions against forced evacuation of people in Firing Zone 918 [so that] the 1,000 Palestinians, including 452 children may remain on land in the South Hebron Hills where their families have lived for many generations.” A release explained that “the Israeli military wants to force the villagers off their land so they can use the land for live fire training, which is in absolute contravention of international humanitarian law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 49, and the Hague Regulations, Articles 46 and 52.” CPT has had a relationship with villagers in this area since the late 1990s, including a seven-year period when it had a team in the village of At-Tuwani. It is asking support for petitions sponsored by prominent Israeli writers and legal advocates, available on CPT’s Palestine team website. Find out more at . Read the full release at .

— Also from Christian Peacemaker Teams this week, CPT has published an update from its Depleted Uranium (DU) delegation to Jonesborough, Tenn. Titled “Activism, War, and the Military-Industrial Complex” it is published with the author’s name withheld because “two of CPT’s DU delegation partners had their tires slashed or punctured while the delegation was in the Jonesborough area,” said the release. The reflection explains the rationale for the work in Jonesborough, and some of the experiences and conversations the delegation has had interacting with people affected by DU pollution. Read the report at .

— The August edition of “Brethren Voices,” the community television program produced by Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren, features Jerry O’Donnell, press secretary for Rep. Grace Napolitano of California’s 38th Congressional District of the House of Representatives. O’Donnell has been involved in the Church of the Brethren throughout his life, growing up in the Church of the Brethren near Philadelphia, earning a degree from Juniata College, serving in Brethren Volunteer Service, and being involved in Church of the Brethren workcamps. In April, he was one of the leaders in Washington, D.C., who met with 55 youth of the Church of the Brethren at the Christian Citizenship Seminar where he shared his thoughts and recommendations for communicating with congressional representatives. In this edition of “Brethren Voices,” O’Donnell discusses some of the pending Congressional legislation and shares his feelings about the economy, which he states is “built” around the military. He also gives his recommendations on the sites to see in DC, including his office at 1610 Longworth HOB. To order a copy of Brethren Voices contact producer Ed Groff at .

— Two separate ecumenical councils of churches have now been established in Sudan and South Sudan, according to a release from the World Council of Churches. The decision comes after South Sudan’s independence from Sudan in 2011, following a referendum mandated by the 2005 peace pact that ended Africa’s longest-running civil war. The decision to establish two separate ecumenical organizations was made at the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) 20th General Assembly on July 3-7. The SCC previously represented member churches of the World Council of Churches both in Sudan and South Sudan and existed as one ecumenical organization for 48 years. Now two new bodies take its place: the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC), based in Juba, and the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC), based in Khartoum. Festus Abdel Aziz James is general secretary of the SSCC. Kori Romla Koru is general secretary of the SCC. The two ecumenical councils plan to celebrate their 50-year Golden Jubilee together in January 2015.

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