Brethren Bits for Jan. 24, 2013

— Marvin W. Thill, 78, a former district executive in the Church of the Brethren, died on Dec. 19, 2012, at his home in Stockton, Ill. He was a retired ordained Church of the Brethren minister who served as served as Missouri/Arkansas District executive as well as pastor of a number of congregations in Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Washington State. He also was a supporter of the denomination’s older adult ministry and instrumental in coordinating bus transportation to National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) for hundreds of older adults. He was born April 25, 1934, the son of William and Ruth (Bruss) Thill. He was a graduate of Stockton High School and Olivet Nazarene University. He married Betty Folkens on Aug. 12, 1954. In 1997 he retired to the Stockton area and served as pastor in the area of Freeport, Ill. He enjoyed raising sheep, back packing in the Cascade Mountains, photography, making post cards, master gardening, and raising corgis. He is survived by his wife Betty; two daughters, Kristin Thill (Mark McKenzie) of Oregon City, Ore., and Lisa Thill (Gordon Franck) of Columbia, Mo.; three sons, Curtis Thill (Yolanda Yoder) of Paoli, Ind., Byron Thill of Seattle, Wash., and Jeffrey (Karin) Thill of Orlando, Fla.; and grandchildren. A memorial service was held at Wesley United Methodist Church in Stockton. Memorial contributions are received to his favorite charities: Heifer International and On Earth Peace. Condolences and remembrances may be sent to the family at .

— Todd Lilley of Bridgewater, Va., has been hired as Bridgewater College’s director of institutional advancement. Lilley brings an extensive background in development and fundraising, and will begin in early March. He has been serving at the Bridgewater Retirement Community as vice president for development. As director of institutional advancement, Lilley will oversee planning, coordination, and implementation of fundraising programs and alumni activities. He earned his bachelor’s degree in management and organizational development from Eastern Mennonite University and his master’s degree in religion and leadership from Liberty University. He is currently a doctoral candidate in organizational leadership at Shenandoah University. He is senior pastor at Mount Olivet United Brethren Church in Mt. Solon, Va.

— The Church of the Brethren’s Atlantic Southeast District seek a district executive minister for a part-time position available July 1. The district includes comprises 17 congregations and 2 fellowships in Florida and 8 congregations and 2 fellowships in Puerto Rico. The district is culturally, ethnically, and theologically diverse. Its congregations are rural, suburban, and urban. The district has a strong interest in new church development and church renewal. Consideration is being given to separating Puerto Rico into its own district. The preferred candidate is a spiritually wise pastoral leader who offers inspiration and works collaboratively to envision the work of the district. The district office currently is located in Sebring, Fla. Responsibilities include serving as administrator of the board of the district, facilitating and giving general oversight to the planning and implementation of its ministries as directed by the District Conference and the District Board, and providing linkages to congregations, the Church of the Brethren denomination, and Annual Conference agencies; assisting congregations and pastors with placement; facilitating and encouraging the calling and credentialing of persons to set-apart ministry; building and strengthening relationships with congregations and pastors; using mediation skills to work with congregations in conflict; promoting unity in the district. Qualifications include a clear commitment to Jesus Christ demonstrated by a vibrant spiritual life with a commitment to New Testament values and to the Church of the Brethren faith and heritage; membership in the Church of the Brethren required, ordination preferred; bachelor’s degree required, master of divinity degree or beyond preferred; pastoral experience preferred; bi-lingual preferred; strong communication, mediation, and conflict resolution skills; strong administrative, organizational, and computer skills; passion for mission and ministry of the church, with an appreciation for cultural diversity; flexibility in working with staff, volunteer, pastoral, and lay leadership. Apply by sending a letter of interest and a resume via e-mail to . Applicants are requested to contact 3 or 4 people to provide a letter of reference. Upon receipt of a resume a Candidate Profile will be sent that must be completed and returned before the application is considered complete. The application deadline is March 25.

— Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) seeks an accountant for a temporary, part-time salaried position based in Elgin, Ill. BBT is an agency of the Church of the Brethren and a not-for-profit organization that provides Pension, Foundation, and Insurance services for 6,000 members and clients nationwide. Function: To support the director of Financial Operations with planned projects and assist the Finance Department staff with financial operations. Scope of duties: Responsibilities include establishing financial reports and budget in Great Plains accounting software; preparing audit schedules; assisting with year-end and month-end closings; assisting with transition from in-house to outsourced pension record-keeping system; and assisting with monthly reconciliation of investments, checking register and bank accounts, and daily valuation of Pension and Foundation funds. Additional responsibilities include confirming trading activity of mutual fund shares for Pension and Foundation investments; providing backup for payroll, accounts payable, and accounts receivable; conducting internal audits and testing for accuracy and compliance within each program offered by BBT; and other duties assigned by the director of Financial Operations. Knowledge/experience: BBT is seeking candidates with an undergraduate degree in accounting, business, or related fields. A CPA is preferred. Requirements include proficiency in Great Plains accounting software and Microsoft Office, demonstrated accounting competency related to not-for-profit/corporate financial transaction processing, as well as strong verbal and written communications skills. Current and active membership in the Church of the Brethren is preferred; current and active membership in a faith community is required. Salary and benefits are competitive with Church Benefits Association agencies of comparable size and scope of services. A full benefits package is included. Apply by sending a letter of interest, resume, three references (one supervisor or professor/teacher, one colleague, one friend), and salary range expectation to Donna March at 1505 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120, or . For questions or clarification about the position, please call 847-622-3371. For more information about Brethren Benefit Trust, visit .

— General secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger is one of 36 Christian leaders of national denominations and organizations calling upon President Obama to urgently redouble his efforts for meaningful progress in the realization of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, according to a release from Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP). “This new year is also our new beginning, our opportunity to act upon our conviction that God can ‘make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert’ (Isaiah 43:19). Working together, Christians, Jews, and Muslims; Americans, Palestinians and Israelis can find a way to take steps that lead to a just, durable, and comprehensive end to the conflict. As followers of Jesus we can take action in hope that peace is possible, God can make a way, and we must do our part through prayer and action,” the release said. Find the full text of the letter at .

— The National Council of Churches (NCC) has issued an update on its recent work on gun violence prevention. “No one could have anticipated the tragedy in Newtown, nor the once-in-a-generation conviction it is creating in the public and on Capitol Hill to change our nation’s policies on gun violence prevention. We have gathered our member communions so that together, we can provide a needed moral voice on this issue,” said the e-mail report from Cassandra Carmichael, director of the NCC’s Washington Office. “So far, here’s what we have accomplished,” she reports: issued a media statement immediately after the Newtown shootings, sharing a 2010 resolution on Gun Violence Prevention; consolidated prayer, pastoral, and action resources from member communions and used them to promote the Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath; convened member communions’ staff and stakeholders who work on gun violence issues; shared the NCC perspective on gun violence prevention at a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden; participated in two gun violence prevention media events, one at the National Cathedral in December and one at the United Methodist Building across from the US Capitol in January. Biden “told us in earnest that the faith community will raise the most important and authoritative voice in our nation’s conversations on gun violence prevention,” Carmichael added. The NCC plans therefore to galvanize as much of its constituency as possible to participate in an interfaith Gun Violence Prevention call-in day to Congress on Feb. 4. For more information go to .

— The 2013 Global Mission and Service workcamp to Nigeria includes participants Jay Wittmeyer, missions executive, and Fern Dews of N. Canton, Ohio. The two will travel to Nigeria Jan. 27 to help with construction of a wall surrounding and enclosing the EYN Secondary School, a ministry of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). They will work with students at the school, meet with EYN leadership and members, and travel to nearby places important to Brethren history in Nigeria. In response to ongoing violence in Nigeria, the two will carry letters of support gathered from churches and individuals from across the US, addressed to EYN leaders and members. To read more about Nigeria, visit . The Global Mission and Service workcamp to South Sudan is scheduled for April 20-28. Find application materials and more information at . All application materials are due to the Global Mission and Service office by March 8.

— “Celebrating 275 years!! Black Rock Church unveils anniversary sign,” says a note from pastor Dave Miller announcing that Black Rock of the Brethren, established in 1738, is celebrating its 275th year of serving Christ and community in Southern Pennsylvania District. “Black Rock was the fourth Church of the Brethren planted in North America and the first west of the Susquehanna River,” he adds. Throughout 2013 the congregation will hold events that celebrate the church’s past legacy, communicate its present activity, and outline a vision for the future. Plans are under way for a Spring Fair with food and fun for all ages, a summer focus on service to the community launched with a Vacation Bible School on the theme of peace, a Fall Festival and Homecoming Weekend, and more. Black Rock Church is located near the Pennsylvania-Maryland state line in Glenville, Pa. For more information contact 717-637-6170 or or go to .

— White Rock Church of the Brethren at Carthage in Floyd County, Va., this year is celebrating its 125th anniversary of becoming a congregation.

— Lincolnshire Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind., holds a 13th annual “Taste of Chocolate” on Feb. 9. First seating is 5-6:30 p.m. Second seating is 7-8:30 p.m. Tickets are $9 for adults, $5 for ages 4-10, free for age 3 and under. Proceeds go to youth ministry. Contact the church office at 260-456-1993.

— Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren is hosting lunch and supper events featuring “Shrove Tuesday Pancakes,” in an annual pre-Lenten fellowship meal sponsored by the Bridgewater Home Auxiliary. The lunch is Feb. 12, from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and supper will be served from 4-7 p.m. Cost is a free-will donation to support the work of the auxiliary in serving residents of the Bridgewater Home.

— Steve Crain, campus pastor at McPherson (Kan.) College, will lead sessions at the next Western Plains District Leadership Training event on Feb. 7-9. Crain, who is ordained in the Church of the Brethren and trained both at Fuller Theological Seminary and the University of Notre Dame where he earned a doctorate in theology, will lead the district in focusing on its statement of vision: “Rooted Together in Love to Be Christ’s Transforming Hope and Power.” A district announcement reported that participants will seek to answer the question, “How do we become a community in which Christ’s transforming hope and power can ‘take flesh’?” Sessions will include small group exercises in meditation and reflection, idea-building, and group spiritual direction. Contact the district office, 620-241-4240 or .

— Pastors in Northern Plains District are joining together in a new project to preach on the denominational vision statement. “Central Iowa Brethren pastors meet once a month to share how our ministries are going and how we are doing personally,” writes pastor Laura Leighton-Harris of Peace Church of the Brethren. “At the October meeting we reviewed the Church of the Brethren Vision Statement passed by the 2012 Annual Conference and decided we would each preach a four-part sermon series on it during January…. We also invited the other pastors in Northern Plains District to join us.” The group is working together via e-mail, sharing scripture reflections, sermon ideas, worship plans, hymns, etc. Quite a few pastors are doing the preaching series and sharing their thoughts and plans by e-mail, she reports. “This has been a very rewarding experience and we are discussing future collaborative sermon series.” Find the denominational Vision Statement and related resources at .

— Camp Eder near Fairfield, Pa., offers a Winter Camp for children and youth on Feb. 8-10. The theme is “All Things New” (Genesis 1). Cost is $75. For more information go to .

— Camp Mack near Milford, Ind., has released its 2013 events, retreats, and summer camps brochure. “God Makes All Things New” is the 2013 Camp Mack theme, taken from Isaiah 41:19.
“Check out the first events of the year,” invites the camp in a Facebook post. “Our first quilt retreat of the year is Feb. 14-17.” For more information go to .

— McPherson (Kan.) College is offering more than $80,000 in prizes for Kansas high school entrepreneurs in its second “Jump Start Kansas” program. Every year, “Jump Start Kansas”–created and hosted by McPherson College–awards two grand-prize grants of $5,000 to a Kansas high school student or team of students who present the best entrepreneurial idea. One grant is given in the area of commercial entrepreneurship, and one for social entrepreneurship. The grants come with no stipulation that the high school students attend McPherson College, said a release. The grand prize winners may receive a $20,000 scholarship to McPherson College across four years. All students for the remaining eight finalist ideas will be offered a $4,000, four-year scholarship to attend the college. Students can enter with their ideas between now and Jan. 28 at .

— Living Stream Church of the Brethren, a new online church in Pacific Northwest District, has launched a video contest. The church seeks submissions of spiritual or scripture-based videos for its Lenten worship services, according to an announcement from pastor Audrey deCoursey. The contest is open to all and seeks original content in music, photography, animation, interviews, and more to reach its audience of roughly 100 people each week. Submission guidelines are available at . Living Stream worships live on Sunday evenings, and participated in the National Council of Churches’ Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath. Now in its second month of weekly worship, the ministry has reached worshipers in over a dozen states and four countries, deCoursey reports. She is working with Portland Peace Church of the Brethren as the ministry grows to provide community and encouragement to persons who may not have a connection to another congregation. For more information, e-mail .

— The Bittersweet Gospel Band was in Puerto Rico from Jan. 14-21 for the Annual Assemblea of the Churches of the Brethren in Puerto Rico, held this year at Castañer Iglesias de los Hermanos. The band included Gilbert Romero from Los Angeles, Calif.; Dan and Abby Shaffer from western Pennsylvania; Leah Hileman from Florida; Trey Curry and Scott Duffey from Staunton, Va. Duffey delivered the message for the opening worship based on the conference theme from Isaiah 40:9, “Lift Up Your Voice.” The band played four worship concerts while in Puerto Rico, including concerts at the congregations at Arecibo and Bayamon, and at a rehabilitation center. At Bayamon, the band presented a guitar as a gift to the congregation from Staunton Church of the Brethren. Lillian Reyes, pastor of the Bayamon church, “received the gift and immediately passed it on to a teenage girl in the congregation who has expressed a desire to take guitar lessons and play for church, but she had no instrument,” Duffey reported in a note for Newsline.

— In a newsletter this week, the Brethren Revival Fellowship has given an update on its Brethren Mission Fund and decisions made for use of funds. Among its support of a variety of mission workers, the BMF is making a one-time gift of $5,000 to the Church of the Brethren Theological Training Academy in Spain on Feb. 20-27, channeled through the denomination’s Emerging Global Mission Fund. A one-time gift of $3,000 is going to pastoral leadership training for the Haitian Church of the Brethren, channeled through the denomination’s Global Mission and Service office.

— “Lent is coming!” reminds the Global Women’s Project (GWP), which is offering a Lenten calendar again this year. The calendar shares stories and information from GWP partner projects around the world, and provides daily devotionals and “invigorating activities,” said the announcement. To receive the calendar either electronically or on paper, send a request to . GWP also has published its annual newsletter featuring partner project updates, a remembrance for Barbara Smith, a financial report, and a note about celebrations being planned for the organization’s 35th anniversary. The newsletter is online at .

— Heeding God’s Call planted 331 t-shirts on a church lawn Saturday to remember the 331 Philadelphians murdered in 2012. The event at Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill on Germantown Avenue in Philadelphia, drew attention to “too many gun deaths” and was intended as a challenge to the mayor to act to stem the flow of illegal guns in the city. Heeding God’s Call is a faith-based grassroots movement to prevent gun violence headquartered in Philadelphia, where it began during a conference of the Historic Peace Churches (Church of the Brethren, Mennonites, and Quakers). The organization brings pressure to bear on gun shops to persuade them to avoid selling to people who would put guns on the street. It is currently active at two gun shops in Northeast Philadelphia and one in Washington, D.C. For more information contact or 267-519-5302.

— La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren member Russell Traughber has written “Driving the Birds” for Jabonkah Sackey, who was born in Liberia in 1948 and suffered the horror of female genital mutilation “at the cutting hands of the Secret Society at age eight,” he reports in a note to Newsline. “As horrible as this is, Jabonkah’s story proves courageous and uplifting. She asked me to write her story to be free of the secrets of her childhood and to do her part in stopping FGM. I believe ‘Driving the Birds’ will be meaningful to my fellow Church of the Brethren members and help raise awareness about FGM and the problem it continues to be, especially in Africa.” More about Traughber’s book is available at .

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