Newsline for Dec. 7, 2013

“The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14, The Message).

 Quotes of the week“We will remember Nelson Mandela for his forgiveness he extended to his enemies and the perpetrators of apartheid, a quality very rare among many world leaders today.”

— Agnes Abuom, moderator of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee, in a release remembering the life of South Africa’s first black president, and leader of the anti-apartheid struggle. Mandela died yesterday at the age of 95.

“Leader: Today we light the first candle of Advent, the candle of peace.
All: We pray for peace to surround our relatives and friends. We will pray for peace in God’s house.”

— From a Gather ’Round student book for Middlers, a prayer for the first Sunday of Advent. Gather ’Round is a Christian education curriculum from Brethren Press and MennoMedia. Students were invited to participate in a candle lighting and reading to mark the start of Advent. “How about using these readings in your regular congregational worship as well, inviting a child from your Middler group to be the leader each week?” suggests the Roundabout newsletter. Find candle readings for the four Sundays of Advent in the November Roundabout at . On the Gather ’Round Music CD are songs for Advent and Christmas performed by Mutual Kumquat. Listen to “Get Ready” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain” via the link for the December Roundabout at . “Order your copy today, and sing along this Advent,” invites Gather ’Round. Order from Brethren Press at 800-441-3712.

1) Royer Family Charitable Foundation offers major support to Haiti Medical Project
2) Brethren Disaster Ministries opens rebuilding site in New Jersey, Illinois tornado clean up
3) Ministry Office offers information on clergy housing ruling, BBT involved in appeal through the Church Alliance
4) Seminary receives Lilly Endowment grant to improve economic well-being of future ministers
5) Crop breeding success in North Korea
6) Powerhouse 2013 gathers youth from the midwest region

7) ‘Pioneering in a Global Context’ webinar set for Dec. 11

8) Gather ’Round staff complete employment with Brethren Press and MennoMedia
9) Michigan, Atlantic Southeast Districts announce staffing changes

10) Reflecting on the anniversary of Newtown

11) Brethren bits: Remembering missionary Rolland Smith, NCC general secretary, Camp Mack retirement, Workcamp Ministry seeks assistant, Ministry Summer Service applications, live nativities, dinners at John Kline Homestead, and more.


ANNUAL CONFERENCE ANNOUNCEMENT: Nominations are still needed for six offices to be elected at next summer’s Annual Conference: moderator-elect, Program and Arrangements Committee member, On Earth Peace Board member, Brethren Benefit Trust Board member, Bethany Seminary trustee representing colleges, Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee member representing district executives. The Nominating Committee meets in early January, and the deadline to make nominations has been extended to Jan. 2. The Nominating Committee does not consider a nomination unless the person who is nominated agrees and fills out the Nominee Information Form. Nomination forms are online. To make nominations, go to . Information about open positions is at .

1) Royer Family Charitable Foundation offers major support to Haiti Medical Project

The Haiti Medical Project is receiving a major multi-year grant from the Royer Family Charitable Foundation that will enable a doubling of the number of communities in Haiti that are served by mobile clinics. The grant in addition will help the project purchase a truck and will contribute to an endowment fund.

A $104,300 grant this year contributes $20,000 toward the Haiti Medical Project endowment fund, $34,300 toward the purchase of a truck, and $50,000 to double the number of clinics in the coming year. The additional money means the Haiti Medical Project will be able to provide another 20 one-day clinics serving 5 more communities quarterly in 2014.

The foundation’s intention is to continue to support this additional number of clinics each year for five years.

Photo by Kendra Johnson
A mother and child at one of the mobile clinics offered by the Haiti Medical Project.

Haiti Medical Project

The Haiti Medical Project is a partnership of US Brethren with Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti) to provide mobile clinics in under-served communities where Haitian Brethren have congregations. A team of Haitian physicians, nurses, and other workers provide the medical care.

The project grew out of the experience of a Brethren Disaster Ministries medical delegation to Haiti shortly after the earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince and other areas in 2010. American Brethren physicians were part of the delegation, and witnessed the need for ongoing medical services in Haitian communities.

The effort has been funded by gifts from congregations and individuals, and has the support of the denomination’s Global Mission and Service program. Leading the project is Paul Ullom-Minnich, a physician from central Kansas who convenes the coordinating committee. Former Mission and Ministry Board chair Dale Minnich is a volunteer consultant for interpretation for the project.

Royer Family Charitable Foundation

“The Royer Family Charitable Foundation seeks to improve the quality of people’s lives internationally and domestically through sustainable programs that have a long-term impact on individuals and communities,” says the foundation’s mission statement. “The foundation’s aim is to support basic needs for life and health while encouraging long-term self sufficiency. The foundation prefers to support efforts that have a tangible impact, defined measureable goals, and permit a relationship between the grant recipients and the foundation.”

The foundation was started in 2008 by the family of Kenneth Royer and his wife Jean, who is now deceased. They were former owners of a flourishing florist business, “Royer’s Flowers and Gifts,” started in 1937 by Kenneth’s mother Hannah, and now passed on to the next generations of the family. Kenneth’s father, Lester Royer, was a licensed minister in the Church of the Brethren.

Now Kenneth and several of his children and grandchildren are focusing their sights on doing good through the work of a family foundation.

Becky Fuchs, pastor of Mountville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, is one of the Royer family who sits on the board of the foundation. “I was the one who brought the idea to my dad,” she said in a telephone interview, explaining how the foundation became interested in the Haiti Medical Project.

She had become aware of the Church of the Brethren work in Haiti following the earthquake, and was impressed by the Brethren Disaster Ministries project to build 100 homes in Haiti. After seeing a presentation and meeting with Dale Minnich, she and the family gained a more in-depth understanding of the nature of the project.

Speaking for the foundation, Fuchs expressed excitement at the prospect of supporting the church’s medical work in Haiti. “One of our desires is that our grants make a noticeable difference in people’s lives,” she said. The opportunity to help the Haiti Medical Project serve twice as many people is important to the foundation.

Fuchs added that she is thrilled “that my parents’ hard work all their lives can make this kind of difference.” She hopes her family’s contribution will inspire others to see that making a difference is possible.

More information about the Haiti Medical Project is at .

2) Brethren Disaster Ministries opens rebuilding site in New Jersey, Illinois tornado clean up

At the same time that Brethren Disaster Ministries is closing out project sites following Hurricane Irene in Schoharie and Binghamton, N.Y., the program is opening a new project site in Spotswood, N.J.

In other disaster relief news, Illinois and Wisconsin District disaster coordinator Rick Koch has called for volunteers to help in the clean up of tornado destruction in Illinois.

New rebuilding project site

“Thank you all for your support of the recovery in Schoharie, Prattsville, and Binghamton this past year,” said a note from Brethren Disaster Ministries coordinator Jane Yount. “You have helped change the lives of many, many people for the better.”

The new Hurricane Sandy recovery site in Spotswood, in northern Monmouth County, N.J., starts Jan. 5, 2014. Brethren Disaster Ministries web pages soon will feature updated project information at .

The program will continue to work with current partners from Future With Hope (UMCOR, N.J. conference), Monmouth LTRG, and Ocean LTRG to receive cases. Also, two repair jobs have been confirmed through Habitat for Humanity. Volunteer housing for the new project site will be located at Trinity United Methodist Church in Spotswood, with the program’s shower trailer to be made available at the new site.

Read a story about how disaster volunteers have helped one survivor of Superstorm Sandy return home for the holidays is at .

Multiple disasters

Brethren Disaster Ministries reminds Brethren that the church has “witnessed two devastating disasters within days of each other. First, Typhoon Haiyan hammered the Philippine islands…. Days later, an outbreak of severe storms and powerful tornadoes struck the Midwest…. As always, please keep these and all disaster survivors lifted up in prayer,” requested Yount in an e-mail note.

Brethren Disaster Ministries is active in both responses and is receiving donations for both. Online donations for Typhoon Haiyan can be made at . Online donations for tornado response in the Midwest can be made at . Donations are received by check to the Emergency Disaster Fund, earmarked on the memo line for the Philippine Typhoon or the US Tornadoes. Mail to Emergency Disaster Fund, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.

Photo courtesy of FEMA
An aerial view of tornado destruction in Washington, Ill.

Tornado clean up in Illinois

Illinois and Wisconsin District disaster coordinator Rick Koch is thanking all who have begun to help with the tornado clean up in Illinois, and the congregations and individuals who have donated to the relief effort

He has called for volunteers to help in the clean up. Volunteer groups must be approved, however. “If you are interested in putting together a team of workers from your church or area you can contact me and I will send you the info you need to get to work,” Koch said.

One urgent need is “folks who have and can operate skid loaders and other heavy machinery,” Koch said in an update sent out by e-mail today. “Earlier this week it rained in the area and now as you know we have had severe cold weather. On those sites not yet cleaned up, the debris is frozen to the ground. So we need this machinery to help move the frozen debris.” Volunteers who can help out in this way should contact Peoria Church of the Brethren directly, Koch requested.

He notes the need for relief goods varies around the state, and encourages congregations to contact area Red Cross chapters to find out current needs. For example, in the areas of Washington, Pekin, and East Peoria, Ill., there is a need for toys and brand name gift cards as Christmas approaches.

Koch will be in the tornado affected areas next week to deliver donated items and to attend a Long Term Recovery Team meeting. He would like to know how the Church of the Brethren has been helping in the effort. “If you or your church has been working in a specific way to help out, please send me notes of what you did, how many helped, and how long you worked. If you have made donations of goods or of money, please let me know of that as well.”

To volunteer for tornado clean up or to contact Rick Koch with information about your relief efforts, call 815- 499-3012.

3) Ministry Office offers information on clergy housing ruling, BBT involved in appeal through the Church Alliance

On Nov. 22, a judge of the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin ruled that the housing allowance that is made available to clergy by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is unconstitutional. The decision has no immediate impact because it is not yet effective, and the ruling is on hold until all appeals are exhausted.

The Ministry Office provides a link to information on the ruling at . This update from Church Law and Tax and “Christianity Today,” notes this section of the federal tax code “exempts from federal income taxation that portion of a minister’s compensation that is designated in advance by an employing church as a housing allowance to the extent that it is used for housing expenses and does not exceed the home’s fair rental value…. The parsonage exclusion remains intact, at least for now.”

Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) president Nevin Dulabaum attended the Church Alliance meeting this week in Baltimore, Md., where a subcommittee drafted a plan to file an amicus brief appealing the ruling. The Church Alliance is an advocacy group of 38 church benefit programs representing more than 1 million clergy, lay workers, and their family members. Through BBT’s membership, the Church of the Brethren will be a part of the amicus brief, Dulabaum said.

BBT staff are feeling urgency to be proactive in this matter, in order to aid Church of the Brethren ministers who have heard the news and are wondering what is next and whether it impacts them, Dulabaum said. This is important to BBT as it designates several payments as housing allowance, giving recipients a tax advantage. Those payments include annuity payments for retirees, Church Workers’ Assistance Plan grants for retirees, and long-term disability payments for active pension plan members.

The court ruling is expected to be appealed to the 7th US Circuit Court in Chicago. If it is upheld by that court, the case is then expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court. It could be several years before a final decision is rendered. Until that time, the housing allowance tax benefit will continue to be available to clergy.

For questions about the amicus brief contact BBT president Nevin Dulabaum at or 800-746-1505 ext. 388. For general questions about the clergy housing allowance contact Mary Jo Flory-Steury, executive director of the Ministry Office and associate general secretary, or 800-323-8039.

— BBT communications staff Brian Solem contributed to this report.

4) Seminary receives Lilly Endowment grant to improve economic well-being of future ministers

By Jenny Williams

Bethany Theological Seminary has received a grant of $259,954 as part of Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Theological School Initiative to Address Economic Issues Facing Future Ministers. Bethany is one of 67 theological schools across the country to receive this funding.

Personal financial pressures are severely limiting the ability of seminary graduates to accept calls to Christian ministry and undermining the effectiveness of too many pastoral leaders. To help address this issue, Lilly Endowment created the Theological School Initiative to Address Economic Issues Facing Future Ministers. The initiative’s aim is to encourage theological schools to examine and strengthen their financial and educational practices to improve the economic well-being of future pastors. All theological schools fully accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the US and Canada were invited to submit grant proposals.

Bethany outlined three goals in its proposal to help future pastors incorporate sound stewardship principles into their own lives and to lead individuals, families, and congregations toward building lives of stewardship: 1) identify the financial concerns of its current students and graduates, 2) respond to these concerns with intentional programming that will increase financial literacy as well as stewardship in all areas of life, and 3) facilitate conversation, both within the seminary and throughout the denomination, about financial stewardship.

Of the three, implementing programming for financial literacy and stewardship has the most complexity and is the core of the proposal. To help students minimize debt while in seminary, ideas and resources for simple living, seeking outside employment, and securing outside funding will be made available. The reality and viability of bivocational ministry also will be intentionally addressed with students.

Building financial literacy for the long term will involve educating faculty and staff about the nature of debt and financial management in the lives of today’s young adults. Next practical steps will include increased emphasis on stewardship in the curriculum and new venues–both media and interpersonal–for incorporating best practices into student life. The results of all these initiatives will be of value to alumni/ae and others outside Bethany, and the seminary plans to collaborate and communicate in ways that benefit the denomination as a whole.

Jeff Carter, president of Bethany, expressed concern for the well-being of students who are carrying unprecedented financial debt. “Bethany is poised to engage the financial concerns of students and graduates, examine and promote practices leading to healthy and life-giving financial stewardship, and reach beyond the seminary classroom to engage a church and culture challenged by financial pressures. We are blessed with faithful and conscientious students whom we seek to equip and empower as they go forth to serve this present age.”

About Lilly Endowment Inc.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family–J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J. K. Jr. and Eli–through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. The endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education, and community development. Lilly Endowment’s religion grantmaking is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes. More information can be found at .

— Jenny Williams is director of Communications and Alumni/ae Relations at Bethany Seminary.

5) Crop breeding success in North Korea

Global Mission and Service staff in North Korea, Robert Shank, reports important strides in the rice, soybean, and corn breeding research at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), where he and his wife Linda are teaching. A new crop, barley, has been added to this work in 2014, and a Global Food Crisis Fund grant is helping expand the work to include small fruits.

The work of three out of the eight of Shank’s graduate students focuses on identifying and breeding rice for the flood-prone delta areas, soybeans for the salty irrigated soils, and incorporating US corn inbreds into Korean hybrids.

Shank reports that two students have gone to Harbin, China, for graduate work, and two more have scholarships to the International Rice Research Institute in the Phillipines.

The Shanks recently were approved by the Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF) review panel to receive a second $5,000 grant to expand the work to include tissue culture of small fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries. Following a trip of 20 senior students to China, one chose berries for a project.

Robert Shank writes, “There is strict communal control of the classes of tillable farmland, but little control of individual use of the land on mountainsides.” He explains that this has led to row cultivation, deforestation, erosion, and ultimately flooding in the riverbottoms. The farming of annual crops on these highly erodible uplands has been detrimental to soil conservation, whereas perennial crops like berry bushes and fruit trees can be highly productive and would be better at preventing erosion.

For more about the Shanks’ work, go to .

6) Powerhouse 2013 gathers youth from the midwest region

By Walt Wiltschek

Photo courtesy of Walt Wiltschek

More than 70 people took part in Powerhouse 2013, the Church of the Brethren Midwest regional youth conference, held at Camp Mack (Milford, Ind.) for the first time this year. It marked the fourth year for the event since it was restarted in a new fall format.

Audrey and Tim Hollenberg-Duffey, third-year students at Bethany Theological Seminary, served as the main speakers on the theme, “Stories from the Garden: On Earth as It Is in Heaven.” Through three worship services they examined stories from the Garden of Eden, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the garden of life in Revelation 22. Using images from Renaissance paintings to olive presses to leaves, they looked at the goodness of God’s creation, our need for refinement and “harvesting,” and the opportunity to do a new thing as part of the “divine potluck” of God’s kingdom.

The conference, held Nov. 16-17, also included workshops covering topics such as calling and vocation, Brethren heritage, National Youth Conference, outdoor ministry, organic gardening, “Seagoing Cowboys,” and more, as well as an indoor campfire, a presentation of the musical “The Cotton Patch Gospel,” good food, and time for recreation.

The conference for senior high youth and advisors is planned by Manchester University in cooperation with surrounding districts. The next Powerhouse will take place in November 2014, with details to be determined. Updates will be posted at .

— Walt Wiltschek, Manchester University Campus Ministry, provided this release.


7) ‘Pioneering in a Global Context’ webinar set for Dec. 11

“Pioneering in a Global Context,” a webinar co-sponsored by the Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren, BMS World Mission, Bristol Baptist College, and Urban Expression U.K., takes place Dec. 11 at 2:3-4 p.m. (Eastern). Register at .

The webinar theme explores what we can learn from “pioneers (who) have taken the gospel of Jesus Christ into new places and different cultures. Some of these are well-known and their stories have inspired others,” said an announcement. “Many are unknown and the stories have been forgotten. What can we learn from these pioneers and from those who are pioneering in different global contexts today?”

Leading the webinar is David Kerrigan, general director of BMS World Mission. He and his wife Janet have served at Chandraghona General and Leprosy Hospital in Bangladesh, and he also has been a regional team leader for Asia based in Sri Lanka, and director for mission based in Didcot for BMS.

The webinar is free, but donations are appreciated. Ministers may earn 0.15 continuing education units for attending the live event. Register at . For more information contact Stan Dueck at .


8) Gather ’Round staff complete employment with Brethren Press and MennoMedia

Anna Speicher and Cyndi Fecher are completing their employment with Gather ’Round, the Christian education curriculum produced jointly by Brethren Press and MennoMedia. Gather ’Round is in its final year of production and will be available through the summer of 2014. The successor curriculum, Shine, will be available beginning next fall.

Both Speicher and Fecher will continue some responsibilities on a contract basis through next summer, to help finish out Gather ’Round’s final quarter.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Anna Speicher (at right) and Cyndi Fecher (at left) with a last group of Gather ‘Round staff, as the curriculum entered its final year of production. Second from right is Roseanne Segovia, who completed her employment with Gather ‘Round earlier this fall. Second from left is Rose Stutzman, who was an editor for Gather ‘Round and now has been hired as project director for the successor curriculum Shine.

Anna Speicher

Anna Speicher has been project director and senior editor of Gather ’Round for 10 years, since fall 2003. She began her work as the curriculum project was initially being created by Brethren Press and MennoMedia (then Mennonite Publishing Network). Her last day at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., will be Dec. 13.

Speicher has played a lead role in the creation and production of Gather ’Round and its materials for teachers and students, from young pre-schoolers through junior and senior youth to adult caregivers for children, for whom Gather ’Round offered a study resource for some years.

With its conceptual roots in the Shema, the “Hear O Israel” passage from Deuteronomy that is the foundation scripture, Speicher helped shape Gather ’Round as biblically based Christian education. She has led the curriculum’s intentional foundation in sound educational principles and academic research, alongside an emphasis on meeting the needs of students with a variety of learning styles. Gather ’Round has featured the Anabaptist emphasis on Christian education set within an active faith community, with strong ties between congregation and home.

This innovative approach, which helped create unique resources such as the signature Talkabout, garnered high praise for Gather ’Round in ecumenical circles, and gained many curriculum partnerships with others beyond the Brethren and Mennonites.

Cyndi Fecher

Fecher has been managing editor of the Gather ’Round curriculum for more than four years, since August 2009. Her last day at the General Offices will be Jan. 21, 2014.

In her role as managing editor, she has held responsibility for making sure all the pieces of the curriculum come together, shepherding the quarterly production of teacher’s guides, student books, resource packs, and Music CDs. She has negotiated contracts with writers, editors, designers, illustrators, and musicians, and helped oversee the editorial schedule as well as doing copyediting, proofreading, and troubleshooting for the curriculum.

Earlier, Fecher also served for a year as the Gather ’Round project assistant. Next summer she will be pianist for the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio.

9) Michigan, Atlantic Southeast Districts announce staffing changes

Nathan (Nate) Polzin has been called to serve as district executive minister for Michigan District, and Héctor Pérez-Borges has announced his plans to retire as associate executive for Atlantic Southeast District, in staffing changes for Church of the Brethren districts.

Héctor Pérez-Borges

Pérez-Borges has announced his plans to retire as associate executive for Atlantic Southeast District working with the Puerto Rico churches on July 1, 2014. He began his service as associate district executive on Oct. 1, 2011. His ministry career began in September 1994 upon early retirement as a chemist from a pharmaceutical firm where he held a position of quality assurance manager. He was led to serve as administrative dean and teacher in Colegio Pentecostal Mizpa, a post-secondary Bible college. He and his wife Annie joined Iglesia de Los Hermanos (Church of the Brethren) in Vega Baja, P.R., in January 2002. The congregation called him as pastor in February 2004. He was licensed and ordained at Cristo El Señor Iglesia de los Hermanos in Vega Baja, where he served as pastor from Feb. 1, 2004 until February 2012. He and his wife look forward to enjoying more time with the family, reading, writing, traveling, and volunteering service.

Nate Polzin

Nate Polzin has been called to serve as district executive minister for Michigan District, to fill a half-time position beginning immediately. This is a change from the interim position he has held since March 7, 2009. Polzin is also a church planter, start-up and continuing half-time pastor of the Church in Drive in Saginaw, Mich. He serves on the board of trustees of Bethany Theological Seminary representing clergy.


10) Reflecting on the anniversary of Newtown

By Bryan Hanger

Dec. 14 marks the one-year anniversary of the deadly mass shooting that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn. As we take time to reflect on the anniversary of this terrible loss of life, Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence has organized a letter signed by over 50 national religious leaders, including Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger. Below is an excerpt from the letter that will be released to the public and sent to every member of Congress on Monday, Dec. 9.

“With heavy hearts, we now approach the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Dec. 14, 2012. On that tragic day, our nation saw the loss of 20 defenseless young children and of six of the teachers and administrators that cared for them. We continue to mourn that unnecessary loss of life, and the dozens of lives lost to gun violence each and every day since then. Faith leaders in Newtown have been on the front line of responding to the unimaginable grief and pain of the families, and of the entire community there. Across the country, we grieve with our own congregants and communities, and we share the determination of them all to do all within our power to ensure that we stop this constant onslaught of violence.”

The full letter will be available online at on Dec. 9, along with more information about the call-in event.

Advocacy: Faiths Calling to Prevent Gun Violence

The Church of the Brethren’s Office of Public Witness will be participating with Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence and its member organizations in a call-in day to Congress on Dec. 13 in
support of gun violence prevention policies. We invite you to raise your voice on this issue as you feel led and to contact your Senators on Dec. 13. For more information about this issue and how to participate, check out the Office of Public Witness’ Action Alert at .

Take time in this season of hope to pray and reflect on this sorrowful anniversary, and begin to think about how you can work to prevent gun violence in your own community.

— Bryan Hanger is advocacy assistant at the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C. For more about the Public Witness ministry contact coordinator Nathan Hosler at or 717-333-1649.

11) Brethren bits.

Photo courtesy of South Central Indiana District
Lower Deer Creek Church of the Brethren in South Central Indiana District has collected over a ton of food for two food pantries, according to the district newsletter. A total of 2,032 pounds of food was dropped off at local food pantries in time for Thanksgiving.

— Remembrance: Rolland Perry Smith, 72, a former mission worker with the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, died Nov. 9 following a lengthy struggle with cancer. He was born Oct. 15, 1941, to Harvey and Margaret Cozad Smith in Newport, R.I., and grew up in Huntington, Ind. He earned degrees from Manchester College and Bethany Theological Seminary, and also attended Colgate-Rochester Divinity School. He served with Brethren Volunteer Service from 1964-67, first at National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., then as a math teacher at Waka Teacher’s College in Biu, Nigeria. After he was married to Bonnie Throne in 1968, they served together as teachers at Waka Teacher’s College with the Church of the Brethren mission program for three years. In his professional career, he also served as a pastor in Indiana, and as a math teacher in Illinois. The family moved to Iowa in 1987, where Rolland taught math, physics, and Bible at Iowa Mennonite School until 1999, and after completing the chaplaincy program at the University of Iowa, served as a pastor for nine years, retiring in 2010. He is survived by former wife Bonnie Smith; children Daniel (Kathryn) Smith-Derksen of Seattle, Wash.; Timothy (MJ) Smith, of Atlanta, Ga.; Rachel (Bruce) Headings of Iowa City; and Sarah Smith of Boston Mass.; and by grandchildren.

– The National Council of Churches Governing Board has elected James E. Winkler as general secretary/president of the NCC. Winkler has been serving as general secretary of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society. He will succeed Peg Birk, who has served as transitional general secretary of the NCC since July 2012, following the resignation of former general secretary Michael Kinnamon in 2011. The office of general secretary/president is the leading staff position in the NCC. Winkler has been a member of the Justice and Advocacy Commission of the NCC, a member of the steering committee of the Campaign for Health Care Now, and a board member of several organizations including the Faith and Politics Institute, Churches for the Middle East Peace, and Africa Action. He has served as general secretary of the General Board of Church and Society, the international public policy and social justice agency of the United Methodist Church, since Nov. 2000.

— Camp Alexander Mack has announced the retirement of office manager Phyllis Leininger as of the end of December. She has been with the camp for 25 years “and has been at the heart of all that describes Camp Mack,” the announcement said. A Retirement Open House was held on Dec. 1 at the camp, located near Milford, Ind. Camp Mack also gathered memories and photos of Leininger for the celebration. Cards for Leininger may be mailed care of Camp Mack, P.O. Box 158, Milford, IN 46542. Leininger has requested that any gifts in her honor be directed to Camp Mack for the “Growing from the Ashes Campaign” for building the new Becker Retreat Center.

— The Church of the Brethren seeks an assistant workcamp coordinator for 2015, to fill a volunteer position located at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The position is a Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) placement and includes service as a BVS volunteer and being a member of the Elgin Community House. The position is an administrative and a practical ministry position with the first three-quarters of the year spent preparing for youth and young adult summer workcamps, and the summer spent traveling from location to location serving as coordinator of workcamps for youth and young adults. The administrative work includes choosing an annual theme, preparing promotional materials, writing and designing a devotional book and leaders resources, setting up financial spreadsheets, setting up and maintaining a registration database, sending letters to participants and leaders, workcamp site visits, collecting forms and paperwork, and other administrative work. During the summer the assistant coordinator is responsible for the overall administration of particular workcamps including housing, transportation, food, work, and recreation, and may be responsible for planning and leading devotional, educational, and group activities. Requirements include gifts for and experience in youth ministry, passion for Christian service, understanding of mutual ministry both giving and receiving, spiritual and emotional maturity, organizational and office skills, physical stamina and the ability to travel well. Preferred experience and skills include previous workcamp experience as a leader or participant, computer skills including experience with Microsoft Office, Word, Excel, Access, and Publisher. For more information go to . To request an application, contact Emily Tyler, Church of the Brethren Workcamp Office, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; ; 800-323-8039 ext. 396.

— Applications for Ministry Summer Service in 2014 are due by Jan. 10. Ministry Summer Service (MSS) is a leadership development program for college students in the Church of the Brethren who spend 10 weeks of the summer working in the church, either a congregation, district office, camp, or national program. The 2014 orientation dates are May 30-June 4. For more information and application forms for interns and mentors see .

— The Church of the Brethren was one of 29 organizations warning Congress against new Iran sanctions. The church’s Office of Public Witness noted that “current sanctions have hindered the diplomatic process already and have caused numerous problems for Iranian citizens” A joint letter sent to key Senators by the 29 national organizations warned against new Iran sanctions or restrictive policy language that could sabotage diplomatic progress with Iran, and came at a time when the Senate was considering amendments on the National Defense Authorization Act and the day before the US and Iran were to re-convene for a third round of nuclear negotiations in Geneva. The letter and signing organizations are at . Public Witness staff also supported a campaign by Bread for the World encouraging the message to Congress that “this is the wrong time to prevent families from putting food on the table.” Bread for the World is requesting calls to members of Congress at 800-326-4941 or e-mail messages to protect food aid for those in need this holiday season. Find out more at .

— The Shine curriculum project of Brethren Press and MennoMedia has been awarded a grant of $10,000 to make the “Shine On” story Bible available in Spanish, reports Brethren Press publisher Wendy McFadden. The grant comes from the Schowalter Foundation, a Mennonite organization that has provided funding in the past for specific components of the Jubilee curriculum and the Gather ’Round curriculum, and will go toward expenses for editing, development and consulting, translation, design, and printing.

— Jonathan Shively, executive director of Congregational Life Ministries, will lead a workshop on “Vital Passions, Holy Practices: Exploring Spiritual Gifts” on Dec. 14 at Cross Keys Village the Brethren Home Community in New Oxford, Pa. The event takes place from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. and offers .4 continuing education credits for ministers. Cost is $10 per person or $25 for five or more people from the same congregation. Contact the Southern Pennsylvania District office at 717-624-8636. Registrations are due by Dec. 11.

— Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service, has been named to the executive committee of the board of Heifer International. He has been serving on the board as a representative of the denomination. The Church of the Brethren has a permanent seat on the board as the founding organization of Heifer International, which was started as the Church of the Brethren’s Heifer Project.

— Karis, an outreach ministry with connections to Pleasant Valley Church of the Brethren, is celebrating the second anniversary of its shop and café in Mt. Sidney, Va., reports the Shenandoah District newsletter. “Proceeds benefit numerous organizations–local, denominational, and international,” the newsletter said. “A special interest has been setting up a garden to help feed the 30 children served at an orphanage in Haiti.”

— Ridge Church of the Brethren in Shippensburg, Pa., is holding a re-enactment and live nativity on Dec. 13, 14, and 15 at 7 p.m. “Over 30 characters participating, dressed in costume of the biblical period, along with live animals,” said an announcement in the Southern Pennsylvania District newsletter. Refreshments will be provided, and all are welcome.

— County Line Church of the Brethren’s live Nativity in Champion, Pa., received media attention for adding a twist. “This year, besides the live Nativity, we are going to have a couple choirs sing each night,” Linda McGinley, event coordinator, told the Tribune newspaper. Various church choirs will participate along with singer Patty Kerr. The live Nativity will be held on two nights, Dec. 13 and 14, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Read more at .

— Lower Deer Creek Church of the Brethren in South Central Indiana District has collected over a ton of food for two food pantries, according to the district newsletter. A total of 2,032 pounds of food was dropped off at local food pantries in time for Thanksgiving.

— The Goshen News is reporting on a new collaborative effort between Nappanee (Ind.) Church of the Brethren and Faith Mission of Elkhart, Chicago/Michiana Five for the Homeless. The collaboration is bringing a new soup kitchen to Nappanee. John Shafer, founder of Chicago/Michiana Five for the Homeless, shared his vision for a new soup kitchen on Facebook and Deb Lehman of the Nappanee church mentioned it to her pastor, Byrl Shaver, “who loved the idea,” the paper reported. “Right now plans are to host the soup kitchen Mondays and Thursdays every week from 5 to 6 p.m.” See .

— The board of Southern Ohio District met for an annual retreat with business centered “around how to best honor the decisions of our District Conference as we move forward with Outdoor Ministries and the facilities at Camp Woodland Altars,” said a report in the district newsletter. “The camp will require costly repairs and updates in order to meet state recommended life health and safety standards.” The board created a new Camping and Retreat Commission with members of the Outdoor Ministries Transition Team invited to be a part of it. “Their purpose will be to develop the camping and retreat ministry in Southern Ohio and to manage the property of Woodland Altars,” the report said. “$100,000.00 of our reserves will be released to the Camping and Retreat Commission to make needed repairs and updates to meet state requirements for life and health safety in time for the 2014 summer camping season. All loans to Outdoor Ministries have been removed from the books.”

— Candlelight Dinners at the John Kline Homestead in Broadway, Va., will be held at 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 20 and 21. “In addition to enjoying a home-style meal, guests will learn about the family’s struggles in the fall of 1863, including the Virginia cavalry raids, high inflation, and fleeing war refugees,” said an invitation from John Kline Homestead board of directors president Paul Roth. Seats are $40 per person. Call 540-896-5001 for reservations. Groups are welcome; seating is limited to 32 guests.

— Peter Becker Community, a Church of the Brethren retirement community, has partnered with Home Helpers of Lansdale, Pa., in a move to enhance choices and meet the changing needs of community members said a release. Peter Becker has entered into a preferred provider arrangement. “Home Helpers at Peter Becker Community” will have campus presence with staffed office hours. The agency will provide personal care assistance, homemaker services, and companionship to residents in all levels of care, as requested by residents and their families.  In addition, campus residents will receive preferential pricing. A concierge caregiver program will be launched in early December to allow campus residents to engage these services. As an integral part of this new strategic relationship, Home Helpers is committing to formalizing and increasing its previous and ongoing commitment to Peter Becker Community’s Benevolent Fund.

— Camp Bethel’s Christmas TOGETHER Banquet on Dec. 6 was also a fundraiser for a new tractor for the camp located near Fincastle, Va. The banquet included a Christmas music program presented by the Jones Family. Gifts helped toward the tractor purchase. “Our collective support of Camp Bethel puts TOGETHERness into practice as described in Acts 2:43-47,” said an announcement.

— McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren is hosting a performance by the McPherson College Choir on Sunday, Dec. 8. “Christmas at McPherson: Music for Harp and Choir, A Service of Lessons and Carols” will begin at 7 p.m. The music is by contemporary British composer Benjamin Britten, said a release from the college. “A Ceremony of Carols op. 28 was originally written as a series of unconnected songs, but was later connected into one unified piece with a processional and recessional chant. A solo harp based on these chants are worked through the compositions,” the release noted. “Written in 1942 during a transatlantic voyage, Britten’s cantata is based on Middle English, Latin, and modern English poetry.” The choir is directed by Josh Norris, assistant professor of music and director of choral activities. The public is invited. A free-will offering will be received at the door to help underwrite expenses of the concert.

— Bethel Ministries in Boise, Idaho, connected with Mt. View Church of the Brethren, is holding a Graduation Banquet on Dec. 14 at 4 p.m. at the church. The ministry aids people who have been in prison to re-enter society. Speaker for the banquet is David Birch, Area 4 Supervisor for the Department of Parole. “Come join us as we celebrate changed lives and God’s grace,” said an invitation from David McKellip, who is a leader in the ministry. Contact P.O. Box 44106, Boise ID 83711-0106; 208-345-0701; .

— The Springs of Living Water church renewal initiative has released an Advent/Christmas spiritual disciplines folder titled “Awake to the Joy, Christ the Savior is Born!” The folder is intended to help individuals and congregations experience spiritual growth in this season of preparation and celebration, said an announcement from Springs leader David Young. The Sunday texts follow the Church of the Brethren bulletin/lectionary series. An insert gives options for persons to consider where God is leading in next steps of spiritual growth. Vince Cable, pastor of Uniontown Church of the Brethren, has written the Bible study questions. Find the folder at the Springs website .

— December’s “Brethren Voices,” the cable television program produced by Portland Peace Church of the Brethren, features the Brethren Disaster Relief Auction of Atlantic Northeast and Southern Pennsylvania Districts. This large auction raises funds for disaster relief, with all types of items are donated and auctioned off and proceeds contributing to assist Brethren  Disaster Ministries. This year “60 heifers were auctioned as well as beautiful quilts, antique cars, household furnishings, tools, and equipment,” said an announcement from producer Ed Groff.  “Those attending this 37th Annual Brethren Disaster Relief Auction were treated to the tasty food prepared for this event. A prize red and white heifer is auctioned and sells for $3,400. It’s a delightful story.” For a copy contact .

— The Open Table Cooperative, an organization of progressive Brethren, has created a daily Photography Advent Practice. “Guided by the calendar each day you are invited to take a photo, use a smart phone…a point and shoot camera, film, even a mental snapshot, whatever medium works for you. The idea is to capture a moment of your day, to see it with new eyes through the lens of a camera, and bring intention into your day as we prepare for the birth of Christ,” said an announcement. The group invites the sharing of photographs through Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, using the hashtag #PhotoAdvent13. Or upload photos to the group on Flickr photostream, .

— Heeding God’s Call is taking steps to become an independent 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. The initiative against gun violence in America’s cities got its start at a meeting of the peace churches. It is expanding quickly, with a new chapter in southeastern Pennsylvania called the Chester/Delco Chapter holding a kick-off rally on Nov. 3, with over 140 people in attendance. There is conversation about expansion into Virginia as well. A Greater Washington (D.C.) Chapter has begun participating in demonstrations held the 14th of each month at the NRA Headquarters in Fairfax, Va., in honor of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. The Harrisburg, Pa., chapter constructed a “Memorial to the Lost” featuring t-shirts bearing the names of those killed by handguns in the area since 2009. “It has been on display at six sites already since being constructed in August,” the newsletter said. “Harrisburg, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia all now have or soon will have a Memorial to the Lost.” For more go to .

— A faith sharing page for the Christmas movie “Angels Sing,” offers a sermon and children’s story by Church of the Brethren pastor Frank Ramirez, titled “Blue Christmas True Christmas.” The movie featuring Harry Connick Jr., Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson, among others, “centers around a man who experienced a terrible tragedy as a child at Christmas time, and who struggles during the holiday,” Ramirez reports to Newsline. The sermon and children’s story are at .

— Bill Galvin, who has worked for the Center on Conscience and War (previously NISBCO) for over 30 years, will receive a Lifetime Achievement award from the Washington Peace Center in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 12. He has worked as a GI Rights counselor and has become an all-around expert on rights of conscience in the military, said an announcement from the board of directors of the Center on Conscience and War. “His expertise has been foundational to the GI Rights and resister movement and critical for countering military recruitment with a true picture of the reality of military service,” said the announcement, adding that the board is “very excited that someone who is doing ‘our work’ will be recognized in this way.” For more about the award, go to .

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Colleen M. Algeo, Jeff Boshart, Chris Douglas, Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Ed Groff, Rick Koch, Wendy McFadden, Becky Ullom Naugle, David McKellip, Dale Minnich, Paul Roth, Janine Schwab, Anna Speicher, David S. Young, Jane Yount, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is planned for Dec. 13.

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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