Newsline Special: 5th Brethren World Assembly, Annual Conference Updates, More

“If the world hates you, know that it hated me first…. However, I have chosen you out of the world, and you don’t belong to the world” (John 15:18a and 19b, Common English Bible).

— Coverage by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford and Frank Ramirez
1) Miami Valley of Ohio welcomes the 5th Brethren World Assembly.
2) Quotable Brethren: The 5th Brethren World Assembly in soundbites.
3) Brethren World Assembly video recordings are available.

4) ‘We are wowed’: Updates from Annual Conference 2013.

5) Brethren bits: Aftermath of Zimmerman trial, NYC news, job openings, personnel notes, S. Ohio special conference, more.

Quote of the week:

“A soul which loves God
Finds anguish in this world.
What it loves outside of Jesus
Is beset by terror and distress.
Therefore Jesus calls to it
‘Come, in me is joy and peace.’”

— Poetry by Alexander Mack Jr., presented by Karen Garrett during her examination of Brethren poetry at the 5th Brethren World Assembly in Brookville, Ohio, July 11-14. This is an English translation by Samuel Heckman of Mack’s original German, printed in “The Religious Poetry of Alexander Mack, Jr.” (Brethren Publishing House, 1912). The Brethren World Assembly is a gathering of the spiritual descendants of the believers who were led by Alexander Mack Sr. and held their first baptisms in Schwarzenau, Germany, in 1708. The assembly is sponsored by the Brethren Encyclopedia Board. This year it was hosted by the Brethren Heritage Center in Ohio’s Miami Valley, a unique place that boasts at least one congregation from each of the main Brethren bodies in North America. Find a photo album from the assembly linked at .

1) Miami Valley of Ohio welcomes the 5th Brethren World Assembly.

Extending greetings to all those present at the 5th Brethren World Assembly on July 11-14 in Brookville, Ohio, Brethren Heritage Center board secretary Larry E. Heisey noted the unique location of the meeting. All of the seven main Brethren groups in North America descended from the believers brought together by Alexander Mack Sr. in Schwarzenau, Germany, are represented in the Miami Valley area near Dayton, Ohio.

“This makes us unique in Brethrendom,” Heisey said.

Brethren spirituality was the theme of the assembly, which is held every five years with sponsorship from the Brethren Encyclopedia Board. The 2013 assembly was hosted by the Brethren Heritage Center, a nonprofit organization based in Brookville and started in 2001 to preserve historical and current information on the various Brethren bodies.

The uniqueness of a cooperative venture between these Brethren groups–now numbering seven–was remarked upon during the assembly by several people including Donald Miller, former general secretary of the Church of the Brethren and professor emeritus at Bethany Seminary. He credited the impetus for such conversations to peacemaking icon and On Earth Peace founder M.R. Zigler, who also helped to start the Brethren Encyclopedia.

The planning team for the 2013 assembly included representatives from six of the seven main Brethren bodies in North America: chair Robert E. Alley, Church of the Brethren; Jeff Bach, Church of the Brethren; Brenda Colijn, Brethren Church; Milton Cook, Dunkard Brethren; Tom Julien, Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches; Gary Kochheiser, Conservative Grace Brethren Churches, International; Michael Miller, Old German Baptist Brethren Church-New Conference. Although not on the planning team, the Old German Baptist Brethren are represented on the Brethren Encyclopedia Board and at the Brethren Heritage Center.

Having the Brethren Heritage Center host a meeting convened by the Brethren Encyclopedia board was a match made in Brethren heaven–like peanut butter and chocolate, or perhaps more like chocolate and even more chocolate. The Brethren Encyclopedia Inc. since its founding has provided the platform for cooperative work and planning between the Brethren bodies descended from the 1708 baptisms. The Brethren Heritage Center has exemplified the same cooperation and fellowship among all the Brethren groups in the Miami Valley, even as they continue to experience splits based on differences of doctrine and practice.

Although differences in dress, beliefs, and practice were immediately apparent at the assembly, the gathering succeeded in large part because it was not a business meeting but instead a place for Brethren to be present with each other and with God. The participants expressed a hunger to teach and learn more about a shared heritage, and simply to be together as a faith family.

Presentations, panels, tours, worship–and ice cream

The assembly started off with keynote presentations on Brethren spirituality in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Other main sessions focused on the place of Jesus in Brethren spirituality, Word and Spirit in Brethren spirituality, community aspects of Brethren spirituality, and the Brethren ordinances such as love feast, feetwashing, and anointing

Seminars and panel discussions gave insight into evangelism and mission as a form of Brethren spirituality, the role of the Bible in Brethren spirituality, Brethren spiritual formation, Brethren worship practices, Brethren separation from the world and engagement with the world, Brethren hymnody, Brethren devotional literature and poetry, and the spiritual writings and poetry of Alexander Mack Jr. A panel of youth and young adults gave responses to close out the presentations.

Bus tours took participants to see Miami Valley sites important to Brethren history. Included were sites related to the schisms of the 1880s when the “conservatives”–who became the Old German Baptist Brethren, and the “progressives”–who became the Brethren Church and the Grace Brethren, first organized and broke off from the body that continues as the Church of the Brethren. Tours also visited Lower Miami Church of the Brethren, a “parent” congregation for the Brethren churches of the area, and other sites of interest.

Each evening the assembly ate and worshiped together at a local congregation, hosted by Brookville Grace Brethren Church and Salem Church of the Brethren. Ice cream socials closed out the days.

Although the event was dubbed a “world” assembly, the majority of Brethren who attended were from the United States, many local to the Miami Valley. A group of Nigerians attended from Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Bernd Julius, who had been on the planning committee for the 2008 assembly in Schwarzenau on the 300th anniversary of the Brethren, brought greetings from the village in Germany where the Brethren movement began.

Keynoters explore Brethren spirituality through the centuries

Nuances of spirituality may have been demonstrated or experienced in different ways and languages during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, but one unvarying thread was that it was expressed through dedication to scripture and prayer, in community, and was considered most faithful when expressed in a manner that brought the gospel of Jesus Christ to life.

“There is no such thing as a generic spirituality,” said Jeff Bach, director of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, as he approached the topic of 18th century Brethren spirituality–but he nevertheless looked for common elements to a complex story.

The first Brethren were wary of basing their spirituality upon the lives of “holy men,” but devotional sources such as the Martyr’s Mirror provided great inspiration. These Anabaptist sources had a profound effect on a spirituality that inspired Brethren practices and ordinances. The first Brethren preferred spontaneous prayer to outward practices and an “outward prayer book.”

Bach chose to focus on lesser known Brethren individuals from the 18th century including John Lobach, Catharine Hummer, Michael Frantz, and Jacob Stoll.

Lobach (1683-1750) wrote in his autobiography that he engaged in the same practices before and after his spiritual awakening, but even as a child he considered these practices faked and fruitless. After a vivid conversion in 1713 he found that singing hymns, reading scripture, and prayer were now a powerful part of a personal relationship with God. In 1716 he was arrested and sentenced to a life of hard labor as one of the “Solingen Brethren,” although eventually he was released. His experiences in prison led to a deeper identity with the sufferings of Jesus and a deeper desire to love and forgive enemies.

Michael Frantz (1687-1748), minister to the Conestoga congregation in Pennsylvania, wrote his Doctrinal Confessions that included a short prologue of spiritual self-examination, a lengthy account of various Brethren practices and doctrines (both of these sections in verse), and a prose piece that encouraged nonconformity but warned, among other things, that “taking pride in simple clothing might become the greatest arrogance of all.”

Catharine Hummer (fl. 1762) of the White Oak congregation in Pennsylvania, found expression of a powerful spirituality in dreams and visions that were recorded by the breakaway Ephrata community. Her warnings about the end time and her visions of baptism after death, expressed in her powerful preaching, found expression in hymn texts and demonstrated that their spiritual value was found not just in singing, but in reciting and meditating upon these poems.

Conestoga elder Jacob Stoll, whose devotional works were published posthumously in 1806, used Bible verses as the starting point for short devotional poems that were widely read by the Brethren. His were the “most mystical of Brethren writings” yet remained anchored in community. The mystical union with Christ expressed in terms of marriage still relied on a gathered community.

“Like a precious gem (spirituality) has many facets,” said Dale R. Stoffer, who spoke on 19th century Brethren spirituality. Stoffer is an elder in the Brethren Church and professor of Historical Theology and former academic dean at Ashland Theological Seminary.

He noted that while Catholic spirituality was grounded in mysticism, and Protestant mysticism was grounded in correct doctrine and an inward private experience, for Brethren spirituality “ordered all of life under Christ’s Lordship.”

Scripture, hymnbooks, the devotional literature of the Sauer and Ephrata presses, and eventually the Brethren periodical literature that began with Henry Kurtz’s “The Monthly Gospel Visiter” were the ingredients of a spirituality that over the course of the century encountered Revivalism and the Holiness Movement. This was especially apparent in the differences in the categories included in German and English hymnals of the Brethren.

“The Brethren, like the Anabaptists and the Pietists, did not distinguish between doctrine and spirituality or doctrine and practice,” Stoffer said. He brought attention to the writings of Henry Kurtz, Peter Nead, and Abraham Harley Cassel–but the eye-opener for most attendees was the story of Charles H. Balsbaugh (1831-1909) who, having been reduced to permanent and painful disability, nevertheless wrote over 1,000 articles scattered over various periodicals. Balsbaugh confessed that he moved from a position as a legalist to one who discovered that “Christ demonstrated how God lives and how the Holy Spirit made it possible for us to live the same life.”

Speaking on the Brethren of the 20th century, William Kostlevy of the Brethren Historical Library and Archive at the Church of the Brethren General Offices, illustrated the breadth of influence of liberal, conservative, and evangelical Christianity on Brethren spirituality.

“How does one get from Gottfried Arnold to M.R. Zigler?” Kostlevy asked, then continued, “What in the world is spirituality, anyway? No other word has been the subject of so much misunderstanding and useless argument.”

He suggested that the Keswich movement, founded in northern England, was a major influence on American Protestantism and the Brethren. Keswich theology insisted that “sinful nature is not extinguished but countered” by Christian spirituality, as opposed to the Brethren hope that transformation would lead to a more Christlike life. Kostlevy also pointed to the influence of the school of Dwight L. Moody, which demanded surrender to Christ, and emphasis on the cross instead of the life of Jesus.

Diverse Brethren personalities of the 20th century were touched on, such as A.C. Wieand, one of the founders of Bethany Theological Seminary, who encouraged Brethren to seek “the higher Christian life”; Bethany professor Floyd Mallot, who “was always suspicious of religious emotionalism”; Anna Mow, who found the essence of spirituality in Bible study, corporate worship, and prayer; and especially Dan West, founder of Heifer Project, now Heifer International, who “often annoyed his superiors, his behavior was erratic, he could be caustic and he was not incapable of insulting the denomination that paid him,” in Kostlevy’s words. West especially had an impact and even a cult-like following among Brethren, Kostlevy said, perhaps because he had a spiritual side expressed in poetry and action despite the fact that he was “impatient with orthodoxy.”

The reinvigorated Believer’s Church, as influential 20th century Brethren historian Donald F. Durnbaugh characterized the Brethren movement, found spiritual expression in the authority of Christ, the authority of scripture, the restoration of the New Testament church, separation from the world, and, paradoxically, ecumenical engagement.

For more about the 5th Brethren World Assembly

Find a photo album from the assembly linked at . DVDs of each major presentation and worship service are available, with taping was done by Church of the Brethren videographer David Sollenberger and crew. DVDs are $5 each, or any three for $10, with shipping added. See story below for details or contact the Brethren Heritage Center, 428 Wolf Creek St., Suite #H1, Brookville, OH 45309-1297; 937-833-5222; ; .

— This coverage of the 5th Brethren World Assembly is by Frank Ramirez, pastor of Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren.

2) Quotable Brethren: The 5th Brethren World Assembly in soundbites.

“Quotable quotes” from the 5th Brethren World Assembly give a flavor of the three days of presentations, panels, sermons, and more:

“Brethren have been spiritual people even if they have been slow to write about spiritual practices.”
— Jeff Bach, director of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College.

“What in the world is spirituality, anyway? No other word has been the subject of so much misunderstanding and useless argument.”
— William Kostlevy, director of the Brethren Historical Library and Archives at the Church of the Brethren General Offices.

“Like a precious gem (spirituality) has many facets…. Brethren (of the 19th century) did not distinguish between doctrine and spirituality or doctrine and practice…all of this shared a single purpose: growing in Jesus.”
— Dale R. Stoffer, an elder in the Brethren Church and professor of Historical Theology and former academic dean at Ashland Theological Seminary.

“We tend to make Jesus into the image of ourselves.”
— Brian Moore, a Brethren Church elder, longtime pastor, and two time national moderator of the Brethren Church, in his presentation on “The Place of Jesus in Brethren Spirituality.” He added that “following Jesus was of first importance (to the early Brethren) regardless of the cost…. Basic radical discipleship then was the trademark of hte Brethren This trait has ben the anchor of our persuasion.”

“It’s a tough act to follow Jesus.”
— Brenda Colijn an elder in the Brethren Church and professor of Biblical Interpretation and Theology at Ashland Theological Seminary, whose presentation on “Word and Spirit in Brethren Spirituality” followed Brian Moore’s. Colijn spoke about the way that, for Brethren, “both the outward Word and the inner Word (Spirit) testify to the Living Word of God.”

“Community was not casual or haphazard but intentional.”
— Jared Burkholder of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, associate professor of History at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind. He spoke on “Community, Family, and Individual in Brethren Spirituality.”

“We live in perhaps the most crucial age of history since the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus…. Our job is enormous. This is not a time to twiddle our thumbs. This is a time to pray.”
— Roger Peugh, a longtime missionary in Germany now teaching missions at Grace College and Seminary, a school of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Church. He preached on the importance of prayer for the Thursday evening worship service.

“There’s something uniquely American about demanding unlimited choice, and that goes for religion as well.”
— Aaron Jerviss, a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Tennessee, with a special interest in the history of peace churches. He gave presentations on the spiritual writings and poetry of Alexander Mack Jr., son of the founder of the Brethren movement, who chose to leave the church and join the Ephrata community for a decade before coming back to the Germantown congregation. Jerviss suggested that Mack had as much right to go “church shopping” as anyone else.

“Cosmologies some years ago told us that the universe is shrinking. Now they tell us it’s expanding. It seems to me that you could say the same thing about worship practices in the Church of the Brethren.”
— Michael Hostetter, pastor of Salem Church of the Brethren, tracing the changes in his home church. Whereas 30 years before his birth all songs were sung acapella, by the time he was born the church had an organ, piano, and choir that sang antiphons and responses throughout worship. “We are informed and nourished by the wider Christian community,” he noted, chronicling the adoption of the observance of seasons such as Lent.

“Since the beginning, ordinances have stood at the heart of Brethren Spirituality…. The ordinances blend the spiritual with concrete action.”
— Denise Kettering-Lane, assistant professor of Brethren Studies at Bethany Theological Seminary and a licensed Church of the Brethren minister. Her presentation on Brethren ordinances chronicled the Brethren search for the correct way to perform the ordinances based on a Christ-centered and biblically oriented combination of discipleship and obedience. Ordinances like the love feast and feetwashing serve a teaching function, she noted, and become, through the experience of personal suffering, a memorial to Jesus.

“It is a tension that goes on among us, how we give form to the movement of the Spirit…. Form without Spirit becomes dead, yet Spirit without form is like a fire without boundaries.”
— Robert Alley, a former moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference and retired from longterm ministry at Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren. He preached the closing sermon of the assembly, calling the congregation to think about their answers to the question, “What now?” after such a gathering is over and participants head for home. “As pilgrims, we journey toward Christ,” no matter our earthly destination, Alley assured the Brethren.

“What a time it will be when all of God’s children sit down to supper.”
— Keith Bailey of the Dunkard Brethren, explaining how his community spends significant time in spiritual preparation for and carrying out the love feast, feetwashing, and communion.

“I remember at the end of one of these gatherings a ballot was taken and the Fellowship of Grace Brethren was noted the least Brethren. We’ve earned that.”
— Jim Custer of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, speaking about the traditional ordinances and how some in his community have moved away from them in favor of an emphasis on evangelism and world missions.

“The Love Feast is a Christian celebration. It’s not just a Brethren thing.”
— Paul Stutzman, a Church of the Brethren minister and student in the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, who carried out a survey of practices among Church of the Brethren districts.

“The Brethren have never tried to be uniquely Brethren. They have tried to be authentically Christian…. To be authentically Brethren is to be radically obedient to Jesus.”
— Bill Johnson of the Brethren Church.

“I think there’s a real hunger for authentic Brethren witness, especially with regards to community…and obedience to Jesus.”
— Jay Wittmyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service for the Church of the Brethren, during a panel on spirituality as a witness to the world.

“We’ve grappled with this issue of going into all the world and being in all the world.”
— Curt Wagoner, Old German Baptist Brethren-New Conference

“Everyone of us has a responsibility and a duty to witness to Jesus Christ.”
— Ike Graham, Conservative Grace Brethren Churches International

“We make sure everyone in the EYN takes the Great Commission seriously.”
— Musa Mambula of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), during a panel discussion on world missions. He listed the many stages new converts go through before being fully integrated into an EYN congregation, adding that it is important for Nigerian Brethren to understand and respect the larger Muslim culture and to work with local leaders in order to make evangelism effective. Asked how Nigerians do love feast, he described the EYN version as a potluck in which everyone shares, and to which everyone is welcome whether are not they are able to bring a dish to the table.

“The Bible tells us who Jesus is, what he has done, and what he expects of us…. We believe the Holy Spirit is still at work.”
— Dan Ulrich, professor of New Testament Studies at Bethany Theological Seminary and an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren.

“It was in the Bible that I met the Lord Jesus Christ and I praise God that he gave me the grace to seek his truth.”
— Curt Wagoner of the Old German Baptist Brethren-New Conference.

“Each time we divide and re-form, about three days later we come up with the same problem.”
— An assembly attendee describing the schisms within the Brethren movement, and how the same issues seem to re-occur in the new bodies created by the divisions that have happened over the course of Brethren history.

3) Brethren World Assembly video recordings are available.

Video recordings are available from the 5th Brethren World Assembly. The recordings in DVD format are of the main presentations and worship services, and are made available by the sponsoring body, the Brethren Encyclopedia Board, through the host organization the Brethren Heritage Center in Brookville, Ohio. The taping was done by Brethren videographer David Sollenberger and crew.

DVDs cost $5 each, or any three disks for $10, with a shipping fee added to each order:

Disk 1: Brethren spirituality in the 18th century presentation by Jeff Bach, Brethren spirituality in the 19th century presentation by Dale Stoffer, Brethren spirituality in the 20th century presentation by Bill Kostlevy.

Disk 2: The place of Jesus in Brethren spirituality presentation by Brian Moore, Word and Spirit in Brethren spirituality presentation by Brenda Colijn, and community role in Brethren Spirituality presentation by Jared Burkholder.

Disk 3: Brethren ordinances presentation by Denise Kettering Lane, Brethren ordinances panel discussion.

Disk 4: Seminars on the spiritual writings of Alexander Mack Jr. by Aaron Jerviss and Brethren hymnody by Peter Roussakis.

Disk 5: Seminar on Brethren separation from the world and engagement with the world by Carl Bowman.

Disk 6: Seminars on Brethren devotional literature and poetry by Karen Garrett, and spiritual formation practices by Christy Hill.

Disk 7: Thursday evening worship with preaching by Roger Peugh.

Disk 8: Friday evening worship with preaching by Fred Miller.

Disk 9: Saturday  evening worship with preaching by Robert Alley.

Disk 10: Panels on Brethren spirituality as witness to the world.

Disk 11: Tour of Brethren sites in the Miami River Valley.

Order DVDs from the Brethren Heritage Center, 428 Wolf Creek St., Suite #H1, Brookville, OH 45309-1297; 937-833-5222; ; .

4) ‘We are wowed’: Updates from Annual Conference 2013.

— A two-page Wrap Up of Annual Conference 2013 has been posted at along with more news reports from the Conference that took place in Charlotte, N.C., on June 29-July 3. The Wrap Up in pdf format is designed to be downloaded and shared by churches in Sunday bulletins or newsletters, or as a hand out for delegate reports from the Conference.

— “We are wowed,” said Classroom Central of Charlotte, N.C., in a web post about the school supplies donated during Annual Conference: 26,682 pencils, 9,216 pens, 1,500 packs of crayons, 1,396 erasers, 1,026 packs of markers, 384 one-subject notebooks, 654 backpacks, 198 rulers, 165 gluesticks, 127 pairs of scissors, 118 highlighters, 61 composition books, 38 calculators, totaling 43,183 items. “With over half the region’s children living at or below poverty level, many parents are not always able to supply their kids with the basic items needed at school,” Classroom Central noted. “The donation from Church of the Brethren will make such an incredible impact in the six districts we serve, providing students in need with essential tools needed to learn! Thanks to our contact person, Chris, and all the members of the church who made this happen.” See the full post at .

— The Womaen’s Caucus honored Pamela Brubaker with a “Mother of Caucus” award during the 2013 Conference. Brubaker is professor of religion at California Lutheran University and author of “She Hath Done What She Could: A History of Women’s Participation in the Church of the Brethren” (1985, Brethren Press) as well as more recent volumes on globalization and other issues related to women and economics including “Globalization at What Price? Economic Change and Daily Life” and “Women Don’t Count: The Challenge of Women’s Poverty to Christian Ethics.” She participated in encounters between the World Council of Churches, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank in 2003 where she presented papers on Christian faith and economic justice, and was a presenter at the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Jamaica. She co-chairs the Los Angeles based organization Sweatshop Action Committee of Progressive Christians Uniting, was co-chair of the Ethics Section of the American Academy of Religion for a three-year term, and is currently on the board of the Society of Christian Ethics. For more about Womaen’s Caucus go to .

5) Brethren bits: Aftermath of Zimmerman trial, NYC news, job openings, personnel notes, S. Ohio special conference, more.

— “In the aftermath of a grievous miscarriage of justice–what do we do?” asks Heeding God’s Call, a movement working against gun violence that had its start at a conference of the Historic Peace Churches in Philadelphia. Brethren leaders involved in Heeding God’s Call include former Annual Conference moderator and Harrisburg, Pa., pastor Belita Mitchell. “Heeding God’s Call grieves for Trayvon Martin’s senseless gun death, as we do all the senseless gun deaths and injuries that occur daily in this country. And, we commit ourselves to keeping on to our faithful work to make such deaths and injuries less likely,” said a message today from executive director Bryan Miller, in part. “This has meaning far beyond Trayvon’s death, as sad and depressing as that is, especially for people in the two dozen or so states, including Pennsylvania, which both have such ‘Shoot First’ laws and allow individuals to legally carry concealed and loaded handguns in public…. This deadly combination makes certain that some future arguments, disagreements, even physical fights, will turn deadly, as one opponent makes a life and death decision that will only have an effect on the other. This is lethally out of balance and on par with a license to kill. People will die who shouldn’t. This is drastically and morally wrong.” The message went on to state that Heeding God’s Call “renews its commitment to engage people of faith in becoming activists to prevent gun violence” and pledges to “undertake a new direction, as well–namely, we will seek to move the faith community to action to eliminate bad gun laws, like ‘Shoot First’ and concealed carry laws, and to enact good and effective gun regulation to prevent violence.” For more go to .

— The National Council of Churches (NCC) has renewed its call for racial justice in the wake of the Zimmerman acquittal. NCC president Kathryn Lohre released a statement that said, in part: “This summer as we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, we are reminded that racism is alive and well. We have seen this in the Supreme Court’s recent invalidation of parts of the Voting Rights Act and now in the shocking impunity granted by a Florida jury to a man who stalked and killed a black child. But even when the headlines fade, we witness every day in our neighborhoods, towns, and cities how our culture of violence preys upon all of us, with the most deadly impact on the lives of people of color.” The statement also included support for gun control measures and action against gun violence, and prayer “for the family and friends of Trayvon Martin, for George Zimmerman and his family and friends, for the members of the jury and their family and friends, and for all who have suffered and will continue to suffer as a result of this tragedy. The NCC includes a number of member communions from the historic Black Christian community. For more go to , , and .

— The National Youth Conference (NYC) office is accepting entries for the Youth Music Contest and the Youth Speech Contest, as well as applications for youthworker positions for the 2014 event. Youth who enjoy writing music are invited to write a song based on the theme “Called by Christ, Blessed for the Journey Together” (Ephesians 4:1-7) and submit it to the NYC office. The winner will have the opportunity to perform the song on stage during NYC. Youth also are invited to prayerfully consider what message the NYC 2014 theme has for them, their congregations, and the larger denomination, and express that in a speech. Two speech contest winners will share their messages during a worship service at NYC. All entries to the two contests must be submitted by Feb. 16, 2014, either by uploading via a link on the NYC website (coming soon) or by mail to the NYC office. The NYC office is accepting youthworker applications until Nov. 2. Youthworkers are dedicated volunteers (college age and older) who help carry out the plans of the National Youth Cabinet during the week of NYC. For more information on all three of these opportunities, go to . Contact the NYC office with any questions at or 847-429-4385. Or visit the recently updated NYC webpage: .

— The Church of the Brethren seeks an individual to fill the full-time hourly position of media support specialist, a part of the communications and web teams and reporting directly to the website producer. Major responsibilities include creating and updating web pages for the Church of the Brethren, including Annual Conference and all offices and ministries. Additional responsibilities include formatting and posting PDF files, maintaining the denomination’s Google calendar, working with the news director to maintain the digital photo and video archive and fill photo and video requests, serving as a sounding board for web, photography, and video questions, and assisting as needed with technical support within the office, including keeping communications supplies up to date. Required skills and knowledge include skilled competency in HTML, CSS, Javascript, Photoshop, Adobe Premiere or other video editing software, Convio/Blackbaud or other content management systems, and Microsoft Office component applications including Outlook, Word, Excel, and Power Point; knowledge of website structure, design, and usability, as well as when to use different online platforms (web pages, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, surveys, etc.); ability to work on a team, handle multiple simultaneous projects, and meet deadlines; excellent customer service attitude. Training or experience in web technology and software, including page design, is required, as well as a high school diploma or equivalent. The position is based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.
Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. Request the application packet by contacting Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 367; . The Church of the Brethren is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

— Erika Fitz has accepted the position of program coordinator for the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center (SVMC) and will assume her duties on Aug. 1. A search committee composed of Donna Rhodes, David Hawthorne, Del Keeney, and Craig Smith was formed to find a replacement for Amy Milligan who recently resigned as program coordinator. Fitz grew up in York (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren and is currently affiliated with the Lancaster Friends Meeting. She earned a master of divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary and a doctorate from Emory University. The SVMC office is located on the campus of Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. SVMC is a ministry partnership of the districts of Atlantic Northeast, Southern Pennsylvania, Middle Pennsylvania, Western Pennsylvania, and Mid-Atlantic, along with the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership and Bethany Theological Seminary.

— Church World Service (CWS) relief materials have been distributed in West Virginia and Colorado, through the Church of the Brethren Material Resources program at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. The shipments to Moundsville, W.V., and to various locations in Colorado were made from the Brethren warehouses that process, store, and ship disaster relief goods on behalf of CWS. On behalf of CWS, Material Resources shipped 600 Hygiene Kits, 500 Emergency Clean Up Buckets, 75 Baby Kits, and 60 blankets to Appalachian Outreach in Moundsville, which has West Virginia’s only warehouse for voluntary agencies’ response following disasters, including recent flooding and Superstorm Sandy, said a CWS release. Some 206 homes in Roane County and about 140 homes in Kanawha County in West Virginia suffered flooding during the past three weeks, and areas of the state are still doing repairs following Superstorm Sandy. The Springs Adventist Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., received a shipment of 1,020 blankets, 510 School Kits, 540 Hygiene Kits, and 500 Emergency Clean Up Buckets for distribution to wildfire evacuees and first responders. Also send to the Pikes Peak (Colo.) Chapter of the American Red Cross were 300 Emergency Clean Up Buckets and 300 Hygiene Kits for distribution to wildfire evacuees and first responders.

— John Mueller began July 1 as district executive minister for Atlantic Southeast District, serving in a half-time position. He and his wife Mary also serve as co-pastors of Jacksonville (Fla.) Church of the Brethren. The Atlantic Southeast District office has moved to the Muellers’ home. The district’s new address is 1352 Holmes Landing Drive, Fleming Island, FL 32003; 239-823-5204; . The former office location in Sebring, Fla., and the former post office box for the district both closed on June 30. “There will be no forwarding of mail,” said an announcement from the district. “Please make sure you start using the new District Office address.”

— Tomorrow, July 18, Bridgewater (Va.) College breaks ground on a $9 million Nininger Hall renovation and building project. A 10 a.m. ceremony is planned. Nininger is the oldest athletic facility in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference and was last refurbished in 1988, said a release from the college. The transformation of Nininger, which was built in 1958, will increase the facility’s footprint by as much as 16,000 square feet and will provide a renovated gymnasium, updated classrooms and laboratory for the health and human sciences program, renovated faculty and coaches offices, new locker rooms, training/rehab center, strength/conditioning facility, and team room. Other features include a new, multi-sport flexible locker room, new building façade and lobby, and new Athletic Hall of Fame celebration area. Jopson Field will be included in the makeover, receiving a turf field and the installation of lights. Bridgewater has launched a capital campaign to raise funds for the project, which was designed by the Greensboro, N.C.-based architectural firm of Moser Mayer Phoenix Associates and will be executed by Lantz Construction in Harrisonburg, Va.

— Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) announces the start of the summer orientation unit, to be held July 16-Aug. 3 at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. This unit will be the 301st for BVS and will consist of 25 volunteers including 17 Americans and 8 Germans. They will spend three weeks exploring project possibilities and topics of community building, peace and social justice, faith sharing, vocation, and more. Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren is hosting the unit for their middle weekend of service.

— A Deacon Ministry workshop will be offered prior to the Western Plains District Conference. Led by Donna Kline, director of the denomination’s Deacon Ministry, the workshop is planned for July 26, from 1-3:45 p.m. at McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren. From 1-2:30 p.m. the event will focus on “The Art of Listening”; from 2:45-3:45 p.m. the workshop will be on “Offering Support in Times of Grief and Loss.”

— Southern Ohio District has a Special District Conference on July 27 at Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren in Kettering. “The focus for this special district conference will be Camp Woodland Altars and recommendations prompted by the directives that were passed at the October 2012 district conference,” said an announcement. The recommendations concerning Outdoor Ministries are: 1. To reorganize and rename current Outdoor Ministries to encompass a larger scale by changing the name to Camping Ministries, which can include both outdoor and indoor ministries. 2. To combine the newly named Camping Ministries, Shared Ministries, and Disaster Ministries under a new ministry title called Connection Ministries. 3. To hire an Associate District Executive of Connection Ministries. Recommendations concerning property are: 1. To cease all operations at Woodland Altars as of Sept. 1. 2. To sell the property and facilities at Woodland Altars. Find the full document of recommendations at . A timeline of related district decisions is at . The district e-mail included guidelines for respectful communication to help the district conference “be able to discern God’s spirit moving among us. May our conversation be pleasing to God, our personal wants and needs shared respectfully, and our prayers be for the good of others and for building up the body of Christ.”

— Others are holding district conferences on the same weekend: Northern Ohio District meets July 26-28 in Ashland, Ohio; Southeastern District meets July 26-28 in Mars Hill, N.C.; and Western Plains District meets July 26-28 at McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren and McPherson College on the theme “Transformed by the Light of Christ.” The Western Plains District Conference planning committee had issued an invitation to the people of the district to bring their concepts of the theme to life in artwork for a display at the conference, and Western Plains also is holding its first Mission and Service Dinner on the evening of July 27.

— Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is calling for help from its supporters to replace volunteers to whom Israel has denied entry. “On two occasions in the past week, Israeli officials at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport refused entry to members of CPT who had traveled to Israel to join the Christian Peacemaker Team in the Israeli-occupied West Bank,” said the release. On July 2, Israeli authorities interrogated a CPT reservist from the Netherlands and held him in the airport for 14 hours before placing him on a flight home, and three days later they interrogated a CPT reservist from the US for 10 hours before sending him home. Each had served in Israel-Palestine before. “CPT’s sudden inability to get team members into the country is especially worrying given Israeli authorities’ recent ban on CPT activities near the Ibrahimi Mosque in Al-Khalil, apparently intended to halt international nonviolent protective presence in the most sensitive and volatile area of the city,” the release said. Since May, Israel’s Border Police have prohibited CPTers from wearing their uniform, vests, and hats, and from recording the obstructions imposed on Palestinians’ daily life between the two main checkpoints that control movement past the mosque complex, which also includes a synagogue and visitors’ center. In response, the CPT team in Palestine wants to initiate a quick surge of volunteers traveling through Israel to join its project within the next few weeks. Find out more and read the full release at .

— The World Council of Churches (WCC) has announced dates for the 2013 World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel on Sept. 22-28. An initiative of the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) of the WCC, the event “invites churches, faith-based communities, civil society organizations, and other agencies working for justice to join a week of prayer, education, and advocacy for an end to the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine and a just end to the conflict.” Theme for this year is “Jerusalem, the City of Justice and Peace.” A variety of new resources including worship resources have been created by partner congregations and peace activists. Find resources and more information at . To share details about local plans for the week with the WCC, contact John Calhoun, convenor of World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel, at .

— Brethren Voices features Jerry O’Donnell as a special guest in July. This public television program is provided through Peace Church of the Brethren in Portland, Ore. “Our Man In Washington D.C.” is hosted by Brent Carlson, and interviews O’Donnell about his personal history and work as press secretary for Rep. Grace Napolitano of California’s 38th Congressional District. “As a second grader, Jerry O’Donnell was the only student in his class who was politically engaged,” said an announcement from producer Ed Groff. “He wore a political campaign button during the 1992 presidential election. For Jerry O’Donnell…that served an indication at an early age of his interest in government.” O’Donnell has been active in various congregations including Royersford and Green Tree Churches of the Brethren. He is a graduate of Juniata College in Huntington, Pa., and served in Brethren Volunteer Service as well as in the Church of the Brethren mission in the Dominican Republic working with Irv and Nancy Heishman. Recently, he celebrated his third year anniversary on the staff of Rep. Grace Napolitano. The Brethren Voices August episode also will feature O’Donnell discussing how to communicate to Congresspeople and upcoming legislation. Approximately 40 Brethren Voices programs can be viewed on . Contact to order a copy of the July episode on DVD.

Contributors to this Newsline include Deb Brehm, Lesley Crosson, Charles Culbertson, Terry Grove, Tim Heishman, Philip E. Jenks, Phil King, Frank Ramirez, Callie Surber, Loretta Wolf, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren.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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