Brethren Bits for Aug. 19, 2014

 “We were able to film Chelsesa Goss and Rebekah Maldonado Nofziger completing their BVS Coast to Coast bicycle trip, being greeted by the Pacific Ocean at 5:47 p.m. PDT in Cannon Beach, Ore.–approximately 110 days after they began from Virginia Beach, Va., on May 1,” reports Ed Groff, producer of the “Brethren Voices” community television show from Peace Church of the Brethren in Portland. The two bicycling BVSers are the subject of “Brethren Voices” in September. “WE MADE IT!! 5200 miles coast to coast!” was the tweet from the two as they posted this picture on the Pacific coast yesterday, Aug. 18. Groff tells this story from the last leg of their journey: “As they entered the Pacific with their bicycles, a vacationing couple from Indiana came over and greeted them. Chelsea and Rebekah discussed what they had just accomplished and the couple were impressed with their works and effort of bicycling across country in support of BVS and shared that they are familiar with the Brethren back in their home state of Indiana. I’m sure that when they return home to Indiana, they will talk about their experience of being on a beautiful beach in Oregon and watching two young ladies ride their bikes into the waters of the Pacific.” In more news from Brethren Voices, the show in August meets with Sharon and Ed Groff as they serve in Brethren Volunteer Service at CKV-TBHC and experience life as volunteers at Cross Keys Village-The Brethren Home Community of New Oxford, Pa. Contact Ed Groff at for further information and view “Brethren Voices” on .

— Shine: Living in God’s Light, the new Sunday school curriculum from Brethren Press and MennoMedia, is accepting applications for curriculum writers. The curriculum is for children age three through grade 8. Accepted writers must attend  a Writers Conference in Indiana on March 6-9, 2015. Shine pays for meals and lodging during the conference and covers reasonable travel expenses. More details are available at . Applications and sample sessions are due by Dec. 15.

— Several Annual Conference groups are meeting at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., this week. The Conference Office is welcoming the Annual Conference officers, the Program and Arrangements Committee, and the Worship Planning Team for their annual August meetings. The Conference officers are moderator David Steele of Huntingdon, Pa.; moderator-elect Andy Murray, also of Huntingdon; and secretary Jim Beckwith of Lebanon, Pa. The Program and Arrangements Committee includes elected members Christy Waltersdorff of Naperville, Ill.; Shawn Flory Replogle of McPherson, Kan.; and Rhonda Pittman Gingrich of Minneapolis, Minn. On the Worship Planning Team are Audrey Hollenberg-Duffey of Hagerstown, Md.; Russ Matteson of Modesto, Calif.; Dave Witkovsky of Huntingdon, Pa.; Carol Elmore of Roanoke, Va.; and Terry Hershberger of Woodbury, Pa. The Conference director Chris Douglas also meets with these committees as staff.

— “Gaza: Prayers for a Peace That Endureth” is the title of an Action Alert from the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness. Dated Aug. 12, the alert called attention to the fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, and the destruction and loss suffered by the innocent civilians caught in between. “These recent horrific events are making the headlines, but the unaddressed root causes of these calamities have a long history,” the alert said, in part. “Gaza has been blockaded for years, and because of this its people can hardly move and are economically oppressed…. Things have also deteriorated outside of Gaza, as Israeli settlements continue to be built in the West Bank and Palestinian families continue to be displaced. Hamas’ rocket-fire into Israel continues to strike fear, and behind all of these on-the-ground realities is a deep mistrust between Palestinians and Israelis that has made any attempt at negotiating a peace ring hollow.” The alert called church members to support conditions for a long-lasting peace, that “will not be established by simply stopping the rocket fire and removing the ground troops…. If the United States and other involved parties don’t honestly re-examine how their support, both militarily and financially, exacerbates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it will be impossible for a just peace to be imagined, let alone established.” Action steps include lifting up the situation in prayer, and advocating to Congress to support cease-fire efforts that set in place the framework for a lasting peace. A sample letter is provided. Find the Action Alert at .

— Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., will take part in the 2014 Seminary and Theological Grad School Virtual Fair on Wednesday, Sept. 17. This is Bethany’s second year participating in the event with nearly 50 other seminaries across the country. “If you, or someone you know, has been thinking about seminary…REGISTER TODAY!” said an invitation from director of admissions Tracy Primozich. “The Virtual Seminary and Theological Grad School Fair will allow you to have your admissions questions answered by representatives from multiple graduate institutions during this live event.” The event is free for those who register for the live chat sessions online, with the option to upload a personal resume prior to the event. Live chat hours are from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Register at . Contact Primozich at 800-287-8822 or .

— In more news from Bethany, at the 2014 Annual Conference the seminary continued its exhibit theme of inviting Conference-goers to “join the conversation.” This year, moderator Nancy Heishman and Bethany president Jeff Carter posed questions about discipleship: “Through what scripture text has Jesus been calling you to a deeper discipleship?” and “My witness is seen, heard, and felt when I….” Visitors were invited to write a brief personal response on a sticky note and add their voices to the faith journey mosaic. Now, Bethany has posted the responses online and hopes to share these voices as widely as possible. Read the posted responses by going to Bethany’s Annual Conference web page at and clicking on the sentence: “Read the responses shared by Brethren sisters and brothers!”

— Oak Grove Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va., and Madison Avenue Church of the Brethren in York, Pa., have made the news in their communities for providing backpacks and other supplies for children at the start of the new school year. The Oak Grove Church sponsors a Backpack Ministry for some children at Oak Grove Elementary School in Roanoke, according to the “Roanoke Times.” “This program provides non-perishable food items for the children to take home each weekend during the school year,” the newspaper reported. The program is co-sponsored by several other churches and groups as well as businesses. Find the report at . The Madison Avenue Church is one of several lauded by the “York Daily Record” for donating school supplies. After learning that some students were bringing their supplies to school in grocery bags, church members thought, “Oh my gosh, we can certainly do something to help that,” Ruth Duncan of the Ladies Labor of Love group told the paper. “The church decided to focus on nearby Devers K-8 school, where it already works on some other programs. Before the last school year began, they solicited supplies to fill backpacks to give to the school.” The group hoped to donate 75 backpacks, including supplies. See .

— Westminster (Md.) Church of the Brethren is planning a celebration on the theme “Living the Legacy, Peacefully, Simply, Together: Piecing Together the Brethren Way Through Song and Story” on Sept. 6-7. Performances by Mutual Kumquat will highlight the celebration. Mutual Kumquat has performed at many Brethren events, most recently this summer’s Annual Conference and National Youth Conference. Events open at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 6, with a gathering in the church sanctuary, followed by workshops focused on peace for elementary age children (K-5), youth, and adults, an evening meal, and a Mutual Kumquat concert starting at 7 p.m. On Sunday, Sept. 7, Mutual Kumquat will provide music for worship at 9:30 a.m. followed by Sunday school, and an “Inglenook” potluck lunch. Nursery care will be provided during workshops. For more information contact Westminster Church of the Brethren at 410-848-8090.

— Brethren in the area of Lebanon, Pa., have donated 527 school kits to Church World Service, according to a report on PennLive. “Twenty-five volunteers from local Churches of the Brethren and Mount Lebanon Campmeeting on Aug. 6 filled 527 school kits for Church World Service,” the report said. Organizers told the news site that the drive was dedicated to the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok in mid-April. “As school kits were assembled at Mount Lebanon, each girl’s name was placed in a kit, and a prayer were said on their behalf,” PennLive reported. Volunteers came from Lebanon Church of the Brethren, Conestoga Church of the Brethren, Annville Church of the Brethren, Mount Zion Church of the Brethren, Mount Wilson Church of the Brethren, Palmyra Church of the Brethren, Spring Creek Church of the Brethren, and McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren. Read the full article at .

— Sept. 26-27 are the dates for the Brethren Disaster Relief Auction held at Lebanon (Pa.) Valley Expo. Events include a Main Hall Auction, a Heifer Auction, a Pole Barn Auction, a Farmers Market, and sales of arts and crafts, baked goods and other food, coins, quilts, and theme baskets, among others. Children’s activities include balloon twisting, barrel train rides, pony rides, a children’s store, and a children’s auction.

— This year’s COBYS Bike and Hike aims to raise $110,000, according to a release. The event has added a silent auction this year as well. It will be the 18th annual Bike and Hike for COBYS Family Services, which is a Church of the Brethren related organization that “educates, supports, and empowers children and adults to reach their full potential” through adoption and foster care services; counseling for children, adults, and families; and family life education programs offered in partnership with church, school, and community groups. The Bike and Hike is slated for Sunday, Sept. 7, starting at Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. Goals of 600 participants and $110,000 have been set. The Bike and Hike consists of a 3-mile walk, 10- and 25-mile bicycle rides, and 65-mile Dutch Country Motorcycle Ride. Participants choose their event, and then donate a registration fee, raise money from sponsors, or some of both. At the conclusion of the event, everyone gathers at the Lititz Church for ice cream and other refreshments, fellowship, and prizes. Each participant receives a t-shirt, refreshments, and an opportunity to win one of about 100 door prizes. Those who raise certain levels of money can earn additional prizes. Church youth groups who raise $1,500 or more earn a gym and pizza night. All expenses of the event are covered by business sponsors. Last year, 538 participants raised more than $104,000. “We were thrilled to finally reach the $100,000 mark last year,” said COBYS director of development Don Fitzkee. “Now the challenge is to build on that momentum.” For more information or to donate a silent auction item, contact or 717-656-6580. The event brochure and cue sheets for the walk and rides are available at .

— Hagerstown (Md.) pastors Audrey and Tim Hollenberg-Duffey will preach at the 44th Annual Dunker Church Remembrance Service at Antietam National Battlefield Park, a Civil War battlefield in Sharpsburg, Md. This annual worship service will be held in the restored Dunker Church at Antietam on Sunday, Sept. 14, at 3 p.m.  This will be a remembrance worship service reflecting on what the Dunker Church symbolizes for 1862 and 2014, said an announcement. The Hollenberg-Duffeys will speak on “Left with Peace.” This service is sponsored by area Churches of the Brethren and is open to the public. For more information, contact Eddie Edmonds at 304-267-4135; Tom Fralin at 301-432-2653; or Ed Poling at 301-766-9005.

— Southeastern District executive minister Russell Payne will be one of those joining in the Jonesborough (Tenn.) Area Ministerial Association walk benefiting an area food pantry. “Community Churches Coming Together to Provide Hunger Relief and Hope” sponsors the walk on Saturday, Aug. 23, from 9-11 a.m. beginning at Wetlands Water Park Pavilion. For more information or a sponsorship form contact 423-753-9875 or 423-753-3411.

— A spiritual retreat, “Prayer Practices–Beyond Wow, Thanks, and Help,” will be held Oct. 10-11 in the Heritage Lodge at Camp Bethel near Fincastle, Va. Registration and snacks will begin at 6 p.m. and the retreat will start at 7 p.m. on Oct. 10, and will conclude at 4 p.m. on Oct. 11. The theme “Pray Without Ceasing” is from 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Leading the retreat will be Tara Hornbacker, professor of Ministry Formation at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind. Four sessions will address water droplet prayer, Lectio Divina, Visio Divina, and incarnational prayer. In addition there will a prayer service and free time for walks, journaling, reflection, and praying. The Virlina District Spiritual Development Retreat Committee is sponsoring and planning the retreat. Continuing education credit of .45 units will be available. Cost including snacks and two meals is $50 for those wanting lodging at the camp Friday night. Commuter cost is $25. Pre-registration is required. A flier and registration form is available by e-mailing ; use SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT for the subject line.

— On Saturday, Aug. 23, at 3:30 p.m., Southern Ohio District will gather at Troy Church of the Brethren to assemble school kits for Church World Service, under the theme “We Are God’s Servants Working Together.” The group will then join in a celebration of what God has done for the district, supporting the district conference theme taken from 1 Corinthians 3:1-9. Monetary donations will be received to purchase supplies for the kits. Contribute to the project by mailing a check to Southern Ohio District, 2293 Gauby Rd., New Madison, OH 45346.

— “Help us build a house!” said an invitation from Shenandoah District. The district’s Disaster Ministries Committee is ready to start building a house for a widowed mother and her two children in Moyers, W.Va. “The family lost its home to fire and has received help from the community and local churches to start construction. Now, the committee needs volunteer workers,” said the district newsletter. Work days are scheduled for each Wednesday and Saturday in the coming weeks, with the goal of having the house under roof by mid-September. Carpenters and helpers are needed. The committee will provide a bus for transportation, water, and the evening meal. Volunteers are asked to bring a packed lunch and beverage. Call Jerry Ruff at 540-447-0306 or 540-248-0306 or Warren Rodeffer at 540-471-7738.

— Camp Mardela in Denton, Md., holds Family Camp on Aug. 29-31 with Larry Glick as guest speaker. Glick will portray Civil War-era Brethren elder and martyr for peace John Kline, and Brethren founder Alexander Mack Sr. (popularly known as A. Mack). “There will be lots of things to do and free time to relax in God’s beautiful world,” said an invitation. Contact Camp Mardela at .

— Berry bakers are invited to submit a favorite cake, pie, or bread/pastry recipe that includes berries in a competitive Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center Berry Bake-Off in Harrisonburg, Va., on Saturday, Sept. 6, during CrossRoads’ Harvest Day Festival. Ribbons will be awarded to the top three entries in each category. Bakers will submit two items for each entry, one to be judged, the other sold at the baked goods booth. The winning baked goods will be auctioned at noon.

— The Manchester University College of Pharmacy in Fort Wayne, Ind., will host a reception and lecture by award-winning National Public Radio (NPR) correspondent Kelly McEvers, announced Northeast Indiana Public Radio (89.1) WBOI. Events take place Monday, Aug. 25. WBOI will be hosting the reception beginning at 5:30 p.m. At 6:30 McEvers will begin her lecture followed by a question and answer session with the audience. Tickets are available by calling 260-452-1189.

— Patriarchs of ancient Christian traditions in the Near East have issued an appeal for aid against forces of religious extremism, according to a release from the World Council of Churches. The statement denounced the emergence of armed extremist groups who “murder, shatter, and violate the sacred nature of the churches” and other suffering communities. The church leaders call upon the international community, by action of the United Nations Security Council and the International Court of Justice, to restore the rights and homes of civilian populations and guarantee a return to land that has been taken from them. The statement describes religious extremism as “a disease” and calls on governments that are supplying terrorists groups to cut off all funding and material support. Churches throughout the world are invited to show solidarity through prayer and encourage continuing relief for refugees and those affected by violence, in particular in Mosul and the Nineveh Valley in Iraq, parts of Syria and Lebanon, and Gaza. The church leaders represented the following Christian traditions: Maronite Patriarchate of Antioch, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, Armenian Catholic; Syriac Catholic, Assyrian Orthodox, Chaldean Patriarchate of Babylon. See the WCC release at .

— The National Council of Churches (NCC) has made a statement deploring the police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The statement supports a complete investigation of the circumstances, and expresses concern about other recent killings by police of African-American men including 43-year-old Eric Garner, killed in Staten Island, N.Y., on July 17; 22-year-old John Crawford, killed in Beavercreek, Ohio, on Aug. 5; and 25-year-old Ezell Ford, killed in Los Angeles, Calif., on Aug. 11. “These killings, as well as those of hundreds of other Americans each year at the hands of increasingly militarized police forces is of great and growing concern. A peaceful, healthy society requires trust and positive relationships between citizens and law enforcement. That can best occur in circumstances in which deep-seated social problems such as racism and inequality are being addressed. The NCC remains committed to addressing the legacy of racism, to ending gun violence in our nation, to responding to the scourge of mass incarceration, and through our local congregations to providing Christ’s healing touch,” said NCC president Jim Winkler. The Church of the Brethren is a member denomination of the NCC.

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