Brethren Bits for Feb. 1, 2014

The Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., hosted a food collection drive for the City of Elgin on Martin Luther King Day. The denominational offices have provided warehouse space for the annual collection for several years. Shown below: a group of the youth who volunteered to sort and help distribute the food to local pantries and soup kitchens; and the group of leaders on hand to help out, including Church of the Brethren staff member Don Knieriem (second from right) who helped organize the event. Photos are by Cat Gong

— Remembered: Walter (Walt) Dean Bowman(90), who died on Jan. 19 following a brief illness. He served the Church of the Brethren in a position overseeing camping and outdoor ministries in the 1970s and ’80s. He was born Feb. 9, 1923, in Norwalk, Ohio, to Dean and Evelyn (Krieger) Bowman. He graduated from Manchester University (formerly Manchester College), where he met and married Frances Gibson, with whom he shared 45 years. After a summer pastorate, he entered Bethany Seminary in 1944 in Chicago then volunteered for relief work in postwar Italy. In 1948 he returned to Bethany, where he completed a master of divinity degree. For 20 years he served pastorates in Illinois, Ohio, and Kansas. In 1968, Southern Ohio District called him to lead its camping and Christian education ministries. He assumed responsibility for developing year-round programming for Camp Woodland Altars in Peebles, Ohio. Under his leadership, the camp grew to include summer camping, retreats, and outdoor education for public school groups. He represented the denomination in ecumenical ministries, including the Ohio Board of Ministry in Higher Education, which he chaired for three years, overseeing ecumenical ministry to students on all state university campuses. Beginning in 1975, he divided his time between the district and a position overseeing Church of the Brethren outdoor ministries. He developed a nationwide association of camp directors and program leaders to strengthen and unify programs in the denomination’s 33 camps. He served as the Brethren liaison to ecumenical groups working to develop programs and curriculum for outdoor ministries. He worked closely with the Council of District Executives, serving terms as chair and chairing the professional growth committee. In 1988, he took a sabbatical to study Spanish with Fran in Costa Rica, preparing to volunteer in El Salvador. This goal was never realized because of illness resulting in Fran’s death in 1989. In 1991, he married Barbara Fessenden. He is survived by his wife Barbara (Marino Fessenden) Bowman; children Wayne (Annie) of Brandon, MB; Phil (Cathy Koolis) of Sarasota, Fla.; Theresa (Jeff) Plotnick of Calgary, AB; Christine (Robert) Guth of Goshen, Ind.; Steven (Diane) of Cincinnati, Ohio; Christopher Fessenden of Toluca Lake, Calif.; David (Vanessa) Fessenden of Las Vegas, Nev.; Brian (Christine) Fessenden of Canoga Park, Calif.; and grandchildren. A memorial service was held Jan. 22 at Episcopal Church of St. Andrew and St. Charles in Granada Hills, Calif. Memorial gifts are received to Heifer International and Habitat for Humanity.

— The World Council of Churches (WCC) is inviting young adults to apply now for the Stewards Program 2014. Young adult stewards will serve at the WCC Central Committee meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, from June 26-July 10. “I encourage Brethren young adults to apply to be a steward at the WCC,” said Becky Ullom Naugle, director of the Church of the Brethren Youth and Young Adult Ministry. “This program offers exposure to ecumenism on international scale and allows for intercultural understanding and relationship building. The World Council of Churches and the stewards program is a visible affirmation that in Christ there are many gifts, but one Spirit.” Applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 30. Before the meeting begins, stewards will follow an on-site ecumenical learning program, exposing them to the key issues of the worldwide ecumenical movement. During the meeting, stewards will assist in the areas of worship, floor management, documentation, communications, and other administrative and support tasks. Following the meeting, stewards will design ecumenical projects that they will implement in their churches and communities on their return home. Completed application forms are due to the WCC youth program no later than Feb. 21. More information and the downloadable application form are at .

— Church of the Brethren denominational leaders met together in Inter-Agency Forum and Leadership Team meetings in Florida last week. Those involved included the Annual Conference moderator, moderator-elect, and secretary, and heads and board chairs of the Conference-related agencies Church of the Brethren, Brethren Benefit Trust, Bethany Theological Seminary, and On Earth Peace.

— “Here’s a tribute to our fearless BDM volunteers braving the ‘polar vortex’ in New Jersey,” writes Brethren Disaster Ministries in a Facebook post. Lyrics by Felix Bernard are sung to the tune of “Winter Wonderland”:

Hammers ring–are you listenin’?
As volunteers are a-whistlin’.
They face unafraid
The snow God has made,
Workin’ in a winter wonderland.

Volunteering makes you tired.
Your muscles ache and you perspire.
But up North, you bet
It’s too cold to sweat.
Workin’ in a winter wonderland.

Volunteer in frosty Toms River
And pretend that you’re in New Orleans,
Soakin’ up the rays and you won’t shiver–
You’ll stay warm as long as you can dream.

Gone away is the sadness
As you spread joy and gladness,
Singin’ songs of God’s love
From Heaven above,
Workin’ in a Winter Wonderland!

— A ceasefire agreement for South Sudan signed Jan. 23 has been applauded in a release from the ACT Alliance, an international partner organization for Brethren Disaster Ministries. South Sudan has faced a grave humanitarian crisis since a coup attempt sparked violence in December. More than half a million people were forced from their homes, with 86,000 fleeing to neighboring countries, the release said. South Sudan will continue to need international assistance for a long time to come, but ACT Alliance general secretary John Nduna said the ceasefire was an important first step. “Leaders of both sides must now insist their forces lay down their weapons immediately and allow humanitarian organizations the chance to care for the wounded and those forced from their homes. We hold out hope that South Sudan can return to peace.” The release anticipated ongoing efforts by ACT members, which includes the Church of the Brethren, as well as the All Africa Conference of Churches, the World Council of Churches, and South Sudan Council of Churches to support church-led peace and reconciliation efforts.

— A YouTube video about the Shine curriculum jointly produced by Brethren Press and MennoMedia is at . The short video clip illustrating the statement from scripture, “Jesus said, ‘You are the light of the world, let your light Shine,’” promotes the new Christian education curriculum that will be available starting this fall, following the last summer of its precursor curriculum Gather ’Round. The “Shine On” storybook Bible for children will be available in March. For more information go to .

— The Souper Bowl of Caring has been one way youth groups help fight poverty and hunger in their communities on Super Bowl Sunday. The Youth and Young Adult Ministry office is encouraging participation by Brethren youth. Ideas for activities including taking up a collection in a soup pot on that day at church, asking for congregations to give money or food items for people in need. The youth groups give 100 percent of donations directly to the local hunger-relief charity of their choice. “In 2012, more than 10,000 groups collected more than $9.8 million in dollars and food for local hunger-relief charities. That’s a total of more than $90 million collected since the movement began in 1990!” says the Souper Bowl website. Find more ideas, register a youth group to participate, and report results at .


— Paul Mundey, senior pastor at Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren, will lead the annual church development event in Shenandoah District. Cultivating for a Great Harvest will be March 1 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at Mountain View Fellowship Church of the Brethren in McGaheysville, Va., on the theme, “Behold, I Am About to Do a New Thing” (Isaiah 43:19), with additional scripture text from 2 Corinthians 4:7: “But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” Mundey has been senior pastor at 1,100-member Frederick Church of the Brethren for 17 years, and previously was director of Evangelism and Congregational Growth for the Church of the Brethren for 13 years. Find the registration brochure at .

— A group from Goshen City (Ind.) Church of the Brethren is planning a 10-day trip in June to Bexbach, German, to help celebrate the 35th anniversary of Goshen’s sister city relationship. The trip will include a boat ride down the Rhine River, and a three-day stay with a host family, at a cost of from $1,400-1,600. Contact .

— Camp Mack’s Annual Dinner is March 7, starting with hors d’oeuvres at 6:15 p.m. Rex Miller, Camp Mack’s executive director, will speak about the future of the new Becker Retreat Center at the site of the former Becker Lodge, which was destroyed in a fire, and the future vision for the camp. Cost is $25 for undesignated seating; or $300 and more for reserved tables for six through eight people. The camp’s Growing from the Ashes Capital Campaign is raising funds to build Becker Retreat Center, and is $442,000 away from the amount needed to start the building process, said the announcement. For more information go to .

— “Plant seeds of FAITH in the lives of children, youth and young adults!” said an invitation to the Sow the Seed Scholarship Banquet at Camp Bethel on March 6, starting at 6:30 p.m. The $50 cost and all donations from the evening fund “camperships” and summer camp ministries. RSVP by Feb. 27 to 540-992-2940 or .


— Pacific Southwest District has announced the theme and shared the logo for its 2014 District Conference led by moderator Erin Matteson on Nov. 7-9 at Hillcrest retirement community in La Verne, Calif. The theme, “Spirit of God Moving,” is inspired by Isaiah 43:18-19. Matteson is blogging and posting resources related to the theme at including a bookmark and the following reflection:
“God enfolds all creation in the Spirit,
cradles and carries us,
invites and challenges us to be part of a healing movement…
Yearning for more justice, love, peace, and joy for God’s world,
She whispers and sings, swirls and swoons as she goes…
Dance and play, serve and sing, with me, and one another and strangers, too.
Take up your shovel and pick, basin and towel, signs of protest, cups of cold water…
Till all creation be fresh and green again.
Wholeness at hand, for all…
True salvation, come at last.”

— Bridgewater (Va.) College hosts three events Feb. 3-9 focusing on global hunger, Haiti, and food insecurity in the United States, according to an announcement. On Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m., Tony P. Hall, executive director of the Alliance to End Hunger, will speak on his global efforts to alleviate hunger and improve human rights conditions. Nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize, Hall has served as US Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture and as executive director of UNICEF. Jonathan Myerson Katz, the only full-time American news correspondent in Haiti when the Jan. 2010 earthquake struck, will speak at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 4. His book, “The Big Truck that Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster,” details the terror and devastation of the earthquake and the relief efforts that followed. On Feb. 9 at 3 p.m., the documentary “A Place at the Table” will be shown. The film examines hunger in America through the stories of three people struggling with food insecurity. All three events, sponsored by the Kline-Bowman Endowment for Creative Peacebuilding, will take place in Cole Hall and are open to the public at no charge.

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