Newsline for April 15, 2014

“But take courage: I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33b).

1) General secretary, mission and service executive visit with Brethren in Nigeria
2) Volunteers to set out on ‘BVS Coast to Coast’ bicycle tour
3) Going to the Garden grants are available

4) ‘Shine’ fall quarter and starter kits are now available for children’s Sunday school

5) Courtney Hess to direct Lilly Grant project at Bethany

6) Brethren bits: Correction, remembering Josh Copp, Material Resources seeks truck driver/warehouser, Bridgewater installs president David Bushman, Springs folder for Easter, Earth Day Sunday resources

Quote of the week: “We are grateful to God for the witness of the members of the Nigerian church, as a people committed to the way of the Cross and Resurrection–as reconcilers and peacemakers.”
— Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren, on Facebook at the close of a trip to visit Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) accompanied by Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer. More about the trip appears below. An in-depth interview about the trip and the situation in Nigeria is planned for an upcoming issue of Newsline.

1) General secretary, mission and service executive visit with Brethren in Nigeria

Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger has visited Nigeria to attend the Majalisa or annual conference of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), accompanied by Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer. They met with EYN church leaders including president Samuel Dante Dali, as well as Brethren mission staff working in Nigeria. Noffsinger wrote this e-mail report yesterday, April 14, from the capital city of Abuja on the last day of the trip.

Photo courtesy of Stan Noffsinger
General secretary Stan Noffsinger preaches for the Majalisa of EYN, Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) during a visit this April.

Time has passed by so very quickly here and tonight Jay and I begin our journey back to the United States. We have been richly blessed by our visit with the sisters and brothers of EYN, although at times, the context of the visit was in the midst of the deeply troubling realities of daily living in northeastern Nigeria. We give thanks for the extraordinary concern for travel and hospitality extended to us by EYN church leaders.

The Majalisa was well attended by over 1,000 members and was convened in the well-designed conference center built at the EYN headquarters. Church members are pleased with the new center, and with the progress on the final work to complete it. They also are building an adjacent two-story administration building. Work continues on the basis of the giving from local congregations and members of EYN. At the Majalisa it was decided to ask every member to give 200 Naira for completion of the building, which began with receiving donations at that very moment! This special request for funds is in addition to the 25 percent assessment made on each congregation, from which 10 percent is used for the district and 15 percent goes to the national office.

While fear of attacks by Boko Haram are a daily occurrence, church leaders repeatedly professed their faith and hope that peace will come. The theme of the Majalisa was, “I Have Heard Their Cries of Distress…” from Exodus 3:7 and the messages were all focused on encouraging members to not lose hope, to not waver from the ways of Christ’s peace, to not respond to violence with violence. These are simple words, easy for us in the US to recite while we live in relative peace, but imagine their impact spoken by those who witness the threat of death, not just because they are Christian, but because they do not believe in violence or the cause perpetrated by the opposition. They are courageous words!

I hope you hear in these paragraphs, the great hope of EYN as they “Continue the Work of Jesus. Peacefully. Simply. Together.” The underlying reality can easily distract attention away from this people of great faith. But daily reality is also part of the narrative that gives context to the profound witness of EYN.

Photo by Stan Noffsinger
EYN President Samuel Dali (standing at podium, at right) and the auditor report to the 2014 Majalisa of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria.

Samuel Dali, EYN president, reported that 17 of the 50-plus DCCs (districts) have suffered from the violence. Within these DCCs 12 churches have been
burnt down and over 11,050 residential houses belonging to members have been burnt down, 383 EYN members have been killed, and 15 kidnapped. More than 5,000 EYN members have fled to Cameroon, Niger, and other neighboring countries to seek refuge. Thousands also have moved into neighboring Nigerian states as internally displaced citizens. These totals are a mere fraction of the total Nigerian (Christian and Muslim) population so affected.

During the Majalisa itself, two additional kidnappings of EYN members, one a DCC leader, were announced. Likewise on the closing evening news came of 217 Nigerians killed in and around Dikwa, in Borno State. While not an imminent threat, the heightened anxiety and fear was palpable.

Rebecca Dali has been interviewing, recording stories, and collecting pictures from families of the lost. Her current data includes the stories of almost 2,000 people killed or kidnapped. She is working in some of the most dangerous places to “be with” families, and addressing the care and needs of a growing orphan population. Her’s is such courageous and important work–of which you will hear more of as we gather at Annual Conference.

As we prepared to leave EYN headquarters, President Dali expressed to us how grateful the leadership and members of the church were for our presence with them, in the midst of this crisis. He said, “We know the great risk you have taken to be here, and we give thanks to God for your courage and willingness to come. To  walk with us.” Continuing on he said, “We have prayed for the Mission and Ministry Board and your families that they might have peace during your travel. We have prayed and done the very best we humanly could to provide for your safety and by the grace of God, we have been grated peace during your visit. We now are certain, that the Brethren family around the world walks with us. We are not alone.”

It is a transformational moment when one experiences the violence in the context of church family. Last night we met with board members of Lifeline Compassionate Global Ministries who shared about their interfaith peacemaking work in Jos.

Today we visit the Nigeria National Mosque in Abuja accompanied by Marcus Gamache, EYN liaison officer, and prepare for the journey home. Jay and I thank each of you for your support and for your prayers. We ask you to continue daily prayers for God’s shalom and Christ’s peace to prevail in this country. Hold the leadership and members of EYN in your prayers, and be challenged by their witness!

— Stanley J. Noffsinger is general secretary of the Church of the Brethren. He wrote this report from the capital city of Abuja, Nigeria, at the close of a trip to attend the Majalisa or annual conference of EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria–accompanied by Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer. On the final morning of the trip, a commuter bus station on the outskirts of Abuja was bombed killing more than 70 people. EYN staff reported by e-mail yesterday that Noffsinger and Wittmeyer and the Nigerian Brethren with them in Abuja are unharmed, but prayer is requested for Nigeria and for the members of EYN.

2) Volunteers to set out on ‘BVS Coast to Coast’ bicycle tour

Photo by Michael Snyder
Rebekah Maldonado-Nofziger is excited and honored to partner with Brethren Volunteer Service to bike across the country. In her mind, bicycling is one of the best means of transportation.

Two Brethren Volunteer Service workers are setting out on a bicycle tour called “BVS Coast to Coast.” Chelsea Goss, originally from Mechanicsville, Va., and Rebekah Maldonado-Nofziger, who grew up in Pettisville, Ohio, are both BVS volunteers and plan to cross the country on their bicycles in support of the Church of the Brethren program.

“BVS Coast to Coast” will start from Virginia’s Atlantic coast on May 1, and is projected to end by late August on Oregon’s Pacific coast. The cyclists will visit congregations and communities along the way, holding events to raise awareness of Brethren Volunteer Service and the ministries it supports. They hope BVS supporters and church members will want to help host them and ride along for parts of the journey as they cross the country.

A Kick-Off Dinner will be hosted by the New Community Project, 715 N. Main St., Harrisonburg, Va., on Tuesday, May 6, starting at 5:30 p.m. The kick-off event will include music, games, and a potluck meal. All are welcomed.

Planned stops include several Church of the Brethren summer events: Young Adult Conference in late May, the Annual Conference in early July in Columbus, Ohio, and the National Youth Conference in late July in Fort Collins, Colo.

The Brethren Volunteer Service mission of “Sharing God’s love through acts of service” has four emphases: advocating justice, working for peace, serving human need, and caring for creation. BVS has been a ministry of the Church of the Brethren since 1948, placing volunteers in full-time assignments in the United States and some international locations, typically lasting one or two years ( ).

About the cyclists

Photo courtesy of Chelsea Goss
Chelsea Goss is one of the cyclists setting out on a “BVS Coast to Coast” bike tour, planned to start May 1 on Virginia’s Atlantic coast, and to end in late August on Oregon’s Pacific coast.

Rebekah Maldonado-Nofziger grew up in Pettisville, Ohio. She attended Eastern Mennonite University and graduated with a nursing credential. Since then, she has found herself working with diverse and often times marginalized people. She has worked at Catholic Charities-The Health Care Network in Washington, D.C.; Harrisonburg (Va.) Community Health Center; and  currently at New Community Project, also in Harrisonburg. At all three workplaces, she has had the privilege of working with some of the Spanish-speaking community and has loved it. While in the Washington area she lived in an intentional community called Mitri House, and in Harrisonburg for a time lived at the New Community Project Spring Village House, and deems both of those experiences times of growth and challenge. She is excited and honored to partner with Brethren Volunteer Service to bike across the country. In her mind, bicycling is one of the best means of transportation. She has high hopes that after this trip, she will be able to bike to Bolivia when the right time comes.

Chelsea Goss is originally from Mechanicsville, Va., and is a member of West Richmond Church of the Brethren. She graduated from Bridgewater College with a degree in Liberal Studies. She has found numerous ways to serve the communities in which she has lived. She has spent time working for On Earth Peace as Peace Retreat Coordinator. At Camp Bethel near Fincastle, Va., she was the resident volunteer and Summer Program Coordinator. At New Community Project she served as an intern and volunteer. Currently she is volunteer staff for Brethren Volunteer Service in Elgin, Ill. She also has lived in three different intentional communities, and hopes that she can create that kind of living space in the future. Although she is newer to biking, she hopes that bicycling will be implemented more in her daily living after the “BVS Coast to Coast” experience.

For more about “BVS Coast to Coast” or to follow a blog see . On Twitter follow BVScoast2coast. Contact the cyclists by e-mail at or by leaving a telephone message with the BVS Office at 847-429-4383.

3) Going to the Garden grants are available

By Nathan Hosler and Jeff Boshart

As this time of year rolls around, we begin witnessing the appearance of new life, both the new life Jesus Christ gives us all through the miracle of Easter resurrection, and the new life we see in our environment as we move into Spring. This second kind of growth starts in the south and gradually moves north until, even after all the snow and cold, we once again start seeing new blooms and fruits.

Photo courtesy of Going to the Garden
The garden at Annville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren

Last week’s Newsline included an article from our southern brothers and sisters in Falfurrias, Texas, telling about how they had already been working in the garden and the beautiful flowers they had just picked. A little further north in Washington, D.C., at the Office of Public Witness, we are beginning to see signs of new life emerging, while even further north, a grandparent in Canada just had more snow! While many folk are already deep into their planting, some of us are just going to the garden, while others are still only making plans.

The Going to the Garden initiative seeks to build off this common desire to get into the garden to grow fresh produce for our families and neighbors. Through the Going to the Garden initiative, grants are given to congregations to start or expand community based gardens so that we can mutually support one another in seeking to follow Jesus as he goes into the world to minister. Some congregations are following Jesus by going to their garden to address needs of hunger, poverty, and caring for God’s Creation.

Photo courtesy of Going to the Garden
Bees are raised at Capstone Community Gardens and Orchard in New Orleans, with help from a Going to the Garden grant.

So far, more than 20 congregations have received grants of up to $1,000 each through the Going to the Garden initiative of the Global Food Crisis Fund and Office of Public Witness. Some churches such as Annville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren were starting their gardens from scratch, but had the idea before the creation of Going to the Garden. In Annville, the garden emerged (not without sweat) on part of a lot that was being used by a local farmer. While there were several people who were the main contributors, many church members began to contribute and donate supplies such as large plastic containers to help hold water for use at the garden. In fact, so much was donated that the grant money stretched much farther than they expected.

Grants are still available. So, whether you are already in the garden or just making plans, we would love to hear about and help support your ministry. Please contact Nathan Hosler at the Office of Public Witness, , if you would like to explore how we may be able to work together with your congregation.

Find out more and download an application form from where there is video link and a map of all the gardening projects supported by the initiative. More stories from gardens and gardeners are at the Facebook page “Going to the Garden.”

— Nathan Hosler is coordinator of the Office of Public Witness for the Church of the Brethren. Jeff Boshart is manager of the Global Food Crisis Fund.


4) ‘Shine’ fall quarter and starter kits are now available for children’s Sunday school

“Shine,” the new Christian education curriculum from Brethren Press and MennoMedia, is now available to congregations for the fall quarter. Also available to purchase now are two starter kits: The Shine Starter Kit containing a quarter’s worth of “Shine” materials and more; and the Shine Multiage Starter Kit for congregations with a range of age groups, from kindergarten through grade 6 in the same classroom.

“Shine” is for Early Childhood (ages 3-5), Primary (kindergarten-grade 2), Middler (grades 3-6), Multiage (kindergarten-grade 6), and Junior Youth (grades 6-8). “Shine” does not include resources for senior highs, so Brethren Press is updating Generation Why curriculum for use by church youth groups.

“Shine” is a Bible story-based curriculum designed to be easy to use, emphasizing thoughtful theology and grounded in the belief that children are partners in ministry. “Shine” will be new every year, allowing the publishers to continue to keep the material fresh and responsive to user feedback. The Shine scope and sequence covers much of the Bible in a three-year outline.

“Shine” lifts up these theological convictions:
— We are known and loved by God.
— Jesus said that becoming “as a child” is key to entering God’s kingdom.
— Together, young and old can shine the light of Christ in the world around us.

Using “Shine,” children and adults will learn together what it means to follow Jesus. Through imagination, boldness, creativity, and a sense of mystery, children can help inspire Christ’s church. Drawing from current brain research, “Shine” sessions include a variety of activities to engage learners of all kinds. Each session includes options for children to explore the Bible story through active movement, creativity and the arts, and engaging student leaflets for Early Childhood and Primary and student books for Middler and Junior Youth.

The “Shine” session plan has a fresh look, including spiritual practices, age-appropriate ideas for nurturing the inner life of the spirit, peace notes with ideas for forming compassionate peacemakers, media connections that offer a variety of online and print ideas to make connections to the lesson.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
The Shine Starter Kit contains a quarter’s worth of Shine materials and more.

“Shine” products include a teacher guide for all age groups; the new “Shine On” story Bible for Primary, Middler, and Multiage teachers, which also is a home connection product; student leaflets for Early Childhood and Primary; student books for Middler and Junior Youth; resource pack with story pictures for Early Childhood; poster pack for Primary, Middler, Multiage, and Junior Youth; annual music CD and songbook for Primary through Junior Youth; a Music CD for all three years of Early Childhood (also a home connection product).

The new hard-back story Bible called “Shine On” includes all the Bible stories in the curriculum’s three-year outline plus a few more, and is an essential part of the curriculum. Each classroom should have at least one copy. Congregations also are encouraged to present copies of the story Bible to each child’s family in order to make a strong church-home connection. A quantity discount of 20 percent on purchases of 10 or more copies of “Shine On” is available from Brethren Press. A Spanish version of the story Bible, titled “Resplandece,” is also available to purchase from Brethren Press, made possible through a special grant from the Schowalter Foundation.

The Early Childhood class has a separate Bible outline planned with the needs of younger children, yet still echoing the main outline of the curriculum. Early Childhood also has its own music CD for younger children, that lasts throughout the three-year Bible outline.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
The Shine Multiage Starter Kit is for congregations with a range of age groups in the same classroom, from kindergarten through grade 6.

For older children, Middler and Junior Youth have magazine-like student books to accompany their sessions. Middler classes will use the “Shine On” Bible. Both Middler and Junior Youth classes will want copies of the songbook and music CD.

Multiage is for congregations with a range of age groups in the same classroom. Such classes will use the Multiage teacher’s guide and poster pack, “Shine On,” songbook, and music CD. An age-appropriate student leaflet or student book should be selected for each child who attends.

Starter kits are the best way to get to know ‘Shine’

The Shine Starter Kit is offered by Brethren Press for $175, plus shipping and handling. Worth more than $225, the kit contains a quarter’s worth of “Shine” materials and more: one each of the student pieces, teacher’s guides, and poster/resource packs for all age levels (Early Childhood, Primary, Middler, and Junior Youth) plus the Early Childhood Music CD (used for three years), Year One Songbook and Music CD for Primary and Middler classes, and a copy of “Shine On: A Story Bible.” The kit comes with a “Shine” messenger bag, while quantities last. The special price of $175 is available through Aug. 1.

The Shine Multiage Starter Kit is for congregations with a range of age groups, from kindergarten through grade 6 in the same classroom. It is offered by Brethren Press for $75 (a $95 value). It contains one Multiage teacher’s guide and poster pack, one set of Primary student leaflets, one Middler student magazine, a Year One Songbook and Music CD, and a copy of “Shine On: A Story Bible.” The kit comes with a “Shine” messenger bag, while quantities last. The Multiage kit price will be ongoing.

Find out more about “Shine” at . To order, contact Brethren Press at 800-441-3712 or go to .


5) Courtney Hess to direct Lilly Grant project at Bethany

By Jenny Williams

Bethany Seminary has named Courtney Hess as project director for the grant of $249,954 received as part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Theological School Initiative to Address Economic Issues Facing Future Ministers. Hess began his duties on April 1.

The endowment created this initiative to encourage theological schools to examine and strengthen their financial and educational practices to improve the economic well-being of future pastors. In keeping with the requirements of the grant, Hess will lead efforts to (1) identify financial concerns of Bethany students and alumni/ae and (2) respond with programming and communication to help all members of the Bethany community address these concerns.

Hess has spent most of his professional life working with nonprofits as an organizational development consultant, both in managerial capacities and with individuals. From 1997-2009 he was the owner of Chess Strategies, primarily serving the fields of child and youth welfare and behavioral healthcare services. For the past four years, he worked as a grant writer and administrator at Beumer Consulting, assisting civic and governmental entities. He enjoys “the challenges of working with others to help improve the health and vitality of organizations and the people affiliated with them.” A large component has been financial management, helping clients better understand and reach a higher comfort level with finances and budgetary issues.

Education in financial literacy and stewardship will be central to Hess’s work at Bethany and will include faculty and staff as well as students. In learning about the nature of debt and financial management in the lives of young adults, faculty and staff will be better equipped to incorporate issues of stewardship into the curriculum and to mentor students. Students themselves will be given information and resources on topics such as simple living, finding outside employment, securing outside funding, and bivocational ministry to help minimize financial pressures. Ultimately it is intended that Hess’s work will lead to collaboration and conversation that benefit seminary alumni/ae and the Church of the Brethren denomination as well.

Hess also brings prior experience with the Lilly Endowment, including the writing of a Lilly grant for the Society of Friends (Quaker) Indiana Yearly Meeting and then membership on the advisory committee. Hess graduated from Earlham College and has studied arts administration at the University of Cincinnati. He is also a certified grant administrator with the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs.

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

6) Brethren bits

Creation JusticeCreation Justice, a ministry which has spun off from the National Council of Churches, is offering resources for congregations to celebrate Earth Day Sunday. “Earth day is an opportunity to reflect on the wonders of God’s Creation,” said an announcement. “With a little planning and a lot of passion you can do much to have an Earth day you’ll remember for years to come. You can use any of these ideas to get your congregation fired up about caring for God’s Creation.” Suggestions include to plan an Earth Day themed worship service using the Earth Day Sunday resource, “Water, Holy Water” at .

— Correction: The Newsline note about the Southern Ohio “Helping Hands” group that worked on Brethren House incorrectly stated that Bethany Seminary purchased the house for students. Bethany’s ownership of the house, previously known as Mullen House, was made possible by the generosity of donors who were part of the Brethren Housing Organization.

— Remembrance: Northern Indiana District is calling for prayer following the death of Josh Copp, 35, who died suddenly and unexpectedly yesterday morning, April 14. He was a leading member of the band Blue Bird Revival, which is booked to play at the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in early July. The band is one of the three music groups to take to the Conference stage for the Saturday evening concert, and has been scheduled to lead the Young Adult activity on Friday night. Copp was a member of Columbia City (Ind.) Church of the Brethren, and was the son of Connie and Jeff Copp, who is retired from the pastorate and most recently served at Agape Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind. Visitation is Thursday, April 17, from 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. at Smith and Sons Funeral Home in Columbia City. The funeral service is Friday, April 18, at 2 p.m. at Columbia City United Methodist Church, with visitation an hour prior to the service. Memorial gifts are received to the Jeffrey Robert Copp Education Fund. “Thank you for your continued prayers for the Copp family and the Columbia City Church of the Brethren,” said an e-mail shared by Northern Indiana District Office. “Josh was so very involved in so many aspects of the church as recently as Palm Sunday, singing the solo in the cantata.” The district is extending prayer to Jeff and Connie Copp and their whole family.

— The Church of the Brethren is seeking an individual to fill the position of truck driver/warehouser at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., working in the Material Resources program. Responsibilities include interstate driving, delivery and pick up of materials, assisting with loading and unloading; handling trucking equipment, maintaining records, and performing vehicle maintenance; performing best practices with operational safety standards, maintaining safe driving record, maintaining Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), and other tasks that may be assigned. The preferred candidate must possess a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and have been continuously licensed for three years; must have a good driving record and be able to meet Church of the Brethren insurance requirements. A high school diploma or equivalent experience is required. Applications will be received and reviewed beginning immediately until the position is filled. Qualified candidates are invited to request the application packet and complete job description 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.

— Bridgewater (Va.) College has celebrated the installation ceremony of president David W. Bushman, with alumni, faculty, staff, students, and friends of the college attending. Bringing greetings on behalf of the Church of the Brethren was associate general secretary Mary Jo Flory-Steury. “Since their foundings the mission of the Church of the Brethren and Bridgewater College intersect as we hold important convictions and values in common,” she said, in part. “Convictions such as peace–living peaceably with oneself and with all God’s people, simplicity–living as stewards of God’s creation, community–working together as one, alongside Bridgewater’s founding ideals: goodness, truth, beauty, and harmony. As these values, these core commitments come together, our common mission is about developing and equipping whole persons who live faithfully, lead  courageously, and serve wisely in today’s context and culture….” The video of the ceremony is available at . Photos are at . The text of Dr. Bushman’s speech has been posted at .

— “Living in the Hope of the Risen Lord” is the title of the Easter Season spiritual disciplines folder from the Springs of Living Water initiative in church renewal. The resource is for use “between Resurrection Day and Pentecost,” said an announcement from Springs leader David Young. “In the early church the ‘Great 50 days’ were a celebration of the Risen Lord, baptism of new believers, and new life for the church. The folder is designed to help individuals and congregations discover daily renewal through reading of scripture, meditating on its meaning, and living lives guided by the scripture of the day.” The Springs folders have a Sunday text that follows the lectionary readings and the Brethren Press bulletin series, with daily texts following a similar daily lectionary. A prayer pattern also is given in the folder. Vince Cable, pastor of Uniontown Church of the Brethren, has written the Bible study questions for use by individuals or groups. The folders are the foundational tool in the Springs of Living Water initiative. Go to or for more information e-mail .

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Jeff Boshart, Deb Brehm, James Deaton, Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Chelsea Goss, Nathan Hosler, Rachel Kauffman, Jeff Lennard, Nancy Miner, Stan Noffsinger, Carol Pfeiffer, Jenny Williams, avid Young, 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 Tuesday, April 22.

Newsline is produced by the News Services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at . Newsline appears at the end of every 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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