Newsline for Jan. 3, 2014

“The star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was” (Matthew 2:9b). 

1) Annual Conference moderator shares New Year’s greetings with the church
2) Church of the Brethren aids refugees in South Sudan, some mission staff leave the country

3) Online registration for National Youth Conference begins this evening

4) Press Conference with King Herod: A contemporary reflection on the murder of the Bethlehem children

5) Brethren bits: Remembering BCA’s Allen Deeter, Church of the Brethren and BBT personnel, Timbercrest chaplain to retire, Brethren Mission Fund committee change and grant to EYN, “Keeping Our Children Safe” in Virlina, Camp Harmony celebrates its 90th, and more.

Quote of the week:
“They helped me become what I am today.”
— Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) worker Michael Himlie talking about the congregation at Root River Church of the Brethren, the church in which he grew up. Himlie was interviewed by the “News-Record” of Marshall, Iowa, while on a holiday break from his work with Brethren Disaster Ministries. Read the full interview at

1) Annual Conference moderator shares New Year’s greetings with the church

Photo by Glenn Riegel

Nancy Heishman preaching at Annual Conference 2009

Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, is sharing greetings with the denomination and its members in this New Year 2014. The following letter offering encouragement for a life of Christian discipleship is being sent to congregational delegates by mail. For more information about Annual Conference go to .

January 1, 2014

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Church of the Brethren,

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace and the One who is God-with-us! As I write this letter we stand at the threshold of a new year, full of bright promise and possibility. I take this opportunity to write, desiring primarily to encourage you in your life of Christian discipleship and also to offer resources that may be of use as we journey together.

At the close of last year’s Annual Conference I challenged everyone to give special emphasis to the study of Philippians with the hope that it would be a rich and rewarding experience of gathering throughout the year in small groups, finding renewal in our life together. The stories I have heard so far are quite encouraging. As we are studying in small groups, learning the Word by heart, and helping one another to discern God’s call, truly we are “straining on toward what lies ahead, pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”

When our family lived in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, we became friends with a Dutch missionary family who lived across the street. Kina and Max led their six children in a tradition of discerning their “life verse” for each New Year. At the close of the year, each child was encouraged to pray and discern what verse might serve as a focus for the coming year. What verse would summarize how they sensed God calling them at this time in their life and throughout the year ahead?

That practice has inspired me over the years to ponder just what verse might sum up God’s call in my life of discipleship at each stage. If I were to choose a verse for this coming year it would be Philippians 2:5, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” In pondering the context of this verse, I hear the call to allow the Spirit of Christ within me to transform my attitude, thoughts, and actions to be more Christ-like each day. Further, I wonder how the life of our congregations, boards, committees, and church staff might be transformed by the example of Christ’s servant attitude?

In a recent interview, British theologian and writer N.T Wright commented that the way we get to know who we are and where we’re called is through soaking ourselves in the scripture much more than we ever imagined we had to, soaking ourselves in prayer, participating in the ordinances of the church, and listening intently to the cries of those in pain and poverty around us. Somehow, says Wright, Jesus will come afresh to us and through us in ways we cannot imagine or predict, let alone control.

During this New Year, I encourage all of us to deepen our practices of soaking ourselves in the scripture, in prayer, in the ordinances, and in hearing the cries of the poor. Let us reach out to one another through these practices, strengthening our life of Christian community. Let us deepen our personal practices of moments spent in communion with Christ. Let us open ourselves more completely to the communities right around us. Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 that it is in caring for “the least of these” that we actually meet Jesus without realizing we are doing so, suggests Wright.

As you respond to opportunities to deepen the spiritual practices that lead you both to Christ and toward others, you might consider the following resources:

— Participate in the Church of the Brethren “Vital Ministry Journey” in small groups ( );

— Follow a “read-through-the-Bible” resource this year;

— Use a resource such as “Take our Moments and Our Days: An Anabaptist Prayer Book” volumes 1 and 2, for both personal and small group practices of morning and evening prayer;

— Explore and the many resources included for personal and congregational exploration of the scriptures;

— Take the journey through the Twelve Scriptures Project, developed by Mennonite Church USA leadership to deepen the practice of Christian formation ( );

— Consider forming a prayer partnership (dyad or triad) to encourage and stimulate one another in discipleship and service.

As we prepare to gather for the Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio, from July 2-6, may these next six months draw us both closer to Christ and closer to one another. May our continued study of the book of Philippians inspire courage that is expressed in our deeds and words. May we share the good news of Jesus in fresh, new ways this year. And may we continue to abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

As Paul writes in Romans 15:4, “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.”

“May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 14:5-6).

Nancy Sollenberger Heishman
Annual Conference Moderator

2) Church of the Brethren aids refugees in South Sudan, some mission staff leave the country

“We’re actively purchasing supplies for distribution to refugees” in South Sudan, reports Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service for the Church of the Brethren. One of three Brethren mission workers remains in South Sudan, while two have left the country, after violence broke out shortly before Christmas. The violence is linked to a coup attempt by a recently deposed vice president, and fears of the exacerbation of ethnic tensions in the nation.

Also, a number of South Sudanese church leaders have written public letters about the situation in South Sudan (see below).

Brethren purchase and distribute aid

Athanasus Ungang

Brethren mission worker Athanasus Ungang remains in Torit, a city that so far has not seen violence but has seen an influx of refugees from areas affected by violence. Ungang has been working in Torit to develop a peace center for the Church of the Brethren, and has been doing school construction and pastoring an English service with the Africa Inland Church.

Refugees are pouring into the Torit area from the city of Bor, where there is ongoing fighting, says Wittmeyer. The Global Mission and Service office has allocated $5,000 for immediate relief for 300 refugee families who have taken up shelter in an area near the Brethren peace center compound. The funds will help supply the refugees with basic relief goods including water, cooking supplies, and mosquito nets. Ungang is working with partner organization the Africa Inland Church to purchase and distribute relief goods.

Two other Brethren program staff who have been in South Sudan through Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) are Jillian Foerster and Jocelyn Snyder. Foerster completed her assignment and returned home before Christmas. Snyder has left South Sudan to take a few week’s holiday leave in Zambia. She plans to return to her work in the Torit area, Wittmeyer reports.

He adds that currently communications with South Sudan are difficult, but he hopes to be able to provide updates from Ungang’s work with refugees in Torit. For more about the Brethren mission in South Sudan see .

Letters from South Sudanese church leaders

South Sudanese church leaders have written public letters condemning the violence. Global Mission and Service staff received a letter dated Dec. 23, from South Sudanese bishops and church leaders writing from Nairobi, Kenya. The letter calls for an end to the killing of civilians and for peace between the warring political leaders. “We are condemning senseless killing of civilians and call upon the President of South Sudan H.E General Salva Kiir Mayardit and the former Vice President Dr. Riek Machar to stop fighting and come for dialogue and peaceful negotiation than the use of gun,” the letter says, in part. “We urge you to put the lives of the people first and political differences should be addressed later in love and harmony.” The letter asks the international Christian community to pray for political stability in the nation.

A letter dated Dec. 18, signed by prominent church leaders including Mark Akech Cien, acting general secretary of the South Sudan Council of Churches, and Daniel Deng Bul, archbishop of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan, was shared by the World Council of Churches. The letter condemns the violence and asks for correction of media statements that refer to the violence as conflict between the Dinka and Nuer tribes. “These are political differences among the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement Party and political leaders of the Republic of South Sudan,” the letter says, in part. “Therefore, we appeal to the two communities of Dinka and Nuer not to accept that the conflict is between the two tribes…. We appeal to our political leaders to refrain from hate speeches that may incite and escalate the violence. We urge to initiate dialogues and resolve issues amicably.” Read more at .


3) Online registration for National Youth Conference begins this evening

Online registration for National Youth Conference (NYC) 2014 opens this evening, Jan. 3, at 7 p.m. central time. The conference will be held July 19-24 on the campus of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., and all youth who have completed 9th grade through one year of college are eligible to attend.

To register, beginning at 7 p.m. (central), visit and click “Register Now.” The registration process involves filling out a simple online form, paying a deposit of $225 per person, and printing out, signing, and mailing in covenant forms. More detailed information about registration is available on the NYC website.

Youth and their adult advisors are encouraged to gather and register. Many youth groups across the country are holding registration parties tonight. For those who have not scheduled a registration party yet, the NYC Office encourages all churches to plan a gathering sometime in the next few weeks.

For any questions about registration or NYC in general, call the NYC Office at 847-429-4389 or 800-323-8039 ext. 389, e-mail , or visit .


4) Press Conference with King Herod: A contemporary reflection on the murder of the Bethlehem children

By Tim Heishman

“When Herod knew the magi had fooled him, he grew very angry. He sent soldiers to kill all the male children in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding territory who were two years old and younger” (Matthew 2:16a).

Good morning! It has come to my attention that some of you are planning to release a story about a special forces operation in the village of Bethlehem overnight. Now, I have pledged to be the most open and transparent administration in history and today is no exception. So my administration wants to make sure you have all the correct information on this developing situation.

What I’d like to tell you is a little more of the background to the operation. Over the last few weeks our intelligence services picked up “chatter” among persons on our terrorist watch-list. The information we picked up was specific and credible. It centered around a certain individual who claimed to be “king” of our nation and had intentions to directly threaten our way of life.

The matter at hand became serious enough that I directed the full resources of our armed forces to enter the village of Bethlehem, where the suspect was said to be staying at the time, and we eliminated every male within a two-year age range of the suspect. Certainly I did not want to have to order this operation, as the likelihood of collateral damage was significant. We spent several weeks gathering information and this was an unfortunate last resort.

However, I am pleased to report to you that at this time, the suspect is no longer a threat to us. The peace of Jerusalem has been assured and I would like to praise our intelligence officers and the troops for their bravery and their service to our nation.

If you have further questions regarding the overnight operation in Bethlehem or the nature of the threat itself, my press secretary is standing by and would be happy to answer your questions. Thank you, and God bless Jerusalem.

— Tim Heishman is one of the coordinators for National Youth Conference 2014, and a Brethren Volunteer Service worker. This was one of a set of presentations by BVS volunteers at the Christmas lunch at the Church of the Brethren General Offices.

5) Brethren bits

— Remembrance: Allen C. Deeter, 82, of North Manchester, Ind., a former administrator of Brethren Colleges Abroad for 24 years and professor of religion and philosophy at Manchester College (now Manchester University) for 40 years, passed away Dec. 20 at Timbercrest Healthcare Center. He also had directed the Peace Studies program at Manchester College. He was born in Dayton, Ohio, on March 8, 1931, to Raymond and Flora (Petry) Deeter. On Aug. 31, 1952, he married Joan George. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Manchester College, where he was one of the first peace studies majors to graduate from the program. He also earned degrees from Bethany Theological Seminary and Princeton University and did post-graduate work at Harvard University and Phillips University, Marburg, Germany. He was the recipient of the Manchester College Alumni Honor Award, received on Honorary Doctorate from Bridgewater (Va.) College, and authored two books, “Heirs of a Promise” and “Toyohiko Kagawa.” He is survived by his wife Joan George Deeter; sons Michael Deeter of Milwaukee, Wis., Dan (Jamie Marfurt) Deeter of Granger, Ind., and David (Serena Sheldon) Deeter of Lake Forest, Calif.; and grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Jan. 18 at Manchester Church of the Brethren, where he was a member. The family will receive friends following the service. Memorial contributions are received to the Endowment for Peace Studies Chair at Manchester University, or the Allen C. Deeter Brethren College Abroad Scholarship Endowment at the Community Foundation of Wabash County. For the full obituary online go to .

— Sharon Norris has resigned as administrative assistant with the Church of the Brethren, working at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Her last day at work was today, Jan. 3. She has completed four years of service at the Brethren Service Center.

— Also resigning from his position at the Brethren Service Center is David Chaney, who resigned as maintenance mechanic effective Nov. 19, 2013. He has worked in the position for more than a year.

— Tammy Chudy has been promoted to assistant director of Employee Benefits at Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT). After serving in an interim role as the manager of operations for both the Brethren Pension Plan and Brethren Insurance Services, she was promoted effective Oct. 9, 2013. She has served BBT in a combined tenure for over 11 years. She will now provide oversight of both Insurance and Pension operations, as well as overseeing BBT’s member services representatives.

— In another personnel announcement from BBT, one of the member services representatives, Barb Ingold, ended her time with BBT as of the end of 2013. She was hired as a temporary member of the Employee Benefits team in April 2012, and her last day with BBT was Dec. 23, 2013.

— Carol Pfeiffer has announced her retirement as fulltime chaplain at Timbercrest Senior Living Community in North Manchester, Ind. She has been at Timbercrest since July 2011, and plans to retire by the end of February. She is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren and a graduate of Bethany Theological Seminary, and previously pastored Church of the Brethren congregations in Iowa and Indiana. Ted Neidlinger, associate administrator of Timbercrest stated, “Carol has provided a tremendous service to our residents and staff, and will be missed by both.” Ordained or licensed ministers in the Church of the Brethren may contact Neidlinger about the opening left by Pfeiffer’s retirement, at Timbercrest Senior Living Community, 2201 East Street, P.O. Box 501, North Manchester, IN 46962; or 260-982-2118.

— Manchester University student Lucas Kauffman starts a January term internship with the Church of the Brethren News Services today. He will be writing news reports, doing photography, and taking on other tasks during the three-week internship at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

— The Brethren Mission Fund, which is related to the Brethren Revival Fellowship (BRF), has announced a committee member change. Paul Brubaker has served on the committee since its inception in 1998 and has served as secretary for those 15 years, said a recent newsletter. Brubaker has attained emeritus status and will no longer serve on the committee, the newsletter announced. Dale Wolgemuth from White Oak Church of the Brethren in Atlantic Northeast District will serve on the committee. “We want to thank Paul for his many years of service, and welcome Dale to the committee,” said the announcement.

— In more news from the Brethren Mission Fund, the committee is contributing $3,000 to the EYN Compassion Fund of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) to support Nigerian Brethren who have lost a family member, home, or property to violence. In recent years northern Nigeria has suffered from terrorist violence carried out by an extremist Islamist sect named Boko Haram, and EYN churches and members have been among those affected.

— Kim Ebersole, director of Family and Older Adult Ministries for the Church of the Brethren, is leading a seminar on “Keeping Our Children Safe” on March 22 in Virlina District. The Virlina District Children’s Cabinet is sponsoring the seminar for children’s directors, pastors, and all interested in child safety policies. Details and location will be announced.

— Oak Grove Church of the Brethren in Rocky Mount, Va., held a “Note-Burning Service” on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013. Virlina District reports that “the church built a 52 foot by 60 foot fellowship addition including a baptismal pool, fellowship area, kitchen and serving area, and restrooms in 2008 at a cost of approximately $190,000, leaving a debt of $125,000. The balance of the debt was paid off in October 2013.”

— The Shalom Team of Northern Indiana District is sponsoring a “Training for Congregational Leadership” on Feb. 22 from 8:30 a.m.-12 noon at Bethany Church of the Brethren. Tara Hornbacker, professor of Ministry Formation at Bethany Theological Seminary, will speak on the topic of “Seeking the Mind of Christ Together–Discipleship and Discernment.” Following her address, two “break-out times” are planned for participants to engage in conversation with Hornbacker, and to allow participants to meet with others according to their congregational leadership role.

— Timbercrest’s Third Annual Festival of Ice will be Feb. 15 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. The event will feature ice carvers, with hot chocolate and chili available. Timbercrest is a Church of the Brethren retirement community in North Manchester, Ind., celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.

— Camp Harmony, a camp of Western Pennsylvania District of the Church of the Brethren in Hooversville, Pa., celebrates its 90th anniversary in 2014. Associate camp director Barron Deffenbaugh was interviewed about the celebrations that are being planned for an article in the “Tribune-Democrat” newspaper of Johnstown, Pa. Celebrations begin the weekend of May 30-31 and June 1. Deffenbaugh said area businesses have been invited to attend May 30 for a “meet and greet” with the swimming pool and high and low ropes courses open. There will be an open house for the community on May 31 with the swimming pool, hiking, GPS, and climbing tower available. On June 1 a fellowship celebration will feature a chicken barbecue beginning at 12:30 p.m., recreation and sharing times for church and community members, praise bands, choirs, individual singers, Christian comedy, and worship at 6:30 p.m. with singing and a campfire. Deffenbaugh also told the newspaper that the camp will offer a series of “one-day escapes” during the spring, summer, and fall beginning with a sled riding day on Jan. 18. Go to .

— Youth Roundtable will be held at Bridgewater (Va.) College on March 21-23. This is an annual event for senior high youth and their adult advisors from the Church of the Brethren districts in the area. The event includes workshops, small groups, singing, an open mic night, and worship. The speaker will be Eric Landram, a Bethany Theological Seminary students, Bridgewater College alumnus, and member of Staunton (Va.) Church of the Brethren. Cost is about $50. For more information and to register go to .

— The Springs Initiative in Church Renewal is offering a spiritual disciplines folder for the season of Epiphany starting Jan. 12. The folder offers daily scripture readings and a prayer format along with study questions, following the lectionary scriptures and the Brethren Press bulletin series. The theme is “Following Christ’s Call in My Life.” Vince Cable, pastor of Uniontown Church of the Brethren, has written the Bible study questions for individual and group use. The Epiphany folder and information on the next Springs Academy courses on church renewal are available at .

— Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) worker Michael Himlie was interviewed by the “News-Record” of Marshall, Iowa, while he was home for the holidays. A member of Root River Church of the Brethren, and having studied at McPherson (Kan.) College, he is described by the reporter as wearing “a simple necklace carrying the symbol for the Church of the Brethren. The cross of Jesus Christ and a wave of water on the symbol represents Himlie’s faith and his desire to serve others.” Himlie is spending his BVS term serving at disaster rebuilding sites working with Brethren Disaster Ministries. Read the full interview at

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Deborah Brehm, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Tim Heishman, Brian Solem, Jay Wittmeyer, David 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 Jan. 10. 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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