— Conference by the numbers:
2,075 total registrations, including 647 delegates
$48,334.03 received in Conference offerings (tentative total pending confirmation). Offerings were received for a number of purposes including the Annual Conference, the Nigeria Crisis Fund, and the Core Ministries of the Church of the Brethren.
193 people presented at the Blood Drive, with a total of 181 usable pints including a number of “double red” donations received from donors over the course of two days
$8,750 raised by the quilt auction of the Association of Brethren Caregivers, benefitting the Nigeria Crisis Fund
200 simultaneous logins for worship webcast on Sunday morning. As of Sunday evening, on the second day of the Conference combined live and recorded webcasts of worship and business already totaled more than 1,000 views.
— International guests in Tampa included some 50-60 Nigerian Brethren representing leadership of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), the EYN Women’s Fellowship Choir, and the BEST group of Nigerian Brethren businesspeople and professionals. Also attending were church leaders from Brazil, Haiti, Spain and the Canary Islands, and mission workers from South Sudan, Haiti, Vietnam, and Nigeria. Quaker pastors from Burundi and Rwanda who partner in peace work with the Congolese Brethren were among the special guests this year.
— New Nigeria books and resources were featured at the Brethren Press bookstore in the Conference exhibit hall. All three resulted from suggestions from church members:
“Children of the Same Mother: A Nigeria Activity Book” is a colorful magazine style paperback designed to help children learn more about Nigeria and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). While their churches and elders pray and raise money for the Nigeria crisis, this book helps children understand the situation at an age-appropriate level. Quantity discounts are available for purchases of 10 or more copies.
A new t-shirt design, in three colors, highlights the deep connection between the Brethren in America and in Nigeria. The design is coherent with the bright costumes of the EYN Women’s Fellowship Choir, and features the names of the two sister churches, the phrase “One Body in Christ,” and the verse from 1 Corinthians 12:26. A portion of t-shirt sales benefit the Nigeria Crisis Fund.
Art prints of #BringBackOurGirls, an original and unique art piece by Colorado artist Sandra Ceas–which was on display in the Church of the Brethren exhibit–also are for sale from Brethren Press. A portion of the sales go to the Nigeria Crisis Fund.
— Tammy Charles, director of Donor Relations at Metropolitan Ministries, received the gift of a large pile of materials brought by Conference-goers as part of the Witness to the Host City. In addition to five pallets of supplies such as diapers, the Brethren presented a check amounting to $3,951.15 in cash donations. The ministry serves the homeless, as well as families and others in need in the Tampa area. Its mission statement: “We care for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless in our community through services that alleviate suffering, promote dignity, and instill self-sufficiency…as an expression of the ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ.”
— Happy birthday to the Brethren Foundation! The delegate body sang “Happy Birthday” to the Brethren Foundation, and blew noisemakers to celebrate its 25th anniversary, during a business session on Monday, July 11. The foundation is a ministry of Brethren Benefit Trust. BBT president Nevin Dulabaum announced that the foundation has grown greatly over its 25 years, and now manages $170 million in assets for the Church of the Brethren denomination-wide. He invited Conference-goers to the BBT booth in the exhibit hall to enjoy 200 pieces of birthday cake, first come first served.
— Brethren were running around Tampa, literally! Conference-goers ran and walked along the city’s River Walk early on Sunday morning in a 5K Fitness Challenge sponsored by Brethren Benefit Trust. Four categories of “firsts” were acknowledged: first male runner was Nathan Hosler (19:01); first female runner was Marianne Fitzkee (24:19); first male walker was Don Shankster (33:44); first female walker was Bev Anspaugh (36:31).
— Several people and groups received recognition or honors during the 2015 Conference. Following is a list that is doubtless incomplete. Please send additional recognitions or honors to the Newsline editor at firstname.lastname@example.org :
Cedar Lake Church of the Brethren in Auburn, Ind., and Staunton (Va.) Church of the Brethren received the Open Roof Award for progress in making their churches welcoming for those living with disabilities. The award is presented by the disabilities ministry of Congregational Life Ministries. A full report on this award will appear in a later issue of Newsline.
Eugene F. Roop, a member of the Manchester University Board of Trustees, was presented on Sunday with the Manchester University Church-University Service Award. “Eugene F. Roop has perhaps been for the Church of the Brethren what the train conductor was for the Polar Express: someone who has kept everything pointed in the right direction and on track and helping a lot of people in their belief along the way,” the citation said. Roop is a past president of Bethany Theological Seminary, known for his biblical scholarship and commentaries. This year, he and his wife established the Eugene F. and Delora A. Roop Endowed Fund that will help Manchester bring in speakers, programs, and other initiatives to lift up Brethren heritage.
Bridgewater (Va.) College at its luncheon presented two alumni with Garber Awards: Fred Swartz, class of 1958, who is a retired Church of the Brethren pastor and a former Annual Conference secretary from 2003-2012; and Emily Birr, class of 2015, who has been involved with New Community Project and the Roundtable regional youth conference, and has worked at Camp Mack in Indiana. The Merlin and Dorothy Faw Garber Award for Christian Service honors Merlin Garber, a Church of the Brethren pastor and 1936 Bridgewater alumnus, and his wife Dorothy Faw Garber, who was in the class of 1933.
Carol Wise, executive director of the Brethren and Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests (BMC), was honored by the Womaen’s Caucus during a luncheon that continued the caucus’ celebration of its 40 years of existence. Wise received an award, and also was the featured speaker at the luncheon, addressing the topic “Left on the Vine” (Romans 24 and 25).
Ralph Miner was named OMA Volunteer of the Year by the Outdoor Ministries Association of the Church of the Brethren. He is a member of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., and has participated at Camp Emmaus in Mount Morris, Ill., “practically since birth,” according to the citation posted on the camp’s website. Find the full citation at www.campemmaus.org .
— About those round tables…. Conference business sessions were held at round tables, with delegates seated in small groups that included people from various parts of the denomination at each table. The seating is intended to facilitate good sharing and fellowship, and face-to-face discussion of the business of the church. “Table guru” and former moderator Tim Harvey organized the tables and trained the table facilitators. At a table facilitators training prior to the first business session, he distributed cards with the following instructions:
How to be a table facilitator in 5 easy steps
1. Have fun.
2. Encourage people to talk, especially sharing different opinions and perspectives.
3. Let me know how else I can help you [his phone number]
4. Wing it, when necessary. The line between “being led by the Spirit” and “flying by the seat of your pants” is often a dotted line, at best.
5. When all else fails, see step 1.
— Online coverage of the 2015 Annual Conference in Tampa with news reports, photo albums, webcasts, worship bulletins, sermons, the Conference app, and more, is at www.brethren.org/AC2015 .
— The “2015 Annual Conference Wrap-up and Sermons” DVD features video highlights from Tampa and moments from business, worship, and special events. This year extra tracks include the song Ken Medema sang for Sunday morning worship, inspired by the Nigerian Brethren and their faith in a time of suffering. The DVD is produced by the Conference office and David Sollenberger’s video crew, and sold through Brethren Press. Go to www.brethrenpress.com or call 800-441-3712 to order.