Brethren Bits for Nov. 6, 2015


The Fairfield Four, an influential gospel quartet, will perform at Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon, Pa., at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 8, with sponsorship from Juniata College and its Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies along with the Huntingdon Rotary and the Comfort Inn. Tickets are $5 and may be purchased at and at the Baker Institute during business hours. After the performance, the group and Jerry Zolten, a musicologist and Penn State Altoona associate professor of communication arts and sciences, will lead a discussion on how gospel music and the Fairfield Four’s music in particular, has helped reduce racism, said a release. “The Fairfield Four has been a driving force in gospel music nearly since the group’s inception in 1921. Organized by original member, pastor J.M. Carrethers of the Fairfield Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., the quartet was, along with such groups as the Bessemer Sunset Four and the Birmingham Jubilee Singers, one of the first gospel quartets to reach a regional and nationwide audience through radio airplay. Their seamless vocal interplay deeply influenced early rhythm-and-blues and rock ’n’ roll groups such as the Orioles, the Platters and many others. Although no original members of the group remain, the current lineup retains family ties to the founders of the Fairfield Four. Joe Thompson, lead singer and leader of the group, is related to the Carrethers brothers who formed the first incarnation of the Fairfield Four. The group’s vocalists are: Thompson, Levert Allison, Larrice Byrd Sr. and Bobbye Sherrell.” The group has received many awards, including recognition from the National Endowment for the Arts, Tennessee Lifetime Achievement Award, James Cleveland Stellar Award, and the 1997 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Gospel Recording for “I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray.”

— Mark Flory Steury has been appointed by the Shenandoah District Leadership Team as acting district executive, through the end of the year. Shenandoah executive minister John Jantzi, has entered a time of Special Circumstance Leave through Dec. 31. Flory Steury brings 31 years of ministerial service to the role, including 11 years as district executive in Southern Ohio District. The district’s leadership team also has approved two temporary, part-time positions as support staff from Nov. 1, 2015, through May 31, 2016: Glenn Bollinger, pastor of Beaver Creek Church of the Brethren, will serve as director of placement; Gary Higgs, a member of Melrose Church of the Brethren and chair of the district’s Development Advisory Team, will serve as director of finance.

— The Brethren Volunteer Service office has welcomed Elizabeth Batten to the General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Originally from Grand Rapids, Mich., she has spent the last year serving as a BVS volunteer at L’Arche Community in County Kilkenny, Ireland. She began on Nov. 2 serving in the BVS office as an assistant for volunteer recruitment.

— The Church of the Brethren has hired Guy Almony to fill the temporary part-time position of box car helper, working within the Material Resources department at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. His first day of work was Oct. 22.

— Emily Van Pelt, program director at Brethren Woods camp and outdoor ministry center of Shenandoah District located in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, has resigned effective the date of the arrival of her first child, due in March. “Emily has completed three summers as program director and has made a positive impact during each of those summers and year-round,” said an announcement from the district. “She has brought energy and creativity to the position and will truly be missed. The camp will be hosting a time to celebrate Emily’s service among us. Keep on the look out for information about that party.” Brethren Woods is seeking applicants for the job opening of program director. Find a job opening announcement at and a job description at .

— Applications are being received for the 2016 Youth Peace Travel Team. The Youth Peace Travel Team is a joint project of the Church of the Brethren, On Earth Peace, Bethany Theological Seminary, and the Outdoor Ministries Association. The team members serve through Ministry Summer Service, spending the summer traveling to Church of the Brethren camps to teach and engage youth around issues of peace and justice. The team is open to three or four Church of the Brethren young adults, age 18-23. Applications for the summer of 2016 are due by Jan. 8. Find more information and the application form at .

— The Heifer Farm in Rutland, Mass., is seeking full-time residential volunteers. The farm is part of Heifer International, a nonprofit humanitarian organization working to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth, which was originally begun by the Church of the Brethren. The Heifer Farm offers “powerful global education programs inspiring visitors to take action,” said an announcement. The volunteer positions offer a cost of living reimbursement stipend of $196 per two-week stipend period; on-site, communal-style housing provided; access to farm vehicles for local transportation; access to free health insurance through MassHealth if needed; and a Heifer Gift Shop discount during term of active service. Specific time commitments vary by position. Current openings for 2016 are for education volunteers, farmer chef volunteers, and farm hand volunteers from Jan. 29-Aug. 21; and garden volunteers and education volunteers from April 12-Dec. 16. Responsibilities vary by position. Detailed position descriptions are available upon request. Volunteers must be at least 18 years of age by starting date of volunteer service; must pass a background check; must be fluent in the English language and possess excellent verbal and written communication skills. To apply contact Heather Packard, operations and volunteer manager at Heifer Farm, at or call 508-886-2221. For more information visit and .

— An experiential learning trip to South Sudan is hosted by the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service. The trip in January 2016 will be led by J. Roger Schrock, a former mission executive of the Church of the Brethren who has served in mission in Sudan and Nigeria. Based at the Brethren Peace Center in Torit, South Sudan, the group will visit with church and community partners and will witness the refugee and educational ministries the Church of the Brethren has supported. Total participation cost is $3,000 plus airfare difference from Dulles airport. For more information, contact Kendra Harbeck in the Global Mission and Service office at or 847-429-4388.

— Congregational Life Ministries executive Jonathan Shively attended an ecumenical conference focused on ethical evangelism, held Oct. 30-Nov. 1 in Nashville, Tenn., with support from the World Council of Churches. An ecumenical group of about 50 Christians gathered at United Methodist Discipleship Ministries for the first North American ecumenical evangelism conference. The gathering–organized by the WCC in consultation with the Canadian and National Councils of Churches–brought together scholars and pastors from traditions as varied as Catholic, Orthodox, mainline Protestant, and Pentecostal Christianity, said a report from the United Methodist Church. The event named “Reclaiming Evangelism: Celebrating Change and Collaboration” focused on the question of how Christians can share the good news of Christ in a way that actually imitates Christ. Read more at .

— The Global Mission and Service office has asked for prayer for associate executive Roy Winter, who heads up Brethren Disaster Ministries. He recently traveled to Lebanon to visit Syrian refugee camps there.

— The Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign that promotes peaceful interfaith relations has sponsored a “Beyond Tolerance” event and has launched a related pledge drive calling on political leaders to pledge to work for peace between faith communities. In information shared by the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Public Witness, the campaign represents “religious communities standing up for religious freedom by speaking out against bigotry and discrimination.” An event held at the Washington (D.C.) National Cathedral last week gathered religious leaders and community members for a multi-religious service called “Beyond Tolerance: A Call to Religious Freedom and Hopeful Action,” followed by a press conference introducing the Religious Freedom Pledge. Rabbi David Saperstein, US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, was the keynote speaker, focusing “on the call from each of our faith traditions to commit ourselves to caring for one another, moving beyond mere tolerance of the other in our multi-religious society. The community gathered together celebrated religious freedom in the United States as a good in and of itself to be cultivated and protected, and as a model of robust religious freedom for communities and countries across the globe,” said a release from Shoulder to Shoulder. The group is called on public officials to demonstrate their commitment to religious freedom by signing the pledge, which reads: “I pledge and commit to the American people that I will uphold and defend the freedom of conscience and religion of all individuals by rejecting and speaking out, without reservation, against bigotry, discrimination, harassment, and violence based on religion or belief.” For more information go to .

— Congregational Outreach Forms for 2015 are due soon, says an announcement from the Church of the Brethren’s Donor Relations office. Congregations are encouraged to fill out the form as an important budget planning tool for the Church of the Brethren and its related agencies. Find printable and fillable versions of the report form at . Send questions to or call 847-429-4363. Reports are due Dec. 1.

— Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren hosted a presentation by Toma Ragnjiya, a leader in Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) on Sunday, Nov. 1. Special guest Abu Nahidian, Imam of Manassas Mosque, was to join Dr. Ragnjiya in a discussion and question/answer time following worship, said an announcement from the church. Ragnjiya is a past president of EYN and recently served as provost of Kulp Bible College. He has spearheaded the Christian and Muslim Peace Initiative of EYN and runs the pastor peace-training program for the Nigerian church.

— On Oct. 17, several churches in northern Illinois came together to celebrate the harvest of corn at the Polo Growing Project. The sponsoring churches include Polo Church of the Brethren, Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren, Faith United Presbyterian Church of Tinley Park, and Dixon Church of the Brethren. Growing projects contribute to the work of the Foods Resource Bank. The Polo project supports sustainable food projects in the Congo and Honduras.

— Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., is hosting a presentation by Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) member Yousef Natsheh, a talented human rights photographer from the city of Hebron in Israel and Palestine. He will speak on Sunday, Nov. 8, at 11 a.m. following the morning worship. His presentation “will share his experiences as a peacemaker and resident in Occupied Palestine,” said an invitation. “Hear stories and see images that bring the occupation and local nonviolent resistance and peacemaking efforts to life.”

— Two district conferences are planned for this coming weekend. Illinois and Wisconsin District meets on Nov. 6-7 at Peoria (Ill.) Church of the Brethren. Bethany Seminary dean Steven Schweitzer will lead a continuing education event in advance of the Illinois and Wisconsin conference on “The Book of Chronicles and the Church: Theology, Continuity, Innovation, and the Kingdom of God.” Also on Nov. 6-7, Shenandoah District Conference will gather in Harrisonburg, Va., under the theme “He Calls Me Friend” with leadership from moderator Cole Scrogham.

— Missouri and Arkansas District participated in a Festival of Sharing held at the Sedalia (Mo.) Fairgrounds on Oct. 16-17. “For over 30 years our district has taken a peace witness booth to share our belief in nonviolence,” said a report in the district newsletter. “The day started with a worship service and continued with work for many different populations in need by bagging rice, beans, and potatoes, and packing kits. Martha Baile serves our district on the Festival of Sharing Board and has coordinated our effort for some time. There is great support for this witness as evidenced by those who staffed the booth and participated.” The district’s peace table offered On Earth Peace materials and other literature about nonviolence and the biblical basis for peace, along with brain-teaser puzzles to encourage interaction by passersby. Peace bumper stickers and small bars of fair-trade chocolate were distributed free to visitors. The district report noted that “the Festival of Sharing began in the 1980s as an ecumenical in-gathering of community assistance for those in need. Youth from all over Missouri come together to process bulk food and ready items such as school kits for distribution to low-income children in our own communities. Health kits for Missouri and for Church World Service and disaster cleanup buckets are also shipped from the festival. Other programs…help incarcerated families…. Fair-trade items are sold…. Mobility issues for the disabled are supported. All in all, the congregations that share in the experience feel blessed.”

— The Children’s Aid Society Annual Dinner is Saturday, Nov. 7, hosted by the Lehman Center in York, Pa., and held at New Fairview Church of the Brethren. This dinner is an occasion to celebrate another year of service to children, and to raise funds to support the CAS mission, said an announcement. Funds support services to children in crisis, in particular low-income children. For more information go to or call 717-624-4461.

— “Faith Informed Justice: Reconstructing Private and Public Life” is the topic of the Fall Learning Circle planned by the Pastors for Peace group in Shenandoah District. The event on Saturday, Nov. 21, from 8:45 a.m.-3 p.m. is held at Pleasant Valley Church of the Brethren in Weyers Cave, Va. “With so much emphasis on how our legal system is working, on the building of new jails and prisons, and frustration with longer and increasingly expensive incarcerations, Pastors for Peace is inviting pastors and other interested persons to learn about Restorative Justice,” said an announcement. “Restorative Justice mirrors the way God works with each of us in our failings and it offers a framework that values the human spirit’s capacity to give and receive forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing. It moves us past the good guys/bad guys syndrome and pushes us to redefine punishment, accountability, and mercy in the context of relationships with God and others.” The presenter will be Carl Stauffer, assistant professor at Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacemaking, who has long experience as a peacemaker in southern Africa and has worked in the fields of criminal justice and substance abuse, and is an ordained Mennonite pastor. Cost is $25 and includes lunch. Ordained ministers may earn .5 continuing education credit at no additional charge. The registration deadline is Nov. 16. Find more details and a registration form at .

— The Fall Lecture of CrossRoads will feature a panel discussion on refugee resettlement, “For We Are Strangers No More.” CrossRoads is Brethren and Mennonite heritage center in Harrisonburg, Va. The event at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 15, will be hosted by Community Mennonite Church (70 S. High Street, Harrisonburg). The panel will include Jim Hershberger, program director for the Harrisonburg refugee resettlement office of Church World Service; Sam Miller of Community Mennonite Church; and Dean Neher, a member of Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren and coordinator of the Shenandoah District Refugee Resettlement Task Team.

— McPherson (Kan.) College has issued an invitation to its 2015 Religious Heritage Lecture featuring guest speaker J. Roger Schrock. “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore” is the topic of the lecture at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 8, at McPherson Church of the Brethren. Schrock is a 1967 alumnus and has spent most of his career in Christian ministry for the Church of the Brethren, and working in health and human services. He has been a mission executive for the denomination, and has served in Nigeria and Sudan, the Middle East, and South Asia. He most recently was pastor of Cabool (Mo.) Church of the Brethren from 2000 until his retirement in 2015, and continues as a member of the denomination’s Mission Advisory Committee. The public is invited and encouraged to attend this free event.

— Bridgewater (Va.) College hosted Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger as speaker for its recent forum for Brethren Studies. The forum was moderated by Stephen Longenecker, Edwin L. Turner Distinguished Professor of History. “I had the distinct privilege of sharing a brief summary of the most important experiences and learning from the perspective of the general secretary over the past 12 and a half years, followed by almost an hour of question and answer time that came from an audience of Brethren from the Shenandoah District and faculty and students of Bridgewater College,” Noffsinger reported. Following the event, Noffsinger was hosted in the home of Bridgewater president David Bushman and his wife Suzanne Bushman.

— Bridgewater College also is hosting staff of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University–Carl Stauffer and Johonna Turner–speaking about “Justice from the Margins” on Nov. 10, at 7:30 p.m. in Cole Hall. The lecture is free and open to the public, sponsored by the Harry and Ina Shank Peace Studies Endowment, said a release. “Justice from the Margins” will focus on what peace and justice look like from the viewpoint of those who have suffered the most from violence and oppression. The presentation will highlight bottom-up forms of justice that are emerging from communities in the US and Sierra Leone.

— European bishops and church leaders are calling for safe passage for refugees, reports the World Council of Churches (WCC). A group of 35 bishops and church leaders from 20 countries gathered in Munich, Germany, to discuss refugees and the role of the churches in Europe. The group has made a recommendation for safe passage to those seeking refuge: “As Christians we share the belief that we see in the other, the image of Christ himself (Matthew 25), and that all human beings are created in the image of God (Genesis 1. 26-27),” they said in a message after their one-day meeting on Oct. 29. Those present represented Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic traditions in the most affected regions, along with representatives from ecumenical organizations and from church-based humanitarian and refugee organizations. “The experience of migration and crossing of borders is known to the Church of Christ. The Holy Family were refugees; the very incarnation of Our Lord is a crossing of the border between the Human and Divine,” the bishops and church leaders said in their message. “Today there is evidence of a renationalization of politics…. However, the Church is both local as well as universal, and in the life of Churches we resist tendencies to work in isolation, and we affirm our deep commitment to a universal and ecumenical horizon.” Read the full release and find a link to the church leaders’ communiqué at .

— Heeding God’s Call, an organization begun at a conference of the Historic Peace Churches focused on the problem of guns on the streets of America’s cities, has announced a new name and a new logo. The organization is now known as Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence. “There are many ways to heed God’s call in the world. We have always focused on just one–to end gun violence. Now our updated logo says it all,” said the announcement. The organization is still based in Chestnut Hill, Pa., and its address and contact information remain the same. Find out more at .

— The “Brethren Voices” community television program of Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren in November features the story of Athanasus Ungang, a Brethren mission worker in Torit, South Sudan. “It’s another reminder that one person or one small church can make a difference,” said an announcement from producer Ed Groff. “During the 1990s, Rev. Athanasus Ungang, pastor of the Africa Inland Church, Torit, South Sudan, and his family became refugees of the long civil war of Sudan. They were settled by the Lutheran Church and sponsored by a relative to establish a home in Sioux Falls, S.D. Years earlier, as a pastor in southern Sudan, Athanasus had his first encounter with the Church of the Brethren through Roger and Carolyn Schrock as well as Louise and Phil Rieman who were serving in southern Sudan. Athanasus was impressed by these Brethren and the peace position of the Church of the Brethren. He shares his story about his ‘calling’ to return to South Sudan, with the support of his family to continue the ministry. This is a story of one person making a difference in a land where people lack resources for dealing with the trauma of war.” Ungang is serving in South Sudan with the support of the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission and Service office, and has established a Brethren Peace Center in Torit as a licensed NGO (non-government organization) to provide “trauma healing and services to the community.” For DVD copies of “Brethren Voices” contact Ed Groff at . Many of the “Brethren Voices” programs may be viewed online at .

— Three sermon award contests focused on including scientific research in preaching have been announced by Fuller Theological Seminary, an evangelical multidenominational seminary with a main campus in Pasadena, Calif. The contests are open to anyone serving in a ministerial role. Fuller has received a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to hold the series of sermon award contests as part of a pilot project for a larger initiative, said a release. The pilot project has two goals, to facilitate preacher engagement (and their ministries/audiences) with scientific and theological research concerning gratitude, purpose, and the cosmos; and to design mechanisms that nurture this type of engagement with other research areas. The project also will increase the accessibility of such research for pastors, priests, vicars, and others who deliver sermons, and will develop a website that presents accessible summaries of new research to be readily appropriated into sermons, the release said. The award-winning sermons will be part of this website. “The hope is that such resources will not only extend the reach of important research that affect people around the world, but also provide preachers around the world with excellent resources that speak to their respective ministry needs and audience.” The first sermon contest will cover the topic of gratitude and opens Nov. 15. A total of six winners will be chosen for each competition, with the top three winners of each competition receiving a monetary award and a donation to their respective ministries. More information can be found at .

[gt-link lang="en" label="English" widget_look="flags_name"]