Newsline for April 29, 2015

Quote of the week: “PRAY FOR BALTIMORE”— A social media “meme” being shared by people of faith who are praying for Baltimore, a city hit by violence following yet another death of a young black man arrested by police. Freddie Gray Jr., 25, died April 19 after a week in police custody, reportedly from an injury for which he received no medical attention. Rioting and confrontations with police began after Gray’s funeral concluded on Monday, April 27.
Two Church of the Brethren congregations are located near Mondawmin Mall where the rioting started before it moved into the downtown: Baltimore First Church of the Brethren at 4500 Liberty Heights Ave., and Woodberry Church of the Brethren at West 36th and Poole St.
“I hope and pray something positive can come out of this as far as addressing ingrained injustices,” said Mid-Atlantic District executive minister Gene Hagenberger, in an e-mail note to Newsline. “I drove through Baltimore today and it seemed as if people I encountered were going out of their way to express a desire for good will and unity.”

“Serve each other through love” (Galatians 5:13, CEB).

1) Responding to the Nepal earthquake

2) Foods Resource Bank receives annual Church of the Brethren contribution

3) Volunteers for the Church of the Brethren gather for a retreat in Honduras

4) Bethany Seminary event explores Anabaptism for today

5) Manchester University Medical Practicum: Three decades of service and counting

6) Faith rising out of the ashes: Brethren make visit to EYN headquarters in Kwarhi

7) Meeting EYN leadership: Working toward normalcy

8) Chiques Church of the Brethren is a giving church

9) Bethany Seminary commencement scheduled for May 9

10) ‘Way to Live: Justice and Forgiveness’ webinar is offered May 5

11) WCC launches new websites promoting pilgrimage of justice and peace

12) In living memory of Thao

13) Brethren bits: District staff meet, Fahrney-Keedy seeks CEO, Material Resources and Youth/Young Adult Ministry seek assistants, Bethany in the news, Shenandoah’s disaster auction, and more

1) Responding to the Nepal earthquake

“Through the heartbreak of so much destruction and death, Brethren Disaster Ministries is organizing a multilevel response” to the Nepal earthquake, reported Roy Winter, associate executive director of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Photo courtesy of ACT Alliance, DanChurch Aid
Buildings damaged by the massive earthquake that hit Nepal on Saturday, April 25, 2015.

“We will work closely with Church World Service in providing immediate relief to the Nepalese people most impacted and most vulnerable to long-term poverty. Simultaneously Brethren Disaster Ministries will work with Heifer International to provide longer term recovery to some of the most at-risk groups.

“It is also important to build capacity in Nepalese organizations providing relief and recovery,” Winter said. “By working with these different groups Brethren Disaster Ministries seeks to provide a more comprehensive and effective response to this crisis.”

Nepal was hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on Saturday, April 25. Although the number of casualties is still rising as search and rescue continues, more than 4,700 people have died and more than 9,000 have been injured according to Nepal’s National Emergency Coordination Center. The earthquake was centered less than 50 miles from the capital Kathmandu.

Donations are being received to support the Brethren Disaster Ministries response with ecumenical partners Church World Service (CWS), Heifer International, and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

“The devastating earthquake that shook Nepal has left many people homeless and desperate,” said Jane Yount, coordinator for Brethren Disaster Ministries, in an e-mail message. “Thank you for your gifts and your prayers on behalf of all earthquake victims.”

A Nepal giving page has been created at to facilitate giving to the Brethren Disaster Ministries response. Gifts will help provide lifesaving emergency supplies and other critical assistance to earthquake survivors. Donations may be made online at or by mailing checks payable to “Emergency Disaster Fund” and earmarked “Nepal earthquake” to: Emergency Disaster Fund, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin IL 60120.

2) Foods Resource Bank receives annual Church of the Brethren contribution

The Church of the Brethren through its Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF) has contributed an annual gift of $10,000 to the Foods Resource Bank (FRB). The contribution represents the payment of the denomination’s 2015 commitment as an implementing member of FRB.

In related news, the Church of the Brethren representative on the FRB board, GFCF manager Jeff Boshart, will be leaving the FRB board. Taking his place as denominational representatives will be Jim Schmidt of Polo (Ill.) Church of the Brethren, and Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service.

Boshart will continue on the FRB Membership Support Committee, which is tasked with seeking out new members for FRB.

Boshart reports that in addition to a new partnership with World Relief, the FRB also has made a shift in its membership and board structure. “Under the new structure,” he reported, “all of our Brethren-related growing projects are now members of FRB in their own right, and not through the Global Food Crisis Fund and the denomination. The new board will have more representation from the growing projects and other new corporate and non-profit members.” Boshart added, “FRB is reaching out to universities, agri-business, as well as other faith-based organizations.”

One example of a longterm FRB Growing Project sponsored by Church of the Brethren congregations is the Growing Project hosted by Polo Church of the Brethren. This year the project will consist of 40 acres of corn, with proceeds from sale of the corn to be invested in FRB to bolster smallholder agriculture abroad, reported Howard Royer of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill, one of four congregations contributing to the cost of cost of seed and inputs.

Foods Resource Bank recently welcomed World Relief as a new partner in its work. World Relief, an international relief and development agency, joined FRB as an implementing organization. Some 15 other development agencies and hundreds of churches and volunteer groups work with FRB in growing solutions to hunger.

For more about the Global Food Crisis Fund go to .

3) Volunteers for the Church of the Brethren gather for a retreat in Honduras

By Dan McFadden

Photo courtesy of Nate Inglis
Volunteers help distribute Toms Shoes to children in Honduras, during the BVS Latin America retreat.

Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) and Global Mission and Service workers gathered for four days in late March at the PANACAM park in Cortes, Honduras, for a time of retreat. The group gathers once a year for reflection, devotion, and support. The retreat was led by Dan McFadden, director of BVS. All of the volunteers, including those in BVS, receive financial support for their work from the Global Mission and Service program of the Church of the Brethren.

BVS volunteer Jess Rinehart came from her assignment at Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad in El Salvador where she teaches English and assists with a water campaign and delegation support. Nate and A. Inglis, also BVS volunteers, came from Union Victoria in Guatemala where they serve as accompaniers with a community which suffered years of persecution. BVSers Ann Ziegler and Stephanie Breen came from Emanuel Children’s Home in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, where they serve in many roles with over 100 children who live there. Global Mission and Service workers Alan and Kay Bennett came from Belén, Honduras, where Alan is serving with Project Global Village (PAG) as an engineer assisting in a water project while Kay is a nurse with PAG.

This year’s retreat was held at Cerro Azul Meámbar National Park (PANACAM), which was established in 1987 and given to PAG to manage since 1992. Project Global Village is community development agency started by Church of the Brethren member Chet Thomas. PAG manages this national park for the Honduran National Parks Department. PAG’s mission statement: “Empowering families to reduce poverty, build just, peaceful, and productive communities based on Christian values.”

Also during the retreat, the group participated in a shoe distribution of Toms Shoes, made possible through a “buy one give one” program. The BVSers working at Emanuel Children’s home and the other staff there regularly participate in the shoe distributions.

— Dan McFadden is director of Brethren Volunteer Service. For more information about BVS go to . For more information about the Global Mission and Service program go to .

4) Bethany Seminary event explores Anabaptism for today

By Jenny Williams

More than 65 participants gathered at Bethany Theological Seminary on April 17-19 for a new event planned and hosted by the Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults: “Anabaptism, the Next Generation.” Described as a learning forum for those in ministry with young adults, the event was open to and welcomed all who are interested in exploring the growing edges of Anabaptism among the generations.

The concept for the forum grew from the recognition that traditional Anabaptist values such as community, simplicity, service, and discipleship, are becoming more appealing to young people in the church and even others who may be unaffiliated. Following suit, the format was modeled after contemporary TED talks, a suggestion from conversations with Brethren young adults. Ideas and information were presented in 11 20-minute sessions, enabling each presenter to give specificity to a single topic.

Ecumenical speakers Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Chuck Bomar gave voice to the themes of the forum from outside Anabaptist circles, not only adding valuable perspective but personally engaging with the group.

Wilson-Hargrove, spiritual author and speaker, founded the School of Conversion, which builds community among the disadvantaged through prison reform, and in community-based education. Bomar is a writer and pastor with leadership experience in college ministry and founder of iampeople, empowering volunteers to serve others in their communities. They were joined by Brethren speakers Josh Brockway, Dana Cassell, Laura Stone, and Dennis Webb, and by Jeff Carter, Steve Schweitzer, Tara Hornbacker, and Russell Haitch from the Bethany faculty and staff.

Haitch, a Bethany professor, is director of the Institute. “There’s talk of young adults leaving the church, but here they were leading the church,” he said in appreciation for those gathered. “It was a vibrant, intergenerational gathering. People expressed deep interest in Anabaptist heritage but an even deeper desire to see convictions lived out in community forming, socially transforming ways today.”

The format proved to be engaging and met with appreciation for its originality. Topics ranged from the intersection of Anabaptism with scripture and spirituality to multiculturalism and expressing faith through music. Presenters also led small discussion groups on these or other topics of interest.

On Saturday evening, participants took part in an immersion experience. Bekah Houff, coordinator of outreach programs at Bethany–and coordinator of the forum–described it as “taking our conversations from within Bethany’s walls out into the contexts in which we live.” Choosing from among several local eateries or a service at the Fountain City Wesleyan Church, group members took note of the physical surrounding, demographics, and interaction of those around them, and the meaning of those interactions, even participating if possible.

On Sunday morning, participants explored the intersection of their immersion visits with young adult ministry through the lens of Anabaptism, sharing individual impressions and the significance of these impressions for the wider community. The 90-minute discussion served to bring together all the varied weekend experiences around what young adults can bring to Anabaptism and what Anabaptism can offer the next generation.

The forum concluded with a worship service planned by Bethany students and faculty. Shawn Kirchner, adjunct faculty for Bethany, provided music, and MDiv student Shane Petty gave the message.

Members of the event planning committee included Kelly Burk; Nate Polzin; Bethany faculty Tara Hornbacker, Denise Kettering-Lane, and Steve Schweitzer; and Bethany students Eric Landram, Sarah Neher, and Shane Petty. All presentations from “Anabaptism, the Next Generation” will be available for viewing on Bethany’s website. An announcement will be made when they have been posted.

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

5) Manchester University Medical Practicum: Three decades of service and counting

By Anne Gregory

Photo courtesy of Manchester University
The 2015 Manchester University Medical Practicum group prepares for a river trip by canoe.

In Jan. 1981, Ed Miller, now a Manchester University professor emeritus, led a medical delegation to Guatemala in the first Manchester University Medical Practicum January Session course.

Manchester University is one of six colleges across the nation grounded in the values and traditions of the Church of the Brethren, and Miller himself is a member of Manchester Church of the Brethren.

The chemistry professor’s team included eight students and medical professionals Donald Parker ’56, M.D., and Richard Myers ’69, D.D.S. The team was based in Mariscos, Guatemala, at an Episcopal parish with a small clinic. The group of 13, which included the local priest and a boatman, traveled in one motorized dugout canoe to serve villages along the shore of Lake Izabal in eastern Guatemala.

In that first trip, the total budget came to $8,800; students were charged $720; roundtrip airfare from Fort Wayne to Guatemala City was $379; and the cost of medical, dental, and other supplies came to $850. During 10 days of clinics they completed 557 medical and 188 dental consultations. Almost all medical supplies were provided by Interchurch Medical Assistance based at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.

In following years, the course provided care in Panama, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica. For more than 20 years, it has taken students to live and eat with, learn from, and serve villagers in remote areas of Nicaragua.

Leadership of the course has been assumed by Jeff Osborne, associate professor of chemistry at the university. The number of students and professionals involved has grown over the years, along with the scope of medical care, preventive medicine, and research.

“Students continue to report they find the trip a life-changing experience,” Osborne said. “We believe the outcomes of our efforts are worthwhile.”

This year’s trip, the 31st, was to the Alto Wangki-Bocay region of northern Nicaragua, near the Honduran border, and involved 16 students and 19 staff from the US including 6 physicians, 1 dentist, 2 pharmacists, 2 nurses, 1 veterinarian, and a laboratory testing coordinator. All medical work was done in coordination with the nationwide system of small clinics, Sistema Local de Atención Integral en Salud, which is part of the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health. Nicaraguans who joined the group included 2 physicians, 1 community health worker, 9 translators, 4 assistants, and 12 boatmen.

The total trip budget has grown to about $83,000, with $15,824 used for medicines and medical supplies to supplement the many medical and dental donations.

This group of 63 people traveled roughly 160 miles in 6 motorized dugout canoes to reach 3 mostly indigenous villages of the Alto Wangki-Bocay. In 9 days of clinics the group completed 1,440 medical and 87 dental consultations, performed 924 different lab tests, and vaccinated 177 people.

Other Church of the Brethren members took part in January’s course, including Matthew Sprunger, M.D., of Fort Wayne,  Ind., who is a 1978 Manchester graduate; Robert Studebaker, DDS., of the Woodlands, Texas, who is a 1991 graduate; Joe Long of North Liberty, Ind., who graduated from Manchester in 1969; his wife Kathy, a physician and member of the class of 1971; and  their daughter, Rachel Long, D.O., of Rochester Ind., and a member of the class of 2006. Studebaker and Rachel Long participated in the trip during their student days.

Manchester junior Erik Nakajima of Oregon, Ill., was another member of the Brethren taking part in this year’s trip. Other MU students participating in 2015 were Meaghan Adams of Fort Wayne, Ind.; Bobbie Beckner of Mooreland, Ind.; Megan Buckner of  Muncie, Ind.; Eric Cupp of Lafayette, Ind.; Kristiania Grogg of North Manchester, Ind.; Kliricia Loc of Kalamazoo, Mich.; Kaitlyn McDermitt of Greenville, Ohio; Anna McGowen of Williamsport, Ind.; Kyle Miller of Goshen, Ind.; Jessica Noll of LaPorte, Ind.; Loreal Richard of Rochester, Ind.; Luke Scheel of Lafayette, Ind.; Taylor Smith of Auburn, Ind.; Briauna Taylor of Centerville, Ind.; and Martin Voglewede of Oxford, Ind.

Although the focus has traditionally been acute care, the group over the last four trips has successively incorporated the first wide-scale, rapid diagnostic test screenings of local populations for diabetes, H. pylori infection, and Chagas disease. It also has been the only group in the region to implement the “see and treat” approach for possible precancerous cervical lesions, which involves visual inspection with acetic acid followed by CO2 tank cryotherapy.

Community education was a focus in the clinic, with presentations given throughout the day to people waiting in line to be seen. This trip was the third to incorporate veterinary medicine, deworming 68 dogs, 232 pigs, 71 cattle, 3 mules, and 16 horses.

Since 1981, 336 students, 108 health care providers, and 55 other professionals have traveled with the group, performing almost 38,000 medical and dental consultations.

Plans for the 2016 course are well underway. For more information go to or contact Jeff Osborne, Ph.D., Manchester University Department of Chemistry associate professor, 260-982-5075 .

— Anne Gregory is staff for media relations at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind.


6) Faith rising out of the ashes: Brethren make visit to EYN headquarters in Kwarhi

By Donna Parcell, Church of the Brethren volunteer in Nigeria

On April 24 we were able to accompany a team from the Swiss Embassy to visit Mubi to see the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) headquarters, schools, and several EYN churches. We saw the destroyed buildings and burned churches. It was difficult to see.

[The EYN church headquarters property was overtaken by Boko Haram extremist insurgents on Oct. 29, 2014, as the insurgents fought their way into the area to take the city of Mubi. The EYN headquarters property is in Kwarhi, a community close to Mubi in northeast Nigeria. When the EYN headquarters, Kulp Bible College, and other EYN facilities in Kwarhi were overrun by Boko Haram, the EYN staff and Bible college students and their families fled in vehicles and on foot and since then have been living in other areas of central Nigeria as displaced people.]

The clinic at EYN headquarters was totally destroyed and lying in rubble. We observed places that had been bombed, with shrapnel still by the roadside. Abandoned military equipment was by the road. There were bullet holes in cars still parked in the compound. The EYN offices were vandalized and ransacked. The churches were burned.

But rising out of the ashes is an unquenchable spirit of hope and reliance on God. The people continue to worship in the shadow of their burned churches. Community unity is very strong. The people are relying on each other and on God. There is much work to do for healing and peace, but the hand of God is at work.

While visiting a church in Mubi, I met Mrs. Gahara Bella. On Oct. 29, 2014, she was at home, the children were in school, her husband was out on the farm. She heard gun shots and people screaming to run for your life. She didn’t know what was going on or where her family was. Filled with terror, she started to run. There was no time to take anything. Her children escaped through holes in the wall at school. She and her younger children headed for the mountains, as they are traditionally thought of as safe places. They escaped to Cameroon.

Meanwhile her husband and oldest son tried to escape via the road. Many men tried to escape on the roads while the women and children ran for the mountains. The roads were blocked, and many of the men were shot, including her husband. Her son hid himself under sheaves of maize until the soldiers were gone and was able to escape.

Several months later she still had no word of her husband. When Mubi was reopened she went to search for him. The soldiers had left his I.D. on him. He had been shot and killed and was left by the road. She was able to identify him by his clothes and identification. Now she fully relies on God. She trusts Him for all things and is hopeful.

We met with women’s groups from several other EYN churches and discussed their trials, concerns, and needs. Food and water are the two most prevalent needs. They escaped without taking anything, and all of their possessions and food were taken or destroyed. The rainy season is quickly approaching, and all crops have been destroyed and there is not time to replant. The livestock has all been taken. The bore holes have been vandalized so there is not access to clean water. There is no source of income. Their homes have been destroyed. They are still living in constant fear and find it difficult to trust their Muslim neighbors.

In the midst of their extreme trials, their faith is strong. They are working together and trust God in all things.

— Donna Parcell is a volunteer with the Nigeria Crisis Response of the Church of the Brethren, in a cooperative effort with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). She will be in Nigeria for a few weeks, joining Peggy Gish in walking alongside the people of EYN, especially women and children. She is from Souderton, Pa., and Indian Creek Church of the Brethren.

7) Meeting EYN leadership: Working toward normalcy

By Carl and Roxane Hill

Nigeria Crisis Response co-directors Carl and Roxane Hill continue a series of articles introducing leaders of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). In today’s piece, the Hills interview EYN general secretary Rev. Jinatu Wamdeo, and his late brother Bulus Libra, a lay pastor and a leader in the Margi-speaking community:

Photo courtesy of Carl & Roxane Hill
EYN general secretary Jinatu Wamdeo

“We are just trying to get things back to normal,” said EYN general secretary Jinatu Wamdeo. This is what Rev. Jinatu told us when we visited with him in March of this year. “To be honest,” he informed us, “we are still reeling from the impact of being displaced from our homes. We are trying to settle in and to carry on the work of the church.”

Rev. Jinatu, as the general secretary, is the administrator in charge of the various leaders of EYN. “I am responsible for the district secretaries, the pastors, and the evangelists (pastors who have not yet been ordained), and to see that they are doing the work assigned to them.”

All the church leaders report to the general secretary, who encourages them and directs them as needed. At this time, more than any time in the past, working with the DCC [district] secretaries is critical because so many of the districts have been destroyed by the violence inflicted by Boko Haram.

“Only 7 of the 50 districts have not been severely impacted,” he told us. The DCC secretaries are the ones who have taken on the job of seeing to it that the people of their districts are receiving necessary assistance. Much needed food and materials are being distributed through the coordinated efforts of the DCC secretaries.

“It has been very difficult to keep the church together during this crisis,” reported Rev. Jinatu, a graduate of Evangelical Seminary in Pennsylvania. “The DCC secretaries are the vital link that remains between the people and the new [EYN annex] headquarters,” which is now located in central Nigeria.

‘Death came swiftly and without warning’

By Rev. Jinatu Wamdeo, as told to Carl and Roxane Hill

“As we left to go to Yola for our Nigerian Executive Committee meeting, I stopped by my elder brother’s house to tell him of my plans. As always I took him tea-making supplies. That was the last time I saw my brother, Bulus Libra.

“Although three of my children have died, the death of my brother has hit me the hardest. You see my brother was 14 years older than I. When my father died, he put his own life on hold to care for me and my three younger siblings. He sacrificed to pay my school fees, sending me to the mission primary school and for further education at Waka Schools. I received an excellent education all thanks to my brother. He even paid the dowry for my wife.

“Bulus was a very special man. He had been chosen by the missionaries to be trained as a lay pastor. He never went for formal training but remained active in the church. Even up to his death he was in charge of the Margi service in Wamdeo and was its main preacher. Now those who don’t speak English and have minimal Hausa wonder, ‘Who will provide church for us now?’

“My brother was now 78 years old and our roles were reversed; I was the one taking care of him. If possible I would go to see him every few days and take him purified water along with tea, sugar, and milk. He had been told by the doctors not to drink well water anymore and I was the one who could provide clean water for him.

“While we were in Yola for the meeting, EYN Headquarters was attacked and overrun. I was not able to return to our home town. Sometimes I could call my brother but often communication was impossible. On the last day, I was able to talk to my younger brother who was out at the family farm. He was telling me that our town and our elder brother were fine. But just one hour later he called to say that the Boko Haram had invaded Wamdeo. He had no details and I waited anxiously for more news.

“I was unable to concentrate at work and headed to my temporary house in [central Nigeria]. Before I reached home, another friend called to give me the crushing news that the Boko Haram had come into my brother’s house and killed him. I nearly collapsed, my blood pressure skyrocketed. I was enveloped in grief and sadness. Making it worse, because of the Boko Haram, I could not even make it back to pay my respects and bury my brother.

“But God is a faithful God. Life does go on after loss and there is healing and sweet remembrance of a life well lived. We would all do well to follow the example of my elder brother and ‘live a life worthy of the calling you have received’ (Ephesians 4:1).”

— Carl and Roxane Hill are co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response, a cooperative effort of the Church of the Brethren with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). For more about the Nigeria Crisis Response go to .

8) Chiques Church of the Brethren is a giving church

By Carl and Roxane Hill

Some of the organizers for the weekend at Chiques Church. From left to right: Carolyn and Don Fitzkee, Marianne Fitztkee, Dick and Cathy Boshart, Jake and Jean Saylor, May Ann Christopher, Dr. Paul and Sandra Brubaker, and Roxane and Carl Hill.

In mid-April, Chiques Church of the Brethren in Manheim, Pa., sponsored a dinner and silent auction to help support the Nigeria Crisis Fund. Jennifer Cox, one of the event organizers, said, “Church of the Brethren in the United States has responded to the crisis with an outpouring of resources to bring relief and hope to our brothers and sisters in Nigeria who are living daily with the threat of violence.”

The results of the weekend event brought in $25,100, according to Carolyn Fitzkee, another church member and district missions advocate for Atlantic Northeast District. Also in attendance over the weekend were Carl and Roxane Hill, co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response for the Church of the Brethren. On Sunday morning they presented an informative talk on the US response.

They were impressed with all the efforts of the church. “They are truly a giving church. There are many churches in the denomination that are holding similar events in order to raise money for the Nigeria Crisis Fund. We believe that through this effort of helping the people of Nigeria God is at work in every congregation. This is an opportunity to see real transformation in the churches and experience the presence of God in a greater way.”

As was emphasized in his sermon on “Giving,” minister Randy Hosler pointed out that the Bible tells us, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38).

What a great fund raiser that was–not only productive but also fun for all who attended. What a great weekend was had at Chiques Church, truly a giving church.

— Carl and Roxane Hill are co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response, a cooperative effort of the Church of the Brethren with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). For more about the Nigeria Crisis Response go to .


9) Bethany Seminary commencement scheduled for May 9

By Jenny Williams

Bethany Theological Seminary anticipates graduating its second-largest class in 17 years on Saturday, May 9. The ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. in Nicarry Chapel with 18 students expected to graduate from the master of divinity, master of arts, and Certificate of Achievement in Theological Studies programs.

Rhonda Pittman Gingrich of Minneapolis, Minn., will deliver the commencement address titled “Wells of Living Water,” based on Jesus’s encounter with the Samaritan woman in John 4. Her remarks will lift up the woman as an example for us today: after receiving living water from Jesus to quench her spiritual thirst, she became a well for others, sharing the good news of the Gospel with them. A 1998 graduate of Bethany, Gingrich has served the Church of the Brethren in roles relating to Christian education, youth ministry, and congregational life. She served 10 years on the Bethany Seminary Board of Trustees and has taught courses for Bethany, the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, and United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. She earned a doctor of ministry degree from United Theological Seminary in April this year.

Admittance to the academic ceremony is by ticket only. However, the public is invited to attend a worship service that afternoon at 2:30 p.m., also in Nicarry Chapel. With a theme of transformation from Romans 12:1-2, it will be written, planned, and led by the graduates. Class members who will speak during the service are Tara Shepherd from Bent Mountain, Va., Richard Propes from Indianapolis, Ind., and Steve Lowe from Keymar, Md.

Both the commencement ceremony and the worship service will be webcast live and available to view as recordings. Those interested in viewing the events can access the webcasts at .

— Jenny Williams is director of Communications and Alumni/ae Relations for Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind. For more information about the seminary go to .

10) ‘Way to Live: Justice and Forgiveness’ webinar is offered May 5

“Way to Live: Justice and Forgiveness” is part of a continuing series of webinars for those involved in youth and young adult ministry. It is offered Tuesday, May 5, at 8 p.m. (Eastern time), with leadership from Marie Benner-Rhoades of the staff of On Earth Peace. For more information go to the Facebook event page at .

Staff from the Church of the Brethren, Bethany Theological Seminary, and On Earth Peace have teamed up to provide informational and educational webinars geared toward those who work with Church of the Brethren youth and young adults as advisors, pastors, or parents. These “non-event” resources are taking the form of a webinar book study of “Way to Live: Christian Practices for Teens” edited by Dorothy C. Bass and Don C. Richter.

The series offers reflections on and applications for a few selected chapters of the book. While having a copy of the book is helpful, it is not required to attend. The book can be purchased at .

Ministers may earn .1 continuing education unit for participating in the real-time event. To request CEU credit, contact Rebekah Houff at prior to the webinar.

To join the webinar on May 5, participants will need to join the video and audio portions separately. To join the video portion, go to and enter the phone number and access code given below (the technology used for this webinar works best with non-mobile devices). After joining the video portion, participants will need to join the audio portion by dialing 877-204-3718 (toll free) or 303-223-9908. The access code is 2576119.

For those who wish to view the web portion using an iPad, please download the link from the iTunes store (Level 3), and have the conference telephone number and access code available to enter. You will still need to join the audio portion with the Audio Login credentials. The name of the app is Level 3.


11) WCC launches new websites promoting pilgrimage of justice and peace

From a WCC release

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has launched two new interactive websites promote strong engagement of churches with the vision of a “pilgrimage of justice and peace.” The Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace is an initiative of the WCC member churches, inviting Christians and all people of good will to work together on the issues of justice and peace in order to heal a world filled with conflict, injustice, violence, and pain.

The new website offers resources for congregations, organizations, and groups to discern their particular path in the pilgrimage. The website encourages sharing and learning from each other’s experiences.

Guided by nine questions such as “What is a pilgrimage?” and “What are justice and peace?” visitors to the website can contribute comments, upload their own related documents, or share their ideas through video or sound. The site also connects to discussions in social media, using a set of dedicated hashtags.

The concept of a “pilgrimage of justice and peace” is an overarching theme for the various programs and activities of the WCC, which represents 345 member churches including the Church of the Brethren, and over 500 million Christians around the world. It was developed at the WCC 10th Assembly held in 2013 in Busan, Republic of Korea.

Reflections on the pilgrimage theme and how it relates to the lives of the churches in various parts of the world, and to justice and peace issues that Christians are confronting in their communities, are at the heart of the second new site, .

The first entry to the blog, authored by WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit, was published on April 29. Tveit wrote how for WCC the “pilgrimage of justice and peace has become a clear framework and motivation to take new initiatives on all levels.”

In his reflection, Tveit highlighted the “right to hope” and its significance for the ecumenical movement. He shared his experience of participating in a recent Vatican meeting on climate change. He said, “All humankind must be united in proper stewardship, making the necessary changes that can facilitate justice for the poor and for all those who are vulnerable to the effects of climate change.”

The blog will feature writings from persons deeply engaged with the ecumenical movement and churches’ struggles for justice and peace. Guest bloggers will be invited to reflect the rich variety of perspectives on the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace, both within the WCC member churches and beyond.

Both websites are forums where “pilgrims” will be able to explore together what it means to embark on a pilgrimage and how it deepens their spirituality. Find the resource website at . Find the blogsite at .


12) In living memory of Thao

By Grace Mishler, assisted by Tram Nguyen

Photo courtesy of Grace Mishler

Nguyen Thi Thu Thao, age 24, died Easter morning, April 5. She held a degree from Ho Chi Minh City University of Agriculture and Forestry. She battled for seven years with thyroid cancer, kidney disease, and eye pain.

Thao and her brother had participated in our Vietnam Student Eye Care Project over a course of nine months. On March 26 we had taken her to the American Eye Center for an emergency consultation. She was having excruciatingly painful swollen eyes.

Thien An Blind School responds

On Easter morning, students at Thien An Blind School received news that their fellow blind classmate, Thao, had died. We came together at 5 p.m., Easter evening, to commemorate the events leading to her death.  The headmaster asked me to eulogize at this gathering to celebrate the inspiring life she left behind for us. Though she suffered, her face was radiant with smiles. I felt the grief of the blind children. We ate a meal together, then we gathered to pray, sing songs, recite the Rosary, and planned our trip for Monday to Di Linh district’s coffee farming community to join in the Buddhist celebration of Thao’s life.

The Thien An  School for the Blind, the headmaster, the Catholic sister, and I took the time to visit the Shrine of the Mother Mary. Again, we recited the Rosary.

Celebration of Thao’s life

At her memorial, Thao’s body was placed in a casket and buried in a Buddhist cemetery in the rural district area of Di Linh, the same area where International Volunteer Service workers and Vietnam Christian Service workers provided humanitarian aid work before 1975.

Thao grew up in the coffee groves. She had retinol dystrophy. She left her home community to come to the university where she received a degree at Ho Chi Minh University of Agriculture and Forestry. She was working on her second degree in Japanese Studies. Although she suffered for seven years, she continued to follow her dream of higher education. Thao was able to pursue her dream effectively by living at Thien An, where she had support services for independent living, academic studies, necessary IT support services, and advocacy. Back home, her family are coffee farmers. They wanted her to come home to live during her long-term illness but she was determined to complete her education.

At the service celebrating her life, the Catholic sister shared a letter written by a spiritual father. Thao had shared on Easter morning with her caregiver at the hospital, and her last words were: “I am dying.” A radiant smile of peace came across her.

I shared with her family and community and friends at the service: “Thao taught me that even in the midst of suffering, even in the midst of pain, we can be joyful and resilient.”

The rural authorities sought me out to come close to the casket, which had been lowered into the ground. They gave me a handful of dirt to throw down to the burial site before they began to cover the casket. Later, Thao’s parents came to me twice, the final time when I was boarding the bus to leave. They thanked me for coming to the funeral, and appreciated that I helped their daughter and son with their eye problems.

Thao has two other siblings who are blind, too. One brother is a math teacher at Nguyen Dinh Chieu Blind School in Ho Chi Minh City. Another is an IT teacher at Thien An Blind School.

What a legacy for poor Vietnamese coffee farmers, who sacrificed their livelihood to send their children off to the big city for education. And what a legacy that Thao embraced her ability in being self-aware and resilient even while living with chronic pain and suffering. She was ahead of her times because she achieved even when no formalized academic structures were in place to assist. She was fortunate to live at Thien An School for the Blind.

— Grace Mishler is a program volunteer working in Vietnam through the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service. This article was provided with thanks to Tram Nguyen, Mishler’s assistant. Mishler is on the faculty of Vietnam National University of Social Sciences and Humanities as Social Work Project Developer. For more about the disabilities ministry in Vietnam see .

13) Brethren bits

— The Board of Directors of Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village has begun a nationwide search for a CEO to replace retiring CEO/president Keith Bryan. Bryan has served as chief executive since 2010 and worked with the board to develop a strategic plan and long-term master plan for the Church of the Brethren-related retirement community near Boonsboro, Md. The expansion plan is underway, with a state-of-the-art waste-water treatment plant and a water storage system coming on-line in May. Under Bryan’s leadership the organization has positioned itself financially to implement the next phases of the expansion plan. Bryan will retire on May 29. The board has formed a Search Committee which is pursuing regional and national sources for candidates to lead the organization. The committee is seeking a visionary leader with strong competencies in financial management and marketing, along with experience in successfully growing a continuing care retirement community. Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village, one of the oldest and most respected names in elder care in Maryland, was founded in 1905. The continuing care retirement community is home to approximately 200 residents in independent living, assisted living, nursing care, and a memory care facility. Fahrney-Keedy is a faith-based community and operates as a non-profit organization committed to enriching the lives of seniors. Visit to learn more about Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village and to see the full CEO position announcement. Candidate resumes are being accepted through June 5.

Thirteen district administrative assistants from the Church of the Brethren district offices have been meeting at the denomination’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill., this week. The meetings were held with denominational staff, and hosted by the Office of Ministry. At least one district executive and one retired district administrative assistant were a part of the group.  Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.


— The Church of the Brethren seeks a full-time warehouse assistant to fill an hourly position in the Material Resources program at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. The position assists with folding quilts, baling, loading and unloading trailers, and learning strapping operation to clear cartons from the track as well as other tasks as assigned. Warehouse experience is preferred and electric pallet jack experience is helpful. A high school diploma or equivalent 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 the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 367; .

— A 2015-2016 ministry assistant is sought by the Youth and Young Adult Ministry of the Church of the Brethren, to serve through Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS). The position is both a practical ministry position and an administrative position focused on preparations for Christian Citizenship Seminar 2016, National Young Adult Conference 2016, and Ministry Summer Service (which includes the Youth Peace Travel Team). Most of the year is spent preparing for these events in the General Offices in Elgin, Ill., while the remainder of the time is spent facilitating these events on-site. The assistant works with various planning teams to envision and carry out the events, identifying themes, workshops, speakers, and other leaders, and manages the administrative side of the various events including online registration, budgets, coordinating logistics, tracking contracts and forms. This BVS placement includes serving as a BVS volunteer and being a member of BVS’ Elgin Community House. Requirements include gifts for and experience in youth ministry; passion for Christian service and an understanding of mutual ministry, both giving and receiving; emotional and spiritual maturity; organizational and office skills; physical stamina and the ability to travel well; computer skills, including experience with Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Access, and Publisher). For more information or to request the full position description contact Youth and Young Adult Ministry director Becky Ullom Naugle, or 800-323-8039 ext. 385. The application form is available at . Applications are received through June 30.

— Bethany Theological Seminary is the subject of a major feature story in the “Palladium Item” newspaper in Richmond, Ind., home town of the Church of the Brethren seminary. The feature, titled “Bethany committed to its presence in Richmond,” written by Louise Ronald, was published April 26. The story noted that “Bethany is tucked next to ESR [Earlham School of Religion] at the corner of National Road West and College Avenue,” and that although it was founded in 1905, and first located in Chicago, it “has been in Richmond only since 1994…. One reason Bethany chose to come to Richmond was to have what [Bethany professor Tara] Hornbacker called a ‘sister seminary’ relationship with ESR. ‘Our (Religious Society of Friends and Church of the Brethren) theologies are … not the same … but they are compatible, and there is an energy that respects both the differences and the similarities.’” The piece also highlights the new “Bethany Neighborhood” where the seminary is offering student housing, and interviews president Jeff Carter among other seminary staff. “The hope is … that we can be a blessing to the city,” Carter said. Find the story at .

— The 2015 Shenandoah District Disaster Ministries Auction on May 15-16 “will soon be here!” announced the district newsletter. Events start with a golf tournament on Friday morning, May 15, at Heritage Oaks in Harrisonburg, Va. Activities at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds begin at 1 p.m. on May 15. Find more information with an auction bulletin insert at .

— Phillip C. Stone, president emeritus of Bridgewater (Va.) College, will provide the college’s 2015 commencement address on Saturday, May 16, at 10 a.m. The topic of his address is “Missing Pieces,” said a release from the college. As many as 365 seniors are expected to receive degrees at the commencement on the campus mall. Father Lawrence Johnson, director of Pastoral Care at Stella Maris Inc., in Timonium, Md., will deliver the message at the baccalaureate service on May 15, at 6 p.m., on the campus mall. His topic is “Who Do You Say That I Am?” Stone is a member of the Church of the Brethren, a native of Virginia and a 1965 graduate of Bridgewater College. He attended the University of Chicago Graduate School of Economics and received a law degree from the University of Virginia, and was a practicing attorney with the Harrisonburg, Va., firm of Wharton, Aldhizer, and Weaver. After 24 years as an attorney, he became president of Bridgewater College in 1994. During his tenure, enrollment nearly doubled and the campus underwent major construction and improvement projects. He also proposed the Personal Development Portfolio program and oversaw the establishment of new scholarships, the hiring of top-notch faculty, and improvements in technology, the release said. Stone retired as president of Bridgewater in 2010 and was named president emeritus by the board of trustees. He then joined three of his children in the Stone Law Group, a Harrisonburg law firm. He also is founder and president of the Lincoln Society of Virginia and has served on the advisory board of both the US and the Virginia Lincoln Bicentennial Commissions. His volunteer service to the Church of the Brethren has included serving as chair of the denominational board and as moderator of the 1991 Annual Conference, as well as service on several Annual Conference study committees.

— Manchester University has set a record of more than 60,000 service hours in 2014-15, said a release from the school in N. Manchester, Ind. This represents “a huge leap forward” in the school’s mission of service, said the release. “The previous year, the university logged more than 49,000 hours of service. Manchester has been averaging more than 42,000 hours a year, according to Carole Miller-Patrick, director of MU’s Center for Service Opportunities.”

— In more news from Manchester University, the school in N. Manchester, Ind., is offering five 2015 summer day camps for children: Chess Success, LEGO® Camp, Culinary 101, Science Camp, and Robotics Camp. In addition, the university is holding its ninth annual weekend Scrapbooking Retreat for adults. The classes will be taught by professionals, some of whom are Manchester faculty members. Prices and registration deadlines vary based on the camp. The Scrapbooking Retreat is June 5-7, at a cost of $150 ($95 if not staying on campus overnight), register by May 29. Chess Success is June 8-12 from 9 a.m.-noon for grades 3-6, at a cost of $99 per camper with T-shirt included, register by June 1. The LEGO Camp is June 22 – 26 from 8-11 a.m. for grades 1-3, at a cost of $99 per camper with T-shirt included, register by June 12. The Science Camp is June 29-July 1 from 1-4 p.m. for grades 4-6, at a cost of $65 per camper with T-shirt included, register by June 23. The Culinary 101 camp is June 29-July 1 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. for ages 10-14, at a cost of $135 per camper with lunch included, register by June 23. The Robotics Camp is July 13-17 from 9 a.m.-noon for grades 6-8 at a cost of $150 per camper with T-shirt included, register by July 3. For more information or to register click on Upcoming Events at .

— Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm will deliver this year’s John Kline Lecture on the topic “Counting the Cost, Faith in the Future: Brethren at the End of the Civil War.” “This year 2015 marks the end of the Civil War, and Ottoni-Wilhelm will comment on the influence of that conflict on the Brethren,” said a release from Paul Roth, president of the John Kline Homestead in Broadway, Va., the historic home of Civil War-era Brethren minister and martyr for peace John Kline.  Ottoni-Wilhelm will describe how Brethren in 1865 felt about what they did and did not do during war, and will explore how faith affected Brethren hopes for the future. Ottoni-Wilhelm, who holds a doctorate from Princeton Theological Seminary, is the Alvin F. Brightbill Professor of Preaching and Worship at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind. She has authored two books, “Preaching the Gospel of Mark: Proclaiming the Power of God,” which appeared in 2008, and the forthcoming “Preaching the Reign of God: Voices of Jesus for the Church and World.” She is also a popular preacher in the Church of the Brethren. The John Kline Homestead in Broadway, Va., sponsors the lecture series. This will be the fifth and last in the series that has commemorated the Civil War Sesquicentennial. The lecture will be held at the John Kline Homestead on Sunday, May 17, at 3 p.m. Nineteenth-century refreshments will be served. Admission is free, but seating is limited and reservations are required. For reservations and additional information, contact Paul Roth at or 540-421-5267.

— Deanna Beckner has been awarded the Faith in Action Award by the Office of Religious Life at Manchester University. “The award is given annually to a student who has contributed in significant ways to the Religious Life and Campus Ministry programs at Manchester, and who has put his or her faith into action on the campus and in the larger community,” said a release. Beckner is a senior communication studies major from Columbia City, Ind., from a five generations-long line of Manchester alumni. Campus minister Walt Wiltschek presented the award on Sunday, April 19, at the Student Development Leadership Banquet. Beckner has been a Campus Ministry assistant in the Religious Life office since her first year at Manchester and has been a key contributor to the Campus Interfaith Board, serving this year as co-facilitator. She is president of Simply Brethren and a long-time participant in the Radically Obedient Brethren Outreach Team, and has been involved with Praise Jam and other Religious Life programs. She plans to continue giving of her time after she graduates from Manchester by joining Brethren Volunteer Service in the fall. “They, and the placement site where she ends up, will be getting a dedicated, indefatigable worker with a big heart, a ton of gifts, and a rock-solid and growing faith,” Wiltschek said.

— Kimberly A. Kirkwood of Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren and a 1983 graduate of Bridgewater (Va.) College has received the college’s West-Whitelow Humanitarian Award. “Kirkwood grew up close to the campus as the daughter of the late James Kirkwood–one of the college’s longtime, beloved professors who served for many years as chair of the English department,” said a release from the college. “Seeing her dad’s dedication to volunteering for the Nature Conservancy and the local food bank after his retirement inspired Kirkwood’s own desire to serve others.” She is an information technology manager for the accounting firm of Homes, Lowry, Horn, and Johnson Ltd. in Fairfax, Va. At the Manassas Church she has been a Youth Group adviser, taught a Sunday school program on stewardship for children, coordinated a youth mentoring program for 8th and 9th graders, and for the past 17 years has volunteered with the congregation’s Fall Festival, a safe alternative to trick-or-treating. She is a member of the church board, currently serving on the Hospitality and Service Commission. She has been a delegate to Annual Conference and has served twice on the planning committee for the Mid-Atlantic District Conference. In addition she has volunteered with the local American Red Cross Disaster Services, and is a certified volunteer with the Church of the Brethren Children’s Disaster Services. She provided child care assistance following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, staying for two weeks in Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi.

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Emily Barrand, Jeff Boshart, Deborah Brehm, Charles Culbertson, Mary Kay Heatwole, Carl and Roxane Hill, Michael Leiter, Dan McFadden, Grace Mishler, Becky Ullom Naugle, Tram Nguyen, Donna Parcell, Margie Paris, Paul Roth, Howard Royer, Emily Tyler, Jenny Williams, Roy Winter, Jay Wittmeyer, Jane Yount, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is set for May 5. Newsline is produced by the News Services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at . Newsline appears every week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source.

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