Newsline for March 4, 2015

“Abide in my love…and bear fruit” (John 15:9b and 16b).

1) Addressing the changing face of faith: The Christian Churches Together annual meeting
2) Giving to Nigeria Crisis Fund tops $1 million, staff provide summary of accomplishments
3) Brethren Volunteer Service Unit 308 completes orientation

4) Registration is open for 2015 NOAC on the theme ‘then Jesus told them a story…’

5) Don Kraybill announces June retirement from Elizabethtown College

6) Bring Back Our Girls: The story of artist Sandra Ceas’ rendition of the Chibok abductions

7) Brethren bits: Clergy Tax Seminar postponed, personnel notes, Zigler Hospitality Center seeks volunteers, Mission and Ministry Board meets in Lancaster, E. Chippewa marks 125 years, Staunton hosts general secretary, Blue Diamond sponsors Mutual Kumquat concert, E-town’s major in Interfaith Leadership Studies, Gun Violence Sabbath, more

Photo by Wendy McFadden
Candles burn at an Armenian Orthodox Church during a Christian Church Together (CCT) worship service commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.

Quote of the week:

“How do we separate the secular influences enough to hear and be faithful to the call of the Gospel to love one another? It is not easy to do with [the issue of] immigration, given how politicized it is today. Too often in the church we label those that don’t look, talk, sing, pray, worship, or interpret scripture like us as ‘those people’ and work to keep them at a distance. Bearing fruit is about loving one another, as Jesus loved us. When we love as Jesus loved we embrace ‘those people’ and they become ‘we, us, brother, and sister.’ Loving as Jesus loves us will make us uncomfortable and presses us to the margins, yet is in these places that we find God abiding in community with us.”

— David Steele, commenting on the immigration focus of the annual meeting of Christian Churches Together in the US (CCT), and how that connects with the theme of this year’s Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren. Steele is moderator of the 2015 Annual Conference and executive minister of Middle Pennsylvania District. He was one of three Church of the Brethren representatives to the CCT meeting in Houston, Texas, in mid-February. Also attending were Annual Conference moderator-elect Andy Murray, and Brethren Press publisher Wendy McFadden. Find a full report from the CCT meeting below.

1) Addressing the changing face of faith: The Christian Churches Together annual meeting

By Wes Granberg-Michaelson

The following report from the annual convocation of Christian Churches Together in the USA (CCT) originally appeared on the “God’s Politics Blog” at the Sojourners website Sojonet. Representing the Church of the Brethren at the CCT meeting were Annual Conference moderator David Steele, moderator-elect Andy Murray, and Brethren Press publisher Wendy McFadden, who serves as president of the Protestant “family” of churches in CCT.

The 6.5 million people in the greater Houston area now surpass New York City and Los Angeles as the most racially and ethnically diverse urban area in the US. That’s the site where a broad spectrum of US. church leaders met in mid-February to consider the impact of immigration on their congregations, and on the rapidly changing expressions of Christianity within North American culture.

The group gathered at the annual convocation of Christian Churches Together in the USA, which includes the leadership of the US Catholic Conference of Bishops, several Pentecostal and evangelical denominations, the Orthodox Churches, some Historic Black churches, and nearly all the major historic Protestant denominations. All of these are experiencing the impact of immigration. Most dramatically, for instance, 54 percent of millennials–those born after 1982–who are Catholic are Latinos. Of the 44 million people living in the United States who were born in another country, 74 percent are Christian, while only 5 percent are Muslim, 4 percent Buddhist, and 3 percent Hindu.

While church leaders in the US have expressed united support for the reform of immigration laws, this is the first time an ecumenical body has gathered to examine together the actual consequences of immigration on the life and witness of its churches.

Much of those pockets of growth and vitality in American Christianity today come from these more recent residents of the US. Yet, such immigrant groups bring expressions of Christianity shaped by their non-Western cultures, often exhibiting spiritually saturated worldviews affecting their daily experiences. Many are Pentecostal, as this form of Christianity is now growing worldwide at three times the rate of overall growth in world Christianity, with one in four Christians now part of the Pentecostal movement.

One in three Catholics in the United States is now Hispanic, and striking growth has occurred in the numbers of Asian and African Catholics as well. Father Daniel Groody, a well-known expert on global immigration, spoke powerfully about both the practical and the theological challenges this presents. He echoed a Vatican statement calling migration “the birth pangs of a new humanity.” Representatives from the US Catholic Conference of Bishops pointed to the growing number of parishes in the US–more than one third–now functioning as multi-cultural worshipping communities.

Photo by Wendy McFadden
Worship during the CCT gathering included a service commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, at an Armenian Orthodox Church.

All these trends are affecting how Christianity of all forms is expressed and practiced in the US, often presenting serious challenges to long-established Christian traditions in this culture. In New York City, an estimated 2,000 immigrant congregations have been formed by those from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Moreover, one out of every ten persons living in New York City today is likely to be a Pentecostal.

The dramatic shift of Christianity’s center of gravity from the global North to the global South is being experienced within the major urban areas of the US through the movements of global migration. World Christianity is coming to our doorstep. Further, the wide impact of Pope Francis comes in part because for the first time in 1,200 years, he is a pope from the global South.

Cheryl Bridges Johns, a noted Pentecostal scholar and author, told the CCT convocation that immigration means that hospitality is now at the center of Christian ethics. Similarly, Alexia Salvatierra, a Lutheran pastor and immigration activist in California, spoke of the “gifts of the immigrant church” so needed for the health and spirituality maturity of the established white church. Salvatierra explained the radical implications of what it means to belong to one another “as one body.”

Soong-Chan Rah, who teaches at North Park Theological Seminary and is the author of “The Next Evangelicalism,” described changing demographics in the US, citing that by 2011, the majority of births were to those of “minority” cultures, and that by 2042, there will no longer be a white or Anglo majority in the United States. That presently describes the reality in Houston. In this process, Soong Chan Rah said, we are witnessing “the de-Europeanization of American Christianity.”

At the closing worship, as participants expressed their words and prayers of response to these four days, Andy Murray, moderator-elect of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, spoke of experiencing “a banquet for the mind and the heart.” And a prayerful reflection simply stated, “We are being brought together by an issue that is close to the heart of God.”

Carlos Malave, executive director of CCT, summarized the significance of the gathering with these words: “Key church leaders from all traditions met in Houston to reflect on the impact and how immigrants are radically transforming the church in the United States. New immigrants, a majority of which profess the Christian faith, are major actors in the transformation of American life and culture. The church cannot minimize the crucial role it plays in leading God’s people in this transformation of our society.”

— Wesley Granberg-Michaelson is a former general secretary of the Reformed Church in America, one of the founders of CCT, and chaired the planning committee for this meeting.

2) Giving to Nigeria Crisis Fund tops $1 million, staff provide summary of accomplishments

Courtesy of EYN
EYN president Dr. Samuel Dali (left) helps distribute relief goods in Nigeria.

Donations of more than $1,061,400 have been posted to the Nigeria Crisis Fund, from October 2014 through part of Feb. 2015, received from individuals, congregations, and other groups.

This does not include the $1.5 million committed to the effort by the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board in Oct. 2014: the matching challenge of $500,000, a commitment of $500,000 from reserves, and an allocation $500,000 from the Emergency Disaster Fund.

EYN also has received more than $75,000 in assistance from private individuals and other church denominations within Nigeria including a large donation from Hillcrest School, according to Nigeria Crisis Response co-directors Carl and Roxane Hill.

Summary of response effort

Photo courtesy of EYN
Nigerians involved in the crisis response pose with a new bore hole at one of the “care centers” being built for people displaced by the violence.

The Nigeria Crisis Response is a collaborative effort of the Church of the Brethren with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The response is focused on providing assistance and relief to EYN and its members, and other Nigerians affected by violence–most of which is perpetrated by Boko Haram, an extremist Islamist insurgent group that has declared an Islamic caliphate in the northeast of Nigeria.

The following summary of accomplishments of the effort was provided by Carl and Roxane Hill:


The EYN Crisis Management Team has:

Photo courtesy of EYN
Distribution of relief goods by CCEPI, one of the non-governmental organizations in Nigeria that are helping out with the crisis response, and are receiving funding aid from the Church of the Brethren. CCEPI is headed up by Rebecca Dali (standing, in the purple cap), who also represented EYN at last year’s Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren.

— Distributed food and blankets for thousands of displaced Nigerians
— Purchased two vehicles for delivering emergency supplies
— Supported EYN leadership to set up temporary headquarters in central Nigeria
— Helped support displaced pastors
— Acquired warehouse space to store food and construction supplies
— Purchased and cleared land for new care-centers for displaced Nigerians
— Held trauma healing workshops for over 100 leaders
— Transported thousands of people to safer areas of the country
— Drilled wells at care-centers to provide a safe water supply
— Printed and distributed EYN devotional materials to displaced members

Other non-government organizations (NGO’s) in Nigeria have:

— Supplied hundreds of people with emergency supplies including food, blankets, clothing
— Supported more than 350 children to re-enroll in school
— Purchased 80 sewing machines and 70 start-ups for bean cake businesses, and provided training sessions for sustainable employment for displaced women
— Established a skills acquisition center
— Established a safe interfaith community where 70 homes have been built and clean water has been provided for Christians and Muslims

For more information about the Nigeria Crisis Response to go .

3) Brethren Volunteer Service Unit 308 completes orientation

Photo courtesy of BVS
Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) Unit 308: (back row from left) Pat and John Krabacher, Andrew Miller; (front from left) Kristin Hubbard, Stephanie Breen, Kiana Simonson.

Unit 308 of Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) completed orientation on Jan. 25-Feb. 14 at Camp Ithiel in Gotha, Fla. The members of the unit, their home congregations or hometowns, and the project placements follow:

Pat and John Krabacher of New Carlisle (Ohio) Church of the Brethren are serving with the Church of the Brethren’s Nigeria Crisis Response.

Andrew Miller of Highland Ave. Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., is placed at Camp Swatara in Bethel, Pa.

Kristin Hubbard of St. Paris, Ohio, will serve at a project yet to be determined.

Stephanie Breen of Hagerstown, Md., is assigned to the Emanuel Children’s Home (Hogar de Niños Emanuel) in Honduras.

Kiana Simonson of Modesto (Calif.) Church of the Brethren is serving at Cincinnati (Ohio) Church of the Brethren.

For more about Brethren Volunteer Service go to .



4) Registration is open for 2015 NOAC on the theme ‘then Jesus told them a story…’

By Kim Ebersole

Register for NOAC now! National Older Adult Conference is Sept. 7-11 at Lake Junaluska, N.C. Register for the conference online at or by mail or fax. Registration forms are available online and in the registration brochure, which has been mailed to past NOAC participants and to the Church of the Brethren congregations. For a brochure contact 800-323-8039 ext. 305 or .

NOAC, a Church of the Brethren conference, is a Spirit-filled gathering of adults who love learning and discerning together, exploring God’s call for their lives, and living out that call by sharing their energy, insight, and legacy with their families, communities, and the world. Kim Ebersole is director of NOAC, assisted by Debbie Eisenbise, director of Intergenerational Ministries, and Laura Whitman, Brethren Volunteer Service worker, and members of the planning team: Bev and Eric Anspaugh, Deanna Brown, Jim Kinsey, Paula Ulrich, Deb Waas, and Christy Waltersdorff.

Lodging reservations are made through the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center and will begin April 1 for people requesting special consideration due to age (75-plus) or physical functioning. After April 15, anyone may reserve lodging by mailing or faxing the lodging reservation form to the conference center. After April 21, reservations also will be accepted by phone. Interested in renting a cottage? Reservations are accepted now at or by phone at 800-222-4930 ext. 2. Information about lodging options as well as the lodging form is on the NOAC website and in the registration brochure.

The conference theme is “then Jesus told them a story…” (Matthew 13:34-35). BVSer Laura Whitman is inviting past participants to share their stories about NOAC experiences, whether funny, serious, poignant, simple, or simply amazing. If you are willing to have your story posted on the NOAC Facebook page (Church of the Brethren NOAC), send it to .

— Kim Ebersole is director of NOAC, serving in the Church of the Brethren Congregational Life Ministries.


5) Don Kraybill announces June retirement from Elizabethtown College

By E.A. (Elizabeth) Harvey

Photo courtesy of Elizabethtown College
Don Kraybill

Donald B. “Don” Kraybill, known worldwide as the foremost expert on Amish culture, is teaching his last classes at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College this semester. Kraybill retires at the end of June. The college professor and Senior Fellow at the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies teaches in the Sociology and Religious Studies departments. He will give his last major address at 7:30 p.m. April 20, at the college’s Scholarship and Creative Arts Days.

Kraybill started at Elizabethtown in 1971 as assistant professor of sociology. He has served as chair of the Sociology and Social Work Department and as director of the Young Center.

Beginning in 1994, he served the college as the Carl W. Zeigler Professor of Religion and Philosophy but left two years later to become provost and professor of Anabaptist studies at Messiah College.

Kraybill returned to Elizabethtown in 2002 as a Distinguished College Professor and Senior Fellow at the Young Center, a position he holds today. From 2003-04 Kraybill was interim provost of the college.

He is a native of Lancaster County, Pa., where he grew up Mennonite on dairy farms among the Amish and other Anabaptist groups. He earned a master’s degree in 1972 and a doctoral degree in sociology in 1975 from Temple University. His post-doctorate work was with the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

At Temple, Kraybill was a research assistant to John Hostetler, the leading scholar of Amish culture in the 1960s and 1970s. It was Hostetler’s work that piqued Kraybill’s interest in the Amish. Hostetler was an expert witness in the Supreme Court decision of 1972 that ruled that the Amish do not need to attend school after completing eighth grade.

Kraybill edits Young Center books in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies published by Johns Hopkins University Press. He has written and co-authored 29 books, published across the globe, including the most recent, “Renegade Amish: Beard Cutting, Hate Crimes, and the Trial of the Bergholz Barbers,” “Concise Encyclopedia of Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites,” “The Amish Way: Patient Faith in a Perilous World,” with Steven M. Nolt and David L. Weaver-Zercher, “The Amish of Lancaster County” and “The Amish,” with Karen M. Johnson-Weiner and Steven M. Nolt. Several of his books have been selected as Outstanding Academic Book.

Kraybill’s “Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy,” written with Nolt and Weaver-Zercher, explored the 2006 Amish schoolhouse shootings in Nickel Mines, Pa. The book was translated into Japanese, German, Korean, Chinese, and French and earned a 2008 Award of Merit from “Christianity Today.” It also was selected as a Best Book of 2007 by “Publisher’s Weekly” and a Best Spiritual Book of 2007 by “Spirituality and Practice.”

In addition, Kraybill is the go-to guy for media, whenever they are covering stories about the Amish community. He has served as a consultant for projects related to the Amish and to other Anabaptist groups. He has earned support for his research from The National Endowment for the Humanities and numerous private foundations.

In a recent article in “LNP,” the newspaper of Lancaster, Pa., Ad Crable, notes: “The 69-year-old Kraybill is perhaps best known for stepping into the breach as unofficial spokesman for reluctant Amish when they have been thrust into the international media glare.” Over the years, the scholar has explained the Amish culture and has put rumors to rest in various venues by answering difficult questions after the shocking school shooting, a heartbreaking event for which he interpreted the forgiveness expressed by the parents of the 10 children who were shot. He served as academic consultant to two-hour documentary “The Amish” produced by the American Experience that aired on PBS in 2012. It was the most viewed American Experience program in the previous seven years.

More recently, he has cleared up misinformation surrounding the sensationalized “Amish Mafia” television show and spoke out about and served as an expert for the prosecution during the bizarre beard-cutting trials in Ohio.

“LNP” tells how Kraybill does not see himself as a protector of the Amish. He views it as his “vocational responsibility to try to interpret their beliefs and practices with sympathetic understanding of what they do, why they do it, and try to explain it in truthful fashion without sensationalism and hyperbole.” He did that so well, the article said, that some in the Amish community are worried about who is to represent them in the future. His successor has yet to be named.

— E.A. (Elizabeth) Harvey is communications manager and news editor at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College.


6) Bring Back Our Girls: The story of artist Sandra Ceas’ rendition of the Chibok abductions

By Lois Grove

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Lois and Bill Grove with “Bring Back Our Girls,” a piece of art created by Sandra Ceas of Littleton, Colo. Each dress in this piece of art represents one of the girls captured by Boko Haram, the Islamist insurgent group in northeast Nigeria. The dresses set in concentric circles represent the girls who remain in the hands of Boko Haram. The dresses “fleeing” out of the circle represent the girls who have escaped.

In December 2014 Larry and Donna Elliott, former Church of the Brethren mission workers in Nigeria, attended a concert at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins, Colo. While strolling through the art gallery before the concert, a big piece of artwork caught their eye–many tiny gingham dresses–and they saw the caption, “Bring Back Our Girls.” They discovered this piece was telling a story that was near and dear to them: the abduction of the schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria.

They called me and my husband, Bill. We were visiting in Fort Collins at the time, and we then went to view the picture. It was very emotionally engaging as we thought of all the initiatives our denomination had gone through–prayer and fasting, visits by Rebecca Dali, shipment of books to restock the Nigerian libraries, sending lists of the girls’ names to churches, and also each congregation upholding one girl in prayer–and a seed was planted. Somehow we had to secure this artwork for the wider church. Donna and I took pictures of the piece–and then found out later that pictures were not allowed at the gallery, so those stayed on our cameras….

Until! I was attending a pastor’s retreat in Western Plains District, visiting with persons who had served the church in Nigeria. I showed them the picture on my phone and before long it was decided to project it on the big screen. Following a time of reflection, silence, and a Spirit-filled prayer by Carolyn Schrock, the “Spirit” said the picture needed to be purchased and given a home in the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

This was an impulsive, but not inexpensive decision. Several of those in attendance immediately offered to help with the purchase. A subsequent call to general secretary Stan Noffsinger to see if the denomination was even interested affirmed that the “Spirit” had nudged us in the right direction.

The Elliotts and Groves were privileged to visit with the artist, Sandra Ceas, of Littleton, Colo., and find out her motivation for creating the picture. She has master’s degrees in fine arts and religious studies, and finds herself drawn to social justice issues. She teaches online courses, and in the course of online searches she discovered the story of the Chibok girls. She is delighted her work has found a “home” where it will resonate with those who view it.

— Lois and Bill Grove are former mission workers in Nigeria, and have been active in leadership in Northern Plains District. Earlier this week they drove from their home in Iowa to Elgin, Ill., to personally deliver Sandra Ceas’ piece of art to the denominational offices. They invite anyone who is interested in helping with the cost of this inspirational artwork to donate by sending a check to the Church of the Brethren General Offices, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120. Find out more about the artist at .

7) Brethren bits

East Chippewa Church of the Brethren in Orrville, Ohio, is celebrating its 125th anniversary throughout 2015. The Anniversary Committee has multiple events planned throughout the year to highlight and mark the special occasion. The committee is made up of nearly a dozen long-time members of the Church of the Brethren family (mutigenerational names like Fike, McFadden, Hostetler, Everson, Cormany, and Snyder), reported the church in a release to Newsline. Pastor Brad Kelley is helping the committee in planning all the special events. “The committee members believe and know that God has been so good to East Chip and He continues to prove Himself faithful to us from generation to generation,” said the announcement. The anniversary theme is “Celebrating 125 Years of God’s Faithfulness” with theme verse from Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” The first formal occasion marking the anniversary will be Sunday, March 15, at 10:25 a.m. when Knute Larson, former senior pastor of the 8,000-plus member Chapel in Akron, Ohio, will be the special keynote speaker. He will preach on the anniversary theme, bringing the message “Celebrate A Church of Nobility.” That evening from 7-8:30 p.m., he will teach an open session on “Church Health” for church leaders and any area or district pastors and lay leaders who may want to attend. Two other events that are planned to highlight the 125th anniversary are a Church Homecoming Weekend on June 27-28 featuring keynote speaker and former pastor Keith Funk, who currently pastors Quinter (Kan.) Church of the Brethren, and other past ministers and interns; and on Sunday morning, Nov. 8, a special concert from Southern Gospel recording artist Mark Allen Chapman, which will be the climax of the celebration year. For more information about any of these events, call the church office at 330-669-3262.

— Postponed: The Clergy Tax Seminar scheduled for February will be held on March 16. The deadline for new registrations will be midnight March 11 to ensure that registrants receive the necessary information to participate. Those who registered for the February date do not need to register again. Anyone who registered for the original date and cannot participate on the new date may request a refund before March 16. Refunds will be issued after March 25. This seminar is held onsite at Bethany Seminary in Richmond, Ind., and also offered as an online webinar. Sessions cover tax law for clergy, changes for 2014 (the most current tax year to file), and detailed assistance as to how to correctly file the various forms and schedules that pertain to clergy (including housing allowances, self-employment, W-2s clergy reductions, and so forth). Go to .

— Mary Ann Grossnickle began Jan. 20 as manager of hospitality for the Zigler Hospitality Center at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Her primary responsibilities include coordinating meals and lodging for groups, guests, and volunteers visiting the Brethren Service Center. She will oversee hospitality volunteers as well as the food service team. She has served as interim coordinator of hospitality since Oct. 2014.

— John and Pat Krabacher have begun work with the Church of the Brethren Nigerian Crisis Response serving through Brethren Volunteer Service. The Krabachers will do grant writing and other communications about the Nigeria Crisis Response, working from their home in Ohio.

— Rodney Caldwell has been named as chaplain for Pinecrest Community, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in Mt. Morris, Ill. Most recently he has served as pastor of Cherry Grove Church of the Brethren in Lanark, Ill. He is ordained in the Church of the Brethren. He was installed at a worship service on Sunday at the Pinecrest Manor chapel, led by Illinois and Wisconsin District executive minister Kevin Kessler.

— The Zigler Hospitality Center at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., seeks volunteer hosts and hostesses, and a volunteer office assistant to the manager.
Volunteer hosts and hostesses help coordinate and provide hospitality services to guests and visitors. Duties include guest check-in, providing host service during meetings and retreats, providing assistance in maintaining common areas and guest rooms, and assisting in the dining room during meals and banquets. Hosts and hostesses are as key members of the Zigler Hospitality Center team, ensuring good communication and follow through, and consistently making the needs of guests a top priority.
Volunteer office assistant to the manager will help schedule guests for private lodging, day and overnight conferences, and volunteer lunch groups. The position also assists with duties similar to those carried out by the volunteer hosts and hostesses.
Adult volunteers will serve for one month to one year. Room and board are provided as well as a monthly stipend. For a complete description of these volunteer positions, or to discuss these opportunities with a staff member, call 410-635-8700 or 800-766-1553, or e-mail .

— The spring meeting of the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board will be hosted by Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren on March 13-16. The meeting will be led by board chair Becky Ball-Miller. The schedule includes times when the meeting is open to guests and visitors who are interested in finding out more about the work of the denomination. Open sessions are held on Saturday, March 14, from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., and on Sunday afternoon, March 15, from 1:30-5:30 p.m. The board is in closed session on Sunday evening and Monday morning. On Sunday morning, board members and the denominational staff in attendance will worship with area congregations. More information about the agenda will be available soon.

— The denomination’s Global Mission and Service office requests prayer for a group of volunteers traveling to St. Louis du Nord, Haiti, to install a water filtration system at the New Covenant School of Eglise des Freres Haitiens (Church of the Brethren in Haiti). “Pray that this water system, supported by the Global Food Crisis Fund and the Haiti Medical Project, will enhance the health of the school’s students and empower them on their path to education,” said the request.

— A video about the Jenkins, a couple whose home was repaired with help from Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteers working in Spotwood, N.J., is linked at . The rebuilding project site in Spotswood repairs and rebuilds homes affected by “Superstorm” Sandy, working with the Monmouth County Long Term Recovery Group. The Jersey Shore is still feeling the impact of Hurricane Sandy. The Sandy recovery site in Spotswood, in northern Monmouth County, N.J., was begun on Jan. 5, 2014.

— Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm of the Bethany Theological Seminary faculty is among the professors working with a new three-year program of Vanderbilt University Divinity School that will train and certify coaches to initiate and lead peers in ministry to hone their preaching skills. Funded by Lilly Endowment, the David G. Buttrick Certificate Program in Homiletic Peer Coaching entails travel twice a year for three years to Vanderbilt’s campus in Nashville, Tenn., to train with cohorts. Two Church of the Brethren pastors are joining with pastors from other denominations as participants in the program: Jeanne Davies, associate pastor of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., and Katie Thompson, co-pastor of Ivester Church of the Brethren in Grundy Center, Iowa.

— Staunton (Va.) Church of the Brethren hosts Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren, as guest speaker for a Spring Renewal Weekend on March 7 and 8. Noffsinger will lead a Town Hall Meeting on Saturday, March 7, from 4-5:30 p.m. to talk about international ministries and show a revised Nigerian video created by David Sollenberger. Dinner will follow, served by the Mexico Workcamp Team. Worship is at 7 p.m. with a message entitled “Imagine God’s Intention,” special music by Jessica Strawderman, and a Scott Duffey original song “For Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa.” On Sunday morning, Noffsinger will lead a Combined Classes Sunday School at 10 a.m. and talk about US ministries, followed by worship at 11 a.m. with a message entitled “Who Me?” A carry-in meal will follow. Guests are welcome and encouraged. For more information call 540-886-8655.

— Atlantic Southeast District holds its annual Venture Fun(d) Day at Camp Ithiel near Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, March 14, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. “The event, which began as a vehicle to raise funds for new church development, has expanded to include raising funds for all district ministries,” said an invitation from Ray Hileman, chair of the district’s Church Development Council. “There will be activities for all ages, including a bounce house for children, games for youth, races, horseshoes, and more. Some churches will make food items such as homemade soup or sandwiches to eat. They will be available for donations. Baked goods and craft items will also be sold for low prices. There will be fellowship and music as well.” Also on the agenda is a 1 p.m. report from district leaders on the good things that are happening in the district, followed by a worship offering of special gifts from the congregations. Congregations are being encouraged to take a love offering, do a fundraiser, or in some other way collect monies to bring on that day. The event concludes around 1:45 p.m. with the annual pie auction. This year, the District Board dercided that any funds raised above the $5,000 designated as Venture Fun(d) Day income in the district budget, will be tithed to the Nigeria Crisis Fund. “It is hoped that this will serve as an incentive to individuals and churches to come together with generosity,” Hileman wrote. The event is open to everyone, including non-Brethren folks who live in the area.

— Mutual Kumquat, a popular Brethren band, will be in concert at Hollidaysburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren on Saturday, April 18, at 7 p.m., sponsored by Camp Blue Diamond in Middle Pennsylvania District. Pre-concert music begins at 6 p.m. “Mutual Kumquat shares an eclectic sound and positive message through their unique combination of danceable rhythms, stick-in-your-head melodies, rich harmonies, and uplifting, fun-filled lyrics,” said an invitation to the event. Mutual Kumquat has performed at National Youth Conference, Annual Conference, National Older Adult Conference, Song and Story Fest, and other venues. Cost is $5, plus either a jar of peanut butter, jelly, or spaghetti sauce to donate to the American Rescue Workers of Hollidaysburg. For more information visit . For questions call 814-667-2355.

— Camp Hammond’s Mill in Missouri and Arkansas District is undergoing renovations, reported the district newsletter. “The good news is that there has been a lot of work done,” the newsletter said. At a recent work day, accomplishments included removal of a dead tree and trimming of low hanging limbs on all trees on the camp grounds, painting bunk beds, improvements to bath houses, and more. “Work has now started on the bath house remodel with new water heaters, sinks and countertops,” the report added. Renovations are to be completed this spring.

— Juniata College’s “Meal for CROP” will be held 5:30-7:30 p.m. on March 24 in the Baker Refectory in Ellis Hall. “Each year, Juniata’s Christian Ministry Board asks students to sacrifice an evening meal so those meals can be sold to the general public,” said a release from the college in Huntingdon, Pa. “Their places in line are sold to members of the community and the money is donated to CROP.” The Huntingdon Forum of Churches also sponsors the meal. Tickets for the March 24 meal may be purchased 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Campus Ministry office, or at the door on the evening of the meal. Tickets are $10 per person, $5 for children ages 6-12, with children 5 and under admitted free. CROP, an organization of the Church World Service, fights hunger throughout the world with programs that support hunger relief and self-help projects in developing countries, and within the United States.

— Elizabethtown (Pa.) College has become the first in the United States to offer a major in Interfaith Leadership Studies, inspired by a national call from Interfaith Youth Core founder Eboo Patel, according to a release from the school. Patel was college’s commencement speaker in 2013. The vision is for a new academic discipline that will create better diplomats, doctors, lawyers, politicians, peacekeepers, international business people, religious leaders, and educators, said a release. “Elizabethtown is the first college in the nation to develop an academic major in Interfaith Leadership,” Patel is quoted in the release. “With its Brethren heritage, high academic standards, and emphasis on educating leaders who serve the world, it is an ideal institution to be on the vanguard in this way. I expect many other colleges to follow Elizabethtown’s example in the years to come.” The proposal was funded by an Interfaith Youth Core/Teagle Foundation-funded grant, with the course set to launch in the fall for the 2015-16 academic year. The first Interfaith Leadership Studies graduates will be among the class of 2019. Christina Bucher, chair of the Department of Religious Studies, who developed the program with college chaplain Tracy Sadd, pointed out that the new major “is excellent preparation for students who want to pursue a path towards ministry.” Coursework is not only in religion, but also in business, political science, sociology, and even biology. “A broader understanding of the term ‘ministry’ has been adopted by the program to include leaders in community development, government agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and national and international service organizations. A minor in Interfaith Leadership Studies also will be offered.

— The Brethren Revival Fellowship (BRF) has announced dates for its 2015 Brethren Bible Institute, an annual event. Dates for this year are July 27-31. The institute is held on the campus of Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. For more information go to .

— The “MCC Great Lakes Peace Gathering” sponsored by Mennonite Central Committee takes place in Chicago on Saturday afternoon, March 28 (including worship and dinner). “You are invited to join Mennonite Central Committee for workshops, worship, and dialogue centering on peace and justice concerns,” said an invitation to Church of the Brethren pastors and church leaders. Workshops will be held from 1-4:45 p.m. on the following topics: “Immigration: Welcoming the Stranger” led by Saulo Padilla, MCC US immigration education coordinator; “Behind the Camouflage: A Workshop on the Practical and Spiritual Questions Related to Military Recruitment” led by Titus Peachy, MCC US peace education coordinator; “Dodgin’ the Bullet: Do Guns Really Keep Us Safe?” led by Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, MCC US restorative justice coordinator; and “Following Jesus to Ferguson #HandsUpDontShoot” led by Ewuare Osayande, MCC US anti-oppression coordinator. Worship will follow at 4:45-5:10, with dinner and further conversation at 5:10-6 p.m. The event is hosted at Living Water Community Church, 6808 N. Ashland Blvd., Chicago. For more information see . RSVP to Jorge Vielman at or 574-534-4133.

Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath bulletin insert from Heeding God’s Call

— A “Connecting Families East Retreat” sponsored by the Brethren and Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests takes place May 15-17 at Laurelville Mennonite Church Center in Mt. Pleasant, Pa. The speaker on the theme “Communicating a Theology of Holy Inclusion” is Loren L. Johns, professor of New Testament at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind., and author of “Homosexuality and the Bible: A Case Study in the Use of the Bible for Ethics.” An announcement explains that the retreat seeks to “provide support for families whose children are coming out to them and/or to their church. We are committed to maintaining confidentiality within the group, to providing a place to speak in safety or to remain silent, and to sharing in a non-judgmental atmosphere.” See .

— Heeding God’s Call is sharing information about the Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend planned for March 20-22. The organization, which is focused on gun violence prevention, was started at a meeting of the Historic Peace Churches in Philadelphia, Pa. Heeding God’s Call is encouraging congregations to hold special worship services and other activities on that weekend in order to bring attention to the problem of gun violence for faith communities. “If you would like a guest presenter from Heeding God’s Call to visit your faith community, please let us know right away so we can work out arrangements,” said the announcement. “There are so many things your faith community can do to end gun violence! You can have children make peace posters. You might invite your members to write letters to your local, state, and national leaders asking them to vote for sensible gun laws. You could plan to install the Memorial to the Lost (the “Tee-shirt Memorial”) in your church yard soon. Whatever you do, let us know! Together, people of faith can raise a mighty voice so that lives might be saved.” Worship resources available through Heeding God’s Call include a litany and hymn focused on prevention of gun violence, a list of suggested scriptures, and sample sermons. Also available is a bulletin insert giving current statistics about gun violence, and more information. Contact Heeding God’s Call, 8812 Germantown Avenue, Chestnut Hill, PA 19118-2719; 267-519-5302; .

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Joy Blazak, Deborah Brehm, Scott Duffey, Linford Good, Wes Granberg-Michaelson, Kendra Harbeck, Elizabeth Harvey, Ray Hileman, Carl and Roxane Hill, Jessie Houff, Fran Massie, Howard Royer, Jonathan Shively, John Wall, Dean and Jerri Heiser Wenger, 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 March 10. 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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