Newsline for Sept. 25, 2015

“Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:11-12, RSV).

Photo albums from the workcamps held this past summer are online at

1) Brethren Disaster Ministries directs $50,000 in grants to refugee and migrant crisis

2) Global Food Crisis Fund allocates money to evaluate work in Haiti

3) Haitian Brethren hold march in Port-au-Prince to mark Peace Day 2015

4) Church of the Brethren volunteer honored by Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria

5) Youth explore faith and call at Bethany Seminary

6) Brethren Academy announces upcoming courses for fall, winter, spring

7) Workcamp Ministry celebrates 2015 season, announces theme for 2016

8) Strengthening our core: A letter from the Mission and Ministry Board chair

9) Church vitality: Nurturing the strong heartbeat of God within us

10) Brethren bits: Remembrances, CDS in N. California, reopening of EYN’s Bible college and secondary school in Kwarhi, personnel notes, job openings, new ice bucket challenge from Denver, congregations in the news, more than $250,000 raised by S. Pennsylvania District, more

Quote of the week:

“There is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject. Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice.”

— Pope Francis speaking to the US Congress on Thursday morning, Sept. 24.
     In related news, 16 volunteers from Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) are on call for the Pope’s visit to New York. “We hope and pray there is no need for disaster response during these events, but are also grateful that Children’s Disaster Services was included in preparedness plans,” reports CDS associate director Kathleen Fry-Miller. “We had one CDS volunteer that was not able to be on call this week. Doris Abdullah responded, ‘As your [Church of the Brethren] representative to the UN, I am already committed to being at several events during the opening of the General Assembly and the Papal visit!’”

1) Brethren Disaster Ministries directs $50,000 in grants to refugee and migrant crisis

Brethren Disaster Ministries staff have directed $50,000 from the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to support ecumenical partners who are serving people affected by the refugee and migrant crisis. Other recent EDF grants include the allocation of $30,000 to continue the Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding project in Spotswood, N.J.

Church World Service–Europe refugee crisis

An allocation of $20,000 from the EDF is supporting Church World Service (CWSS) humanitarian assistance for refugees migrating to Europe.

The Brethren Disaster Ministries grant request noted that the number of forcibly displaced people in the world is at a record level of over 59,500,000, half of these being children. “As these groups flee violence, war or persecution, host countries are burdened with the care of this massive displaced population,” said the document.

The appeal from CWS for funding “focuses on a rapidly rising group of refugees (nearly 300,000 by Aug. 2015) coming from Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, and Somalia, migrating toward Europe in search of aid, security, and safety,” the grant request said. “Support of this appeal will assist Church World Service in providing direct aid to refugees traveling through Serbia and Hungary.”

The allocation will fund provisions of food and water, blankets, supplies, and temporary shelter for around 5,600 refugees.

ACT Alliance–Europe refugee crisis

An EDF allocation of $30,000 responds to an appeal from the ACT Alliance to provide funds for humanitarian assistance for refugees migrating to Europe.

“Support of this appeal provides aid for refugees in Hungary and Greece by supporting the work of partners International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) and Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA),” said the grant request. The total response of these organizations targets 97,800 refugees in Greece and 16,164 refugees in Hungary.

The allocation funds relief supplies including food, water, and other supplies, along with the provision of sanitation, shelter, and psychosocial support for children. While the ACT appeal also includes programing in Serbia, the Church of the Brethren funding is being earmarked for Greece and Hungary.

Spotswood rebuilding project

An additional EDF grant of $30,000 has been allocated for Brethren Disaster Ministries to continue work at a rebuilding project site in Spotswood, N.J. Previous EDF grants for this appeal total $30,000.

Since Jan. 2014, Brethren volunteers have been working on home repair and rebuilding in various areas of Monmouth County, N.J., through a partnership with Monmouth County Long Term Recovery Group (MCLTRG), Habitat for Humanity, and two other partners.

The MCLTRG now assigns more than half of their approved recovery cases to Brethren Disaster Ministries, and have confirmed that there will be more help needed at least through the end of the year 2015, said the grant request.

The grant will underwrite operational expenses related to volunteer support including housing, food, travel expenses incurred onsite, volunteer training, tools, and equipment needed for rebuilding and repair. It also covers a one-time expense of moving the volunteer housing for the project to a new location.

Contribute to this work through donations to the Emergency Disaster Fund at . Learn more about the work of Brethren Disaster Ministries at .

2) Global Food Crisis Fund allocates money to evaluate work in Haiti

An allocation from the Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF) of the Church of the Brethren will fund an evaluation of the agricultural and community development work being undertaken by Eglise des Freres d’Haiti (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti).

The allocation of $3,950 helps fund an evaluation process that takes place over 16 days, covering 14 communities. The evaluation is undertaken in coordination with agronomists and health workers under the employment of Eglise des Freres in Haiti.

Allocated funds will cover the evaluator’s fee and expenses including food, lodging, and transportation, along with added expenses for staff including food and lodging.

For more information about the ministry of the Global Food Crisis Fund go to .

3) Haitian Brethren hold march in Port-au-Prince to mark Peace Day 2015

Photo courtesy of Nathan Hosler
Haitian Brethren hold a banner at the head of a Peace March in Port-au-Prince, celebrating the International Day of Prayer for Peace.

By Nathan Hosler

“Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Eglise des Freres d’Haiti (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti) marked the International Day of Prayer for Peace 2015 with a march to the center of Port-au-Prince, the Haiti’s capital city.

On Sunday morning, Sept. 20, at around 8 a.m. people began to gather around the Brethren Guest House and church in Croix des Bouquets, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Signs announcing “Seek peace for a better Haiti” and “Let’s live in peace one with another for a new Haiti” in Haitian Kreyol were pasted onto truck windows and hand-held placards were loaded into the bed of a truck.

Around 9 a.m., a brightly painted bus arrived and we began to board. Global Mission and Service worker Kayla Alfonse noted that there was a great deal of excitement as this group gathered and departed for the march. Our group met more Brethren at the starting point, where we disembarked and assembled ourselves two-by-two along the side of the road and on the sidewalk.

Most of the marchers were dressed in white shirts, with some of these shirts printed specifically for the event. A banner was unfurled to lead the procession and smaller signs were distributed. As we began our trek under the hot sun we were accompanied by a truck set up with a generator and sizeable block of speakers, which provided music with occasional breaks for someone to lead chants.

Photo courtesy of Nathan Hosler
Participants in the Peace March in Haiti crowd a sidewalk in Port-au-Prince, holding up placards for peace written in Haitian Kreyol.

Thirty minutes into our march another church streamed down a hillside street and merged with us. By this point we reached our full number. Global Mission and Service worker Ilexene Alfonse estimated that the event drew 300 to 350 people from four congregations. Additionally, some people made a six-hour journey from the congregations in the north to attend.

This was the first International Day of Prayer for Peace event held by Eglise des Freres d’Haiti, and the first such public witness event by the church. A small group appointed by the National Committee had worked for many months to plan this event and some had worried about how it would relate to the experience of political protests in Haiti, which often include violence or destruction of property.

Our experience was a far cry from such a “manifestation” as those political protests are called. Indeed, not only was this an undeniably peaceful event, but organizers guided us so that we stayed mostly in the two-by-two formation throughout the hour-and-a-half long march.

Upon arrival at the city center we gathered in a plaza under a tree for prayer, song, and reflection on the day’s theme verse from Hebrews 12:14, “Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” I was given a few minutes before to the sermon to speak on our biblical understanding of peace rooted in the life and teachings of Jesus, as well as to bring greetings from the Church of the Brethren in the US, the Office of Public Witness, and my home congregation of Washington City (D.C.) Church of the Brethren.

The Brethren in Haiti are already beginning to think about next year’s Peace Day. This event was part of a concerted effort to bring peace as a core belief and practice into this relatively young denomination.

Kayla Alfonse noted on our drive that it is important that peace not be seen as something on the side, but as a central part of what it means to be a Christian. On Tuesday, she and I met with workers from Mennonite Central Committee and Church World Service, a meeting initiated as part of my work on the situation of statelessness for persons of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic, threats against them, and their risk of deportation. While our meeting covered this important issue as well as a more general connecting with the two organizations’ work in Haiti, the topic of peace also entered our conversation. MCC Haiti is working to reinvigorate their work in peacebuilding, which had been minimized in the push to respond to the devastating earthquake of 2010. In addition to committing to meet and talk further about potential common work for peace, they have expressed interest in collaborating on next year’s Peace Day event.

Leaving Haiti, I am filled with joy that the church there has committed itself to this work. Such a witness is a crucial part of the broader ministry of the church. Ministries that are ongoing in Haiti, such as the mobile health clinics, rebuilding after the earthquake, music, and Bible studies have long been the staple work of the church. These along with a growing reflection and action for peace are vital for this church in this place.

— Nathan Hosler is director of the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness, working out of Washington, D.C.

4) Church of the Brethren volunteer honored by Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria

Photo by Zakariya Musa
Church of the Brethren volunteer Jim Mitchell (center) is honored by EYN leadership including Samuel Dante Dali (left), president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria.

By Zakariya Musa

The leadership of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) conducted a get-together fellowship in honor of Jim Mitchell, one of the three Church of the Brethren volunteers completing terms of service with the Nigeria Crisis Response. Mitchell had been in Nigeria for three months, where he participated in different events at various regions.

EYN president Rev. Dr. Samuel D. Dali spoke at the event, and commended Mitchell as a “true counselor” who had been in Nigeria to support in trauma healing to the Boko Haram-affected church members and clergy. He added that “Mitchell is a really true counselor who has adapted to the environment.”

The president while addressing the fellowship meeting praised the families and the American church for allowing the volunteers who “sacrificed” to come to a terrified country. “You have the people in heart,” he said.

The EYN president also presented a token of appreciation on behalf of the entire EYN membership who benefited from the trauma healings conducted by Mitchell, who worked with the EYN Peace Unit and Disaster Relief Committee.

He asked Mitchell, who was due to travel back to the United States the following day, to find more ways to strengthen the existing EYN Counseling Committee, a committee tasked to council pastors on various issues. “We want to train more counselors in EYN,” he said.

The event

At the midday event, both the EYN general secretary Rev. Jinatu L. Wamdeo and the administrative secretary Zakariya Amos also commended Mitchell’s amiable time in Nigeria. Responding, Mitchell said, “I found myself changed. My experience is more than I expected, each one of you has taught me something. You have been so gracious,” he added.

Dressed in African attire, Mitchell shared that in his three-month stay in Nigeria, he was able to conduct trauma healing workshops at various refugee camps such as one in Nasarawa State where a Brethren village has been formed, and at the Stefanos Foundation camp led by that nongovernmental organization, and the interfaith camp near Abuja. He also conducted a seminar for displaced pastors. Others activities he attended include a Theological Education by Extension graduation ceremony, CCEPI relief distributions to orphans, widows, and other displaced women at the EYN annex office, and a visit to Hillcrest School in Jos. Another memorable occasion was the granting of church autonomy to EYN Abuja Phase II, Jalingo, Taraba State, by the EYN president.

Mitchell’s challenge was the language barrier, when he met with different people in various communities where he saw “need for more trauma healing.”

As he departed from Nigeria, he left behind a couple–Church of the Brethren volunteers Tom and Janet Crago–who also had industriously helped the EYN church. EYN held a “send forth” party in honor of the Cragos last Friday.

— Zakariya Musa is serving in communications with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

5) Youth explore faith and call at Bethany Seminary

A Bethany Seminary release

The slower-paced summer days at Bethany Seminary were enlivened by eight youth who attended this year’s Explore Your Call, July 24-Aug. 3. Hailing from five districts–Kansas to Virginia–they arrived ready to engage with peers, teachers, and mentors. This annual program for high school students is offered through the Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults at the seminary.

Four years after being reinstated, EYC continues to present youth with variety, challenge, affirmation, and contemplation in its programming. Classroom sessions with Bethany faculty are balanced with field trips, worship, group sharing, and recreation. Through it all is encouragement to think about one’s own faith story, the nature of call, and the many facets of ministry. As one student put it, even the “fun” had elements of learning!

“Day after day I was amazed at these young people and the depth of their theological questions,” said Russell Haitch, director of the institute. “Also, the way they explored different avenues of ministry and cared and prayed for each other was thrilling to witness.” Haitch, a Bethany professor, is joined in leading the class sessions by Steve Schweitzer, academic dean, and Tara Hornbacker, professor of ministry formation, missional leadership, and evangelism.

Bekah Houff, coordinator of outreach programs, helps plan EYC and participates in the leadership. She notes that over the past few years, class time has evolved to include less prepared content and more group study and interaction around themes. This year, the text of 1 Peter served as the core for exploring faith and the church.

Houff and other EYC leaders have also emphasized the personal connections that form among the youth who attend. Says Amelia Gunn from Easton Church of the Brethren, “EYC was probably one of the most impactful experiences that I have ever attended. The community and the connections that I made in 10 days were truly incredible and unforgettable. I learned so much about not only ministry but also community, fellowship, and spiritual growth. I was amazed with how much we shared with each other and how much we grew spiritually together.”

Others who participate in leadership include pastors from nearby Churches of the Brethren, who host individual students during the weekend. Brian Mackie, pastor of White Branch and Nettle Creek churches, participated for the first time this year. “Over the course of two weekends, I had four students shadowing me who were helpful, friendly, and eager to learn. I was glad I could share with them a slice of what pastoral ministry is all about. They got a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a pastor, helped lead worship, and asked questions about ministry.”

The group also visited the Brethren Retirement Community in Greenville, Ohio, and traveled to Chicago, where they spent time at the Reba Place community. Information sessions on vocation and the variety of programs for youth in the Church of the Brethren engaged them as well.

EYC is generously underwritten by Barnabas Ltd. of New South Wales, Australia, enabling youth to attend at no cost other than their own travel to the Bethany Seminary campus in Richmond, Ind. Next summer’s EYC experience is being planned; dates and other information will be announced when available. Contact for more information.

— The release was provided by Jenny Williams, director of Communications and Alumni/ae Relations for Bethany Theological Seminary.


6) Brethren Academy announces upcoming courses for fall, winter, spring

The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership has announced courses for fall 2015, and winter and spring 2016. Courses are open to Training in Ministry (TRIM) and Education for Shared Ministry (EFSM) students, pastors seeking continuing education units, and all interested persons.

Registration and more information are at or call the academy office at 800-287-8822 ext. 1824. For a Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center course, as noted below, contact or 717-361-1450 or find forms at .

Note that while the academy continues to accept students beyond the registration deadline for each course, on that deadline date it is determined whether enough students have registered to be able to offer the course. Many courses have required pre-course readings, so students need to be sure to allow enough time in advance of the course to complete the readings. Students should not purchase texts or make travel plans until the registration deadline has passed, and a course confirmation is received.

Fall 2015

Oct. 29-31: Bethany Seminary Presidential Forum directed independent study unit (DISU) on “Just Peace,” at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., with instructor Debbie Roberts. The registration deadline is Sept. 29.

Nov. 9: SVMC Academic Symposium (DISU) on “The Gospel of Mark and the 21st Century,” at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., with keynote speaker Dan Ulrich and instructor Connie Maclay. The registration deadline is Oct. 1.

Nov. 12-15: “Preaching Peace, Justice, and Care for Creation,” a weekend intensive at McPherson (Kan.) College with instructor David Radcliff. The registration deadline is Oct. 12.

Winter/Spring 2016

Jan. 11-13 and 25 and Feb. 1: “Pastoral Care,” a January intensive at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., with instructor Carolyn Stahl Bohler. The dates of Jan. 25 and Feb. 1 are Adobe Connect multi-framed video conference sessions. The registration deadline is Dec. 11.

Jan. 18-March 11: “Introduction to the New Testament,” an online course with instructor Matt Boersma. The registration deadline is Dec. 18.

March 10-13: “Church of the Brethren Polity and Practice,” a weekend intensive at McPherson (Kan.) College with instructor Jim Tomlonson. The registration deadline is Feb. 10.

April 4-May 27: “Chronicles,” an online course with instructor Steve Schweitzer. The registration deadline is March 4.

May (exact days to be announced): Intercultural Education and Travel Seminar to Kenya with instructor Russell Haitch.

Anticipated courses for the summer and fall of 2016 include an Annual Conference DISU with keynote speaker Father John Dear on the topic “Walking to Peace,” “Introduction to Theology,” “Church of the Brethren History,” and “Introduction to Old Testament.”

7) Workcamp Ministry celebrates 2015 season, announces theme for 2016

By Deanna Beckner and Emily Tyler

“Side by side” is truly how the 341 youth and advisors worked this summer during the 2015 Church of the Brethren Workcamps. Thank you to all of those who participated, as well as the 39 who contributed their time and talents through their leadership of the workcamps.

The summer yielded service outreach, friendships, spiritual experiences, and much more at the 19 workcamp locations, 4 of which were new sites. We invite you all to join us again this next year for the 2016 workcamp season!

The Workcamp Office has welcomed Deanna Beckner and Amanda McLearn-Montz as assistant coordinators for the 2016 season. They began serving at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., on Aug. 24, as volunteers through Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS).

Deanna Beckner of Columbia City (Ind.) Church of the Brethren and Northern Indiana District graduated from Manchester University in May with a degree in communication studies.

Amanda McLearn-Montz graduated from Tulane University in May with a degree in Spanish and public health. She is originally from Panther Creek Church of the Brethren in Adel, Iowa, in the Northern Plains District.

One of the first tasks for a new workcamp season is to develop a theme to focus the workcamps. Fixing on 1 Peter 1:13-16 in The Message sparked the theme “Blazing with Holiness.” Key facets of the theme revolve around what holiness is, and the steps to developing one’s own blaze of holiness.

In the summer of 2016 there will be young adult, senior high, intergenerational, and junior high workcamps, as well as a “We Are Able” workcamp for youth and young adults with intellectual disabilities. Dates and locations will be posted on the Workcamp Ministry webpages at .

— Emily Tyler is coordinator of the Workcamp Ministry and volunteer recruitment for the Church of the Brethren. Deanna Beckner is one of the two new assistant coordinators for the Workcamp Ministry, which is a part of the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service.


8) Strengthening our core: A letter from the Mission and Ministry Board chair

By Don Fitzkee

I used to be a cross country runner (emphasis on “used to be”). Cross country always has been a fairly simple sport with the object to run far and run fast, or at least faster than members of other teams. During my years of running, the training was also simple: we were supposed to log a certain number of miles each week of the summer (emphasis on “supposed to”), adding up to hundreds of miles before the season even began. The way to train for long races, it seemed, was to run even longer in practice.

Photo by Carolyn Fitzkee

Now 30 years later, I have two kids running high school cross country. The sport itself hasn’t changed much, but the training is more complex. My kids are still expected to put in a certain number of miles, but now there’s a big emphasis on “core” strengthening which, as far as I can tell, refers mostly to back and stomach muscles that support the body. The philosophy for running today seems to be, “If you want to go far, you have to strengthen your core.”

I was reminded of this at Annual Conference in July. During the Tuesday evening worship service while an offering was taken to support the Core Ministries fund of the Church of the Brethren, a clever video played with the theme “strengthening our core” and highlighted the amazing breadth of our church’s ministries.

After worship, I returned to my hotel room where my son was stretched out on the floor doing a “plank”–a deceptively painful core-strengthening exercise where you balance on your forearms and toes, and hold the rest of your body rigid (like a plank). When I do this “plank” exercise, after a couple minutes (or more like 15 seconds), my back and stomach muscles start to ache and my legs shake uncontrollably. While I wouldn’t call this exercise fun, it does strengthen these “core” muscles that stabilize the body.

From my vantage point as the new chair of the Mission and Ministry Board, it has been extremely gratifying to see the generous outpouring of gifts to the Nigeria Crisis Fund. The needs of our persecuted brothers and sisters in Nigeria are heart-breaking, and Brethren are responding to meet those needs. Similarly, whenever any significant disaster strikes, Brethren give without hesitation through the Emergency Disaster Fund.

As much as I appreciate this generous short-term giving, I can’t help but think that if we want to go far, we have to strengthen our core. For the Mission and Ministry Board, our core is the many ministries that nurture the church and serve the world month after month, year after year. Core Ministries support congregations, ministers, church leaders, and domestic and international partners. Core Ministries provide opportunities for life-changing, faith-forming, community-building conferences, events, and resources to happen for Brethren of all ages.

While overall giving last year to all of the church’s work was incredibly strong, support of Core Ministries continued a long-term downward trend, one that persists into the current year. This shrinking pool of resources forces the board and our staff to choose which of our ongoing ministries must be scaled back or eliminated.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

My kids’ cross country coach is right: “If we want to go far, we have to strengthen our core.” We need to sustain the staff and ministries that meet the needs of the church and the world on an ongoing basis. These are the same staff and ministries that provide the structure and expertise to respond to other important needs–like Nigeria–when they arise.

To help us go far, we invite you to give generously to support the Core Ministries of the Church of the Brethren.

— Don Fitzkee is chair of the Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren. This letter was mailed to all the congregations of the denomination in September. To view the Core Ministries video that was shown at Annual Conference–which inspired this letter–and for a link to give online to the denomination’s Core Ministries, go to .

9) Church vitality: Nurturing the strong heartbeat of God within us

By David and Joan Young

Nurturing the strong heartbeat of God within us. This came through vibrantly at Annual Conference this year through the Nigerian witness, the invitation of Roger Nishioka to have God’s heartbeat live strongly in us, and the insight of Standing Committee about the hope for church vitality.

Through the Conference webcasts, we heard the heartfelt faith of our Nigerian sisters and their joy-filled singing; Dr. Samuel Dali’s testimony of faith; the beat of drums as we sang, “Someone’s crying Lord…. Someone’s praying Lord.”

All this inspires us! What an invitation to renew vitality! The inspiration of this Annual Conference leads us to share how we have discovered this heartbeat of God can be strengthened in the church.

In our 11 years of service in church renewal, four areas stand out to strengthen the heartbeat of God: 1) personal spiritual disciplines, 2) corporate spiritual formation, 3) a mission oriented life, and 4) the Springs Academy for Pastors, with a group walking alongside from the congregation to provide training in a spiritually oriented, servant led congregational vitality.

Spiritual disciplines

Practicing spiritual disciplines, beginning with scripture reading and prayer, strengthens the strong heartbeat of God.  The age old practice for Brethren is to read a scripture of the day and follow its guidance. In John 4, the spiritual thirst leads the woman at the well to meet Christ and discover life– giving water.  By coming to the well daily, individuals and the entire church enter spiritual disciplines. Using a folder with daily scripture, that can be coordinated with the pastor’s message, the whole church spends time in scripture and is guided by a text that day.  The folder looks like a bulletin, with theme, a guide for prayer, and commitment form which lists other spiritual disciplines which they can practice. Readings can be from the lectionary and the Brethren bulletin, or a book of the Bible, or another choice.

Each of us can discover a prayer pattern that helps us strengthen the heartbeat of God within us. The weekly practice above, I find, impacts our daily practice.  We set the disciplines folder out with our Bible in the evening and awaken to feel God’s invitation to “come by here” and read a vital word for the day.  And let that word lift us that day.  And we remember it at a moment when we meet that situation to which it speaks.   Done with regularity, within a few weeks we can see the change.   We become more aware of the promptings of God about us, those little nudges to do this and not that.  We feel God’s guidance in all aspects of life.  Inner strength and resilience grows.  In the face of desolation, we take the next step doing the next right thing.  We can feel the comfort and help from God. Resources, including Richard Foster’s Sanctuary of the Soul, can be part of our discipline and widen our horizons of prayer.

Corporate spiritual formation

A second way of developing the heartbeat of God is corporate spiritual formation.  There is real power when spiritual disciplines are done corporately by an entire church.  In response to a need for renewed spiritual vitality, at Hatfield Church we made a bulletin like folder with texts and invited people to collectively enter scripture reading and prayer.  This was launched on Easter Sunday morning.   Most everyone came forward to commit and lay their folder insert at the foot of the cross!   And next Sunday, the entire Easter group returned!    Using Celebration of Discipline, The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster, churches can have Sunday School classes youth through adult to learn about all the disciplines.  Jean Moyer has written a wonderful series of lessons for children on the disciplines.   For the Springs folders, Vince Cable writes Bible study questions for individual and small group Bible study.

Corporate spiritual formation happens as the body is transformed and feels the spirit of God at work.   In this process the congregation is asking, “Where is God leading our church?”   Like in spiritual direction, persons discern a key Biblical text that guides them corporately.   While it can take some time to discover a passage, it is amazing how the process pulls people together and gives them real focus in where God is calling.   In the interpretative DVD at the head of our website you see how Sugar Grove, a small congregation, got real energy by looking at the little boy who brought his lunch and how it was multiplied by Jesus, and so for them.  And I remember from back in my early teaching days, a church who had seen former glory days, discerned “Blessed to be a Blessing” from Abraham’s journey.  Pleasant Hill in Johnstown discerned their passage as the four men who let the sick man down through the roof to meet Jesus.  Now they are sending visitation teams out on a trolley so they may feel the presence of Jesus.  All these received a united sense of God’s mission and were corporately formed as a church.

Implementing our mission

A third way of strengthening the heartbeat of God is by entering into mission with one’s personal life and in a congregation.   There is one step in discerning a vision, but so much a part of transformation comes by taking another step and then the next in one’s ministry.  Implementing our own personal mission makes our lives intentional day by day.  After meeting Christ daily and receiving Living Water, like the woman at the well, we can go to our home town and point others to Jesus.  Continually we hear of people whose lives are being changed in one way or another in the renewal work.  When people are called forth to be a part of implementation of a renewal plan in their local church, they can be amazed that someone sees something in them, and they feel stretched to grow.  Calling others brings people to a new level of their discipleship.  As a gift of God, the Apostle Paul says in II Cor. 4:16, we are renewed day by day.

In Springs of Living Water, we have seen a lot of ministries come to life, a renewed women’s ministry within one church.   Another church reached out to invite people raising worship attendance from the low 40’s to mid 60’s.   In another church, youth learned servant leadership and served dinner for the church board, which led the board to call them to be assistant Sunday School teachers and then asked them to lead worship.  The spiritual disciplines folders are used in three prisons.   A church going on a mission trip is using the servant leadership disciplines folder to bond together and to be servants in their project. These stories, small and large, just keep growing.   New people start attending.  Is it because God sends people to renewing churches or that churches vibrating with new life attract newcomers?   Being in mission invites us to discipleship, and the heartbeat of God grows stronger in us.

The Springs Academy for Pastors

A fourth powerful place to strengthen the heartbeat of God is through the Springs Academy for Pastors and Ministers.   As we got into the training of renewal teams out in districts, the need arose to have training for pastors, like my teaching intensives in seminaries.  But with churches spread out, how would we do this?  After taking three academies on servant leadership over the phone from the Greenleaf Center, I wondered about this model of 5 two hour sessions over a 12 week period.   Why not fulfill Joan’s dream to have pastors spread over the country be linked participating in spiritual disciplines together and having a thorough course in church renewal?    So the Springs Academy was born.  With detailed syllabus and people from the church walking along, pastors enter wonderful discussions.   One said, “Taking part in the Springs Academy has been a refreshing journey in my own spiritual formation, and it has given me new energy, new perspective, and new direction in the work of the pastorate.”   And pastors and people feel they have a path to know what to do in their context of ministry.

Strengthening the heartbeat of God in pastors and a group walking along happens in the Springs Academies.  Both the foundations and advanced academies use a spiritual disciplines folder.  The foundations class has scriptures on 12 classic spiritual disciplines of Richard Foster while reading Celebration of Discipline.  This class then has a thorough course on church renewal using our book Springs of Living Water, Christ-centered Church Renewal.  In preparation for ministry in his seminary in Finkenwald, Dietrich Bonhoeffer had his Ordinands read a daily text, meditate upon it and have it guide them, which reportedly came from the Pietists! Then the advanced Springs academy has a disciplines folder on servant leadership and reads Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together on Christian community.  This course on implementation uses our book Servant Leadership for Church Renewal, Shepherds by the Living Springs and has the new training DVD on servant leadership.  Other special topics are Master Preaching, Dialogue and Discernment with a DVD, and New Member Ministry.  In both academies pastors gain renewed spiritual energy and learn how to lead renewal in partnership with their church.  Pastors and people are eager to enter a path of renewal in their church and know the first steps.

From Romans 12: “Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.”  Brethren are a renewal movement, and in this very moment we are led with other Christians to be like the early church in joy and vitality.   We pray for courage and strength to have the heartbeat of God grow strong in us and for our churches to be vibrant, pulsating, faithful disciples, the alive Body of Christ.

— David and Joan Young lead the Springs of Living Water initiative for church renewal. Contact or go to .

10) Brethren bits

“Game on!!” writes Gail Erisman Valeta, in a new Ice Bucket Challenge from Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren in the Denver, Colo., area, where she is a minister. Prince of Peace has offered up an Ice Bucket Challenge to other Church of the Brethren congregations, as a way to raise funds for the Nigeria Crisis Response. Earlier this month, Dave Valeta took the Ice Bucket Challenge in honor of Jeff Neuman-Lee’s retirement. Who will be next…?

— Remembrance: Phyllis Tickle, 2013 National Older Adult Conference keynote speaker and inspiration for the 2015 NOAC theme of storytelling, died peacefully at her home in Lucy, Tenn., on Sept. 22. The 2013 NOAC theme was “Healing Springs Forth,” and during her keynote, “The Healing Gift of Story,” Tickle expressed appreciation for being asked to share stories from her own life when she had experienced healing and grace such as she told in her books “The Shaping of a Life,” “What the Land Already Knows,” and “The Graces We Remember.” The popularity of her more recent books about emergent Christianity, she said, meant that speaking invitations were often issued to address that topic, yet the power of story remained dear to her heart. Her keynote challenge to NOAC participants to share God’s story, and their own stories, resonated with those who heard it, and directly inspired this year’s conference theme, “Then Jesus Told Them a Story.” “Our hearts are heavy with sorrow at Tickle’s passing, but are also filled with gratitude for her inspiring message to the older adults of our denomination,” said Kim Ebersole, director of NOAC. “Tickle’s influence will live on as we continue to tell the story.”

— Remembrance: Carrie Beckwith, 89, a former mission worker, died on Sept. 19 in La Verne, Calif. Together with her husband Carl Beckwith, from 1963-66 she served as a Church of the Brethren missionary in Garkida, Nigeria. She worked as full-time secretary to Carl, who was business manager, and also kept the provisions store stocked for the mission field. In 1966, they moved to Modesto, Calif., where Carl served as director of the former Brethren Service Center that was located there. In 1970, he transferred to the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., and became chief financial officer for SERRV International, while Carrie worked a few years as secretary for the regional CROP office. She also worked at the state hospital in Sykesville, Md., where she helped instigate legislation to obtain a smoke-free office environment. From her high school service on the Idaho District Youth Cabinet to her college years as secretary to the pastor of McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren and taking dictation from Dr. Boitnott while he taught at McPherson College, to her service as a deacon already in her young adult years, and her work with the Idaho District young adult ministries, she unknowingly prepared for the decision made jointly with her husband Carl to move to Chicago to train for ministry at Bethany Seminary where she took some courses at the Bible Training School. In subsequent years she served as an active, traditional pastor’s wife during Carl’s pastorates in Montana, Idaho, Colorado, and California. After retirement in 1988, the Beckwiths worked as volunteers, helping several church and district offices transition into computerized record keeping in Pennsylvania, Virginia, California, and Kansas. They spent most of 1992 as volunteer co-directors of the World Friendship Center in Hiroshima, Japan. They also volunteered several months each year for SERRV or at the hospitality department at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor. In 1999, they were awarded a Citation of Merit from McPherson College as a testimony to the many ways in which they worked together as a team throughout the years. In their late 70s, after moving to La Verne where they most recently lived at Hillcrest, a Brethren retirement community, they began five years of half-time work for the Pacific Southwest District office. Carrie served as an office co-worker alongside Carl in his role as financial and property manager. She is survived by her husband of more than 69 years, Carl C. Beckwith. Among her surviving children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren is son Jim Beckwith, who currently serves as secretary of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference and continues his mother’s legacy of meticulously taking care of details. Among other legacies she shared a concern for people especially those who were lonely, confused, or struggling, and for human rights particularly for women and for minority persons. A memorial service was held Sept. 23 at Hillcrest Retirement Community in La Verne, Calif. Memorial donations are received to “Church of the Brethren–Nigeria Crisis Fund,” 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.

— Remembrance: Lois Alta Beery Schubert, 80, a former employee at the Church of the Brethren General Offices, died on Sept. 14. She was born Aug. 17, 1935, in Mishawaka, Ind. Although she was raised and baptized Baptist, her family was originally Brethren and after World War II she joined Osceola (Ind.) Church of the Brethren. After graduating high school, she entered Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) and worked in south Florida at a migrant camp nursery. In 1957, she went to work at the denomination’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill., as a secretary. In 1958 she went to Europe for the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Brethren movement and worked in a World War II workcamp. She earned a degree in sociology from McPherson (Kan.) College and from 1964-70 was a social worker in Wisconsin. In 1970 she began work at the office of Pacific Southwest District in La Verne, Calif., serving as administrative assistant for Truman Northup. She met her husband Neil Schubert at Glendora (Calif.) Church of the Brethren where they were married in 1972. In other employment following her marriage, she was secretary for the Glendora Teachers Association for approximately 14 years, and also served in numerous offices and volunteer capacities in the Glendora congregation. She is survived by her husband of 43 years Neil Schubert, sons Craig Schubert (Melissa) and Eric Schubert (Allison), and grandchildren. A celebration of life service was held on Sept. 19 at Glendora Church of the Brethren.

In an update on the Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) response to the Valley Fire in northern California, associate director Kathleen Fry-Miller reports that 16 CDS volunteers are at work in Calistoga. “They have cared for 159 children as of Sept. 24, and will be there at least another week. We are excited that our new CDS program assistant, Kristen Hoffman, is leaving today to join the team in California. It’s her first full week on the job. This is what we truly call on-the-job-training!” Fry-Miller requested prayers for the team as they support families and care for children displaced by the fires. For more information go to .

— Huma Rana joined the staff of Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) in July as assistant director of Financial Operations. She has more than 20 years of experience in public accounting, auditing, professional services, and working with a non-profit organization. She spent 10 years as the budget and accounting analyst for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and prior to that worked for Ernst and Young. She is a CPA with a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago, Ill., and is a member of the Illinois CPA Society and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. She and her family reside in Elgin, Ill.

— In more news from Brethren Benefit Trust, there are changes of membership on the BBT board. At the 2015 Annual Conference, delegates elected Harry Rhodes to the BBT board. At the BBT board meeting held in July, the board voted to appoint Eunice Culp to fill the unexpired term of Tim McElwee, who resigned in April 2014. Craig Smith completed his second term on the BBT board, having served for seven years. Finally, Donna McKee Rhodes was elected to a four-year term on the BBT board by the Brethren Pension Plan members, representing churches and districts. For more about the ministries of Brethren Benefit Trust go to .

— The National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund and the Peace Tax Foundation are searching for an executive director. Both are based in Washington, D.C. They seek a qualified individual to assume the part-time position averaging 24 hours per week. Decision-making in both organizations is largely consensus-based and depends on a high level of cooperation and consultation between the executive director and the boards of the two organizations. Submit a resume and other pertinent materials to the chairperson of the Personnel Committee of the NCPTF/PTF Boards of Directors prior to Oct. 15. Find details at .

— The Friends Committee on National Legislation is searching for a legislative director to be responsible for leading a multi-issue federal policy and lobbying effort for peace and justice. The legislative director guides and builds FCNL’s Quaker-based presence on Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C., and effectively represents the legislative policies and priorities established by the FCNL governing body, the General Committee. Details are at .

— “Praise God for the reopening of Kulp Bible College and the Comprehensive Secondary School of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) in Kwarhi,” said this week’s Global Mission Prayer Update from the Global Mission and Service office. The Bible college and secondary school had been closed since last fall when the area was overrun by Boko Haram, the extremist Islamist insurgency. The Global Mission staff are requesting prayer “for the safety of all the students, staff, and faculty, as the security situation in the area has improved, but risks remain. Pray for the secondary school children and the young adults attending the Bible college, in their quest to learn and to study God’s Word.” For more about the situation in Nigeria and the church’s Nigeria Crisis Response go to .

Photo courtesy of EYN
A school hosts orphans in Nigeria, with sponsorship from the Nigeria Crisis Response

— A school in Nigeria that receives sponsorship from the Nigeria Crisis Response of the Church of the Brethren and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) is housing 60 orphans, according to Carl and Roxane Hill, co-directors of the crisis response effort. A recent post from a volunteer at the school, reported, “Today is a day of widows at the COCIN church in Jos. They visited our orphanage home in Jos. It was a day of tears.” The post quoted a scripture text from James 1:27: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

— The Office of Ministry is hosting a meeting of the Council of District Executives (CODE) this coming week at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The meeting will gather district executive ministers of the denomination’s 24 districts. Included on the agenda is a time to share the Love Feast together.

— Newville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren is celebrating its 90th anniversary. Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger has been invited to preach for an anniversary service on Sunday, Sept. 27.

— New Carlisle (Ohio) Church of the Brethren took part in the Bethel Churches United annual CROP Walk this past Sunday afternoon. The walk route started and ended at the New Carlisle Church. The goal for the 62 registered walkers is to raise $10,000 for hunger, by the end of the month. As reported by “New Carlisle News” online, “Carol Dutton is always an active participant in the annual event, donning her ‘Coco the Clown’ suit and rallying the crowd. Before Sunday’s walk began, Dutton spoke to the walkers about the origin of the church’s involvement with CROP Walk. Dutton said that Wilmer Funderburgh was the founder of New Carlisle’s participation in CROP Walk, noting that he was also a member of New Carlisle Church of the Brethren. She showed a picture of Funderburgh at one of the first CROP Walks in New Carlisle, dated 1954. ‘Something has been done each year since then to help our community as well as people around the world,’ she said.” Find the full article at .

— Also in the news this week: Lick Creek Church of the Brethren in Bryan, Ohio, has donated $1,028.79 to Williams County Habitat For Humanity. The donation came out of funds raised at the church’s annual ice cream social, and was reported in the “Bryan Times.” Find a picture of the check presentation at .

Photo by Leah Jaclyn Hileman
The tractor face-off at Southern Pennsylvania District Conference

— More than $250,000! That’s the goal celebrated this past weekend by the Southern Pennsylvania District Conference, in the district’s fundraising campaign for the Nigeria Crisis Response. “It warms my heart to hear of all the wonderful things our congregations are doing in order to help support the EYN Church of the Brethren,” said district moderator Traci Rabenstein in the district newsletter. “The efforts that you as a body have put forth towards monetary assistance allows their community a ‘leg-up’ as they attempt to re-build as best they can.” In response, two pastors in the district–Larry Dentler and Chris Elliot–both avid tractor owners of different manufacturers, swapped tractors and drove the other’s tractor to the conference. Carolyn Jones, district office staff, reported to Nigeria Crisis Response co-director Carl Hill that the tally of the total raised will be around $270,000, although a final number will not be available for some time. The district conference was Sept. 18-19 at Ridge Church of the Brethren in Shippensburg, Pa., with Jeff Carter, president of Bethany Seminary, as guest speaker.

— Pacific Northwest District Conference will be held this coming weekend, Sept. 25-27, at Camp Myrtlewood in Myrtle Point, Ore.

— In a recent district board meeting, the Southeastern District board voted to adopt the Brethren congregations in the Democratic Republic of Congo as sister churches to support with prayer and financially as led, and voted to encourage congregations to consider sponsoring refugee families from Syria as the opportunities unfold though disaster and refugee ministries. The brief news bulletin from district moderator Gary Benesh also noted that the district board is exploring the addition of two new Hispanic congregations in the district.

— Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village, a Church of the Brethren retirement community near Boonsboro, Md., is welcoming USDA Rural Development state director Bill McGowan to a ribbon cutting ceremony marking completion of improvements made to the water system. Others joining in the ceremony include the community’s Board of Directors, staff, and residents. The improvements included a new water storage tank required to provide the community with a three-day water supply per state regulations, supply the main building fire suppression system, and also enable the community to grow its campus in coming years. The ribbon cutting takes place today, Sept. 24, at 11 a.m.

— “Dr. Richard Newton has been researching scriptures for some time and as an African-American, he sees how the Bible can be a blessing and a curse,” said a release from Elizabethtown (Pa.) College about an upcoming event that may be of interest to Brethren. Newton will share his findings on Oct. 7 at the Elizabethtown College Presidential Community Enrichment Series. The noontime talk, in the Susquehanna Room at Myers Hall, costs $15; lunch is provided. Audience discussion has a significant role in Newton’s lecture as he finds that “discussion is writing the next chapter.” Current events constantly create connections between the Bible and black culture–from issues with the Confederate flag, to the Black Lives Matter campaign, the constant conflicts involving African-Americans show the phenomenon of the Bible and its ties to everyday life. “For better or worse, there’s always something to talk about,” explained Newton in an interview published at .

— Lancaster (Pa.) Online reports that the Wheatland Chorale, a nonprofit chorus which has had ties to Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, will sing in the International Choral Competition in Rimini, Italy. The competition is from Friday  to Monday, Sept. 25-28. The group held an informal “open rehearsal” on Sunday at Lancaster Church of the Brethren, where chorale member Emery DeWitt is director of music. The Wheatland Chorale is the only chorus from the US scheduled to perform in the prestigious competition in Rimini, where they will compete against 22 other vocal groups from around the world, according to the news report. Find the full article at .

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Deanna Beckner, Jim Beckwith, Jean Bednar, Kathy Beisner, Jeff Boshart, Kim Ebersole, Carolyn Fitzkee, Don Fitzkee, Kathleen Fry-Miller, Elizabeth A. Harvey, Carl and Roxane Hill, Nathan Hosler, Michael Leiter, Fran Massie, Nancy Miner, Bob Morris, Zakariya Musa, Emily Tyler, Gail Erisman Valeta, Joe Vecchio, Roy Winter, David and Joan Young, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. 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. The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is set for Oct. 1.

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