Brethren Bits for February 20, 2016

Ed Groff, producer of “Brethren Voices” the community access television show provided through Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren, reports that two new stations are showing Brethren Voices. “Arlington Church of the Brethren is placing ‘Brethren Voices’ on their community television station in Arlington, Va., and the Brethren Heritage Center is placing Brethren Voices on the Dayton, Ohio, station with a TV audience taking in much of southern Ohio,” he reports. Over the years, various “Brethren Voices” programs have been broadcast in nearly 50 stations around the country, most of them downloaded from in non-Brethren related communities, according to Groff. The latest edition of “Brethren Voices” focuses on the ministry of the Brethren Heritage Center in the Miami Valley of western Ohio. For a copy or for more information contact Ed Groff at .

In personnel announcements from Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., Bekah Houff, coordinator of outreach programs, will resign her position April 29; and Tara Shepherd of Bent Mountain, Va., will begin as a regional advancement officer on March 14.

Having accepted a call to ministry, Bekah Houff will resign her position as of April 29, and will be working in a half-time capacity as of March 1. She began her employment at Bethany in June 2012, having earned her maser of divinity degree from the seminary that year. She has worked primarily with programs of the Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults, including EYC, Immerse!, and young adult events, and has coordinated the reinstated Bethany Peace Essay Contest for the past three years.

Tara Shepherd will fill a new position focused on strengthening Bethany’s relationships with donors and congregations in the eastern United States. Shepherd, who earned a master of divinity degree from Bethany in 2015, is a licensed minister in the Church of the Brethren, and currently serves on the Virlina District Executive Committee as chair of the Commission on Nurture. She most recently has worked for Wells Fargo Bank, coordinating and supporting activities of strategy leaders and credit consultants.

Resource Partners is seeking a chief executive officer to begin this spring. Resource Partners is a provider of alternative insurance and risk management programs to Peace Church organizations across the country. Based in Lancaster, Pa., Resource Partners serves nonprofit health and human services, mission, and other service agencies within the faith communities of Mennonite, Brethren, and Quaker denominations. Resource Partners is governed by a strong, involved board of directors who represent Mennonite, Brethren, and Quaker member/client organizations and associations. Essential duties of the CEO include implementing vision and strategy; anticipating future needs of constituents, envisioning creative responses to customers’ needs, and engaging staff in developing plans and new products to improve services and competitiveness; setting and taking direction (from the board) and establishing expectations and measurement for accountable, results-driven business achievements; communicating a vision of organizational success that helps stakeholders understand their role in achieving strategic goals of the organization; encouraging agility, innovation, and implementation of new ideas. The CEO leads and manages a team of highly effective, cohesive employees; values and preserves a team environment; maintains a work environment that encourages open communication and collaboration with employees; creates a climate of trust among employees, communicating openly and directly on issues of concern. In addition, the CEO ensures operational effectiveness, recommending an annual budget for board approval, allocating capital and funding, and managing resources within budget guidelines, according to current laws and regulations, among other responsibilities. Requirements listed below are representative of the knowledge, skill, and/or ability required: an energetic, forward-thinking, and creative individual with high ethical standards and an appropriate professional image; a strategic visionary with sound technical skills, analytical ability, good judgment, and strong operational focus; an individual experienced in the contracting process, negotiation, and leading and managing change; an intelligent and articulate individual who can relate to people at all levels within the organization; a decisive individual who possesses a “big picture” perspective and is well versed in systems and focused on technological advances; an individual capable of blending visionary, forward-thinking energy and activity with personal program management responsibilities; an individual who demonstrates genuine regard for the organization, its mission, services, and culture. Desired education and experience include a bachelor’s degree or equivalent; minimum 10 years executive management experience; ability to read, analyze, and interpret complex documents; ability to respond effectively to sensitive inquiries or complaints; ability to apply principles of logical thinking to a wide range of problems; ability to deal with variety of abstract and concrete variables; ability to understand dynamics of the marketplace. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions. For more information go to .

Choice Books is seeking a chief executive officer. Choice Books, LLC, is a faith-based organization that distributes over five million inspirational books annually to retailers in the secular marketplace. The organization’s current CEO is retiring in 2016 after 22 years of service. The successful candidate will have a passion for Christian ministry, strong servant-leadership skills, and solid business and management experience. Skills and qualifications include a business degree or the equivalent; willingness to lead in a complex, competitive, and rapidly changing environment; understanding of accounting systems, computer systems, and financial management systems; ability to work with a board of directors and to engage a broad and diverse group of distributor organizations; strong communication skills. Experience in retail/wholesale operations is preferred. The position is located in Harrisonburg, Va., and will begin in June or July. Express interest by sending a resume with a cover letter to .

Feb. 24 is the last day to register for the 2016 Clergy Tax Seminar to be held on Feb. 29. Students, pastors, and other church leaders are invited to attend either in person at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., or online. Participants will learn how to file clergy taxes correctly and legally, learn how to comply with regulations while maximizing tax deductions, and earn .3 continuing education credit. The sessions will cover tax law for clergy, changes for 2015 (the most current tax year to file), and detailed assistance to correctly file the various forms and schedules that pertain to clergy. The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership recommends the seminar for all pastors and other church leaders who wish to understand clergy taxes, including treasurers, steward commission chairs, and church board chairs. The seminar begins Monday, Feb. 29, at 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (Eastern time) with a morning session that offers .3 continuing education credit for live attendance, in person or online. After a lunch break it continues from 2-4 p.m. (Eastern). Cost is $30. Current students at Bethany, TRIM/EFSM/SeBAH, and Earlham School of Religion may attend at no cost, although registration is required. For those attending online, registration is required to provide web access to the seminar, and instructions and handouts that will be sent a few days prior to the event. Registrations are not complete until payment is received. Sponsors of this event are the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, the Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry, and Bethany Theological Seminary. Leadership is provided by Deb Oskin, a Church of the Brethren minister who has been doing clergy tax returns since 1989, and spent 12 years with H&R Block (2000-2011) where she achieved certification as a master tax adviser and as a certified advanced instructor. Go to .

A full list of 2015 allocations from the Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF) is now posted online at . The 20 grants total $208,553.96.

An Action Alert from the Office of Public Witness encourages support for a “3rd Thursdays for Israel/Palestine” campaign. The campaign is sponsored by an interfaith partnership, and calls on US political leaders to address the consequences of Israeli settlement expansion. A briefing on the effects of settlement expansion on the village of Wadi Foquin will be held on Feb. 23, 12 noon-2 p.m., at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. The panelists will include Ahmad Sokar, mayor of Wadi Foquin; Kifah Manasra, of Al Estiklal University; Shukri Radaydeh, director of the Bethlehem Local Governorate; and Susan Henry-Crowe, general secretary of the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society. The event is sponsored by Churches for Middle East Peace, among other groups. For more information go to .

Antelope Park Church of the Brethren in Lincoln, Neb., is hosting a discussion co-sponsored by the Lincoln Chapter of Nebraskans for Peace, and the Nebraska Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. “Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si: On the Care of Our Common Home,” will take place at 7 p.m. on Feb. 22. “Pope Francis’ encyclical concerning climate change both teaches about climate change and invites just action,” said an announcement. “As the encyclical says, ‘We have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.’” The sponsoring organizations are asking what this encyclical’s position means for action in Nebraska and the region. The panelists who will lead the discussion are Lucas Sabalka, who has degrees in mathematics, computer science, history, physics, and psychology, and after working in research mathematics for a few years has returned to Lincoln to work in industry; Marilyn McNabb, who has worked for NFP, the Unicameral, the Nebraska Energy Office, and the Ombudsman’s office and has finished nine years on Lincoln Electric System’s board where she has participated in policy discussions related to climate change; and Lauren Kolojejchick-Kotch, the Energy and Climate Policy Program Associate of the Center for Rural Affairs. Find an announcement of the event in the “Lincoln Journal Star” at .

Whitestone Church of the Brethren in Tonasket, Wash., took part in the Souper Bowl of Caring on Feb. 7, and received donations totaling $644 for the Tonasket Food Bank. Whitestone is just one of the Church of the Brethren congregations that collect donations for hunger relief on Super Bowl Sunday. The Souper Bowl for Caring is a multi-denominational annual effort, often spearheaded by youth groups collecting donations from their congregations. For more information go to .

Eaton (Ohio) Church of the Brethren is holding a Sewing Bee for Church World Service on Saturday, Feb. 27, at 9 a.m. “Sewers need to bring their sewing machine for sewing school bags for CWS kits.,” said an announcement. “If you want to sew, but don’t have a portable machine, we do have two sewing machines that can be used.” Call Barb Brower at 937-336-2442 to reserve a machine. Lunch will be served.

The Ventures program at McPherson (Kan.) College is offering a Saturday morning seminar on March 5, led by Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, Brightbill Professor of Preaching and Worship at Bethany Theological Seminary. The seminar will focus on trends in worship, under the title “Cymbals and Silence: The Changing Sounds of Worship and Prayer.” An announcement explained: “During the past 30 years, North Americans have witnessed some of the most surprising, powerful, and worrisome trends in worship since the time of the Protestant Reformation. What are these changes? What are we trying to ‘do’ in worship today and why? What are some of the ways that you and your congregation can invite new and faithful practices into your worship services.” The seminar will be held from 9 a.m.-12 noon (central time), and participants may attend the webinar online. There is no charge to attend, but .3 continuing education credit is available for a $10 fee. Register online and find out more about the event at .

“Preaching in the Reign of God” is the topic of an Illinois and Wisconsin District continuing education workshop for ministers presented by Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, Brightbill Professor of Preaching and Worship at Bethany Theological Seminary. The event is held at Bishop Lane Retreat Center in Rockford, Ill., on April 4-5. Dinner will begin at 5 p.m. Monday evening, April 4, with the workshop beginning at 7 p.m. The workshop will resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning, April 5, and end by 4 p.m. Participants will receive .8 continuing education credit. Cost is $75 and includes one night’s lodging at the retreat center, dinner on Monday, breakfast and lunch on Tuesday, and the fee for continuing education units. The district’s Ministerial Leadership Development Team is sponsoring the event. Registration is due by March 18. Contact the Illinois/Wisconsin District Office, 269 E. Chestnut St., Canton, IL  61520; 309-649-6008; .

The Mid-Atlantic District Disaster Auction Benefit Dinner is co-hosted by Union Bridge Church of the Brethren and Bush Creek Church of the Brethren, at the Bush Creek Church in Monrovia, Md. The dinner is planned for March 12 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and benefit disaster ministries. For tickets contact Jeff McKee at 410-848-2720 or or John Laudermilch at 443-974-0228 or .

A delegation of leaders from two Church of the Brethren districts–Southern Pennsylvania and Southeastern–plans to visit the Great Lakes region of Africa, from Feb. 22-March 6. The area includes nations long troubled by internal conflict and European colonization, including Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Tanzania. There are congregations identifying themselves as Church of the Brethren scattered in the region, and the purpose of the trip is to hold teaching seminars with pastors and other leaders of these congregations, with the goal of facilitating their inclusion with the larger Church of the Brethren. The delegation will travel to the DR Congo and Rwanda. The group includes Southern Pennsylvania District moderator Chris Elliott and moderator-elect Marla Abe, and Southeastern District moderator Gary Benesh. An announcement said the group hopes the visit will help in the process of officially recognizing these new Brethren at the 2017 Annual Conference. The Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service is helping to facilitate the trip, and it is funded through donations from the two districts, Brethren World Mission, the Brethren Mission Fund, congregations, and individuals.

Michigan District is taking up a District-Wide Love Offering for use by Flint Church of the Brethren, which is involved in community ministry during the water crisis in the city. The special offering was called for by the district’s Leadership Team, which is encouraging congregations to take up the offering at worship services on or before Feb. 28. “Thank you for sharing this and partnering with the followers of Christ in the Michigan District to show this tangible act of love to our Flint family in the faith,” said an announcement from district executive minister Nate Polzin.

The 2016 Meat Canning Project, a partnership of Southern Pennsylvania District and Mid-Atlantic District, is scheduled for March 28-31, April 4-5, and April 6 for labeling only. Chicken is canned to distribute to needy individuals and families. This is the 39th year for the project. The canning takes place at Christian Aid Ministries in Ephrata, Pa. The Southern Pennsylvania District newsletter includes a flier with more information about the daily schedule, dress requirements for volunteers, and more. Find it on pages 12-13 of the newsletter posted online at .

Camp Harmony is hosting a “Messiah in the Passover” Banquet on April 17, at 5 p.m. “Paul Cruz from Chosen People Ministries will be presenting this wonderful evening that opens up the Old Testament and gives Christians new insight into communion,” said an annoucement. More information will be available soon. The camp is located near Hooversville, Pa.

Camp Blue Diamond is sponsoring a Youth Symposium on the theme, “Called to Radical Discipleship,” on Saturday, March 19, from 9 a.m., to Sunday, March 20, ending at 4 p.m. The event is for senior high youth in grades 9 through 12. Cost is $45, or $40 for those who register by March 1. “The Church of the Brethren was born out a desire to live a life of radical discipleship to Jesus Christ,” said an announcement. “What does it mean to be a radical disciple today? Are you ready to grow in your spiritual journey by giving careful attention to and a deeper commitment to following Christ today? Throughout this retreat we will explore ways to better understand some of the unique challenges and exciting possibilities that come from becoming ‘Dunker Punks’ in our communities and our churches.” Leadership includes Bekah Houff, coordinator of Outreach Programs at Bethany Theological Seminary; David Witkovsky, chaplain at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa.; and special guest Emmett Eldred, founder of . The camp is located near Petersburg, Pa. Find a registration form at’s/Youth%20Symposium%202016%20Registration.pdf .

Elizabethtown (Pa.) College hosted the kick-off of Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf’s new “It’s On Us PA” campaign to increase education around consent with the hope of eradicating sexual assault on college campuses. The campaign is an extension of the 2014 White House initiative that challenged colleges to protect students from sexual assault, said a report in “The Etownian” campus newspaper. The governor’s press conference was held in the Susquehanna Room on the Elizabethtown College campus on Jan. 29.

The McPherson (Kan.) College Flory Public Policy Lecture on March 10 at 7-9 p.m. will be given by Andrew Loomis on the topic, “Economizing US Foreign Policy: Strategies and Tactics in International Conflict Prevention.” The lecture will be hosted at McPherson Church of the Brethren. Loomis, who grew up in the Church of the Brethren in central Pennsylvania, is a senior officer in the US State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. A release about the event noted this his work includes helping provide advice and support in local peace processes, developing strategy for the department to prevent violent conflicts, and working on policies that relate to conflict and unstable political environments. Previously, he worked as senior adviser to the Undersecretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, where his primary work was to develop and lead a strategy to help the State Department recognize and act upon areas where the risk of mass atrocities are high.

Photo courtesy of Brian Daniels
Byron Miller preaches at Timbercrest Chapel.


Byron Miller celebrated his 102nd birthday by preaching at the Timbercrest Chapel, at the Timbercrest retirement community in North Manchester, Ind. “It’s time to stand up for Jesus,” Miller said, quoted by Brian Daniels in a Facebook post about the unique occasion. “It’s time to flex our spiritual muscle; too many of us are content to live our spiritual lives in a rocking chair.” Miller is a resident of the community’s Neighborhood Homes and an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren.

Robyn Puffenbarger, an associate professor of biology at Bridgewater (Va.) College, has been named the first Visiting Consortium Scholar at George Mason University’s Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation. The SMSC was established to provide proactive and innovative approaches to today’s ever-evolving threats to biodiversity, said a release. Bridgewater College is a member of the SMSC and has sent nine students through the SMSC semester program. Puffenbarger, who earned her Ph.D. in molecular genetics and immunology from the Medical College of Virginia, teaches genetics, biochemistry, immunology, ornithology and non-majors biology. “As a molecular biologist, I have wanted to do more with ecological issues,” said Puffenbarger. “This past fall, my genetics students identified fish in local streams by a molecular genetic technique of DNA barcoding. This spring, with the Smithsonian researchers and their class, I am going to learn eDNA techniques. This is a way to pull and identify DNA from the environment–the ‘e’ part of eDNA.” Puffenbarger, who is also a certified master gardener, said she wants to learn the technique and set up a collaboration with Smithsonian colleagues using eDNA sampling in the Shenandoah Valley.


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