Brethren Bits for March 17, 2016


Two new online resources feature Church of the Brethren speakers:
Above: Office of Public Witness director Nathan Hosler has recorded a podcast for the National Council of Churches (NCC) on the topic, “When Following Jesus Meets Boko Haram.” This is one of a new podcast series from the NCC, on a number of topics of interest to the Christian community in the United States and around the world. Find the podcast at .
Below: Pastor Martin Hutchinson of Community of Joy Church of the Brethren has given a TED Talk answering questions like “How can vacant lots be transformed? And how can you convince children to WANT to eat vegetables and do chores?” The video of this inspiring presentation is now available on the homepage of the Global Food Crisis Fund at .

— A memorial service for Mary Jo Flory-Steury, former associate general secretary of the Church of the Brethren and executive director of the Office of Ministry, will be held at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The service is set for Saturday, April 2, at 2 p.m. (central time). Another service will be held in Ohio on Saturday, April 23, at 2 p.m. (Eastern time) at Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren in Kettering. Flory-Steury passed away on March 4.

— Remembrance: Shirley Jackson (Heckman) Snelling, 87, who worked in the area of Christian education for the Church of the Brethren in the 1970s and 1980s, died Feb. 16 in Denver, Colo. She was born Oct. 7, 1928, to Gilbert Mansfield Jackson and Imogene Mast Jackson in Roundup, Mont., and was raised in Sheridan, Wyo., where she was one of two women in the first class of Sheridan College in 1948. She earned a master’s degree in Religious Education from Iliff School of Theology and a doctorate in Education from the University of Denver. She was the first woman to instruct at St. Thomas Seminary in Denver, heading the Division of History and Social Science, and at that time was the only woman, the only Protestant, and the only layperson on the faculty. She also taught for two years each at Iliff School of Theology and Goddard Middle School in Littleton Colo. She married Earl Heckman in 1949, and the couple was very active in Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren in Littleton. In 1971, they moved to Elgin, Ill., where she took a position as director of Education for the former General Board of Church of the Brethren. In that role, she was a denominational delegate to the World Council of Churches, created educational curriculum, authored or edited several books, and traveled to many places including Europe, China, and India. In 1989, she joined the staff of the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) and from 1989-92 worked for the ICA in Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire. In 1992, she returned to the US to care for her son Alan during his illness. During the 1990s she worked for the ICA in Phoenix, Ariz. She married Clarence Snelling, a long-time Denver family friend, in 2000. She was preceded in death by ex-husband Earl Heckman and son Alan James Heckman. She is survived by her husband Dr. Clarence H. Snelling Jr.; children John Heckman (Faith), Cynthia Heckman-Davis (Ken), Anita Heckman (Jack Nelson); stepchildren David Snelling (Penny), Claire Nord (Mark), Ben Snelling; grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The family has expressed appreciation for the assistance and care provided at the end of her life by the Clarebridge Memory Care unit at Brookdale Parkplace in Denver, and by Halcyon Hospice and Palliative Care. Memorial gifts are received to the Resource Center for Nonviolence in Santa Cruz, Calif., and Park Hill United Methodist Church in Denver.

— Remembrance: Hubert R. Newcomer, who worked on the Church of the Brethren denominational staff from 1964-1976, died on March 10 in North Manchester, Ind. Newcomer served in a number of roles on the denominational staff, including as director of stewardship, Annual Conference manager, director of field services and personnel, and consultant in Brethren congregational renewal. In 1977 he moved from Elgin, Ill., to Sebring, Fla., to serve as administrator for the Church of the Brethren-related retirement community there. With his wife, Alice, he co-directed the first National Older Adult Conference (NOAC), after he retired from the Palms of Sebring in 1988. He was a graduate of McPherson (Kan.) College and of Bethany Theological Seminary. Prior to his service for the denomination, he was a pastor for some 12 years in Indiana and Illinois. He was born on June 27, 1922, in Kosciusko County, Ind. Early in his adult life he farmed and did carpentry and construction work. A memorial service will be held at Manchester Church of the Brethren on Saturday, March 19, at 2 p.m. His wife, Alice Newcomer, survives him, and continues to reside at the Timbercrest Retirement Community in North Manchester.

— Remembrance: Henry Lawrence Rice, 94, of Roanoke, Va., passed away on March 4. He had served as district executive of the Church of the Brethren’s former First District of Virginia from 1957-68, and as district executive of the Southern District of Virginia from 1962-68. During his tenure the district offices were constructed in 1966 as part of the Friendship Manor complex. Following his service as district executive, he became the administrator of Friendship Manor from 1968-90. During his administration, Friendship Manor became one of the largest health, rehabilitation, and retirement facilities of its kind in Virginia. Prior to his service as a district executive, he pastored churches in Virginia and Pennsylvania, including a “drive-in church” during the 1950s. He was born on May 7, 1921, the son of Charles H. and Mollie Virginia Rice of Frederick County, Md. A graduate of Bethany Biblical Seminary in Chicago, Ill., he was advanced to the eldership in 1945 at Roanoke Oak Grove Church of the Brethren. He is survived by his wife of 74 years, Mary Reed Rice; sons Eric and Stephen; and other family members. Service arrangements are pending at Oakey’s South Chapel in Roanoke.

— Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., has announced personnel transitions in campus ministry. Walt Wiltschek is completing six-plus years as university pastor and director of church relations, and is departing for a position at Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia. Rebekah (Bekah) Houff has been named university pastor, working part-time until May 2 when she transitions to fulltime from her current position at Bethany Theological Seminary. Houff earned her bachelor of arts in philosophy and religion at Bridgewater (Va.) College and completed a master of divinity degree at Bethany. Since 2012 she has served as coordinator of outreach programs for the seminary. In other service to the Church of the Brethren, she served in the youth and young adult ministry through Brethren Volunteer Service. As a BVS volunteer she coordinated the National Young Adult Conference in 2008, and the National Junior High Conference in 2009. Also in 2009, she was a young adult volunteer at the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches and Church World Service, where she served as a head steward. More recently she was on the task team that created the denominational vision statement adopted by Annual Conference in 2012, and also served on the Vision Interpretation and Presentation Committee that offered additional resources for the vision statement. Her responsibilities at Manchester University will include facilitating campus religious life, promoting interfaith understanding, and integrating faith and learning in the university community.

— Bethany Theological Seminary has announced new personnel:
Brian Schleeper was promoted to coordinator of student financial services and Title IX on Jan. 13. In addition to ensuring that Bethany maintains legal compliance with the US Department of Education, his responsibilities include granting student financial aid and coordinating the seminary’s participation in the Federal Work-Study Program. He has served in the Student and Business Services Department since coming to Bethany in 2007.

Brian Mackie of Hagerstown, Ind., has been named coordinator of 2016 programs for the Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults. He will serve from March 1 to July 31 focusing on the Explore Your Call summer discernment program for high school students, and the Immerse! experience for junior high students. He is a 2007 graduate of Bethany’s master of divinity program and brings experience as pastor of White Branch Church of the Brethren and Nettle Creek Church of the Brethren in Indiana, and as a former campus pastor in Michigan. He will continue in his congregational ministry while working with the seminary.

— Russ Barb, pastor of Buena Vista/Stone Church of the Brethren, has been named director of pastoral care at Bridgewater (Va.) Retirement Community, effective April 4.

— Camp Colorado, in the Church of the Brethren’s Western Plains District, is seeking a seasonal camp manager to lead day-to-day operations during the summer camping season from approximately Memorial Day through Labor Day. This fulltime position is responsible for the general care and supervision of the camp, assisting with camper arrivals and departures, managing and collecting rental fees, actively seeking renters for open weeks on the schedule, ensuring camp property and grounds are maintained for safety and preservation, and helping to identify longterm needs of the camp. “Come spend the summer in the beautiful mountains of Colorado!” said an announcement. For more information see the Camp Manager Position Description at or contact Dennis Kingery, Camp Colorado Board Chair, at or 303-921-1766.

— Christian Elliott, Gary Benesh, and Marla Bieber Abe recently returned from a visit to the African Great Lakes region. The group visited churches that are in dialogue with the Church of the Brethren, including churches in Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. They also saw agricultural projects that have been started, listened to needs, and presented two seminars on Brethren practices of baptism, love feast, and anointing. The group also visited refugee camps and church leaders working with the issues of Burundian refugees including Etienne Nsanzimana, Ron Lubungo, and David Niyozima. Trauma healing is a big part of the ministry with refugees, due to the continuing warfare and genocide in the area. “They covet our prayers and were so grateful to know that people in the US are hearing their stories,” the group reported.

— Upcoming events sponsored by the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center offer continuing education credit for ministers and others who are interested:
“Memory Care: Embracing the Journey” takes place April 4, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., led by Jennifer Holcomb at the Nicarry Meetinghouse of Cross Keys Village-The Brethren Home Community in New Oxford, Pa. This course explores the world of dementia and what it means to live in the moment. Students will learn about the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease, the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, the physical changes that take place in the brain and the need for sensitivity throughout the aging process. Cost is $60, which includes a light breakfast, lunch, and .5 continuing education credits. The registration deadline is March 17.

“The Book of Chronicles and the Church” is April 27, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m., in the Susquehanna Room at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College led by Steven Schweitzer of Bethany Seminary, with Old Testament scholars Bob Neff and Christina Bucher. The book of Chronicles contains an alternative vision of Israel’s past, one that promotes innovation while remaining faithful to the people’s heritage. While the book of Kings explains why the people ended up in exile, the book of Chronicles was written after the exile in the midst of significant cultural shifts to provide a way forward. Participants will think together about how Chronicles may help the church be faithful in the midst of cultural change. The cost of $60 includes a light breakfast, lunch, and .6 continuing education credits. Registration is due by April 11.

“Memory Care: Life with Purpose” takes place July 25, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., led by Jennifer Holcomb at the Nicarry Meetinghouse of Cross Keys Village-The Brethren Home Community. Students will learn how to integrate individuals with a neurocognitive disorder into the faith community. This course will explore the value of engaging in friendships, the importance of faith for those who have dementia, practical tips on how to be present with the person, and how to care for the caregiver. This day will conclude with a tour of the newly constructed Memory Care Residence at Cross Keys Village. Registration costs $60 and includes a continental breakfast, lunch, and .5 continuing education credits. The deadline to register is July 7.

For registration forms and more information contact the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center, One Alpha Dr., Elizabethtown, PA 17022; 717-361-1450; .

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
The Seagoing Cowboy

— Brethren Press has extended the deadline for group orders of “The Seagoing Cowboy” after learning that some of the promotional packets for this new illustrated children’s book were delayed in the mail. To give churches more time to gather their group orders, the deadline has been extended to March 22.” “The Seagoing Cowboy” is about the experience of volunteers who accompanied Heifer Project livestock to Europe following World War II, written by Peggy Reiff Miller and illustrated by Claire Ewart. Call Brethren Press customer service at 800-441-3712 with questions or to change an existing order. Churches may call in to modify their existing orders as needed.

— Church of the Brethren congregations are invited to celebrate National Youth Sunday on May 1. The National Youth Cabinet selected Psalm 23 as the scriptural focus for the theme “Mountains or Valleys, the Lord Is Our Shepherd.” A wide variety of worship resources are posted at .

— A theme for the year has been announced by Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The theme is based on scripture and displayed on banners hung in the churches for that year. This year, at the request of EYN leaders including president Samuel Dali,  every church has been asked to use the theme “Accepting God’s Gift of Grace” (2 Corinthians 6:1).

Photo courtesy of Joel Pena
The delegation that traveled to Venezuela explored possibilities for connecting with churches interested in the Church of the Brethren

— On March 2-9, a delegation from the Church of the Brethren traveled to Venezuela to visit groups exploring the possibility of establishing a relationship with the denomination. The group included Fausto Carrasco, Daniel D’Oleo, and Joel Pena, joining leaders from the Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic.

— On Dec. 23, 2015, Oakley Brick Church of the Brethren near Cerro Gordo, Ill., was heavily damaged by strong winds. The Illinois and Wisconsin District newsletter reports that the “building has been weakened to the point that its future is uncertain but the congregation remains strong. They continue worshiping together in the Brintlinger and Earl Funeral Home in Cerro Gordo with an average of 40 in attendance. The spirit of the congregation is high as they patiently wait to learn what next steps will be regarding the status of the damaged building.” Congregations in the district and surrounding communities have reached out to the Oakley Brick congregation, but supportive cards, letters, and calls are all still appreciated, reported the district.

— The Mid-Atlantic District office will move from the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., to Westminster (Md.) Church of the Brethren, by June 1. The district newsletter cited reasons for the move including finances, space constraints at the current location, and the fact that “the BSC is up for sale, and our tenancy situation is unsettled.” The new location will include two adjoining office spaces and use of a large conference room at the Westminster Church. “We’re grateful to Westminster for their invitation and generosity in making this opportunity available,” said the announcement.

— A performance of “12 Baskets and a Goat” in South Central Indiana District raised $6,250 for Heifer International. The total was a result of a “cute goat, along with 40 baskets donated by congregations and individuals, as well as a stellar performance by Ted & Co., and a church full of generous people,” said a report from the district. “Many thanks to all who supported this in a variety of ways.”

— “Illinois’ failure to pass a budget has slowed payments to our two retirement communities, Pinecrest Community in Mount Morris and Pleasant Hill Village in Girard, leaving them in great need–a need so great it has reached crisis proportions,” said a letter from the Illinois and Wisconsin District leadership team. The letter calls on congregations in the district to consider responding with additional financial support for the two retirement communities. “Both communities have had to resort to extended bank loans and have nearly exhausted their lines of credit. A solution to the State’s budget impasse does not appear in sight. Some sources predict it may last the entire fiscal year,” the letter said, in part.

— Northern Plains District is planning a Heritage Tour 2016 for later this summer. “Join us for this busy, fun, educational, historical tour Aug. 7-14,” said an announcement in the district newsletter. The tour will include Brethren heritage sites such as Ephrata Cloister, Germantown Church of the Brethren, the John Kline Homestead, Antietam Civil War Battlefield. It also includes the Flight 93 Memorial, historical Philadelphia, and more. Travel is by bus. Registrations are due April 1. The registration fee is $250. Total cost for the trip is $995. Contact 319-230-9554.

— Virlina District holds its Pilgrimage XX on April 1-3 at Camp Bethel. “Pilgrimage is a spiritual retreat for adults of all ages, and God is working through this ministry in wonderful ways,” said an announcement. The weekend includes talks, small groups, fun times, inspiring worship services, and more. For more information go to .

— Manchester University’s weekly “Faith on the Fives” worship time continues on Tuesday afternoons during the spring semester. The university’s campus ministry has announced a line-up of guest speakers that includes South/Central Indiana District executive Beth Sollenberger and Northern Indiana District executive Torin Eikler, Church of the Brethren pastor and author Frank Ramirez, Christian Peacemaker Teams member Cliff Kindy, Church of the Brethren pastor and Manchester alumna Val Kline, and Office of Public Witness director Nate Hosler.

— Camp Colorado is holding its first camp alumni reunion on July 22-24. “Alums! Do you love Camp Colorado and miss those summer days of hiking, games, camp fires, camp food, and being with friends who love the same? Then you will be excited to learn we invite you back,” said an announcement. Adults age 18 and up are invited to the event. Registration costs $75. Some details are available on the camp’s website, and more will be posted at .

— The Global Women’s Project Steering Committee met in Harrisonburg, Va., on March 11-13. The group worshiped with Linville Creek Church of the Brethren on Sunday.

— “Going Forth in the Name and Power of the Risen Christ” is the theme of the spiritual disciplines folder provided by the Springs of Living Water initiative for church renewal for the Great 50 Days, the season from Easter to Pentecost. “In the early church and for us today, this is a season for renewal of the church, the baptism of new believers and celebrating the sightings of the Risen Lord,” said an announcement. The spiritual disciplines folder runs from March 28 until May 25, designed for individuals and entire congregations to read daily scriptures together and discover words or themes for daily living. The Bible study questions for individuals and small groups are written by Vince Cable, interim pastor of Fairchance Church of the Brethren. Find the resource at . For more information contact Springs founders David and Joan Young at or 717-615-4515.

— Washington City Church of the Brethren, just blocks away from the US Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., is featured in the March edition of the “Brethren Voices” community television program produced by Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren. The Washington congregation is described as “a small church on Capitol Hill that is committed to continuing the work of Jesus: peacefully, simply, and together.” The church hosts the Brethren Nutrition Program, a soup kitchen that has served good meals to those in need for many years utilizing a dedicated core of volunteers and a resource of food and produce. Recently the congregation has implemented a free ministry model, believing strongly in the “priesthood of all believers.” The ministry team consists of Jeff Davidson and Jennifer and Nathan Hosler, who each depend on other employment for their livelihood. The program can be viewed at . DVD copies may be obtained from producer Ed Groff at .

— Elizabethtown (Pa.) College will bring Vietnam War survivor Phan Thi Kim Phúc to present the 10th Annual Judy S. and Paul W. Ware Lecture on April 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Leffler Chapel. Other peace- and war-related events will accompany the “Girl in the Picture” lecture. “Kim Phúc is the woman in the iconic Vietnam War photo of a girl running naked in the road after being burned by Napalm,” said a release from the college. “All of the events are free, and no tickets or reservations are required for any events except the lecture.” Additional events include a photography exhibit titled “War and Peace,” and a panel discussion by Vietnam War conscientious objectors at 7 p.m. on March 30, in Gibble Auditorium–professor emeritus of history Kenneth Kreider, Titus Peachey who recently retired from Mennonite Central Committee, and professor emeritus of religion Eugene Clemens. Tickets for the Ware Lecture are free but must be reserved by contacting 717-361-4757 or .

— The National Council of Churches (NCC) executive committee traveled to Florida to meet with the Coalition of Imokalee Workers (CIW) on the eve of the Workers’ Voice Tour to raise awareness of the plight of those who pick most of the tomatoes in the United States. A release from the NCC reported that the CIW tour will stay in and be hosted by local churches. “A major focus on this year’s tour will be to apply pressure to Wendy’s, a fast food chain with more than 6,000 restaurants,” the release said. “Wendy’s continues to refuse to join the Fair Food Program and even to talk with the coalition. Wendy’s CEO, Emil Brolick, was president of Taco Bell when that company signed an agreement with CIW which came as a result of a boycott endorsed by the National Council of Churches.” The NCC has long stood by farmworkers in their struggle for justice, and release noted, and more than 40 years ago the NCC joined the boycott of iceberg lettuce and table grapes as a means of supporting Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. More recently, the NCC supported the National Farm Worker Ministry and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee in an effort to secure better pay and working conditions for farmworkers in North Carolina. Today the Fair Food Program now includes McDonald’s, Subway, Wal-Mart, Burger King, Trader Joe’s, and other major corporations, and “has made a discernible, positive difference in the lives of Florida farmworkers,” the release said.

— A photo contest sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC) invites submissions of images of water in everyday life. The contest is part of the Lenten campaign “Seven Weeks for Water.” The Ecumenical Water Network is promoting the photo contest on Instagram. EWN advocates for water justice, focusing on situations where people do not have access to water. During the last weeks of the 2016 campaign, EWN wants to create a platform where photo enthusiasts worldwide can share images of water and interact with each other. The photo contest began March 7 and continues to March 27, Easter Sunday, and is open to all people who use Instagram. To join the contest, post pictures that show how water is important in your life, that show how you perceive the abundance or scarcity of this natural resource, and that show how water is related to issues of justice and peace. Use the hash tag #7Weeks4Water when posting images. The WCC team will select the best pictures and republish them in WCC social media channels, giving credit to photographers. Winners will be announced on April 1.

— A rally to demand justice for Dalit (or so-called “untouchable”) Christians and Muslims was held in New Delhi, India, on March 10. The Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service office brought attention to the event, in which “churches from all over India gathered…pressing the government to render status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims,” according to a report from the rally. “Church leaders and  people gathered at the Silent Rally, stood in protest with a black cloth covering their mouth signifying their silent demand that they should be granted their rights without discrimination on basis of religion.” The event was organized by the National Council of Dalit Christians, with participation of member churches CNI Church of North India, CSI Church of South India, Marthoma Church, NCCI and other churches of India. The event culminated with a call to amend the Constitutional Scheduled Caste Order of 1950. According to the report, 70 percent of India’s 25 million Christians come from the Dalit background.

Photo courtesy of First Church of the Brethren in York, Pa.
Jaewoo Kim is one of the high schoolers from First Church of the Brethren in York, Pa., to score wins in recent science fairs and other events.

— The Germantown area of Philadelphia, Pa., is the site for a Good Friday Stations of the Cross Walk and Service starting at 4 p.m. on March 25, sponsored by Heeding God’s Call which works on gun violence issues. “Come join your neighbors to remember, walk, and pray together for peace in our world,” said an invitation. The walk begins at First United Methodist Church of Germantown and proceeds to Germantown and Walnut Lane, the site of a murder in 2014, continues to Washington Lane and Ross Street, another murder site, and ends at the church where it started. For information contact .

— Three high schoolers at First Church of the Brethren in York, Pa., are receiving congratulations from their congregation for winning efforts at a state STEM competition, a York County science fair, and other recent events. Jaewoo Kim won first place in the 2016 York County Science and Engineering Fair. J.J. Soyke and team mates came in third out of 55 teams in the area’s K’Nex competition. Josh Kovacs and team mates created a pothole tracking device that won first place at the regional level of the Governor’s Pennsylvania STEM competition, and will compete in the state finals in May. “This year, the Governor’s PA STEM Competition challenged teams of students to create a project or device that would have the potential to improve Pennsylvanians’ quality of life,” said a report about the event. “At the state level, top prize is a $2,000 scholarship for each member of the team.”

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