Brethren Bits for March 25, 2016

Messenger Online is a new website from Messenger, the Church of the Brethren magazine. The new website features articles that have been published in the print magazine, plus other online-only content. It is designed to be a web-based addition to the print magazine, which continues to be mailed to subscribers 10 times a year. Find the new Messenger Online at .

Shown above: the cover of the April issue of Messenger, which was mailed to subscribers this week. The cover photo is by Ralph Miner.

— The 2016 Annual Conference theme is “Carry the Light.” The Program and Arrangements Committee is inviting all congregations to send creative pictures of different ministries–such as the choir, youth activities, mission work, fundraising events, fellowship–that show how each congregation carries the light of Christ. The planners will be creating a “congregational collage” that will be displayed on the video screens in the main hall before and after gatherings for worship and business. Brethren videographer David Sollenberger will help develop the collage. The committee requests no more than 10 pictures in jpg format from each congregation, including one of the church building. The pictures may be e-mailed as jpg attachments to with the subject “Collage and [name of congregation].” Pictures are due by May 15.

— Karen Hodges has been appointed to the role of program coordinator for the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center. She brings a wide range of skills to the ministry and holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. She most recently served as administrative support assistant to the director of Undergraduate Studies, School of Business Administration, at Penn State University in Harrisburg, Pa. Prior to that role, she was coordinator of Campus Events and Scheduling at Elizabethtown College. She is an active member of Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren.

— The Youth and Young Adult Office of the Church of the Brethren is seeking a young adult to serve through Brethren Volunteer Service as an assistant to director Becky Ullom Naugle. This position, while giving a BVSer the chance to work with youth, young adults, and their advocates, will also provide opportunity to live out Christian values and consider ministry as a vocation. Ideally, the volunteer would begin in June 2016 and serve through July 2017. The volunteer’s primary responsibilities include helping to coordinate Christian Citizenship Seminar 2017, National Junior High Conference 2017, and Young Adult Conference 2017. Additional responsibilities include helping to host the National Youth Cabinet and the Young Adult Steering Committee during their meetings, as well as helping to coordinate resources for National Junior High Sunday and National Youth Sunday. Volunteers who have graduated from college and are at least 21 are the most prepared to serve in this role. Are you interested in serving or know someone who might be? For more information and/or an application, please be in touch with Becky Ullom Naugle at 847-429-4385 or .

— The Office of Public Witness invites congregations to celebrate Earth Day Sunday on April 22 by reflecting on the importance of animals as a part of God’s Creation, and our relationships with them. “Furry, feathered, finned, four-legged, and winged, the diversity of God’s creatures inspires wonder and awe,” said the announcement. “From Noah’s Ark, to barn animals surrounding baby Jesus, to Isaiah’s vision of the lion dwelling with the lamb, God’s creatures play an important role in the Bible. In the Psalms, creatures give praise to God, having their own relationship with God separate from humanity. Thus, knowing and loving God’s creatures helps us better know our Creator.” The Creation Justice Ministries of the former National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Program, has put together a collection of materials for use on Earth Day Sunday including biblical reflections, worship resources, suggested hymns, ideas for action, and more on the theme “Care for God’s Creatures.” To download the guide and other worship resources, visit .

— Jones Chapel Church of the Brethren in Figsboro, Va., celebrates its 75th anniversary on April 10. The morning worship speaker will be former pastor Tom Fralin. The worship service will be followed by a fellowship meal.

— Staunton (Va.) Church of the Brethren is issuing an invitation to a Spiritual Renewal Weekend on April 16-17, led by Annual Conference moderator-elect Carol Scheppard. She serves as vice president and academic dean of Bridgewater (Va.) College. The weekend will begin with a Dessert Social on Saturday evening at 6 p.m., followed by a Service of Lessons and Hymns with Dr. Scheppard and the Bridgewater College Chorale on the theme is “In Whom Shall We Trust?  Lessons from the Exile.” On Sunday morning, a light breakfast begins at 9:30 a.m., followed by a Town Hall Meeting with Dr. Scheppard at 10 a.m., and worship at 11 a.m. with Dr. Scheppard preaching and Dr. David Bushman, president of Bridgewater College, bringing greetings.

— For nearly two years, members of two congregations in Wenatchee, Wash., have been praying for those harmed by terrorism in Nigeria–Brethren Baptist Church United and Sunnyslope Church of the Brethren. The group started meeting for prayer after the nearly 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped from Chibok by Boko Haram. A large inter-church group came together to pray, sing, read the names of the kidnapped girls, and create cards to send love and prayers to the girls’ families and communities. A smaller group, some of whom were raised in Nigeria in missionary families, kept meeting weekly on the church lawn for prayer, sometimes joined by those passing by on the sidewalk. “We pray for the concerns sent to us by members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria),” reports Merry Roy. Prayers have gone up for peace in the country of Nigeria, provision to the displaced, condolence for those who have lost relatives, the insurgents to change their hearts and minds, the government to be just, comfort for parents who have lost children, and release of the abducted. “When a year went by and most of the girls were still captive, we continued sharing news from Nigeria, singing and praying together monthly,” Roy adds. “We are still doing that, and we invite others to join us on the third Wednesday of each month, at 7 p.m., in the library of the Brethren Baptist Church.”

— Beavercreek Church of the Brethren in Ohio has shared “a big thank you to the attendees of the Mutual Kumquat concert.” The concert on March 12 was a benefit for the Nigerian Nkeki family of seven with three hearing-impaired children. A report from the church said that the concert’s free-will offering, along with other donations, brought the total for the girls’ medical costs to $4,597 of the $6,500 needed for the cochlear implants and hearing aids. “The surgery needs to be accomplished quickly,” the report noted. “Women with disabilities, in Nigeria, have been observed to be more vulnerable to exploitations of various kinds such as domestic violence, workplace discrimination and sexual harassment. Providing the surgery to these girls increases their opportunities for education and higher quality of life while decreasing their chances of exploitation.” The church continues to receive donations for the girls’ medical costs, with a goal of receiving the total needed by May 1.

— “Second Acts: A Garden Grows in Champaign” is the title of a Wall Street Journal article about Dawn Blackman and her work as steward of the Randolph Street Community Garden in Champaign, Ill. Blackman is a member of the Champaign Church of the Brethren, which helps finance the community garden’s upkeep and runs a food pantry that helps distribute the garden’s produce to families in the community. The article written by Kristi Essick was published on March 20. “Back in 2004, when  Dawn Blackman became the steward of the Randolph Street Community Garden in Champaign, Ill., she knew almost nothing about plants,” it reports, in part. “She just wanted the garden to remain open to the neighborhood’s mostly low-income residents.” By 2015, she told the reporter, “the garden provided free fresh produce for more than 2,000 people.” Read the full story at

— Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren hosts a Choral Tribute to John Barr presented by the Shenandoah Valley Choral Society in concerts at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 15, and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 17. Barr, who is professor of organ emeritus at Bridgewater College and organist at the Bridgewater Church, is a prolific composer of organ music. The concerts will feature his choral music compositions. Tickets will be available at the door, in advance at Red Front Supermarket and Bridgewater Foods, and online at .

— Jeffrey W. Carter, president of Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., will lead a seminar at Bridgewater (Va.) College on April 5, at 3:30 p.m., speaking on the topic “Why a Seminary During Institutional Decline?” The seminar, which is free and open to the public, will take place in Bowman Hall, Room 109, and will utilize a discussion and question-and-answer format. Carter is a 1992 graduate of Bridgewater. Ordained in the Church of the Brethren, he became the 10th president of Bethany Seminary in 2013. The event is sponsored by Bridgewater’s Forum for Brethren Studies. For information contact Steve Longenecker at .

— Bridgewater (Va.) College will celebrate 136 years of its founding on April 5, presenting three awards during a 9:30 a.m. convocation in Nininger Hall. President David W. Bushman will recognize three faculty members for excellence in teaching and scholarship: Robyn A. Puffenbarger, associate professor of biology, will receive the Ben and Janice Wade Outstanding Teacher Award; Stephen F. Baron, the Harry G.M. Jopson Professor of Biology, will receive the Martha B. Thornton Faculty Recognition Award; and Scott D. Jost, associate professor of art, will receive the Faculty Scholarship Award.

— Jo Young Switzer, president emerita of Manchester Universityin Indiana, will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa. The ceremony will take place prior to her lecture on “Women and Leadership: Where Has Progress Gotten Us?” at 7:30 p.m. on April 5 in Neff Lecture Hall in the von Liebig Center for Science at Juniata College. Switzer, who was Manchester’s president from 2004-14, will speak on the effective characteristics for leadership, focusing on women in leadership roles. She has published scholarly articles on women in leadership roles, such as TV anchors, college presidents, and women at the top levels of the federal government. During her presidency at Manchester, she proposed a doctoral-level pharmacy school and secured a $35 million grant for its implementation, among other achievements. She has received numerous awards, including a 2014 Sagamore of the Wabash, the highest honor the governor can bestow on a citizen of Indiana, and the 2013 Chief Executive Leadership Award from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

— Irene and John Dale, of Moorestown, N.J., who are 1958 and 1954 graduates of Juniata College respectively, have donated $3.2 million to provide funding for a new $4.9 million Integrated Media and Studio Arts Building on the college campus in Huntingdon, Pa. The construction is scheduled to start in mid-summer. “Adding an art building has been on the agenda for every master plan the college has produced for nearly a century, but it always would get bumped by something else of higher priority,” said John Dale, in a release. He is a retired telecommunications executive who has played a significant role in the growth of Juniata’s technology curriculum. The new building will be located on the site where the college’s Raffensberger Tennis Courts now stand. This summer, the tennis facilities will move to the Winton Hill Athletic Complex. The building, which will be named during the dedication ceremony planned for Fall 2017, is a two-story instruction space featuring studios for all types of artistic media, classrooms, and faculty offices.

— Children and their parents are invited to the 14th Annual Open Door Recital at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 2, in the Elizabethtown (Pa.) College Zug Recital Hall. This year, the event features “a whole zoo of animals joining performers on the stage,” said Gene Ann Behrens, professor of music and director of music therapy, who organizes the recital each year. “A lion, an elephant, a zebra, a dolphin, a grasshopper, a lobster, a swan and a bird” will entertain children, acted out by music therapy students who perform the interactive program for children with and without special needs. A release noted that the recital, open to all families, is a unique concert in which the participation and expressions of joy by children is encouraged. A reception follows the concert so children can meet the performers. Reserve free tickets by calling 717-361-1991 or 717-361-1212.

— NRCAT, or the National Religious Coalition Against Torture, is celebrating its 10th anniversary year. “In 2015, the deep and wide collaboration of NRCAT network faith leaders brought about great gains in our mission to end torture,” said a release. “Momentum from 2015 positions us well in 2016 for an even greater voice and impact in our work to end US-sponsored torture, eliminate solitary confinement, and address anti-Muslim bigotry. Read about the work of NRCAT, in which the Church of the Brethren has participated, in the organization’s 2015 Annual Report at .

— “The $6.5 trillion in cuts over 10 years in the proposed 2017 budget by the House of Representatives will push millions more American working families and children into hunger and poverty,” says a release from Bread for the World. The spending cuts target programs that assist poor and working-class families, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) and Medicaid. “Budget cuts of this magnitude will have devastating consequences for working families and their children, potentially pushing millions further into hunger and poverty,” said David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, in the release. “Right now, more than 48 million Americans struggle to put food on the table. If these spending cuts are put into place, this number will rise dramatically.” In addition to proposing deep cuts to SNAP and Medicaid, the House is considering limiting families’ eligibility for the child tax credit. The proposed budget would also repeal the Affordable Care Act, and cut Medicaid by more than $1 trillion over 10 years. Currently, one out of three people with chronic medical conditions must choose between treating these conditions or feeding themselves and their families. The spending cuts would also impact overseas poverty-focused development-assistance programs. “It has been a long time since our country has made ending hunger and poverty a national priority,” added Beckmann. “If we want this to happen, then we must vote people into office who will do something about it. We need to have members of Congress who will solve hunger and poverty, not worsen it for America’s working families and children.”

— The World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit has strongly condemned the terror attacks carried out in Brussels as “wicked and indiscriminate,” and is calling for prayers for those affected. More than 30 people were killed and 170 more injured on March 22 when the Brussels Zaventem international airport and a city metro station near the European Union and the Ecumenical Centre in Brussels, were both bombed. “I grieve such a wicked and indiscriminate attack on ordinary human beings has taken place in Brussels, in a way that suggests a deliberate targeting of the heart of Europe,” said Tveit, in a WCC release. He noted, “Apart from the loss and suffering this act of violence has directly caused, it creates wider tensions which make it more difficult for Europe and Europeans to play the constructive role they need to in support of those who are seeking to escape the ongoing agony which is being experienced in several parts of the Middle East.”

— Evelyn Dick and Janet Elliott have co-authored and published the book “Life on the Edge,” telling the story of the years that Evelyn and her late husband, Leroy, were missionaries in Haiti. Over the years, many congregations in the Church of the Brethren supported their work and sent teams to help build the church they started in Port-au-Prince. Evelyn (Burkholder) Dick grew up in Lancaster County, Pa., and in 1951 married Leroy Dick and nurtured a family of four children as a Church of the Brethren pastor’s wife. By the mid-1970s, the two felt God’s call to Haiti, where they worked for more than 34 years. She now lives in Goshen, Ind., and continues to be active in the Vine Ministry that she and her husband planted in Port-au-Prince. “The two survived political unrest, emergency evacuations, theft, dungee fever, copper poisoning, along with other challenges,” said a description of the book. “They formed Vine Ministry which started a church and medical clinic. Over the years they conducted pastoral and literacy trainings along with student education sponsorships. They also provided training for rooftop gardening in order to help families become more self supporting. ‘Life on the Edge’ chronicles the blessings and challenges the Dicks experienced while living in Haiti.” The book is available through the Vine Ministry, Inc., P.O. Box 967, Goshen, IN 46526 or .


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