National Young Adult Conference Speakers to Focus on ‘Creating Harmony’

By Becky Ullom Naugle

National Young Adult Conference 2016 will take place May 27-30 on the campus of Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind. Participants will focus on Colossians 3:12-17 and the theme “Creating Harmony.” The schedule includes worship, fellowship, recreation, Bible study, and service projects. Speakers include Christy Dowdy, Jim Grossnickle-Batterton, Drew Hart, Eric Landram, Waltrina Middleton, and Richard Zapata.

Christy Dowdy is pastor of Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon, Pa., in Middle Pennsylvania District. The church is just across the street from the campus of Juniata College, and also serves the college community. She first came to the Stone Church as a co-pastor with her husband Dale in 1999, and continues to serve as pastor following his retirement in 2015. She and her husband had pastored together since 1990. She is a graduate of McPherson (Kan.) College and Bethany Theological Seminary.

Jim Grossnickle-Batterton grew up in west central Illinois in the Church of the Brethren. As a youth he grew disaffected with the church and spent a long season in a spiritual wilderness. When he returned years later, he experienced a different openness to questions of faith in the wider denomination. He joined the San Antonio Catholic Worker as a Brethren Volunteer Service worker, and ended up volunteering and leading the community for nine years. Offering hospitality at the Catholic Worker house inspired his seminary focus on biblical and practical hospitality. He currently does admissions work for Bethany Theological Seminary.

Drew G. I. Hart is a doctoral candidate in theology, a part-time professor, and a writer, with 10 years of pastoral experience. He received a master of divinity degree from Biblical Theological Seminary and a biblical studies degree from Messiah College. His blog, “Taking Jesus Seriously,” is hosted at Christian Century, and he speaks regularly in churches, colleges, and conferences. His book “Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism,” expands the church’s frameworks for understanding racism through storytelling and critical reflection, and offers Christian practices for the journey forward. It is available to order through Brethren Press at or 800-441-3712.

Eric Landram grew up in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia and currently serves as pastor of Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. He is a graduate of Bridgewater (Va.) College where he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He graduated from Bethany Theological Seminary in May 2015 with a master of divinity degree. After college, he worked for the state of Virginia serving those with severe mental illnesses by leading groups, assisting with treatment plans, and planning for discharge back into the community.

Waltrina N. Middleton is associate for National Youth Event Programing with the United Church of Christ. She is founder/organizer of Cleveland Action, an organization committed to social justice and human rights advocacy in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. She was recognized by Rejuvenate Magazine as one of 40 Under 40 Professionals to Watch in Nonprofit Religious Sector, and the Center for American Progress’s 16 to Watch in 2016. She is the inaugural Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Fellowship Scholar, a Ministry Fellow of the former Fund for Theological Education, and a Duke University Ministry Fellow. She is presently researching and writing on the topic “Poetics of Lament: Reclaiming the Womanist Divine.”

Richard Zapata was born in Quito, Ecuador, and has lived in the US since 1982. Since 1991, he has pastored several Hispanic congregations. His bi-cultural background and focus on the Hispanic community in the US has led to a number of opportunities and church leadership roles such as church planter, missionary, teacher, worship leader, and pastor. He also worked 14 years in a large Fortune 500 corporation in a supervisor role. His college coursework has included study at Azusa Pacific University, LeTourneau University, Mid-South Bible College (now Victory University), and Seminario Bíblico Hispano. He and his wife Becky are pastoring Príncipe de Paz Church of the Brethren in southern California, having been called to the pastorate after the death of Richard’s father and former pastor, Rodrigo Zapata. Richard is currently undertaking the SeBAH program of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, working toward ordination.

Register online for National Young Adult Conference at . The registration fee of $250 includes food, lodging, and programing. At the request of a participant, a scholarship request for $125 will be sent to the participant’s congregation. Scholarships also are available to young adults currently serving in Brethren Volunteer Service. For questions contact 847-429-4385 or .

— Becky Ullom Naugle directs the Church of the Brethren’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry, and is a staff member of Congregational Life Ministries.

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