Newsline for Feb. 12, 2016

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Stan Noffsinger and Josh Brockway lead in the anointing of ashes at this week’s chapel service at the Church of the Brethren General Offices, held on Ash Wednesday. This has been Noffsinger’s last week in the office of the general secretary.

“Return to the Lord…for [God] is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing” (Joel 2:13b).

1) Sarpiya and Wiltschek top Annual Conference ballot for 2016
2) Spiritual preparation for Annual Conference in Greensboro
3) Four members join the Youth Peace Travel Team for 2016
4) Church of the Brethren signs letter urging federal action to aid Flint
5) Brethren Volunteer Service holds connection dinners in Pennsylvania, Kansas
6) Brethren bits

Quote of the week:

“The most prophetic, the greatest effort for justice starts with our inner life and works its way out into the world…. If we really want to be about justice in this world we must start from our own mortality…. This might be one of the most prophetic things that we can do.”

— Joshua Brockway in a meditation for the Ash Wednesday chapel service at the Church of the Brethren General Offices. Brockway is director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship and a member of the denomination’s Congregational Life Ministries staff. Joining Brockway in anointing the congregation with ashes–a symbol of repentance at the start of the season of Lent–was Stanley J. Noffsinger, who completed his term as general secretary of the Church of the Brethren this week.

ANNUAL CONFERENCE REGISTRATION OPENS FEB. 17: Online registration for the 2016 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren, and hotel reservations for the Conference, open Wednesday, Feb. 17, at 12 noon (central time). Annual Conference takes place on June 29-July 3 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, N.C. The online registration that opens Feb. 17 is for both delegates and nondelegates. After registering for the Conference, a link to register for the Conference hotel, the Sheraton Greensboro, will be provided. This year there is only one Conference hotel and it is a part of the same building as the Koury Convention Center, making for less walking for Conference-goers. To register beginning at noon (central) on Feb. 17, go to and click on “Register Now.” For questions please call the Conference Office at 847-429-4365.

Photos by Glenn Riegel
Samuel Sarpiya (left) and Walt Wiltschek (right) are on the ballot for the 2016 Annual Conference as nominees for the position of moderator-elect.

1) Sarpiya and Wiltschek top Annual Conference ballot for 2016

The Conference Office has released the ballot that will be presented to the delegate body at the 2016 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren this summer. Topping the ballot are two nominees for Annual Conference moderator-elect: Samuel Sarpiya and Walt Wiltschek. Other offices to be filled by election of the delegate body are positions on the Program and Arrangements Committee, Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee, Mission and Ministry Board, Bethany Seminary board of trustees, Brethren Benefit Trust board, and On Earth Peace board.

On the ballot for the position of moderator-elect are Samuel Kefas Sarpiya of Rockford, Ill., an ordained minister, pastor, and church planter in Illinois and Wisconsin District who has been active in local peacemaking efforts; and Walt Wiltschek of Broadway, Va., an ordained minister, writer, and editor, who has served in campus ministry at Manchester University and is a past editor of “Messenger” magazine.

Following are nominees for other positions to be filled by election in 2016, listed by position:

Program and Arrangements Committee
Emily Shonk Edwards of Nellysford, Va., and Staunton (Va.) Church of the Brethren
John Shafer of Oakton, Va., and Oakton Church of the Brethren.

Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee
Raymond Flagg of Lebanon, Pa., and Annville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren
Elsie Holderread of McPherson, Kan., and McPherson Church of the Brethren

Mission and Ministry Board

Area 3:
Marcus Harden of Gotha, Fla., and Miami (Fla.) First Church of the Brethren
John Mueller of Fleming Island, Fla., and Jacksonville (Fla.) Church of the Brethren

Area 4:
Katie Carlin of Monument, N.M., and Clovis (N.M.) Church of the Brethren
Luci Landes of Kansas City, Mo., and Messiah Church of the Brethren in Kansas City, Mo.

Area 5:
Thomas Dowdy of Long Beach, Calif., and Imperial Heights Church of the Brethren in Los Angeles, Calif.
Mark Ray of Covington, Wash., and Covington Community Church of the Brethren

Bethany Theological Seminary

Representing the laity:
Miller Davis (incumbent) of Westminster, Md., and Westminster Church of the Brethren
Robert C. Johansen of Granger, Ind., and Crest Manor Church of the Brethren in South Bend, Ind.

Representing the colleges:
Mark A. Clapper of Elizabethtown, Pa., and Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren
Bruce W. Clary of McPherson, Kan., and McPherson Church of the Brethren

Brethren Benefit Trust board
Katherine Allen Haff of North Manchester, Ind., and Manchester Church of the Brethren
David L. Shissler of Hummelstown, Pa., and Hershey (Pa.) Spring Creek Church of the Brethren

On Earth Peace board 
Beverly Sayers Eikenberry of North Manchester, Ind., and Manchester Church of the Brethren
Mary Kay Snider Turner of Gettysburg, Pa., and Gettysburg/Marsh Creek Church of the Brethren

For more information about the 2016 Annual Conference to take place June 29-July 3 in Greensboro, N.C., go to .

2) Spiritual preparation for Annual Conference in Greensboro

By Andy Murray

Annual Conference 2016 will be held in Greensboro, N.C., on June 29-July 3, on the theme, “Carry the Light.”

In his Lenten devotional, “Let Us Also Go,” Chris Bowman summons us for a challenging journey that leads through the darkness of Good Friday to the Light of Easter Sunday. It is a good reminder that for Christians to “carry the light” we must also prepare ourselves with confession, prayer, and discipline that acknowledges the darkness that surrounds us and, at times, occupies us.

I ask that Brethren who will support Conference as delegates, attendees, or prayer partners do two things in preparation for our time together. The first is to use the 40 days of Lent as a special time of reflection and to follow a daily discipline of prayer and devotion. For this purpose, Brother Bowman has prepared a rewarding guide. If you do not already have it, you can order it or download it from Brethren Press (go to or call 800-441-3712).

The second is to join Christians worldwide on Pentecost for a day of prayer and fasting. You will hear more about this as Pentecost draws near. For now, join me in a Lenten passage from darkness to Light.

— Andy Murray is moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference.

3) Four members join the Youth Peace Travel Team for 2016

By Becky Ullom Naugle

The members of the 2016 Youth Peace Travel Team have been announced. As the team spends time with youth this summer at camps across the denomination, they will teach about peace, justice, and reconciliation, all core values throughout the Church of the Brethren’s 300-plus year history.

Members of the team for 2016 are:

Phoebe Hart of Roanoke, Va., and Oak Grove Church of the Brethren in Virlina District

Kiana Simonson of Modesto, Calif., and Modesto Church of the Brethren in Pacific Southwest District

Jenna Walmer of Mount Joy, Pa., and Palmyra Church of the Brethren in Atlantic Northeast District

Sara White of Huntingdon, Pa., and Stone Church of the Brethren in Middle Pennsylvania District

Follow the ministry of the 2016 Youth Peace Travel Team by visiting . The Youth Peace Travel Team is cooperatively sponsored by the Outdoor Ministries Association, On Earth Peace, Bethany Theological Seminary, and the Church of the Brethren.

— Becky Ullom Naugle is director of Youth and Young Adult ministries for the Church of the Brethren and serves on the staff of Congregational Life Ministries.

4) Church of the Brethren signs letter urging federal action to aid Flint

By Katie Furrow

“But seek the welfare of the city…and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7).

In response to the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Mich., the Church of the Brethren and a number of other Christian groups who represent Creation Justice Ministries, the former National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Program, have signed onto a letter praising the charitable actions of faith groups while also urging Congress and the Obama administration to take action to resolve the situation.

In part, the letter calls on the federal government “to leverage federal resources to ensure the City of Flint can get new, safe water infrastructure as quickly as possible” and to “take decisive action to reverse trends of environmental racism by ensuring community members are meaningfully engaged in all environmental decisions that will impact them, including selecting their water supply.”

The entire letter, along with statements from faith leaders across the country, can be read at .

— Katie Furrow is a food, hunger, and gardening associate for the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness and the Global Food Crisis Fund.

5) Brethren Volunteer Service holds connection dinners in Pennsylvania, Kansas

Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) staff will be visiting and holding “Connection” meal events in McPherson, Kan., on Feb. 28, and in Elizabethtown, Pa., on March 13. These meal events are an opportunity for prospective volunteers, those interested in BVS, and BVS alumni and friends to enjoy food, fellowship, and stories about the volunteer experience.

“Join us for food, fellowship, and stories!” said an invitation. “Whether you’re a long-time supporter or interested in learning more about Brethren Volunteer Service, all are welcome. BVS will be providing a free, simple meal while a group gathers to share stories from any BVS alumni present. Elizaeth Batten from the BVS office recruitment staff will talk about BVS and its work in our world as well as how you can become involved.”

A Connections Dinner takes place at McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren on Sunday, Feb. 28, at 5 p.m. A Connections Lunch at Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren is planned for Sunday, March 13, after worship.

For questions or more information contact Elizabeth Batten at or 269-816-0804, or “attend” the Facebook event on the BVS Facebook page. 

The founder of Circleville (Ohio) Church of the Brethren is being honored among other local African-American trailblazers, according to an article in the “Circleville Herald.” Church founder John H. May was one of 175 African-American men who in 1870 met in Circleville to discuss the happenings of the April election that year, the newspaper reported. “They had attempted to exercise the newly acquired right to vote. News articles of that day reported a conspiracy in the state of Ohio to prevent any man of color from casting a vote.” Of the men at that meeting, 147 signed 2 petitions and sent them to members of Congress. The Pickaway County African American Heritage Association (PCAAHA) formed in 2003 to celebrate the historical significance of the event, and each year honors some of the men who took part, and their descendants. On April 2, PCAAHA hosts the Ninth Annual Heritage Banquet, with the honored families for 2016 including the May family. The newspaper reports: “In 1870, John H. May left the Baptist doctrine and started a German Baptist Dunkard church. He and his wife, Susan Dade Brown May, led family members in worship…. The church grew diversely becoming the Church of the Brethren.” A member of the Dade family will accept the 2016 Posthumous Legacy Award on behalf of Rev. May. Find the newspaper report at .

6) Brethren bits

— In personnel news from Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., Rob Yelnosky, vice president for finance and operations since 2007, is transitioning to a new role. According to a release, his new position begins Oct. 1, when he will become the college’s point-person on strategic initiatives, including managing implementation and adoption of Juniata’s strategic plan with particular focus on experiential learning, community outreach, and institutional benchmarking. He will be replaced as vice president for finance and operations, effective Aug. 1, by John Wilkin, currently vice president of administration and business affairs at Heidelberg University. Between Aug. 1-Oct. 1, Yelnosky and Wilkin will work together to ensure a smooth transition.

— District executives, executives of the Church of the Brethren, Bethany Theological Seminary, Brethren Benefit Trust, and On Earth Peace, and their board chairs, together with the Annual Conference officers, met for an afternoon during the Winter Council of District Executives (CODE) meeting. The group engaged in intentional conversation related to the upcoming business of Annual Conference, said a brief report from David Steele, district executive minister of Middle Pennsylvania District and chair of the Inter-Agency Forum. The conversation centered around three questions: What are our hopes for the church (Church of the Brethren)? Given the contentious issues coming to Annual Conference, what are our hopes for Annual Conference? How might we address the emotion which surrounds these issues? Knowing the business of Annual Conference is surrounded with heart-felt emotion, what must we do pastorally so that people feel heard in such a way that brings greater health to the Conference while not overwhelming the Conference or business process? Steele reported that the intent of the conversation was not to arrive at any particular answer or outcome, but to consider the health and well-being of the Conference prior to arriving in Greensboro, N.C. The conversations concluded with expressions of hope, appreciation for the conversation, and prayers for the movement of the Holy Spirit upon this year’s Annual Conference, its leadership, and the church.

— The Global Mission and Service office has requested prayer for Iglesia des los Hermanos (the Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic), and for Eglise des Freres d’Haiti (Church of the Brethren in Haiti). In the Dominican Republic, Brethren will be gathering for their annual conference, the Asamblea, and prayer is requested for safe travel and for the presence of the Holy Spirit in the conference. Members of the Church of the Brethren’s Mission Advisory Committee as well as denominational staff are traveling to the DR to attend the Asamblea. In Haiti, the church has been holding a theological training session in which 27 participants studied homiletics and explored the Old Testament books of Joshua through Esther. In addition, prayers are requested for a mobile medical clinic being held for a community of refugees near the border of Haiti and the DR, for people deported from the DR following court rulings that have stripped them of citizenship.  Leaders from Iglesia de los Hermanos worked with partners to provide the clinic, and Brethren congregations provided clothing and food for distribution.

— Fourteen members of Buffalo Valley (Pa.) Church of the Brethren have served with Iglesia de los Hermanos (the Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic), working on church construction projects with the congregations in Magueyal and Azua, and assisting with youth retreats. A prayer request for the experience from Global Mission and Service asked “for the forging of meaningful, lasting relationships.”

— Mutual Kumquat will be recording the music for the 2016-17 “Shine Songbook” and CD, according to an announcement. Shine is a Christian education curriculum jointly produced by Brethren Press and MennoMedia. “Search for this amazing band online at as well as Facebook and My Space. Or watch them perform at the Church of the Brethren National Youth Conference,” said the announcement. “Our goal at Shine is to provide music that will help children sing their faith. The Shine Songbook and CD includes songs for Christmas and Easter, reflective prayer songs, upbeat songs that children can dance to, songs with motions, and blessing songs. There are seven languages represented on the 2016–17 CD, reflecting the diversity in the church.” For a preview of the Shine CD, listen to “Fluye, Espíritu, fluye” (Flow, Spirit, Flow) at .

— Also new from Shine, a Lent 2016-Lent 2017 Bible reading plan based on “Shine On: A Story Bible” is now available at . This updated Bible reading plan comes from Nancy and Irv Heishman, pastors at West Charleston (Ohio) Church of the Brethren and incorporates Psalm readings with stories from “Shine On.” Purchase the Shine story Bible from Brethren Press at or call 800-441-3712.

— Camp Eder in Fairfield, Pa., is offering maple sugaring tours from 9 a.m.-12 noon on two Saturdays, Feb. 27 and March 5, during the Mount Hope Maple Madness festivals of fun sponsored by Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve and the camp. Events also include a pancake breakfast, indoor arts and crafts vendors, music, and more. Go to .

— Regional Youth Conference will be held at McPherson (Kan.) College on the theme “Strip Down: Changing from the Inside Out” (1 John 3:18-20, the Message) on Feb. 26-28. High school youth and their advisors, as well as college students who would like to assist with the weekend, are invited to attend. Leadership will include Jeff Carter, president of Bethany Seminary, and Mutual Kumquat. The cost is $65, with discounted fees available for college students who assist with activities. For more information and a registration link go to . For questions contact Jen Jensen at or at 620-2420503 (office) or 402-990-8682 (cell and text).

— The 2016 Youth Roundtable at Bridgewater (Va.) College is planned for April 8-10, with speakers Tim and Audrey Hollenberg-Duffey. The Friday night entertainment will be the Walking Roots Band.

— Southern Ohio District is beginning a Listening/Discerning/Visioning Process. “At the 2015 district conference, the body voted to have the district conduct a process for Listening/Discerning/Reconciliation utilizing an organization steeped in reconciliation work,” the district newsletter reported. Involved in leadership of the process along with district leaders are Leslie Frye of the Ministry of Reconciliation of On Earth Peace, and Bob Gross and Carol Waggy who conducted a training of volunteers in January. The District Gifts Discernment Team has identified several persons as prospective volunteers to go out in pairs to visit with groups from each of the 52 congregations associated with the district. Their task will be simply to listen and bring back appreciations, concerns, and suggestions regarding the district, expressed by the congregations. This information will be utilized in planning next steps for the district. “Your prayers are also coveted for the ministry,” said the announcement.

— “Caregiving in the Midst of Conflict: The Deacon’s Role” is the title of a deacon training event on Saturday, Feb. 27, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Village Green on the campus of the Village at Morrisons Cove, Pa. “Churches are often at the center of our sense of community,” said an announcement from Middle Pennsylvania District. “We come to them for worship, support, communion, and conversation. We bring to them strongly held beliefs and diverse needs. These differences mean that our congregations are also sites of conflict. The Middle Pennsylvania District Shalom Team will provide deacons and other church leaders with listening and engagement tools for proactively dealing with the everyday differences that bring strength and creativity, along with struggle and hurt to our congregations. Over the course of the day we will explore how to identify emerging conflicts, strategies for addressing them, and the ways which the deacons can work together and with other leaders in the church to create healthy conflict practices.”

— Civil rights leader Otis Moss Jr., a nationally respected and influential religious leader, spoke for the 48th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Remembrance and Rededication Ceremony at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind. The observance commemorates King’s last speech at a college campus. He presented “The Future of Integration” at Manchester on Feb. 1, 1968, two months before he was slain in Memphis, Tenn. Moss, who was a colleague and friend of King, presented “Learning from the Life and Teaching of Martin Luther King, Jr. from Generation to Generation” on Jan. 28 at Cordier Auditorium. The presentation was sponsored by the university’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, Peace Studies Institute and Program for Conflict Resolution, and the President’s Office, and was part of the university’s Values, Ideas, and the Arts series.

— The February edition of the “Brethren Voices” community television program produced by Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren features the Brethren Heritage Center in Brookville, Ohio. The center is dedicated to preserving the heritage of the Brethren bodies that trace their roots back to the baptisms in Schwarzenau, Germany, in 1708. Southwestern Ohio was chosen for the location of the center due to the large number of Brethren living in the Miami Valley Region. Beginning in the late 1970s, historian and genealogist Donald R. Bowman of Brookville, a member of the Southern Ohio District Historical Committee of the Church of the Brethren, began accumulating books, historical records and artifacts from several Church of the Brethren congregations. The collection was housed at the old Happy Corner Church of the Brethren and was open to the public for viewing by appointment, as the “Brethren Heritage Center.” In 1999, some Old German Baptist Brethren became concerned about preserving their books and records. Fred W. Benedict, who had earlier pledged his entire library for preservation, met Larry E. Heisey and Mark Flory Steury, each of whom pledged to supplement a project from their own extensive collections. It was at the same time that the Happy Corner project needed a new home. Today, it is known as the Brethren Heritage Center. This edition of “Brethren Voices” tours the center, guided by Gale Honeyman and Larry Heisey. The program is hosted by Brent Carlson in two versions, one for television and a 43 minute version containing more stories and detail about the center. For a copy or more information, contact producer Ed Groff at .

— The Global Women’s Project is again offering a Lenten calendar that brings attention each day to issues of wealth and privilege and to global neighbors–specifically women. To receive the Lenten calendar at no cost, send an e-mail to and request to be mailed a paper copy, or request to be added to the daily Lenten calendar e-mail list. Participants will receive one page by e-mail each day during the season of Lent.

— “Seven Weeks for Water 2016″ was launched on Wednesday by the Ecumenical Water Network. The effort raises awareness in advance of World Water Day on March 22. The World Council of Churches (WCC) has designated a regional focus on the Middle East in 2016, and accordingly this year’s Seven Weeks for Water “will take us on a pilgrimage of water justice in the Middle East, with specific reference to Palestine,” said a release. Online resources are provided for individual or group use. The biblical reflection for the first of the seven weeks is by Munib Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and one of the Presidents of Middle East Council of Churches, and currently president of Lutheran World Federation. “In this reflection he compares the New Jerusalem as envisaged by John in the book of Revelation where ‘the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city’ and the ‘thirsty Jerusalem’ of today,” said the release. Find this and more resources at .

— Peggy Reiff Miller, author of the forthcoming illustrated children’s book from Brethren Press, “The Seagoing Cowboy,” is featured in the spring issue of the Heifer International magazine “World Ark.” Her children’s book tells the story of a seagoing cowboy who volunteered to accompany livestock shipped by boat to a devastated Europe following World War II. The seagoing cowboys were part of the Church of the Brethren’s Heifer Project–now Heifer International–with funding and help from the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). Miller’s “World Ark” article titled “Mining for Gems in the Heifer Archives” tells how she is keeping alive the stories of the seagoing cowboys through research and personal meetings with former seagoing cowboys. Find the article at . Miller also will be the featured author at Heifer Village on April 16, as part of the Arkansas Literary Festival. Find out more about the Arkansas Literary Festival at .

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Elizabeth Batten, James Deaton, Chris Douglas, Kendra Harbeck, Andy Murray, Becky Ullom Naugle, Tina Rieman, David Steele, John Wall, Walt Wiltschek, 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 Feb. 19.

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