Newsline for March 17, 2016

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
BBT president Nevin Dulabaum lights a candle during the Sunday morning worship service at the 2016 Spring Mission and Ministry Board meeting.

1) Mission and Ministry Board allocates $1 million to continue Nigeria Crisis Response, begins new effort for financial support of ongoing ministries

2) Winners of the Bethany peace essay contest are announced

3) Project sends Bibles to Nigeria

4) Rockford Community Church sends mobile library to Nigeria

5) Conference attendees are invited to participate in Jubilee Service Projects

6) Bethany Seminary hosts ENGAGE campus visit day on April 14

7) National Young Adult Conference speakers to focus on ‘Creating Harmony’

8) Applications are welcomed for Summer and Fall Brethren Volunteer Service orientations

9) Brethren Volunteer Service unit begins work

10) Brethren bits: Remembrances, personnel, job openings, new online resources featuring Brethren speakers, reporting from Africa Great Lakes delegation, upcoming events from SVMC, extended deadline for group orders of “The Seagoing Cowboy,” EYN theme for the year, more

Quote of the week:

“God births new life, new energy, a new future…. May it be true for the work of the Mission and Ministry Board and the life of the Church of the Brethren.”

— Don Fitzkee, chair of the denomination’s Mission and Ministry Board, in his opening remarks for the board’s spring meeting held this past weekend at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

1) Mission and Ministry Board allocates $1 million to continue Nigeria Crisis Response, begins new effort for financial support of ongoing ministries

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
At the head table during the Spring 2016 Mission and Ministry Board meeting were (from right) interim general secretary Dale Minnich, board chair Donald Fitzkee, and chair elect Connie Burk Davis.


A major action at the Spring meeting of the Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren allocated another $1 million of donated funds to continue the Nigeria Crisis Response. The board also engaged in significant conversation about financial shortfalls for ongoing denominational ministries, and how to develop more support and foster relationship-building across the wider church.

The board met March 11-14 at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., led by chair Donald Fitzkee and chair-elect Connie Burk Davis. Also at the head table was interim general secretary Dale Minnich.

Sunday morning worship was led by the ex-officio members of the board, with a message given by Bethany Seminary president Jeff Carter. Other moments of devotions and prayer were held each day, including a time of prayer for the family of Mary Jo Flory-Steury, who had served as associate general secretary and executive director of Ministry. The meetings closed with worship led by board members Donita Keister and Mark Bausman.

General secretary search

In a brief report from the search committee, Connie Burk Davis reported that the committee has been unable to come together on one candidate, and is in the process of “regrouping.” She added that this may mean Dale Minnich will continue as interim general secretary for several months. In addition, one of the committee members, David Steele, has resigned from the group. The search committee meets again in April to continue the discernment process.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
The funding request for the Nigeria Crisis Response in 2016

Nigeria Crisis Response funding

The board approved an allocation of $1 million for the Nigeria Crisis Response from dollars donated to the Emergency Disaster Fund designated for Nigeria. The $1 million will continue funding the crisis response program in Nigeria for 2016.

The Nigeria Crisis Response is a joint effort of the Church of the Brethren and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), co-directed by Carl and Roxane Hill as staff of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Key ministries of the 2015 response will continue, while refocusing resources on displaced families who have begun returning to their homes in the northeast of Nigeria. The budget and program priorities for 2016 include:
— transition from relocation housing to a focus on repairing homes damaged by fire and vandalism;
— the continuation of peacebuilding and trauma recovery in partnership with Mennonite Central Committee;
— a new program developed by Children’s Disaster Services focused on trauma healing for children;
— agriculture development and support;
— training and support for livelihoods;
— education for children and support for orphans;
— the continuing provision of food, medicine, and home supplies; and
— the strengthening of EYN and church recovery.

The allocation of $1 million leaves an amount of almost $400,000 in donations remaining in the Nigeria Crisis Fund at this time. As of Feb. 29, $4,460,133 had been raised for the Nigeria Crisis Response, and $3,082,750 had been spent.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
The board considered information brought by a Stewardship Task Team as it discussed creating a group of executive staff and board members to work at planning for financial stability for ongoing denominational ministries.


Group to plan for financial stability

A group of executive staff and board members was commissioned to develop financial planning, as an effort to stabilize the denominational budget for 2016-17 and develop more financial support for ongoing core ministries in future years. The group will bring a proposal to the board in June that may include reductions in spending for 2016, a fiscally responsible budget for 2017, and ideas and planning for new fundraising efforts to support core ministries of the Church of the Brethren.

The board heard extensive financial reporting and learned that, although the wider church gave generously and sacrificially to support the Nigeria Crisis Response, the overall budget for denominational ministries in 2015 experienced a deficit of more than $500,000. A Stewardship Task Team report noted, among other concerns, lagging giving from congregations to the core ministries of the church.

Financial reports celebrated and expressed gratitude for the outstanding giving from congregations and individuals to the relief effort in Nigeria, which continues to meet urgent needs of EYN members and other Nigerians in 2016. A shift of giving from core ministries to the EDF is normal at times when there is a major disaster like the extremist Islamist insurgency in northeast Nigeria.

Core ministries are ongoing programs undergirded by a common fund that receives giving for the general work of the church, utilizing gifts that are not otherwise designated. Some of these ministry areas are well-known in the wider church, such as the Youth and Young Adult Ministry, Vital Ministry Journey, new church development, Brethren Volunteer Service, Workcamp Ministry, and global mission in countries like Nigeria, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Brazil, South Sudan, and more. Others represent administrative work of the church such as the Ministry Office, Brethren Historical Library and Archives, communications, finance and IT, and building and property maintenance, among others.

The action of the board was to: “Commission interim general secretary Dale Minnich, executive forum members Brian Bultman, Jonathan Shively, and Jay Wittmeyer, and board members Don Fitzkee, Carl Fike, John Hoffman, Donita Keister, and David Stauffer to develop a plan for appropriate reductions in 2016 spending and a fiscally responsible framework for the 2017 program and budget for consideration at the Annual Conference meeting of the board. It is understood that the plan proposed will incorporate the work of the Stewardship Task Team and outline how additional stewardship initiatives should be undertaken.”

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Intercultural Ministries director Gimbiya Kettering (standing at left) leads a training on racism and the church for the Mission and Ministry Board in 2016.


In other business

A training on racism and the church was led by Intercultural Ministries director Gimbiya Kettering.

The board received an update on efforts to sell part of the property at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., and ongoing expenses of maintaining that property.

The board received a series of reports focused on two of its directional goals: Brethren voice, and service. Other reports reviewed the Haiti Service Ministries Consultation, the Syrian refugee crisis and the response of Brethren Disaster Ministries, Brethren participation on the board of Heifer International, and the annual meeting of Christian Churches Together, among others.

Brethren Press held a reception launching its new illustrated children’s book “The Seagoing Cowboy,” written by Peggy Reiff Miller. Also at the event were two former seagoing cowboys who had participated in the Heifer Project program to bring livestock to Europe following World War II, and their spouses: Merle Brown and his wife Lottie, and Matt Meyer and his wife Virginia.

The board met with the Review and Evaluation Committee of Annual Conference. The committee also held personal interviews with several staff.

Find a photo album of the Mission and Ministry Board’s spring meeting at .

2) Winners of the Bethany peace essay contest are announced

By Jenny Williams

The top three entries in Bethany Theological Seminary’s 2016 Peace Essay Contest have been selected, all addressing this year’s topic of “Inspired and Inspiring Peacemakers.” The winners, their school affiliation, and the titles of their essays follow:

First place: Kristy Shellenberger of Bethany Seminary, “Inspiring Peace from the Back of the Church: Spencer and Sadie and ‘Jesus Loves Me’”

Second place: Bryan Hanger of Bethany Seminary, “Rev. Osagyefo Sekou: Dreaming of Peace, on Fire for Justice”

Third place: Elisabeth Wilder of Eastern Mennonite University, “Malala Yousafzai: Peace through Pencils.”

Cash prizes of $2,000, $1,000, and $500 were awarded to the three writers. Their essays will appear in selected publications of the Church of the Brethren, Friends (Quaker), and Mennonite faith communities.

The theme for the contest was rooted in the World Council of Churches’ paper An Ecumenical Call to Just Peace. This document has defined peace building and seeking cultures of peace in four broad categories: peace in the community, peace with the earth, peace in the marketplace, and peace among the peoples. Essayists were encouraged to write about individuals whose vision, voice, and work inspire peacemaking in any or all of these categories.

Open to seminary, graduate, college, and high school students enrolled in a degree program, the contest is an ecumenical partnership. Representatives from the Brethren, Mennonite, and Quaker traditions have helped plan the contest and judge the entries. Scott Holland, Slabaugh Professor of Theology and Culture and director of peace studies and cross-cultural studies at Bethany, oversees the contest, and Bekah Houff, coordinator of outreach programs at Bethany, assisted with administration. In addition to Holland, judges for 2016 included Joanna Shenk, associate pastor at First Mennonite Church, San Francisco, California; Matt Guynn, director of organizing for On Earth Peace; and Judi Hetrick, assistant professor of journalism at Earlham College.

The Bethany Peace Essay Contest is underwritten by the Jennie Calhoun Baker Endowment at Bethany, funded by John C. Baker in honor of his mother. Described as a “Church of the Brethren woman ahead of her time,” Jennie Calhoun Baker was known for actively pursuing peacemaking by meeting the needs of others, providing community leadership, and upholding the value of creative and independent thinking in education.

With 30 entries this year, the contest continues to draw aspiring writers from all educational levels, including 6 high schoolers in 2016. With the additional 14 undergraduate and 10 graduate student writers, 15 states and 22 schools were represented. Yale University and Princeton Theological Seminary appeared alongside institutions affiliated with the Historic Peace Churches. The highest represented state was Indiana.

— Jenny Williams is director of communications for Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind.

Photo by Roxane Hill
Boxes of Bibles are presented to the EYN general secretary Jinatu Wamdeo. The Bibles were donated by Ephrata (Pa.) Church of the Brethren in honor of retiring pastor Galen Hackman. They will benefit the work of the Nigerian Brethren in strengthening the work of the church during a time of crisis in northeast Nigeria.

3) Project sends Bibles to Nigeria

By Carl and Roxane Hill

“Man does not live by bread alone” (Matthew 4:4).

When Galen Hackman retired from pastoring Ephrata (Pa.) Church of the Brethren last October, the congregation collected money in his name in order to provide Bibles to Nigeria. The congregation knew that he had a heart for Nigeria because back in the 1990s he and his wife spent time there teaching at Kulp Bible College. The church raised more than $3,000 to purchase Bibles. This money along with a self-inking stamp to mark each Bible was sent with us to Nigeria this past January.

When we got to Nigeria we were able to purchase 612 Bibles, 300 in the Hausa language and 312 in English. As we visited some areas in northeast Nigeria, we took a box of Bibles–10 in English, 10 in Hausa–to 5 different churches. Every church that received the Bibles was so grateful. At one of the churches, the pastor had been a student at Kulp Bible College while Galen Hackman was teaching there.

The remaining Bibles were given for future distribution to the general secretary of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), Jinatu Wamdeo, who also is a personal friend of the Hackmans. It was a privilege for us to be able to personally take part in this gift of Bibles for our Nigerian sisters and brothers.

Safiya Byo, EYN’s director of education, requested that some of the money donated would be used to replace theological books for two Bible schools. These libraries had been burned during the insurgency, so numerous theological books were purchased for these schools. In appreciation, she wrote, “I write to express our gratitude to the Ephrata Church of the Brethren for their donation of theological books and Bibles for EYN Bible schools. These books will be kept in the reference section of the library while the Bibles will be shared among the staff and students. May the good Lord replenish your resources.”

Daniel Mbaya, pastor of EYN’s Abuja church, commented, “This is a great gift for our people who are without God’s word. Money for food is important but we know that ‘man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4). Thank you Ephrata Church of the Brethren!”

The crisis in Nigeria has resulted in a tremendous outpouring of love and assistance by the Church of the Brethren. The Ephrata Church is just one of many churches that have stepped up to really make a difference.

— Carl and Roxane Hill are co-directors of the Nigeria Crisius Response, a joint effort of the Church of the Brethren and Ekklesiyar Yanuwa a Nigeria (EYN). Find out more at .

4) Rockford Community Church sends mobile library to Nigeria

By Carl Hill

Photo courtesy of Carl and Roxane Hill
The mobile library at the Gurku interfaith camp in northern Nigeria

With an eye on helping young people and promoting peace, a mobile library has been sent to northeast Nigeria by Rockford (Ill.) Community Church of the Brethren, with help from many other donors.

The library is a bus stocked with books that have been collected by the church and donated by many people, congregations, and districts, with the aim of reaching Nigerian young people who have been without formal schooling over the past couple of years.

The mobile library is part of a team effort of pastor Samuel Sarpiya and John Pofi, a Nigerian government official. Sarpiya, who is originally from Jos, Nigeria, and also previously lived and worked in South Africa, has been a friend and associate with Pofi for a long time. The mobile library is their joint project designed to make an impact in Nigeria in the face of insurgent violence.

“With the vision God has given me centering on evangelism and peacemaking I was looking for a way to protect the children of Nigeria from Boko Haram,” said Sarpiya. “The way God showed me is through education. Since Boko Haram is so anti-education, it makes sense to encourage education as the means to counteract the lure of Boko Haram.

“As I did some research I found that there were only 50 libraries in Nigeria,” Sarpiya continued. “So as a church we started to collect books.”

The church has received donations of books from across the denomination, he reported, from Pennsylvania to Seattle, Wash. Even the public school library in Rockford donated books. Bethany Seminary, the Church of the Brethren school of theology, and George Fox Evangelical Seminary, a Quaker-related seminary in Portland, Ore., donated theological books so that colleges and seminaries in Nigeria could benefit from the mobile library.

Other people stepped up to contribute the money needed to ship the bus and the books to Nigeria. The project shipped two 20-foot containers filled with a refurbished bus and books and clothing. The shipment went by sea to the port city of Lagos, Nigeria. From there the containers were taken by rail to the central Nigerian city of Jos.

The mobile library has now become a reality in northeast Nigeria, where it is beginning to reach out to children and students with the written word. We caught up with the mobile library at the Gurku interfaith camp for displaced people, and at a school in Jos. We saw children and adults enjoying the experience of reading in the bus.

Will this be enough to discourage young Nigerians from joining extremist groups like Boko Haram? Only time will tell, but it is a start.

To donate books or gently used clothing to the project contact .

— Carl and Roxane Hill are co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response, a joint effort of the Church of the Bethren and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Find out more at .


5) Conference attendees are invited to participate in Jubilee Service Projects

By Kim Gingerich and Tim Sheaffer

What does an afternoon of no business session, plus service opportunities, equal at this year’s Annual Conference?  Jubilee Service Projects! The Annual Conference Programs and Arrangements committee has set aside the afternoon of Friday, July 1 as a time for Conference-goers to participate in a Jubilee Afternoon.

The 2016 Annual Conference takes place in Greensboro, N.C., on June 29-July 3, at the Koury Convention Center and Sheraton Hotel.

“Serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13) is the familiar tagline and theme scripture for Brethren Disaster Ministries. Historically, one of the things the Church of the Brethren is known for is service. The Jubilee Service Projects at Annual Conference 2016 will be an opportunity for Brethren to give back to the host city of Greensboro, N.C.

There are several different service projects scheduled from 1-4 p.m. on July 1 in Greensboro:
— a community prayer walk
— Random Act of Kindness activity, handing out water bottles at the Four Seasons Town Centre
— serving at the nearby Habitat Restore
— sorting and organizing food at the Greensboro Urban Ministry Food Pantry
— gardening with clients at Peace Haven Farm, a facility serving people with developmental or other disabilities
— building a fence at the Caldcleugh Organic Outreach Garden
— entertaining children at Shalom Christian Community Church Camp

Three of the service projects are contingent on having a commitment of at least four volunteers prior to June 1. Others have a volunteer limit. Conference-goers are encouraged to sign up soon for service projects in order to get their first choice.

Those who already have registered for Annual Conference but have not yet indicated interest in a service project may participate by contacting . Those who have not yet registered for Annual Conference are encouraged to sign up for a service project during the registration process that is online at . All service project volunteers will receive more information via e-mail.

Join us as we seek to serve the community of Greensboro in love.

— Kim Gingerich and Tim Sheaffer are the 2016 Annual Conference service project coordinators. Find out more about Annual Conference 2016 at .

6) Bethany Seminary hosts ENGAGE campus visit day on April 14

By Jenny Williams

Today people of faith are looking to seminaries as places that can offer more than training for full-time ministry. While Bethany Theological Seminary will continue to prepare students for traditional ministerial roles, we expect to serve more students who are preparing for multivocational roles and applying their faith understanding to secular vocations.

Join the Bethany community for ENGAGE Visit Day on Friday, April 14. Find out why Bethany should be your seminary of choice!

Building on Bethany’s 110-year history and embedded within its culture are leading-edge innovations in theological education. From creative ministry formation experiences within and beyond the church to alleviating debt as part of a seminary education, Bethany is addressing practical issues in today’s ministry landscape. By leveraging our technology capability and flexible scheduling, Bethany is connecting students across the country, on campus, and in the virtual classroom.

For more information and to register, visit .

— Jenny Williams is director of communications for Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind.

7) 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.

8) Applications are welcomed for Summer and Fall Brethren Volunteer Service orientations

By Jocelyn Snyder

Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) is scheduled to run three more orientations in 2016, already having completed one orientation in February. BVS is a fulltime volunteer program that places volunteers in a one- to two-year assignment in the United States and locations around the world.

The vision of BVS is “Sharing God’s love through acts of service,” with goals to advocate justice, work for peace, serve human needs, and care for creation. This ministry of Brethren Volunteer Service has been a major program in the Church of the Brethren denomination since 1948.

The upcoming orientation dates are:

July 17-Aug. 5 for the Summer Unit 313, to be held at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. The deadline for submitting applications for this unit is June 3.

Aug. 21-30 for the Brethren Revival Fellowship (BRF) Unit 314, to be held  at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. The deadline for submitting applications for this unit is July 8.

Sept. 25-Oct. 14 for the Fall Unit 315, to be held in Fairfield, Pa. The deadline for submitting applications for this unit is Aug. 12.

For more information about BVS contact at or go to .

— Jocelyn Snyder is orientation coordinator for Brethren Volunteer Service.


9) Brethren Volunteer Service Unit 312 begins work

The volunteers from BVS Unit 312: (front from left) Karen Nieto, Tibby Miller, Jane Webb, (back from left) Julie Thomas, Katie Dalphon, and Danny Ruppert.

Volunteers who underwent orientation in the Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) Unit 312, the Winter 2016 unit, have been assigned to their project sites. The volunteers, their hometowns, and project assignments follow:

Katie Dalphon from Frederick, Md., who is serving at the Rural and Migrant Ministry in Liberty, N.Y.

Tibby Miller of Laramie, Wyo., who is serving at Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad in San Salvador, El Salvador

Karen Nieto of Cochiti Pueblo, N.M., who is serving at L’Arche Belfast Community in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Danny Ruppert of Albuquerque, N.M., who is serving at Lybrook Community Ministries in Lybrook, N.M.

Julie Thomas from Council Bluffs, Iowa, who is serving at the Rural and Migrant Ministry in Lyons, N.Y.

Jane Webb of Noblesville, Ind., who is serving at L’Arche Kilkenny Community in Kilkenny, Ireland

For more information about Brethren Volunteer Service and volunteer opportunities with BVS, go to .

10) Brethren bits


Two new online resources feature Church of the Brethren speakers:
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 .
Pastor Martin Hutchison 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.

Photo courtesy of the World Council of Churches
The WCC photo contest challenges participants to submit pictures of water in daily life

— 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.

— 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 .

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.

— 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.”

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Marla Bieber Abe, Jan Fischer Bachman, Jeffrey S. Boshart, Karen Bowman, James Deaton, Kim Gingerich, Ed Groff, Kendra Harbeck, Elizabeth Harvey, Carl and Roxane Hill, Jessie Houff, Nancy Miner, Becky Ullom Naugle, Tim Sheaffer, Jocelyn Snyder, Emily Tyler, Gail Erisman Valeta, Jenny Williams, Walt Wiltschek, Jim Winkler, Roy Winter, David Young, 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 March 24.

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