Newsline for May 5, 2017

Church of the Brethren Newsline
May 5, 2017

The Old Main building at the Brethren Service Center. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:1-2).

1) Worship service closes upper campus of the Brethren Service Center
2) Employees end service with the church upon closing of the Brethren Service Center upper campus
3) Wieand Trust gives grants to church plants in Chicago area
4) Messenger magazine receives awards

5) Manchester University commencement marks 100th anniversary of Dan West’s graduation

6) May Bible study on the Annual Conference theme: The people of God made new

7) Brethren bits: Personnel notes, Brethren Disaster Ministries responds to Missouri flooding, new tractors for Nigeria Crisis Response, BVS hosts Think Tank, upcoming disaster auctions, and more


1) Worship service closes upper campus of the Brethren Service Center

A worship service on Sunday, April 30, closed the upper campus of the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Some 125 people gathered on the lawn in front of the Old Main building on a warm, sunny afternoon to remember and celebrate the ministries that have taken place at the campus.

The lower campus continues as the Brethren Service Center and houses office and/or warehouse facilities of Brethren Disaster Ministries, Children’s Disaster Services, Material Resources, On Earth Peace, and SERRV.

In November 2016, the Church of the Brethren signed a purchase agreement with Shanghai Yulun Education Group for the “upper campus” of the property in New Windsor, which had been listed for sale since July 2015. The purchaser intends to establish a private school on the property. It is anticipated the sale will be finalized later this spring. (See the Newsline report of Oct. 22, 2014, for background on the Mission and Ministry Board decision to market the property, .)

The congregation gathered on the lawn in front of the Old Main building to share in the closing worship service for the upper campus of the Brethren Service Center. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.


A simple service

Those who led the simple, 40-minute service represented the leadership of the denomination and Annual Conference, Mid-Atlantic District, area congregations, and current and former staff of the center.

Opening and closing the service were Mission and Ministry Board chair Donald Fitzkee and general secretary David Steele, who gave a welcome and introduction, and Annual Conference moderator Carol Scheppard, who closed with prayer.

Scriptures were read by Gene Hagenberger, executive for Mid-Atlantic District, and Roy Winter, associate executive director of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Miller Davis, former manager of Emergency Response and Service Ministries, reviewed the history of the Brethren Service Center and the ministries that have taken place there.

Pastor Jim Benedict of Union Bridge Church of the Brethren gave a message that called the church to acknowledge its attachment to the place, and to acknowledge the importance of the ministries. “But we must be careful not to let our imaginations, memories, and love for this place keep us from seeing the opportunities that we still have to serve God,” he reminded. “We must continue to listen for God’s call, and be ready to get up and go when we hear it….

Decades of signatures and graffiti can still be found in the cupola of the Old Main building on the upper campus of the Brethren Service Center. On the afternoon of the closing worship service, BBT president Nevin Dulabaum climbed the flights of stairs to the cupola with his camera, in order to document the names of so many former volunteers, employees, and visitors who signed their names to mark their presence in what many have experienced as sacred space.

“Those who grieve would be wise to remember that there was a time before this place was ours, before there was such a thing as the Brethren Service Center, and no one but God knew that there ever would be such a place,” he continued, in part. “Our leaders would be wise to consider ways to recreate in new forms and new places the important things that have happened here. And we can all remember, and give thanks, that our God is consistent in his mercy and love but unpredictable in his methods, always surprising us and making a way where there seems to be no way.”

The order of worship and texts of several of the elements in the closing service follow below, including the full text of the remarks by Miller Davis and Jim Benedict.

Find a news report on the closing event from Carroll County Times reporter Kevin Earl Dayhoff at

Three photo albums with pictures of the closing worship service and views of the upper campus are online:

— Closing Service for Upper Campus of the Brethren Service Center, by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

— BSC Upper Campus Closing Event, by Nevin Dulabaum

— Signatures Inside the Old Main Cupola, by Nevin Dulabaum

A panorama of the three largest buildings on the BSC upper campus. Photo by Nevin Dulabaum.


Brethren Service Center Closing Celebration and Worship Service

Sunday, April 30, 2017


–Donald Fitzkee, chair of the Mission and Ministry Board

Good afternoon. My name is Don Fitzkee and I am chairman of the Mission and Ministry Board. It is my bittersweet privilege to welcome you to this service of worship.

I suspect that each person here today is here because this place has touched your life, and perhaps enabled you to touch the lives of many others.  Some are here because you are a present or former employee of the Church of the Brethren. Some are here because you volunteer regularly. Others represent partner agencies who have served the church and the world from this place. Some of you may have had your BVS training here, served refugees here, met your spouse here, attended a life-changing conference or event here, donated heifers that traveled through here on their way to people who needed them.

I trust we all have our points of connection with the Brethren Service Center and that we are here to remember and celebrate what this space has meant to us.

My first connection with the center was during my senior year in high school–so about 15 years ago. A friend and I from the Chiques congregation attended what I think was one of the first Brethren World Peace Academies sponsored by what then was called the On Earth Peace Assembly. It would have been around 1982. An ancient patriarch of the church by the name of M.R. Zigler was living here, I believe, and I was introduced to M.R. during one of the sessions. Other than meeting M.R., I remember a couple things about that weekend: 1) It was the most systematic study of the church’s peace position and conscientious objection that I had done to that point; and 2) There were some cute girls from the Elizabethtown congregation who also attended. (What do you want; I was in high school.)

Since that first point of contact I have been back to New Windsor a number of times, and through experiences, conversations, and reading of books like Jan and Roma Jo Thompson’s Beyond Our Means I have come to have a deep respect for what this campus in this out-of-the-way corner of the world has meant to the Church of the Brethren and to people around the world. I’m here today to celebrate that.

I look now to Church of the Brethren General Secretary David Steele to come share his reflections and also to help us understand the ways that the Brethren will continue to serve from this place, even after this upper portion of the campus begins a new chapter in its story.


–David Steele, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren

These grounds have been part of the Church of the Brethren’s worldwide service and humanitarian relief efforts for some 73 years. M.R. Zigler, executive secretary and Paul H. Bowman, chairman of the Brethren Service Committee were present at the sale on September 6, 1944 with instructions to purchase, if possible, the college plant for the Brethren, which they did for $31,330 (“Beyond our Means: How the Brethren Service Center Dared to Embrace the World” by R. Jan and Roma Jo Thompson).

Since that time the Brethren Center has also served as a training and hospitality center for volunteers in various church ministries, and a central point for refugee resettlement programs. This has also been home to our ministry partners–Mid-Atlantic District,  IMA World Health, and SERRV.

In 2014 the Mission and Ministry Board made the decision to the sell the property and began to work toward that end. In more recent months the decision was made to sub-divide the property into what we have been calling the upper and lower campus with Maryland State Rt 31 serving as the dividing line of sorts. We did so so that the disaster and material resource ministries that are housed in the warehouse on the lower campus will continue as the Brethren Service Center.

In the early days of September 2016 we entered a sale agreement with the Shanghai Yulun Educational Group to sell the upper campus, the buildings and property to the west of Maryland State Rt 31. While we continue to finalize the details of the closing, we would anticipate that to be no later than May 31. They are working on plans to start the Springdale Preparatory School.

Today’s marks the official close of the Zigler Hospitality Center. With that close and the selling of the upper campus, 12 full- and part-time employees have or will be concluding their employment with the Church of the Brethren. We offer our thanks for their years of service with us, together with our prayers that new opportunities will emerge.

Other staff have been busy moving furniture, equipment, and other items down to the warehouse. They have also been preparing office accommodations for our business and IT staff (Barb Watt & Francie Coale) who have been housed in the Blue Ridge building and will be moving into their new offices at the Brethren Service Center in the coming days. We have also made accommodations to move On Earth Peace’s office into the Brethren Service Center offices.

SERRV will be closing their store and customer service on the Upper Campus but their distribution center will remain at the warehouse annex.

Participants in our service today are
–Gene Hagenberger -Mid-Atlantic District District Executive
–Miller Davis, Former Director of CenterOperations and Manager of Emergency Response & Service Ministries
–Roy Winter, Associate Executive – Brethren Disaster Ministries
–Jim Benedict, Pastor Union Bridge Church of the Brethren
–Carol Scheppard, Annual Conference Moderator

So today we gather in the spirit of worship, to celebrate all that these buildings–this space has meant to us and the many ways it has supported our Church of the Brethren ministry efforts.

Opening Prayer

–David Steele, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren

We praise you, O God, for the joy we find in the church; for communion with one another; for the sharing of bounty and burden; for the opportunities that we have to serve in your name. As we gather we celebrate and give thanks for this place, may the words offered today provide testimony to the many who have passed through these doors and have gone forth to sow seeds of your grace, peace and love. Above all may we remember that it is not the buildings or the place, but the people who are your hands and feet that offer the cup of cold water and because of that, the legacy of this place that we hold dear will continue on. Bless, O God, this time, this place, and the people who have gathered in your name to remember, to celebrate, and to continue the work of Jesus. Amen.

Scripture readings

–Gene Hagenberger, district executive of Mid-Atlantic District

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:1-2).

“Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;
    his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall laud your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
    and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed,
    and I will declare your greatness.
They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness,
    and shall sing aloud of your righteousness” (Psalm 145:3-7).

Brethren Service Center History

–Miller Davis, former manager of Emergency Response and Service Ministries

As I considered what I might share today, the word TRANSFORMATION kept coming into my mind as a focus; not only of the changes to the physical plant but also to the lives of countless persons who have been involved in the work of the Brethren Service Center.  It is hard to summarize all that has happened here in a few minutes, but I will try.

OLD MAIN:  First building on campus, opened in 1850 as an institution of higher learning under several owners, including the COB and known as Blue Ridge College.  After being purchased in 1944, Old Main served as the main offices for Brethren programs, BVS Training, Maintenance Shop and Heating Plant for the two sister buildings.  After major renovations in the ’70s, Old Main joined Zigler Hall as part of the New Windsor Conference Center; housed the International Gift Shop and provided living accommodations for volunteers.  The Gift Shop was later moved to the SERRV Building and offices of Interchurch Medical Assistance were relocated to the lower level and first floor.

BECKER HALL:  Built as the Men’s Dormitory for Blue Ridge College.  Used as housing for staff including volunteers assigned to the Center, overflow lodging for BVSers in training, a Library for the campus and finally converted into an Apartment Building.

WINDSOR HALL:  Built as the Women’s Dormitory for Blue Ridge College.  I believe it was the first location for clothing processing, but not for long. Housed conference guests before Zigler Hall was built; mission 12 one example.  Lower level was kitchen and dining room.  Meeting room for BVS Training, hosted orientations for Polish Agricultural Exchangees, provided housing for refugees while waiting for their sponsorships to be completed, served as a safe house for domestic violence victims and was the first location of the On Earth Peace Office.  And it was a meeting space for weekly worship services, wedding receptions and General Board meetings.

BLUE RIDGE BUILDING:  Built as the gymnasium for Blue Ridge College.  Location for the processing and storing of clothing, bedding, health and school kits, soap, seeds, shoes, whatever was being collected to be shipped.  The cut garment department was located here where thousands of yards of flannel were cut for the making of layettes and an early version of the International Gift Shop was in this building.  Later, the gym was transformed into a multipurpose room and the warehouse space was converted into offices for Church of the Brethren Programs, Heifer International, CROP, Interchurch Medical Assistance, On Earth Peace, Mid Atlantic District, a Tour Room, Canning Center, BVS training, and Maintenance Shop.

SERRV BUILDING:  Built as a cinder block recreation building for volunteers and the community.  The basement was used as the first location for IMA shipments with two additions being added prior to the building of the distribution center to accommodate the growth of IMA.  Part of the building was used as the Maintenance Shop with the remainder used by SERRV.  To provide needed office space for SERRV, the building was expanded and a second floor was constructed for offices and an additional warehouse was added, creating the building you see today.

ZIGLER HALL:  Built in the late 1960s to provide more adequate food service preparation and dining facilities, Zigler Hall, named in honor of M. R. Zigler, expanded the opportunity to meet the needs of guests coming to the Center.  Coupled with Old Main and Windsor the New Windsor Conference Center offered a variety of options to groups looking for space to hold a retreat.  It also provided an improved location for the International Gift Shop located just inside the front doors.  Conference Center participants, Tour Groups, Volunteers working in one of programs, Employees, Refugees, Dignitaries from around the world have all broken bread in the Zigler Hall dining room.  Food for Meals on Wheels was prepared for many years and local organizations utilized the dining room for their banquets.

PERSONS LIVES:  But the story of TRANSFORMATION at the Brethren Service Center is more than how the buildings have been transformed to meet the needs of the various programs; it is also about the transformed lives of individuals who lived and worked in these buildings:  It is about Young men and women who arrived without any knowledge of the Brethren Service Center and left with a determination to receive additional education and with a very different view of the world.  It is about Refugees who learned English as a second language while waiting to be resettled.  It includes Polish Agricultural Exchangees who learned more about the Church of the Brethren and about the project where they would be located for the next couple of years.   It includes Young men who wanted to become over the road truck drivers and or carpenters being given opportunities to learn these trades here as they fulfilled their alternative service obligations.  And it includes the hundreds of thousands of persons whose lives have been changed because of the items shipped from this place and those who have benefited from the work of volunteers who have responded to disasters.

NEXT TRANSFORMATION: Today we celebrate the past and the next transformation of this upper campus as it is passed to new owners.  We trust that as this new transformation takes place, God will continue to bless what happens here and at the new Brethren Service Center located down the hill at 601 Main Street.  Brethren Disaster Ministries, Material Resources, Church of the Brethren offices, On Earth Peace and SERRV will continue to work from that location.

Scripture reading

–Roy Winter, associate executive of Global Mission and Service, Brethren Disaster Ministries

“For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:24-28).

Reflection on the meaning of the Brethren Service Center

–Jim Benedict, pastor of Union Bridge Church of the Brethren

Earle Fike, Jr., well known pastor and teacher in the Church of the Brethren, was not only a gifted preacher–he was gifted as well at coming up with snappy titles for his sermons.  One of my favorites was for a sermon based on the text in Genesis concerning the call of Abraham, where the patriarch is told, ““Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.”  Fike’s crafty little title for that sermon was, “God is Two-Thirds Go.”

It’s true–in scripture God is always giving his people orders to go here or there, from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to Moses, Joshua, and Ruth, to Jonah and various other prophets, to Jesus and the Apostles.  The implication is plain–if you want to be serious about your faith, you’d be wise not to get too attached to particular places.  And yet we do.

It has been several years now since the farm where I grew up was bought by a developer, but it still hurts a little when I go back to visit my Dad and see the hulking industrial building where the south pasture used to be and the old cornfield now filled with a neat row of two-story houses.  I sometimes try to imagine an alternate history, in which I had come into enough wealth to buy the farm myself and somehow preserve it, just the way I remember it.  But, of course, that didn’t happen.  I was one of those called to go, in my case, into the ministry in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Maryland.

Brethren, on the whole, have done a pretty good job at maintaining a healthy detachment from particular places.  Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that the first Brethren were refugees, many of them driven from one place to another, in search of the opportunity to practice their faith without interference.  Whatever the reason, Brethren have never been the kind of folks who put much effort into building monuments, museums or shrines.  The buildings where we meet for worship are merely meetinghouses, not cathedrals or temples; functional spaces, not architectural marvels meant to inspire awe or allegiance.

And then there is this place.  We have to be honest–we’ve grown attached to it.  It would be hard not to be impressed with its buildings and park-like campus set on rolling hills.  But the real reason we’ve grown attached is because of what has happened here.  Here the Brethren created something–several things, actually–that expressed our deepest sense of who God has called us to be.  Here, Brethren of very different theological perspectives have come together and worked side-by-side, learning to know and trust one another.  Here, hundreds of Brethren young people have come of age, formed their sense of adult identity, made life-long friends, and even met their future spouses.  SERRV, Heifer International, Church World Service, Refugee Resettlement, and Disaster Ministries have all been housed here, at one time or another, providing opportunities for people to work for causes that made a positive difference in the world.  No wonder we’ve grown attached.

Now, we can see that it may no longer be feasible to keep this place, that an era has come to an end.  We know, as scripture tells us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”  And yet, with the poet Robert Frost, we may reply:

Ah, when to the heart of man
     Was it ever less than a treason
     To go with the drift of things,
     To yield with a grace to reason,
     And bow and accept the end
     Of a love or a season?

Treason is too strong a word, of course, but there is regret and sadness.  And many of us will find it hard to suppress the urge to imagine alternate histories that would have allowed us to hold on to this place.  But we must be careful not to let our imaginations, memories and love for this place keep us from seeing the opportunities that we still have to serve God.  We must continue to listen for God’s call, and be ready to get up and go when we hear it.

We Brethren don’t have temples, but the Jews in the time of Jesus certainly did.  The great temple in Jerusalem was spectacular, and represented to many the divine power and blessing the Jews received as the chosen people of God.  If ever a people were attached to buildings, it was then.  So imagine how the disciples and others must have reacted when Jesus said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”  To the faithful Jew, it was outrageous to even suggest such a thing.  Indeed, it may have been part of what got Jesus crucified.

Another, equally telling, indication that Jesus was less attached to particular places than most of his contemporaries comes from the story of his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well.  At one point in their conversation, the woman challenges Jesus, saying, “Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain (Mount Gerezim), but you Jews say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”  Jesus replied, “Woman, believe me., the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…. The hour is coming and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.”

Ultimately, neither here nor there matters; worship in spirit and truth matters.  That is not to say that it is wrong to love a particular place, or to treasure the time we spend there.  It is only to say that it is wrong to think that what has happened in one place cannot happen in other places.  And if the truth be told, for many of us that is our real concern as we bid farewell to this place:  where and how and when will the important things that happened here happen again?  Where and when and how will our Brethren genius for creating ministries to respond to practical human needs find expression?  Where will Brethren of different perspectives be brought together to get to know and trust each other?  Where and when will Brethren young people have the opportunity they once had here to come together, sort out their adult identity, and make life-long friends?

I do not know, but those who grieve would be wise to remember that there was a time before this place was ours, before there was such a thing as the Brethren Service Center, and no one but God knew that there ever would be such a place.  Our leaders would be wise to consider ways to recreate in new forms and new places the important things that have happened here.  And we can all remember, and give thanks, that our God is consistent in his mercy and love but unpredictable in his methods, always surprising us and making a way where there seems to be no way.

Thus, as Paul writes, “We grieve, but not as those who have no hope.”  Our hope is in God, Creator, Redeemer, and Holy Spirit, who moves in our midst and calls us to move together with each other and with God into a future we cannot yet see. Amen.

Congregational hymn: “Blessed Be the Tie that Binds,” Verse 1

Closing prayer

–Carol Scheppard, moderator of Annual Conference

Almighty God who made Heaven and Earth,
Who made the sun to shine by day and the moon by night,
Who caused the water to flow and the plants to grow,
And the creatures to roam the earth,
You breathed life to surge in regenerating cycles,
Seed to bud to leaf to mulch to nourish seed.
We who are gathered here today give witness to the hundreds and thousands
Who planted the seeds of work in the world,
Nurtured the growth of physical and spiritual ministries,
And reaped the harvest you brought forth both on these grounds and all across the world.
Thank you for these halls and the souls who made them sing.
Bless the fruits of their work that they might seed the future with blessing.
As the seasons change we raise our hearts in hope:
Hope for the new inhabitants of this campus
That their work might bear good fruit
Hope for the initiatives that began here
That they will thrive in new and spectacular ways
As your never-ending abundance transforms all things for good.
As resurrection people we witness to the evolving life cycle
And the regeneration you bring in this place and beyond.
Thank you for your abundant blessing.
May we be willing agents for You, as your Chosen People and your Eternal Servants.
We pray these things in the name of one who is Resurrection, Jesus Christ our Lord.

2) Employees end service with the church upon closing of the Brethren Service Center upper campus


The Zigler Hospitality Center closed on April 30, 2017, with the closing of the upper campus of the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.


With the closing of the upper campus of the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., 10 employees of the Church of the Brethren end their work with the denomination. A few more will do so in coming weeks.

These employees, along with some long-term volunteers, were recognized at an all-campus luncheon at the Brethren Service Center on Friday April 28, with many fellow employees and family members present.

With the closing of the upper campus and Zigler Hospitality Center, May 5 marks the end of service for the following two employees:

— Mary Ann Grossnickle began as manager of the Zigler Hospitality Center on Jan. 20, 2015. She had served as interim coordinator of hospitality since Oct. 20, 2014. She oversaw continued expansion of services up to the time the facility closed. She managed the hospitality and kitchen team, and kept the Zigler Hospitality Center close to a break-even budget. In previous work at the Brethren Service Center, she held a variety of positions with SERRV International from 2006 to 2014, most recently as Volunteer Services coordinator.

— Connie Bohn has been program assistant for Zigler Hospitality Center since June 29, 2015. Previously, from 1999 to 2012, she served as secretary at the New Windsor Conference Center, which was the predecessor to the Zigler Hospitality Center and also was located on the upper campus of the Brethren Service Center. She worked as administrative support assistant at the Heifer International Mid-Atlantic Office from 1988 to 1998, when it was located at the Brethren Service Center.

Eight employees who worked in the kitchen at the Zigler Hospitality Center ended their employment on April 30:

— Janet Comings, the head cook, had been employed at the Brethren Service Center since 1982. She had worked for both the New Windsor Conference Center and the Zigler Hospitality Center. She began as head cook on Jan. 2, 2013, after Walter Trail Jr. concluded his service as managing chef. She led a team of assistants and volunteer kitchen aides in providing dining services for guests of the center and for groups who volunteered on campus.

— Fay Reese, a cook, had worked at the Brethren Service Center since 2000, serving at both the New Windsor Conference Center and Zigler Hospitality Center.

— Charlotte Willis, a cook, had worked at the Brethren Service Center since 2003, serving at both the New Windsor Conference Center and Zigler Hospitality Center.

— Elena Cutsail, a kitchen assistant, had been employed at the Brethren Service Center since 2007, serving at the New Windsor Conference Center and at Zigler Hospitality Center.

— John Frisby, a kitchen assistant, was employed at the Zigler Hospitality Center since 2014.

— Helen Eyler, a kitchen assistant, worked at the Zigler Hospitality Center since 2015.

— Katherine (Kathi) Blizzard, a kitchen assistant, worked at the Zigler Hospitality Center since 2016.

— Robyn Jackson, a kitchen assistant, was employed at the Zigler Hospitality Center since 2016.

Two long-term kitchen volunteers also have ended their service: Maria Capusan and Mathea Iglich.

3) Wieand Trust gives grants to church plants in Chicago area


Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.


The pastors of the two Chicago-area church plants at the Church of the Brethren’s 2016 church planting conference: at left is Jeanne Davies, pastor of Parables Ministry; at right is LaDonna Sanders Nkosi, pastor of The Gathering Chicago, with her husband, Sydwell Nkosi.

Congregational Life Ministries staff are supporting and overseeing grants from the David J. And Mary Elizabeth Wieand Trust to two church plants in the Chicago area. The Wieand Trust explicitly names Christian work in Chicago as one of three purposes for its grants.

The Gathering Chicago, a community of prayer and global/local service based in Hyde Park, Chicago, led by pastor LaDonna Sanders Nkosi, has received a grant of $49,500 for 2017. The Gathering Chicago intentionally gathers people across cultures and backgrounds for peacemaking, prayer, life-giving retreats, and service.

Parables Ministry, a Christian community of empowerment and belonging for persons with special needs and their families located at York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill., has received a grant of $23,372 for 2017. The ministry is led by pastor Jeanne Davies.

The grants from the trust complement district support for the two new church starts. Congregational Life Ministries staff have worked closely with Illinois and Wisconsin District leadership to support, supplement, and encourage these new ministries. Part of that work has included intentional conversations around practices and plans for sustainability with Congregational Life Ministries staff Stan Dueck and Joshua Brockway.

“It is my hope that with these conversations, and the strong relationships with Jeanne and LaDonna, we can begin to offer what we learn in the process to the wider network of church planters around the denomination,” Brockway said.

“Both starts represent new expressions of church, but are still formed out of core Brethren values,” Dueck commented.

4) Messenger magazine receives awards

Messenger, the Church of the Brethren magazine, has received two awards from the Associated Church Press. The first is an award of excellence for publisher Wendy McFadden’s online essay “A Playlist of Mercy and Hope.” The second award is an honorable mention for redesign of the Messenger website.

Of McFadden’s essay, the judges wrote, “Outstanding personal experience writing–clear, emotionally resonant, and engaging. A true pleasure to read.” Find the essay at

The honorable mention for redesign of the Messenger website is an affirmation of the transformation of the previous site, which offered just a few informational pages, into the new Messenger Online. The new website features several articles from each month’s print edition, as well as a few online-only articles. The redesign was carried out by Russ Otto, website designer, and Jan Fischer Bachman, website producer.

Find the website at .



5) Manchester University commencement marks 100th anniversary of Dan West’s graduation

By Anne Gregory, taken from a Manchester University release

Manchester University Commencement ceremonies on May 20 at the North Manchester, Ind., campus, will mark 100 years since Heifer International founder Dan West graduated from the school. The day also marks the nation’s first class to graduate with a master’s degree in pharmacogenomics (PGx). Manchester launched the one-year intensive course at its Fort Wayne campus last May.

The Undergraduate Commencement is at 2:30 p.m. in the Physical Education and Recreation Center (PERC) gymnasium, with 244 bachelor’s candidates. Doors open at 1:30 p.m., and seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. The ceremony is followed by a celebration at the athletic fields.

The Professional and Master’s Commencement is 10 a.m. in Cordier Auditorium. Seventy-four pharmacy doctoral, 10 pharmacogenomics master’s, and six athletic training master’s candidates are expected to receive degrees.

Both commencements are ticketed events, and there is overflow seating with wide-screen viewing for the undergraduate ceremony in PERC classrooms and the upper level of the Jo Young Switzer Center.

Heifer founder graduated 100 years ago

Dan West was a 1917 Manchester graduate and dedicated his life to relief work–from providing milk to hungry children during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s to inspiring farmers to raise and send heifers and other farm animals abroad through Church of the Brethren organizations.

He established the global nonprofit’s forerunner, Heifers for Relief Committee, in 1944.
Manchester and Heifer International have established a permanent display to honor West. The display is in Funderburg Library.

John Prendergast is featured speaker

International human rights activist and author John Prendergast will speak and receive an honorary degree, Doctor of Humanities honoris causa. Prendergast is the founding director of the Enough Project, an initiative to end genocide and other crimes against humanity.

During the Clinton Administration, Prendergast was involved in a number of peace processes in Africa while he was director of African Affairs at the National Security Council and special advisor at the Department of State. He also has worked for members of Congress, the United Nations, humanitarian aid agencies, human rights organizations, and think tanks.

He has written eight books on Africa, including “Not on Our Watch,” a bestseller he co-authored with actor Don Cheadle. He also serves as executive director of the Not on Our Watch foundation, founded by Cheadle, George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt.

He appeared in the film, “The Good Lie,” four episodes of “60 Minutes,” and on other TV news shows.

Under the Enough Project umbrella, Prendergast co-founded, with Clooney, the Satellite Sentinel Project, which aims to prevent armed conflict and human rights abuses through satellite imagery. With Tracy McGrady and other NBA stars, he launched the Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools Program to fund schools in Darfurian refugee camps. He conceived the Raise Hope for Congo Campaign, highlighting the issue of conflict minerals that fuel war there.

— Anne Gregory is assistant director for Media Relations at Manchester University. Find the full release with more details about the various commencement events at .


“Risk Hope” is the theme for the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in 2017

6) May Bible study on the Annual Conference theme: The people of God made new

By Carol Scheppard

As we set our sights on the Annual Conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., this summer, we continue our journey through the story arc that will be the foundation for our work and worship there. In our lesson last month we saw the crucial role of repentance, true and full repentance, as a first step on the road to new life. This month we hear the prophetic promises of new life beyond the darkness, a new life as witnesses for God, witnesses made wise through experience and deep gratitude.

The People of God Made New
May 2017

Scriptures for study: Jeremiah 31:1-34, Isaiah 43:1-21

“Risk Hope,” the 2017 Annual Conference theme, emerges as a recurring chorus from an Old Testament saga of tragedy and redemption–the story of Israel’s progressive descent into and emergence from exile. Staring down obstacles and situations very reminiscent of our 21st century challenges, our ancestors in faith made mistakes, suffered consequences, and endured darkness, but in the midst of it all they found their footing in their identity story, and ultimately welcomed God’s powerful presence in their midst. That presence launched them on a new path to abundance and blessing.

Last month we heard teachings from Zechariah and Jeremiah about the importance of recognizing and admitting our own role in bringing on the darkness, and in letting go of the trappings that keep us locked away from God. This month we hear joyful promises of the road ahead as we walk with God.

Read Jeremiah 31:1-26.

The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness. In Egypt and in Babylon, the people who weathered the darkness and wandered the wilderness of a strange land found the deep blessing of an intimate relationship with God on their journey.

“With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; For I have become a father to Israel and Ephraim is my first born.”

Notice how weeping and mourning are woven through the people’s experience. “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” And, “You disciplined me, and I took the disciplines; I was like a calf untrained…after I had turned away I repented; …I was ashamed, and I was dismayed because I bore the disgrace of my youth.”

The very reality of the sadness, the loss, the remorse both shapes and intensifies the joy. “For the Lord has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord…. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow….” It is because Israel knows so well the suffering, that they feel so deeply the joy. The former informs the latter and only together is the story complete. To reach the Island of True Joy, one must swim through the Sea of Sorrow.

It is important not to lose sight of the way intense joy is experienced together with mourning and loss, not to forget the lessons learned along the road. “Set up road markers for yourself, make yourself signposts; consider well the highway, the road by which you went. Return, O virgin Israel, return to these your cities.” The warnings of Moses and Joshua echo here–remember where you came from and how you got here. Mark well the road to God’s blessing so that you do not again get lost.

Read Jeremiah 31:27-30.

“And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord.”

This theme of plucking vs. planting, of breaking down vs. building runs throughout the book of Jeremiah. Right away in the first chapter, the call of Jeremiah, God appoints the prophet over the nations to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant. And just last month we read Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles, directing them, while in Babylon, to build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. One can even see the dual action as the core message for Jeremiah’s prophecy as a whole. But note that the planting does not merely replace what was plucked. As we saw with sorrow and joy, the breaking down forever alters that which is built in its wake. Jeremiah prophesies some big changes:

“I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord. In those days they shall no longer say: ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge.”

Here Jeremiah joins Ezekiel (Ezek. 18:1-32) in foreseeing a time when the sins of the fathers are no longer visited upon the sons, but when every individual will be held accountable for his/her own sins. And with that, Jeremiah sees the coming of a whole new covenant of salvation.

Read Jeremiah 31:31-34.

“I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…. I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people…I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”

The Mosaic covenant had been broken; the people were unable to embrace and live out the law written in stone. In its wake, Jeremiah prophesies the law written on their hearts, transforming them from the inside out, and allowing them an intimate knowledge of God never experienced before. The complete destruction of Israel and Judah, the plucking and breaking down of the People of God, makes possible a whole new relationship between God and God’s people, a relationship so intimate people will know God within their own being. “No longer shall they teach one another…for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” It is a time when, in the stillness of one’s own heart one can hear the voice and sense the leading of God.

Like Jeremiah, the prophet Isaiah also foresees a time, after the exile, when God and God’s people will enjoy a new level of intimacy.

Read Isaiah 43:1-21.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…. Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you…. Do not fear, for I am with you….”

Here God knows each one by name, and promises to be readily present in whatever challenges life presents. Notice that no one promises a life free from challenges. Hard times will come.  But those with an intimate relationship with God will not go it alone–God’s presence will be powerfully with them, and that presence will transform the impact of those experiences.

“You are my witnesses, says the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.”

It is precisely because one has passed through the waters and not been overwhelmed, has passed through the fire and not been burned, has passed through the flame and not been consumed, that one can testify, “I did it by the grace and the steadfast presence of God.”

Israel could not have become the light to the nations, had she not gone through the fire of exile and there experienced the powerful presence of God in her midst. Not only are sorrow and joy, plucking and planting, destroying and building intricately connected, but it is only by passing through the former to reach the latter that we become authentic witnesses to God’s life-giving presence.

So, the bad news is that as the People of God, the Followers of Christ, we will pass through waters and fires and flames. As surely as Jesus is going to sail straight into the storm and walk directly into Jerusalem, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. But the good news is, we will not go alone. “When you pass through waters, I will be with you.” The God who knows our name, holds us precious and honored, and loves us is about to do a new thing…. “I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.”

Praise God.

Questions for consideration

— The book of Ezra tells the story of the people’s return from Exile. It takes a couple of years but they harness their resources and begin the process of rebuilding/repairing the Temple. With the laying of the foundation, the people gather to celebrate: “The priests…and the Levites…sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord…. And all the people responded with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of families, old people who had seen the first house on its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sounds of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted so loudly that the sound was heard far away” (Ezra 3:10-13). What a wonderful image of weeping and joyful shouting all entwined. For the elders, their experience and wisdom makes the celebratory moment a very different experience than for those who never knew exile, and yet they all raise their voiced together. Can you think of other such occasions where one’s perspective shifts the event from a joyful one to one of sorrow? What does it mean that the joyful shouts and mournful weeping blend together and cannot be distinguished?

— Is it always necessary to move through darkness to experience the light? Can you think of examples from the Bible or from your own life where you have seen sorrow and joy intricately connected? What happens when you separate the two (long periods of sorrow where no joy breaks through? Joyful occasions not preceded by sorrow or struggle?). What are the consequences of living through sorrow and/or joy in isolation (one without the other)?

— What is the relationship between hardship and learning? Does one necessarily follow the other? Again, what happens when the two are isolated from each other? Can one grow and learn without pain?

— Does the presence of God alter our experience of sorrow or pain? If so, how?

— Many find great comfort in God’s intimate knowledge of us, but Job, in his suffering, found it difficult and relentless. He laments that there is nowhere he can go where God can’t find him, he feels “fenced in” and trapped. What are human beings that you make so much of them, visit them every morning and test them every moment? Will you not look away from me for a while, let me alone… (Job 7:17-18). Are there times when God’s intimate knowledge of us might not be such a good thing? If so when and why?

— How does living through hardship influence our ability to praise God? What is the relationship between struggle and praise?

— Carol Scheppard is moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference and will preside over the annual meeting of the denomination in Grand Rapids, Mich., on June 28-July 2. Find out more about the Annual Conference at .

70 Brethren bits

The Nigeria Crisis Response has purchased two new tractors to help Nigerian farmers grow more food, feed more people, and help their communities. “One tractor will help displaced families now living in the greater Abuja area,” reported Pam Reist, who with her husband, Dave Reist, currently is serving as a short-term volunteer in Nigeria. “The second tractor will be based in Kwarhi to support farmers returning home to rebuild their lives after being displaced for two years.” Shown here, Dave Reist tests out the tractor seat with Markus Gamache, staff liaison for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The Nigeria Crisis Response is a joint effort of EYN and the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries, working with a variety of Nigerian partner organizations. For more information go to .


— David Lawrenz has announced his plans to retire as executive administrator of Timbercrest Senior Living Community in North Manchester, Ind. In March, he and and Paul Schrock, board dhair, jointly announced to residents and staff that Lawrenz will retire in the near future. No date has been set. The Board of Directors has developed a Transition Team which will coordinate this leadership transition. Lawrenz has been at Timbercrest since 1974 and has served as executive administrator since 1979.

— Tara Shepherd-Bowdel, regional advancement officer at Bethany Theological Seminary, is resigning her position as of May 8, 2017. Since March 2016 she has served the Seminary in the eastern United States by strengthening relationships with alumni/ae and friends and encouraging them to remain engaged with Bethany, by seeking financial support, and by representing the Seminary at events. She will be pursuing local ministry opportunities in the Raleigh, North Carolina, area. Shepherd-Bowdel earned an MDiv at Bethany in 2015.

— Brethren Disaster Ministries has sent 20 volunteers from more than 10 districts to respond to flooding in Missouri. The volunteers had signed up to do rebuilding work following the 2015 flooding in the Eureka area, but “their plans changed since they arrived Sunday and they have spent the week filling and placing sand bags in downtown Eureka, helping to move furniture and appliances from homes ahead, handing clean-up buckets and helping local organizations with relief to the community,” reported Brethren Disaster Ministries director Jenn Dorsch. “The river crested at it’s highest on Wednesday but there has been more rain now that is continuing to fall towards the end of the week. Please pray for all those affected and for safe travels for our volunteers when the roads open and they leave this weekend.” Children’s Disaster Services also has a team of volunteer caregivers ready to aid families affected by the Missouri flooding when Multi Agency Resource Centers open up across the state next week. “We don’t know yet when and where,” reported CDS associate director Kathleen Fry-Miller. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the children and families affected by these severe storms and flooding.”

— Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) hosted its annual Think Tank meeting at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., earlier this week. The Think Tank serves as an advisory group to BVS. Members are Bonnie Kline-Smeltzer, Jim Lehman, Marie Schuster, and Jim Stokes-Buckles. Others attending the meeting included Lizzy Diaz and Neil Richer, Mennonite Voluntary Service incoming and outgoing directors; and Wayne Meisel, executive director of the Center for Faith and Service. BVS staff will also were part of the meeting.

— If April brings showers, then May brings…disaster relief auctions. Brethren Disaster Ministries sent an e-mail reminder to its supporters this week, saying, “We hope to see some of you at the auctions in May.” Mid-Atlantic District holds its 37th Annual Disaster Response Auction on Friday, May 6, at the Carroll County (Md.) Agricultural Center. For more information go to . Shenandoah District holds its 25th Disaster Ministries Auction on May 19-20 at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds in Virginia. Go to .

— The Shenandoah District Pastors for Peace hosted the 7th annual Living Peace Recognition Banquet on May 2 at Pleasant Valley Church of the Brethren in Weyers Cave, Va. Church of the Brethren members who have worked in jail and/or prison ministries were recognized. Harvey Yoder, a counselor, pastor, and social justice advocate, was the speaker on the topic, “Remember those in prison as though you were bound to them.”

— At the November 2016 meeting of the Brethren College Presidents, it was decided to change the name of CoBCoA to Brethren Higher Education Association. “BHEA is a collaboration of Bridgewater College, Elizabethtown College, Juniata College, Manchester University, McPherson College, University of La Verne, BCA Study Abroad, and Bethany Theological Seminary,” said a brief release. “It is the body that continues the work of building relationships and recruitment of Church of the Brethren students toward the goal of educating future leaders for the church and our world.”

— The annual Spring Festival at Brethren Woods was held Saturday, April 29, at the camp and retreat center near Keezletown, Va. “It’s not just our biggest fundraiser of the year, it is by far our biggest fun-raiser!” said an announcement. Activities included door prizes, hay wagon rides, children’s games, zip line rides, climbing tower and challenge course, paddle boat rides, mini-golf, Dunk the Dunkard, a fishing contest, a plant and flower sale, a hike-a-thon, live music, kiss the cow, an auction, and food.

— Bread for the World today urged the Senate to reject the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which was passed by the House of Representatives yesterday, May 4. “The AHCA will take away health insurance from millions of Americans, including 14 million on Medicaid,” the Bread release said. “At least 24 million people would lose their health care coverage under the AHCA. The AHCA would cap state Medicaid funding and eliminate the Medicaid expansion. States would receive less money to cover children, the poor, the elderly, and the disabled, resulting in the rationing of health care. Approximately 68 million Americans receive health insurance through the Medicaid program.” The release also noted that the bill would cut subsidies that have made it possible for millions of families to buy health insurance, and would allow insurers to charge higher rates for those with pre-existing conditions, returning many people to the situation prior to the Affordable Care Act, when “1 in 3 people with chronic medical conditions had to choose between paying for medical treatment and purchasing food for their family,” the release said. “Protecting Medicaid is a priority for the faith community,” said David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, in the release. “Medical bills often drive families, especially those who struggle to make ends meet, into hunger and poverty. We strongly urge the Senate to reject this bill.” Bread for the World ( is a collective Christian voice urging the nation’s decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad.

— The United Nations says boys and girls in northeast Nigeria “continue to be brutalized as a result of Boko Haram’s insurgency in the region and the ensuing conflict,” according to a news article on . “In the first report by the UN office of the special representative for children and armed conflict on violations suffered by children, the UN documented horrendous abuse of children between January 2013 and December 2016.” The article reported a number of statistics released by the UN: Book Haram attacks and confrontations with the military left some 3,900 children dead and 7,300 maimed; at least 1,000 of the children were killed and 2,100 injuries resulted from suicide attacks; up to 1,650 children were recruited and used by Boko Haram, and the insurgent group recruited and used thousands more since 2009, some as young as age 4; the children were used in direct hostilities, to plant improvised explosive devices, to burn schools or houses, and children, especially girls, have been used in suicide attacks since 2014 with at least 90 used in suicide bombings in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger; more than 1,500 schools have been destroyed since 2014, with at least 1,280 casualties among teachers and students; up to 4,000 boys and girls have been taken in mass abductions from schools, including the 276 Chibok girls kidnapped in 2014. On the Nigerian government’s side of the conflict, the UN also reprimanded the country for the 228 children, some as young as nine, who were recruited into the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), created in Borno State to assist the Nigerian Security Forces. Find the news article at .

— Dennis and Ann Saylor, members of West Green Tree Church of the Brethren near Elizabethtown, Pa., were recognized for their 30 years of service as COBYS foster parents at the organization’s annual Resource Parent Appreciation Banquet on May 1. The event is held in conjunction with National Foster Care Month. The Saylors are COBYS’ longest serving foster/adoptive resource parents, and are unique in that they have focused on foster care. “Many COBYS resource parents provide foster care for a time, adopt a child or children, and then conclude their service with COBYS,” said a release. “After adopting their daughter in 1988, the Saylors made a conscious decision to make foster care their ministry. As a result they have had a positive impact on six dozen children over three decades.” For more information about the ministry go to .

— Leon and Carol Miller of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., are among four nominees for the 2017 D. Ray Wilson Service Award in recognition of their years of working with Elgin’s Soup Kettle, a program that offers daily hot meals to the city’s homeless and others in need. The award presentation will part of Judson University’s Community Prayer Breakfast on May 10.

— Church of the Brethren member and community gardening enthusiast Penny Gay, of Pleasantdale Church of the Brethren in Decatur, Ind., has had an article published in the Journal Gazette. “After spending time in Alaska and witnessing the dependence of our native Gwich’in friends on the land and animals, Bill and I fully support protection of the coastal plain as wilderness to preserve their culture and livelihood. These are public lands, belonging to all of us. We feel that all Americans can and should help in the conservation and protection of this diverse and unspoiled land.” Find her opinion piece at .

Go to to subscribe to the Church of the Brethren Newsline free e-mail news service and receive church news every week.

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Jim Benedict, Brian Bultman, Miller Davis, Jenn Dorsch, Don Fitzkee, Chris Ford, Kathleen Fry-Miller, Anne Gregory, Nathan Hosler, David Lawrenz, Dan McFadden, Wendy McFadden, Pam Reist, Howard Royer, Carol Scheppard, David Steele, Julia Wheeler, Jenny Williams, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for 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.

Go to to subscribe to the Church of the Brethren Newsline free e-mail news service and receive church news every week.

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