Newsline for Sept. 21, 2017

Church of the Brethren Newsline
September 21, 2017

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).

Today, Thursday, Sept. 21, is the International Day of Prayer for Peace. On Earth Peace is asking groups that hold a Peace Day event to post about it at

1) Call to prayer for those in the path of Hurricane Maria, and related hurricane relief news
2) Leadership Team statement to the denomination
3) Congregational Life Ministries announces Renaissance 2017-2020 initiative
4) Pre-tax insurance savings are available for some pastors

5) Debbie Roberts resigns from Bethany Seminary faculty

6) Workcamp Ministry announces 2018 theme
7) ‘Justice Like Water’: Reflecting on a retreat planned for Virlina District

8) Inspiration 2017: NOAC by the numbers
9) Inspirational quotes from the week at NOAC

10) Brethren bits: Remembering Donna Derr, personnel, job opening, government recognizes church in Venezuela, BVS Unit 318, hurricane relief efforts by Brethren, Elizabethtown course on Simple Living, Brethren Nutrition Program to close, more


1) Call to prayer for those in the path of Hurricane Maria, and related hurricane relief news

CDS volunteers welcome children at a shelter in Texas, where they were serving children and families affected by Hurricane Harvey. Photo courtesy of CDS.

Brethren Disaster Ministries issued a prayer request for those in the path of Hurricane Maria, before the storm hit Puerto Rico. Following are portions of that prayer request:

“Hurricane Maria is bearing down on islands in the Caribbean less than two weeks after Hurricane Irma brought catastrophic damage to Barbuda, then St. Martin, and through the Virgin Islands. We are grateful that, during Hurricane Irma, Church of the Brethren families, homes, and churches in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Haiti experienced only minor damage. However, many food crops that are critical in Haiti for families living on the edge of deep hunger were destroyed.

“Now families in the Caribbean suffer the fear of yet another powerful storm threatening their islands. Pray for the safety of these families, many of whom are already living in dire circumstances. For those who are afraid, pray that they may feel safety in God’s presence. Pray for the children, that they are not forgotten in this crisis. Pray for protection for food and water supplies, buildings and crops, so that people will have basic necessities, including shelter. Pray for God’s peace to rain down on us all.”

In related news:

An allocation of $25,000 from the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) will provide resources for a Caribbean hurricane response program organized and managed by Brethren Disaster Ministries. The response will have an initial focus on supporting Puerto Rico and Haiti relief and recovery. Brethren Disaster Ministries will send emergency funds to the Puerto Rico District office, initially up to $10,000, to help with early relief activities. Response planning may result in a more comprehensive response plan that may include a rebuilding program. Resources will also help Brethren Disaster Ministries staff explore needs and potential response programming in other areas including Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the US Virgin Islands.

Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) has been requested by FEMA to support Disaster Recovery Centers, so the mission of caring for children continues on in both Texas and Florida, reports Brethren Disaster Ministries. CDS currently continues to have teams working in Florida following Irma.

The work of CDS and its volunteer teams has gotten some press:

CDS associate director Kathleen Fry-Miller and her husband, Paul, were among the volunteers interviewed by the Fort Wayne “Journal Gazette.” The Fry-Millers have seen “lots of homes with flooding; national guardsmen helping provide security; adults who were afraid as hurricane-related storms swept through; and plenty of children who need a sense of normalcy in what might seem like chaos,” Paul told the paper. “This is my first disaster deployment,” he said. “What an eye-opener.” Find the article at .

In an article about how Red Cross counselors help shelter residents with stress, CDS volunteers are mentioned for their role in aiding children and families. Find the article from the “Naples News” at .

To give to the Church of the Brethren hurricane response, including the work of Children’s Disaster Services and Brethren Disaster Ministries, go to . Send checks for hurricane relief to Emergency Disaster Fund, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.

2) Leadership Team statement to the denomination

The following statement has been issued by the Leadership Team of the Church of the Brethren, which includes the Annual Conference officers–moderator Samuel Kefas Sarpiya, moderator-elect Donita J. Keister, secretary James M. Beckwith–along with general secretary David A. Steele, district executive representative David D. Shetler, and Conference director Chris Douglas:

The Leadership Team is aware that a district in the Church of the Brethren has made the decision to license to the ministry an individual who lives in an openly committed homosexual relationship. A new fellowship pastored by that individual was recognized by its district conference and was introduced at Annual Conference 2017. Since that time many questions have been raised regarding the accountability of districts. The Leadership Team has sought to clarify that in Church of the Brethren polity, the authority to credential ministers and to establish new congregations and fellowships belongs to the districts. At the same time, the Leadership Team is certainly aware that the intention of our polity is that districts will work within the covenant of our life together and abide by the decisions of Annual Conference.

The 2002 Annual Conference action established the policy that the Church of the Brethren will “consider it inappropriate to license or ordain to Christian ministry any persons who are known to be engaging in homosexual practices, and will not recognize the licensing and ordination of such persons in the Church of the Brethren.” It is the intent of denominational leadership to act in accordance with all the policies established by Annual Conference.

The Leadership Team has been studying our polity to discern what actions might be taken when districts choose to act outside the covenant of Annual Conference decisions, and we find that our polity does not specify how the larger church should respond to this particular circumstance. We continue, however, to research Annual Conference minutes and plan to discuss the results of our research with Standing Committee at its next meeting. In the meantime, the moderator and moderator-elect are seeking opportunity to visit with the district that has made this decision, in order to discuss the various expressions of concern we have heard and to seek mutual understanding with district leadership as to why the district has made a decision in apparent contradiction to the 2002 Annual Conference decision, which was adopted by the church as a whole as a part of the covenant for our life together.

Regarding the introduction of new fellowships at Annual Conference, our polity calls us to respect the district’s authority to grant fellowship and congregation status. And at the same time, our polity calls us to abide by the policies established by Annual Conference. Our best way of responding to the introduction of this fellowship in light of its pastoral leadership is Brother David Steele’s response as general secretary:

“As staff, we are carefully evaluating our practices of recognizing new fellowships at Annual Conference and will make adjustments to make certain that any recognition at a future Annual Conference more closely aligns with our Annual Conference statements.”

In the face of these conflicts, it is our deep desire to continue to strive for common ground that can lead us to a compelling vision for our life together. We hold in tension the need for a unified purpose in the midst of diverse points of view. We pray that we all will continue to strive together, seeking peace through love and grace in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

David A. Steele, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren
Samuel Kefas Sarpiya, Annual Conference moderator
Donita J. Keister, Annual Conference moderator-elect
James M. Beckwith, Annual Conference secretary
David D. Shetler, district executive representative
Chris Douglas, Conference director

3) Congregational Life Ministries announces Renaissance 2017-2020 initiative

A prayer circle at one of the church planting conferences that are sponsored by Congregational Life Ministries. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.

by Stan Dueck

Congregational Life Ministries is committed to empowering every person to make a positive difference in their world through demonstrating the extraordinary God. If we are to be faithful to our commitment to transform the world, we will reach out with an open, genuine hospitality to people wherever they are, inviting and welcoming them as we seek to renew existing congregations, start new faith communities, and inspire faithful discipleship.

Congregational Life Ministries is announcing Renaissance 2017-2020, a two-foci approach empowering people to more fully articulate and embody their faith at such a significant time in the world today. Renaissance 2017-2020 is simply about reaching out to people with the Good News of God’s love through Jesus Christ. God is calling us to multiply vital ministry that will reach more people, more young people, and more diverse people in our communities. Together, the two-point foci are our calling and our mission.

1. Growing Vital Churches: Focusing churches and leaders on the following key drivers of congregational vitality:

— Disciples actively engaged in the practices of healthy small group life, mission, and generosity.

— Creating evangelistic church cultures that receive people, relate them to God, help them grow spiritually, and go into the world with the good news. Exploring the roles pastors and laity must fulfill that prepare the congregation for ministry beyond the church property.

— Intergenerational Ministries for young to older ages that inspire faithful discipleship and life-changing practices that empower people to embody and share God’s love, renewing the local congregation and transforming the world. Vital churches champion the well-being of all people, providing appropriate learning opportunities for people of all ages to participate in the life of the church.

— Intercultural Ministry training to church planters, existing church pastors, and district leadership interested in more diverse ministries and congregations in their areas.

— Equipping people with a vital faith to be effective leaders in the local church.

— Pastoral leadership that increases the spiritual and participatory capacity of people to accomplish changes in the church, and that transforms the local community.

— Inviting and inspiring worship that evokes a Spirit-filled presence of God enabling people to live a meaningful, faith-integrated life.

2. Start 1: The process of calling, training, and supporting new and experienced church planters drawing on resources and leaders whose mission is to support pioneers and fresh expressions of faith communities throughout the United States:

Congregational Life Ministries will work with district and denominational leadership to recruit, organize, and offer best practices to train expert church planters. Through a movement called Start 1, the effort stimulates congregational growth, building on a church multiplication ethic inherited from our Anabaptist/Pietist roots and scripture.

How will Congregational Life Ministries fulfill Renaissance 2017-2020? By way of resources, events, and social media, Congregational Life Ministries will equip congregations and pastors drawing on local, regional, and national resources and leaders whose mission is to provide training and support. Also, the Congregational Life Ministries website will be enhanced with effective resources that relate to the key drivers of church vitality and church planting.

— Stan Dueck serves as director of Transforming Practices and is a co-coordinator of Congregational Life Ministries.

4) Pre-tax insurance savings are available for some pastors

From Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT)

At Annual Conference in Grand Rapids, BBT President Nevin Dulabaum announced during the live report that it is now possible for employers of small organizations like churches to help their employees with health insurance premiums on a pre-tax basis.

IRS rules can be confusing, and in an August 2016 Benefit News article, BBT outlined three scenarios in which churches with one employee, or churches with more than one employee could potentially qualify for pre-tax reimbursement of medical premiums, depending on hours worked or whether the employee was in the top percentage of staff pay.

Those situations still left many churches ineligible to reimburse medical premiums on a pre-tax basis for their employees, which is the reason the new option that became available in 2017 is so significant.

The tool that can be used for this is a Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement. A QSEHRA can be used by employers with more than one but less than 50 full-time equivalent employees. Some of the basic qualifications for a QSEHRA also include that the employees are not getting their health coverage from any type of employer-sponsored group plan.

An important factor to consider when setting up a QSEHRA is the notification period. The employer must give a 90-day notice to employees that are eligible to participate in the QSEHRA. This notification allows the employees to decide if they would like to participate or not.

The BBT website has several documents that can walk you through setting up a QSEHRA and answer some questions about whether a QSEHRA is right for your church. The site contains a checklist of things to be completed in order to set up a QSEHRA, a news release from BBT’s benefits legal team that talks about a QSEHRA and some of the items that need to be considered, a basic QSEHRA plan document, and a QSEHRA application that can be used by employees. While these documents have been reviewed by BBT’s legal counsel, it is important that you consult with your own counsel in the event that you have specific questions that are not addressed in the documents provided.

— This article first appeared in the BBT newsletter “Benefit News.” Find it and more information online at .

5) Debbie Roberts resigns from Bethany Seminary faculty

by Jenny Williams

Debbie Roberts, assistant professor of reconciliation studies at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., will resign her position as of Dec. 31. She has received a call to pastor Sunnyslope Church of the Brethren in Wenatchee, Wash. To maintain continuity during the remainder of the academic year, Roberts will teach reconciliation studies courses already scheduled for spring 2018 in an adjunct capacity.

Hired in July 2013, Roberts was the first to hold this faculty position at Bethany and developed the seminary’s newly named academic program in reconciliation studies. Her courses in conflict transformation, mediation, and restorative justice showed strong enrollment, including both Bethany and Earlham School of Religion students, and the position was renewed in 2016. That fall her courses became the core of Bethany’s new specialized graduate certificate in conflict transformation.

Steven Schweitzer, academic dean, notes the valuable contribution Roberts has made to the Bethany faculty and that she has been approved as a continuing adjunct faculty member. “Debbie’s courses in reconciliation studies bring creative, practical, and essential approaches to conflict transformation that are sorely needed by our students, our congregations, our country, and our world. Her commitment to students, both face-to-face and online, and to a deep educational experience are obvious to those who know her. Although there will be a transition and her focus will be congregational ministry, I am hopeful that she will be able to teach for Bethany as an adjunct in the coming years.”

— Jenny Williams is director of communications for Bethany Theological Seminary.

6) Workcamp Ministry announces 2018 theme

by Grey Robinson

The Church of the Brethren Workcamp office is excited to announce the 2018 workcamp theme: “Loving God, Loving People.” The theme is developed from the scripture 1 John 4:19-21 (The Message) which touches on the necessity for loving others in order to truly love God.

The summer workcampers’ devotional material will focus on the interconnectedness of loving both God and people, as well as explore the somewhat difficult and messy reality of what it means to be “loving people” as Christ commands.

More information regarding summer dates and workcamp locations will be available soon at . Registration for the summer 2018 workcamps will open Jan. 11, 2018, at 7 p.m. (central time).

— Grey Robinson is the assistant coordinator for the 2018 workcamp season, serving in the Church of the Brethren Workcamp Ministry.

7) ‘Justice Like Water’: Reflecting on a retreat planned for Virlina District

The “Justice like Water” retreat in Virlina District will be led by Intercultural Ministries director Gimbiya Kettering.

by Gimbiya Kettering

After everything that has happened this summer, it can be hard to believe that just four years ago, we gathered to talk about intercultural ministries as the wider nation was marking the second term of the first Black president and an era often described as “post-racial.”

We dreamed together of a multicultural church and woke up to a nightmare as the nation was rocked by successive waves of racially motivated violence: shootings of unarmed black Americans by police officers and citizens, the shooting of a Bible study group in their church by a young man intending to start a race riot, the shooting of police officers by citizens, the increase in hate crimes ranging from graffiti to beatings and murder, rallies of people carrying Nazi flags, and repeated protests in response to all of this. The pundits and politicians continually speak up about what it means–and are getting it wrong over and over.

In times such as this, what is the role of Christians? How does the church equip its members to a vision of justice rolling down like water, while also bringing good news to all flesh? What are the commandments and call in the Word for our generation?

Join a small group retreat for a time of visioning and revival about the unique role of Christians in these divided times. As the conversation in the wider culture largely consists of people on our screens telling us what to think, church is one of the few places where people can come together to learn and remember with the scriptures, wrestling with our own sin, and being anointed to set forth in this divided empire.

This time is open to pastors as well as lay leaders, deacons, congregation members, family, and friends who want to find ways to pray and work together in our churches and the wider world where God has called us.

— Gimbiya Kettering is director of Intercultural Ministries for the Church of the Brethren, on the staff of Congregational Life Ministries. She will lead “Justice Like Water,” a retreat sponsored by the Virlina District New Church Development Committee, on Oct. 20-22 at W.E. Skelton 4-H Conference Center in Smith Mountain Lake, Wirtz, Va. For a registration brochure: .

An “all NOAC” photo by Eddie Edmonds.


8) Inspiration 2017: NOAC by the numbers

Inspiration 2017: National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) brought older adults from across the denomination and across the country together for a week of worship, fellowship, laughter, and learning in early September. From Labor Day on Monday, Sept. 4, through Friday, Sept. 8, the conference was hosted at Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center in western North Carolina, in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. Find the onsite coverage of Inspiration 2017  including photo albums, webcasts, daily news sheets, a form to order the NOAC 2017 DVD, and more at .

Here is a glimpse of NOAC, by the numbers:

14: number of National Older Adult Conferences held by the Church of the Brethren over 25 years, from the first NOAC held in 1992 to Inspiration 2017

855: number of people registered

17: number of people who have attended all 14 NOACs

99 years and 9 months: age of the oldest participant, Virginia Crim

237: total who signed up for afternoon bus trips to Junaluska Elementary, Smoky Mtn. National Park, Asheville’s African-American history tour, Biltmore House and Gardens, Hendersonville, and Oconaluftee Indian Village

734: number of Church World Service “Gift of the Heart” kits assembled and/or donated. This included 432 school kits, 301 health kits, and 1 clean-up bucket. Additionally, more than $900 was donated to the CWS kit collection.

1,268: number of books donated for Junaluska Elementary. The books will stock small libraries in each classroom.

more than $5,100: raised for the church’s work in South Sudan. About 170 people registered for the fundraiser walk around Lake Junaluska.

$21,445: received in offerings during the worship. Offerings supported the ministries of the Church of the Brethren, including older adult ministries.

School principal and staff (at right) and NOAC volunteers and staff (at left) pose with hundreds of the books that were collected at NOAC for Junaluska Elementary School. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.


9) Inspirational quotes from the week at NOAC

National Older Adult Conference this year featured an inspiring line up of speakers and preachers. These quotes give just a taste of their messages. Recordings of each of these keynote presentations, Bible studies, and worship services are available to view in full online. Find a link to view the NOAC webcasts at .

“Generation to generation we’re called to welcome Jesus, even as Jesus welcomes us, every moment of our lives.” — Preacher Rodger Nishioka, pastor of adult educational ministries at Village Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, Kan., who also has preached for Annual Conference and National Youth Conference.


“The office of servant of God is a major office…. This is about service as we might think of giving one’s whole being to the office.” — Bible study leader Stephen Breck Reid, professor of Christian scriptures at Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas, and a former academic dean and professor of the Old Testament at Bethany Theological Seminary.


“God designed the church at its best when old and young serve alongside each other…. God is every bit as interested in the old as he is in the young.” — Keynote speaker Missy Buchanan, a top-selling author for Upper Room Books, who writes about aging and faith.


“Our job is to help this country navigate this…demographic change that so many white folks are afraid of…. You can do this. It’s part of your vocation as Christians.”
— Keynote speaker Jim Wallis, president and founder of Sojourners and a leading evangelical voice in the American Christian community.


“How needed courage is in our world today…. Our children and our grandchildren–they need us to be brave, to pass on the gift of what it means to be Brethren in the world at this exact time…. We need courage so that the next generation can count on us to fan that flame in them.”
— Preacher Susan Boyer, senior pastor of La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren.


“One [seagoing] cowboy led to another and another and another. Their stories were so compelling…and I was hooked. I hadn’t meant to become a historian and an expert…. All I wanted to do was write my novel. But when I saw those stories were hiding away…my mission changed.”
— Keynote speaker Peggy Reiff Miller, now the leading expert on the seagoing cowboys of Heifer Project and Heifer International, and author of the Brethren Press illustrated children’s book, “The Seagoing Cowboy.”
“Go now into the scared places of this weary world.
But don’t go by yourself.
Go with the whole community of God,
joyful generations making all places sacred.”
— The benediction given by Wendy McFadden, publisher of Brethren Press and the Church of the Brethren communications, who preached the closing sermon of the conference.


10) Brethren bits

Global Mission and Service worker Grace Mishler has returned to Vietnam to continue her work with disabilities ministries there. She has shared this picture in a Facebook post of Phuc, a young toddler whose eye surgery expenses were supported by Brethren in the United States, wrapped in a “love blanket” from Union Center Church of the Brethren. American seed money for eye surgery expenses helped “to facilitate Vina capital foundation to take leadership in managing contributions in funds that support to babies facing retina detachment,” Mishler wrote. “The family of baby Phuc share their thankfulness and gratitude. They are happy because they were told their child will never see and thank God they found us and a miracle happened. He is seeing in one eye. He is active. He likes to play soccer.” She added that the older sister in the family is blind, and the family is working very hard to make sure their son keeps his contact lens in place to continue his healing. Courtesy of Grace Mishler.

— Remembrance: Donna J. Derr, a former Church of the Brethren General Board employee, died on Sept. 5. She served with Refugee/Disaster Services in New Windsor, Md., first as administrative assistant (1981-1987), then as director (1987-1996). In 1998, she joined the staff of Church World Service (CWS), a long-time partner of the Church of the Brethren through which Brethren Disaster Ministries extends its work internationally. CWS president and CEO John L. McCullough wrote in a remembrance of the “deepest sadness and grief” felt by CWS colleagues at her death. “Most recently, Donna served as Executive Director of CROP (CWS), overseeing a global program of sustainable development in response to hunger, poverty and disaster, and its fundraising program,” McCullough noted. “Donna began her work with CWS in January 1999 as the Associate Director of the Emergency Response Program, with particular expertise in US domestic disasters. She had been a consultant with CWS before that time and, worked with the Church of the Brethren in volunteer, refugee and disaster ministries. In 2005, Donna was appointed as Director of the Emergency Response Program. She was a member of the ACT Alliance founding board of directors, and served until recently on its governance, as well as on the board of the Foods Resource Bank. Our prayers are with her husband, Francis Stepanek, and her extended family, as well as the many colleagues among our member denominations, the VOADs, and the many, many networks and individuals with whom Donna interacted, who benefited from her beautiful energy and dedication to personal service.” Plans for a way to honor and celebrate the life of Donna Derr will be forthcoming.

 In a personnel announcement from Shenandoah District, Harrison Jarrett begins Sept. 27 as director of Youth Ministries for the district. He has been involved in young adult ministry on four continents and is completing a degree in Bible and Worship Arts at Lancaster Bible College, said the announcement. Working with Youth With a Mission (YWAM), in 2012 he was engaged in evangelical ministry in Australia, England, and Nepal. He grew up on the mission field in Italy, as the son of pastors Harry and Beth Jarrett, and has special interests in music and film production.

— The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership announces a quarter-time positionopening for a coordinator of Spanish-language ministry training programs. The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership is a ministry training partnership of the Church of the Brethren and Bethany Theological Seminary, with offices located on the seminary campus in Richmond, Ind. The primary functions of this position are to administer the certificate-level ministry training programs in Spanish, work with various constituencies to provide leadership for these programs, and maintain regular and supportive communication with students and their district liaisons. Candidates should possess the following qualifications and abilities: fluency in Spanish and English, both in oral and written communication; experience in the Latino church, either in the United States or abroad; completed ministry training through the Church of the Brethren or similar; five years of effective leadership in pastoral ministry; ability to travel to meet with students and supervisors; ability to travel to the Bethany campus several times a year and to the Church of the Brethren General Offices as needed. Additional qualifications of benefit: Spanish as a first language; ordination in the Church of the Brethren; a master of divinity degree or equivalent. A complete job description is at . Applications will be reviewed upon receipt and will be accepted until the position is filled. Interested candidates should send their resumes, a letter of interest, and contact information for three references by e-mail to Janet L. Ober Lambert, Director, Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, 615 National Road West, Richmond, IN 47374; . Bethany Theological Seminary’s policy prohibits discrimination in employment opportunities or practices with regard to race, gender, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, or religion.

— “Praise God for the official government recognition of the Church of the Brethren in Venezuela!” said this week’s global mission prayer update from the Global Mission and Service office. The Venezuelan government has approved the group’s incorporation under the name Asociacion Iglesia de los Hermanos (ASIGLEH). The board of the Venezuelan Brethren will now visit each congregation to officially register them, and more than 60 congregations have expressed interest in joining, the update said.
Also shared was a prayer request from Lubungo Ron, a leader of Eglise des Freres au Congo (the Church of the Brethren in the Democratic Republic of Congo), for people of the South Kivu province where high levels of violence are occurring, especially in Fizi and Uvira territories. “Ron reports that ‘people are killed day by day–it is like a massacre,’” the update said.

The team planning worship and leading music for NYC 2018. Photo by Kelsey Murray.

— Leaders of the Ministers’ Association, and the group planning worship for National Youth Conference next year, both held meetings recently at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The Ministers’ Association team was hosted by Joe Detrick, interim director of the Office of Ministry, and included Stephen Hershberger, Karen Cassell, Barbara Wise Lewczak, Ken Frantz, and Tim Morphew. The NYC worship planning group includes worship coordinators Rhonda Pittman-Gingrich, Cindy Lattimer, Shawn Flory Replogle, and Brian Messler, and music coordinators David Meadows and Virginia Meadows (not present at this meeting). They were hosted by Becky Ullom Naugle, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, and Kelsey Murray, NYC coordinator.

— Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) Unit 318 gathers on Sunday, Sept. 24, at Camp Pine Lake in Eldora, Iowa, to begin a two-and-a-half week orientation. The volunteers and BVS staff will spend the orientation discussing mindsets of service, and living and working in community. The volunteers will discern where they will spend the next one to two years sharing God’s love through service. Find out more about the longterm volunteer opportunities available through BVS at .

— An article about the NOAC book collection for Junaluska Elementary School appeared in “The Mountaineer” newspaper, highlighting the school principal’s delight with the connection to Church of the Brethren older adults–as well as the special connection that two volunteers, Libby and Jim Kinsey, have built with the school and its staff and students. Find the article at .

— “We give special thanks to Jean Hollenberg of the Sebring (Fla.) Church of the Brethren and her family,” said an e-mail from John and Jeanne Laudermilch and Roger and Mary Kay Turner, volunteers who coordinated the very successful CWS kit collection at NOAC this year. “Jean sewed 50 bags and gave 3 notebooks to supply each of them for NOAC again this year, and family and church friends brought them, even though she passed to new life late in June.” They also thanked Ed Palsgrove for transporting on the Mid-Atlantic District bus 18 large cartons full of kits, and some extra items, back to the Material Resources warehouse at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. The kits will be processed and prepared for shipment, to be distributed by Church World Service.

Brethren across the denomination are taking action to aid hurricane survivors, such as by collecting and assembling and donating Church World Service (CWS) Gift of the Hearts kits. Here are a few examples:

The 41st annual Brethren Disaster Relief Auction, to be held Sept. 22-23 at the Lebanon (Pa.) Expo and Fairgrounds, is dedicating a portion of proceeds to Hurricane Harvey relief, according to “Lancaster Online.” “It is the largest disaster relief auction in the world, run entirely by volunteers and attracting 10,000 people,” the article said. “Besides a general auction, the two-day event includes sales featuring everything from coins and quilts to heifers and theme baskets,” along with “the third annual Run for Relief and Run for Fun, a 5k race, starting from the fairgrounds at 8 a.m. Sept. 23,” and “more than 75 quilts…available for purchase.” Events this year include building Gift of the Heart school kits for children in the hurricane-affected areas, beginning at 1 p.m. on Sept. 22. Find the article at–/article_685421be-94c7-11e7-ad28-df46b2504efa.html .

Members of the Hutchison family of farmers in Easton, Md., who attend Fairview Church of the Brethren, have been organizing transportation of hay to aid farmers affected by Hurricane Harvey and the flooding in Texas, as reported in “The Democrat Star.” The newspaper reported that “Ethan Hutchison, 26, of Easton, has started a movement across the farming community to bring relief to the thousands of animals in Texas that have been affected by the devastating hurricane.” He told the paper, “Nobody really thinks about the animals…. They have nothing now, no feed or hay, like the people affected they have lost everything too.” He put out a call to friends via Facebook, asking for help to gather supplies and possibly take a truck load to Texas. “Within 12 hours the post had been shared 46 times and I had a trailer filled with hay and straw and was starting to fill a second trailer,” he said, in the interview. “With people there is long list of things they need, but when it comes to animals it’s simple–they need straw, hay and feed.” Find the article at .

At least three districts are collecting donations for hurricane relief and/or assembling Gift of the Heart kits. Virlina District is collecting cash donations toward disaster relief efforts. The Shenandoah District’s Kit Depot in Weyers Cave, Va., will be open weekdays 9 a.m.-4 p.m. through Friday, Sept. 29, to receive Church World Service kits, and the district office also is receiving donations via check. Southern Ohio District’s disaster ministry ordered supplies for 500 clean-up buckets for Church World Service, with each bucket valued at $75 and containing the items needed for a family to clean a home after a flood. Southern Ohio District also is receiving donations by check, at the district office in Greenville, Ohio.

Junior high youth in Mid-Atlantic District will assemble clean-up buckets during the district conference in October. Supplies and checks are being collected at Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren for this project.

Wichita (Kan.) Church of the Brethren is coordinating an effort in Western Plains District, working with friends at the Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, to collect clean-up buckets for those affected by the flooding from Hurricane Harvey. Roger Elkins, a member of the Wichita congregation, is one of the leaders of the project, and along with pastor Alan Stucky planned on driving the kits to the Church World Service distribution center in Little Rock, Ark., to deliver them.

Mount Hermon Church of the Brethren is one of the congregations that have teamed up to collect bottles of water to help those affected by Hurricane Irma. A report in the “Martinville Bulletin” said the churches teamed up with God’s Pit Crew, Autos by Nelson, and B&B Trucking Co. to deliver a truckload of bottled water to Florida totaling about 1,600 cases of water. The article credits Brian Fulcher from the Mt. Hermon church for coming up with the idea. Go to .

McPherson (Kan.) College students, faculty, and staff have been putting together disaster relief kits as one of several relief efforts organized by the Office of Spiritual Life and Service. A release from the college reported that the basement of Miller Library was turned into a kit assembly line on Sept. 8 when hygiene kits were assembled to be distributed to emergency shelters. “McPherson College is donating the supplies for the kits, which are part of Church World Service’s response to the recent disaster,” said the release. Jen Jensen, director of Spiritual Life and Service, also reported that the college has reached out to the roughly 20 students from the Houston area. “So far all of our students’ families seem to be in good shape,” Jensen said.

— The Etownian newspaper of Elizabethtown (Pa.) College is reporting on a unique class that teaches simple living. Taught by associate professor of sociology Michele Lee Kozimor-King, the course “traces the history and current outgrowths of the social movement,” the article said. “Simple living, also referred to as simplicity, voluntary simplicity, or the simple life, is a lifestyle focused on taking the complicated and unnecessary things out of life. According to Dr. Kozimor-King, simple living means living consciously and deliberately.” Find the full article at .

— The Brethren Nutrition Program in Washington, D.C., a ministry of Washington City Church of the Brethren, will be closing. “After much discernment and assessment, Washington City Church of the Brethren has decided to ‘lay down’ the Brethren Nutrition Program,” said a letter from Faith Westdorp, operations manager, and Jennifer Hosler, a minister at the church. “Our program was founded in 1980, under the leadership of Pastor Duane Ramsey and BVSer Richard Davis. Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, it was frequented by between 200-300 guests per lunch. Over the past 20 years, our program attendance has steadily declined,” the letter explained, in part. “Our program’s low attendance is not able to offset our bare-bones budget, which has resulted in a $12.55 cost per meal.” The letter cited the $50,000 expense of a needed renovation of the kitchen, alongside positive changes in the area including more grocery stores per capita, inroads made against chronic homelessness, and other local service agencies that are meeting needs. “Many meals have been served, kind words shared, and relationships built…. We are so grateful for the decades-long support from across our denomination. Congregations, workcamps, BVSers, individual volunteers, and more: the ministry of Brethren Nutrition Program has certainly been enriched, sustained, and encouraged by sisters and brothers across the US,” the letter said. “Please know that we did not enter into this conversation or this decision lightly. Thank you for what you have done and how you have supported the cause of serving hungry neighbors on Capitol Hill.”
In related news, a recent grant toward the kitchen renovation project, given by the Global Food Initiative, will be returned to the fund.
A barbecue lunch will celebrate the Brethren Nutrition Program’s 37 years of ministry to the Capitol Hill community. All guests, supporters, volunteers, and friends are invited. The barbecue is this Sunday, Sept. 24, from 1-3 p.m. at Washington City Church of the Brethren, 337 North Carolina Ave., Washington, D.C.

— Samuel Sarpiya, Annual Conference moderator, is leading a workshop titled “A Story of Biblical Peacemaking” from 9 a.m.-12 noon on Saturday, Sept. 30, at Harrisonburg (Va.) First Church of the Brethren. Ordained and licensed ministers who attend can earn .3 continuing education credit. The workshop is sponsored by the Pastoral Support Committee of the Shenandoah District Ministerial Leadership Team. Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. The cost is $10, and reservations are due by Sept. 25 by calling or emailing Sandy Kinsey at 540-234-8555 or

— Mid-Atlantic District is celebrating the building of a Habitat house. A note from the committee chair Glenn Young, in the district newsletter, told the story: “At District Conference in 2015, a dream was created for the Mid-Atlantic District to build a Habitat House. A committee was formed and the house was named the ‘Mustard Seed II’ after the parable of Jesus moving mountains with the faith of a mustard seed…. Currently the house is 90 percent complete, with an open house scheduled on September 29 and the dedication and settlement in mid-October.” The district is still seeking some additional financial support as the project nears completion.

 A Facebook Live video about the annual worship service at the Dunker Church at the Antietam Civil War battlefield has been posted. The event took place Sept. 17. The video features information about the Brethren of the Civil War era and more, with Dennis Frye of Brownsville Church of the Brethren. Go to .

— Certified Dementia Practitioner Training will be offered on Oct. 26 from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Nicarry Chapel at Cross Keys Village-the Brethren Home Community in New Oxford, Pa. The training is for those pursuing CDP® certification and who qualify through the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners, as well as other health care professionals, staff, family members, and students. Jennifer Holcomb, a Certified Dementia Practitioner and Certified Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Care Trainer, is the instructor. Registration starts at 7:30 a.m. Lunch is “on your own,” with many choices on and off campus. Light refreshments will be available during morning and afternoon breaks. Any sort of recording or taping is prohibited during the session. Cost for professionals is $185, with a $75 cancellation fee. Cost for other participants is $40, with a $30 cancellation fee. Payment must be received by Cross Keys Village on or before the date of the seminar. The registration deadline is Oct. 13. Go to .

— The second course offering this season from the “Ventures in Christian Discipleship” program at McPherson (Kan.) College will focus on “Navigating Religious Diversity: An Introduction to Interfaith Cooperation.” The course will introduce participants to the concept of interfaith cooperation and will discuss the basic skills and knowledge necessary for  its successful implementation. Also considered will be practical strategies for navigating religious diversity. The class will be held online Saturday, Oct. 14 at 9 a.m.-12 noon (central time) taught by Zandra Wagoner, university chaplain at the University of La Verne in Calif. All classes are donation-based and continuing education credit is available for $10 per course. To learn more about Ventures in Christian Discipleship and to register for courses, visit

— Church World Service (CWS) is advocating for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and along with partners in the Interfaith Immigration Coalition is inviting congregations to stand in solidarity with immigrant youth by organizing a Dream Sabbath, “ideally before the end of October,” said a release. “A Dream Sabbath can be dedicating time during a regular weekly worship service to having immigrant youth share their stories and asking congregants to take action in support of the Dream Act, or it can be a vigil, meeting with your Senators and Representatives, etc.” Find a Dream Sabbath toolkit online at . Congregations that hold an event are invited to log it on a map at by the end of October, to demonstrate the breadth of support from people of faith across the country. For more resources, please visit .

— On Wednesday, Sept. 20, at the United Nations a treaty to ban nuclear weapons was formally opened for signature. “At the time of writing, some 49 states have signed,” reported a release from the World Council of Churches (WCC), which has been supporting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This is a historic new treaty, the release noted. The text of the treaty was adopted in July by two-thirds of the 193 UN member states after months of talks. It “bans the manufacture, possession and use of nuclear weapons and provides pathways for their eventual elimination. It not only prohibits nuclear weapons, it also requires the provision of aid to victims and environmental remediation,” the release said. The treaty will enter into force 90 days after 50 countries have ratified it, the final step after signature. Already three nations–the Holy See (Vatican), Thailand, and Guyana–ratified the treaty on the same day as it was opened for signature, according to the WCC. “By signing the treaty today, these nations have taken a lead in protecting all our countries and the planet that is our home,” said WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit. He urged national leaders to quickly ratify as well as sign the treaty. “This new treaty has to potential to save millions of lives, and creation itself, from the most destructive and indiscriminate weapons ever developed by human beings.”

— In more news from the WCC, the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland, is hosting an exhibition of hope for justice and peace. The exhibit is “part of the highly acclaimed ‘Seek#JusticeAndPeace in the Holy Land’ social media campaign, which began in June this year in connection with the 50-year mark of the Six-Day War and the occupation it entailed,” said a WCC release. “The opening of the exhibition on Monday coincides with the World Week of Peace in Palestine and Israel (WWPPI), a global yearly event to advance peace and join in prayers for the Middle East.” The exhibition in Geneva follows a pilot version displayed in Beit Sahour, Palestine, in June.

— Katie Schreckengast of Palmyra (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, “Miss Pennsylvania,” appeared in this year’s Miss America Pageant. She was interviewed by Brethren Voices before she was named Miss Pennsylvania. Find that interview and more of her personal story at . Her webpage is at .

— Jim Therrien of Lybrook (N.M.) Community Ministries and pastor of Tokahookaadi Church of the Brethren has been interviewed for an extensive article on the role religious communities are playing in the work on climate change. “Churches that have long played a role in social justice are stepping up,” notes the piece written by Sarah Tory and published in the High Country News. “Before Pastor Jim Therrien, 49, moved to New Mexico, he rarely thought about environmental issues,” the article begins. “Back in Kansas, where he was born and raised, the grass outside his home was always green, and though the state had an active oil industry, companies fenced off well sites properly and promptly cleaned up spills. But then he and his family saw the impacts of energy development on the Southwestern landscape and their new church community. Therrien began to think about the connection between the local environment and the broader issue of climate change. Every day, Therrien, a blond, ruddy and tattooed man of Irish descent, looked out his window and saw a dry land getting drier.” The piece goes on to report about the situation of the congregation, mostly Navajo, located in an area heavily affected by the San Juan Basin oil drilling boom. Read the article in full at .

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Joe Detrick, Stan Dueck, Debbie Eisenbise, Jan Fischer Bachman, Kendra Flory, Kendra Harbeck, Jennifer Hosler, Gimbiya Kettering, Nancy Miner, Kelsey Murray, Grey Robinson, Jen Smyers, David Steele, Jenny Williams, Roy Winter, and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Please send news tips and submissions to the editor at

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