Thursday’s inspiration – National Older Adult Conference 2017

Church of the Brethren Newsline
September 6, 2017

Early morning

In an impressive demonstration of dawn determination, NOACers participated in four different activities at 7 am, with temperatures hovering around 43 degrees (F).

As mist rose over the lake, about 170 participants made the early morning 2.3 mile walk for South Sudan, raising over $5300. Walkers reported seeing a woman swimming around the lake; some theorized that she must be training to swim the English Channel.

Photo by Nevin Dulabaum.

Morning devotions were also offered at two sites, and Amy Gall Ritchie led a time of walking the labyrinth near the chapel.

Bible study

Stephen Breck Reid led a Bible study on Esther. He invited attendees to address various questions in small groups.

See the recording at

Dedication of gifts

Over 700 Church World Service kits were assembled, including school kits, health kits and a clean-up bucket. Nearly $1000 was donated to buy supplies for the kits and cover shipping.

Earlier in the week 700 books were delivered to Junaluska Elementary School. An additional 500+ books were collected, for a total of over 1200 books. Four school employees traveled to the conference center to receive the books: Sherri Arrington, principal; Lisa Thompson, assistant principal; Marlene Creary, Title I teacher; and Susan DelBene, lead teacher/curriculum.

Principal Arrington teared up as she thanked the group for the donation. She said that in 39 years of teaching, she had never encountered anything like this.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.

Keynote address

Following a time of singing and recognition of elders, Peggy Reiff Miller shared a presentation on “Delivering Hope to the Next Generation.” Best known for her research on the seagoing cowboys, Miller shared stories from the 70s, when the threat of nuclear war caused many to live in fear.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.

See the whole session at

Miller did a book signing and talk-back later in the day.


“Hood Huggers” led what participants called a “fascinating” tour of Asheville with local educator and historian (and artist, poet, and environmentalist) DeWayne Barton. The group learned about the closure of many African-American schools during the process of desegregation and visited the Burton Street Peace Gardens and other sites.

Other NOACers hiked in the Smoky Mountains, visited Oconaluftee Indian Village, and took a pontoon boat ride on what warmed up into a “perfect” fall afternoon.

Interest groups

Interest group topics included adoption, the future of Bethany Theological Seminary, Christian Peacemaker Teams, connecting with the church in Nigeria, financial matters, “Recalling our Pietist Roots in Story and Song,” perspectives of Brethren women, a virtual tour of Brethren historical and cultural sites, new developments at Annual Conference, creating a finger labyrinth, journal writing, tie-dye, and gentle yoga.

Naturalist Michael Skinner brought birds of prey from Balsam Mountain Trust. See the owls, hawks, and even a bald eagle here:

Evening program

Following singing and announcements by NOAC News, BBT presented a moving memorial slide show. Chris Good and Seth Hendricks performed old and new songs, as well as hymns sung in traditional and new ways. Alexander Mack stopped in for a surprise visit to discuss some of this song lyrics. It was decided that, at over 300 years old, he probably qualified to attend the conference.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.

NOAC’s 25th anniversary was recognized with reminiscences by Jay Gibble and a balloon drop.

See the video at:

The evening ended with – surprise! – an ice cream social.

Find Inspiration 2017 – National Older Adult Conference photos, resources, videos and more at

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