Today in Grand Rapids – Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Church of the Brethren Newsline
June 28, 2017

The tolling of a bell opens the worship at Annual Conference 2017. Photo by Glenn Riegel

“For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land” (Jeremiah 32:15).

Worship theme for the day:
Risk Hope! Our God reigns in the darkness

Quotes of the day

“Worship God alone. Take care of each other.”

— Carol A. Scheppard, Annual Conference moderator, speaking about the key understandings in the 10 commandments. She preached for the opening worship service of the 2017 Conference. Her text from Jeremiah 32:1-15 was the story of the prophet Jeremiah purchasing land at the moment when an invading army was poised to destroy what was left of his city of Jerusalem. She characterized Jeremiah’s prophetic, hopeful act as “one of the most audacious and outrageous stories in all of scripture,” and called the congregation to follow his example, asking, “Can we let go of all that stands between us and the unbridled love of God?”

“God is always there, when you think no one else is there for you. When you think things are falling apart, God is putting them together.”

— Markus Gamache, staff liaison for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) giving the “Risk Point” story during evening worship. Every worship service of the 2017 Conference will feature a “Risk Point” story told by a variety of Brethren.

Carol Scheppard, moderator of the 2017 Annual Conference, preaches the opening sermon on Wednesday evening, June 28. Photo by Glenn Riegel


The 2017 Annual Conference is presided over by Carol Scheppard, moderator, with moderator-elect Samuel Sarpiya and Conference secretary James Beckwith. The Conference director is Chris Douglas. The Program and Arrangements Committee for the Conference includes elected members Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, Founa Inola Augustin-Badet, and John Shafer. Numerous district volunteer coordinators help make the Conference happen, led this year by site co-coordinators Joanna Willoughby and Randy Short. Other volunteers lead in worship and music and more. For full lists of leadership go to

The day’s schedule

Pre-Conference meetings including Standing Committee and the Ministers Association came to a close today at the Amway Grand hotel in Grand Rapids, and the Annual Conference began with evening worship in the adjacent DeVos Convention Center. Also opening today: the exhibit hall with numerous booths and exhibits and the Brethren Press bookstore. Hearings on key business items followed worship, and were complemented with an ice cream social. Youth, young adults, and single adults gathered for their first evening of activities.

The congregation at prayer during the opening worship service. Photo by Regina Holmes.

Offerings will benefit a variety of ministries

Each offering received during the worship services of the 2017 Conference will benefit a different ministry or mission of the Church of the Brethren denomination. This evening’s offering will grow faith in children through the ministry of Brethren Press. Using the donations given this evening, Brethren Press will give a copy of the Shine On Story Bible to congregations that are not yet using the Shine Sunday school curriculum. Shine is a cooperative venture of Brethren Press and MennoMedia. Congregations that receive a copy of the Shine On Story Bible will learn that generous donations from Annual Conference provided the book, and will be invited to learn more about how Brethren Press helps children follow Jesus. For more about Brethren Press and Shine go to .

Oldest and youngest

Standing Committee member Marlin Heckman of Pacific Southwest District, whose professional career has been in libraries and archives, discovered the photo at left, showing the oldest and youngest members of Standing Committee in 1934. At right, Geo. A. Branscom, age 79, from North Carolina; at left, Carl Mitchell, age 24, of Maryland.

The photo from 1934 inspired the taking of the photo at right, showing the oldest and youngest Standing Committee members in 2017. At left is Jim Tomlonson, age 81 1/2, from Missouri; at right, Michaela Alphonse, 35 3/4, from Florida.


For more onsite coverage of Annual Conference go to

The news coverage of Annual Conference 2017 is made possible through the work of the volunteer news team: Frank Ramirez, Conference Journal editor; photographers Glenn Riegel, Regina Holmes, Keith Hollenberg, Donna Parcell, Laura Brown, Allie Dulabaum; writers Frances Townsend, Karen Garrett, Gene Hollenberg; with web staff Jan Fischer Bachman and Russ Otto, and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services. Wendy McFadden, publisher. Contact

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