Brethren bits for November 16, 2018

Esther Frey died Nov. 13 in Mount Morris, Ill. She had celebrated her 100th birthday in April. Born in California, she graduated from La Verne (Calif.) College and Bethany Theological Seminary and served as a school teacher for many years. She did volunteer work in Zimbabwe, wrote curriculum for Brethren Press, and served in a variety of district and denominational roles. A memorial service will be held Nov. 24 at 2 p.m. at Mount Morris Church of the Brethren.

Anne Wessell Stokes of Pottstown, Pa., began Nov. 5 as COBYS Family Services director of development. She has served as COBYS development associate since January and previously served in fundraising, event planning, and grant administration positions with the Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania and United Way of Greater Cincinnati. She grew up in Spring CreekChurch of the Brethren (Hershey, Pa.), completed a summer internship with Brethren Housing Association in 2009, and served for a year through Brethren Volunteer Service, coordinating children’s ministries and communication for the Cincinnati Church of the Brethren. COBYS, located in Lancaster, Pa., is affiliated with the Atlantic Northeast District.

Sarah O’Hara, from Liberty Mills Church of the Brethren, began as the administrative assistant for the South/Central Indiana District office on Nov. 1.

—The Brethren Historical Committee (BHC) held its annual meeting at the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College Nov. 2-4, hosted by Young Center director Jeff Bach. Among those attending were Bill Kostlevy, director of the Brethren Historical Library and Archives (BHLA) and ex officio on the BHC, and his current archival intern, Maddie McKeever. Committee members include Bach, Dawne Dewey, Terry Barkley (chair), and Kelly Brenneman. On Sunday the BHC traveled to Germantown Church of the Brethren in Philadelphia, where they worshiped with the congregation and shared a fellowship meal.

The Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy this week issued an “Action Alert” asking Brethren to contact their US congressional offices and ask them to support reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It cites a 1985 Church of the Brethren statement that notes “land is central to God’s covenant with people, central to the shaping of human community, and central to justice among all peoples who dwell on earth.”

School of the Americas Watch is holding its third “Border Encuentro” this weekend in Nogales, Arizona/Mexico as a witness on immigration issues. Until 2016, the organization—which bills itself as “the largest grassroots Latin America solidarity movement in the United States”—held its annual witness event at Fort Benning, Ga., with annual Brethren participation.

Doris Abdullah with UN staff members in New York City, August 2018

Doris Abdullah, Church of the Brethren representative to the United Nations, reported after the 73rd opening of the UN’s General Assembly: “I still believe that the vast number of nations and the people of the globe continue to work for the common interest of all of humanity.” Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces, former foreign minister of Ecuador, is serving as president of this assembly, the fourth woman elected to the post. The October edition of “Brethren Voices” highlighted Abdullah’s UN involvement.

Shenandoah District held its district conference Nov. 2-3 at Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock, Va. Delegates approved two minor changes to the district constitution but did not give the two-thirds majority needed for a change that would have allowed nominations from the floor for leadership positions. A Friday offering raised more than $2,400 for the Nigeria Crisis Fund. An altar display memorialized 2018 moderator Richi Yowell, who passed away in July. Several others convened sessions in his place.

—The Middle Pennsylvania District conference held Oct. 12-13 at Roaring Spring (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren collected two offerings totaling nearly $9,000 for hurricane recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. The Heritage Fair at Camp Blue Diamond (Petersburg, Pa.) raised more than $25,700 for camp and district ministries.

Atlantic Northeast District is sponsoring an “Anabaptist Historical Bus Trip” to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia on Dec. 1. Stops are planned at the John Kline Homestead in Broadway and the Crossroads Valley Mennonite-Brethren Heritage Center in Harrisonburg, as well as a visit to the Dunker Meetinghouse at the Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland, en route.

Northern Ohio District will hold a Healthy Congregations Workshop April 12-13 at Maple Grove Church of the Brethren (Ashland). Richard Blackburn, executive director of Lombard (Ill.) Mennonite Peace Center, will provide leadership. Registration is $25, with a preregistration deadline of April 2. Details are at

Shepherd’s Spring Ministries Center (Sharpsburg, Md.) will host a workshop titled “By the Heart, from the Heart: Biblical Storytelling for the 21st century” on Jan. 19. The main presenter is Robert Alley, a retired pastor and former Annual Conference moderator whose current focus is biblical storytelling. The event is for both pastors and laypeople. Cost is $50, and CEUs are available for Church of the Brethren pastors for an additional fee. For further details, contact Judith Clister at 304-379-3564 or

Cerro Gordo (Ill.) Church of the Brethren was recently featured in the “Herald & Review” of Decatur, Ill., for its work with the local Cerro Gordo Quilters group. The group creates cloth bags “used to hold some of the equipment women need following mastectomy surgery,” along with other outreach projects.

Paradise Church of the Brethren (Smithville, Ohio) was recognized recently in “The Daily Record” of Wooster for its diaper ministry, which aims to help parents of babies with costs through bulk purchasing. The article says the congregation got the idea after hearing a report about a similar project on National Public Radio (NPR).

Sue and John Strawser
Sue and John Strawser. Credit: The Early Bird/Bluebag Media. Used by permission.

John Strawser, board chair at Pitsburg (Ohio) Church of the Brethren, received this year’s Community Service Volunteerism award at the Ohio State Grange Banquet and State Convention Oct. 19 in Dublin, Ohio, according to a report in “The Early Bird” of Darke County. In addition to his service at the church, the article says Strawser works regularly with the State of the Heart Health Care Veteran Recognition Program.

—The November edition of “Brethren Voices features author Mark Charles, interviewed at the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in Cincinnati. “Charles shares the complexities of American history regarding race, culture, and faith in order to help forge a path of healing and reconciliation for the nation,” according to a release. Interviewed by Brent Carlson, host of “Brethren Voices,” Charles shares his feelings of being Navajo, as well as history of our Native Americans. Another upcoming program on the show interviews Kim and Jim Therrien, directors of Lybrook Community Ministries in New Mexico, a long-time mission point for the Church of the Brethren. DVD copies of the programs may be requested from Ed Groff,

—The Global Women’s Project recently welcomed Sarah Neher, Katie Heishman, Anna Lisa Gross, and Kim Hill Smith to new terms on its steering committee. The group met in late October in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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