Brethren bits for November 2, 2018

Correction: The Oct. 26 Newsline special edition misidentified the coordinator of the Kaleidoscope program for the Brethren Mennonite Council (BMC) for LGBT Interests. Naomi Gross coordinates the program and shared with the Mission & Ministry Board at its recent meeting.

Unite sign with Star of David
Unite sign in Pittsburgh. Photo by Pat Krabacher

—Many communities and congregations have been holding vigils and other events for solidarity and support in the wake of the Oct. 27 massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, such as one in Wichita, Kan., which was held “to remember the victims of the shooting and to show them that by standing together we can help rid the world of hate and ignorance and replace it with love and acceptance.” A photo of Springfield (Ore.) Church of the Brethren member Leslie Seese at a prayer gathering in Eugene was included in coverage by the Associated Press. At Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., the board of trustees paused their meeting on the day of the shootings for a time of prayer. The US National Council of Churches of Christ issued a statement calling for civility and healing in the wake of the tragedy, and a group of interfaith leaders held a gathering in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Brethren Disaster Ministries’ response to Hurricane Michael continues in Florida. Initial Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) teams traveled home and were replaced by new teams. Shelter populations are decreasing, and the Red Cross is consolidating services at one large facility. A total of 24 CDS volunteers have served 338 children to date. Elsewhere, a team of four experienced CDS volunteers with advanced training traveled to Pittsburgh this week at the request of the Red Cross in response to the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue. The team set up in a Family Assistance Center to support grieving families and the community, but families did not bring their children to the center, and the team returned home Wednesday. “The team was able to minister to the other responders and community in other ways and reported it was a privilege to serve and support the grieving community,” BDM executive director Roy Winter said.

—The Pennsylvania group Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence is sponsoring the exhibition “Souls Shot: Portraits of Victims of Gun Violence” Nov. 2-30 (closed Nov. 21-23) at The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill’s Widener Hall in Philadelphia.

Dean Markey Miller, 83, passed away Oct. 20 in Hagerstown, Md. He was a long-time pastor and interim pastor, serving congregations across the country. A graduate of Wheaton College and Bethany Theological Seminary (where he later served as adjunct faculty), he was moderator of the 1973 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, one of the youngest ever to serve in that role. He also spoke before the US House Waynes and Means Committee in 1976 on behalf of the Church of the Brethren General Board in support of the World Peace Tax Fund. A celebration of life service was held Oct. 30 at Hagerstown Church of the Brethren.

Eleanor Plagge, 82, a long-time former Brethren Press employee, passed away Oct. 23 in Plainfield, Ill. Following a Brethren Volunteer Service term in Germany, she worked at the offices from 1958 to 1963 and again from 1976 to 1998, spending much of that time as a customer service specialist. A memorial service was held Oct. 27 in Naperville, Ill.

Marianna Burkholder, 90, passed away on Oct. 25. She worked in the business/finance office at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., for 32 years until retiring in 1992. After retirement she continued to volunteer with Material Resources. A funeral service was held Oct. 30 in New Windsor.

—Shenandoah District has hired Brenda Sanford Diehl, a member of Calvary Church of the Brethren, as its new director of communications, effective Jan. 1. Current communications director Ellen Layman is retiring Dec. 31.

Dan McFadden speaking to group at his farewell reception
Farewell reception for retiring BVS director Dan McFadden

—A reception and celebration for outgoing Brethren Volunteer Service director Dan McFadden was held at the Church of the Brethren General Offices on Oct. 23. McFadden is leaving the position today after nearly 23 years in the role.

University Baptist and Brethren Church (UBBC, State College, Pa.) at its Oct. 28 congregational business meeting endorsed a resolution stating that a revenue-neutral carbon tax should be enacted by the US Congress. “As Christians and people of faith, UBBC believes it has an important role in caring for creation,” pastor Bonnie Kline Smeltzer said. The concept would place a tax on carbon-producing energy to be collected by the Treasury Department at the source and distributed to US households. Stone Church of the Brethren (Huntingdon, Pa.) has also endorsed the idea.

—A disaster offering in Virlina District has raised more than $11,500 for disaster relief as of Oct. 30. The World Hunger Auction held annually in Virlina has distributed $29,700 from this year’s proceeds to Heifer International, $14,850 to Roanoke Area Ministries, $5,940 to the Church of the Brethren Global Food Initiative, and $2,970 to each of three local projects.

—“Kingdom Building: An Evangelism Conference” will take place Nov. 9-10 at Greenville (Ohio) Church of the Brethren. It is sponsored by Southern Ohio/Kentucky District, the Brethren Retirement Community of Greenville, and the group Brethren for Biblical Authority. Annual Conference moderator-elect Paul Mundey is the featured speaker. Cost is $20. Learn more at

—The Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center celebrates its 25th anniversary tomorrow, Nov. 3, with a banquet and worship event at Chambersburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren.

—A search committee is seeking a successor for Elizabethtown (Pa.) College president Carl Strikwerda, who earlier this year announced that he will retire on June 30, 2019. The committee aims to nominate a candidate to the board by year’s end.

Bridgewater (Va.) College will host a symposium March 14-15 titled “The Status of Brethren Organizations: Demise and Momentum.” Sponsored by the Forum for Brethren Studies, it will examine the condition of Annual Conference, Bethany Theological Seminary, Brethren Press and the Mission and Ministry Board over the past quarter-century. Presenters will be Ben Barlow, Scott Holland, Ruthann Knechel Johansen, and Carol Scheppard. Jeff Carter, Wendy McFadden, and David Steele will respond.

Manchester University (North Manchester, Ind.) will add a new Master of Accountancy degree in fall 2019. The program’s 3+1 format will allow students to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in an intensive four years.

Outdoor Ministries Association (OMA) will holds its annual retreat Nov. 11-15 at Camp Bethel (Fincastle, Va.) on the theme “Waters of Grace.” Workshops will address crisis management, marketing, mental health, group games, and other topics. Conversation times, a site tour, a field trip, and other activities will also be included. Details are at

Camp Swatara (Bethel, Pa.) is seeking a Program Manager for a year-round, full-time, salaried position based on an average of 45 hours per week with many hours during the summer season and more regular hours the rest of the year. Applications are due by Nov. 26. For more information and application materials, visit

Brethren Woods (Keezletown, Va.) will holds its Election Day love feast Nov. 6, from 7 to 8 p.m. The event, which began in 2016, was started as a way “to affirm that our first allegiance is to Jesus” and to emphasize love over division. Information is at

—In the latest Dunker Punks podcast, Matt Rittle takes on a deep dive into the Franklin Grove (Ill.) Church of the Brethren’s event for International Day of Peace, called Pinwheels for Peace. Listen at or subscribe on iTunes or your favorite podcast app.

—Resources for On Earth Peace Sunday on Dec. 9 are now available at

Eugene Peterson, author of “The Message” translation of the Bible and numerous books died Oct. 29 in Montana. He was 85.

Churches for Middle East Peace will host an advocacy summit for young adults Jan. 12-14 in Washington, D.C. Titled “Reclaiming Our Voices: Reframing the Narrative for Shared Justice in Israel and Palestine,” it is open to anyone ages 18-35. Details are at

— The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA held its annual “Christian Unity Gathering” last month in College Park, Md., with 38 faith communions—including the Church of the Brethren—taking part. Business included a progress report on an update to the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, along with adopting a budget and elections.

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