Newsline for April 20, 2018

Church of the Brethren Newsline
April 20, 2018

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.

1) Mission Alive gathers Brethren around the concept of a global church
2) Global Food Initiative issues grants for community gardens, agriculture initiatives
3) Class of 2018 to graduate from Bethany Seminary
4) Chiques kicks off 150th anniversary with old-time worship service

5) Dan McFadden resigns as director of Brethren Volunteer Service

6) Brethren Academy lists upcoming courses

7) Reflections from the National Mall

8) Brethren bits: Mission exec. remembers warm welcome from new Cuban president Diaz-Canel, CDS deploys team to Oklahoma, meetings at the Church of the Brethren General Offices, Bethany Seminary hosts the district executives, and more


Quote of the week:

“Every day people go hungry, people seek water, and people die because of our use of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels have played a critical role in the development of our society, but as we better understand their impact on human health and the climate, it is time to heed God’s call to help the vulnerable, and move toward other energy resources.”

— From resources for creation care provided by the Creation Care Committee, a study committee that will report to the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference this July. With the theme, “Answering Christ’s Call to Love Our Neighbors,” the resources focus on improving energy efficiency and moving toward renewable energy. “The posted resources were carefully selected to contain reliable and accurate information, maintain a non-partisan viewpoint, and not conflict with Brethren values,” the committee writes in an introduction to the site. “Some sources are faith-based while others are secular, but all embrace positive action.” The resources are provided in several topic areas: why act, getting started comprehensive resources, insulation and energy efficiency, renewable energy, financial matters, faith resources, and community action. Find these free and downloadable resources at


Reminders about National Youth Conference

“Can you believe NYC is 90 days away? But its not too late to register!” says a reminder from NYC coordinator Kelsey Murray. “Get your youth group together and join this week of mountain top, faith-forming experiences!” NYC is a conference for senior high youth and their adult advisors, scheduled for July 21-26 in Fort Collins, Colo.

Registration costs $500. After May 1 there is a $50 late fee. By April 30, all forms, money, and t-shirt orders are due. May 1 also is the deadline to sign up for the Frisbee Tournament sponsored by Brethren Volunteer Service (contact Grey Robinson at or 847-429-4328).

General information about NYC is at . Register at Find links to forms at Purchase t-shirts at


1) Mission Alive gathers Brethren around the concept of a global church

A vision for a global Church of the Brethren was a point of discussion and focus for Mission Alive 2018, a conference for mission-minded church members from across the United States and around the world. The conference was organized by the Global Mission and Service office working with the Mission Advisory Committee, and hosted by Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren on April 6-8.

Keynote speakers spoke from their own experience of mission and their own expertise in a variety of international contexts, as well as their experience of “translating” the essence of the church in differing languages and cultures. The keynote speakers were

— Alexandre Gonçalves, a theologian in Igreja da Irmandade (the Church of the Brethren in Brazil) who also works for a ministry to prevent child abuse and domestic violence;

— Michaela Alphonse, pastor of First Church of the Brethren in Miami, Fla., who spoke from her experience with Global Mission and Service as a program volunteer with Eglises des Frères D’Haiti (Church of the Brethren in Haiti);

— David Niyonzima, founder and director of Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services (THARS) in Burundi, which provides psychosocial intervention and rehabilitation for people traumatized by war and violence, and vice chancellor of the International Leadership University-Burundi; and

— Hunter Farrell, director of the World Mission Initiative at Pittsburgh (Pa.) Theological Seminary who has had mission experience in Democratic Republic of Congo and other parts of Africa as well as in Peru in work related to the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Using their presentations as a stepping off point, mission executive Jay Wittmeyer led sessions outlining a vision for a global Church of the Brethren, and opened that concept for conversation. The vision document was adopted by the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board and will come to Annual Conference as an item of business this summer (find it at ).

Currently, Church of the Brethren denominations are established, or are in the process of forming, in the United States, India, Nigeria, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Spain, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and Venezuela.

Feetwashing was a part of the love feast at Mission Alive 2018. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.

It will be a hard task but an inspiring task to build a global Church of the Brethren said Gonçalves. “Identity matters,” he told the conference, emphasizing the necessity of remembering the essential elements that define the Brethren tradition. “Without memory, our self-perception would be impossible. When an individual or group loses its memory, it also loses…a sense of belonging, sense of values and beliefs.”

He urged Brethren to continue to gather around scripture and study it in community, citing communal discernment of scripture as a key practice to maintaining a Church of the Brethren identity rooted in the Anabaptist and radical Pietist theological traditions. These traditions call believers to be involved in peacemaking and to address the political issues of the time, he said, and they lead to servanthood. “There should not be Christian mission without service to others,” he said, “because Jesus’ commission touches all aspects of life.”

He posed a hard question, however, noting that the Church of the Brethren is experiencing a diversity of theology and practice in the United States and internationally. Do Brethren really share the same theological tradition and language? he asked. “What is the point of celebrating a global Church of the Brethren if many of the bodies do not manifest or do not want to know, manifest, embrace the Anabaptist and radical Pietist views? …We must show that our essence is the same,” he said, urging a return to Brethren roots that all the bodies have in common. “It is time to sow the seeds again.”

In addition to keynote sessions, the event included an evening peace vigil, a full love feast with feetwashing, meal, and communion service, and numerous workshops that shared detailed information about mission work of Brethren around the world.

Wittmeyer led a closing session that gave international participants opportunity to share their initial responses to the idea of a global Church of the Brethren. Those who spoke were supportive of the concept, while acknowledging past mistakes that have been made in mission and acknowledging the difficulties surrounding such a venture. The difficulties mentioned included questions about the nature of the global body’s structure, how to finance it, and how leadership will be determined

In response to questions, Wittmeyer explained that the vision document was reviewed by some key international church leaders in Nigeria, Brazil, and elsewhere, prior to its adoption by the Mission and Ministry Board. They affirmed its direction, he told the conference.

If adopted by Annual Conference this summer, the vision document will open up the possibility for invitations to the various international denominations to come to the table to together consider creating a global church structure. The document at this point represents an opportunity for the church in the United States to revise its mission philosophy and reconsider its relationship to the other Brethren denominations, he emphasized.

Adoption of the document at Annual Conference will not create a global Church of the Brethren. That step is still far in the future, after the various Church of the Brethren denominations and their leaders make their own decisions about whether to join in such a shared venture.

Find webcasts from Mission Alive and an online photo album linked at

Participants in a peace vigil at Mission Alive 2018 held a candlelight walk to a nearby community college, where a prayer circle was held. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.


2) Global Food Initiative issues grants for community gardens, agriculture initiatives

Members of the Church of the Brethren in Spain work in a community garden that receives support from the Global Food Initiative. Photo by Jeff Boshart.

The Global Food Initiative of the Church of the Brethren has given a number of grants in the first few months of 2018 to support community gardening efforts, agriculture initiatives, and other work to support food security in a variety of areas across the globe. Grants have been given to projects in the United States, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Spain. For more information go to

Community gardening projects in the United States

Grants from the Global Food Initiative (GFI) have been given to community gardening projects connected with a number of Church of the Brethren congregations:

Lybrook Community Ministries, working closely with Tokahookaadi Church of the Brethren in Lybrook, N.M., has received an allocation of $15,440 to expand a gardening program to include more Navajo families in six communities: Lybrook, Counselor, Ojo Encino, Pueblo Pintado, White Mesa, and Nageezi. Grant funds will purchase a small tractor, a trailer, tillage attachments, materials to construct hoop houses (or unheated greenhouses), and fencing materials. This is the fourth year that the project has received GFI funding. Previous allocations total more than $26,000.

A community garden connected with New Carlisle (Ohio) Church of the Brethren has received an additional allocation of $2,000. An allocation of $1,000 was made in 2017. Members of the New Carlisle church are actively involved in this project, which began three years ago. Funds are going for mulch and top soil, lumber for raised beds, a used tiller and lawn mower, a weed wacker, some labor costs, and other miscellaneous expenses.

Rockford (Ill.) Community Church of the Brethren is receiving a grant of $1,500 to support its community garden. Two garden plots initially were planned for the project, begun in 2017, but the garden already has grown to include 10 plots. Goals for the project include teaching at-risk youth how to grow and preserve produce, planting culturally appropriate garden produce for the community’s needs, and creating space for urban dwellers to explore gardening. The money is being used for a rain harvest tank, gardening tools, top soil, and some support for the garden director. A previous allocation of $1,000 was made in 2017.

Potsdam (Ohio) Church of the Brethren’s community garden project has received an additional allocation of $500. The project, begun in 2017, has provided fresh garden produce to the community of Potsdam and to a Catholic meal program in Troy, Ohio. Members of the congregation, who live in multiple communities, also have received the gifts of fresh produce. Funds will be used for seeds, plants, and supplemental supplies for a season-ending harvest celebration. In 2017, the project received a grant of $1,000.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Shalom Ministry (SHAMIREDE) in the DRC, a ministry of Eglise des Freres au Congo (Church of the Brethren in the Congo), has received an allocation of $7,500. The money supports continued agriculture work among the Twa or Batwa people, and is being used for seeds, fertilizers, insecticides, land and tractor rentals, trainings, fencing, and some program-related staff expenses. This is an additional allocation, with previous grants to the project totaling more than $42,000. GFI support for this project began in 2011.


well project in the village of Lassa is receiving $4,763. The money supports the drilling of a well for a farm owned by Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and operated by the agriculture staff of EYN’s Integrated Community Based Development Program. The program currently operates tree nurseries in the communities of Garkida and Kwarhi, connected to a reforestation project, and would like to expand operations at the Lassa farm. A GFI delegation visited this farm in October 2017 and learned of the need for a borehole. In addition to drilling the well, the money will help install a solar electrical system and water tanks, and start 7,900 fruit trees in the nursery.

EYN’s Soybean Value Chain project is receiving an allocation of $1,383 to support training and consultation activities. Dr. Dennis Thompson of the Soybean Innovation Laboratory, an initiative of the University of Illinois and the US Department of Agriculture (USAID), have traveled to Nigeria to work with EYN on the project that is a collaboration between EYN’s Integrated Community Based Development Program, Brethren Disaster Ministries, and the GFI. The EYN program already has received an allocation of $25,000 through the Nigeria Crisis Fund to support the work of the soybean project for 2018.


Evangelistic Training Outreach Ministries of Rwanda (ETOMR) has received an allocation of $8,500 for an agriculture project among the Twa or Batwa people. The money is going for seeds, fertilizers, land rental, tools, and some support for extension staff. This is an additional allocation, with previous grants to the project totaling close to $48,000. GFI support for this project began in 2011.


Twol gardening and grocery projects of congregations of Iglesia Evangelica de los Hermanos (the Church of the Brethren in Spain) are receiving support from the GFI. Allocations have been given as follows:

The Lanzarote congregation’s grocery store project called “Dad y Se Os Dara” (Give and It Will Be Given to You) has received an allocation of $7,445. The project goal is to open a small community grocery store that would provide a service to the immigrant community through the sale of food at low cost, complementing a gardening project of the church and a newly begun poultry project. Excess produce from the gardens will be sold in the store, along with bulk goods. The money will purchase freezers, a refrigerator, and some bulk dry goods. The congregation is providing matching funds to cover rent, utilities, and local taxes.

The Oración Contestada (Answered Prayer) congregation in the city of León is receiving $3,750 in support of its community gardening work. The congregation is re-starting this garden after a leadership transition in the congregation. The project serves 25 to 30 families in the church and community who have the greatest economic need. Funds will purchase hoses, sprinklers, and vegetable seedlings, and will be used for fuel costs, seeds, and land and tractor rentals. This is the second grant to the project. The first, in 2016, was for $3,425.

3) Class of 2018 to graduate from Bethany Seminary

On Saturday, May 5, Bethany Theological Seminary will hold the commencement ceremony for its graduating class of 2018. The seminary anticipates awarding 18 graduate degrees and certificates to 16 students. Those interested in attending the ceremony, to be held at 10 a.m. in Nicarry Chapel on the Richmond, Ind., seminary campus, may contact the President’s Office at or 765-983-1803.

Russ Matteson, an alumnus of Bethany, will give the commencement address, entitled “Embodying Radical Obedience to the Spirit of Christ.” Matteson will invite listeners into the freedom of living in Christ’s spirit and following God, wherever that may lead. As people who have been educated in ministry and theology, the graduates will be encouraged to serve in leadership by moving with the Spirit into the future that God is preparing with boldness and excitement.

Matteson is district executive of Pacific Southwest District of the Church of the Brethren and lives in Modesto, Calif. Prior to this call, he and his spouse co-pastored two California congregations: Fellowship in Christ in Fremont and Modesto Church of the Brethren. He also served as director of marketing and sales for Brethren Press from 1999 to 2003. He earned a master of divinity degree from Bethany in 1993.

Following tradition, the graduating seniors will lead a worship service centered on translations of Psalm 46, one of which begins “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (v.1). The students selected to speak to this theme are Jon Prater, MA; Sarah Neher, MDiv; and Kyle Remnant, Certificate of Achievement in Theological Studies. Scheduled for 5 p.m. on Friday, May 4, in Nicarry Chapel, the service will be open to the public. Recordings of both the service and the ceremony will be posted on Bethany’s website.

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

4) Chiques kicks off 150th anniversary with old-time worship service

Chiques Church of the Brethren celebrates 150 years. Photo courtesy of Don and Carolyn Fitzkee.

by Don Fitzkee

Chiques Church of the Brethren, located near Manheim, Pa., kicked off its 150th anniversary celebration on Sunday, April 15, with a morning worship service that incorporated practices from earlier years. Men and women sat on separate sides of the sanctuary. Ministers and deacons, dressed in plain white shirts, were seated facing toward the congregation, in order of their call to lifetime office.

Moderator Michael S. Hess and assistant moderator Nate Myer preached the “long” and “short” sermon, respectively, from behind the historic preachers’ table that was preserved from the congregation’s former Mt. Hope meetinghouse. Other worship features included a hymn “lined” by chorister Mark Brubaker, two kneeling prayers, followed by the Lord’s Prayer each time, and a capella congregational singing. The order of worship approximated the style that would have been practiced at Chiques in the late 1800s into the first half of the 20th century.

Don Fitzkee shared historical facts and photos with youth and adults during the Sunday school hour, with an emphasis on buildings and worship practices. Fitzkee is writing a congregational history that is expected to be completed after the anniversary year.

The Chiques congregation peacefully separated from White Oak Church of the Brethren in 1868, becoming a congregation of about 200 members. After growing to more than 700 members, Chiques divided in 1902, giving birth to three daughter congregations: East Fairview, Elizabethtown, and West Green Tree. Chiques members also planted the New Beginnings congregation in Brickerville in 2004. Chiques is one of a half dozen congregations in Atlantic Northeast District that has preserved a non-salaried, plural ministry. The congregation of 450 members is served by a team of 6 ministers and more than a dozen deacons.

Chiques will conclude the anniversary year celebration with a special homecoming service on Sunday, Sept. 16. Bethany Theological Seminary President Jeff Carter will preach at the 10:15 a.m. worship service, which also will feature music from a men’s quartet and the senior choir. Fitzkee again will lead a history session during the 9 a.m. Sunday school hour. The day will include a noon fellowship meal, followed by a bus tour of local historical sites. Advance reservations are requested for the bus tour.

Members of the 150th anniversary committee are Mark Brubaker, Don Fitzkee, Nancy Brandt, Linda Bruckhart, and Denise Hess.

5) Dan McFadden resigns as director of Brethren Volunteer Service

Dan McFadden has resigned as director of Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) effective Nov. 2. He began his work with the Church of the Brethren on Dec. 1, 1995. He has worked out of the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., for more than 22 years.

Through his leadership, the BVS program has navigated ongoing changes in the church, society, and culture that affect how young adults and adults serve. The recent move of the Workcamp Ministry to BVS in 2011 gave him leadership of the short- and long-term volunteer programs of the denomination.

During McFadden’s tenure, he has spent countless hours coaching, counseling, and supporting more than 1,200 BVS volunteers as they served in communities across the United States and in many other countries around the world. By the time he ends his service with BVS, he will have supervised the BVS orientation units ranging from Unit 220, which held orientation in the winter of 1996, through Unit 321, which will hold orientation this fall.

His future plans include returning to the social work field by joining a private counseling practice.

For more about Brethren Volunteer Service, go to

6) Brethren Academy lists upcoming courses

Diana Butler Bass headlines the 2018 Ministers’ Association event. Photo courtesy of the Ministers’ Association.

The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership has announced its course offering for the rest of this year and into next, see the following listing. These courses are for everyone, with Training in Ministry (TRIM) and Education for Shared Ministry (EFSM) students receiving 1 unit per course, credentialed clergy earning 2 continuing education units, and others enrolling for their own personal and spiritual enrichment. To register for one of the following courses, go to or contact or 765-983-1824.

A ministry training partnership of the Church of the Brethren and Bethany Seminary, the academy is an umbrella for several non-degree ministry training efforts within the denomination. The academy accepts students beyond the registration deadline, but on that date the academy determines whether enough students have registered to offer the course. Many courses have required pre-course readings, so students need to allow enough time to complete the readings. Do not purchase texts or make travel plans until the registration deadline has passed and a course confirmation is received.

Upcoming courses

“Contemporary Voices in Ministry: Diana Butler Bass Directed Independent Study,” July 3-4, taking place in Cincinnati, Ohio, concurrently with the Church of the Brethren Ministers’ Association gathering in advance of Annual Conference. Instructor: Carrie Eikler. Amid division, stress, and anxiety, why should anyone care about gratitude? Cultural observer and theologian Diana Butler Bass argues that gratitude is central to both our personal and political lives–and that it may be the single most important spiritual practice we can engage in times of turmoil and conflict. She proposes that a new commitment to giving thanks can save our own souls and society. Registration deadline: May 30.

“Set-Apart Ministry in the Bivocational Reality,” Aug. 8-Oct. 2, an online course. Instructor: Sandra Jenkins, pastor of Constance Church of the Brethren. Bivocational ministry is a reality in many denominations. It is not only a calling but a necessity; part-time ministry placements often outnumber full-time placements. This class will explore the set-apart ministry within the bivocational context, including the rewards and challenges for both pastor and congregation. A focus will be the bivocational ministry of the Apostle Paul. In an online learning community, the class will seek God’s direction as it relates to each person’s individual call and ministry. Registration deadline: July 3.

“Introduction to Hebrew Scriptures,” Oct. 17-Dec. 11, an online course. Instructor: Matt Boersma. Registration deadline: Sept. 12.

“Narrative Theology,” Nov. 1-4, a weekend intensive at Bethany Seminary in Richmond, Ind. Instructor: Scott Holland. Registration deadline: Sept. 27.

“Introduction to Pastoral Care,” Jan. 14-16, 2019, a weekend intensive at Bethany Seminary in Richmond, Ind. Instructor: Sheila Shumaker. Registration deadline: Dec. 5.

“Church History II,” Jan. 23-March 13, 2019, an online course. Instructor: H. Kendall Rogers. Registration deadline: Dec. 18.

“Church of the Brethren Polity,” March 14-May 1, 2019, an online course. Instructor: Torin Eikler. Registration deadline: Feb. 7, 2019.

— See the Ministry Training Brochure for an overview of Church of the Brethren ministerial training programs, at For more information and to enroll in a course, go to

7) Reflections from the National Mall

Some Church of the Brethren members gathered for a photo during the ACT rally in Washington, D.C., on April 4: (from left) Doris Abdullah, Church of the Brethren representative to the United Nations; Joan and Orlando Redekopp; Tori Bateman, a Brethren Volunteer Service worker at the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy; and Gimbiya Kettering, director of Intercultural Ministries. Orlando Redekopp is a former pastor at First Church of the Brethren in Chicago, and wrote a short history of the church that includes a special link with Martin Luther King Jr.’s time in the city: More about the ACT rally can be found at

Two people who were on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on April 4 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. reflect on the experience:

‘I still live in a time of great faith and hope’
by Doris Abdullah, Church of the Brethren representative to the United Nations

I was reminded that I still live in a time of great faith and great hope, and we will continue the march forward. Daily we carry that faith and hope to:

— the border, to stand with the thousands fleeing violence and poverty in their native lands;

— the schools, to fight for the rights of children to get an education in a violence-free environment;

— the courts, to fight to overhaul the justice system that entraps a disproportionate number of our men;

— the streets, to demand justice for those killed just because of their color;

— the ballot box, to elect persons to reflect our rights to equality;

— the hospitals, to demand health care for those without;

— the shelters, for the homeless and dispossessed.

I remembered that Dr. King was a preacher. He most likely would have given us a powerful scripture to take away from the rally. The scripture text from 1 Peter 1:3b-4 seemed fitting to me, as the predicted dark clouds and hurricane winds passed over the National Mall that day without touching down.

This is a season of Easter and Passover. “By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”

Awakened, confronted, transformed
by Tori Bateman, associate at the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy

On April 4, I had the opportunity to attend the ACT Now! United to End Racism rally, put on by our partner, the National Council of Churches. This rally, held on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., commemorated his death and also called for the awakening, confronting, and transforming of the United States on issues of social and economic justice.

I was most impacted by the interfaith service, which brought together leaders from a multitude of faith communities. Jewish leaders, Sikh leaders, Christian leaders, and others spoke powerfully about the need to address systemic racism. Even more powerful were the admissions of racism within their own past and present church structures.

When communities of diverse backgrounds and beliefs can come together on such important issues, it makes me hopeful that real progress can be made. This rally was just the beginning of the National Council of Churches’ “Unite to End Racism” campaign, and I look forward to seeing the collaboration, discussion, and change that comes as a result of this important national conversation.

8) Brethren bits

A news piece on the visit of the US religious leaders to Cuba in Jan. 2017, from Radio Florida of Cuba.

A news piece on the visit of the US religious leaders to Cuba in Jan. 2017, from Radio Florida of Cuba.

— “I hope that relations between the Cuban churches and the new president will be very good, given how he welcomed the CWS group last year,” says Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service for the Church of the Brethren. Wittmeyer was part of a Jan. 2017 delegation to Cuba with “heads of mission” of US churches and representatives from Church World Service (CWS). The visit was made in partnership with the Council of Churches in Cuba. The American church leaders met with newly named Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel, who was at the time serving as vice president. Wittmeyer remembers a warm welcome from Diaz-Canel. The delegation presented him with a Bible, and engaged in good conversation.

— Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) is deploying a small team of volunteers to set up childcare in a Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) in Taloga, Okla., on Monday and Tuesday. This is a response to wildfires in the area. Reports Kathleen Fry-Miller, CDS associate director, “The MARC coordinator said, ‘We don’t anticipate a large number of families on any given day, but rather a few coming in each day. Red Cross has been doing casework and has seen 61 families so far over the course of about a week. Clients have been bringing their children with them.’” CDS is a ministry within Brethren Disaster Ministries and the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission and Service. For more information go to

— The Church of the Brethren General Offices has been hosting lots of meetings over the past couple of weeks.

The National Youth Conference office hosted meetings of the NYC Worship and Music Coordinators including Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, Cindy Lattimer, David Meadows, Virginia Meadows, Brian Messler, and Shawn Flory Replogle; and meetings of the National Youth Cabinet including Hannah Buck, Erika Clary, Emilie Deffenbaugh, Haley Dulabaum, Carol Elmore, Trevor Haren, Nathan Hollenberg, and Connor Ladd.

The BVS Think Tank meeting at the denomination’s General Offices.

Brethren Volunteer Service held meetings of the BVS Think Tank. “It is always a highlight for the team to welcome the BVS Think Tank to the building,” said a Facebook post. “So much wisdom and innovative thinking around this table. Thank you to each Think Tank member for your energy and time!” Those in attendance from out of town were Alison Burchett of the Center for Faith and Service in Chicago; Bonnie Kline-Smeltzer, former BVSer and pastor of University Baptist and Brethren Church in State College, Pa.; Jim Lehman of Highland Ave. Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill.; Marie Schuster, former BVSer working with refugee resettlement in Rochester, N.Y.; and Jim Stokes-Buckles, former BVSer and a social worker in Florence, Mass.

The new Compelling Vision Process Team held meetings this week. The members include Michaela Alphonse of Miami, Fla.; Kevin Daggett of Bridgewater, Va.; Rhonda Pittman Gingrich of Minneapolis, Minn.; Donita Keister, moderator-elect of Annual Conference, from Mifflinburg, Pa.; Brian Messler of Lititz, Pa.; Samuel Sarpiya, moderator of Annual Conference, from Rockford, Ill.; Alan Stucky of Wichita, Kan.; and Kay Weaver of Strasburg, Pa.

— Bethany Seminary hosted the Council of District Executives for professional growth opportunities and meetings on the school’s campus in Richmond, Ind., during the week of April 9. Faculty members Nate Inglis, Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, and Dan Ulrich held classes for the district executives, and Bethany president Jeff Carter led a class on strategic planning. The council was able to attend the weekly chapel service, heard master of divinity student Tim Heishman preach his senior sermon, and attended master of arts student Charlotte Loewen’s thesis presentation, “From the Reflecting Pool: Exploring Brethren and Mennonite Attitudes toward One Another.” Students had the opportunity to meet with the district executives for conversation over a lunch, and faculty and staff also had opportunities to interact with them over shared meals. On April 11, the Church of the Brethren Leadership Team and general secretary David Steele arrived on campus to meet with the group, and students had the opportunity to meet with Annual Conference moderator Samuel Sarpiya.

The Compelling Vision Process Team: (from left) Annual Conference moderator-elect Donita Keister, Alan Stucky, Annual Conference director Chris Douglas, Brian Messler, Kay Weaver, Annual Conference moderator Samuel Sarpiya, Rhonda Pittman Gingrich (chair), Kevin Daggett, and Kayla Alphonse. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.

— In news from the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, the denomination’s Spanish-language ministry training is emerging from a time of transition. In early November, former coordinator Nancy Sollenberger Heishman left to become director of the Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry. In mid-January, Roxanne Aguirre began as coordinator. In the interim, other academy staff kept things going. “As we look back on those months between coordinators, the academy staff is deeply grateful to all the students, supervisors, instructors, and colleagues who helped to keep SeBAH-COB and EPMC moving forward,” said the academy newsletter. “Through open and ongoing communication, assistance with technology, acceptance of less-than-perfect translation, unending patience, and enduring prayer, we have reached the other side. God is good. Special gratitude is expressed for the two new instructors who joined us mid-transition, Marcos Inhauser and Otto Kladensky Jr.” Each of the new instructors created a first-of-its-kind course for SeBAH: Inhauser, a leader of the Church of the Brethren in Brazil, taught “La Historia, Teologia de la COB, y el Pietismo”; Kladensky, an educator in the field of global evangelism, is teaching “Vitalidad de la Igelsia y Evangelismo” from his home in Costa Rica. For more about the Brethren Academy, a partnership of the Church of the Brethren and Bethany Seminary, go to

— A Nigeria briefing for legislators in Washington, D.C., is being offered by the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy (formerly the Office of Public Witness). “Boko Haram violence and farmer-herder conflicts continue to pose challenges for our Nigerian brothers and sisters,” says an action alert that will be distributed Monday. “Displaced people are being encouraged to return to liberated areas that may not be safe, social trust between communities has eroded, and a lack of governmental transparency has compounded problems for those living in IDP camps. There is a great need for an improved response to these challenges from the Nigerian government, and the United States government has the ability to encourage constructive responses.” The congressional briefing will be held on Friday, April 27, 9-10:30 a.m. in the Rayburn House Office Building Gold Room. The event is intended for policy makers and their staff members, to give them the tools and knowledge they need to enable constructive responses to conflict in Nigeria from the Nigerian government. “Please urge your representative, senators, and their staff members to attend the briefing,” says the action alert, which includes a sample email to inform legislators about the event.

— “Open Elgin” on this Saturday, April 21, will again feature the Church of the Brethren General Offices as one of the showcase buildings open to the community as an “architectural gems” This second annual Open Elgin event is sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, and the buildings on the self-guided tour will be open to the public from 1-5 p.m. Visitors to the General Offices will view the unique stone-walled chapel, the front lobby, and the cafeteria, and will be welcome to make a circuit of hallways around the building’s two courtyards. Find out more at

— In related news, the City of Elgin’s Heritage Commission has chosen the Church of the Brethren General offices to be a recipient of the 2018 Mayor’s Award for preserving an excellent example of mid-century modern architecture and furniture. The award also recognizes the General Offices’ part in a National Trust tour of Elgin architecture last November. A public awards ceremony takes place the evening of Monday, May 1.

— A stark report about the post-hurricane situation in Castañer, Puerto Rico, has been published by National Public Radio this week. The report includes input from leaders at the Castañer hospital that was started by the Church of the Brethren. “Many of the town’s people continue to experience acute stress and anxiety attacks,” Dr. Javier Portalatin, a clinical psychologist and director general for mental health at the hospital, told NPR. “More than six months after Hurricane Maria, daily life in Castañer isn’t close to normal,” the report says. “Children attend school half the day. A nearby school is closed for at least two years, and families who lost their homes have set up beds and couches in its classrooms…. With no harvest this spring, idle men spend hours on the plaza or in the town bar. In the months since the storm, the hospital has become the town’s organizing center….” Read the NPR piece at

At Clement Park next door to Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., 60-plus students from Parkland, Fla., attend a gun violence event marking the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting. The students joined with the Columbine community “to ask why the laws did not get changed after Columbine shooting,” reported Gail Erisman Valeta, pastor of Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren in Littleton, one of the organizing group for the event. Photo courtesy of Gail Erisman Valeta.

— Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren in Littleton, Colo., was part of the organizing group for a gun violence event at Clement Park next to Columbine High School on April 19, a day before the 19th anniversary of the mass shooting at the school on April 20, 1999. The organizing group included students, teachers, faith leaders, and Columbine families, reported pastor Gail Erisman Valeta. “And people are being flown in from Parkland and Sandyhook,” she wrote to Newsline, mentioning two of the schools that have suffered mass shootings in the years since. Find out more about the event at and on the Facebook event page at

— A note about the latest Dunker Punks podcast: Brethren have incorporated themselves into society while still maintaining their beliefs for centuries. In this modern era, publications like “Brethren Life and Thought” provide a platform for an ever-globalizing denomination to stay connected and in community with each other. Explore this concept and more as Jonathan Stauffer interviews the social media editor for the Brethren Journal Association, Chibuzo Petty, on this episode of the Dunker Punks Podcast. Listen at or subscribe on iTunes at

— A resource for churches to use around Earth Day is provided by Creation Justice Ministries, an ecumenical organization that offers Christian education materials to equip faith communities to protect, restore, and more rightly share God’s creation. This year’s resource is intended to be useful year-round, on Earth Day Sunday April 22, or later in the year for the “Season of Creation” from Sept. 1-Oct. 10. The theme is “Sense of Place: Surely the Lord Is in This Place,” and the resource “offers insights about living in harmony with local ecosystems and watersheds, rightly sharing places with a diversity of peoples, and respecting the history of your place,” said an announcement. The resource is free to download, but sign in is required. Go to

Newsline is the e-mail news service of the Church of the Brethren. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Please send news tips and submissions to editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren, at . Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Doris Abdullah, Tori Bateman, Jeff Boshart, Shamek Cardona, Jacob Crouse, Chris Douglas, Gail Erisman Valeta, Jan Fischer Bachman, Don Fitzkee, Kathleen Fry-Miller, Wendy McFadden, Nancy Miner, Kelsey Murray, Becky Ullom Naugle, Jenny Williams, Jay Wittmeyer.

Go to to subscribe to the Church of the Brethren Newsline free e-mail news service and receive church news every week.

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