Newsline for Feb. 8, 2018

Church of the Brethren Newsline
February 8, 2018

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

“If you satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday” (Isaiah 58:10).

1) Paul Mundey and Pam Reist top Annual Conference ballot for 2018
2) Congregational Life Ministries issues invitation to a conversation about white supremacy
3) Church of the Brethren and EYN volunteers intermingle in Nigeria church rebuilding
4) ConocoPhillips resumes in-person annual shareholder meetings with Internet availability
5) UN implementing plan of action for religious leaders to prevent incitement to violence
6) Global Women’s Project helps EYN women attend Bethany extension courses
7) Forty years of the Global Women’s Project

8) Church planting conference has new name, new focus
9) Speakers for National Youth Conference are announced
10) Midwestern districts sponsor conference on biblical authority

11) Just by our being there: Reflections on a workcamp in Nigeria

12) Brethren bits: Remembrance, personnel, jobs, goats distributed in Nigeria, prayer for Syria, tell the government your service story, BVS featured in Dunker Punks podcast, Pottstown 100th anniversary, and more news by, for, and about Brethren


Quote of the week:

“Lent is a season to rediscover the depth and breadth of God’s love, and to fall in love all over again. As Jesus experienced in the wilderness long ago, we set aside these days to reclaim our identity as God’s beloved, to recommit to loving God with all that we are, and to reflect on how to extend that love to others.”

— Erin Matteson, author of the Brethren Press devotional for Lent 2018, “Growing in God’s Garden.” This is excerpted from the devotion for Feb. 14, both Ash Wednesday–the first day of Lent–and Valentine’s Day. Find out more about the devotional at


1) Paul Mundey and Pam Reist top Annual Conference ballot for 2018

The ballot that will be presented to the 2018 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren has been released. Topping the ballot are two nominees for Annual Conference moderator-elect: Paul Mundey and Pam Reist. Other offices to be filled by election of the delegate body are positions on the Program and Arrangements Committee, Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee, Mission and Ministry Board, and the boards of Bethany Theological Seminary, Brethren Benefit Trust, and On Earth Peace.

Paul Mundey is an ordained minister who is retired from a longterm pastorate at Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren, and previously served on the denominational staff in the areas of evangelism and church growth.

Pam Reist is an ordained minister and pastor at Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren who has served on the denomination’s Mission and Ministry Board, where she was a member of the executive committee.

Following are nominees for other positions to be filled by election in 2018, listed by position:

Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee

Emily Shonk Edwards of Nellysford, Va., and Staunton (Va.) Church of the Brethren

Del Keeney of Mechanicsburg, Pa., and Mechanicsburg Church of the Brethren

Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee

Jeremy Driver of Harrisonburg, Va., and Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren

Deb Oskin of Columbus, Ohio, and Living Peace Church of the Brethren in Powell, Ohio

Mission and Ministry Board

Area 2

LaDonna Sanders Nkosi of Chicago, Ill., and the Gathering Chicago

Paul Schrock of Indianapolis, Ind., and Northview Church of the Brethren in Indianapolis

Area 3

Sue Ann Overman of Morgantown, W.Va., and Morgantown Church of the Brethren

Carol Yeazell of Asheville, N.C., and HIS Way/Jesucristo el Camino Church of the Brethren in Hendersonville, N.C.

Bethany Seminary board of trustees

Representing clergy

Audrey Hollenberg-Duffey of Hagerstown, Md., and Hagerstown Church of the Brethren

Brandy Fix Liepelt of Annville, Pa., and Annville Church of the Brethren

Representing laity

Ronald D. Flory of Cedar Falls, Iowa, and South Waterloo Church of the Brethren in Waterloo, Iowa

Louis Harrell (incumbent) of Manassas, Va., and Manassas Church of the Brethren

Brethren Benefit Trust board of directors

Nancy L. Bowman of Fishersville, Va., and Staunton (Va.) Church of the Brethren

Shelley Kontra of Lancaster, Pa., and Hempfield Church of the Brethren in Manheim, Pa.

On Earth Peace board

Jennifer Keeney Scarr of Trotwood, Ohio, and Trotwood Church of the Brethren

Naomi Sollenberger of New Enterprise, Pa., and New Enterprise Church of the Brethren

— For more information about Annual Conference go to

2) Congregational Life Ministries issues invitation to a conversation about white supremacy

From the Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).

Congregational Life Ministries staff members were present at the October 2017 [Mission and Ministry Board] meeting and heard a reference to white supremacy that assumed it is not a part of our denomination. Since then, we have heard many responses to that statement from across the denomination that represent the diversity–geographic, racial, ethnic, and cultural–of our denomination in the United States. A common theme in the responses we have heard is the importance of affirming and reaffirming that racism, in all its forms, is a sin. It can be difficult to recognize and commonly agree on all the forms that racism takes but it is important to acknowledge that white supremacy has been and continues to be a part of American culture that we must all struggle against.

The Lord promises that “justice shall roll down like water and righteousness will be like a stream.” White supremacy, a form injustice and profanity, is against the will of God for the wider world and in our hearts. The work of discipleship serves to restore our relationships, with one another and with God, in ways that uphold justice and righteousness. This includes the work to eliminate white supremacy in all its forms. This begins with a recognition of white supremacy as a power and principality of evil that continues to separate Christians from one another and from closeness with God. As evil can take on the appearance of innocence to trick us, so too white supremacy continues to change with each generation, fit within the context of the laws, and shape itself to seem like a benign part of culture. However, it was and continues to be a sin that is a stumbling block between us and our Lord.

Congregational Life Ministries works with individuals and congregations to embody and articulate our faith–including the Revelation 7:9 vision of all people gathering before the throne. In the context of America’s racialized hierarchy, we offer resources and opportunities to learn more about the impact of race and racism on our nation, the identity of the church, and individual discipleship. We do this by intentionally inviting speakers of many different racial and ethnic backgrounds to our conferences and gatherings. We have workshops and insight sessions specifically dedicated to equipping and empowering people to recognize racism and white supremacy and the negative impact they have on our faith. We have given talks, sermons, and teachings that specifically address these concerns in the modern and historical contexts. We continue the conversations that are happening in the wider cultural context within the framework of Christian discipleship and the values and teachings that are specific to the Church of the Brethren. We provide coaching and visioning about hospitality that equips congregations to be welcoming to the racial diversity in their communities. We help congregations facilitate local forums and panels for multi-voice, multicultural perspectives on the issues in their community.

It is important that we recognize the ways that white supremacy has shaped our country, our neighborhoods, our lives, and unconscious biases and has infiltrated how we do church. We can turn with a repentant heart towards God’s vision for how we are to live with one another, especially our brothers and sisters whose lives are harmed by white supremacy within the denomination and the wider body of Christ.

We invite you to join us in this work and awareness. To explore this invitation, please contact Gimbiya Kettering, director of Intercultural Ministries, at or Josh Brockway, director of Discipleship, at

What next: join us on the Dikaios journey

“Dikaios and Discipleship” (Matthew 5:6) is a pre-Annual Conference pilgrimage planned for July 3-4 in Cincinnati, Ohio. All are welcome. This experience will take participants on a pilgrimage of righteousness and justice, history of faith, civil rights, liberating stories, the Underground Railroad, and soul food. Registration opens March 1. See the event poster at .

— Go to to find this invitation on a webpage that also offers background information, links to related documents including Annual Conference statements, scriptural reflections, blogposts, stories from Brethren, and suggestions for participating in continuing conversation via social media.

3) Church of the Brethren and EYN volunteers intermingle in Nigeria church rebuilding

By Zakariya Musa of EYN

In continued work together to rebuild the devastated church denomination in Nigeria, members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and the Church of the Brethren in the US converged at the tumble-down church building of EYN’s LCC No. 1, Michika congregation in Adamawa State. This is the place where EYN president Joel Billi pastored until Sept. 7, 2014, when the church was attacked, and some members were killed. Assistant pastor Yahaya Ahmadu was shot to death and the entire church structure including the pastorium, offices, schools, library, stores, church building, and property, was set ablaze by the Islamist Jihadists known as Boko Haram.

Six American volunteers–Timothy and Wanda Joseph, Sharon Flaten, Sharon Franzen, Lucy Landes, and Ladi Patricia Krabacher–intermingled with about 300 EYN members for a week-long workcamp on the spot. Some 289 volunteers were present on Jan. 17, just for that day, including the EYN president, general secretary Daniel Y. Mbaya, administrative secretary Zakariya Amos, director of the audit Silas Ishaya, and 15 delegates from the EYN Headquarters staff.

Everyone, old and young, Nigerian and American, was engaged in doing something different, from encouraging the foundation laying, ground breaking, block molding, cement mixing, mason work, digging, watering, chalking, fetching and breaking stones, offloading blocks–to mention but a few of the tasks. It was just like the biblical rebuilding led by Nehemiah.

One of the LCC pastors, Dauda Titus, said the entire membership of LCC Michika was grouped into 13 wards, with 4 groups coming to the workcamp at a time for two consecutive days. He appreciated God for this ongoing work and especially for our brethren who came all the way from America. The work is progressing and we give God the glory because he gives us strength to do the work.

Ladi Pat Krabacher had this to say: “I am amazed by the people who are giving of their own time and service, giving what they can to remove the dirt and make the new church arise. We are one in Christ. This is the work of Christ because the work of Christ is so important. In the church, when our brothers in Christ suffer we suffer too.”

Krabacher called on Brethren within and outside Nigeria: “Come and see, Come and see because it’s only by coming to see you can really understand.”

The building will accommodate 5,000 people according to one of the engineers, Godwin Vahyala Gogura. He assures completion in three years, if things go well. The work is huge, despite the fact that the Nigerian economy is weak especially in the ravaged communities. “So far we have 20 million Naira from donations and an appeal fund,” Gogura said.

— Zakariya Musa is on the communications staff of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

4) ConocoPhillips resumes in-person annual shareholder meetings with Internet availability

In December 2017, the ConocoPhillips Board of Directors adopted a resolution that the annual stockholder meetings of ConocoPhillips will be held in-person with Internet availability until the board determines otherwise. This decision was made after the company considered feedback received from stockholders, including Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT), regarding the 2017 Virtual Stockholder Meeting that was conducted in May.

Upon receiving word that the 2017 annual stockholder meeting would be a virtual meeting, BBT and others registered concern about this decision. Loss of direct interaction with senior staff and members of the board, increased company control over which questions and concerns are addressed, and ability to manipulate the meeting were a few of the concerns expressed by shareholders. Some participants in the virtual meeting, including the BBT representative, also expressed concern during the meeting about this format and asked the Board of Directors to reconsider for future meetings.

On Oct. 11, 2017, BBT joined as a co-filer on a shareholder resolution submitted by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. The resolution requested that “the ConocoPhillips Board adopt a corporate governance policy affirming the continuation of in-person annual meetings in addition to internet access to the meeting, adjust its corporate practices accordingly, and publicize this policy to investors.”

ConocoPhillips management initiated two conference calls with the filers of the shareholder resolution: one prior to the December meeting of the company’s Board of Directors to collect information from the filers and one after the board meeting to report the results of the Board of Directors’ deliberation on this matter as well as discuss next steps. It was during the second conference call that management reported the decision of the Board of Directors to return to an in-person format with internet availability for future annual stockholder meetings. In light of the board’s decision, the shareholder resolution was withdrawn.

This decision was made by the ConocoPhillips Board of Directors at a time when virtual annual shareholder meetings are becoming increasingly popular.

Steve Mason, director of Brethren Values Investing for BBT, expressed appreciation to ConocoPhillips staff and Board of Directors for engaging in substantial conversation with shareholders on this issue, as they have on other issues, and considering shareholder input as part of the decision-making process.

— Find out more about the ministries of BBT at

5) UN implementing plan of action for religious leaders to prevent incitement to violence

A release from the World Council of Churches

A meeting on the “Implementation of the Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors to Prevent Incitement to Violence that Could Lead to Atrocity Crimes” (the “Plan of Action”) will take place in the Vienna International Center, United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria, on Feb. 13-15.

The Plan of Action–the first specifically designed to enable religious leaders to prevent and counter incitement to violence–was launched by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in July 2017 at a meeting at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The Plan of Action is pioneering both in its focus on the role of religious leaders and actors, and in the wide range of organizations and stakeholders that contributed to its development. It contains concrete recommendations to prevent incitement to violence, strengthen communities’ resistance to incitement to violence, and build mechanisms for a united response. Secretary-General Guterres called for its widest dissemination and implementation.

The Plan of Action was developed in response to an alarming spike in recent years in hate speech and incitement to violence against individuals or communities, based on their identity. It is the result of two years of intensive consultations at the global and regional levels organized by the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect with the support of the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID), the World Council of Churches (WCC), and the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers.

The Meeting on the Implementation of the Plan of Action will gather religious leaders and actors from different faith and denominations, representatives from secular and religious civil society, new and traditional media, member states, multilateral organizations, and United Nations entities. Participants will discuss practical ways to implement the Plan of Action and will identify priorities for its implementation in different regions, based on the thematic areas identified by the Plan of Action, including the prevention of incitement to gender violence and violent extremism, increasing collaboration with education institutions and the media, strengthening interfaith dialogue, and fostering peaceful, inclusive, and just societies.

Implementation of the Plan of Action will contribute to the prevention of atrocity crimes, especially in areas affected by religious and sectarian tensions and violence, and enhance the respect, protection, and promotion of human rights, including the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of religion or belief, and peaceful assembly.

Download the Plan of Action from .

— Staff at the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness have been involved in similar work by a Prevention and Protection Working Group in Washington, D.C., addressing issues of atrocity prevention and violence reduction. Recent work by the Office of Public Witness includes advocacy around “unarmed civilian protection,” to increase the use of nonviolent conflict mitigation strategies around the world.

6) Global Women’s Project helps EYN women attend Bethany extension courses

The new Bethany Seminary center in Nigeria is commissioned with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Cutting the ribbon are (from left) Jeff Carter, president of Bethany Theological Seminary; Dan Manjan, the representative of the Plateau State Governor and the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity; and EYN president Joel S. Billi, representing Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Photo by Zakariya Musa.

The Global Women’s Project (GWP) provided financial help to women members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) participate in courses at the new Bethany Seminary technology center in Jos, Nigeria. The GWP is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. It is a Church of the Brethren-related nonprofit working for women’s empowerment and economic justice and provides grants to a variety of projects for economic empowerment of women all around the world.

The GWP gave $2,000 to EYN and Bethany to cover the expenses for three women to join the first cohort of EYN-Bethany students. When the GWP steering committee heard earlier this year about the seminary’s effort to provide theological education to church leaders in EYN, they were encouraged to give scholarships to help women participate. The current members of the GWP steering committee are Anke Pietsch, Tina Rieman, Sara White, and Carla Kilgore.

“It wasn’t the tuition that was the problem for the potential students, but the challenges of traveling to Jos, providing travel expenses, and having needed support for family at home while away, that might prevent women from seizing this opportunity,” the steering committee reported to Newsline. “Global Women’s Project has provided scholarships in the past to women who seek to educate themselves on areas related to our mission, and this seemed like a way to expand those opportunities in a new way.”

The GWP does not handle administration of the funds it raises for a variety of projects assisting women around the world. Instead, the funds are provided to partner organizations, in this case EYN and Bethany Seminary, to carry out the efforts “on the ground,” the steering committee said.

At Bethany, faculty member Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, the Alvin F. Brightbill Professor of Preaching and Worship, is working with GWP on the effort. Former Bethany Seminary president Ruthann Knechel Johansen is one of the founders of the Global Women’s Project and has been doing fundraising to support the EYN women students.

“Of equal importance to monetary gifts to support EYN women are your prayers of blessing on their work,” wrote Johansen in a letter to potential donors, “and words of encouragement to all who will participate in and sustain this cross-cultural study of theology and faith.”

Find out more about the GWP and its current projects and international partners at

7) Forty years of the Global Women’s Project

by Pearl Miller

In July of 1978, Church of the Brethren women gathered at Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind., to share our stories and our concerns as women to live and serve responsibly in the church and in the world. It was a time when as a nation we had just lived through the Vietnam War and the tensions of the civil rights movement, and now it seemed we were moving precariously closer to a nuclear holocaust.

Out of that setting came a challenge and an opportunity. Ruthann Knechel Johansen, in a speech entitled “Giving Birth to a New World,” reminded us that “neither a great social program nor a sophisticated theology are prerequisites to live in harmony with life.” We were called to reflect on our own privileged access to resources, “tax” ourselves on our luxuries, and use that awareness and that “tax” to create new relationships and structures that nurture justice. From that inspiration Global Women’s Project was born.

It seems like things have not changed much in the 40 years since Global Women’s Project was established. Wars are still raging around the world, racial tensions remain high, and we are still threatened by a finger on the nuclear trigger.

But I believe that in these 40 years of Global Women’s Project, there have been significant changes, all the same. In our reflections on our own privilege, hopefully we have made changes within ourselves that have moved us to be more creative and pro-active for the benefit of girls and women wherever they may be. Through small grants from Global Women’s Project, women around the world have been given assistance so that they can establish cooperative businesses, send their children to school, move away from lives of domestic violence, incarceration, or economic uncertainty, and work toward more just societies based on human values, equality, and peace.

Marian Wright Edelman has said, “We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences, that we often cannot foresee.” Those changes have made big differences for these women and their communities! We are women together, bound by our deep concern for the families and communities that we nurture and that nurture us.

— Pearl Miller is a former member of the Global Women’s Project steering committee, completing her term in 2016. Find out more about the GWP and its current projects and international partners at

8) Church planting conference has new name, new focus

The Church of the Brethren’s every-other-year conference on new church development has a new name and a new focus: “New and Renew: Revitalize Plant Grow.” Sponsored by Congregational Life Ministries and held at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., the conference is planned for May 16-19. “The Risk and Reward of Embodying Jesus Locally” is the theme.

“Risk. Ask any church planter, and one of the first things they are likely to tell you is that it takes great deal of risk to enter into the difficult work of planting a new church. God took a risk sending Christ into the world, to move into the neighborhood with us,” explains the description on the event webpage.

“Come and explore with us the ways that we can do risk well as we go about the work of planting new communities of faith across our country and the world. Share your own experiences of risk in the work of church planting, as well as hearing how others have handled the risks and challenges of this important work.”

Keynote speakers are Christiana Rice and Orlando Crespo. Rice leads a neighborhood faith community in San Diego, Calif., and is a coach and trainer with Thresholds, a community that helps people create spaces of discovery and communities of transformation. With Michael Frost she has co-authored “To Alter Your World: Partnering with God to Rebirth Our Communities.” Crespo helped plant and serves as a founding pastor of New Life in the Bronx Church, and is interim director of Multiethnic Ministries and director of LaFe, Latino Ministries, with Intervarsity. He is author of “Being Latino in Christ.”

Samuel Sarpiya, 2018 Annual Conference moderator and planter of Rockford (Ill.) Community Church of the Brethren, will be giving a keynote address and a closing sermon drawing on his theme of “Living Parables.”

The conference is organized by staff of Congregational Life Ministries Stan Dueck and Gimbiya Kettering, with help from the Church of the Brethren’s New Church Advisory Committee. Members of the committee include Rudy Amaya, Ryan Braught, Steve Gregory, Don Mitchell, Deb Oskin, Nate Polzin, Cesia Salcedo, and Doug Veal.

Cost is $130 for each registration through April 10, or $140 after that date. Current students of Bethany Seminary, the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, and SeBAH-CoB receive a discounted price of $79. Continuing education credit for ordained ministers will be available for an additional $10. Registration does not cover housing costs; attendees are responsible for making their own housing arrangements.

Find out more and register at

9) Speakers for National Youth Conference are announced

Registration opened in mid-January for the 2018 National Youth Conference (NYC) planned for July 21-26 in Fort Collins, Colo. As of Feb. 8, 1,067 youth, advisors, staff, and volunteers have registered–but many more are expected before registration closes on April 30. NYC is offered every four years for youth who have completed ninth grade through one year of college (or age equivalent) and advisors.

The NYC office has announced the list of speakers for the event. The speakers, including new and familiar names this year, will address the theme “Bound Together, Clothed in Christ” (Colossians 3:12-15).

The NYC speakers are:

Michaela Alphonse, pastor of Miami (Fla.) First Church of the Brethren and a former mission worker in Haiti.

Jeff Carter, president of Bethany Theological Seminary.

Dana Cassell, pastor of Peace Covenant Church of the Brethren in Durham, N.C.

Christena Cleveland, an author, speaker, and professor at Duke University Divinity School in Durham, N.C.

Audrey and Tim Hollenberg-Duffey, pastors at Hagerstown (Md.) Church of the Brethren. Audrey Hollenberg-Duffey was one of the coordinators for NYC 2010.

Eric Landram, pastor at Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren.

Jarrod McKenna, a minister and activist from Australia. He was a hit at the 2014 NYC, where he coined the term “Dunker punks” to identify youth who take part in the Brethren heritage of radical discipleship to Jesus Christ.

Laura Stone, chaplain at an Indiana hospital and a former Brethren Volunteer Service worker.

Ted Swartz, a Mennonite actor and comedian, and Ken Medema, a Christian musician, are teaming up for a joint performance.

Medema has re-written lyrics to his song “Bound Together, Finely Woven” to fit the NYC theme. The winner of a youth contest to cover the song will perform during NYC. See . Entries are due by April 1.

youth speech contest also is being held. The winner will present their speech at NYC. See for guidelines. Entries are due by April 1.

More details and registration are at All registrations, fees, and forms are due by April 30.

10) Midwestern districts sponsor conference on biblical authority

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Six midwestern districts of the Church of the Brethren including Illinois and Wisconsin, Michigan, Northern Indiana, Northern Ohio, South Central Indiana, and Southern Ohio, are sponsoring a conference titled “Conversations about Biblical Authority.”

The conference takes place April 23-25 at Hueston Woods Conference Center near Dayton, Ohio. It is open to pastors and ministers, other congregational leaders, and interested church members.

Keynote speakers are Karoline Lewis, the Marbury E. Anderson Chair in Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminary, and Jason Barnhart, director of Brethren Research and Resourcing for the Brethren Church. Ted Swartz of Ted & Co. will perform “The Big Story.”

Two members of the faculty at Bethany Theological Seminary–Denise Kettering Lane, associate professor of Brethren Studies and director of the Master of Arts Program, and Dan Ulrich, the Wieand Professor of New Testament Studies–are helping facilitate the conversation. Michaela Alphonse, pastor of First Church of the Brethren in Miami, Fla., is the preacher for the Monday evening worship service.

More information and registration will be made available soon.

11) Just by our being there: Reflections on a workcamp in Nigeria

by Wanda Joseph

Presentation of a ceremonial quiver to the American workcampers. Photo by Wanda Joseph.

Wanda Joseph was one of the Church of the Brethren members from the United States who participated in a recent workcamp in Nigeria, where the group joined with members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) to begin rebuilding EYN’s LCC No. 1 Michika church. Here are a few of her reflections on the experience:

One of the older Nigerian workcampers came up to me in our second week in Michika and said, “You are an inspiration. If you can leave your comfortable lives to come here and work with us, then I too can come out of my home to work on my church.”

Another worker told me that because we were willing to take the risk to come to Michika, perhaps he could let go of the fear he carried with him, just living there.

Bassa, a hard working older man and a “regular” who joined the workcamp every day, told me near the end of our time there, “Before the workcamp, I am sick and only stay in my house, day after day. When I heard about the workcamp, I decided to come and see. I found out I can work. After days of working with you, my sickness just washed away. I pray my health will continue after the workcamp closes.” He was a wonderful spot of cheer in our day, a striking looking man with a shock of white hair and white beard who always wore a white caftan. You could see him out on the construction site, swinging a pick ax–what they call a digger–even when the rest of us were taking lunch or a break.

At the end of our time at Michika, at our closing worship service, Albert, a spokesperson for the church fundraising and the building development committees, presented us with a gift from the local Kamwe tradition–a quiver, regally decorated. Albert asked that it be delivered to the Church of the Brethren headquarters as a symbol of the people of Michika’s deep appreciation for our presence, our encouragement, and inspiration.

He echoed what many many people told us, that just by our being there, we showed them that the Church of the Brethren supports them and walks with them in their joy and in their struggles. They asked that we convey their gratitude to our brothers and sisters in the church back at home.

— Wanda Joseph and her husband, Tim Joseph, of Onekama (Mich.) Church of the Brethren, were two of the six American Brethren who participated in the workcamp to rebuild the EYN church at Michika, Nigeria.

12) Brethren bits

— Remembrance: Lois Baumgartner, 99, of Elgin, Ill., passed away on Jan. 16 at Hospice in Strongsville, Ohio. She was an employee of the former Church of the Brethren General Board from 1960 until her retirement in 1984. She held various positions during more than 20 years of service for the church, working in the former Central Services office, the former World Ministries Commission, and retiring from the Office of Human Resources. A full obituary is posted at .

— Vita Olmsted has been hired by the Church of the Brethren as director of Information Technology for the Information Services department at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill. She is a graduate of the University of Phoenix, where she earned a bachelor’s degree and a master of Management Information Systems. Most recently she worked with the Center: Resources for Teaching and Learning in Arlington Heights, Ill. She begins her work on Feb. 19.

— Mishael Nouveau is the new program assistant in the Church of the Brethren’s Ministry Office. She brings experience as an executive administrative assistant and also as an operations manager in previous employment settings. She holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in the field of business and management, and a master of divinity degree from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Mo. She is a resident of South Elgin, Ill.

— The Church of the Brethren Workcamp Ministry has named assistant coordinators for the 2019 season: Lauren Flora and Marissa Witkovsky-Eldred. Flora, of Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren, will graduate from Bridgewater College in May with a degree in art and a concentration in digital media. Witkovsky-Eldred, originally from First Church of the Brethren in Roaring Spring, Pa., graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 2015 with a double major in botany and zoology. The two will begin their work in August.

— The Brethren Historical Library and Archives (BHLA) seeks applicants for its Archival Internship Program to develop interest in vocations related to archives and libraries and/or Brethren history. The program will provide the intern with work assignments in the BHLA and opportunities to develop professional contacts. Work assignments will include processing archival materials, writing descriptive inventories, preparing books for cataloging, responding to reference requests, and assisting researchers in the library. Professional contacts may include attending archival and library conferences and workshops, visits to libraries and archives in the Chicago area, and participation in a Brethren Historical Committee meeting. BHLA is the official repository for Church of the Brethren publications and records, located at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Term of service is one year, beginning in June (preferred). Compensation includes housing at Church of the Brethren volunteer house, stipend of $550 every two weeks, and health insurance. A graduate student is preferred or an undergraduate with at least two years of college. Other requirements include an interest in history and/or library and archival work, willingness to work with detail, accurate word processing skills, ability to lift 30 pound boxes. Submit a resume to , Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039, ext. 367. All submissions must be completed by April 1.

— The World Council of Churches (WCC) seeks a field and security officer for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The program was founded in 2002 in response to a call from the local heads of churches in Jerusalem and brings internationals to the West Bank for a protective presence, accompaniment, and international advocacy. The position is based in Jerusalem and responsible for analyzing and monitoring the political and security situation in Israel and Palestine (East Jerusalem and the West Bank), evaluating socio-political developments and their implications for EAPPI, the role and safety of personnel and placement priorities, advising the local program coordinator on changing trends and shifts in priorities, training and guiding personnel as they carry out the placement priorities, and disseminating output from personnel to designated partners locally, among other responsibilities. Among others, qualifications and special requirements include at least five years of experience in the West Bank, understanding of Palestinian and Israeli history, knowledge of the political context, commitment to collaborate towards a just peace in Palestine and Israel, commitment to ending the illegal occupation, a university degree in a relevant field, and knowledge of and familiarity with the church bodies in the Holy Land and the three Abrahamic religions. The deadline for applications is March 1. For more information contact the Human Resources Department at . Find out more about the application process at . The WCC is an equal opportunity employer.

— Meetings have been held this week in Nigeria between leaders of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and representatives of the Church of the Brethren and Mission 21. The group is discussing the EYN Disaster Response team’s 2017 report and proposed 2018 budget. Representing the Church of the Brethren was Roy Winter, associate executive director of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries, who also has planned meetings with agricultural representatives to discuss EYN’s soybean project and with leaders of the EYN Women’s Ministry to discuss livelihood programs for widows.

Goats are distributed in Nigeria. Photo by Zakariya Musa/EYN.

— Goats have been distributed in Nigeria through a “Small Ruminant Project,” reports Zakariya Musa of the communications staff of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Another set of beneficiaries have received goats through this project that is a collaborative effort between EYN’s agricultural program, Brethren Disaster Ministries, and the Global Food Initiative, funded through the Nigeria Crisis Fund. The project provided “eight beneficiaries with one goat each last year. Some have gained two or one more kids over the season and have shared them with the new set of beneficiaries, who will also share them out next year,” Musa reports. The beneficiaries are mostly EYN staff. Addressing the audience at this year’s goat-giving event, EYN president Joel S. Billi charged the beneficiaries to “maximize what has been given to them, encouraging that the project would grow.”

— Global Mission and Service is requesting prayer for victims of violence in Syria, where civil war rages on between government and rebel forces. “Fighting has escalated recently, killing hundreds of civilians,” said the prayer request. “Air strikes by the Syrian and Russian governments have killed at least 47 people this week. The United Nations is investigating reports that government forces also dropped bombs of chlorine gas on civilians in rebel-held areas. Pray for those who mourn the loss of loved ones. Pray for the injured and the displaced. Pray for a ceasefire so that much-needed humanitarian aid can be delivered. As impossible as it may seem, pray for a permanent peace in Syria.”

— “Tell the government your service story!” invited the Office of Public Witness, in a recent action alert. Citing scripture texts including Luke 6:27-28 and Matthew 7:12, and Annual Conference statements about peace, the alert invites church members to submit comments to the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, which has been established to study the current draft requirements and to propose changes to the draft and national service system. “Their mission is ‘to recommend ideas to foster a greater ethos of military, national, and public service to strengthen American democracy,’ and is meant to consider the need for ‘increased propensity for military service’ among Americans,” the alert says. It encourages submission of comments “to urge the commission to highlight the benefits of non-military service, in programs like Brethren Volunteer Service and AmeriCorps. Are you a conscientious objector? Have you served in a service program like Brethren Volunteer Service or AmeriCorps? Have you seen a community positively impacted by national volunteer programs? This is a great opportunity for you to share your story and impact the focus of this commission.” Submit comments at . Find the action alert at .

— Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) director Dan McFadden is one of the featured speakers on the most recent Dunker Punks podcast. Joining him on the podcast is Dana Cassell, pastor of Peace Covenant Church of the Brethren in Durham, N.C. The two exchange stories from BVS throughout the years. “Find out why BVS will ‘ruin your life’ in the best way possible,” said an announcement. The Dunker Punks podcast is an audio show created by more than a dozen Brethren young adults across the country. Listen to the latest at or subscribe on iTunes at .

— Annual Conference moderator Samuel Sarpiya will be a special guest at the Gathering Chicago on Sunday, Feb. 11, at 5 p.m. The Gathering is a local and global prayer center ministry and new church plant of Illinois and Wisconsin District, based in Hyde Park. Participants will gather for a dinner and prayer service, “praying especially for our Church of the Brethren friends, congregations and ministries globally and locally,” said an invitation. “In particular, we ask you and your churches and ministries to be welcome to send your prayer requests and prayer petitions by Feb. 9 to that we may join in prayer with and for you…. If you are able to join us in person, please let us know.” LaDonna Sanders Nkosi is the convening pastor for the project.

— First Church of the Brethren in Pottstown, Pa., will celebrate its 100th anniversary on May 20. The church began as a mission church of the Coventry Church of the Brethren. The morning worship service led by pastor Scott Major will be at 10 a.m., with a luncheon following at noon. A celebration anniversary service inviting former pastors and members to attend with the theme “100 Years of Serving Jesus” will be at 2 p.m. Four stained-glass windows from the original 1888 Methodist church building have been restored and will be hung in the current church building. The windows will be dedicated during the celebration. A skit entitled “100 Years in the Making” will be performed and a remembrance time will be offered.

— Children have participated in creating a design for the Tree House community playground that will be hosted by Lititz Church of the Brethren, reports the Lititz Record Express. The church and partner Play By Design unveiled plans for the “all-inclusive playground designed by local children during Tree House Design Day,” the newpaper reports. Also partnering in the project is Warwick School District. Special features that “only a child could come up with” include a round entrance through the center of a tree trunk, a pirate ship, a telephone, a wheelchair swing, towers based on the four seasons, a maze, a twisty snake slide, a fireman’s pole, and a preschool area with a tunnel and mushrooms, among others. Jim Grossnickle-Batterton, pastor of spiritual care at the Lititz Church, was one of the church members who went with a designer to interview elementary school children. “Modeling empathy and inclusion with our children, building these things into their play, helps them believe that working and existing in a cooperative manner with all kinds of people is possible even when the world outside the playground tells them otherwise,” he said. The playground is be constructed later this year with volunteer labor and funding organized by the church and community. Find the article at . Find out more about the playground at .

— Eleven people from Buffalo Valley Church of the Brethren in Mifflinburg, Pa., are in the Dominican Republic this week to work on a new church building in the village of La Batata, reports pastor Eric Reamer in the Southern Pennsylvania District newsletter. “This is the fourth consecutive year that Buffalo Valley has been in the Dominican Republic and each year has provided valuable time to make connections with our Dominican brothers and sisters,” the newsletter reports. “This trip also provides an opportunity to serve with Jason and Nicole Hoover, Church of the Brethren missionaries to the Dominican Republic. We ask for your prayers that God’s plans for this trip will be accomplished.”

— Shenandoah District has announced formation of a Blue Ribbon Committee, to meet throughout 2018. The task of the committee is “focusing on ways our congregations can covenant anew to work together through divisions that threaten our unity as followers of Christ,” said the district announcement. The committee will be chaired by Jon Prater, pastor of Mt. Zion/Linville Church of the Brethren and immediate past chair of the District Leadership Team. Other members are Jonathan Brush of the Lebanon church, Heather Driver of the Bridgewater church, Hobert Harvey of Bethel/Mayland, Terry Jewell of the Knights Chapel church, LaDawn Knicely of the Beaver Creek church, David R. Miller of the Montezuma church, Carter Myers of the Mill Creek church, Nate Rittenhouse of the New Hope church, and Karen Shiflet of the Mt. Bethel church. The district newsletter requested prayer for the effort. “As 2018 unfolds, be in prayer for each of these committee members who have stepped forward to serve the Shenandoah District for a critical and necessary assessment of who we are and who we serve.”

— Southern Ohio District is planning a special all-district meeting on Sunday, March 17, from 1:30-4 p.m., hosted at Happy Corner Church of the Brethren. Special guest David Steele is general secretary of the Church of the Brethren. “The purpose of this gathering is to engage one another about some of the deep divisions that are becoming more prominent and are a distraction to our common witness of Jesus,” said a district announcement. “The General Secretary’s presence will be to share basic information from polity regarding the withdrawal process if congregations choose to begin those conversations.” The announcement noted that “the purpose of this gathering is NOT to encourage congregations to leave. Unfortunately, however, we have heard that some congregations in our district have already begun conversations about leaving the Church of the Brethren…. It is our sincere desire that we stay together and share in ‘continuing the work of Jesus, peacefully, simply, TOGETHER,’ but if there are those who feel they can no longer do this, we wish to explain the process of withdrawal. We do not desire a process utilizing legal action, but rather a process of discernment and prayer filled with grace, love, and care for one another.” The announcement included a request for prayer: “We also ask that all members hold their congregation, the district, and the denomination in prayer as we face an uncertain future and the deep divisions of our fellowship.”

— In more news from Southern Ohio, a task force in the district has teamed up with Catholic Social Services to assist refugees who wish to resettle in the Miami Valley area of Ohio. The Brethren are assisting with organizing and maintaining an inventory of items that are donated for refugee families and stored in a warehouse. “When a refugee family comes to this area, they have access to the items in the warehouse to set up their homes and begin their new life,” said an announcement from the district. District members are being invited to a series of work days at the warehouse next week, starting on Monday, Feb. 12. Contact 937-667-0647 or for more information.

— Western Pennsylvania District is celebrating “a wonderful offering for Puerto Rico,” according to the district newsletter. “When Hurricane Maria caused so much devastation on the island of Puerto Rico, our district initiated a special offering for Disaster Relief for the island. A special offering was taken at our District Conference on Oct. 21, 2017, and we continued to receive offerings up through Christmastime. The total amount given by churches and individuals in our district for Puerto Rico was $22,419!” The newsletter notes that this money will be sent to a disaster relief fund administered by the Church of the Brethren denomination, and “will go a long way to helping with the needs of our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters.”

— Northern Plains District executive minister Tim Button-Harrison is one of numerous Christian leaders and other faith leaders who have signed on to a public letter opposing the death penalty in Iowa. “It is with heavy hearts that we come together as one voice to speak up and stand against the introduction of the death penalty in Iowa,” the letter says, in part. “For many reasons, based on the spectrum of our faiths and religious traditions we represent as well as the clear societal concerns surrounding the implementation of the death penalty, we fervently oppose the death penalty and ask you as elected officials to oppose it as well. We come with heavy hearts because our beloved Iowa is considering legislation we know to be wrong, immoral and contrary to the facts that have become so apparent across the nation. The data and facts are clear. The implementation of the death penalty is influenced by the racial undertones of our nation’s history. African American men are adversely and disproportionately impacted. They are more likely to be given the death penalty upon conviction, especially if the victim is white. This alone is argument enough against the death penalty, but we have additional concerns. We, along with most Americans, are concerned about innocent people being sentenced to death….” The full letter and list of signers has been published by the Des Moines Register at .

— The organizers of a “Brethren Prayer and Worship Summit” planned for April 20-21 at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds in Harrisonburg, Va., are publicizing the event as a follow-up to a gathering held in Moorefield, W.Va., last August. At the Moorefield gathering, “much concern was expressed about the direction of the denomination, especially related to the issue of homosexuality,” said an announcement. “It was determined that the next step should be to hold this Prayer Summit to seek God’s direction for our future.” The announcement notes that “the nature of this gathering will not be to conduct any kind of official business. We will not be discussing issues or making motions or signing petitions or taking votes in any manner. The over-arching theme of this event will be found in the great revival verse of the Old Testament, 2 Chronicles 7:l4.’” The announcement listed speakers who have been invited to focus on themes of repentance and confession, grace and forgiveness, and healing and hope. There is no cost to attend, but free-will offerings will be received toward expenses. For additional information and registration go to .

— “Free to Forgive” is the theme for the 2018 Regional Youth Conference to be held March 2-4 at McPherson (Kan.) College. The scriptural theme is Ephesians 4:31-32. The event is open to all high school youth, youth advisors, and college students from the Church of the Brethren districts of Northern Plains, Southern Plains, and Missouri Arkansas. Special guest this year is Shawn Flory Replogle. Activities include workshops, small group study, games, and more. Cost is $75, which includes a t-shirt but does not include dinner on Friday night (available for $4.50 in college cafeteria), or $40 for college students who volunteer to assist with various activities throughout the weekend. Go to or contact Jamie Pjesky at .

— The Young Center Durnbaugh Lecture on March 22, 7:30-9 p.m., will offer an “Update on the Boko Haram Crisis in Northeastern Nigeria” and “The Founding of CCEPI and Its Mission to the Displaced.” Speakers are Samuel Dali, former president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), and Rebecca Dali, founder and executive director of the Centre for Caring, Empowerment, and Peace Initiatives (CCEPI), which is aiding women and others affected by violence in northeastern Nigeria and across the border in Cameroon. The event takes place at Esbenshade Gibble Auditorium on the campus of Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. Contact 717-361-1470 or .

— Bridgewater (Va.) College has received a $250,000 challenge grant from the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation of Richmond, Va., to help fund the renovation of the Alexander Mack Memorial Library to create the John Kenny Forrer Learning Commons. “In order to obtain the grant, Bridgewater must raise $500,000 in cash and pledges by November 2018,” says a release from the college. “The Forrer Learning Commons will serve as an active learning space and focal point for engaged learning for Bridgewater’s academic community. The facility will house the library’s collections and serve as a learning hub with media production, peer coaching and tutoring, writing center, career center, IT help desk, and research and information literacy support. The facility will also hold multiple flexible study spaces for students, from small and large group meeting spaces to two engaged learning classrooms and a practice presentation room. The learning commons will also feature private study carrels, conversational gathering spaces and a café.” Groundbreaking for the Forrer Learning Commons will take place in May.

— The Peace and Justice Group at Cross Keys Village-the Brethren Home Community, a Church of the Brethren-related retirement community in New Oxford, Pa., is holding a series of discussions on the topic, “On Waging Peace,” based on a study booklet written by David Radcliff of the New Community Project. The sessions take place at 10-11 a.m. on three upcoming Thursdays: Feb. 15, Feb. 22, and March 1. Leading the sessions is retired pastor Norman Cain.

— Cliff Kindy and Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) are featured in the February episode of “Brethren Voices,” a show produced by Ed Groff and Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren. “What if Christians took their peacemaking as seriously as warriors do for war making?” said an announcement. “Out of that vision, in the mid-1980s, members of the historic peace churches, the Church of the Brethren and the North American Mennonites, were seeking new ways to express their faith. At the same time, there was a consciousness that by using the creative energy of organized nonviolence, ordinary people could stand in front of the weapons and encourage less violent ways for change to happen. In 1988, Christian Peacemaker Teams  was founded and by 1992, CPT had put together a series of delegations to Haiti, Iraq, and the West Bank, Palestine.” Kindy, a Church of the Brethren member who has been a reservist with CPT since 1990, is interviewed by Brent Carlson for this episode. Kindy has served with CPT in Vieques, P.R.; Colombia’ the Gaza Strip and West Bank in Palestine; Chiapas, Mexico; Iraq; and with First Nation communities in New Brunswick, Canada, South Dakota, and New York. For a copy contact or find Brethren Voices on YouTube.

— A webinar on “Racism and Afrophobia” is offered by the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches (WCC). The webinar is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 12, from 9-10:30 a.m. (central time). It will be moderated by Evelyn L. Parker, a member of the commission and associate dean for Academic Affairs at Perkins School of Theology. Speakers and their topics include Ulysses Burley III speaking on “Being a Black Man in the USA in 2018,” Tracy D. Blackmon on “The Intersectionality Between Racism and Sexism,” Jennifer Harvey on “White Supremacy and the Difference Between Reconciliation and Reparations,” and Sharon Watkins on “The Role of US Churches in Addressing Racial Injustice.” Connect using the following link: . Download the Fuze app ahead of the training for the best experience. The training may be accessed by calling from a mobile phone: dial the number 855-346-3893, then enter the meeting identification number 36426490 followed by the pound key.

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 the editor–Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren–at . Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Tori Bateman, Jean Bednar, Chris Douglas, Mary Kay Heatwole, Nate Hosler, Wanda Joseph, Kevin Kessler, Diane Kumpf, Gimbiya Kettering, Jon Kobel, Pearl Miller, Kelsey Murray, Zakariya Musa, Becky Ullom Naugle, LaDonna Sanders Nkosi, Kevin Schatz, Beth Sollenberger.

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