Newsline for May 4, 2018

Church of the Brethren Newsline
May 4, 2018

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.

1) Annual Conference 2019 forced to change locations
2) Process team lays out road map for development of ‘compelling vision’
3) Meeting promotes conversation about biblical inspiration and authority
4) Gathering prays for future direction of the Church of the Brethren

5) NYC speech contest winners are announced
6) Young Adult Conference to meet at Brethren Woods

7) Brethren Press publishes book of poetry by Ken Gibble, among new resources

8) Brethren bits: Jobs, mission executive visits CNI, Miami Haitian congregation plans “March for Equality,” Pinecrest is celebrating 125 years, Virlina holds Ministry and Mission event, Mid-Atlantic Disaster Response Auction, Bridgewater College breaks ground for “learning commons,” NCC welcomes progress to peace in Korean peninsula, more.

1) Annual Conference 2019 forced to change locations

The Church of the Brethren Annual Conference planned for summer 2019 has been forced to change locations, according to director Chris Douglas. Unexpected delays with major renovations at the Town and Country resort in San Diego, Calif., where the Conference was to have been held, have forced this change. “Town and Country cancelled our contract,” she reported.

Resort staff informed Douglas of the situation just last week, and since then she and the Conference officers and Program and Arrangements Committee have worked hard to identify an alternate location. Instead of San Diego, the 2019 Conference will be held at the Koury Convention Center and Sheraton Hotel in Greensboro, N.C.

It was “miraculous” that the Greensboro site had the right dates available and could accommodate the Conference at such short notice, Douglas said. Both locations have been used for previous Annual Conferences, San Diego in 2009 and Greensboro in 2016. Greensboro also will be the location for the 2021 Conference.

Douglas emphasizes that the Program and Arrangements Committee remains committed to seeking western sites for future Conferences.

The dates of the 2019 Conference will remain the same as previously announced: July 3-7.

Pacific Southwest District was scheduled to be the host district for 2019. District volunteers who had begun planning for the event have been informed of the change, and have been invited to continue to work on the 2019 Conference in the new location, if they still wish to volunteer.

Although this location change was out of the control of the Annual Conference, Douglas has extended an apology to volunteers who had begun working on the 2019 Conference and to church members across the country who may have begun arrangements to travel to a southern California destination next summer.

For questions or more information, contact Douglas at

2) Process team lays out road map for development of ‘compelling vision’

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.

by Donita Keister

The Compelling Vision Process Team gathered for its first meeting April 17-19 at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, lll. Kayla Alphonse, Kevin Daggett, Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, Brian Messler, Alan Stucky, and Kay Weaver joined with Annual Conference moderator Samuel Sarpiya, moderator-elect Donita Keister, and director Chris Douglas to form the nine-person team.

This group brought a diversity of gifts and perspectives as it worked to lay out a general roadmap for the development of a compelling vision for the Church of the Brethren. This first meeting was led by Keister, who guided the team through its first stages of planning and the calling of the chair. Pittman Gingrich was called to be chair, and will work in partnership with the Annual Conference moderator to lead the work of the team going forward.

The team looks forward to beginning the compelling vision journey at this summer’s Annual Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, where approximately three hours of the business sessions will be devoted to compelling vision conversations.

Information gathered at the 2018 Conference will guide additional conversations in many places where Brethren will gather across the denomination this fall and winter. The team is committed to gathering input from a wide range of people in a variety of settings, and is working with the Council of District Executives to provide opportunities in every district for as many Brethren as possible to contribute to the conversations. One of the first opportunities will be National Youth Conference in Colorado on July 21-26, where the team is working in cooperation with NYC leadership to engage youth in conversations about their vision for the church.

Information about what is heard in these many conversations will be gathered and shared at Annual Conference in 2019, where it is hoped that much of the business time can be devoted to listening to one another and continuing the work of shaping a compelling vision for the Church of the Brethren.

The Compelling Vision Process Team will finish its work in the months following the 2019 Conference, as it works with the Compelling Vision Working Group (formed from members of the denomination’s Leadership Team and Council of District Executives) to eventually articulate the resulting vision to the whole church.

The team is humbled by the call to work together on this challenging and exciting task. Prayers are sought and appreciated for the team and the process itself, that the Spirit of God may be felt moving in our midst.

— Donita Keister is serving as moderator-elect of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. She will be moderator of the 2019 Conference.

3) Meeting promotes conversation about biblical inspiration and authority

Worship center at the “Biblical Authority Conversations” on April 23-25 in Ohio. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.

“What kind of authority does the Bible have for us?” asked Karoline Lewis, one of the keynote presenters at the “Biblical Authority Conversations” on April 23-25. The Marbury E. Anderson Chair in Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminary, she joined with Jason Barnhart, director of Brethren Research and Resourcing for the Brethren Church’s denominational office, in leading a group of about 100 Church of the Brethren ministers and lay people at a meeting called by the midwestern districts.

With an overall theme of “The Bible I Cherish and that Challenges,” Lewis and Barnhart led the group through times of instruction followed by times of “table talk” in which participants engaged in lively conversation. Facilitating table conversation, and giving background on Brethren heritage and practice regarding the Bible, were Bethany Seminary professors Denise Kettering Lane and Dan Ulrich. Lane also reviewed the 1979 Annual Conference paper on biblical authority.

“It’s one thing to say the Bible has authority…but what kind?” Lewis pressed the group that gathered at the Hueston Woods state park in western Ohio. Often what happens in conversations around biblical authority is the dominance of an unquestioning attitude characterized by the statement: “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.” Lewis noted this approach as “a circular argument,” basically that “the Bible is authoritative because it’s the Bible.” She invited the group to ask why and how the Bible is authoritative. She and Barnhart explained various approaches to biblical authority, various understandings of how to read the Bible, and demonstrated a reading of a passage from her favorite gospel, the book of John.

Among the questions posed for conversation in small group at round tables: What is in the Bible and what parts do you care about? When was the last time you really thought about what the Bible means to you? What kind of authority does the Bible have for you, personally? How do you define and understand that authority?

Barnhart led a session on cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias, noting that each person has picked up attitudes from the popular culture and inevitably “we read the Bible through those lenses,” he said. People read the Bible in part “because of some experience I’ve had in my life. That experience has informed how you read the Bible,” he said. “The problem comes when our biases aren’t checked.”

He also asked the group to consider what to do when encountering people who read the Bible differently, calling it a key Christian witness. “When we encounter people who read things differently we get this thing called cognitive dissonance…. I’m looking at the same text as you are looking at, and I am not reading that at all. It is in that moment that our witness really begins. You don’t have much of a witness when you are alone reading the Bible.”

District executive Beth Sollenberger (left) hands the microphone to keynote presenter Karoline Lewis at the “Biblical Authority Conversations” on April 23-25 in Ohio. At right is Jason Barnhart who worked with Lewis to present sessions on the overall theme of “The Bible I Cherish and that Challenges.” Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.

“Biblical Authority Conversations” was sponsored by the midwestern districts of the Church of the Brethren and planned by their district executives: Beth Sollenberger, South Central Indiana District and Michigan District; Kevin Kessler, Illinois and Wisconsin District; Torin Eikler, Northern Indiana District; Kris Hawk, Northern Ohio District; and David Shetler, Southern Ohio District. Also supporting the event was the Ministry Excellence Project. The event was hosted at Hueston Woods, a state park lodge and conference center in western Ohio.

Michaela Alphonse of Miami (Fla.) First Church of the Brethren preached for the opening worship service, and Ted Swartz of Ted and Co. performed “The Big Story” for an evening entertainment.

At the end of two days of intense conversation, some consensus seemed to emerge from the leadership of Lewis, Barnhart, Ulrich, Kettering Lane, and the district executives: The Bible is important to Brethren. The Bible has a lot to teach us today. Reading and studying the Bible together with others is crucial to our faith.

Some questions rose to the top as well: Are our disagreements with each other in the church still about biblical interpretation, inspiration, and authority? Or are they about how we have allowed the culture to dictate the way we approach the Bible?

— Frank Ramirez and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford contributed to this report.

4) Gathering prays for future direction of the Church of the Brethren

Photo by Walt Wiltschek.

by Walt Wiltschek

“Thanks for coming to do something new, something different,” said Grover Duling, chair of the West Marva District board, to nearly 400 people at the “Brethren Prayer and Worship Summit” April 20-21 in Harrisonburg, Va. People came to the event from 14 of the 24 Church of the Brethren districts.

The event followed an Aug. 2017 meeting in Moorefield, W.Va., that expressed concern about the denomination’s direction. Leaders from the “Moorefield gathering,” most of them connected to the Brethren Revival Fellowship (BRF), felt it was important to spend time immersed in prayer and Bible study before taking any further steps.

“I believe we have been too prayer-less,” BRF leader Jim Myer of Manheim, Pa., said at the summit. “I have to wonder if instead of having 200-plus Annual Conferences in our record books we had 200-plus prayer summits, how would things be different? I think this is long overdue…. I really believe God has some things for us to work on.”

That work did not include any votes or official agenda. Organizers wanted prayer and worship to be the sole focus. The event featured three main sessions, pulling together praise music led by Danville Church of the Brethren worship team “Grains of Sand” and soloist Abe Evans along with devotions, keynote messages, and guided discussion and prayer times.

Delivering the keynote messages were Julian Rittenhouse, a free ministry pastor in West Virginia; recently retired pastor Stafford Frederick of Roanoke, Va.; and Joel Billi, president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Each drew on 2 Chronicles 7:14 (KJV): “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

Rittenhouse, focusing on repentance and confession, said the church is in decline “because we’ve separated ourselves from the living vine.” The denomination has a “wonderful heritage,” he said, but, “we’ve lost our song. We’ve lost our connection to Christ.” Rittenhouse held out hope. “I believe the best days of the Church of the Brethren can still be ahead for people who humble themselves,” he said, calling the church to seek forgiveness and “be with Jesus” more fully.

BRF chair Craig Alan Myers later echoed that feeling of hope in a devotional time. “There is hope for the Church of the Brethren,” he said. “Is this the start of a split? I say no. There’s lots to complain about, but I look around the church and say it’s a great church. Who would have imagined 20 years ago that we would be planting churches in Europe once again? Or in Venezuela or the Great Lakes of Africa?”

Photo by Walt Wiltschek.

Frederick picked up on the theme of forgiveness, saying, “In God’s forgiveness and freedom there need not be fear.” He said the church needs to learn to ask for forgiveness and then “move on” instead of dwelling on the same issues. “Jesus has a way of solving all the problems that we get hung up on as the church,” he said.

Billi said EYN is praying for the Church of the Brethren and appreciates its close connection with the US church. Addressing the prayer summit was “the peak of my calling,” he said. He talked about some of the challenges that EYN has faced with terrorism and attacks on its churches, but said that faith had given them hope. “So long as we call upon the name of the living God, God will surely answer our prayers,” Billi said. “God is on top of our problems.”

The event had the feel of an old-style revival, but with a different set-up. Participants–including Church of the Brethren general secretary David Steele; Annual Conference moderator-elect Donita Keister; and Mission and Ministry Board chair Connie Davis and chair-elect Patrick Starkey–sat at round tables of up to seven people to facilitate the discussion and prayer times that followed each keynote. Those tables filled up half of the exhibit hall at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds, while dining and fellowship areas and exhibits occupied the other half.

Offerings plus gifts given in advance totaled more than $16,500 to cover expenses. Organizers said any surplus will be evenly divided between the Nigeria Crisis Fund, the Haiti Clean Water Project, the new Venezuela mission project, and the Brethren Mission Fund.

Several speakers referred to the current work to develop a “compelling vision” for the church as key to future direction. Organizers will consider whether further gatherings are needed depending on the feedback from this event and outcomes of Annual Conference in July.

— Walt Wiltschek is pastor of Easton (Md.) Church of the Brethren and serves on the editorial team for “Messenger,” the Church of the Brethren magazine.

5) NYC speech contest winners are announced

Elise Gage and Taylor Dudley, winners of the NYC 2018 Speech Contest.

It is with great excitement and anticipation that we announce the winners of the National Youth Conference (NYC) 2018 Speech Contest. These two youth will get to share their speeches with those attending NYC this summer in Fort Collins, Colo.

NYC takes place July 21-26  at Colorado State University for youth who have completed 9th grade through 1 year of college, or the age equivalent, and their adult advisors. There is still time to register for NYC. Go to

Don’t forget to celebrate National Youth Sunday on May 6. Free resources are at Share photos of National Youth Sunday celebrations with the Youth and Young Adult Ministry by sending them to We would love to see your youth participating in worship leadership!

NYC Speech Contest winners

The National Youth Cabinet helped in choosing speech contest winners Elise Gage and Taylor Dudley.

Gage, a high school freshman, is an active member of Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren. She particularity enjoys science and hopes to pursue a career as a renewable energy engineer. In her school’s athletics program, she is a center hitter for her volleyball team, a cross-country runner, and a track MVP and captain. Shee is an avid reader, loves writing creative stories, and enjoys hanging out with friends and family.

Dudley, a rising sophomore at Ferrum College who was born and raised in Franklin County, Va., is majoring in social work, which she hopes to pair with animal therapy. She is a member of Smith Mountain Lake Church of the Brethren in Hardy, Va. She is a collegiate swimmer, and also spends her summers working as a camp counselor at Camp Bethel in Fincastle, Va.

We look forward to these young women sharing their thoughts, stories, and ideas on the NYC stage this summer.

— Kelsey Murray is coordinator of National Youth Conference serving through Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS).

6) Young Adult Conference to meet at Brethren Woods

The 2018 Church of the Brethren Young Adult Conference will meet at Brethren Woods on May 25-27. The location is a camp and outdoor ministry center near Keezletown, Va. The conference brings together young adults ages 18-35 on the theme “Teach with your Life” (1 Timothy 4:11-16), sponsored by the denomination’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry.

The event will include fellowship, worship, recreation, Bible study, service projects, and more. Leadership is provided by speakers Gimbiya Kettering, director of Intercultural Ministries for the Church of the Brethren; Christopher Michael, who teaches art in an elementary school in Virginia; Dawna Welch, pastor of spiritual formation for La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren; and Zander Willoughby, a recent Manchester University graduate.

The registration fee, which includes food, lodging, and programming, currently is $155. To register and for schedule information go to . For questions and more information, contact Becky Ullom Naugle in the Youth/Young Adult Ministry Office at or 847-429-4385.

7) Brethren Press publishes book of poetry by Ken Gibble, among new resources

Brethren Press has published a book of poetry by Ken Gibble, titled “A Poetry of the Soul,” among new resources from the Church of the Brethren denominational publishing house. The summer quarter of the Shine curriculum, jointly produced by Brethren Press and MennoMedia, is now available to order on the theme “God’s Creation.” A new children’s Advent devotional by Christy Waltersdorff and Mitch Miller is anticipated in June.

A Poetry of the Soul

In this collection of poems from Ken Gibble, readers will encounter the worries, hopes, sorrows, and joys that pour forth from the mouths and hearts of those around us. “A Poetry of the Soul” rises from the tension between heartache and happiness, doubt and faith, lament and praise.

“Ken Gibble writes out of an artful understanding of God and humanity in this soulful collection of story-shaped poems,” says Scott Holland, Slabaugh Professor of Theology and Culture who teaches theopoetics at Bethany Theological Seminary. “This pastor knows how to lean in and listen to life. His poems, like all good writing, show rather than tell…. Most striking is the poet-pastor’s conclusions about what we will remember and what others will remember about us when our lives finally reach the epilogue.”

Gibble has pastored Church of the Brethren congregations in Virginia and Pennsylvania. He is an essayist and poet whose writings have appeared in numerous periodicals and several books.

Price: $17.95. Order online at or call Brethren Press at 800-441-3712.

Children’s Advent devotional

“25 Days to Jesus” is a new children’s Advent devotional that reflects upon God’s greatest gift to us–Jesus. The devotional is authored by Christy Waltersdorff. Her nephew, Mitch Miller, provides the illustrations. Miller is an up-and-coming talent, and Brethren Press is publishing his very first book. Look for the devotional to arrive in June, in time to introduce your family to a new Christmas tradition. Order “25 Days to Jesus” online at

Summer Shine curriculum

“God’s Creation” is the Shine theme for the summer. Shine has engaging stories and activities that will teach children the Bible, help them understand that they are known and loved by God, and aid them in learning what it means to follow Jesus.

Celebrating God’s world: Summer 2018 begins with stories of God making the world and filling it with all kinds of creatures. Stories of God’s creative work do not end with Genesis. The psalmist, Isaiah, and Matthew also tell of God’s care for all creation. Stories about a new heaven and a new earth, light, shepherd’s care, birds and lilies, thirsty deer, strong trees, growing seeds and bearing good fruit, and wings of protection provide images that inspire children and youth to learn about God’s love and desire for a peaceful world.

An image of God’s Creation from the book of Genesis, from the Shine curriculum.

Sharing God’s world: The quarter concludes with stories from the Old Testament in which God’s people share the goodness of creation with one another. In the stories of Ruth, the harvest-time Festival of Booths, and the 50-year celebration of Jubilee, children and youth see God’s provision for fairness and equality.

New for this summer, teachers of preschoolers will be telling the Bible story using cutout felt shapes, along with story props from the resource pack. Specific instructions for preparing the felt cutouts are in the back of the teacher’s guide and full-color photos of the layouts and additional templates, a video showing how to prepare the felt cutouts, as well as demonstration videos for how to tell every story will be found at The items will be used in all 13 sessions, with the repetition of props and layouts helping children see the many connections between the Bible stories.

For churches that do not purchase products for the summer, the Multiage leaflets make great children’s bulletins.

Order Shine curriculum from Brethren Press by calling 800-441-3712.

8) Brethren bits

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.

The Elgin Heritage Commission Mayor’s Award for Preservation for 2018 was awarded to the Church of the Brethren General Offices on May 1, at a ceremony led by Mayor David Kaptain at the historic old Elgin High School gymnasium. Receiving the award on behalf of the Church of the Brethren were general secretary David Steele, Brethren Press publisher Wendy McFadden, Global Mission and Service executive director Jay Wittmeyer, treasurer Brian Bultman, Office of Ministry director Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, and Nancy Miner, office manager for the General Secretary’s Office, with retired staff member Howard Royer and News Services director Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford present to document the moment with this photograph.

— Bethany Theological Seminary seeks a director of student development with an immediate start date. The director of student development will have primary responsibility to design, implement, and review a student development plan and a retention plan as well as programs and initiatives that nurture current students into highly engaged alumni. Eligible applicants will hold the minimum of a bachelor’s degree, with a master’s degree preferred, and a master of divinity highly encouraged; a master’s degree in a non-theological field with applicable experience is acceptable. Qualified applicants will be personable and able to be self-directed, manage a complex workload with attention to details, offer support to colleagues, and have the ability to connect with current students as they become alumni. Multi-tasking skills are needed to manage the current student development needs. For a job description, go to
 . Application review has begun and will continue until an appointment is made. To apply, send a letter of interest, resume, and contact information for three references by email to recruitment@bethanyseminary.eduor by mail to: Attn: Lori Current, Bethany Theological Seminary, 615 National Road West, Richmond, IN 47374. Bethany Seminary’s policy prohibits discrimination in employment opportunities or practices with regard to race, gender, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, or religion.

— The Outdoor Ministries Association of the Church of the Brethren (OMA) has openings for two contract positions: a communications coordinator and a social media and website specialist. OMA connects, enlivens, and supports the dynamic ministry of Church of the Brethren camps. OMA is a 501(c)(3) organization and is run by a volunteer board of directors. Each of these positions will work closely with the OMA board. These positions are available separately or may be bundled for the right candidate.

The communications coordinator will be responsible for checking the OMA general email address weekly, responding to general inquiries, and forwarding emails to appropriate parties for follow-up; maintaining contact information for camps, members, and other associated parties, and creating and maintaining a contact database; helping the board track and complete assigned tasks following each meeting; creating and mailing a semi-annual newsletter, including related tasks; facilitating an annual membership mailing and additional mailings.

The social media and website specialist will be responsible for collaboratively redesigning and maintaining the OMA website, incorporating feedback from the board; creating and posting weekly Facebook posts, or making arrangements for board members to create and post weekly; managing the OMA Facebook presence including monitoring of comment; connecting OMA to appropriate audiences through additional social media; connecting Church of the Brethren camps to OMA via Facebook and websites; posting each issue of the newsletter on the OMA website.

Qualifications: candidates who are a good fit for one or both positions will demonstrate respect for OMA and willingness to help fulfill the organization’s mission; excellent writing and communication skills; ability to proactively communicate and ask questions; ability to work well as part of a team and alone; good time management; high degree of organization and attention to detail; ability to be tech savvy and proficient with MS Office suite, Google suite, and Internet browsers; willingness to give, receive, and act on honest feedback; emotional maturity, poise, stability, warmth, kindness, and a sense of fun. Social media and website specialist will demonstrate passion and “pizzazz” for effective social media communications and strategy; professional experience with website design tools. Preference may be given to individuals who are members of the Church of the Brethren and/or who demonstrate a commitment to the work of Jesus. OMA seeks candidates throughout the US who are comfortable and adept at working remotely. Each position is available as a contract position for a 6-month trial period beginning mid-June or early July, or once a suitable candidate is found thereafter, for approximately 5-10 hours per month. Upon a positive 6-month review, there may be opportunity for a contract extension. Starting rate for each position is $150 per quarter (three months). Any travel required by the position and pre-approved by the board will be reimbursed. Apply by sending an email to by end of day May 18, with the following format: subject line: position for which you are applying, followed by first and last name, city, and state; within the body of the email include a brief personal statement, including: why you are interested in working with the Outdoor Ministries of the Church of the Brethren; how your skills, interests, and experience intersect with the responsibilities of and qualifications for this role; your work location; when you would be available to begin work; anything else you want OMA to know about you. Attach a current resume in PDF format. These positions are open until filled. Applications will be reviewed and interviews will be scheduled on a rolling basis after May 23. Email with any questions.

— Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) seeks a full-time administrative director to empower and guide the work of CPT in fulfilling its mission. The administrative director works closely with CPT’s program director in a collaborative, consensus-based, team model. Primary responsibilities include overall financial and administrative oversight, strategic planning and culture formation, and board and staff development, with some international travel to meetings and/or project sites each year. Candidates should demonstrate wisdom and imagination; skilled leadership of group and organizational processes and capacity building; commitment to grow in the journey of undoing oppressions; and ability to work independently and collaboratively as part of a dispersed team across continents. Nonprofit management experience and a focus on grassroots social change organizations is preferred. This is a 40 hours per week, 3-year appointment. Compensation is $24,000 per year. Benefits include 100 percent employer-paid health, dental, and vision coverage; 4 weeks of annual vacation. Location: Chicago, Ill., strongly preferred. Start date is Oct. 1. To apply, submit electronically, in English, the following to A cover letter stating motivation and reasons for interest in this position, a résumé or CV, a list of three references with e-mail and daytime telephone numbers. Application review begins May 15. Find the full position description at CPT is an international, faith-based, non-profit organization that builds partnerships to transform violence and oppression. CPT seeks individuals who are capable, responsible, and rooted in faith and spirituality to work for peace as members of teams trained in the disciplines of nonviolence. CPT is committed to building an organization that reflects the rich diversity of the human family in ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender identity, language, national origin, race and sexual orientation. All members of CPT receive a subsistence stipend currently capped at $2,000 per month for staff. For more about CPT see

Global Mission executive Jay Wittmeyer (seated third from left) at GUST graduation ceremony in India.

— Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service, recently visited with the Church of North India (CNI), and spoke at the commencement ceremony for Gujarat United School of Theology (GUST), of which the Church of the Brethren is a founding member. He also spent time visiting with CNI families and communities. CNI began in 1970 as a merger of several denominations, including the First District Church of the Brethren in India, which has remained independent of CNI. The Church of the Brethren in the US relates to both CNI and the First District Church of the Brethren in India.

— Miami (Fla.) Haitian Church of the Brethren is planning a “March for Equality” for immigrants. The march is for “support for every human being who may be affected by TPS and DACA.” The march takes place on Friday, May 18, starting at 10 a.m. at the church at 520 NW 103rd Street in Miami. The end point is 8801 NW 7th Avenue. In an online post about the march, the church explained: “Haitian Church of the Brethren would like to ask you to show support for every being who may be affected by TPS and DACA. As you may know the president and his administration has promised to deport between 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants and has already repealed the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) policy. This has and will affect more than 3 million families in the US and because of that we are organizing a march against these unfair policies. We as human beings and believers in Jesus Christ will stand for our brothers and sisters, our children and friends. We will march for the them, pray with them until something is done to fix this problem in our country. We are asking you to march with us Friday, May 18.” Find more at

— A photo of the performers of “It Might as Well Be Spring” at Fruitland (Idaho) Church of the Brethren appears in the Argus Observer at The church hosted a large gathering for the “Fruitland Over 80’s Celebration” on April 28. “The community event is co-sponsored by the Methodist Women and the women of the Brethren Church, for individuals age 80 and over,” the paper reported. “It included a skit/sing-along, followed by a light lunch.”

— The 12th Annual E. J. Smith River Float will be held on Saturday, May 19, starting at 9 a.m. at Germantown Brick Church of the Brethren in Virlina District. Participants will carpool and organize to float together from the Grassy Hill and Blue Bend section of the Blackwater River, exiting at the Corn property for a picnic. This is a fundraiser for Relay for Life. For more information, contact Ronnie Hale at 540-334-2077 or Steven McBride at 540-420-6141.

— Pinecrest Community is celebrating its 125th anniversary this summer. To spark the celebration, a “Wish List” has been created to detail specific program and equipment needs that donors can underwrite. With a third of its residents relying on charitable giving and Medicare to cover the cost of care, the retirement community in Mt. Morris, Ill., identifies more than 50 needed items that are outside the ongoing budget, most in the range of from $50 to $500.

— Virlina District holds its annual Ministry and Mission event this Saturday, May 5. Church members from around the district will worship, learn, and fellowship together, hosted at Collinsville Church of the Brethren. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m.  Worship will begin at 9 a.m. Lunch will be provided by the Women’s Fellowship of the Collinsville congregation. Cost is $8 per person. The event will include workshops and an Annual Conference briefing with moderator Samuel Sarpiya. Workshops offer continuing education credit for ministers, and are offered on the topics “Effectively Board” led by Scott Douglas of Brethren Benefit Trust; “Bridging the Divide: Skills in Conflict Transformation when Emotions are Involved” led by Samuel Sarpiya, in his role with the Center for Nonviolence and Conflict Transformation in Rockford, Ill.; “Escaping Purgatory: Choosing ‘WHY 2.0’ to Overcome Existential Threats to Church and Camp” led by Barry LeNoir of Camp Bethel.

— The Mid-Atlantic District Disaster Response Auction is receiving media attention from the “Carroll County Times” of Maryland. This is the 38th annual disaster auction sponsored by the district, to be held Saturday, May 5, at the Carroll County Agricultural Center starting at 9 a.m. “This regional event has raised more than $1.8 million since 1981 for disaster relief efforts,” the newspaper reported. The auction features handmade quilts, comforters, handmade crafts, art, flowers, houseplants, garden seedlings, trees, shrubs, glassware, furniture, tools, small appliances, collectibles, and more. The tool auction starts at 9 a.m., followed by general items and special items auctions. The quilt auction is scheduled for noon with about 80 items up for bid, “from smallish wall hangings to baby quilts to comforters to a dozen huge quilts larger than 80-by-100 inches,” said the news report. The report online features a photo of a quilt donated by John and Jeanne Laudermilch with appliqued daffodils done by Dorothy John Pilson and the quilting done by the women of Pipe Creek Church of the Brethren. Go to .

— The latest Dunker Punks Podcast features Kiana Simonson, a youth and young adult assistant for On Earth Peace, bringing together three other interns to discuss their roles at the agency. “Listen as the four share their thoughts on finding common ground across a variety of issues including gender, racial, and LGBT justice,” said an announcement. The Dunker Punks Podcast is an audio show created by more than a dozen Church of the Brethren young adults across the country. Listen at or subscribe at

A roof is put on the Makobola church in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo courtesy of Lubungo Ron.

— Bridgewater (Va.) College has broken ground for a “multi-million dollar transformation of Bridgewater College’s Alexander Mack Memorial Library into a state-of-the-art learning commons,” said a release from the college. The groundbreaking was celebrated May 4. “The John Kenny Forrer Learning Commons will serve as an active learning space and focal point for engaged learning for Bridgewater’s academic community,” the release said. “The facility will house the library’s collections and serve as a learning hub with a multimedia production lab, individual student study areas, peer coaching and tutoring, research support, an abundance of plug-and-play electronic outlets, group meeting spaces, on-site IT support, the Writing Center and Career Services. Thanks to record fundraising, the Forrer Learning Commons will be the first project in Bridgewater’s history to be fully funded through charitable donations. The new facility was made possible through a number of donors, including Bridgewater College alumna Bonnie Rhodes and her husband, John, who made a lead gift in honor of Mrs. Rhodes’ father, John Kenny Forrer. Other significant donors include John and Carrie Morgridge, who made a gift to name the Morgridge Center for Collaborative Learning. The facility will also include the Smith Family Learning Commons Café, the Robert H. and Mary Susan King Portico and the Beverly Perdue Art Gallery. Additionally, a gift to the Forrer Learning Commons project will be matched by The Mary Morton Parsons Foundation, which has issued a two-to-one $250,000 challenge grant.” The college plans to open the building in 2019.

— Bridgewater (Va.) College has honored three alumni for their achievements and humanitarian service, including Church of the Brethren member Steve Hollinger of Haymarket, Va., class of 1970, who received the West-Whitelow Humanitarian Award. Also receiving awards were Bruce W. Bowen of Richmond, Va., class of 1972, who received the Distinguished Alumnus Award; and James J. Mahoney III of Morgantown, W.Va. class of 2003, who received the Young Alumnus Award. Hollinger has been widely active in the Church of the Brethren and his community, serving in a variety of capacities and giving freely of the skills he gained through more than 40 years’ experience in construction, management, and training. He retired in 2016 from his private consulting practice. As a youth, growing up in Stuarts Draft, Va., he was a member and president of the Shenandoah District Youth Cabinet. After receiving his degree in biology from Bridgewater, Hollinger taught biology and earth sciences in the Prince William County Schools and earned an M.A. from Virginia Tech in 1976. His subsequent career in construction included design, supervision, risk management, and safety consultation, as well as hands-on construction work for a number of firms, including his own Construction Options Inc., in Haymarket, Va. Since 1976 he has been a member of Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren, where he has led various community outreach construction and service projects and spearheaded a $2.5 million renovation and addition project for his church, donating more than 3,600 hours of his time and expertise. He has been involved with Church of the Brethren national projects since 1976, including Brethren Disaster Ministries and the National Deacon Cabinet. He is a charter member and past president and treasurer of the Brethren Housing Corp. and volunteered in Brethren Volunteer Service in 2005. He supports the Shepherd’s Spring Outdoor Ministries Center in Sharpsburg, Md., having served on the Program Development Team at its inception. At Bridgewater, Hollinger served on the Parents Advisory Committee from 1997-2000, the final year as chair, and was a trustee from 2007-2016, serving at one point as chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee.

— The National Council of the Churches (NCC) has issued a statement on the progress toward peace on the Korean Peninsula. The NCC “joins with the National Council of Churches of Korea and the World Council of Churches in giving thanks for the wonderful reports emanating from the meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas indicating the armistice that ended the war in 1953 may finally be replaced by a peace treaty,” the statement says. “For decades, we have prayed and worked for peace alongside all of our sisters and brothers from Korea. We continue to be in prayer for the possibility of a successful meeting in the coming weeks between the leaders of the United States and North Korea. May God continue to guide our leaders along the path to peace.”

A leadership training class for Brethren Disaster Ministries celebrates the completion of a house with a House Blessing. The home in Nichols, S.C., is for Miss Joyce and Miss Ann, according to a Facebook post from the Church of the Brethren disaster rebuilding project.

— Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) executive director Mae Elise Cannon attended the Palestine National Council convention this week, including a speech by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. “CMEP welcomes the commitment of the PLO to peace negotiations, but condemns the inflammatory and anti-Semitic rhetoric used during the speech,” said a communication from the organization, of which the Church of the Brethren is a participating denomination. President Abbas “presented his future policy to the first regular session of the Palestine National Council (PNC) since 1996, calling for new negotiations leading to a two-state solution,” CMEP’s release said. “His recommitment to the peace process comes after remarks made earlier in January in which he threatened to withdraw from the Oslo Accords and suspend PLO recognition of Israel. However, the conciliatory tone brought to the conversation regarding the twostate solution was severely undermined by antiSemitic rhetoric peppered throughout the speech. Churches for Middle East Peace welcomes President Abbas’s renewed commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state existing alongside Israel and his calls for nonviolent popular resistance to Israel’s occupation. CMEP condemns the antiSemitic and inflammatory remarks and affirms that support for a Palestinian state does not require downplaying historical Jewish suffering or denying their connection to the land.”

— A series of hearings is continuing at sites around the country, held by the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service. These hearings are on the future of the military draft, draft registration, and compulsory service including compulsory military or national service for women, health care workers, and people with language, IT, or STEM skills. Upcoming hearings are announced for Boston, Mass., on Wednesday, May 9, at 5:45 – 7:45 p.m. at Sargent Hall, Suffolk University Law School, 120 Tremont St.; in Nashua, N.H., on Thursday, May 10 at 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Nashua City Hall (3rd Floor Auditorium), 229 Main St.; and in Jacksonville, Fla., on May 17 at 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at University of North Florida Herbert Center, Room 1027, 12000 Alumni Dr. Peace church members are encouraged to attend and express support for alternative, non-military service in place of a military draft. Written comments are being received by the commission by email to with “Docket No. 05-2018-01A” in the subject line of the e-mail message, or use this online form: The deadline to submit written comments has been extended through Sept. 30.

— Centenarian Galen L. Miller has been celebrated by his congregation at Sunnyslope Brethren/United Church of Christ in Wenatchee, Wash. He reached the 100 year mark on Jan. 7. He was born in Weiser, Idaho, on Jan. 7, 1918.

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 Chris Douglas, Kendra Harbeck, Mary Kay Heatwole, Donita Keister, Jeff Lennard, Kelsey Murray, Frank Ramirez, Lubungo Ron, Howard Royer, Kevin Schatz, Becky Ullom Naugle, Walt Wiltschek.

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

[gt-link lang="en" label="English" widget_look="flags_name"]