Brethren bits for May 17, 2019

— Remembrance: Dr. Paul Petcher, former medical mission worker in Nigeria, passed away on Sunday, May 12, at the age of 96. He was a medical missionary with the Church of the Brethren mission in Nigeria from 1951-1960, serving in both Garkida and Lassa. Memorial services include visitation on Saturday, May 18, from 5-8 p.m. at Lathan Funeral Home in Chatom, Ala., and a memorial service on Sunday, May 19, at 2 p.m. at Cedar Creek Church of the Brethren in Citronelle, Ala. Memorial gifts are received to the Nigeria Crisis Fund. The full obituary is available at

— Remembrance: Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche communities, died of cancer in Paris at age 90 on May 7. He was the founder of L’Arche, a federation of 154 communities for adults with learning disabilities in 38 countries on 5 continents. L’Arche communities have been project sites for many Brethren Volunteer Service workers over the years. In Europe, 32 BVSers have served at L’Arche communities in Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Germany since 1997, with one BVS volunteer serving in a L’Arche community in France in the early 1980s, reports Kristin Flory of the Brethren Service Europe office. At least one BVS volunteer has served at a L’Arche community in the United States as well. For the orientation of new volunteers, BVS staff use a video clip of “Henri Nouwen speaking about how Jean Vanier changed his entire outlook on his life’s purpose when Vanier invited Nouwen to leave his academic life and focus his life on ‘being’ instead of ‘doing’ by joining the first L’Arche Community in Trosly, France, and eventually moving to the Daybreak L’Arche Community in Toronto, Canada,” reports BVS director Emily Tyler. “In the clip that we use, Nouwen says that the three biggest things he had learned were 1. Being is more important that doing, 2. The heart is more important than the mind, and 3. Doing things together is more important that doing things alone. All three of these lessons are important for BVSers serving anywhere–important lessons coming from L’Arche for all of us.” In an obituary shared by the World Council of Churches (WCC), Vanier is remembered for having chosen relationships with intellectually disabled people ahead of privilege. He was a “fervent champion of the developmentally disabled, a proponent of peace and humane society,” the remembrance said.

CWS ration challenge

Brethren Disaster Ministries and Global Mission and Service are encouraging Brethren to consider taking up the “Ration Challenge” from Church World Service (CWS), to experience what life is like as a refugee in today’s world. The challenge takes place from June 16-23, and may be a suitable activity for Sunday school classes and youth groups, as well as concerned individuals. “Survive on the same rations as a Syrian refugee during Refugee Week, get sponsored, and show refugees we’re with them, not against them.” Go to .

— The Church of the Brethren’s information technology department has announced two promotions:
     Francie Coale has been named director of information technology. Previously she was director of information technology at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., and now will oversee the IT department at both the Brethren Service Center and the General Offices in Elgin, Ill., while also continuing as director of buildings and grounds at the Brethren Service Center.
     Fabiola Fernandez began May 13 as manager of IT at the General Offices, where she has been a system specialist.

— Everett Teetor has tendered his resignation effective June 14 as accounting assistant for Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT). He was hired by BBT on July 23, 2018. Previously he had served as an intern in the finance department from June 5, 2017, until his hire date. He is a member of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill.

— Zoe Vorndran will begin June 24 as the 2019-2020 intern in the Brethren Historical Library and Archives at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. She graduates from Manchester (Ind.) University on May 18 with a bachelor of arts degree in English and history. While a student, she worked as archives assistant and desk worker for the Funderburg Library. She is a member of Lincolnshire Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind.

— Tim Courtright will begin July 15 as executive director of Camp Swatara near Bethel, Pa. He has been serving at Kenbrook Bible Camp north of Lebanon, Pa., as executive director. Courtright grew up in central Ohio where he learned to love camping from early experiences with the Boy Scouts and church camp. He has been involved in camping as a participant, volunteer, and consultant for 34 years.
     Camp Swatara has hired Allison Mattern of Palmyra (Pa.) Church of the Brethren as Family Camping Center manager following the resignation of Rick and Sarah Balmer. Mattern grew up in Campbelltown, Pa., and attended Slippery Rock University where she earned a degree in Environmental Science and pursued course work related to park and campground interpretation–in which she holds certifications.

— The Church of the Brethren seeks a coordinator of short-term service, a full-time salaried position that will provide oversight and administration of short-term service experiences and placements including the Workcamp Ministry, and will support recruitment of volunteers for Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS). Required skills and knowledge include grounding in Church of the Brethren heritage, theology, and practices; ability to articulate and operate out of the vision of the Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren; interpersonal skills and ability to take initiative without regular supervision; attention to detail; organizational skills; communication skills; administrative and management skills; ability in providing faith/spiritual leadership in group settings; recruitment experience in a college or equivalent volunteer service setting preferred; understanding of managing a budget required, with experience of managing a budget preferred; willingness to travel extensively; ability to work well in a team office setting; flexibility with evolving program needs. Experience required includes leading workcamps or mission trips; working with youth; word processing, database, and spreadsheet software; recruitment and assessment of individuals. Previous BVS experience helpful but not required. A bachelor’s degree is expected, a master’s degree or equivalent work experience is helpful but not required. This position is based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. Qualified candidates are invited to send a resume to or to the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Avenue, Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 367. The Church of the Brethren is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Heifer 75th anniversary

— Save the date! Global Mission and Service invites Brethren to a celebration of the 75th anniversary of Heifer International, commemorating its roots in the Church of the Brethren and its historic ties to the community and hospital of Castañer, Puerto Rico. Brethren are invited to join in the following itinerary: Friday, Oct. 4, gather in San Juan; Saturday, Oct. 5, spend the day in Castañer to attend the celebration and tour the hospital; Sunday, Oct. 6, worship with area congregations of the Church of the Brethren, return to San Juan, and travel home. Participants are responsible for their own expenses. Global Mission and Service is glad to assist in coordinating flight and hotel bookings and will arrange transportation for Saturday’s activities. Contact Kendra Harbeck at or 847-429-4388.

— The Office of Ministry is continuing to plan for the 2020 Clergywomen’s Retreat to be held Jan. 6-9, 2020, in Scottsdale, Ariz. This retreat is open to all commissioned, licensed, and ordained women in the Church of the Brethren. Presenter Mandy Smith is lead pastor of University Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio; a regular contributor to “Christianity Today”; author of “The Vulnerable Pastor: How Human Limitations Empower Our Ministry”; and director of Missio Alliance’s “She Leads” summit. Estimated cost is $325 for double occupancy and $440 for single occupancy. Find a “Save the Date” brochure at . Registration opens later this summer.

— A diverse group of more than 100 organizations, including the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, has sent a letter to Congress opposing an administration proposal that would significantly weaken regulation and oversight of firearms exports. It would transfer controls of exports of semi-automatic firearms and ammunition from the US Munitions List under the authority of the Department of State to the less-stringent controls of the Department of Commerce. Those signing the letter included religious organizations representing 26 religious denominations, communities, and organizations; national and state gun violence prevention organizations representing 14 states; and human rights, education, arms control, peace, and domestic violence prevention organizations. The groups warn that the transfer to the Commerce Department of export controls for semiautomatic pistols, assault-style firearms, sniper rifles, and ammunition “will thwart congressional oversight and create new and unacceptable risks of exacerbating gun violence, human rights abuses, and armed conflict.” In addition, the proposal would transfer control of the technical information and blueprints for potentially undetectable 3D-printed guns, which could facilitate printing of 3D guns worldwide and make these weapons readily available to terrorist groups and other criminal elements. The letter also explains, “The Administration’s proposal guts Congress’ authority to provide oversight of firearms exports. Currently, Congress is notified of firearms sales authorized by the State Department valued at $1 million or more. No such notification requirements will exist if these weapons are transferred to Commerce control. In recent years, Congressional notification has been an important backstop, helping forestall firearms transfers to repressive forces, such as those in Turkey and the Philippines.” Pending legislation H.R. 1134 in the House and S. 459 in the Senate would prevent the transfer.

— Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is celebrating its 35th anniversary year and the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy is helping bring attention to a special campaign in which several donors have pledged to match every dollar donated up to $35,000, now through the organization’s June advocacy summit on the theme “Persistent Hope: 35 Years of CMEP.” “I think of a question I am often asked when speaking about CMEP’s work in Israel/Palestine and the broader Middle East: How do you continue working for justice and peace, maintaining hope in the face of such hopelessness?” wrote Mae Elise Cannon, executive director. “The answer for me is easy: CMEP’s vibrant community of churches and individuals who have kept this vital organization at the forefront of the Christian call for justice and dignity for all people in the Middle East for 35 years. Find a new video about CMEP offering a snapshot of the organization’s work at

— The SERRV board of directors was hosted at the Church of the Brethren General Offices for a couple days of meetings beginning May 7. SERRV International is a fair trade organization that had its start as a Church of the Brethren program. The SERRV headquarters is located in Madison, Wis., and the organization continues to maintain a distribution center at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. For more information visit

“Brethren Voices” plans to be rebroadcasting again starting in June, with a special program. “Brethren Voices” is a project of Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren led by producer Ed Groff and host Brent Carlson. It is offered for congregations around the country to share on public access cable stations in their areas. The show also is posted on YouTube with more than 100 episodes of the show available, go to .

— The newest episode of Dunker Punks Podcast asks, does the Church really have room for everyone? “The Church of the Brethren is unique, they have certain values that are incredibly distinct [to the] church itself,” said an announcement. In this episode, Emmy, Evan, and Hannah explore the ideas of accepting people of differing faiths and beliefs while identifying with a similar culture. Listen at

— “McPherson College C.A.R.S. Motoring Festival celebrates 20 years of wheeled wonder” is the title of the “Auto Week” article about the annual celebration of the Auto Restoration program at the Church of the Brethren-related college in McPherson, Kan. The celebration took place the first weekend in May. “What did you major in as an undergraduate?” asks author Mark Vaughn in a tongue-in-cheek opening to the article. “Something practical and entirely reasonable that represented a good use of your parents’ money like…. Business? Psychology? Underwater Basket Weaving? Wouldn’t you rather have majored in Playing With Cars?” The Auto Restoration major started 43 years ago and became a full bachelor’s degree 16 years ago “thanks to help from Mercedes-Benz, which operates its own Classic Center for restorations, and thanks to scholarship money from collectors like Jay Leno and many others. The school also has a partnership with the Ferrari Club of America to provide scholarship support and internship opportunities.” McPherson is the only school to offer this four-year degree. It was 20 years ago that students in the program decided to start an annual car show. Find the article at .

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