Newsline for July 7, 2020

“But now thus says the Lord…: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1a and c).

1) Denominational events bring a new level of virtual experience to the Church of the Brethren
2) Standing Committee holds elections for Nominating Committee and Appeals Committee
3) Ministerial ethics training shifts to online format
4) Push back against the imposition of mandatory draft registration for women and support H.R. 5492
5) Press conference by EYN president brings attention to recent Boko Haram attacks, calls on government and international community for action
6) Elizabethtown Church ‘walks to Nigeria’ in virtual challenge
7) Chambersburg Church of the Brethren gets record attendance at virtual VBS

8) Ministry Summer Service interns for 2020 serve home congregations or serve remotely

9) Brethren bits: Group of denominational staff offer “Checklist for Reopening Church Buildings” in Spanish and English, job openings, Children’s Disaster Services seeks donations for Individual Kits of Comfort, N. Indiana District Conference is different this year, Womaen’s Caucus “virtual luncheon” is an online panel discussion, cooking class and fundraiser for Fundacion Brethren y Unida in Ecuador, Bread for the World’s 2020 Hunger Report


Find our landing page of Church of the Brethren COVID-19 related resources and information at .

Find Church of the Brethren congregations offering online worship at .

A listing to recognize Brethren who are active in health care is at . To add a person to this listing, send an email with first name, county, and state to .


Correction: Links to the full-text copies of Newsline for the past two weeks were omitted from the emails for June 19 and June 26. The full text of the June 19 issue is at . The full text of the June 26 issue is at .


1) Denominational events bring a new level of virtual experience to the Church of the Brethren

The virtual denominational choir sings “I See a New World Coming” with direction from Enten Eller.

Three online denominational events last week have brought a new level of virtual experience to the Church of the Brethren: a children’s worship and a denominational worship service on the evening of Wednesday, July 1, and a Church of the Brethren concert on the evening of Thursday, July 2, with both worship experiences available in Spanish as well as English. These virtual events were timed to happen on what would have been the first two evenings of the now-canceled 2020 Annual Conference. Recordings of all three events including the worship experiences in Spanish are available at .

“The Program and Arrangements Committee is to be commended for initiating and crafting these rich and varied events,” said Annual Conference moderator Paul Mundey. “Though they were not intended to replace Annual Conference, they added great value to the church, nevertheless, during the week many anticipated gathering together in Grand Rapids. We are grateful for the inspiration, depth, and encouragement these events provided during a vulnerable and challenging season for our denomination.”     

Annual Conference director Chris Douglas emphasized the hard work by many people that went into the worship services and concert. She thanked “all who participated in the three events, sharing their gifts and faith with the whole church.”

In particular, she said, “We’d like to give special recognition to Dave Sollenberger for much videotaping and hours of editing; Enten Eller for hours editing with Dave on the three virtual choir hymns; Wil Zapata for translating the denominational worship service; Nohemi Flores for translating the children’s worship; to Program and Arrangements Committee who did the planning and follow-through: Jan King, Emily Shonk Edwards, Carol Hipps Elmore, Jim Beckwith, Paul Mundey, and Dave Sollenberger.”

Two worship services and a concert

The worship services began with a half-hour planned particularly for children, but also meaningful for adults, followed by a service featuring numerous speakers and musicians from across the Church of the Brethren, inspiring video stories from congregations and international mission, and a first-ever virtual denominational choir that included dozens of singers. The choir’s rendition of “I See a New World Coming,” a hymn written by Brethren composer Steve Engle–which marks its 50th anniversary this year–highlighted the theme of the service and a focus of Annual Conference moderator Paul’s Mundey’s message: “Our Kinsman, Redeemer,” based the image of God in Isaiah 43:1-3 and 5. Mundey highlighted the God who accompanies the people even in exile and quagmire, promising a new Creation.

The concert similarly featured dozens of Church of the Brethren musicians from various national backgrounds singing and playing a wide variety of instruments in a real mix of musical styles. Excerpts recorded at previous Annual Conferences and other concerts were intermixed with pieces recorded by musicians under pandemic stay-at-home orders. Program and Arrangements Committee members Emily Shonk Edwards and Carol Elmore served as hosts for the concert.

A highlight came at the very start of the concert, with the first performance of a new song by Ken Medema, written specifically for the event. Medema is a Christian musician and song writer and a popular performer at many Church of the Brethren conferences including Annual Conference, National Youth Conference, and National Older Adult Conference.

His new song has roots in a hymn that is beloved to the denomination, “Brethren We Have Met to Worship.” The first stanzas of the song are reprinted here with permission:

A screenshot of Ken Medema performing the new song he wrote for the Church of the Brethren concert on July 2

“Brethren we have met to worship
and adore the Lord our God.
Text and screen and sound and image
now we join to preach the word.

“In these days we know the Spirit
of the Holy One comes down.
We’ll become the Holy Manna
richly scattered all around.

“We are Brethren on the line,
you in the place that you call home and I in mine.
Separated but together we are singing to each other.
We are Brethren on the line.

“We’ll take all the tools, and love what’s in our hands.
With God’s children, bruised and broken, we will stand.
Sure, we long for the day we can sit together
in the meeting house again,
but for now we are Brethren on the line….”

An audience in the thousands

The three events garnered an audience in the thousands. Eller reported viewing statistics for the three events, including the recordings that continue to be available.

As of midday Monday, July 6, the children’s worship and denominational worship service combined had a total of 4,883 views, with an additional 65 views of the children’s worship only and 207 of the denominational worship service only. The Spanish translation of the children’s worship and denominational worship service had 97 views. The Church of the Brethren concert had a total of 2,677 views.

Photo courtesy of Dave Sollenberger
Dave Sollenberger tapes a performance by Joseph Helfrich for the Church of the Brethren concert, an online event that was streamed on the evening of July 2.

Eller reported that on the night of the webcast of the worship services, 472 was the peak number of live log-ins for the children’s worship in English with an addition 8 log-ins for the service in Spanish. Live attendance for the denominational worship service that evening peaked at 986, with an additional 18 log-ins to the service in Spanish. The webcast of the concert peaked at 727 simultaneous live logins.

These numbers represent the times that devices linked to the events. A good number may have been seen by more than one person, as families and households may have participated together in viewing the worship services and concert.

Find links to the recordings at . Also available are various elements of the worship services and concert, including the three hymns sung by the denominational choir, which Sollenberger has separated out so that individual viewers or congregations can use particular pieces as desired.

2) Standing Committee holds elections for Nominating Committee and Appeals Committee

By Chris Douglas

The 2020 Standing Committee of district delegates to the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference met by Zoom on the evening of Sunday, June 28. The meeting took place at the time when the committee would have gathered in Grand Rapids, Mich., to begin an in-person meeting in advance of the now-canceled 2020 Annual Conference.

The two-hour meeting was for the purpose of re-organizing the new Standing Committee and preparing for an online election of the new Nominating Committee and Appeals Committee. The election was held via Survey Monkey and the following people were called:

Nominating Committee

The following four people will join current Nominating Committee members Michaela Alphonse, Kurt Borgmann, Becky Maurer, and Dennis Webb to form the 2020-2021 Nominating Committee and will be asked to take part in an online organizational meeting to be held in the coming weeks:

Bob Johansen of Northern Indiana District
Kim McDowell of Mid-Atlantic District
Loren Rhodes of Middle Pennsylvania District
Susan Chapman Starkey of Virlina District

Appeals Committee

The following three people were elected to serve as the Appeals Committee for 2020-2021:

Carolyn Dean of Middle Pennsylvania District
Jonathan Prater of Shenandoah District
Craig Stutzman of Mid-Atlantic District

Alternates to serve if members of the committee must recuse themselves are

1st alternate: Ben Polzin of Northern Ohio District
2nd alternate: Mark Jones of West Marva District

— Chris Douglas is director of the Annual Conference Office for the Church of the Brethren.

3) Ministerial ethics training shifts to online format

by Nancy Sollenberger Heishman

Church of the Brethren ministers needing to complete the advanced level ethics training requirement for credentialing renewal have found increased options in today’s virtual world. In mid-March the Office of Ministry began transitioning to offering such sessions online.

Five ethics trainers shifted to leading the online sessions: Joe Detrick, Jim Eikenberry, and Ramon Torres of Atlantic Northeast District, and Lois Grove and Dave Kerkove of Northern Plains District. Attendees expressed appreciation for the availability of the online format, the opportunity to engage with ministers from other districts during the sessions, and the flexible nature of the online platform used.

Ministers still needing training will have a few final opportunities to register through their district office for sessions that will conclude this fall.
The current ethics materials were commissioned by the Office of Ministry and written by James Benedict, retired pastor from Mid Atlantic District.

— Nancy Sollenberger Heishman is director of the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Ministry. For more about the Office of Ministry and ministerial credentialing go to .

4) Push back against the imposition of mandatory draft registration for women and support H.R. 5492

An action alert from the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy

On June 23, the Subcommittee on Military Personnel of the House Armed Services Committee released proposals for the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill was to be sent to the full House Armed Service Committee on July 1, and an effort to amend the Fiscal Year 2021 NDAA to require women to register for the military draft is likely during the full committee markup.

The Church of the Brethren is a historic peace church with a moral aversion to war, codified with the 1934 Annual Conference resolution that “all war is sin.” As such, we are reminded in the 1982 Annual Conference resolution “Reaffirmation of Opposition to War and Conscription for Military Training” that “We, therefore, cannot encourage, engage in, or willingly profit from armed conflict at home or abroad. We cannot, in the event of war, accept military service or support the military machine in any capacity.”

The likely move by Congress to impose mandatory draft registration requirements on women is in conflict with our understanding of the sinfulness of war, and mandates action. We should heed the call in the 1970 Annual Conference statement on war, which affirms that the church “will seek to use its influence to abolish or radically restructure the system which conscripts persons for military purposes.”

Keeping in line with the Brethren position against war and conscription, take action now and contact your congressperson, urging them to push back against any imposition of mandatory draft registration on women, and voice support for the provisions of H.R. 5492, introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio and supported by our long-time partners at the Center for Conscience and War, which calls for the Military Selective Service Act to be repealed.

You can look up your legislator at .

Sample script

“Hello, my name is [name] and I’m a constituent from [city].

“I am reaching out to share my grave concerns about any imposition of the mandatory draft registration on women and ask that you support the provisions of H.R. 5492, which calls for the elimination of the Military Selective Service Act.

“Imposing mandatory draft registration on women is not an act of sharing equality, as the legal barriers preventing women from participating all capacities of the military were removed in 2013. Imposing military conscription on women as well as men does not expand their opportunities, it merely removes their option to choose. As a member of a peace church, I believe that mandatory draft registration should be ended for everyone. Men and women alike should no longer be required to register for the draft. This is the change that will bring about equality—the imposition of conscription on women will not achieve that aim.

“Lastly, I ask that you support the provisions of H.R. 5492, introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio, which calls for the Military Selective Service Act to be repealed and also would overturn penalties against young people who fail to register.


— Susu Lassa is an associate at the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy.

5) Press conference by EYN president brings attention to recent Boko Haram attacks, calls on government and international community for action

Excerpts from a transcript released by Zakariya Musa, communications staff of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria

A press conference was held by Joel S. Billi, president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) in Jimeta, Yola, on Thursday, July 2. Following are portions of the transcript of the press conference, which focused on bringing attention to the continuing insurgent violence that is affecting members of EYN and their neighbors in northeast Nigeria, and issuing a strong call on the Nigeria government:

EYN–Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)–was established at Garkida, Adamawa State, by the Brethren Christian missionaries from the United States of America on March, 17, 1923. Three years from now, EYN will be 100 years old. It is the largest Christian denomination in the northeast…with an estimated population of 1.5 million communicant members.

EYN is one of the three Historic Peace Churches in the world. The other two are the Mennonites and the Society of Friends, otherwise known as Quakers. The practical demonstration of the peace heritage of the church was displayed during the over 11 years of insurgency in the northeast perpetrated by the Boko Haram Islamic fundamentalist sect, and no reprisal attacks were done by members of the EYN….

EYN is the single Christian denomination that is worst hit by the activities of the Boko Haram. Over 700,000 members have been displaced with only 7 out of 60 District Church Councils not directly affected by the insurgency. EYN has lost over 8,370 members and 8 pastors, with the numbers increasing on a daily basis. Many of her members have been abducted, with 217 out of the abducted 276 Chibok school girls belonging to EYN. Over 300 of the 586 churches of EYN have been either burnt or destroyed, with uncountable numbers of houses belonging to our members looted or burnt.

Call on the government

The world at large is passing through one of the greatest challenges in recent times, that is the coronavirus pandemic. As a church, we commend the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari and the President’s Task Force on COVID-19 for the proactive measures taken. We salute our frontline health workers for putting their lives on the line for Nigerians. We sympathize with families who lost their loved ones as a result of this global pandemic. We call on all Nigerians to adhere to safety protocols and guidelines so that COVID-19 may be defeated.

I wish to commend the renewed zeal by our gallant military and other security forces in tackling the menace of Boko Haram. However, I call on the federal and state governments of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa States to–as a matter of urgency–rescue the remaining abducted Chibok school girls and return them safely to their families. I also call with a loud voice on the federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari to rescue Leah Sheribu Neta, Alice Loksha, and hundreds of those abducted by the Boko Haram.

While we remain committed as Nigerian citizens in supporting the government of the day in achieving its mandate, EYN was shocked at the Democracy Day Speech of President Buhari on June 12, where he said, “All the local governments that were taken over by the Boko Haram insurgents in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa have long been recovered and are now occupied by the indigenes of these areas who were hitherto forced to seek a living in areas far from their ancestral homes.” That was unfortunate, misleading, and demoralizing.

The fact on ground is this: EYN had four District Church Councils (DCC) prior to the insurgency in Gwoza Local Government Area of Borno State, to which none is existing today. There are over 18,000 of our members who are still taking refuge in Minawao, Cameroon. There are also about 7,000 EYN members who are taking refuge in other IDP [internally displaced person] camps in Cameroon among which are Ngaudare, Bavangwala, Karin Beka, Zhelevede, Garin Njamena, Mazagwa, and Moskwata.

Yes, there are people now in Gwoza town and Pulka, but all areas behind the Gwoza hills where the concentration of the Gwoza population is, are still not inhabited. The total number of IDPs in the Cameroon camps who are over 95 percent from Gwoza is over 47,000 people, who have never received attention from the government be it state or federal. The bulk of displaced members of EYN live in Maiduguri, Adamawa, Nasarawa, Taraba, the FCT, and some are spread across many states of the federation.

Displaced communities of Gwoza Local Government Area that are not inhabited are: Chinene, Barawa, Ashigashiya, Gava, Ngoshe, Bokko, Agapalwa, Arboko, Chikide, Amuda, Walla, Jibrili, Attagara, Zamga Nigeria, Agwurva, Ganjara, Zhawazha, Balla, Timta, Valle, Koghum, Kunde, Pege, Vreke, Fadagwe, Gava West, Sabon Gari Zalidva, Tsikila, and Hambagda.

More worrisome is the fact that from the end of last year 2019 to June 2020, there had been over 50 different attacks on different communities carried out by the Boko Haram and most were either unreported or under reported by both the print and electronic media. I shall be specific with facts and figures to buttress my point.

1. On Dec. 25, 2019, Boko Haram attacked Bagajau community of Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State killing 9 Christians. Damjuda Dali, the head of the household, and his two children with their friends were burnt down in their room–Daniel Wadzani, Ijuptil Chinampi, Jarafu Daniel, and Peter Usman. Others were Ahijo Yampaya, Medugu Auta, and Waliya Achaba.

2. On Dec. 29, 2019, Mandaragirau community of Biu Local Government Area of Borno State was attacked where 18 Christians were abducted. The older was Esther Buto, 42 years old, and the youngest of them was Saraya Musa, 3 years old. The church building and foodstuffs were destroyed as well as the primary school.

3. On the Jan. 2, 2020, Boko Haram attacked Michika Community of Adamawa State and abducted Rev. Lawan Andimi, the EYN District Church Secretary, also the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Chairman for Michika LGA, who was gruesomely murdered on Jan. 21, 2020.

4. Jan. 18, 2020, was another dark day for EYN as Boko Haram attacked Kwaragilum village of Chibok LGA of Borno State and abducted six female members of EYN. They were: Esther Yakubu, Charity Yakubu, Comfort Ishaya, Deborah Ishaya, Gera Bamzir, and Jabbe Numba.

5. As if that was not enough, Jan. 27, 2020 was yet another gloomy day as Tur Community of Madagali LGA of Adamawa State was attacked by same Boko Haram Islamic fundamentalists where 10 EYN members had their houses looted and burnt.

6. Feb. 2, 2020, was catastrophic as Boko Haram again attacked Leho community of Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State, where all three of the EYN churches were burnt: EYN Leho 1, Leho 2, and Leho Bakin Rijiya.

7. On Feb. 20, 2020, Boko Haram overran Tabang community of Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State abducting a 9 =-year-old boy. Mama Joshua Edward sustained bullet wounds and 17 EYN members’ houses were razed down.

8. Feb. 21, 2020 was a black Friday for EYN as Garkida community, the birthplace of EYN, was attacked by Boko Haram. The first EYN church was burnt down. Two other churches–Anglican and Living Faith–were also burnt. The EYN Brethren College of Health Technology, EYN Rural Health Department and its vehicles, and prominent Christian houses and shops were looted and burnt. Mr. Emmanuel Bitrus Tarfa was abducted.

9. Feb. 29, 2020, was the date Boko Haram attacked Rumirgo community of Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State killing 7 persons amongst them one soldier, four Muslims, and two Christians.

10. On March 1, 2020, Boko Haram yet again attacked Rumirgo of Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State and carted away a truck loaded with foodstuff.

11. On April 3, 2020, Boko Haram attacked Kuburmbula and Kwamtiyahi villages of Chibok LGA of Borno State, abducting and murdering three persons. They were Meshack John, Mutah Nkeki, and Kabu Yakubu. Over 20 houses were razed down.

12. April 5, 2020, witnessed the attack by Boko Haram on Mussa Bri, Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State. Looted and burnt were Christian shops belonging to Samuel Kambasaya, Yuguda Ijasini, and Matiyu Buba.

13. On April, 7, 2020, Wamdeo community of Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State was overrun by Boko Haram. They burnt two vehicles, burgled stores, and killed five persons. Amongst those killed were Pur Thlatiryu, a security guard at the EYN Clinic, Ndaska Akari, and Yunana Maigari.

14. May 6, 2020 was a black day for EYN yet again as Boko Haram unleashed havoc on Debiro, Dakwiama, and Tarfa communities of Biu Local Government Area of Borno State, burnt two EYN churches, razed down the two villages and some houses in Tarfa, and killing Mr. Audu Bata.

15. May 12, 2020, was a day Boko Haram revisited Mussa Bri of Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State. They killed Luka Bitrus and Mrs. Ijaduwa Shaibu got several machete cuts.

16. On May 30, 2020, Kwabila village of Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State witnessed the dastardly acts of the Boko Haram. Dauda Bello, Baba Ya’u, and a female, Kawan Bello, were killed, while Aisha Bello, Rufa’i Bello, and Amina Bello sustained various degrees of injuries and were receiving treatment at Askira General Hospital. That was an attempt to wipe out an entire family.

17. Three days later, on June 2, 2020, Boko Haram returned to Kwabila village of Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State killing Bello Saleh, the head of the household, while Amina Bello, who had been receiving treatment, died in the hospital.

18. On June 7, 2020, Kidlindila community of Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State witnessed its own share of the Boko Haram attacks after experiencing such attacks twice in 2019. A lady by name Indagju Apagu was abducted, Wana Aboye sustained a gunshot injury, while Apagu Marau’s car was carted away and several houses were looted.

19. June 16, 2020 was a thick cloud of man’s inhumanity to man as Boko Haram devastated Mbulabam of Chibok LGA of Borno State, abducting a young girl by name Mary Ishaku Nkeke while her two brothers, Emmanuel and Iliya, went missing for three days.

20. The following day, June 17, 2020, the same Boko Haram came to Kautikari community Chibok LGA of Borno State killing three: Mr. Musa Dawa, 25 years old and married; Mr. Yusuf Joel, 30 years old and single; and Mr. Jacob Dawa, 35 years old and married. Five women and girls were abducted, all members of EYN. They are: Martha Yaga, 22 years old and single; Mary Filibus, 13 years old and single; Saratu Saidu, 22 years old and single; Eli Augustine, 21 years old and married; and Saratu Yaga, 20 years old and married.

21. Five days after that, on June 22, 2020, Boko Haram yet again invaded Kautikari community of Chibok LGA of Borno State killing Bira Bazam, 48 years old and married, and Ba Maina Madu, 62 years old. Three girls were abducted: Laraba Bulama, 20 years old and single; Hauwa Bulama, 18 years old and single; and Maryamu Yohanna, 15 years old and single. 

22. The month of June ended on a sad note for EYN as Boko Haram attacked farmers of Nasarawo, Kautikari, of Chibok LGA of Borno State, killing Mr. Zaramai Kubirvu, 40 years old and married….

There are several villages and communities not occupied by their inhabitants, communities deserted due to continuous attacks by Boko Haram besides the ones mentioned earlier. The deserted villages are:

In Chibok Local Government Area of Borno State, the following communities are deserted: Bwalakle, Nchiha, Kwaragilum A & B, Boftari, Thlilaimakalama, Kakalmari, Paya Yesu B, and Jajere.

Communities in Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State: Bdagu, Pubum, Ngurthavu, Kwang, Yaza, Bagajau, Huyim, Shawa, Tabang, Barka, Gwandang, Autha, Paya Bitiku, Gwagwamdi, Yimirali, Dembu A & B.

Communities in Damboa LGA of Borno State: Kubirvu, Bilakar, Klekasa, Kwamjilari, and Chillari.

Communities in Madagali LGA of Adamawa State: Vemgo, Gulla, and Humshe.

The persistent attacks by Boko Haram are not limited to the areas highlighted above in southern Borno and northern Adamawa States, but are also being experienced in northern Borno, Kala-Balge, Monguno, Kukawa, Mobar, etc.

Our prayer

a. We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to as a matter of urgency deploy at least a battalion of military to the deserted areas behind the Gwoza Hills as enumerated above to ensure the speedy return of the IDPs to their ancestral land.

b. The government to immediately reconstruct and rehabilitate all houses, schools, and worship places destroyed by the insurgents in the deserted villages, to be carried out by the Northeast Development Commission.

c. Government to deploy more security personnel to volatile areas to mitigate further attacks.

d. The federal government to marshal out plans to evacuate the over 47,000 IDPs in Cameroon camps back to their ancestral homes by the end of 2020.

e. Government to live up to its constitutional responsibility by putting a stop to the continuous killings, abductions, rape, and all forms of criminality across the country.

f. Government to urgently address the activities of Fulani militia, armed bandits, and kidnappers terrorizing our communities.

g. Religion is a sensitive issue in Nigeria; we therefore urge the states and federal government to ensure that Christian Religious Studies is taught in public schools in some of the northern states where it is not done. This would contribute in molding character of the citizens.

h. Appointments should reflect federal character and any breach of that is unacceptable to the church. We demand immediate reversal and correction of the imbalance in most appointments by President Muhammadu Buhari where his appointments have always been skewed to favor a particular sector and religion.

i. While we as a church support the federal government fight against corruption, we frown at the selective nature of the fight and demand that rule of law must be respected.

j. While we commend the federal government for the efforts made towards diversifying the economy in the midst of the COVID-19 challenge, we encourage the government to ensure that job opportunities are created for our teeming numbers of unemployed youths, this when done would reduce youth restiveness.

k. From the look of things, the federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari has run out of ideas and is overwhelmed with the security challenges; we call on the United Nations and the African Union to come to the aid of Nigeria in tackling the security challenges.

While we appreciate President Buhari, the Higher and Lower Chambers for the establishment of the Northeast Development Commission, we call on them to ensure that the deplorable state of our roads are reconstructed and rehabilitated.


As a church, though abandoned by the government, I call on all EYN members to remain law-abiding citizens, upholding our peace heritage and keeping an unwavering faith in God whom we believe will one day deliver us.

Photos courtesy of Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren
A few of the participants in Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren’s “Walk to Nigeria Team Challenge” including at center Rebecca and Samuel Dali.

6) Elizabethtown Church ‘walks to Nigeria’ in virtual challenge

Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren is holding a “Walk to Nigeria Team Challenge” in which church members and friends of the congregation are invited to log walking miles in their own neighborhoods toward enough miles to walk to Nigeria. “That’s 5,710 miles!” said an announcement.

The challenge was to log the miles in 60 days, starting June 1 and ending July 30. In fact, the 90-some people who have participated have logged more than 6,340 miles so far, already enough to make that imaginary walk to Nigeria–so the challenge has been doubled to walk “to Nigeria and back.” The new goal is 11,420 miles in 60 days. If the group reaches that goal, the congregation may announce a new place to walk to after that.

“People seem to be really interested in it,” said Amy Karr, chair of the Witness Commission that handles social justice, outreach, and service projects for the congregation. When the pandemic hit, she said, the commission began seeking ways to encourage the congregation to stay connected and work together toward a common goal, as well as to encourage people to get outside and find renewal through exercise and connection with the outdoors. The walk also sustains the connection that the congregation has built with Nigeria over the years.

The challenge is one in which all can take part, she noted. People of all ages and abilities are invited to participate in the event that takes the place of the 5K “Run for Peace” that the congregation ordinarily sponsors every year. But of course this is not an ordinary year. The walk challenge substitutes for the 5K, and is a fundraiser for the Center for Caring Empowerment and Peace Initiative (CCEPI), a nonprofit founded and led by Rebecca Dali that aids victims of Boko Haram in Nigeria as well as others in need including widows and orphans.

“We continue to appreciate Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren for initiating this walk to support us,” Dali posted on Facebook. She has been making regular posts listing the miles she and her husband, Samuel Dali, past president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), have walked, as well as miles logged by other relatives and friends both in the US and in Nigeria.

Karr sees the walk as a way “people we may never meet” can participate in something meaningful wherever they live around the world. Some 90 people have participated, according to the church’s website, but that number may be much larger because some who log in as individuals actually do the walking with their whole family or household.

The congregation is inviting people to join the challenge using either Facebook or Strava, a free website where participants can sign up and log miles. Donations to CCEPI are not required. For more information go to .

7) Chambersburg Church of the Brethren gets record attendance at virtual VBS

Photo by Jamie Rhodes
Jamie Rhodes (left) and Nicholas Wingert lead the Chambersburg virtual Vacation Bible School

“It went really well” was an understatement from Jamie Rhodes, director of Christian Education and Youth at Chambersburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. In fact, the congregation’s virtual vacation Bible school (VBS) was a smash hit, connecting with close to double the children and families than in a usual year. “We were tickled pink,” she said.

Because of the pandemic, the church decided to take its annual VBS online rather than holding it in-person. The theme was “Rocky Railway” focused on how Jesus’ power “pulls us through difficult things in our lives,” said Rhodes. She and the others involved in planning and leading the VBS–Nicholas Wingert, Ali Toms, and Kathie Nogle–used a published curriculum that included pre-recorded video elements, but also did their own recordings of themselves leading various portions of each of the five days of online sessions.

To publicize the VBS, they got the word out through all sorts of means: information shared with church members, fliers and letters sent to previous VBS attendees, a mailing to nearby churches, an effort to reach out to organizations that serve the community with free meals and food distributions, handing out fliers at food distributions, phone calls to people who had registered in previous years, and Facebook posts advertising the event. Rhodes noted how effective and inexpensive it was to “boost” those Facebook posts.

The online sessions and videos were made available on Facebook and the church’s website. In addition, the church distributed take-home bags with activities for children to do at home. To receive take-home bags, families had to register online.

The results were amazing, Rhodes said. The VBS logged an average of 150 Facebook views each day, and some days had more than 200. They distributed 94 take-home bags, most during a drive-through pick-up time at the church but also mailing a good to families outside of the area including in four different states. More than 60 percent of the families receiving take-home bags were new to the church.

Compared to the congregation’s usual Bible school attendance of 50-some children, the virtual VBS was a huge success. However, it wasn’t easy. With the COVID-19 restrictions in place, Rhodes said the committee “really struggled” with how to do a summer Bible school. They worried that some people would be afraid to try an online event. They were thankful, however, for encouragement from the Christian Education Commission and the permission given by the church board to try something new.

“We really trusted in God,” Rhodes said. “To reach 94 kids, that’s awesome. I’m hoping that this brought families together.”


8) Ministry Summer Service interns for 2020 serve home congregations or serve remotely

Seven interns are serving as a part of Ministry Summer Service (MSS) despite alterations to the program due to COVID-19. Instead of meeting in-person for a week-long orientation and then spending nine weeks serving alongside a ministry mentor in a local setting, interns are meeting weekly for education, formation, and fellowship sessions via video conference. Interns offer leadership to their home congregations, as possible given local COVID-19 guidelines where they live, or to another congregation through technology. The first meeting was in early June, and the program will conclude mid-August.

This year’s interns:

Mario Cabrera from Victorville, Calif.

Kaylee Deardorff from Durham, N.C.

Emilie Deffenbaugh from Johnstown, Pa.

Sierra Dixon, from Harrisburg, Pa.

Andrew Rodriguez Santos from Harrisburg, Pa.

Tyler Shott from Newmanstown, Pa.

Briel Slocum from Harrisburg, Pa.

Dana Cassell, pastor of Peace Covenant Church of the Brethren in Durham, N.C., co-facilitates MSS on behalf of the Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry, along with Becky Ullom Naugle, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries.

Applications to serve in MSS for the summer of 2021, for both interns and mentors, are due Jan. 8, 2021. For more information or to apply visit .

9) Brethren bits

Above: Manchester Church of the Brethren in N. Manchester, Ind., completed 200 Individual Kits of Comfort for Children’s Disaster Services.

Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) has put out a call for donations of the new Individual Kits of Comfort for use during the 2020 disaster season. “Typically, CDS volunteers would deploy to an area soon after a disaster to care for children in childcare centers in shelters and resource centers, bringing with them their suitcase Kits of Comfort filled with creative play items,” wrote associate director Lisa Crouch in an announcement. “Due to the health and safety precautions and restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, CDS volunteers will not be able to deploy. In response, the Individual Kit of Comfort was created to promote a sense of normalcy–an opportunity for the healing power of play. The IKOC will be handed out to children where they shelter after the disaster by Red Cross staff from the local area.” Estimated cost of the contents of a kit is about $17. A general information sheet about the kit and a pictorial list of the items are available. CDS has a goal of providing 2,500 kits by the end of September. The CDS staff is looking for help from individuals, congregations, and districts to provide kits. Contact or 800-451-4407.

— The document “Checklist for Reopening Church Buildings” offers practical suggestions for congregations navigating the transition of returning to their church buildings. Now available in both Spanish and English, the resource was developed by members of the Recovery Response Task Team of the Church of the Brethren denominational staff: Stan Dueck and Joshua Brockway of Discipleship Ministries, Roy Winter of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries, and Nancy S. Heishman of the Office of Ministry. Go to .

El documento, “Guía para la reapertura de iglesias” ofrece sugerencias prácticas para las congregaciones que navegan en la transición de regresar a sus edificios de la iglesia. Ahora disponible en español e inglés, se puede encontrar en . El recurso fue desarrollado por miembros del Equipo de Tarea de Respuesta de Recuperación de Josh Brockway y Stan Dueck, Ministerios de Discipulado, Roy Winter, Misión y Servicio Global, y Nancy S. Heishman, Oficina del Ministerio.

— Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) seeks an assistant director of Financial Operations to fill a full-time salaried position based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The primary function is to review and coordinate the reporting of all accounting and financial transactions related to the operations of the programs and administration of BBT. Duties include producing monthly financial statements; managing payroll; monitoring and managing cash flow; preparing detailed account analyses; reviewing journal entries, bank and investment account reconciliations; preparing tax forms and maintaining tax return files and the general ledger; partnering with cross-functional groups to drive and influence business solutions and best in class process improvements; assisting in annual budget and auditing; developing and maintaining a working knowledge of all financial systems; completing other duties as assigned and providing backup for other positions in the Finance Department. Qualifications include an undergraduate degree in accounting and finance. A CPA is required or the process for obtaining certification has been started. The ideal candidate will possess strong technical and professional skills with at least five years of experience, a strong working knowledge of fund accounting, an intense attention to detail, a track record in developing first-in-class operating processes across product lines within a complex enterprise, strong verbal and written communication skills, leadership/supervisory skills, be a confident self-starter with ability to work with minimal supervision, excellent problem-solving and analytic skills, impeccable integrity, and a collegial and engaging demeanor. Nonprofit accounting experience is a plus and current and active membership in a faith community is preferred. Salary and benefits are competitive with Church Benefits Association agencies of comparable size and scope of services. A full benefits package is included. Send a letter of interest, résumé, three professional references, and salary range expectations to Michelle Kilbourne at . For more information about BBT see .

— The National Council of Churches of Christ in the US (NCC) seeks a director of Communications and Development responsible for managing the public relations work and fundraising efforts of the NCC. This position will be located in the NCC’s Washington, D.C., offices. Some key functions include managing the council’s public relations, brand, and reputation; and create and distribute press releases, action alerts, and marketing campaigns. The position also is responsible for continuing to build the NCC’s development and fundraising program including the creation of a development plan and providing creative leadership regarding fundraising opportunities and objectives. Find a position description and information about how to apply at .

— The 161st Northern Indiana District Conference will be different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic said an announcement. Changes were made by the district board at its meeting June 23. The district conference will be held on Sept. 11-12 instead of Sept. 18-19. On Friday evening a worship service will be live streamed from Bremen Church of the Brethren, where Evan Garber will bring a message titled “Sufficient Grace” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Those wishing to attend in person may do so following the social distancing guidelines in place at the Bremen church. On Saturday, delegates will meet in the Quinter Miller Auditorium at Camp Mack, allowing space for social distancing. Registration will begin at 9 a.m. and business will begin at 9:30 a.m. (Eastern time). “There are a few items of business that need to be satisfied, including voting for moderator, approval of district slate, and 2021 district budget,” said the announcement. “Other items include district executive, district ministry, and board reports. Conference should adjourn around 12 p.m. There will be no lunch, insight sessions, or displays.” The district will email conference books to congregations, district and denominational personnel, and registered delegates in early August. The District Board asks that only delegates and necessary district personnel attend the in-person meeting on Saturday. For questions or concerns contact the district office at 574-773-3149, , or .

Bread for the World has released its new annual hunger report, titled “2020 Hunger Report: Better Nutrition, Better Tomorrow.” The report is now available at . “In years past this would have been a printed, substantial volume, but is now online,” said Jeff Boshart, manager of the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Initiative (GFI). The GFI contributes a gift each year to support its publication, and staff of the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peace Building and Policy also have collaborated with Bread for the World.

— In place of its annual luncheon during the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference this year, the Womaen’s Caucus Steering Committee announced a “virtual luncheon” in the form of an online panel discussion on the topic “Speaking Truth to Power.” “We are sad to not get to meet with you all in person this year,” said an invitation. “Annual Conference is a great time for connection and one of the ways that we can see our supporters and members in person. We are happy that we were able to move our panel to a virtual space with the great help and support of Livingstream Church of the Brethren!” Leading the online panel discussion were Gimbiya Kettering, Debbie Eisenbise, and Madalyn Metzger. The event was recorded and is posted at .

— An online cooking class and fundraiser for Fundacion Brethren y Unida, a nonprofit organization in Ecuador with roots in the Church of the Brethren mission there in past decades, is being publicized by the Global Food Initiative. The event is in Spanish with no translation into English, notes GFI manager Jeff Boshart. Titled “Curso de pasta artesanal” the event led by chef Esteban Pani and professionals from his restaurant Venezia will teach participants how to make various types of artisanal pasta, sauces, and dishes. The online course takes place July 17 and 18, Friday and Saturday evening, from 7-9 p.m. (central time). Cost to register is $30. Find out more at .


Newsline is the email news service of the Church of the Brethren. Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Jeff Boshart, Lisa Crouch, Chris Douglas, Enten Eller, Jan Fischer Bachman, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Rachel Kauffman, Susu Lassa, Zakariya Musa, Becky Ullom Naugle, Russ Otto, Jamie Rhodes, David Sollenberger, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Please send news tips and submissions to . Find the Newsline archive at . Sign up for Newsline and other Church of the Brethren email newsletters or make subscription changes at . All submissions are subject to editing. Inclusion in Newsline does not necessarily convey endorsement by the Church of the Brethren.

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