Newsline for May 16, 2020

Quote of the week: “When God called on Noah to protect all creatures, Noah had no choice which creatures to load on board. All of creation belongs to God, and Noah was merely caretaker. Like Noah, we have a moral responsibility to safeguard all of God’s bio-diverse creation from what scientists are increasingly agreeing is currently happening: a mass extinction event.” — A statement from Creation Justice Ministries, a partner organization of the Church of the Brethren, celebrating Endangered Species Day on May 15, and is offering a special downloadable bulletin insert for churches to share with their congregations this Sunday. Go to

“God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31a).


1) Thirteen graduates earn Bethany degrees


2) Michigan District announces new district executive team


3) ‘Best Practices for Online Worship’ is topic for upcoming webinar
4) Webinar addresses ‘Brethren Distinctives in Church Planting’
5) Moderator’s Town Hall on ‘Faith, Science, and COVID-19′ slated for June 4
6) Plans for a denominational virtual choir are moving forward


7) CDS updates children’s resources for use by congregations

8) Brethren bits: New from Messenger magazine, remembrance for EYN staff, Jeanne Davies to lead Anabaptist Disabilities Network, E-town church sponsors webinar series “A Call to Faith Communities During COVID-19: Healing and Helping,” new ecumenical effort “Strengthening Hope for US Churches,” and more.

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

Find a listing of Church of the Brethren congregations offering online worship services at .

An ongoing listing of Brethren active in health care is online at as a way to help us recognize, thank, and pray for Church of the Brethren members who are caring for people’s health right now–from nurses and doctors, to therapists and pharmacists and dentists, to aides and chaplains, paramedics and EMTs, hospital volunteers and staff of clinics and retirement communities, and other roles in direct health care. To add a person to this listing, send an email with first name, county, and state to

1) Thirteen graduates earn Bethany degrees

By Jonathan Graham

Thirteen graduates of Bethany Theological Seminary have received their diplomas, becoming the newest alumni of the 115-year-old institution. Bethany canceled its in-person commencement activities due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, but each graduate was presented with a box that included a diploma as well as a variety of celebratory gifts and mementos to mark the occasion.

The boxes were sent to the homes of those who are living at a distance from the seminary, but for those who are in Richmond, Ind., where the seminary’s campus is located, president Jeff Carter personally delivered them to their homes. Graduates also received a video greeting from Carter and dean Steve Schweitzer, which included a personalized blessing for each member of the class.

The class of 2020 includes four students who completed the requirements for the Certificate in Theopoetics and Theological Imagination, two who earned the Master of Arts degree, and seven who earned the Master of Divinity degree. They represent a broad range of scholarly, creative and pastoral passions, and the class includes residents of nine US states as well as the nation of Sierra Leone.

The list of graduates is as follows:

Certificate in Theopoetics and Theological Imagination: Eric William Bader from Columbia, Mo.; Amy Beth Lutes from Nashville, Tenn.; Joanna Davidson Smith from McPherson, Kan.; Rachel Elizabeth Ulrich from Richmond, Ind.

Master of Arts: Duane Edwin Crumrine from Martinsburg, Pa.; Paul Bala Samura from Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Master of Divinity: John Andrew Fillmore from Caldwell, Idaho (with honors in Biblical Studies, Ministry Studies, and Theological Studies); Susan K. Liller from New Carlisle, Ohio (with honors in Ministry Studies); Thomas Michael McMullin from Minburn, Iowa; Katherine Lynn Polzin from Defiance, Ohio (with honors in Ministry Studies); Raul Gregorio Rivera Arroyo from Vega Baja, P.R., and Kettering, Ohio; Jack Richard Roegner from Richmond, Ind.; M. Elizabeth Ullery Swenson from Olympia, Wash.

In his charge to the graduates, Carter noted, “You have important work to do in this world. At a time when we are divided, separated, and fearful, it is you who can bring this world together, create places of belonging, and most of all, offer hope–a hope that does not disappoint, one born of God’s grace and love.”

— Jonathan Graham is director of marketing and communications for Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind.


2) Michigan District announces new district executive team

The Leadership Team of the Michigan District of the Church of the Brethren has appointed a district executive team to care for the essential functions of the district. In addition, the district is seeking a part-time administrative assistant.

Edward “Ike” Porter had served as interim district executive minister from Jan. 1, 2019, through April 30, 2020. The following leaders will begin as the new district executive team on May 15:

— Dan Rossman, director of Pastoral and Congregational Support, will serve in a part-time volunteer position. He is a member of New Haven Church of the Brethren and is a retired county extension service director and agricultural agent, farmer, and adjunct instructor at Montcalm Community College.

— Beth Sollenberger, interim district executive consultant, will serve part-time caring for tasks related to pastoral placement and credentialing of ministers. She also currently serves as district executive minister for South/Central Indiana District.

— Wanda Joseph, a member of Onekama Church of the Brethren and chair of the district Leadership Team, will represent the district on the Council of District Executives.


3) ‘Best Practices for Online Worship’ is topic for upcoming webinar

Enten Eller

“Best Practices for Online Worship: Considerations and Strategies” is the topic for a webinar offered by Discipleship Ministries with leadership by Enten Eller. The event is offer twice, on May 27 at 2 p.m. (Eastern time), register in advance at ; and on June 2 at 8 p.m. (Eastern time), register in advance at  . The content on May 27 will be repeated on June 2. Each webinar session is limited 100 attendees

“The global coronavirus pandemic has forced almost every worshiping community to make massive changes within a few weeks,” said an announcement. “The methods and styles of worship cherished by the church had to be left behind or adapted into a new virtual paradigm. The rapid change spurred by COVID-19 has not allowed a luxury of time to reflect on how those adaptations might be faithful to our beliefs and theology. It is a time not unlike when the Hebrew people were taken into exile in Babylon and had to create new worship styles–and a new understanding of God and God’s people–for their faith to survive. Those changes, however, are what allowed the faith to flourish in new ways.”

The one-hour webinar will address questions such as, “How do we avoid ‘spectator worship’ and keep worship the work of the people?” “What sort of technology might best fit our theology and our specific congregation’s needs?” “What are some technical and liturgical tips and tricks that can help us right now?” and “What are the learnings and gifts from this unwanted transition that inform how we think about our churches going forward?” Participants will be invited to bring their own questions as well.
Enten Eller is a tri-vocational minister in Palmyra, Pa., serving Ambler (Pa.) Church of the Brethren and the denomination’s only completely online congregation, Living Stream Church of the Brethren. He helped launch Living Stream into virtual worship space eight years ago, long before the current pandemic. He also has run his own small computer business for more than 35 years, has worked on the Annual Conference webcasts of business and worship for many years, served as director of Distributed Education and Electronic Communication at Bethany Theological Seminary until his return to pastoral ministry, and is passionate about using technology to build community in the service of the church.

4) Webinar addresses ‘Brethren Distinctives in Church Planting’

A webinar on “Brethren Distinctives in Church Planting” is offered this coming Tuesday, May 19, at 3 p.m. (Eastern time). This one-hour free webinar is offered through the Discipleship Ministries of the Church of the Brethren. Leadership is provided by Ryan Braught, church planter/pastor of the Veritas Community in Lancaster, Pa., and Nate Polzin, pastor of two Michigan congregations, the Church in Drive in Saginaw, and Midland Church of the Brethren.

“The Church of the Brethren heritage is a distinctive and magnetic expression of the Christian faith,” said an announcement. “We believe the beliefs and practices of the Church of the Brethren are uniquely suited to reach this generation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, leading many of us to plant new communities of faith rooted in the Church of the Brethren.

“What is it that makes a Church of the Brethren church plant distinctive? This webinar will explore the fascinating confluence of Radical Pietistic and Anabaptist thought that gave rise to our movement. We will illustrate how those beliefs are embodied and practiced in modern church plants and how we can use them to establish even more new congregations of the Church of the Brethren.”

The webinar is designed for anyone who is interested in planting a new Church of the Brethren congregation or who is involved in district or congregational support of new ministries. Ministers may earn 0.1 continuing education unit. Participants should register in advance at .

5) Moderator’s Town Hall on ‘Faith, Science, and COVID-19′ slated for June 4

Kathryn Jacobsen

Church of the Brethren Annual Conference moderator Paul Mundey has announced plans for a Moderator’s Town Hall on June 4 at 7 p.m. (Eastern time), held in online webinar format. The topic will be “Faith, Science, and COVID-19” with leadership from Dr. Kathryn Jacobsen, professor in the Department of Global and Community Health at George Mason University, Fairfax, Va.

Jacobsen is a specialist in infectious disease epidemiology and global health who has consulted with a number of organizations during the COVID-19 crisis. She is a member of Oakton Church of the Brethren in Vienna, Va., valuing her connection to faith and the Church of the Brethren. 

Commenting on the upcoming town hall, Mundey said, “As we continue to move through the COVID-19 crisis, the relationship between faith and science is rising in importance, especially as church leaders gauge when to reopen church campuses. I anticipate our town hall will provide a lively dialogue about the tension between ‘moving out in faith,’ and the wisdom of heeding medical, scientific realities.” 

Additional information on the Moderator’s Town Hall will be released soon. To register, visit . To be added to the mailing list to receive updates about the event, email your name and contact information to .

6) Plans for a denominational virtual choir are moving forward

2020 Annual Conference Logo
Art by Timothy Botts

Church of the Brethren Annual Conference moderator Paul Mundey has announced plans for a denominational virtual choir. A webpage will be available shortly, with resources that will allow people from across the church to add their voice to a mass Church of the Brethren choir. Three hymns are projected to be a part of the overall project: “Blessed Assurance,” “I See a New World Coming,” and “Move in Our Midst.”

Assisting Mundey with this project are moderator-elect David Sollenberger and Enten Eller, who coordinated the recent live streamed love feast that was sponsored by the Office of Ministry.

Commenting on the vision of a denominational virtual choir, Mundey said, “As we continue to explore new ways to connect with each other during the ongoing pandemic, the possibility of a denominational virtual choir holds great promise. Throughout history, song has united people of faith during times of crisis. I anticipate that uniting the Church of the Brethren in song virtually will accomplish a similar outcome.”

A number of other faith communities, including the Episcopal Church, have initiated similar projects.

In addition to a denominational choir, plans continue for other virtual events during the week of July 1-5 when the now-canceled 2020 Annual Conference would have been held in Grand Rapids, Mich. Additional details on those events will be released soon.

To be included on the mailing list to receive updates about the denominational virtual choir and the link to the project webpage, email your name and contact information to .


7) CDS updates children’s resources for use by congregations

By Lisa Crouch

Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) has been actively reviewing and updating the COVID-19 resource page with new resources for families since the beginning of the pandemic. The Church of the Brethren COVID-19 Response Planning Committee requested a small children’s committee to form to assess additional outreach for church congregations at this unique time in our history.

A Children’s Needs Committee was formed, consisting of Jamie Nace, director of Children’s Ministry at Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren; Joan Daggett, project director for the Shine curriculum jointly published by Brethren Press and MennoMedia, from Dayton (Va.) Church of the Brethren; John Kinsel, Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant, Beavercreek Church of the Brethren; and Lisa Crouch, associate director of Children’s Disaster Services.

The online resource page found at now includes a faith-based section with online Bible apps, Shine curriculum, and Pinterest activity boards, and will be featuring a short family devotional/Bible lesson video weekly that families can watch together as a result of this children’s committee.

To make a family devotional video to be shared on this page, reach out to Lisa Crouch at .

— Lisa Crouch is associate director of Children’s Disaster Services, which is a part of Brethren Disaster Ministries. Find out more about CDS at .

8) Brethren bits

New from Messenger magazine:
     Dr. Kathryn Jacobsen, a member of Oakton Church of the Brethren in Vienna, Va., and a professor of epidemiology and global health at George Mason University, has given an interview to the Church of the Brethren “Messenger” magazine, answering questions about the COVID-19 pandemic with down-to-earth and sensible responses. The interview addresses common concerns like if or when churches should return to in-person worship. Jacobsen has provided technical expertise to the World Health Organization (WHO) and other groups. Her research portfolio includes analyses of emerging infectious diseases, and she frequently provides health and medical commentary for print and television media. Read the interview at .
     The new Messenger Radio “COBCAST” series has published a second episode at Messenger Online. Walt Wiltschek reads the Potluck editorial from the June issue of the denominational magazine titled “At a Loss.” Wiltschek is pastor of Easton (Md.) Church of the Brethren and is a member of the Messenger editorial team. He reflects on: “Grief. Loss. Sorrow. These are familiar words in the practice of ministry–sometimes all too familiar. And they have been on my mind with some frequency in recent weeks…. I found my datebook and church calendar littered with a collection of horizontal lines slashing through words and numbers that had been on those pages. A visit with friends in Washington. Gone. A planned trip to Japan for a wedding. Gone. Our camp auction, my work at a local college, dinners, other special events, and, of course, being face-to-face with my congregation for worship and fellowship. All gone, one by one.” Find the text and the audio COBCAST at .

— Remembrance: Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) is mourning the loss of Marcus Vandi, director of the ICBDP program that includes community and agricultural development as well as health services, among other work. Vandi was sick for a while at the EYN headquarters before he was taken to a federal medical center in Yola, but died before EYN staff could arrive in Yola to visit him in the hospital. The burial took place in the community of Bazza in the Michika area.

— The Anabaptist Disabilities Network (ADN) has named Jeanne Davies as its new executive director, effective June 1, following Eldon Stoltzfus’ resignation for health reasons as of May 1. Davies is currently the ADN program director and will increase her time commitment as she assumes new responsibilities. In addition to her current responsibilities for resources, advocacy, volunteer coordination, and social media, she will be adding organizational leadership and fundraising. Davies is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren and also serves as pastor for Parables Community, an accessible and inclusive new church start in Dundee, Ill. She holds a master of divinity degree from Bethany Theological Seminary and is working on a Certificate in Disability and Ministry at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Mich. ADN relates to multiple denominations and supports church congregations, families, and individuals touched by disabilities to nurture communities where everyone belongs. Find out more at .

— Brethren Village in Lititz, Pa., suffered an outbreak of COVID-19 among residents and staff in April and early May. On May 7, the community’s website reported the final death in an outbreak that claimed seven lives among residents in skilled nursing memory support. A total of 13 residents and 11 staff had contracted the disease, but as of May 7 the community had “zero COVID-19 positive residents on our campus and all team members who have tested positive have recovered from the virus and returned to work.” The online statement expressed sympathy to the families who lost loved ones, and to the staff team who cared for residents “as they would their own family.”

— Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren is sponsoring a series of webinars under the theme “A Call to Faith Communities During COVID-19: Healing and Helping.” The webinars are offered free of charge. “Everyone is welcome,” said the announcement. Call the church office at 717-367-1000 to request the Zoom link for these webinars.
     “Part 1: Healing ourselves: Recognizing the traumatic impact of COVID-19″ will be held on May 26 from 7-8:15 p.m. (Eastern time). The webinar description: “When we experience massive upheavals in our lives and feel we have lost agency and control, we are entering the territory of trauma. Social isolation, sheltering in place, fear of the unknown, uncertainty about what a new ‘normal’ will look like, risking our lives to work, heartbreak over the loss or illness of loved ones, the economic upheavals have resulted in massive social trauma on a scale unimaginable just a few months ago. This workshop focuses on the traumatic impact COVID is having everyone and offers tips and tools to help us cope with it.”
     “Part 2: Protecting children from sexual abuse during COVID-19″ takes place June 2 at 7-8:15 p.m. (Eastern time). Said the announcement: “1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused. Because of COVID, children are no longer in regular contact with teachers, pastors, nurses, program directors and others who could help them. Mandated reporting is down 50% and many children are sheltering in place with perpetrators, as most of sexual abuse happens within a child’s intimate circles. People in congregations can play a vital role in protecting children during COVID by learning to recognize and respond to possible signs of sexual abuse in any child we come into contact and conversation with from our front porches, on our farms, or in small gatherings of neighbors and friends.”
     “Part 3: Helping survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence during COVID-19” is set for June 9 from 7-8:15 p.m. (Eastern time). “Fear of the unknown, and loss of control over daily routines, is particularly hard for survivors of sexual abuse with trauma-sensitized neurobiological systems,” said the invitation. “Many do their best every day to live with the long-term impacts of trauma–such as PTSD, acute anxiety, and depression. The social conditions of COVID-19, including isolation, can trigger reactivation of earlier trauma. In addition, many women (and some men) are sheltering in place with abusive partners. Calls to Domestic Violence hotlines are down, while all indications are that domestic violence is rising. Many survivors of past or current abuse remain invisible to their congregations, silenced by shame. Learn how you can help.”

— Mt. Morris (Ill.) Church of the Brethren and its Loaves & Fish Food Pantry alongside Northern Illinois Food Bank are announcing an extra distribution of food using a Mobile Food Pantry on May 20. The truck will be located at the from 10 to 11:30 a.m. (Central time) open to anyone in Ogle County. “Every 1 in 7 people across Northern Illinois is food insecure, meaning that they aren’t sure of where their next meal may come from,” said the announcement from the church. “Northern Illinois Food Bank partners with over 800 feeding program partners across 13 counties to serve our neighbors needing food. However, even with the outstanding efforts of the Food Bank, there are individuals who can’t make it out to those partners that provide nutritious food.” This extra food distribution is in addition to the normal monthly allotment available to Loaves & Fish Pantry clientele–anyone in the Mount Morris and Leaf River area is eligible–on the first and third Thursdays of the month from 4:30-7 p.m. and the second and fourth Mondays from 2-4:30 p.m. “You do not need to have a referral, and no proof of income is required,” said the announcement. For questions, call 815-734-4250 or 815-734-4573 and leave a message.

— Plumcreek Church of the Brethren in Shelocta, Pa., has started a soup ministry for the community in the hope the idea would inspire other churches to do something similar, reports the “Indiana Gazette.” Pastor Keith Simmons told the newspaper that “several of our members had a vision from God. The vision was to serve soup to our local community, Shelocta and Elderton…. The time came with the dedication of a few people who believed in the saying, ‘To the Glory of God and our Neighbors’ Good,’ which is an old Brethren credo. That’s the spirit in which we’re doing this.” The ministry is distributing quarts of soup in an effort to give a good meal to neighbors and to give a contact with others in a time of isolation, Simmons said. “Many are lonely and even fearful; we believed that this would give a glimmer of hope for them. To help with these concerns, we put a devotion in each serving of soup. Finally, and most importantly, it was to show the love of God to our community.” Find the article at .

— Woodbury Church of the Brethren hosted a drive-in National Day of Prayer service on May 7, according to a report in the Morrisons Cove (Pa.) Herald. “People of all denominations were invited to come together in prayer,” said the report. The event was organized by the Southern Cove Ministerium on the theme “Praying God’s Glory Across the Earth.”

— On Earth Peace’s prison justice group will be hosting an eight-week community engagement and development program online beginning May 26. This program provides opportunities for building connections with a network of other people concerned about prison justice issues, learning more about the challenges facing prisoners and preparing as a leader through exposure to principles of nonviolence and tactics of advocacy, and taking action in the community through completing program engagement activities. The program is intended for those interested in getting more involved in their communities, prison justice awareness, and taking action. Program activities correlate to point values, and participants who earn enough points will win a free On Earth Peace Prison Justice t-shirt. Group activities include watching short prison justice analysis videos and discussing them as a group, teading and discussing short excerpts from “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander, and attending webinars on principles of Kingian Nonviolence. For more information contact Jennifer Weakland at . Join the On Earth Peace prison justice Facebook group .

— “Strengthening Hope for US Churches” is a new cooperative effort of the three major ecumenical groups in the United States–Christian Churches Together, Churches Uniting in Christ, and the National Council of Churches–joining in unity for training and support and offering “voices of hope and reconciliation” in preparation for Pentecost. In addition to two webinars the effort includes an ecumenical resource sheet (go to…/1SzClo1qSVDtNGb0dzxBvJuz8Y9n…/edit ). The first webinar on “What Communities Need to Know about COVID-19 and Reopening” took place Thursday, May 14, with representatives from the CDC and ecumenical leaders. The next webinar on “Pentecost Voices: Reclaiming Hope in the New Normal” is offered on May 28 at 1:30 p.m. (Eastern time) with “leading Christian voices in the US sharing about how to reclaim hope in life after the pandemic,” said an announcement. Register at .

— Church World Service (CWS) has created a new nonprofit focused on advocacy for refugees, called Voice for Refuge. “Voice for Refuge Action fund is a 501(c)4 organization, with a separate board independent from CWS,” said an announcement that characterized the entity as a “new separate first-of-its-kind 501(c)4 organization…. This organization will promote the representation of refugees in government by holding elected leaders accountable and working to support former refugees and pro-refugee candidates running for office at the federal, state and local levels.” Find out more at .

— The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new urgency to adopting an “Economy of Life” and global religious groups are saying now is the time, according to a release from the World Council of Churches (WCC). The joint message from the WCC, World Communion of Reformed Churches, Lutheran World Federation, and Council of World Mission urged governments to bolster support for healthcare and social protection, called for debt cancellation and the implementation of the Zacchaeus Tax proposals including the initiation of progressive wealth taxes at national and global levels to resource the critical response to the pandemic. “The public health emergency is symptomatic of a deeper economic crisis that undergirds it,” the message read, in part. “Moreover, ineffective and corrupt governance at national levels has exacerbated the inability of governments to support those who are most vulnerable to the pandemic.” The ecological crisis facing the world today is closely related to COVID-19, the message noted. “Measures to address the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic have been merely palliative and have been mainly directed to bailing out corporations rather than people.” People who are already vulnerable are bearing the brunt in terms of loss of lives and livelihoods, the text continued. “This crisis highlights the immense value of healthcare, the care economy, and women’s intensified care work burden…. The human causes and systemic roots of this pandemic point to the exigency of systemic change if we are to be converted by the revelation COVID-19 is offering us.” Read the full message at .

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Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Lisa Crouch, Jeanne Davies, Stan Dueck, Jan Fischer Bachman, Jonathan Graham, Paul Mundey, Pam Reist, Jennifer Weakland, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline is the email 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 . All submissions are subject to editing. Find the Newsline archive at . Sign up for Newsline and other Church of the Brethren emails, or make changes to your subscription, at .

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