Newsline for Oct. 16, 2020

Image courtesy of Bread for the World

“Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled” (Matthew 14:19b-20a).

1) Planning continues for the 2021 Annual Conference

2) A vital link: Children’s Disaster Services and the American Red Cross

3) District executive team is announced for Southeastern District

4) Brethren bits: A letter from Brethren Press, remembering MarySue Helstern Rosenberger, new hire at Brethren Benefit Trust, job opening at the Brethren and Mennonite Heritage Center, Junior High Sunday, video resource from Part-Time Pastor; Full-Time Church, prayer request from India, upcoming webinars, and more

Quote of the week:

Lord Jesus Christ:

In your abundant love, you blessed five loaves and two fish so that thousands might be fed.

Open our hearts and hands to extend your abundant love today, that we might renew our commitment to ending hunger and poverty in our communities and throughout the world.

On World Food Day, we honor the global commitment to end extreme hunger and poverty. Empower our advocacy by the strength of your Spirit so that we might persist in fulfilling God’s vision of a world without hunger.

Grant our elected leaders the courage and determination to ensure an equitable distribution of God’s abundant resources so that those experiencing hunger and the effects of the global pandemic may fully thrive.

In your name we pray, Amen.

— A prayer for World Food Day, Oct. 16, from Bread for the World, a partner organization of the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Initiative.

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 .

1) Planning continues for the 2021 Annual Conference

2020 Annual Conference Logo
Art by Timothy Botts

From the Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee

Although uncertainty remains due to the pandemic, the Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee has determined the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference will take place in 2021. The event is planned for June 30-July 4, 2021, in Greensboro, N.C.

Conference arrangements will, of course, abide by guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the state of North Carolina that are in place at the time of the Conference. We hope that by then we may all gather in person, but if CDC and/or state social distancing guidelines limit the number of people who can meet in the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, we are making contingency plans for a hybrid event. Such a scenario will allow for on-site participation (within government guidelines) along with virtual access for both delegates and non-delegates.

Because the 2020 Annual Conference was canceled due to coronavirus, it is very important to have Annual Conference next summer for the church’s wellbeing as we consider a compelling vision for the denomination, hold elections, hear agency reports, and worship together.

Registration fees for next summer remain unchanged: $125 for non-delegates and $305 for delegates. Children and youth may register for free, but there are activity fees for each age group.

As was announced this past May, the 2020 Conference theme will be the 2021 theme: “God’s Adventurous Future.” Program and featured resource leaders for the 2020 Conference also have been deferred to 2021, as have the 2020 items of business.


We are pleased that the people who were scheduled to preach at the 2020 Annual Conference have agreed to preach next summer:

Wednesday evening: Annual Conference moderator Paul Mundey

Thursday evening: Richard Zapata of Anaheim, Calif., a pastor of Santa Ana Principe de Paz Church of the Brethren

— Friday evening: Chelsea Goss and Tyler Goss, a sister-brother duo who have appeared at National Youth Conference and National Junior High Conference

Saturday evening: Beth Sollenberger, district executive minister for South Central Indiana District

Sunday morning: Patrick Starkey, chair of the Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren

Resource leaders

Other 2020 leadership who will serve as resources for next year’s event:

Michael Gorman, the Raymond E. Brown Chair in Biblical Studies and Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, Md., and a frequent lecturer at churches, institutions of higher education, and clergy gatherings, will lead morning Bible studies and several insight sessions.

— Tod Bolsinger, vice president and chief of leadership formation at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., and author of “Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory,” will lead a Friday morning plenary session.

Fernando Ortega, a multi-Dove award winner and singer-songwriter whose hits include “This Good Day,” “Jesus, King of Angels,” and “Sleepless Night,” will give the Wednesday evening concert.

The Worship Planning Team from 2020 also will continue into 2021 including convenors Jan King and Emily Shonk Edwards from the Program and Arrangements Committee, Cindy Laprade Lattimer, Robbie Miller, Mandy North, and Josh Tindall.

For more information about Annual Conference go to .

2) A vital link: Children’s Disaster Services and the American Red Cross

Patty Henry, CDS volunteer, shows Melissa Venable, executive director of Northern Colorado Red Cross, and disaster services volunteers Diana Dalager and Barbara Lucas, the fun items that are included in the kits of comfort for children. Photo copyright American Red Cross

By Catie Ballenger, American Red Cross Public Affairs

For more than a month, wildfires have scorched large areas in Colorado and Wyoming. The Cameron Peak fire in northern Colorado and the Mullen Fire in southwest Wyoming have prompted numerous road and national forest closures and evacuations. In response to an overwhelming need, more than 115 American Red Cross disaster responders are working around the clock to provide food, shelter, relief supplies, and comfort to the hundreds of people affected by these fires.

It’s important to remember that responding to disasters is a team effort and no single organization can do it alone–and this is particularly true in this current coronavirus environment. One such organization, Children’s Disaster Services (CDS), partners with the Red Cross, responding to traumatized children by providing a calm, safe, and reassuring presence amid the chaos created by disaster.

Patty Henry, a CDS volunteer of 19 years, contacted the Red Cross of Colorado. She said, “We can help. We have Individual Kits of Comfort for children who have been displaced by a disaster and are staying in shelters.” Patty explained that the kits provide a calm, safe opportunity for children to play, allowing their guardians to attend to all of the necessary business that is required after a disaster. The stressful recovery process goes more smoothly without the distraction of a scared, stressed, or bored little one.

Each kit contains various items that will allow for expressive play, including a small stuffed animal, finger puppets, paints, markers, gel pen, Play-Doh, cars, bean bags, notebook, rulers, jump rope, beach ball, small paper plates, and Washi tape. CDS also provides an activity guide and child trauma information for parents.

Before COVID-19, CDS would respond in-person to a Red Cross shelter. Now the organization makes Individual Kits of Comfort that can be distributed to children in a safe way that follows COVID-19 protocols. Patty said, “We would very much love to respond to the children in person and hope to be able to return to that very soon. These Individual Kits of Comfort are a way to support the children’s needs until that can happen again. “

Last Friday, Patty and her team generously delivered 100 kits to the Red Cross. The kits have been distributed among the 10 shelters provided refuge to those who have been displaced by the fires.

Melissa Venable, executive director of the Northern Colorado Red Cross chapter, said, “These kits are so valuable to the children that have been affected by the disaster because they help to break up the monotony of days spent in a hotel room. The kits allow kids to forget about the stressful circumstances surrounding them and to just be kids for a little while. We are so grateful that CDS has made this gift available.”

The Red Cross has provided some 957 people with safe shelter from the wildfires in emergency lodgings, including shelters and hotels, and has served 11,148 meals. Volunteers have provided 1,240 individual care contacts to help people with medical or disability needs, as well as providing emotional and spiritual support during these challenging times.

Red Cross partners like CDS are a vital link between the Red Cross and the communities we serve. Melissa explained, “Partnerships with other organizations are critically important because they allow us to effectively fill service gaps and better provide for the needs of our clients.”

Together, we can make a profound impact on countless lives, providing aid and support when people need it most.

Go to to learn more about Children’s Disaster Services.

(Article and photos copyright American Red Cross)


3) District executive team is announced for Southeastern District

By Nancy Sollenberger Heishman

Gary Benesh and Wallace Cole have been called to serve as interim co-executive ministers for Southeastern District of the Church of the Brethren. The district called the two new leaders in an Aug. 22 reorganization meeting. They will serve as non-salaried volunteers. Benesh will represent the district on the Council of District Executives.

Scott Kinnick is no longer actively serving the district as district executive minister, although he officially concludes his employment on Dec. 31. All inquiries regarding the district should be directed to Gary Benesh or Wallace Cole.

Benesh is co-pastor of Friendship Church of the Brethren in Wilkesboro, N.C., and is a retired public school teacher and coach. He is a graduate of Bethany College in Bethany, W.Va., and Emmanuel Christian Seminary (formerly Emanuel School of Religion) of Milligan University in Elizabethton, Tenn. Benesh has previously served as the district’s representative to the Standing Committee of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. He is actively engaged in supporting the global Brethren in the Great Lakes region of Africa.

Cole is co-pastor of the Friendship congregation and recently retired as co-manager of Outdoor Ministries at Camp Carmel in Linville, N.C., after serving there for 12 years. His previous pastorates include the Maple Grove congregation in Virlina District, where he completed ministry training, and First Church of the Brethren in Mt. Airy, N.C. Cole previously served as interim district executive minister for Southeastern District and as a member of the Church of the Brethren’s Mission and Ministry Board.

Nancy Sollenberger Heishman is director of Ministry for the Church of the Brethren.

4) Brethren bits

“Give now to ensure the future of Brethren Press!” said an invitation from the Church of the Brethren denominational publishing house. Congregations that have been supporters of Brethren Press recently received a letter from publisher Wendy McFadden with an update. “The plain truth is that the pandemic has seriously hurt Brethren Press,” the letter said, in part. “Most of our resources are created for Brethren congregations meeting in person for worship and Sunday school. But ever since March, when congregations could no longer gather, sales have plummeted. Publishing for a small denomination is a financial challenge every year, but this year we are in dire straits.” The letter noted ways the press has worked to help congregations deal with the pandemic by making a number of resources available for free online, redesigning the Shine children’s Sunday school curriculum to meet the new reality including a guide to help teachers use the materials online and a special resource for parents, and creating new products to boost income and making many books that ordinarily would have appeared in the Annual Conference bookstore available to order online. “Despite our efforts, the numbers are sobering,” McFadden reported. “At the end of August, our sales were down by almost $150,000. That month we had to reduce our staff by two part-time employees. We can’t continue this way for long. Without help, we might be looking at the end of Brethren Press.” Congregations and individuals are invited to help donate to the needs at Brethren Press, in order to preserve the publishing ministry of the Church of the Brethren. Give online at or mail a check to Brethren Press, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120 (mark your check “gift”).

Remembrance: MarySue Helstern Rosenberger, 80, a leader in the health and welfare ministries of the Church of the Brethren and author of several Brethren Press books, died at home in Westerville, Ohio, on Oct. 11 following a lengthy illness with pulmonary fibrosis. She was born March 10, 1940, in Dayton, Ohio, to Russell and Vinna Bowers Helstern. She married Bruce Rosenberger in 1968. She earned degrees from Manchester College (now Manchester University) in N. Manchester, Ind., and the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing in Cleveland, Ohio. She worked as a nurse at several hospitals in Ohio throughout a career that also included chaplaincy and ordination as a minister in the Church of the Brethren. As a Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) worker she served as a nurse at a hospital operated by the Vietnamese Protestant Church in NhaTrang, Vietnam, 1966-67. She also served as a volunteer nurse in Castañer, P.R., in 1965. In 1998, she and her husband led the first Church of the Brethren workcamp geared specifically for older adults, which took place in Puerto Rico sponsored by the Older Adult Ministries Cabinet and the Association of Brethren Caregivers. From 1981-85 she was founding director of Hospice of Darke County, Ohio, now State of the Heart Care Hospice–the first rural-based hospice in the United States serving an all rural population. Following her graduation from Earlham School of Religion with a master of ministry degree in 1993 she served as one of the chaplains at the Brethren Retirement Community in Greenville. She was heavily involved in the health ministries of the denomination and was a leader of the former Brethren Health and Welfare Association (BHWA), serving as president in 1984. BHWA at that time was part of the Parish Ministries Commission within the structure of the former General Board of the Church of the Brethren. After retirement, she and her husband lived for 10 years in a fifth-wheel travel trailer, providing many opportunities for sightseeing and out-of-doors activities. During those years, from 2014-18 she was one of the pastors of Living Stream Church of the Brethren, the denomination’s only fully online congregation. Her published writings include three of the Brethren Press Covenant Bible Study series; Harmless As Doves: Witnessing for Peace in Vietnam; That They Might Have Life: A History of the Brethren Health and Welfare Association, written for the 25th anniversary of the BHWA; The Gift of Life: The Brethren and Bethany Hospital; Journey of Faith 85 Years and Beyond: A History of The Brethren’s Home, Greenville, Ohio 1902-1987; Caring: A History of Brethren Homes 1889-1989; Light of the Spirit: The Brethren in Puerto Rico 1942-1992; among others. In addition, she was a poet, and also frequently wrote for the Church of the Brethren Messenger magazine. She is survived by her husband; their two sons, Luke (Julie) of Boerne, Texas, and Joel of Athens, Ohio; and a granddaughter. An online memorial service was held Friday, Oct. 16, at 8 p.m. (Eastern time) at . Memorial gifts are received to Living Stream Church of the Brethren.

Tracy Repmann began as assistant director of Financial Operations for Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) on Sept. 28. She brings a wide array of skills and experience to the position including a bachelor of science degree in accounting from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and training in financial reporting, budget preparation, strategic planning, accounts payable management, bank reconciliations, and management and executive team leadership. She participates in a Catholic church.

The Brethren and Mennonite Heritage Center in Harrisonburg, Va., invites applications for the position of executive director. Initially, this position is envisioned as three-quarter time. A job description can be found at . Application review will begin immediately. The center reserves the right to fill this position immediately or to extend the search process as circumstances warrant. Send an application, resume, and contact information for three references to Search Committee, Brethren & Mennonite Heritage Center, P.O. Box 1563, Harrisonburg, VA 22803, or email

Junior High Sunday worship resources for this year are now available online. The suggested date for Junior High Sunday is Nov. 1. The theme for 2020 is “Take the Log Out” (Matthew 7:3-5). Go to .

A new video resource from the Part-Time Pastor; Full-Time Church program features congregational leaders sharing about the joys and challenges of calling part-time pastors. Intended to be encouragement and guidance for congregations that either have called part-time pastors or are considering a shift in how to call ministerial leaders, this conversation addresses both practical considerations and spiritual opportunities of becoming a “full-time” congregation. The video features leaders from Forest Chapel Church of the Brethren in Shenandoah District, Eel River Church of the Brethren in South Central Indiana District, and Cabool Church of the Brethren in Missouri and Arkansas District. View and download the video at or learn more about Part-Time Pastor; Full-Time Church at

A prayer request from India has been shared by the Church of the Brethren Global Mission office, originally received from Ernie Thakor, who is serving on the Country Advisory Team. “He reports that there are many infected by the COVID-19 virus in the Christian community in India,” said Norman and Carol Spicher Waggy, interim directors of Global Mission.

On Earth Peace is issuing an invitation to an online book study discussing Drew Hart’s book, Who Will Be a Witness? Igniting Activism for God’s Justice, Love, and Deliverance. Sessions on Wednesdays from Oct. 21 to Nov. 11, at 7 p.m. (Eastern time), will be facilitated by the On Earth Peace racial justice organizers Tamera Shaw and Grace Cook-Huffman. For more information and to sign up, go to .

Leaders of Restoration Los Angeles, a Church of the Brethren church plant in East Los Angeles, Calif., have requested prayer for the congregation and for those who burglarized the church building last weekend. Among stolen items was equipment used for live-streaming worship services.

“It was our best attended and most successful 5K to date” reported Camp Bethel’s e-newsletter, which also reported that its 26th annual Camp Bethel Benefit Golf Tournament was its most successful golf event ever. The camp is located near Fincastle, Va. The 4th annual “Camp Bethel PEP!” 5K, held in person on Sept. 5 with health and safety protocols, included 124 participants, ages 1 to 80, 10 volunteers, and 5 sponsors, raising $6,910. The golf tournament was held in person on Sept. 23 with health and safety protocols. Some 116 golfers and 35 sponsors raised $21,650.

Shenandoah District has made some changes in staff configuration and budgeting for Camp Brethren Woods, effective through the end of this year. “Because of the decrease in workload and loss of revenue from event and rental cancellations, it was deemed necessary to decrease monies for the staff budget,” said the district newsletter. “This means not filling positions open by normal attrition and, in other cases asking some staff to work half-time for the months of October-December.” However, the camp also reported generous giving to its Helping Hands/Adopt a Staff Fund raising $57,331.

Also from Camp Brethren Woods, director Doug Phillips wrote in the district newsletter that “new life is springing forth” in a new program made possible by less camp rentals. The facility is hosting Open Doors for two Virginia communities, Harrisonburg and Rockingham. “Each evening, when homeless guests arrive at camp, they get a hot meal and a warm place to rest for the night,” wrote Phillips. “If things were just like they used to be, we would not be able to help provide for the basic necessities of our neighbors. When we can’t do things the same old way, maybe God is calling us to do something new. Matthew 25:31-40.”

There is still time to register for “Science Fiction and Theology: Connections with Culture,” a continuing education event from the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center led by Bethany Seminary academic dean Steven Schweitzer. The event is offered online via Zoom on Nov. 11 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Eastern time). One fee of $40 includes .55 continuing education units. For more information and to register go to

Volunteers at Mount Morris (Ill.) Church of the Brethren put together Individual Kits of Comfort for Children’s Disaster Services. Photo by Jan Dietrich

“How do we serve in the time of a global pandemic?” asks the Dunker Punks Podcast. In the current episode, “we visit with our friends in the Brethren Volunteer Service to hear about their experiences and what they’re doing to continue a life of service during 2020,” said an announcement. “Join Chad Whitzel and Alton Hipps with host, Emmett Witkovsky-Eldred, for this engaging conversation about BVS!” Listen to episode 104, “Service in 2020,” at or subscribe at

COBYS Family Services successfully held a modified version of its annual “Bike & Hike” fundraiser on Sunday, Sept. 13, at Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. More than $135,000 was donated and pledged to COBYS, the second highest amount in the 24-year history of the event. “In the midst of a pandemic with an altered format to conform with group gathering guidelines, friends of COBYS generously exceeded the goal of $100,000,” said a release. “Participants adapted to the changes made in the Social Distancing Edition of the Bike & Hike to take part in one of three ways: ‘On Their Own’ before the event, on Sept. 13 for the modified ‘Day Of’ event, or by sponsoring executive director Mark Cunningham, who raised over $25,000 as he covered 40 miles–one for every year of COBYS existence serving the community, the week before the event. (He actually covered 42 miles!)” Motivated by Christian faith, COBYS Family Services educates, supports, and empowers children and adults to reach their full potential, providing a range of services from foster care to adoption to family life education and counseling. COBYS is affiliated with the Church of the Brethren’s Atlantic Northeast District. Go to

“Climate resilience is defined as Climate Mitigation + Climate Adaptation + Deep Democracy,” said an announcement of a free webinar from Creation Justice Ministries, a ministry related to the National Council of Churches. The webinar is the next event in a series on resilience. Participants will “learn how your community can become a resilience hub by engaging in the democratic process. We’ll hear from experts about the intersection of voting, public policy, and climate displacement. You’ll learn how to advocate for policies that build resilience and how to build a more resilient democracy for all.” The webinar is offered on Tues., Oct. 20, at 6 p.m. (Eastern time) with leadership from Dallas Conyers, co-chair, Southeast Faith Leaders Network; Kristina Peterson of the Lowlander Center; and Avery Davis Lamb of Duke Divinity School and the Nicholas School of the Environment. Register at . Find all of the Creation Justice Ministries resilience resources, including a six-part “Faithful Resilience” guide, at

An olive harvest webinar sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC) will help shed light on cultural, spiritual, and economic aspects of the olive harvest tradition in the Middle East. The webinar on Wed., Oct. 21, at 9 a.m. (Eastern time) is open to the public. It continues the emphasis started on Oct. 14 by the olive harvest initiative that was launched to reaffirm the commitment to justice and peace in the Holy Land by the Christian fellowship, said a release. “Influential voices from local communities will participate to shed light on a broad array of issues from different perspectives, such as human rights, gender, youth, and economic prosperity. All in the framework of the olive harvest season, the traditions around it, and the delicate circumstances under which olive crops are being harvested, processed, and distributed to end consumers.” Go to

Newsline is the email news service of the Church of the Brethren. Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Catie Ballenger, Dana Cassell, Jacob Crouse, Chris Douglas, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Bill Kostlevy, Jo Ann Landon, Doug May, Nancy Miner, Becky Ullom Naugle, Paul Roth, Bruce Rosenberger, 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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