Brethren bits for March 5, 2021

A recording of the denominational worship service from last Saturday, Feb. 27, is posted in English and Spanish translation on the Annual Conference website at where a bulletin also is available. The service is recommended for individual worship and for any congregation that may want to use it for an upcoming Sunday morning worship service.

Remembrance: Dale Vernon Ulrich, 89, died on March 3 at Bridgewater (Va.) Retirement Community. He had been a leading administrator and professor at Bridgewater College, a founding board member of Brethren Encyclopedia, Inc., and an organizer for the international celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Church of the Brethren. He was born March 1, 1932, in Wenatchee, Wash., to Herbert E. and Esther Webb Ulrich. In 1953, he married Claire Marie Gilbert Ulrich, who was his partner for 57 years until her death. Early in their marriage they joined Brethren Volunteer Service and codirected a community development project in Baltimore, Md. The first in his family to graduate from college, he went on to earn a doctorate in physics at the University of Virginia. His 38-year career at Bridgewater College included work as a professor, academic dean, and provost. A lifetime member of the Church of the Brethren, he was passionate about the college’s service to the church and the church’s service in the world. As a member of the board of Brethren Encyclopedia, Inc., he was tapped to become editor of the fourth volume after the untimely death of the former editor, Donald F. Durnbaugh. During his tenure on the board, he helped plan and organize the 300th anniversary celebration of the Brethren movement, an event held in August 2008 on the banks of the Eder River in Schwarzenau, Germany. He is survived by his wife, Doris Metzler Ulrich, whom he married in 2012; children Vernon Ulrich (married to Pamela), Daniel Ulrich (married to Paula), and Sharon Wilkinson (married to Jay); grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The family plans a memorial service at Bridgewater Church of the Brethren later this year, when it is safer to meet in person. Memorial gifts are received to the Bridgewater Church. Find an obituary at

Remembrance: Sister Dianna Ortiz, 62, who died on Feb. 19, is remembered in a release from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT). She was instrumental in the peace movement to end the wars in Central America in the 1980s and ’90s. Her death “in many ways marks the passing of an era,” said the remembrance. “The indiscriminate and brutal US-backed campaigns of genocide and war in Central America in the 1980s led this Ursuline nun to the Mayan highlands of Guatemala to teach children to read and write in 1987. It was hoped that the US citizenship of those traveling to the region in hundreds of peace delegations and the presence of individuals like Sr. Dianna who were living and working there would afford some protection to those living under the constant threat of terror and death. Nearly 200,000 people would ultimately be killed by military and paramilitary forces in Guatemala. For two years, despite repeated threats, this formula of protection worked for Sr. Dianna. But in 1989, her life was forever changed when she was abducted, tortured, and released. Her story, her courage, and her campaign to expose the US role in torture and genocide in Guatemala helped inspire the global peace movement that had been organizing throughout the 1980s in the U.S. and internationally to end the wars. From 1990-1996, through peace agreements and the gradual withdrawal of US military backing, the wars in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala were mostly ended.” Ortiz founded the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International in 1998 and served as its executive director for a decade. She served on the NRCAT board from 2015-2020. Find an online tribute page at

The Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board will meet March 12-14 via Zoom for its regular spring meeting. Business will be led by chair Patrick Starkey, assisted by chair-elect Carl Fike and general secretary David Steele. In addition to the meeting of the full board, the weekend will include the board committee meetings and executive sessions. Open session meetings of the full board will be broadcast via Zoom webinar. Preregistration is required to view the meeting. Find a schedule, background documents, and more information at

“Peacebuilding When We’re So Divided” is the topic of the next Moderator’s Town Hall hosted by Paul Mundey, moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. The online event on March 18 at 7 p.m. (Eastern time) will feature William H. Willimon, professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at Duke Divinity School, and the author of some 100 books, which have sold more than a million copies. In 1996, an international survey conducted by Baylor University named him one of the 12 most effective preachers in the English-speaking world. A 2005 study by the Pulpit and Pew Research Center found him to be the second most widely read author by mainline Protestant pastors, and his Pulpit Resource is used each week by thousands of pastors. The event will explore practical peacebuilding skills for this time, which an announcement described as one marked by continuing fracture in both church and culture. “The emphasis will be on hope, while acknowledging the necessity of realism and lament.” Register at For questions, contact

Polo (Ill.) Church of the Brethren is continuing its involvement in the Polo Growing Project that raises crops and donates the proceeds to be distributed through Growing Hope Globally to help smallholder farmers expand production in food-insecure communities abroad. A report in the newsletter of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., which is one of the project partners, reports that a final tally of proceeds from 2020 shows income of $35,500. This brings to $530,500 the aggregate amount the project has raised over the past 16 years.

The Atlantic Southeast District Cross-Cultural Team is planning an event to discuss the current issues of racial/ethnic justice and reconciliation in the church and country, using a mini-grant obtained through a program of the Church of the Brethren’s Intercultural Ministries. The group will offer a gathering on Zoom for the district to discuss a book together, on March 27. “The resource we have chosen is Oneness Embraced by Dr. Tony Evans, pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship near Dallas, Texas,” said an announcement. Those who sign up to participate will receive a copy of the book. The team includes Founa Augustin-Badet, Aida Lymaris Sanchez, Ashley Carrasco, and Ray Hileman.

Southern Ohio and Kentucky District has announced it will be scheduling a town hall for district members to hear from people with specialized knowledge and to discuss the district’s situation with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We now have passed 500,000 deaths,” said the email from the district board. “The impact of the vaccination programs will not be felt for some time. We, as the Southern Ohio Kentucky District Board, continue to urge all congregations to refrain from in-person meetings to prevent COVID-19 transmission.” The email reported that “in our district, a growing number of our congregations have been directly affected by this virus. We are sad to report that in at least two of our congregations, members of leadership have died due to the virus. At least two pastors and members of two other pastoral families have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and we have heard numerous reports of church members fighting the disease.” Ohio is among the top 10 states in total numbers of cases and deaths to COVID-19.

The March episode of “Brethren Voices,” a community television program produced by Ed Groff and Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren, tells the story of David Radcliff and the New Community Project. Radcliff has been taking learning tours to Arctic Village, Alaska, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge since 2002. “It’s an experience to learn about the Native Gwich’in people who have lived off the land for thousands of years,” said a release. “The Porcupine Caribou Herd is the central feature in the Gwich’in way of life. They believe that they are spiritually connected with the caribou and that they were placed on Earth at about the same time. The Porcupine Caribou migrate, annually, on a journey of 1,700 miles to the birthing grounds on the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Many other animals and birds also call this home for birthing, including polar bears, wolverine, black bears, moose, lynx, eagles, wolves, beavers, and many migratory birds. This area is also where the oil interests of the US government are wanting to drill for oil.” The episode also interviews Charlie Swaney, Gwich’in leader from Arctic Village, who feels that oil drilling would damage both the plain and the herd, violating the fundamental human rights of the Gwich’in. Find this and other episodes of Brethren Voices posted on YouTube.

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is celebrating a temporary reprieve for Oak Flat, also known as Chi’chil Bildagoteel, a sacred site of the San Carlos Apache people located within Tonto National Forest in Arizona. The US Forest Service was set to make a decision that would hand over the site to Resolution Copper, owned by Rio Tinto, one of the largest mining companies in the world. “Today, we celebrate!” said a CPT release. “Thank you for your prayers, letters, donations, and signatures in support of Oak Flat. The United States Department of Agriculture has ordered the Forest Service to temporarily withdraw the Final Environmental Impact Statement in order to take a few months to ‘conduct a thorough review based on significant input received from collaborators, partners, and the public since these documents were released.’ This means the work is not done though. We must stay vigilant during this time and continue to defend Indigenous sovereignty in the face of colonial extractive policies.” CPT was begun by the Historic Peace Churches including the Church of the Brethren. Read the full release at

“The land that our churches inhabit is holy land,” said an announcement of a webinar on March 25, at 6-7 p.m. (Eastern time), titled “Climate Justice on Sacred Ground: The Role of Church Lands in Resilience and Adaptation.” The webinar is provided by Creation Justice Ministries. Said the announcement: “The seeds we sow–both physically and spiritually–can flourish into beautiful hubs of life and diversity long after we leave. In a time of climate crisis, church lands can be a powerful force of resilience and refuge.” Speakers include Norman Wirzba, Gilbert T. Rowe Distinguished Professor of Theology at Duke University and senior fellow at Duke’s Kenan Institute for Ethics; Randy Woodley (Keetoowah Cherokee descendant), public theologian and co-creator/sustainer of Eloheh-Indigenous Center for Earth Justice and Eloheh Seeds; Diana Carroll, rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Annapolis, Md.; facilitated by Avery Davis Lamb, Resilience Program coordinator for Creation Justice Ministries. Register at

Christian Aid Ministries, a nonprofit related to conservative Anabaptist groups including Amish and Mennonites, has published a compilation of stories about Christians in Nigeria facing persecution. No Turning Back: Stories of Nigerian Christians Suffering Under Boko Haram is written by Pablo Yoder. Among those interviewed for the book were Carl and Roxane Hill, former coordinators of the Nigeria Crisis Response of the Church of the Brethren and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Roxane Hill currently is interim manager of the office of Global Mission for the Church of the Brethren.

“On International Women’s Day, pray for women around the world,” invites the World Council of Churches (WCC). The day is celebrated March 8 with the theme #ChoosetoChallenge. The WCC will celebrate International Women’s Day with an ecumenical service, special reflections and prayers for sharing on social media, and a spirit of praying for women around the world. A prayer service will be led by women at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland, and will be available online as part of WCC weekly prayer resources. The Thursdays in Black project has prepared special prayers to support women facing sexual abuse and violence, and to highlight international solidarity to overcome gender-based violence. The prayers are available as separate virtual “cards” for posting on social media during the week leading up to International Women’s Day. Find out more at

— Christian health networks are calling for global equity and solidarity for COVID-19 vaccine access, in a release from the World Council of Churches. The WCC has joined with more than 30 Christian health organizations in raising concerns about unequal access to health services and COVID-19 vaccines. While applauding the effort to have safe and effective vaccines, the ecumenical health partners are also concerned “with the emerging trend of rich countries hoarding excess doses to vaccinate their entire populations two or more times over, inflating vaccine prices for poor countries and the overall picture of low or no vaccinations in low-income countries. We are equally concerned that even in rich countries, racial/ethnic minorities and low-income persons are being marginalized in access to the vaccines.” The statement warns about the devastating economic consequences of the lack of vaccines. Christian health networks, which are significant providers of healthcare in many parts of the world, commit to “maintaining their contribution to the global COVID-19 response motivated by the teachings of Jesus of promoting health and healing, prioritizing the sick and vulnerable, finding strength in weakness, servant leadership, and witnessing to the power and love of the gospel.” Read the full statement at

In more news from the WCC, the organization is calling Christians worldwide to observe a week of prayer on March 22-27, one year into the COVID-19 pandemic. “The week will invite a time of prayer and reflection on both the lament and the hope expressed and experienced across the world during what has been a year of unprecedented suffering, but also one when churches have worked together in ever new ways to adapt, respond and accompany communities through mental, physical, economical, spiritual, and environmental crises,” said the announcement. WCC acting general secretary Ioan Sauca described the week of prayer as an opportunity to experience and convey churches’ common allegiance to Christ. “During the week, we will gather to offer intercessions especially for the most vulnerable and for those who are on the frontline caring for them often under harsh circumstances; and recommit ourselves to active compassion across what separates us, in obedience to the one who had compassion for the crowds and ministered for their healing,” Sauca said in the release. A global prayer service with participation from the eight WCC regions will be offered online, and a collection of resources will be made available on the WCC website by March 18, in English, French, German, and Spanish. Find out more at

Dr. Michelle Migliore, a member of Crest Manor Church of the Brethren in South Bend, Ind., and director of the Mishawaka clinic for city employees, was presented with the Drum Major for Community Service Award on Jan. 18. This award recognizes individuals and organizations who unselfishly give their time and resources to improve St. Joseph County in Indiana. She was cited for her attention to detail, listening, and caring.


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