Brethren bits for May 1, 2021

An urgent prayer request from the Global Mission staff: Prayers are requested for the church in India, which has lost members and beloved leaders of the church in recent days due to the recent COVID-19 surge.

Fabiola Fernandez has resigned as manager of Information Technology for the Church of the Brethren, effective May 21, to accept a new position with the city of Elgin, Ill. She has served in the denomination’s IT department for five years, since she was hired May 23, 2016, as systems specialist at the denomination’s General Offices in Elgin. In May 2019, she was promoted to the position of manager of IT. She holds an associate’s degree from Elgin Community College and a bachelor of science degree in operations management and information systems from Northern Illinois University.

Registration begins Monday, May 3, for National Older Adult Conference (NOAC), at This year’s virtual event is online-only, scheduled for Sept. 6-10. The theme is “Overflowing with Hope,” from Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Christian Standard Bible). More information including the theme statement, daily themes, preachers, service project, and more is available at

Tomorrow, Sunday, May 2, is National Youth Sunday in the Church of the Brethren. The Youth and Young Adult Ministries is reminding congregations that worship resources are still available at Comments and pictures of youth Sunday celebrations may be posted on Facebook at
Filming has begun for this summer’s virtual, all-online Annual Conference. David Sollenberger and his video crew have been recording portions of the Conference worship services at various locations in Virginia and Pennsylvania, in preparation for putting together the services that will be streamed during the Conference. Shown here: A view of a children’s time during worship, photo by Marjorie Landis. The worship services will be available free, with no registration required, every day during the Conference June30-July 4, via links that will be posted at

Advocates for Haiti and Haitians living in the United States have been expressing concern about deportation flights carrying people–including babies and children–back to Haiti during a time of crisis in the country. From Feb. 1 through early April, the Biden administration had sent 26 deportation flights to Haiti, expelling between 1,400 to more than 1,600 Haitians, mostly families including hundreds of infants and minors, according to Haiti Advocacy. The group expressed concern that the people being returned to Haiti, especially the children, were expelled into an increasingly dangerous situation. In recent months, Haiti has been experiencing renewed political unrest, a spate of kidnappings for ransom, people dressed as police or actual police causing human rights abuses, and general lawlessness, said Jeff Boshart, manager of the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Initiative (GFI), which works closely with the Brethren in Haiti on agricultural development. Another concern is the COVID-19 and cholera epidemics in Haiti.

Pleasant Hill (Ohio) Church of the Brethren will hold its 50th anniversary celebration on Aug. 29. Said the Southern Ohio and Kentucky newsletter: “August 29, 1971, was the actual date of the initial dedication of the new building so it will be 50 years to the day when we celebrate the 50th anniversary.”

Pacific Northwest District held a first all-online Spring event called “Danger and Opportunity: What Does It Look Like to Live Our Values?” to bring the district together for virtual discernment and discussion. Reported the district newsletter: “Nearly 60 individuals from 14 different congregations across our district came together on Zoom for the event.” The event opened with a panel discussion featuring four members of the district, guided by moderators, exploring “how we as individuals and groups seek to live out our values in times of crisis and uncertainty. The group brought a spirit of vulnerable, authentic, and open sharing to the conversation.” The event continued with opportunities to continue discussion in Zoom break-out rooms, and a Taizé-style spiritual practice presented as a video, during which participants took notes of words or ideas that resonated with them in the moment that were put together to create a word cloud. The event closed with more reflection and discussion among participants, with leadership from a “Reflector-in-Chief.” “Our district parted ways from the event nourished with deep dialogue and honest sharing,” the district newsletter said, “united in seeking ways to live out our values courageously and authentically.”

The Global Food Initiative of the Church of the Brethren is sharing a video from La Fundacion Brethren y Unida, GFI’s partner in Ecuador. Last month, the FBU organized a “feria,” like a fair or a farmer’s market in the town of Picalqui. Local artisans, food vendors, and farmers were invited to come sell their wares with FBU providing the publicity and securing the space for the market. A number of women and youth trained by FBU were able to sell their products directly to customers. GFI grants over the past three years have supported trainings in organic agricultural techniques as well as value-added food items to the women and youth trained by FBU staff. Find the video at

The Climate Justice Task Team in Southern Ohio and Kentucky District are offering a series of “Reskilling Workshops” in order to “recapture some of the helpful skills our parents and grandparents used to practice and help save the planet in the process,” said the district newsletter. The event takes place Saturday, May 22, 9-11:30 a.m. (Eastern time) at the “Big Tent” at West Charleston Church of the Brethren in Tipp City, Ohio. “Our goal is to have four sets of reskilling workshops running over this two-hour period,” said the announcement. “We will have two choices for each hour and have a brief opening and closing worship for the day together. There will be a children’s area for kid’s activities so feel free to bring your little ones.” The four workshops are “Managing our Landscapes as Good Stewards of the Planet” led by Ron Corbett, “Gardening for Fun and Good Food” led by Tom and Barbara Menke, “Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot–The Zero Waste Movement” led by Katie Heishman, and “Renewable Energy as Christian Stewardship” led by Craig Foster. The event is free and open to the public. Masks are required. For questions contact

— Also from Southern Ohio and Kentucky District, news of a district member’s support for a new UNESCO World Heritage Site above the village of Sukur in the Mandara Mountains in Adamawa State, northeast Nigeria. Pat Krabacher, who previously was involved in work in Nigeria while serving in Brethren Volunteer Service, has become involved in international support and fundraising for the Sukur site. She is working in collaboration with Malame Titus Mangzha, a Nigerian woman who is a member of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Malame leads a Nigerian NGO called African International Documentary Festival Foundation ( In the works is a visit by an international group of supporters to the site this summer. “Sukur is the first UNESCO listed Cultural Landscape site in Africa,” Krabacher wrote in the district announcement. “It is a culture that goes back a millennium with unique stone pathways up the mountain to the stone architecture on the mountaintop.” “Sukur Shirts” are being sold as part of the fundraising via at

McPherson (Kan.) College has recognized notable alumni with the Citation of Merit Award in a video tribute released online on April 29 at Awardees are:

Wilbert Ethmer Erisman, 96, a retired pastor who has spent more than 75 years in service to the Church of the Brethren. He remains active at Warrensburg (Mo.) Church of the Brethren. He was the first of his family to attend college and eventually helped three other siblings attend McPherson along with all three of his children and several grandchildren. He served 10 years on the McPherson Board of Trustees.

Dwight W. Hill, recognized for his instrumental role in founding the college Automotive Restoration program. Through his professional association with local entrepreneur Gaines H. “Smokey” Billue and former McPherson president Galen Snell, he laid the groundwork for what would become the only four-year bachelor’s degree in auto restoration.

Eleanor Draper Hubbard, who has been a presenter and on the planning committee of Ventures in Christian Discipleship at McPherson. She holds a doctorate in sociology from the University of Colorado in Boulder, where she taught for more than 30 years. Her publications include Trans-Kin: A Guide for Family and Friends of Transgender People, written in 2013, and a memoir in 2010 titled Finding My Way Home: A Remembrance Nest of Farm, Family and Faith, about her life on an Iowa farm while attending Ivester Church of the Brethren.

Dale and Christy Dowdy, who for more than 25 years co-pastored at Antelope Park Church of the Brethren in Lincoln, Neb., and Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon, Pa. Their service has included involvements visiting a death row inmate, working with Crop Walk, and volunteering for Community Peacemakers while in Lincoln, organizing peace and justice work for the State of Nebraska, involvement in the Huntingdon Soup Kitchen, Huntingdon Forum of Churches, and Habitat for Humanity in Huntingdon.

Wrote Juniata College president James A. Troha in a recent newsletter: “I’m proud to share that our Mock Trial team has wrapped up another hugely successful season, rising to national-level competition once again, and that our e-sports team is preparing to face off against Purdue University May 2 as they enter the first round of competition for a national title.” Juniata is a church-related school in Huntingdon, Pa. Station WTAJ in Altoona, Pa., posted an online report about the e-sports team and its success in reaching the national tournament at

The Death Row Support Project (DRSP), a Church of the Brethren project, is celebrating Virginia’s abolition of the death penalty. “This is especially significant, not only because Virginia is in the southern United States, where the death penalty has been more popular, but also because, for many years, Virginia had a higher rate of execution than any other state,” said the DRSP newsletter this week. “May other states soon follow Virginia’s example of abolition! Nevada is a step closer, having passed an abolition bill through committee. It now goes to the Senate for consideration…. Sadly, and maybe not coincidentally, at the same time progress is being made on abolition, state prosecutors are moving to have Nevada’s first non-voluntary execution in 25 years. (Of the 12 people killed by the state of Nevada since 1979, only one had exhausted his appeals; the others all volunteered to end their appeals prematurely.)” The announcement included ways church members can take part in bringing abolition to Nevada; learn more at Find out more about efforts to abolish the federal death penalty at

“We’re taking the leap and getting back together, in person at Camp Blue Diamond in beautiful central Pennsylvania! Won’t you join us!? We’ve got a great group of leaders coming and are looking to see you, too!” said an invitation to this year’s Song and Story Fest annual family camp–the event’s 25th. The intergenerational camp for all ages features Church of the Brethren storytellers and musicians. Date are July 4-10. The event is organized by director Ken Kline Smeltzer and co-sponsored by On Earth Peace. The theme is “PRESENTE! Onward We Go, Together!” Said the invitation: “PRESENTE! is an affirmation that people shout out in a gathering of persons committed to continuing a transformational movement. It signals that those present physically and those who have passed on are still spiritually alive, active, and present. Through these pandemic and political times of turmoil, we invite you to be present and to reflect on being people of faith in these challenging struggles.” Organizers are asking that all older teens and adults be vaccinated with at least one dose before attending the event. Best way to register is to request a brochure from Smeltzer at 814-571-0495 or and return it with a check to pay the registration fee by mail to Darlene Johnson at the On Earth Peace address listed. Find out more at

“What does it mean to live the peace of Jesus publicly?” asks Dunker Punks in an announcement of their next podcast. “We welcome back Naomi Yilma and introduce Angelo Olayvar from the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy as they discuss acting, organizing, and advocating for peace.” Listen to this episode by going to or by subscribing on iTunes at

For World Immunization Week this past week, the World Council of Churches (WCC) has been sharing resources to help churches promote vaccinations using this basic message: “Do to others, what you want them to do to you.” During intense global vaccinations to fight COVID-19, churches can play a vital role in guiding people to better health in informing them on vaccine hesitancy and advocating for equity in immunization, international church leaders told journalists at an online press conference with WCC leaders. Said the WCC Europe president Anders Wejryd: “I don’t want to be infected by COVID-19. And I absolutely don’t want to be the one that brings it on to someone else. I think that is the very basic thing. It is all about solidarity.”

The WCC has published a handbook to help churches across the world promote good health. Health-Promoting Churches Volume II: A Handbook to Accompany Churches in Establishing and Running Sustainable Health Promotion Ministries, edited by Dr. Mwai Makoka, WCC program executive for Health and Healing, maps out a vision for local congregations to act as agents for healing. The handbook includes guidelines, resources, and tools to equip and support local Christian congregations in starting sustainable health ministries, as well as a theological and public health basis. Work plans center on seven intervention areas: diet, physical exercise, tobacco, alcohol, mental health, tuberculosis, and COVID-19. A monitoring and evaluation framework and guidance on how to address other emerging health issues are provided. The handbook also guides local churches to opportunities for strengthening existing efforts in health ministry. Find out more at

The Festival of Homiletics, an annual festival on preaching and a respected source for continuing education for pastors, is online this year. Registration is free to view four to five prerecorded video sessions each day May 17-21. A “recording package” may be purchased to watch sessions at a later time and gain full access to bonus material including additional speaker presentations, live workshops, and more learning opportunities. The line-up of nationally known speakers includes Craig Barnes, president and professor of Pastoral Ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary; Traci Blackmon, executive minister of Justice and Local Church Ministries for the United Church of Christ; Otis Moss III,pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ; Walter Brueggeman, professor emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary; Anthea Butler, associate professor of Religious Studies and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania; writers and speakers Diana Butler Bass and Brian McLaren; among many others. Find out more and register at

Libby Kinsey, a Church of the Brethren member, has been awarded the 2021 Educator Impact Award by the Lakewood Public Schools District in Michigan. “This award signifies that a Lakewood educator has gone above and beyond, and has made significant contributions that impact the student experience in a Lakewood school, across the district, or in the community,” said an announcement from the district. “ Libby retired as a Lakewood educator after a long career that began here in 1978. Mrs. Kinsey loves public schools, her journey covers the span of literature, child development, service to others, poetry, music, nature, and giving back to the community. Libby has left a lasting impact on Lakewood.”

Janet Eldred, a Church of the Brethren member and director of the Hollidaysburg (Pa.) Area Public Library, has been selected as the recipient of the American Library Association (ALA) 2021 Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity. The annual award of $10,000 and a citation of achievement will be presented June 27 at the ALA virtual Annual Conference. A release from the ALA said, in part: “During her tenure as library director, Eldred has overseen major projects like completing a new, state-of-the-art $2.8 million library build-out on time, under budget, and mortgage-free; she also accomplished smaller daily tasks like so many in the library field, working tirelessly with her team, sweeping, shoveling, lugging books, and sitting cheerfully at library booths through rainy festivals. But the challenge and adversity she now faces with remarkable dignity and grace is a medical one. In 2012, Eldred was diagnosed with early-stage dementia. Since then, she has not only experienced increasingly impaired cognitive function–but has also developed neurological complications, including occasional seizures and bouts of syncope (loss of consciousness). Through it all, she has remained supremely functional on the job, able to perform and excel within the library, exemplifying adaptiveness and resilience. The nomination and support letters that poured in from community members, board members, and library coworkers celebrate Eldred’s energy, zeal, kindness, tireless work ethic, relentless love for the community, and inspiring selfless directorship, despite her immense medical challenges.” Read the full release at


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