Brethren bits for May 21, 2021

Correction: The editor apologizes for misspelling Greg Davidson Laszakovits’ name in the May 14 issue of Newsline.

Remembrance: Mary Catherine Dowery, 88, a former long‐time employee of the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., died on May 11 in Union Bridge, Md. She began her work for the Church of the Brethren in 1966 as a clothing sorter and packer. In 1982, she became workgroup supervisor and was the first person donors and volunteers met on their arrival at the center. She later served as waitress for evening and weekend banquets at Zigler Hall. She retired in 1996 after 30 years of service. Born May 9, 1933, in Frederick, Md., she was the daughter of the late Mary Thomas. She was the wife of Elwood M. Dowery Sr., who died in 2003. She was a member of the Gospel Spreading Church of God and the M & Ms (Modern and Mature) at Union Bridge Church of the Brethren. Surviving are children Deborah Owens and husband Thomas of Westminster, Janet Dowery of Mt. Airy, Carter Thomas of Columbia, S.C., and Jeffrey Dowery and wife Teresa of Union Bridge; grandchildren and great grandchildren. A funeral service was held on May 17 at Hartzler Funeral Home in Union Bridge. A full obituary is available at‐

Remembrance: Bernice Maurine (Brandt) Pence, 94, who served with the Church of the Brethren in Germany following World War II, died at Hillcrest Retirement Community in La Verne, Calif., on Jan. 17, with family at her side. She was born to Jesse and Kathryn (Bomberger) Brandt on June 24, 1926, in Pomona, Calif., and grew up in La Verne. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Music from La Verne College (now University of La Verne), graduating in 1947. While there, she met Gerald W. Pence to whom she was married for 72 years. After spending two years in Germany on a service assignment for the Brethren Service Commission, she taught elementary school in southern California including 20 years at Roynon School. She was a lifelong member of La Verne Church of the Brethren where she taught Sunday school, sang in the choir and co-directed the Children’s Choir, and played the piano and organ for summer worship, weddings, and memorial services, often accompanying her husband as a baritone soloist. She is survived by her husband; children Christine Meek (Jack), Dena Pence, Jeffrey Pence (Debra), and Kimberly Salazar (Frank); grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Memorial gifts are received for La Verne Church of the Brethren. Find a full obituary at

“Our NYAC 2021 service project will be a diaper drive through the National Diaper Bank Network. Even if you cannot attend NYAC, you can still donate to the drive!” said an announcement from Becky Ullom Naugle, director of the Church of the Brethren’s Youth and Young Adult Ministries. Donations can be made at

National Young Adult Conference (NYAC) will be held as a virtual, online-only event on May 28-31. It offers people ages 18 to 35 a chance to enjoy fellowship, worship, recreation, Bible study, service projects, and more. This year’s theme is “Unfolding Grace” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). The registration fee is $75. Register and find out more at
This winter and spring, the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., has been hosting music rehearsals of several different ensembles of the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra (EYSO). “Because of the pandemic, their normal rehearsal spaces were unavailable,” said Shawn Flory Replogle, executive director of Organizational Resources for the denomination. “Since our building was closed to the public, and the rehearsals were in the evenings, I made space available for the small groups to meet and rehearse. It provided the added benefit of the offices getting to support some other local nonprofits.”

This month and next, the building will host more rehearsals of EYSO ensembles as well as rehearsals of the Chicago Brass Band (shown above). The latter is planning a “thank you” concert in June as an outdoor event for Church of the Brethren staff and their families as well as the General Offices neighborhood, taking place on the front patio of the building where a large lawn space will accommodate a socially distanced audience.

Photo by Shawn Flory Replogle

A prayer concern for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) has been shared by Zakariya Musa, EYN head of Media. “Pray for EYN as it mourns the death of one of its young pastors, Rev. Bulus Zamdai, who was killed by unknown gunmen at his residence in Gombi local government area in Adamawa State.”

Continued prayer is requested for India, where COVID-19 death rates continue to climb. Sanjay Malaviya of the Church of North India (CNI) this week communicated with former staff of the Church of the Brethren Global Mission office to share prayer concerns. CNI is one of the Church of the Brethren’s two partner denominations in India. Concerns include an astronomic rise in cases of COVID-19, the overwhelming of the health care system, acute shortages of hospital beds, medicines, medical oxygen, and healthcare professionals, multiplied by challenges in the responses of state and federal governments, as well as many more deaths than are being acknowledged or reported by the government and resulting overwhelming of crematoriums. “According to a local newspaper, while officially approximately 4,100 people died in Gujarat, about 130,000 death certificates were issued during last 2 months,” he wrote. “The Christian community has been really hit hard. A large number of believers got infected and many lost lives…. This is very painful as in many households more than one member has died. Children have been left orphaned, or parents have lost a child or children even. Many families have lost the chief bread-earner. The CNI Gujarat Diocese has been deeply pained and grieved as it has lost 11 pastors and 3 missionaries till now in the second wave…. One of the beautiful and heartwarming things that I experienced during this terrifying situation is that most people were ready to provide help and did their best to be of help.”

Tennessee’s oldest Church of the Brethren is reopening, according to an article in the Blue Mountain Eagle. The church operated in Hawkins County for nearly 200 years before closing in 2015 because of a loss of membership. “Cedar Grove Church of the Brethren, 297 Hickory Cove Rd. near Rogersville, was founded in 1824 and originally congregated in an old log barn,” said the article. “The current church was built in the late 1800s has recently undergone a renovation thanks to Rev. Kristie Wilson and her husband/deacon Charles Wilson.” Kristie Wilson, who is a chaplain at Holston Valley Medical Center, is the new pastor of the church. She and her husband are renovating the old building to serve a new congregation, with the approval of the district. She said, “It’s a good thing that this church stays alive and continues to thrive for the people. It is part of the history of this community and we want it to stay open for another 200 years. The world needs hope right now more than ever, and I really hope we can be that beacon of light for this community.” Read the article at

Hanging Rock Church of the Brethren in Augusta, W.Va., has joined in the USDA Food Box program. Pastor Robert “Bob” Combs Sr. was asked by another church to join in, and the West Marva District newsletter reported the story. “We decided to do this as it is a great community service for members of our community” said the article. “In the beginning, we were taking turns with pick-ups for each church, picking up the 2-3 skids for each church of 35-pound food boxes.” The boxes usually contain milk, yogurt, sour cream, potatoes, apples, meat balls, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, carrots, and onions, with some items varying each week, the article said. “At the food distribution before Easter, we received large slices of Smithfield Ham to pass out with Food Boxes.” The project is growing, and the church has now been approved by the USDA to begin receiving a tractor trailer load of food boxes for distribution to those in need.

Pre-orders are now being received for the official mug of the 2021 Annual Conference–this year a thermal mug featuring the Conference logo. Order from Brethren Press at

EYN head of Media, Zakariya Musa, reported that the annual meeting of the ministers’ wives was held May 18‐21 at the EYN Headquarters, Kwarhi, Nigeria. The meeting included 146 new members whose husbands were ordained in 2019, 2020, and 2021. They “were welcomed to the fellowship by the EYN leadership in a celebrated moment on Thursday,” he wrote. “The annual meeting could not be held in 2020 due to the global pandemic, which paused many activities until this year.”

Western Plains District has published “a HUGE shout-out to The Cedars” in its newsletter. The Church of the Brethren retirement community in McPherson, Kan., donated 240 COVID-19 testing kits to the district camps for use this summer. “These kits are one way that we are able to open up both Camp Colorado and Camp Mt. Hermon and keep our campers and staff as safe as possible,” the newsletter said.

The Witness Commission of the Northern Plains District Board has joined Team Feed to help end hunger, said the district newsletter. “We’d like to challenge the district to raise $1,000 for Feeding America by district conference in August. No one should go without a meal, yet Feeding America estimates over 50 million people in America will face hunger this year. We created this fundraiser to help provide these much-needed meals to our neighbors through the Feeding America network of food banks and we’re asking you to join us in our cause.”

Shenandoah District has reported on preparations for a long-awaited return to an in-person disaster auction this weekend. “It has been two long years since the Brethren gathered at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds to enjoy one another’s company and take home livestock, quilts, plants, crafts, pies, and miscellaneous auction finds. Sadly, COVID-19 kept the auction from happening in 2020, but there are great reasons to celebrate this year.” An anonymous donor will match the money raised at the two-day auction on May 21-22. “The committee anticipates that with the auction this year, the overall amount raised should top $5 million.” The event will be held in person, with COVID-19 protocols in place including face masks.

Information about a 2021 Climate Ride has been shared by Illinois and Wisconsin District. “The Climate Ride is an initiative of the Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions, and is part of an effort to engage Anabaptist congregations in conversations about climate change,” said the announcement from Mark Lancaster, pastor of Good Shepherd Church of the Brethren in Southern Ohio and Kentucky District. “Our group of 15 riders, plus leaders, is excited about the conversations they will have as they cross the country and learn from the experiences and perspectives of a wide variety of individuals and groups on this important issue…. Riders will stay overnight in a variety of Mennonite churches, campsites, and private homes along the way. We are hopeful that Church of the Brethren churches and members might be interested in joining the conversations.” Information about the ride and its route is at

In the newest episode of the Dunker Punks Podcast, Brethren Volunteer Service worker Evan Ulrich “continues to learn about what it means to love and serve as a Christian,” said an announcement. “Listen to hear more about the work of Brethren Disaster Ministries, the impact that volunteering has on your life and the lives of the people you work with, and how caring for others is not a partisan idea.” Listen at and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

The Global Women’s Project Steering Committee is extending thanks “to all of you who participated in our Mother’s Day Gratitude Project this year. With the generous donations you sent honoring and memorializing your mothers, spouses, sisters, daughters, women in your church family, church secretaries and other important women in your lives, we raised over $6,500–a record-breaking total for us!” The money raised will support partner projects in India, Rwanda, Mexico, Uganda, South Sudan, and Wabash, Ind.

“Today is the 16th annual Endangered Species Day!” said an email from Creation Justice Ministries, a partner organization of the Church of the Brethren. “We have been given this incredible responsibility of caring for God’s creatures and creation and today is a great day to reflect on how we respond to that call…. Today, we are choosing to highlight a specific endangered species–the North Atlantic Right Whale. These whales are majestic creatures that live in the northern Atlantic ocean and contribute to the massive biodiversity of the ocean. Did you know that it is estimated that there are less than 400 of these whales left? Once we lose this critical creature, there is no going back. Their most critical threat is humans, and therefore we bear a responsibility to ensure they survive. One way you can help these whales is by sharing your support of the reinstatement of protections for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument at”
Find the organization’s Endangered Species Resource at

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) joined more than 50 other church leaders from North America and Europe in signing a letter calling on the UN Security Council to secure an immediate ceasefire to the violence in Israel and Palestine. The letter urged the council “to act immediately to address the continuing underlying causes of injustice that will otherwise remain a constant threat to peace in the Holy Land: occupation, land dispossession, displacement, and the withholding of basic human rights we take for granted.” The Church of the Brethren is one of the denominations participating in the CMEP coalition of 30 national church communions and organizations.

The National Council of Churches (NCC), as a core member of Faiths4Vaccines, has issued an invitation to “the largest multi-faith gathering to support equitable and far-reaching vaccine distribution in the United States.” The online “summit” called “Teach, Train & Traverse Local Contexts to Support Equitable Distribution” takes place Wednesday, May 26, at 1-4 p.m. (Eastern time). Faith leaders and faith-based organizations in attendance will receive training and empowerment to engage their communities to ensure equitable vaccine access and education for all, said the announcement. Representatives from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Ad Council will share how faith communities can decrease vaccine hesitancy. Register at

In related news, the NCC is asking congregations that hosted vaccination clinics to fill out a survey before Wednesday, May 26. Findings from the survey, titled “Faith Communities & Vaccine Administration in the USA,” will be shared at the Faiths4Vaccines event on May 26. Find the survey at

Information about how to get help with Internet expenses is shared by the National Council of Churches (NCC). “Accessing the internet at home is essential to attend school, work remotely, connect with our doctors, and stay updated on health and safety guidelines,” said the announcement of access to federal funds for those who meet the criteria during the pandemic. “If eligible, members of our congregations can receive: up to a $50/month discount on your broadband service and associated equipment rentals; up to a $75/month discount if your household is on qualifying Tribal lands; a one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer (with a co-payment of more than $10 but less than $50). More information is at

A World Council of Churches (WCC) webinar “Change in Moral Teaching–Exploring Continuity and Discontinuity” is offered May 27. It will examine historic examples of churches modifying or changing their understanding of a specific moral issue, said an announcement. Participants will be using Churches and Moral Discernment. Volume 2: Learning from History, a WCC Faith and Order publication in which expert historians, theologians, and ethicists examine the occasions for and the processes of change within church traditions. “Current tensions within and between churches are often the result of disagreements over moral issues,” said the announcement. “Churches thus face challenges to preserve unity and meet obstacles to restore unity. Seeing the urgency of the matter, the webinar is designed to assist churches in finding ways to deepen mutual understanding leading to dialogue.” It is the second in a series of three webinars on moral discernment. Speakers include Myriam Wijlens, University of Erfurt (Germany) (moderator); Morag Logan, Melbourne (Australia); Antigone Samellas, Athens (Greece); Dirk J. Smit, Stellenbosch University (South Africa) and Princeton Theological Seminary (US); Hermen Shastri, general secretary, Council of Churches of Malaysia; Bernd Oberdorfer, University of Augsburg (Germany). Register at Learn more about the series at

Jeffrey Clouser of Palmyra (Pa.) Church of the Brethren will receive the May Schwarz Award given to “a graduating student who show[s] outstanding potential for and commitment to the church’s music ministry” as he graduates with a master of arts degree in Church Music from Trinity Lutheran Seminary on Saturday, May 22. He serves as director of Music Ministries at the Palmyra Church, works as a special education para-educator for Lancaster‐Lebanon IU13, and, as time permits, sings with the Elizabethtown College Community Choir and serves as president
of the Central Pennsylvania Handbell Festival.

Ellis and Rita Yoder of Monitor Church of the Brethren “are one of the six Kansas Master Farmer and Farm Homemaker couples to be recognized this year,” according to Kansas Farmer. In an article titled “Yoders grounded in respect for land, community,” the couple are lauded for their care for the family’s 120-year-old farm southwest of McPherson, Kan. “In 1985, Rita Lauer was working as the McPherson County Extension home economist when she met Ellis, and the two fell in love and started their lives together,” the article said. “Rita came from a farming family in nearby Dickinson County with its own history in the land. From the start, the couple knew they wanted to raise the fifth generation of Yoders on the homestead.” The couple are involved with the Growing Hope Globally organization, raising funds to assist farmers in need in other countries. They also have “spent the last 30 years incorporating no-till and regenerative agriculture practices into the farming operation…. ‘I’m looking down the road 50 years, when my son is my age,’ Ellis says. The goal is to have healthier soils so that their grandchildren will be able to continue the family’s ties to the land and the community.” Find the article at

Mikayla Davis of Mohrsville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren has been crowned the 2021-2022 Berks County dairy princess, according to Lancaster Farming. “She is the 20-year-old daughter of Michael and Angela Davis of Leesport,” the report said. “Her family lives on a small farmette where they raise Holstein heifers. Davis was a member of the Northern Berks 4-H Dairy Club for 10 years…. She is attending Penn State studying agribusiness.” Find the article at


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