Brethren bits for Sept. 3, 2021

Answered prayer: Utang James, a colleague of Church of the Brethren mission staff Athanasus Ungang in South Sudan, has been released from custody following weeks of prayer requests from the Global Mission office. The news of his release came earlier this week. Ungang himself was released in late July, after a detention lasting more than three weeks. Both men were among other church leaders and colleagues who had been held for questioning following the murder of a church leader in May, although neither was suspected in the case and the authorities did not press formal charges.


Doug Phillips has announced his retirement as director of Brethren Woods, a camp and outdoor ministry center in Shenandoah District, as of Dec. 31. His last day on the job will be Nov. 30. During his 39 years at the helm of Brethren Woods, the camp has accomplished phenomenal growth in programing and in facilities, said an announcement from the district. “The only thing that diminished during his time of service was borer-damaged ash trees. The challenge of having hundreds of dead and dying ash trees being removed immediately preceded the COVID restrictions that preempted the 2020 camping program. Doug and his staff rose to the challenge.” The Outdoor Ministries Association said in its report of his resignation, “Under Doug’s leadership of 39 years, Brethren Woods experienced phenomenal growth in facility, program, mission, and reach, making life-changing impacts on campers, paid and volunteer staff, individuals, families, churches, groups, and really the entire community and district. Brethren Woods truly became a place where people were discipled and grew in their relationship with Christ, where they were challenged and developed as leaders, where they were loved, supported, and cared for, and where they connected with God’s creation in powerful ways.”

“Declaring the Glory of God” is the theme for the upcoming Church of the Brethren Mission Offering. Suggested date for the annual offering benefiting the global mission work of the denomination is Sunday, Sept. 12. Find out more about the church’s global mission at Find worship resources for sharing with congregations at Available are a slideshow and a bulletin insert/bookmark that is printable from a full-color download.

Brian Bert has been selected as executive director of Camp Blue Diamond in Petersburg, Pa., reported the Outdoor Ministries Association, citing an article in the camp newsletter. Bert’s appointment follows on a 30-year term of ministry at Camp Blue Diamond by Dean and Jerri Heiser Wenger, who are retiring at the end of 2021 and relocating to Clovis, Calif., to be near family. Bert will begin his new role in January 2022. He has served as the camp’s program director since 2008. He has provided leadership and supervision of the camp’s summer staff and has been active in program development, strongly supporting the teachings and beliefs of the Church of the Brethren, with open communication with churches, campers, parents, volunteers, camp staff, and the camp board. In Middle Pennsylvania District, he has provided pulpit supply, served as district moderator, and served as moderator for several churches. “Please continue to pray for the ministry of Camp Blue Diamond during this time of transition,” said the announcement.

Michael Brewer-Berres began work as orientation assistant for Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS), working at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Her first day on the job was Aug. 23. She is serving as a BVS volunteer, and was part of BVS Unit 325. Her first BVS assignment was at Quaker Cottage in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She graduated from Alma (Mich.) College with a bachelor’s degree in English in 2018.

Job openings:

Atlantic Southeast District seeks a half-time district executive minister. The district territory includes Florida and Georgia, although there are currently no churches in Georgia. In Florida there are 18 congregations: 9 English speaking, 7 Kreyòl speaking, and 2 Spanish speaking. These congregations span the geography of the state, minus the panhandle, with churches from north to south on both coasts and in the center of the state. The virtual district office is located wherever the district executive lives within the district. There is no administrative assistant. Camp Ithiel, located just outside of Orlando, is the camp affiliated with the Church of the Brethren, and one of the congregations is located on the campgrounds. This half-time position of approximately 100 hours per month requires travel both within and outside of the district. Responsibilities include directing, coordinating, managing, and leading the district ministries as authorized by the District Conference and implemented by the district board; working with the congregations in calling and credentialing ministers and in the placement, call, and evaluation of pastoral staff; providing support and counsel for ministers and other church leaders and sharing and interpreting program resources for congregations; providing an important link between the congregations, district, and denomination by working collaboratively with the Council of District Executives, the Annual Conference, the Conference agencies, and their staff. Qualifications and required experience include ordination within the Church of the Brethren with commensurate educational background, which includes at least one of the following: Master of Divinity, Doctor of Ministry, TRIM/EFSM certificate; clear commitment to Jesus Christ and New Testament values; knowledge of and adherence to Church of the Brethren faith and heritage; respect for diverse biblical interpretation consistent with Church of the Brethren beliefs and practices; demonstrated leadership skills in organization, administration, and communication, including ability to supervise a district staff that includes four part-time staff positions; understanding and valuing the district’s unique diversity with the aim of including all congregations in developing and carrying out the mission to grow and revitalize congregations. Pastoral experience preferred. Apply by sending a letter of interest and resume to Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, director of ministry for the Church of the Brethren, via email to Applicants are requested to contact three people to provide letters of reference. Upon receipt of a resume, a candidate profile will be sent that must be completed and returned before the application is considered complete. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Translation of documents into Spanish or Haitian Kreyòl can be provided upon request. La traducción de documentos al español se puede proporcionar a pedido. Tradiksyon dokiman an kreyòl ap disponib si gen yon demand.

Camp Blue Diamond in Petersburg, Pa., seek a gifted individual with a passion for outdoor ministry to serve as program director. The camp is a 238-acre retreat facility, summer camp, and family campground nestled within the Rothrock State Forest, affiliated with the 55 congregations of the Middle Pennsylvania District of the Church of the Brethren. The mission of Camp Blue Diamond is to encourage discipleship of Jesus Christ and to facilitate growth and healing in each person’s relationship with God, others, themselves, and the created world. The main role of the program director is to oversee all aspects of programing, managing and supervising summer staff, organizing retreats, helping to coordinate rental groups, assisting with kitchen and housekeeping duties during Outdoor School, and participating in Camp Board meetings, church visits, and the American Camp Association. Outdoor ministry at Camp Blue Diamond requires flexibility and teamwork. In this spirit, the program director may be called upon to provide help in other areas of camp as needed, and is accountable to the executive director and the board of directors. Qualifications include strong interpersonal skills as well as leadership, organization, and communication, along with a basic knowledge of program development, computer skills, and marketing. A bachelor’s degree is required, along with camp leadership experience. The applicant should be a Christian and a member of the Church of the Brethren or have an appreciation and understanding of Brethren beliefs and values. This fulltime, salaried position includes health benefits, a generous PTO/holiday package, and onsite housing and utilities. Review of applicants will begin Oct. 1. It is expected that an appointment will be made in November with an anticipated start date in January 2022. For a full position description and information about how to apply, visit Or contact Jerri Heiser-Wenger, executive co-director, at or 814-667-2355.

The National Junior High Sunday theme and logo have been released by the Youth and Young Adult Ministries. This year, National Junior High Sunday is on Nov. 7. Materials and resources will be available soon at

The Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry has published a newsletter highlighting recent developments in the office and updates on programs such as Part TimePastor/Full-Time Church and the work of the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee, among other topics. Find the newsletter linked at

South Central Indiana District has announced that its Program and Arrangements Committee has made the difficult decision to gather for a virtual, or online-only district conference this year. “We have been looking forward to being together at district conference Sept. 11,” said the email from district executive minister Beth Sollenberger. “Because the Manchester congregation serves a vulnerable population and does not feel comfortable inviting outside groups into their building, because the COVID numbers are rising, and because P&A wants to do the responsible thing, we decided that conference will need to be solely via the Zoom platform this year. We will miss being together in person, but I am so grateful that we can still gather using the Zoom platform.”

The latest episode of Brethren Voices television highlights the 2021 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, the 234th recorded annual meeting of the denomination, which took place virtually earlier this summer. The episode includes segments of the worship services, shares some of the music and drama of the Conference, and offers reflections by first-time delegate John Jones of Pacific Northwest District. Find this and other episodes of Brethren Voices on the show’s YouTube channel at

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has sent a letter to President Biden appealing for the United States to reconsider sanctions against North Korea. The Sept. 1 letter from acting general secretary Ioan Sauca said, in part: “While we share many of the concerns upon which these sanctions are based, they have failed to resolve those concerns, despite being among the most rigorous, systemic, and longest-standing sanctions regimes ever imposed. Moreover, the direct and indirect effects of the current sanctions have had very serious negative impacts on humanitarian access and action in North Korea.” The letter noted that although the sanctions are not intended to harm ordinary people or to prevent humanitarian assistance, in practice they have presented major obstacles to such efforts. “In addition to food shortages, reported health crises and recent floods in North Korea represent a heavy toll of suffering for the people of the country,” read the letter. “Several of our organizations are ready and standing by to offer needed humanitarian aid and services as soon as circumstances permit.” The letter called for a new general license for humanitarian goods and services, and an approved banking channel for these purposes, among other relaxations of the sanctions. “A more flexible policy is needed to create new possibilities for constructive engagement,” the letter said. “We believe that people-to-people encounters are essential for building peace.” Read the full letter at


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