Newsline for Dec. 11, 2021

1) Annual Conference planners shift away from ‘insight sessions’ to ‘equipping sessions’

2) EYN medical worker regains freedom; EYN president Joel S. Billi issues Christmas message

3) Speakers, Youth Speech Contest announced for National Youth Conference

4) ‘I am because we are’: National Young Adult Conference focuses on life-giving quality of community

5) Deadline nears to register for the Clergy Tax Seminar on Jan. 29

6) Frederick Church creates new website inviting people to accept Jesus Christ

7) Community of Joy shares ‘Food and Faith’ podcast

8) Bethany Church brings friends to worship

9) Warrensburg Church hosts birthday celebration for minister emeritus and Heifer International

10) Brethren bits: Correction, Young Adult Advent Worship, religious workers now eligible for student loan forgiveness, webinars from On Earth Peace, celebrating the ministry of Dave Shetler in Southern Ohio and Kentucky District, new Jesus in the Neighborhood Mini-Grants in Mid-Atlantic District, and more

Photo of wild grasses by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Please be in prayer for those who have lost loved ones, homes, and businesses, the injured, and the first responders in the tornado outbreak that hit at least six states last night including Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee. At least 70 people were killed with many areas still searching wreckage for survivors. Kentucky governor Andy Beshear has described the town of Mayfield, Ky., as “ground zero” for destruction wrought by a tornado that traveled more than 200-miles, reports the Guardian. Find that newspaper’s updated page with latest information about the tornado outbreak at

Quote of the week:

“For many of us, the most consequential thing that we have lost during the last several years has been our faith in each other…. Too many of us are forgetting the friendship, comradery, community spirit, and accomplishments working and living with these people around us in the past made possible. People are messy, contradictory, imperfect, sometimes disappointing, sometimes surprising, creative, unpredictable, sometimes shortsighted, sometimes hurtful, sometimes compassionate, sometimes exasperating, sometimes astonishing creatures of God’s creation and all of them are made in God’s image. We need to start looking for God’s image and grace in people again. Yes, it can be hard work, but God calls us to do the work required to be his people together. The rewards are heavenly!”

From the December 2021 “Pray for Peace” bulletin insert from the Church of the Brethren’s Northern Ohio District. Find it and more inserts at

We want to keep updating our listing of Churches of the Brethren congregations and their worship opportunities at Please send new information to

Lifting up Brethren who are active in health care: Add a person to the list by sending first name, county, and state to

1) Annual Conference planners shift away from ‘insight sessions’ to ‘equipping sessions’

The Program and Arrangements Committee of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference is shifting away from a long-standing practice of offering “insight sessions” at the denomination’s annual meeting, focusing instead on “equipping sessions.”

Conference planners first began this shift some years ago, gradually working in specific days for equipping sessions at the denomination’s annual meetings. “Now we are asking everyone to make this shift for all of their sessions,” said Annual Conference director Rhonda Pittman Gingrich.

She described the difference between an insight session and an equipping session in terms of the difference between an infomercial in which attendees are given information about a program, versus a workshop in which attendees experience and are given hands-on tools and resources to use in ministry.

The 2022 Annual Conference will renew and expand the emphasis on offering equipping sessions that empower congregations and participants for a life of discipleship and service to Christ and the church. All presenters are asked to plan sessions that are interactive learning experiences, introducing or exploring practical tools, skills, practices, or frameworks that participants can take home with them to enhance their personal or congregational ministry.

Presenters are encouraged, in particular, to plan equipping sessions related to discipleship formation, neighborhood engagement and missional outreach, leadership development, and stewardship enhancement.

For more about Annual Conference and the planning for the 2022 event, go to

2) EYN medical worker regains freedom; EYN president Joel S. Billi issues Christmas message

By Zakariya Musa, EYN

Charles Ezra, about 70 years old, assists on the Disaster Relief Management Medical Team of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). He was abducted Saturday, Dec. 4, on his way home from his farm. He rejoined his family after three terrible days in the hands of his abductors.

“They stopped other people before and allowed them to pass, I arrived the scene where one of them said ‘that is the man,’” Ezra reported. “I tried to run into the bush but they caught me from behind, blindfolded, put me on a motorcycle, and took me through the bush. I was beaten many times. I couldn’t eat the whole duration. They threw food on the ground for me to eat in a cave where I was kept, and [I was] threatened to be killed,” he said.

Pray for the people who were recently abducted on the Maiduguri Road, and many others who are still unaccounted for.

Charles Ezra

In more news from EYN, president Joel S. Billi has released his Christmas message:

EYN president Joel S. Billi.
Photo by Zakariya Musa.

1st December, 2021

To the Pastors and all fellow Believers who are the Ecclesia of Christ.

We thank God for yet another Christmas. Our hearts glorify the LORD for His protection and guidance from January to date. He has seen us through turbulence and temptations.

Many of our members have lost their beloved ones within this year. Your bereavements sadden our hearts. Kindly accept our hearty condolences on behalf of the entire Ekklesiya. May our good LORD give you the fortitude to bear the loss.

It is unfortunate that the matter of security in our country has slipped through the fingers of our leaders and security apparatus. Consequently, churches and Christians are now vulnerable, and nobody seems to care about our vulnerability. It is sad to hear from the lips of some of the leaders that there is nothing they can do about the insecurity because it is a global trend. We have suffered enormous casualties innocently not in accidents or natural disaster but by barbaric people who claim to be working for God. Our steadfastness will make them know that we are truly serving a living God. Let us stay away from all evil things that will disqualify us before Christ.

We advise all farmers not to be extravagant or reckless in handling what they have harvested. It is unfortunate that some people sell their products right on the farms at give-away amounts. Please, let us restrain ourselves from such behavior except otherwise. You will agree with me that many farmers this year suffered crop losses from poor weather and lack of fertilizer. Therefore let us be wise and careful. Bearing in mind the plan to remove the fuel subsidy in the coming year (2022).

It is our fervent and passionate prayer that all those who are going to get married this Christmas through the new year, may God who is the creator of marriage establish to them Christ-centered homes, in the name of Jesus. As you plan to get married work within your income and do not compete or compare yourself with others. We also pray for the officiating clergymen to take Christian marriage with solemnness in every sphere. People who are still behaving and acting in a worldly manner by eloping in order to discredit the sacredness of biblical marriage, should be disciplined and treated as inactive members. Parents should also see the need to tell their children that if they eloped, they will not be happy with them.

Many people term the Christmas period as rush hours and drive recklessly despite the congestion of the roads and amounts of accidents which sometimes claim lives. Therefore let us drive with patience and diligence. If you are a passenger, it is your right to caution your driver to drive attentively.

We want to make a passionate call to all members to welcome any pastor that would be sent to you with outstretched arms without prejudice. Transfer is always for the good and growth of the church and it should not be misunderstood. Always avoid the temptation to have the desire to choose pastors for yourselves if given the opportunity or attempt to induce leaders to do what you want. Pastors and all workers should not be choosy or selective of where they want to work. All pastors have covenanted during ordination to work round the clock to ensure holistic growth of the church and not to think of “comfort zones.”

Celebrate Christmas with Christ the Master of Christmas. All your celebration should be centered on Him. Behave as expected during and after Christmas. We are encouraged to help and put smiles on the faces of the widows, orphans, aged, and destitute. Christ’s love is universal, likewise our own.

Merry Christmas and prosperous New Year.
In Christ,

Rev. Joel S. Billi.
EYN President

– Zakariya Musa is head of Media for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).


3) Speakers, Youth Speech Contest announced for National Youth Conference

By Erika Clary

The National Youth Conference (NYC) office has been hard at work confirming speakers for the event to take place on July 23-28, 2022. Each week on Saturday, a speaker is announced via the NYC social media pages–all part of a series titled “Speaker Saturday.” Be on the lookout for more NYC speaker announcements, which will be available on the NYC social media (Facebook: National Youth Conference, Instagram: @cobnyc2022).

National Youth Conference 2022 registration is open now. Register at by Dec. 31 to receive a free t-shirt.

Five speakers, plus the theme of the Youth Speech Contest, have been announced so far:

Drew Hart is an assistant professor of theology at Messiah University and has 10 years of pastoral experience. He directs Messiah University’s Thriving Together: Congregations for Racial Justice program and co-hosts Inverse Podcast. He is the author of two books, Trouble I’ve Seen and Who Will Be a Witness?, both available from Brethren Press ( He can be found on Twitter and Instagram with the username @DruHart.

Chelsea Skillen and Tyler Goss are an energetic, insightful sibling team. They have been active in the church through summer camps, Peace Teams, Brethren Volunteer Service, and denominational agencies, and have spoken at many Church of the Brethren conferences.

Chelsea Skillen runs a small production company with her husband in Petersberg, Va., and is excited about her newest project of writing her first book called How to Rock Your 20s.

Tyler Goss received his master of divinity degree and master of arts in conflict transformation degree from Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., where he now works as assistant director of Student Programs.

Naomi Kraenbring is an adjunct professor of religious studies at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, where she loves working with undergraduate students to study many things, especially interfaith peacebuilding. She is also a 2019 graduate of Bethany Theological Seminary and a current doctoral student at the Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University.

Osheta Moore loves people! She is a pastor and peacemaker who loves Jesus and is convinced God has a sense of humor. She is the author of two books, Shalom Sistas and Dear White Peacemakers, both available from Brethren Press ( She is an optimistic cookbook reader, a hopeless romantic, and a goofball with a little bit of sass.

Jody Romero and his wife, Vanessa, are church planters and have been leading Restoration Los Angeles, a Church of the Brethren congregation in East Los Angeles, Calif., for nearly 12 years. They have a heart for the underserved and a passion to strengthen local churches. The Romeros also launched RiseUp Youth Conference, which has become a global movement to inspire young people to know Jesus and make him known.

Youth Speech Contest

Do you know a youth who is attending NYC and would be interested in speaking? Encourage them to submit an entry for the Youth Speech Contest! The theme is “Bring Your Own Jesus Story.” Youth are encouraged to consider how Jesus’ teachings are foundational to their life, and then to choose a story about Jesus from the Bible and preach on it. Participants should send a written entry of 500-700 words and a video entry of about 10 minutes length to the NYC Office by email to The deadline is March 15, 2022.

— Erika Clary is the coordinator of National Youth Conference 2022, working in the Church of the Brethren Youth and Young Adult Ministry as a volunteer with Brethren Volunteer Service.

Drew Hart
Tyler Goss and Chelsea Skillen. Photo by Glenn Riegel
Naomi Kraenbring
Osheta Moore
Jody Romero

4) ‘I am because we are’: National Young Adult Conference focuses on life-giving quality of community

By Becky Ullom Naugle

“So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another” (Romans 12:5).

After so much pandemic living and the isolation it’s caused, the centrality of community in this scripture compelled the Young Adult Steering Committee to choose Romans 12:5 as the theme for National Young Adult Conference (NYAC) 2022.

Christians spend significant time focusing on the verses before and after this one–reminding ourselves that there are “many gifts but the same Spirit.” The reality of variety in giftedness certainly deserves attention and study; it is occasionally challenging to recognize and identify God’s presence in another. However, as the world has learned so painfully over the last two years in our isolation, God built us to need each other.

Even if we chafe at standards and boundaries placed to enable peaceful, healthy living, humans have a deep and strong desire to be with others. We are undeniably affected by the relationships we create. Simply, we are affected by our community. Often the implications of this reality are seen as a liability. However, NYAC participants will focus on the ways this reality is an asset. How are we as individuals enriched by being part of a community? How is life better when we are together, rather than apart? If we felt empathy for others due to such a deep connection through our baptism into the family of Jesus and call to live as one of his disciples, what would our lives look like?

It is precisely such deep connection to a group that allows an aspen tree to live. From above ground, where we spend most of our time, we see distinct trees. If we are paying enough attention, we might note that aspen trees tend to grow in groups. But did you know that the “distinct” aspen trees are actually part of the same organism? They share a root system and resources like water and nutrients. Aspens are a living expression of Romans 12:5; the “individual” thrives due to their deep connection to the larger body.

After so much time away from the larger body, the Young Adult Steering Committee is eager for young adults to remember and strengthen connection to each other.

NYAC registration opens online on Jan. 6, 2022. To learn more, visit

— Becky Ullom Naugle is director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries for the Church of the Brethren.

5) Deadline nears to register for the Clergy Tax Seminar on Jan. 29

The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership’s annual Clergy Tax Seminar takes place on Jan. 29, 2022, via Zoom from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Eastern time). It is intended for students, clergy, and anyone who deals with clergy finances. A continuing education credit of 0.4 units is available for credentialed ministers.

The event is sponsored by the academy along with the Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry and Bethany Theological Seminary. Leadership is provided by Deb Oskin, a tax professional specializes in clergy taxes and who is chairing the Church of the Brethren Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee. The event will include a special presentation from the committee about the brand new Pastoral Compensation Calculator and Integrated Annual Ministry Agreement expected to become effective as of the 2022 Annual Conference.

Cost is $40 per person. Current students at the Brethren Academy, Bethany Theological Seminary, and Earlham School of Religion students may attend at no cost, although registration is still required. Find more detailed information and register by Jan. 19 at

Deb Oskin leading the clergy tax seminar, in a former year.


6) Frederick Church creates new website inviting people to accept Jesus Christ

By Lerry Fogle

A new website created by a ministry team of Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren provides information on the homepage and invites persons to accept Jesus Christ into their hearts. The remaining pages of the site provide information and resources for all followers of Jesus, no matter their level of spiritual maturity. The site launched on Dec. 4 at

Included in these pages is a repository of many resources (articles and other websites) answering various types of spiritual questions. The site is multi-media. The title for the site, “Source of True Life” is inspired by John 4:14.

— Lerry Fogle is a former director of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference and a member of Frederick Church of the Brethren.

7) Community of Joy shares ‘Food and Faith’ podcast

Community of Joy Church of the Brethren in Salisbury, Md., has shared the link to listen to a “Food and Faith” podcast by pastor Martin Hutchison, according to the Mid-Atlantic District newsletter. The podcast interviews Hutchison about what’s happening at the church’s community garden “and how that has opened unimagined connections and opportunities to work and minister with the community, the local school system, and government programs,” said the newsletter. “Learn about ‘vegetable mischief’ teaching moments. The garden is an ‘opportunity to engage neighbors, nurture seeds of love and blessing; an opportunity greater than you can imagine.’” Find the podcast at

8) Bethany Church brings friends to worship

Bethany Church of the Brethren in Norborne, Mo., held a special “Bring a Friend to Church” service on Sunday, Nov. 14, reported pastor Jason Frazer in the Missouri and Arkansas District newsletter. “Fifty-three persons were in attendance that morning,” he wrote, “and the text came from Mark’s Gospel, Chapter 10, verses 17 thru 31: the story of the rich man asking how to inherit eternal life. Several newcomers have been visiting our small rural church, which has brought some excitement and energy to our congregation.”

9) Warrensburg Church hosts birthday celebration for minister emeritus and Heifer International

Warrensburg (Mo.) Church of the Brethren in early November hosted a celebration of minister emeritus Ethmer Erisman’s 97th birthday and the 77th year of Heifer International’s ministry to end hunger and poverty.

In a report in the Missouri and Arkansas District newsletter, LuRae Shreves and Pearl Miller wrote that Erisman celebrates his birthday every year with “his traditional gift of seed money for Heifer International! Every year around his birthday, he challenges the congregation to ‘pass on the gift’ with him…. This year, Pastor Ethmer, with the help of three of our teens, passed out donation boxes for Heifer International. Each box contained a generous gift to the recipients with the hope that the recipients would consider their own donation to Heifer.

“A total of $1,068 was raised through his birthday gift! Also, as part of that birthday celebration, Ethmer preached the sermon, ‘Love Will Find a Way.’”

Photos by Renee Staab and pastor Becky Crouse, courtesy of Missouri and Arkansas District

10) Brethren bits

— Correction: The Dec. 4 Newsline incorrectly identified the author of the study and discussion guide for Tod Bolsinger’s plenary session on “Doing Church in Uncharted Territory” from the 2021 Annual Conference. The guide was written by Renee Wilson, who helped out with the Moderator Town Hall events and is a member of the staff of Ministry Architects.

– Religious workers and clergy are now eligible for Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). The program offers methods to help all borrowers (including religious workers and clergy) reduce or better manage student loans. View the webinar linked below to learn how to apply for PSLF, with leadership from attorney Ashley Harrington, a senior official of the Federal Student Aid Office of the US Department of Education. This webinar was offered by the United Church of Christ in partnership with the National Council of Churches. Go to

– A webinar hosted by On Earth Peace and the Good Shepherd Collective is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 15, at 1-3 p.m. (Eastern time). “Join the Good Shepherd Collective and On Earth Peace for a critical conversation on the Palestinian-led campaign to Defund Racism, a grassroots movement to stop the exploitation of US charities and the financing of violent political movements,” said an announcement. “Bana Abu Zuluf, a legal researcher and advocate for the Good Shepherd Collective, and Manal Shqair, a Palestinian climate activist and the international advocacy officer of Stop the Wall Campaign, will discuss how the Israeli settler movement exploits US charitable law to fund the dispossession of indigenous Palestinian communitie–and more importantly–what you can do to dismantle the structures that underwrite violence and oppression.” Go to

A group of Church of the Brethren young adults are leading an Advent Worship Service this Sunday evening, Dec. 12, at 6 p.m. (Eastern time) via Zoom. To attend, contact
On Earth Peace is offering an online seminar titled “Children as Peacebuilders: Equipping Resilient Leaders” at 12 noon (Eastern time) on Saturday, Dec. 18. The seminar “will be sharing Christmas traditions from all around the globe, equipping caregivers and educators to use the holidays as a time to teach children about inclusiveness and diversity,” said an announcement. “Caregivers will be provided with tools such as storytelling using OEP’s Read Aloud Program.” Go to

— The Church of the Brethren’s Southern Ohio and Kentucky District is celebrating the ministry of retiring district executive Dave Shetler on Jan. 23, 2022, from 2-5 p.m. (Eastern time) at Salem Church of the Brethren in Englewood, Ohio. “Please join us as we honor Dave’s 11 years of ministry to our district as District Executive,” said an invitation. Donations in Shetler’s honor are received to the district disaster ministries, the district’s camping and retreat ministries, and to the Brethren Retirement Community in Greenville, Ohio.

– Mid-Atlantic District has begun a new program of Jesus in the Neighborhood Mini-Grants, through its CORE Ministry Team tasked with “Church Outreach, Renewal, and Evangelism.” Following on the denomination’s adoption of the compelling vision, “CORE is offering Jesus in the Neighborhood Mini-Grants to congregations who wish to begin projects related to congregational renewal, revitalization, and community outreach but may need additional support to do so,” said the district newsletter. “Congregations are encouraged to think outside the box!” The mini-grants are restricted to Church of the Brethren congregations within the district, who apply for help to fund efforts that will use church funds wisely and judiciously, and that adhere to Church of the Brethren polity and values. The mini-grants of up to $500 will be awarded to congregations that have committed their own funds and resources to the project in addition to the mini-grant and that submit a simple budget of projected costs for their project.

— Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren has appeared in several news reports recently, following the appearance of some chalk graffiti on the church property. The media stories have been overblown, said pastor Eric Landram. The graffiti was done with sidewalk chalk, and there was no lasting damage. It took only 20 minutes for church members to wash it off. Landram explained to a few media outlets, “Since this has not occurred on the property before, we are not concerned.” To Newsline, he wrote, “We aren’t letting the antics stop us from focusing on what matters the most during this season of Advent. We are busy living into the Church of the Brethren’s new compelling vision statement by following Jesus in relationship-based neighborhood engagement. We are encouraging our members and community to support families less fortunate during the holidays and we are diligent in continuing the important work of resettling refugees in Lancaster County. A little sidewalk chalk isn’t going to get us down. Christmas is coming and with it a great light of peace and hope!”

– The World Council of Churches (WCC) is publishing a series of Bible studies leading up to its assembly taking place next year in Germany. The series is based on the assembly theme and linked to significant days in the Christian calendar. The first Bible study was published at the beginning of Advent and the next will be published in preparation for Epiphany. Read the first Bible study of the series, “Advent and Christmas” by Susan Durber, at

— Harvey Nininger’s role as “the father of meteoritics” is told by writer Max McCoy in a Nov. 28 article in the Kansas Reflector titled “In 1923, a Kansan saw a fireball overhead. He helped popularize a new science.” Nininger was a Church of the Brethren member and biology professor at McPherson (Kan.) College who in November 1923 began tracking and collecting meteorites. “During the next 60 years he located thousands,” writes McCoy. “By the 1940s, he was believed to have located half of all the meteorites that had so far been identified anywhere on the surface of the earth…. ‘Verily,’ he wrote in 1933, ‘Kansas has been the target of the universe.’ …From 1923 on, Nininger crisscrossed the state, educating local populations about meteorites and offering $1 a pound for the space rocks.” He even led McPherson students on trips to search for meteorites “as far away as South America, cataloguing historic finds and gathering new data from the strewn fields.” Although McCoy calls the Church of the Brethren a “sect,” he acknowledges Nininger’s deep faith along with his conflicts with McPherson College leadership: “For all of his adult life, Nininger would challenge the cornerstones of faith he had learned as a child; not only would he denounce belief in a 6,000-year-old earth, but he would come to chide the president of the Brethren college at McPherson for not teaching evolution. But Nininger never rejected faith.” Find the article at

— Ron Beachley is the subject of an article in the Tribune-Democrat highlighting his more than 35 years as a referee for high school sports. The 81-year-old is a former pastor in the Church of the Brethren, served for years as a district executive, and was Annual Conference moderator. He also “has been a sports enthusiast his whole life,” the article noted. “And it’s led to the Davidsville resident refereeing high school sports for more than 35 years as a PIAA official.” Throughout years serving the church, wherever he served he also connected with opportunities to serve local schools by officiating at sports events. In retirement, that passion continues. “Beachley said he attends rules meetings annually for each sport and a number of chapter meetings to keep his credentials current. ‘Being an official allows me keep up with rule changes and seeing good athletes participate in the games,’ he said…. Beachley, who also drives a school bus for the Ferndale Area School District, said what keeps him working as an official is his love of competition and the camaraderie with other officials. ‘I question if I should retire, but I want to be involved,’ he said.” Find the article at

– Pastor Dwayne Yost of Flat Creek and Mud Lick Churches of the Brethren in Big Creek, Ky., is one of the church leaders that welcomed a large delivery of gifts and personal care items to help Kentuckians in need, sent to the Red Bird Mission supporting families in Bell, Clay, and Leslie County by churches in upstate New York. An article titled “NY to KY: Huge donation arrives at Eastern Kentucky’s Red Bird Mission” by Jonathon Gregg and published by Spectrum News 1 noted that “poverty rates in this area of Kentucky are some of the highest in the country” and that the area is seeing a “ripple effect” after the collapse of the coal industry, with many families staying in the area despite the loss of employment. Yost had worked for Red Bird more than 50 years ago, the piece reported, quoting him as saying, “If I live another 3 weeks I’ll be 87.” Yost also told the reporter: “It’s wonderful to be a part of God’s work wherever it is. Whether it’s at Red Bird or if it’s in New York where they put these boxes together…. You know, it’s wonderful we can all work together.” Find the article at

Newsline is the email news service of the Church of the Brethren. Inclusion in Newsline does not necessarily convey endorsement by the Church of the Brethren. All submissions are subject to editing. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Contributors to this issue include Erika Clary, Lerry Fogle, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Eric Landram, Nancy Miner, Zakariya Musa, Becky Ullom Naugle, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Please send news tips and submissions to . Find the Newsline archive at . Sign up for Newsline and other Church of the Brethren email newsletters and make subscription changes at . Unsubscribe by using the link at the top of any Newsline email.

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