Newsline for Feb. 12, 2021

1) New Youth Fellowship Exchange has launched

2) Debbie Noffsinger hired as part-time Annual Conference assistant

3) Roundtable regional youth conference goes on the road, in-person and online

4) Compelling vision Bible study series is now available

5) Brethren bits: A Valentine’s Day social media campaign from the WCC, remembering church leaders in Burundi and Uganda, job opening, webinars, update from Nigerian disaster ministry, more

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1) New Youth Fellowship Exchange has launched

By Becky Ullom Naugle

The Youth and Young Adult Ministry has launched a new initiative called the Youth Fellowship Exchange, which aims at providing pandemic-safe fellowship opportunities to youth from all over the country. Free and fun, youth groups can find renewed energy for forming relationships and engaging with “the other.” In a time when opportunities for cross-congregational fellowship are limited, this is a fresh and easy activity.

Youth advisors are invited to fill out an interest form online at this month (February).

A flexible structure for the video calls, in addition to several “online friendly” ice breakers and community building games, are part of the package. Youth advisors can use these tools or create their own structure for the video calls.

In March, interested youth groups will receive more information about which group they’ve been matched with, as well as contact information for the advisor of the other group. The advisors can work out a time that suits their two groups for an online meeting. Advisors can use technology they have access to and are most familiar with, or the Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office can provide one-time access to video call technology.

While this type of fellowship exchange is no substitute for in-person fellowship, it is a possible way. Even if there were not travel restrictions and health concerns, this way of hanging out with another Church of the Brethren youth group will still steward resources like time and money most efficiently.

Contact with questions.

— Becky Ullom Naugle is director of the Church of the Brethren’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry.


2) Debbie Noffsinger hired as part-time Annual Conference assistant

Debbie Noffsinger begins Feb. 15 in a newly restructured, salaried position of part-time Annual Conference assistant. Since Feb. 22, 2010, she has worked on a seasonal basis as the Annual Conference registration assistant.

Noffsinger also works as a freelance graphic designer. In that capacity, she has designed many logos and publications for Church of the Brethren events and programs, among other work for the church.

She is a member of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill.


3) Roundtable regional youth conference goes on the road, in-person and online

By Seth Spire

With COVID-19 concerns still looming large, we are not able to meet on the Bridgewater (Va.) College campus as usual for Roundtable 2021–the annual regional youth conference hosted by the Interdistrict Youth Cabinet at Bridgewater College. We have had to pivot to a new idea for Roundtable in order to reach the most youth and still provide a fun, meaningful experience in person and online.

Instead, there will be three Roundtables in 2021, held at Brethren camps: March 6 at Brethren Woods near Keezletown, Va.; March 27 at Shepherd’s Spring near Sharpsburg, Md.; and April 10 at Camp Bethel near Fincastle, Va. These three camps seem best situated to give everyone a close location to attend in order to limit travel and spread people out to keep the numbers of people at each event at a safe level.

On March 6, we also will offer an online option for those who wish not to attend in person.

Each of these will be a single Saturday instead of a full weekend. This means a more condensed schedule, but we will still have a ton of fun, have some great worship, and get to explore nature at the same time. Exact schedules may differ between locations, but in general there will be small group sessions, workshops, worships, vespers, a variety show, lunch and dinner, and–of course–everyone’s favorite: free time.

COVID-19 protocols for social distancing, mask wearing, and anything else will be followed at the in-person events to make Roundtable as safe as it can be. This likely also means taking advantage of being at camps and spending much of the day outside, but there will be back-up plans for inclement weather.

Now on to the fun part. Our theme for Roundtable 2021 is “Hope Ahead: Plans for Peace,” based on Jeremiah 29:11. With everything that has happened in the past year, this feels like a very timely message. Our speaker is the amazing Jenn West. She may not be able to be in-person for each of the three Roundtables, but we will work through that in order to give everyone a great experience at worship. Regardless, we are quite blessed to have her wisdom and knowledge working alongside us this year.

We are working very hard to make this all work out and are trying to move forward with plans in this very uncertain time. Everything is very much subject to change and to be adapted, so be prepared that things may have to change. We certainly hope to see everyone this Spring!

— Seth Spire is a member of the Interdistrict Youth Cabinet at Bridgewater (Va.) College.


4) Compelling vision Bible study series is now available

By Rhonda Pittman Gingrich

The complete 13-session Compelling Vision Bible Study Series is now available in English at A Spanish translation will be available in coming days at

The series is a project of the Compelling Vision Working Group and is intended to help church members study the compelling vision statement that will be brought for approval to the 2021 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren.

These Bible studies affirm the importance of God’s Word in our life together, God’s Word revealed in scripture, and made flesh in the life and ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit, as we gather around the Word in the context of community, God still speaks to us.

Each session invites participants to gather around the Word as they explore a different word or phrase from the compelling vision statement, with the hope of deepening and enriching personal and communal understanding of each particular word or phrase and the compelling vision as a whole.

Each session has been written by a different writer, reflecting the rich theological, geographical, ethnic, and gender diversity within the Church of the Brethren. Not only does this broaden and enrich our collective perspective, but also fosters understanding–a value that has undergirded the entire process of discernment.

The sessions were written to be used in either a face-to-face or virtual environment. Congregations and other groups are encouraged to use these Bible studies in the months leading up to Annual Conference, to both prepare for the conversations to take place at Annual Conference, and, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to imagine what it might look like to live into the vision and become “Jesus in the Neighborhood.”

— Rhonda Pittman Gingrich chairs the Compelling Vision Working Group.

5) Brethren bits

“On Valentine’s Day, share hearts and flowers–and do your part to prevent abuse.” That’s the message from the World Council of Churches (WCC) for Valentine’s Day 2021, encouraging people to share new images and messages created for a special social media campaign called “Celebrate love, prevent abuse.” Other messages include “Love is kind” and “Each day, affirm respect, devotion, and love.” The messages are intended to invite reflection during a time in which “a shadow pandemic of domestic abuse and violence has risen alarmingly in conjunction with COVID-19-related lockdowns,” said a WCC release. “In response, the Thursdays in Black campaign has grown, with increasing numbers of global ambassadors speaking out, in many regions and languages, in support of a world free from rape and gender-based violence.” Campaigners are urging attention to gender-based violence and awareness of its root causes. “This Valentine’s Day, may you seek love that heals and that is truthful.” Download the Valentine’s images to share on social media at

Remembrance: Vital Sinzobatohana, vice president of Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services (THARS), died on Feb. 7. THARS is a partner organization of the Church of the Brethren in Burundi. Previous to his work for THARS, Sinzobatohana was employed at the Burundi National Radio Television. He was a husband, father, and grandfather. He died after suffering from liver complications for several months. Wrote David Niyonzima, executive director of THARS, “His wisdom to strengthen the organization during both the executive and annual meetings will be missed. Please join the THARS family to remember his family in prayer. He will always be remembered for his love to the organization and his efforts to promote healing and reconciliation. Along with prayer for the Lord’s comfort for his family, let us also pray for his replacement at the THARS Board.”

Remembrance: John Kule, a pastor and “spiritual father” of the fledgling Uganda Church of the Brethren, has passed away. Pastor Bwambale Sedrack reported that Kule, who was in his early 70s, was battling meningitis and had been transferred to Kampala, the capital city, for special care. His body is being returned to Kasese for a funeral and burial.

The Church of the Brethren seeks a director of Annual Conference to fill a full-time salaried position directing the activities required for the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. Required skills and knowledge include grounding in Church of the Brethren heritage, theology, and polity; ability to articulate, support, and operate out of the vision, mission, and core values of the Church of the Brethren; ability to relate with integrity and respect within and beyond the organization; strong interpersonal skills that contribute to effective interaction, excellent financial management, and accounting skills; experience with computer systems and financial systems development; excellent verbal and written communication skills; good listening skills; knowledge and experience in budget development; management and long-range planning skills; significant experience in conference management and business administration. A bachelor’s degree in conference management, business administration, or a related field is required. The position is based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Applications will be received beginning immediately and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. Send a resume to, Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 367. The Church of the Brethren is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Register for this compelling vision Bible study for youth and young adults at

A recording of the Feb. 9 webinar sponsored by the Intercultural Ministry, a conversation with Drew Hart hosted by LaDonna Nkosi, is now available on YouTube. Titled “Who Will Be a Witness: Igniting Activism for God’s Justice, Love, and Deliverance,” the recording is online at

The next webinar in the Healing Racism Congregations and Communities series, #ConversationsTogether with Drew Hart, takes place Feb. 18 at 4:30-6 p.m. (Eastern time). Register at

Also on Feb. 18, at 7 p.m. (Eastern time) is the next Moderator’s Town Hall hosted by Annual Conference moderator Paul Mundey. The topic will be “The Global Church: Current Happenings, Future Possibilities” with Norm and Carol Spicher Waggy, interim directors of Global Mission for the Church of the Brethren. Register at

A recording of the Moderator’s Town Hall from January, “Faith, Science, and COVID-19, Part Three,” is now available at

Mundey added, “We are now producing study guides for each of our Town Halls.… The study guide can be used in a wide variety of ways, either for personal reflection and/or group study. Please utilize as you deem best for you and your context.” Mundey is asking that recordings and study guides not be shared on social media, but congregations may share them directly with church members. Continuing education credit for ministers is available. Find the study guide for the January event at For information on how to obtain continuing education credit go to

Brethren Disaster Ministries has shared an update from the disaster ministry of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). On Feb. 11, director Yuguda Z. Mdurvwa wrote, in part: “Nigeria is in deep insecurity crisis more than before. The new form of criminality that has taken over the nation is kidnapping of innocent people for ransom, both rural and urban cities are affected on daily bases. [During the] last two weeks at Marraba Mubi Ishaka, a business man that has the largest shop was kidnapped and 3 million Naira was paid before his release. Another one happened in Hildi. All these are our neighbors. Boko Haram activities are still ongoing in Borno, Taraba, Adamawa, North Central, and many parts of the country. Just last night Askira town was attacked by Boko Haram. Another big security threat is the Fulani herders and banditry. We are holding the EYN Ministers’ Council annual conference on 16th to 19th February with only 210 participants instead of 1,000 due to surge of COVID-19. Preventive measures have been made by the Disaster Relief Ministry. Above all we trust in the Lord for his protection.”

On Earth Peace’s Kingian Nonviolence Learning Action Community is engaged in reading Healing Resistance: A Radically Different Response to Harm–My Life and Training in the Nonviolent Legacy of Dr. King, a book by Kazu Haga, a senior trainer in Kingian Nonviolence. The book study will meet four times to discuss the three sections of the book and end with a discussion of the book as a whole. All meetings will be on Mondays from 2:30-3:30 p.m. (Pacific time) on March 1, March 15, March 29, and April 5. RSVP and receive the Zoom link by going to

Wakeman’s Grove Church of the Brethren in Edinburg, Va., has been hosting a dozen or so students from the Shenandoah County public schools on days when the schools are doing virtual or online learning. A story in the Northern Virginia Daily newspaper said the church is using rooms that offer workstations with wifi and social distancing. Youth advisor Kristi Zirkle credited pastor Mark Bowyer for the idea. “They started with a few volunteers and are now up to 20 people who help out in some way or another,” said the news article. Find it at

Canton (Ill.) Church of the Brethren is embracing Black History Month in Sunday worship services through theopoetics. Members take active part in sharing poetry, storytelling, music, and moments of silence to celebrate people who have changed the world. The services unite theopoetical works with the words and actions of Jesus. In one service, the theme came from a West African philosophical concept and an opening guiding question was asked by pastor Kevin Kessler: “After all that they endure, why do the people represented in this service never give up hope?”

The Youth and Young Adult Ministry has announced the dates for National Young Adult Conference 2021.

Leaders in Northern Plains District have issued a letter to district congregations and their leadership about the COVID-19 pandemic. Opening with thanks and acknowledgement of the creative ways district members have found to gather and continue the work of Jesus, it also gave advice in a section on the vaccine rollout:

“It can be tempting to relax the restrictions we have put in place to keep everyone safe and ensure that our faith communities don’t become super spreaders. However, we encourage you to remain faithful in the call to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ (Matthew 22:39). Please be mindful of the situation in your geographic area as you make decisions about next steps. Pay attention to the numbers and whether the case count is rising, has leveled off, or is declining in your community. Respect the recommendations of your state and local authorities regarding in-person gatherings and how best to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Continue adhering to what we know to be best practices regarding social distancing, wearing masks, and cleaning.

“In addition, studies have shown that singing can contribute to spread. If you are gathering in person and choosing to sing, please do so in ways that are limited and safe to minimize the risk. We know this is difficult. We long to gather in person. We long to greet one another with a warm hug. We long to share communal meals. We long to ‘sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God’ (Ephesians 5:19). However, even as we cherish the glimmer of hope offered by the vaccine, we must remain diligent in our efforts to protect one another.”

The letter closed by urging district members to remember the stress that church leaders have been experiencing during the pandemic, to be gracious and pray for them, and to do continued discernment together. Read the full letter at

The 2021 Spring Event in Pacific Northwest District is a day on Zoom on the topic, “Danger and Opportunity: What Does It Mean to Live Our Values Today?” The event is free and open to the whole district on March 6. “This past year has brought us an abundance of challenges and crises. Some we’ve never experienced–a global pandemic disrupting almost every part of our lives. Some have been with us all too long–a reckoning with white supremacy and the drive towards meaningful social justice and equity. In moments of crisis, we find ourselves faced with both danger and opportunity. Danger both in what has been lost and in where destructive decisions might lead. Opportunity to build something different and to bring alive new possibilities in the world. Our values can be the compass steering us through these uncertain waters of crisis. Where do our values steer us today? What will it mean for us to live those values? Individually? Collectively?” The day will include a panel discussion, music, and other expressions of creativity.

Debra Lynn, a professor at Manchester University in N. Manchester, Ind., is inviting individual singers, as well as community, school church and other choirs, to join the university’s A Cappella Choir in a performance of her oratorio, “A Family Portrait,” at Carnegie Hall in New York in 2022. The five-day residency May 27-31 will culminate with the concert on Memorial Day 2022. “A collection of a family’s letters from the Civil War-era inspired Lynn to write ‘A Family Portrait,’ which debuted at Manchester University in 2017,” said a release from the school. The Carnegie Hall performance will be conducted by Lynn and will include several combined festival choirs including the A Cappella Choir, its alumni and friends, and the New England Symphonic Ensemble. “A Family Portrait makes a wonderful festival piece because it is entirely in English, and it does not require advanced musical skill. It was intentionally composed with the intent of being accessible to non-professional singers,” Lynn said in the release. “It also has wonderful educational value because much of the multi-layered musical material is derived from folksongs, hymns, and children’s songs from the Civil War-era. If you’re an American history buff, you’ll be in heaven learning and performing this piece.” The Manchester University business office is creating an online registration form and payment platform that should be available sometime during spring semester. Singers and choirs that wish to participate must register by mid-September 2021. Find out more at

Applications are being received for the James E. Renz Pinecrest Memorial Scholarship, a $1,000 scholarship given by the Pinecrest retirement community in Mount Morris, Ill. The scholarship recognizes a graduating high school senior who intends to pursue an education in healthcare, social services, or ministry studies. To be eligible, students are either a member of a Church of the Brethren congregation in the northern region of the Illinois and Wisconsin District, an Oregon (Ill.) High School senior, a Pinecrest employee or dependent, or a home-schooled or private school student from within the Oregon school district. The scholarship is in honor of the lifetime contributions of Jim Renz including 40 years on the board, with 24 years as secretary. For more information and the application form go to

The Dunker Punks Podcast has issued a “Bonus Episode” #14 on the Lenten devotional written by Anna Lisa Gross and published by Brethren Press. “As we approach Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season, we invite you to journey out into the wilderness with us,” said an invitation to the podcast highlighting the devotional titled The Wild Way of Jesus. The devotional’s themes are explored in interview with the author, “to help guide us through this wild and unusual time. A new contributor to the podcast, Reilly Schadt, interviews Gross. Musical contributor Jacob Crouse made a special recording dedicated to the Lenten devotional, just for this podcast. The song titled “This Is God’s Wondrous World” is available on the podcast and is cross-posted on the Dunker Punk YouTube channel. Listen to the episode at Subscribe on iTunes at

The National Council of Churches has shared an announcement of The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song, a documentary premiering Feb. 16 and 23 at 9 p.m. (Eastern time) on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings). “This moving four-hour, two-part series from executive producer, host, and writer Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, traces the 400-year-old story of the Black church in America, all the way down to its bedrock role as the site of African American survival and grace, organizing and resilience, thriving and testifying, autonomy and freedom, solidarity and speaking truth to power,” said the announcement. “The documentary reveals how Black people have worshiped and, through their spiritual journeys, improvised ways to bring their faith traditions from Africa to the New World, while translating them into a form of Christianity that was not only truly their own, but a redemptive force for a nation whose original sin was found in their ancestors’ enslavement across the Middle Passage.” Black church leaders who are featured include Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church; William Barber II; Vashti McKenzie, bishop of the AME Church; and civil rights leader Al Sharpton; among others. Also featured is scholar Cornel West and a variety of actors, singers, and musicians such as Oprah Winfrey, John Legend, Jennifer Hudson, Yolanda Adams, and more. For more information see

Cliff Kindy, a Church of the Brethren member and a longterm volunteer for Christian Peacemaker Teams, has been interviewed by “The Book Nook,” a local radio program that has aired for years on the Dayton, Ohio, area public radio station. The topic was his new book, Resurrection Peacemaking: Plowsharing the Tools of War. Reports Peggy Reiff Miller to Newsline: “The host, Vick Mickunas, interviewed Cliff Kindy [and] also reviewed the book for the Dayton Daily News on the same day. Find the review 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 Jeff Boshart, Josh Brockway, Shamek Cardona, Jacob Crouse, Carol Davis, Chris Douglas, Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, Gordon Hoffert, Wendy McFadden, Yuguda Mdurvwa, Peggy Reiff Miller, Paul Mundey, Becky Ullom Naugle, David Niyonzima, Matt Rittle, Bwambale Sedrack, Seth Spire, David Steele, Roy Winter, 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, make subscription changes, or unsubscribe at .

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