Newsline for Jan. 9, 2021

1) Church of the Brethren General Secretary issues a statement on the events of Jan. 6
2) Studying scripture together is key to a compelling vision for the Church of the Brethren
3) Grants support hurricane relief, international groups affected by pandemic, community gardens
4) Couple’s gift will add endowed music professorship at Manchester University

5) Sonja Griffith resigns from leadership of Western Plains District
6) Replogle, Liu are promoted from interim to staff positions with the Church of the Brethren

7) Brethren bits: Remembering Curtis W. Dubble and Fay Reese, Washington City Church and Office of Peacebuilding and Policy are safe and unharmed, prayer requested for Modesto Church of the Brethren, new address for S. Pennsylvania District, and a round-up of excerpts from prayers, reflections, and statements on the violent attack on Congress

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1) Church of the Brethren General Secretary issues a statement on the events of Jan. 6

The following is a statement from David Steele, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren:

Wednesday was Epiphany, the day marking the arrival of the Magi, seekers of the young Prince of Peace. Yet the violent actions in our nation’s capital revealed the violence of Herod rather than the peace of God.

While the Church of the Brethren has always had an ambivalent relationship to institutions of power and government, we have consistently sought “the things that make for peace” (Luke 19:42). Brethren address the government on matters of justice in our commitment to care for all people, and we participate in nonviolent protest when necessary. But the recent actions were not nonviolent protest. They laid bare racism and hatred, and breached the country’s democratic processes.

May we together confess our brokenness, that the deep divisions within our country are also present in our church; and commit to pray for the healing of our country and our church as we all together pray and work for the peace of Christ–the shalom of God.

2) Studying scripture together is key to a compelling vision for the Church of the Brethren

By John Jantzi

“Together, as the Church of the Brethren, we will passionately live and share the radical transformation and holistic peace of Jesus Christ through relationship-based neighborhood engagement. To move us forward, we will develop a culture of calling and equipping disciples who are innovative, adaptable, and fearless.”

It seems a long time ago that the idea of a compelling vision was broached in 2017 at Annual Conference. Following is the original guiding statement of the Compelling Vision Working Group, adopted at the beginning of our work together.

“Confessing Jesus Christ as Teacher, Redeemer, and Lord, we desire to serve Him by proclaiming, professing, and walking in his way together bringing his peace to our broken world. Join us in reclaiming a new passion for Christ and helping set a course for our future as the Church of the Brethren serving him in our communities and in the world!”

This statement, along with our common commitment to scripture, set the trajectory for our work together. Many times during the last two years we reminded ourselves that these common confessions and commitments made our work worthwhile.

Much has been altered since the Compelling Vision process began. Some congregations have chosen to leave the Church of the Brethren, the need for structural reform in the church has become ever more evident, and COVID-19 has cast an aura of uncertainty regarding the future nature of congregational life.

Amid those significant dilemmas I suggest to you there is nothing more important than studying scripture together to deepen our common commitment to Christ. In the Dec. 21 issue of Newsline, Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, chair of the Compelling Vison Working Group, outlined 13 Bible studies developed by a team of writers that build on the themes of the compelling vision. These studies will be released in mid-February with sample lessons coming in January. As study groups are organized, I encourage you to participate with other sisters and brothers.

We live in a vulnerable, fragile time. The compelling vision points us to the centrality of relationships standing at the heart of the gospel–relationship with our risen Lord, with fellow believers, and with people in our neighborhoods and communities. O Lord, soften our hearts to hear your voice and each other.

John Jantzi is district executive minister for the Church of the Brethren’s Shenandoah District and a member of the Compelling Vision Working Group.

3) Grants support hurricane relief, international groups affected by pandemic, community gardens

Satellite image of Hurricane ETA as the storm headed toward Central America. Courtesy of NOAA

The latest grants from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) and Global Food Initiative (GFI) have been announced:

A GFI allocation of $20,000 is divided between four church-related international partners of the Global Food Initiative: Bittersweet Ministries in Mexico, Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services (THARS) in Burundi, Fundación Brethren y Unida (FBU, the Brethren and United Foundation) in Ecuador, and Proyecto Aldea Global (PAG, Project Global Village) in Honduras. Each has seen significant reductions in income due to the pandemic. Although GFI grants typically support direct program costs, these one-time administrative grants may be used for salaries, utilities, or other needs within the organizations.

Brethren Disaster Ministries has directed an EDF grant of $11,000 to the COVID-19 response of Haitian congregations of Iglesia de los Hermanos (Church of the Brethren) in the Dominican Republic. The church reports high unemployment, especially for Haitian citizens, and exacerbated by the pandemic. The grant announcement reported that “most Haitians in the DR do not have a permanent job but get paid daily for their work…. Further, Haitians experience all types of racism, including laws that limit their legal status in the DR. Global Mission leadership has been working with church leaders in the DR to support reconciliation between ethnically Dominican and ethnically Haitian churches. This request is specifically for the Haitian churches with the permission of the leadership board of the DR church.” The grant focuses on 340 families (around 2,000 individuals) in 10 communities including unemployed parents, single mothers, widows, the handicapped, and elderly. Among other needs, it will provide large food kits to each family containing rice, oil, sugar, oatmeal, beans, spaghetti, powdered milk, seasoning, hot chocolate, sardines, salami, and eggs.

An EDF grant of $10,000 supports hurricane relief by the Christian Solidarity Program (CSP) in Honduras. The work follows two storms that struck Central America in Nov. 2020, Hurricane Iota and Hurricane Eta. CSP is a new partner for Brethren Disaster Ministries but has established connections with Church of the Brethren members in Illinois and Wisconsin District, where Bill Hare of the Camp Emmaus staff has organized work groups to serve with CSP projects in southern Honduras. CSP has identified 16,800 families in extremely impoverished conditions who need assistance. The grant will fund food distributions to 290 families or about 2,030 people.

Two GFI grants support community gardens related to Church of the Brethren congregations. A grant of $9,153.50 goes to the New Carlisle (Ohio) Community Garden, an ecumenical ministry supported by New Carlisle Church of the Brethren. A grant of $1,000 goes to the community garden project of Linville Creek Church of the Brethren in Broadway, Va.

Find out more about the disaster relief work supported by the Emergency Disaster Fund at Find out more about the Global Food Initiative at

4) Couple’s gift will add endowed music professorship at Manchester University

Dr. John Hamer and Esther Rinehart Hamer in 2017, on their 65th wedding anniversary.

By Anne Gregory

The late Dr. John Hamer and Esther Rinehart Hamer made a lasting mark in medicine during their time with the Church of the Brethren ministry in Nigeria. Now the Manchester alumni are creating their largest and perhaps most enduring legacy at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., with a $1.5 million estate gift to establish the John L. and Esther L. Rinehart Hamer Professorship in Music.

“Even in this era, while science and medicine remain important, John and I hoped that Manchester would continue to have a strong music program,” said Esther Hamer, who graduated from Manchester in 1950 with degrees in biology and music (piano performance) and earned her nursing degree from Case Western Reserve University.

“Music has given balance to my life,” she said.

The Hamers are best known in medical circles for their role in identifying Lassa fever, also known as Lassa hemorrhagic fever, while working as medical missionaries in Nigeria. Physician John Hamer, who was a member of the Manchester class of 1948, and Esther served in Nigeria from 1953 to 1969. They did most of their work at Lassa Hospital, named for the remote village where they cared for people suffering from leprosy, malaria, dysentery, dehydration, parasites, and more.

Laura Wine, an American nurse, was working with the Hamers at the hospital in 1969 when she contracted a critical illness and died. The Hamers insisted that her body be flown to a larger hospital where blood could be drawn for bacterial and viral cultures and that an autopsy be performed. That critical evidence provided information that researchers needed to identify what is now known as Lassa fever, an infectious, contagious disease that causes massive internal bleeding and is often fatal.

Shortly after, the Hamers returned to the United States and settled in Fort Wayne, Ind., where John practiced family medicine for many years. They retired to Timbercrest Senior Living Community in North Manchester, where John died in 2019 at age 95.

Esther still lives at Timbercrest, a short distance from the Manchester campus where both Hamers enjoyed the college music program as undergraduates. John sang in the Chapel Choir, while Esther sang in A Cappella Choir and played violin in the Manchester Symphony and Strings Orchestra. Their daughters also took part in the music program.

Esther Rinehart Hamer giving a piano recital as a student at Manchester in 1950.

Esther said the COVID-19 pandemic has strengthened her appreciation for music in worship. “We want to maintain singing and instrumental music as we return to worship in our sanctuaries. I hope the Music Department will also enhance worship experiences.”

The Hamers’ gift is designed to help future Manchester students find balance and enjoyment through music. It also reflects their commitment to the liberal arts. “We value a liberal arts education because it supports a mentality that many things in the world are important and we shouldn’t narrow our thinking and our lives to one specific area,” Esther said.

That is precisely why the Church of the Brethren founded Manchester, along with its other colleges. “They wanted students exposed to comprehensive ideas while at the same time thinking about how faith impacted these ideas,” she said.

“The Hamer family has a rich history of philanthropy that spans many years at Manchester,” said Melanie Harmon, vice president of Advancement. “Their generous bequest will have a lasting impact on our outstanding music program and enrich the lives of current and future students for generations.”

Because it is an endowed fund, the principal will remain invested, with the earnings intended to secure the professorship in perpetuity.

“This endowed professorship will help keep our liberal arts foundation strong,” said president Dave McFadden. “We are overwhelmed by their generosity.”

Anne Gregory is assistant director of the Office of Strategic Communications at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind. Find out more about the history of Lassa fever at Find out more about the music program at Manchester University at


5) Sonja Griffith resigns from leadership of Western Plains District

Sonja Sherfy Griffith has resigned as district executive minister of the Church of the Brethren’s Western Plains District, effective March 31. She has been district executive for 11 years, starting in the half-time position on Jan. 1, 2010. She has served as a bi-vocational minister, carrying out duties as pastor of First Central Church of the Brethren in Kansas City, Kan., a position she has held for the past 23 years.

During her years as a member of the Council of District Executives she served on the Gifts Discernment and Ministry Issues Committees. In addition to previous roles on the district level, she also was active on the Cross-Cultural Ministries Team of the denomination and was awarded the Revelation 7:9 Diversity Award in 2011 recognizing her as one of those who helped found the Intercultural Consultation. She was host pastor of the first consultation, held in 1999. She served on the Annual Conference study committee that prepared the 2018 Statement on Vitality and Viability and on the committee that prepared the 1972 Resolution on Abortion.

Prior to her career in ministry, she worked as a public health nurse and college nursing faculty member for more than 30 years. In that field she founded a home health aide program in Florida and worked as a home health aide director in Winchester, Mass.

She holds degrees from McPherson (Kan.) College, University of Kansas School of Nursing, University of Minnesota, and St. Paul School of Theology, and completed the Training in Ministry program of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership.

6) Replogle, Liu are promoted from interim to staff positions with the Church of the Brethren

Two interim employees–Shawn Flory Replogle and Pauline Liu–have been promoted to staff positions with the Church of the Brethren.

Replogle has accepted the position of executive director of Organizational Resources for Finance. He began on an interim basis on April 13, 2020. He holds degrees from Bridgewater (Va.) College, Bethany Theological Seminary, and Friends University, and is founder/executive director of a consulting business called Matchlight Organization Development. He was moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in 2010 and has served the denomination on the Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee, as a Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) worker, a workcamp coordinator, and coordinator of National Youth Conference. He is an ordained minister and has pastored churches in Iowa and Kansas. He will continue to work remotely from his home in Kansas and from the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

Liu has accepted a position coordinating volunteers for Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS). She began in the position on an interim basis on July 20, 2020. Prior to that assignment she worked as BVS orientation assistant for three months this past summer, beginning May 18, and from 2018-2019 served as a BVS volunteer at a L’Arche community in Kilkenny, Ireland. She is a graduate of the University of Colorado and has been working toward a master’s degree in Educational Psychology for Counseling-Student Affairs at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. She will continue to work remotely from her home in Colorado, planning to eventually work from the General Offices.

7) Brethren bits

Remembrance: Curtis W. Dubble, 98, a former moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, died Dec. 28 at Brethren Village in Lititz, Pa. He was an ordained minister and pastored congregations in Ohio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, retiring in 1998. His leadership in the Church of the Brethren denomination included service as moderator of Annual Conference in 1990, during which time he had the unique opportunity of visiting the White House to express the church’s opposition to covert operations, meeting with William Working, then senior director for the Intelligence Programs of the National Security Council. Another key event during his moderatorship was his participation in an ecumenical laying-on-of-hands service for people with AIDS and AIDS caregivers at the Washington (D.C.) Cathedral. Prior to his term as moderator, Dubble spent a term on the former General Board in the late 1970s and early 1980s, serving as chair for three of the five years. He served on the Bethany Seminary board in 1973-1978. He also co-chaired the Adventure in Mission program for the denomination and participated in the Annual Conference mission philosophy study committee in the early 1980s. In 1991 with his late wife, Anna Mary, he spent a year as volunteer staff for family ministry in the former Parish Ministries Commission of the General Board. In 2011, he was one of the featured speakers for National Older Adult Conference (NOAC), interviewed onstage by Dr. David Fuchs. He was born in 1922 in rural Lebanon County, Pa., and grew up in the Heidelberg congregation near Myerstown. He was a conscientious objector during World War II, doing Civilian Public Service at Camp Kane in Pennsylvania and as a dairy tester in New Jersey. He held degrees from Elizabethtown (Pa.) College (1949) and Bethany Theological Seminary in Chicago (1952) and was granted an honorary doctor of divinity from Elizabethtown (1974). He married Anna Mary Forney in 1944. She passed away in 2003. He is survived by daughters Sharon Dubble, Cindy Dubble, and Peentz (Connie) Dubble, and granddaughters. A memorial service will be scheduled at a later date. Memorial gifts are received to the Good Samaritan Fund at Brethren Village. Find a full obituary at

Remembrance: Fay Reese, 73, former employee of the New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center (later the Zigler Hospitality Center) on the campus of the Brethren Service Center, died Jan. 7 after an extended illness. She began her employment with the Church of the Brethren as a housekeeper at the New Windsor Conference Center in 2000. Eventually moving to a position as assistant cook, she continued working at the Zigler Hospitality Center until it closed on April 30, 2017. Her husband, W. Thomas Reese, died in 2011. She is survived by sons Marty T. (Jill) Reese, Ronald R. (Annette) Reese, and Eric D. (Michele) Reese, all of Johnsville, Md.; grandchildren and a great grandson. The family will receive friends at Hartzler Funeral Home in Union Bridge, Md., from 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 10. Wearing of masks and social distancing will be in effect. A full obituary is at

Nate Hosler, director of the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, has reported that he and his family and his office staff are alright and unharmed following the violent events of Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C. He also reported that Washington City Church of the Brethren is unharmed. The church, located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, hosts the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy and also a childcare center.

Prayer is requested for Modesto (Calif.) Church of the Brethren following a fatal police shooting of an unarmed man on its property on Dec. 29. The shooting has garnered media attention from the local newspaper, the Modesto Bee, and was picked up this week by the New York Times. The Jan. 5 article in the Modesto Bee was titled, “Man shot by officer outside Modesto church was not armed, police say” and included a police body-can video of the tragic incident. Find the Modesto Bee report at Find the Jan. 7 article from the New York Times at

Effective Jan. 4, the address and telephone number for the Church of the Brethren’s Southern Pennsylvania District has changed to 3375 Carlisle Rd, Suite A, Gardners, PA 17324; 717-778-2264. The district’s email addresses remain the same for district executive minister William Waugh and district office manager Carolyn Jones. The district will no longer have a fax number.

A round-up of excerpts from prayers, reflections, and statements about the violent attack on the US Congress, shared by Church of the Brethren pastors and congregations, Brethren-related organizations, and ecumenical partners:

“A prayer for troubled times” by Bobbi Dykema, pastor of First Church of the Brethren, Springfield, Ill.:

“God of all humanity and all creation, you call us to ‘do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.’ Help us to remember that we must balance justice with mercy and temper mercy with justice; to hold those who do harm accountable but not seek revenge, and to always humbly seek your wisdom in discerning this balance. Help us to remember that you love both perpetrators of harm and those who have been harmed, and help us to pray for all concerned. Remind us that you are our refuge and strength, and grant us your peace that passes understanding to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Keep us free from all anxiety as we both take good care of ourselves and continue to serve you peacefully, simply, together. In the name of the Crucified One, we pray. Amen.”

From “On this night of violence” (Jan. 6), a communication from the pastoral team at Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren:

“This afternoon and tonight we have seen images that have shocked us and scared us. We have seen how deep the fractures are in our country. We know the very real feelings of fear, anger, and dismay. No matter our political preference, our calls to pray and act as followers of Jesus are as clear as ever…. In these days of deep division in our land we cannot help but consider the gifts of prayer and action that we can offer to this one we know as Emmanuel. First, we come to God in prayer, asking forgiveness for our feelings of moral and intellectual superiority, courage to enter the fray, and tenderness to speak candidly and kindly. We yearn to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12), even as we lovingly seek the transformation of our enemies. Next, we continue our labor that is a life of witness so that all of God’s people may live in shalom, free of terror. This witness lives when we honor our commitments to practice peace, service, and openness to all…” (

From an invitation to a “Special Daily Prayer Gathering for the United States of America” hosted by Living Stream Church of the Brethren:

“As the crisis in the United States Capitol unfolded, the Living Stream Church of the Brethren began a time of daily prayer for the nation. We have also made a commitment to be in prayer every evening until the inauguration of the new president and vice president on Jan. 20. Join us for a half-hour of prayer beginning at 5 p.m. (Pacific time)…. Log into the Zoom prayer meeting by clicking the prayer meeting link on the Living Stream Church of the Brethren website at We are inviting people from all across the denomination to join us. Please invite everyone that you know.”

From “Response to Mob Violence in Washington, D.C.” (Jan. 8), a statement of the board of Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests:

“…The storming of the Capitol building was an unholy act not because the building itself is sacred, but because this assault on Congress was a blatant and offensive expression of white supremacy. The abundance of Confederate battle flags, as well as flags conflating Jesus and Trump, that were paraded throughout the national building reflect a dangerous ideology about power and the state that our Anabaptist tradition has historically and rightly rejected. The contrast between the police response to this attempted coup and their response to Black Lives Matter protesters just months ago was yet another disturbing reminder of how American institutions continue to serve and preserve white power.… As people who have been shaped by the history and experience of Anabaptists, we are aware of the limitations of state institutions and the need to carefully examine our complicity with structures of violence and harm. Our call in this time is to build a future that truly respects marginalized people. Thus, our plea for peace includes a serious examination of the many ways that we and our churches have been complicit with the practices of white supremacy, as well as a recommitment to the work of racial justice and healing…” (

From “NCC Statement on the Mob Attack of the US Capitol” (Jan. 6), issued by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA:

“…Chaos reigns, guns have been drawn, and our democracy is under siege. This is outrageous, unacceptable, shameful, and a disgrace…. While we support nonviolent protests, and have often organized and participated in them, demonstrators desecrating the Capitol and disrupting our fair democratic process cannot be tolerated or go unpunished. All who have been involved in today’s riots, those who participated as well as those who have incited this violence, must be held accountable. ‘NCC staff, who work across the street from the Capitol, are safe and secure, although we are outraged and heartbroken at these drastic turn of events,’ stated Jim Winkler, NCC President and General Secretary. ‘We are keenly aware from our own experience that what is taking place is a profound breakdown in security and is beyond anything we have ever seen before.’… We are particularly disturbed by and aware that the votes that are being contested are those that have been legally cast by Black and Brown people in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. These actions have proven once again that the vestiges of racism and white supremacy are still affecting and infecting our democracy. We must increase our efforts to end the scourge on our society, which not only impacts people of color but is detrimental to democracy itself. In the midst of the violent attack on the Capitol, we are grieved to learn someone lost their life. We mourn her death and we pray no one else will be injured…” (

From “Open Letter to Vice President Pence, Members of Congress, and the Cabinet Calling for the Removal of President Trump from Office” (Jan. 8), signed by 24 leaders of major Christian denominations across the United States including the Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), AME Zion Church, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Alliance of Baptists, Reformed Church in America, Armenian Orthodox, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Conference of National Black Churches, and more:

“Our faith instructs us to take seriously positions of leadership, not to lead others astray and to be careful about what we say and do. In Philippians 2:3-4 we are taught to, ‘Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.’… For the good of the nation, so that we might end the current horror and prepare the way for binding up the nation’s wounds, we, as leaders of the member communions of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC), believe the time has come for the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, to resign his position immediately. If he is unwilling to resign, we urge you to exercise the options provided by our democratic system. In addition, we recognize the need to hold responsible not only those who invaded the Capitol, but also those who supported and/or promoted the President’s false claims about the election, or made their own false accusations. We grieve for our country at this difficult time and continue to pray for the safety and security, and ultimately the healing of our nation” (

From “WCC Condemns Violence Threatening USA, Stands with Churches on Path to Peace” (Jan. 6), a statement by Ioan Sauca, interim general secretary of the World Council of Churches:

“The World Council of Churches is following the latest developments in the United States of America with grave and mounting concern. The divisive populist politics of recent years have unleashed forces that threaten the foundations of democracy in the United States and–to the extent that it represents an example to other countries–in the wider world. Accordingly, these developments have implications far beyond domestic American politics and are of serious international concern. The WCC urges those responsible for today’s violence to desist and to return to civil discourse and established democratic processes. We call on all parties to resist short-term political interests and to act in a manner responsible to others and accountable to the wider society. We pray that the churches of America be empowered with wisdom and strength to provide leadership through this crisis, and on the path of peace, reconciliation, and justice” (

The WCC also published an online round-up of statements and reports from church leaders across the United States 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, Shamek Cardona, Bobbi Dykema, Jan Fischer Bachman, Anne Gregory, Cynthia Griffiths, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, John Jantzi, Wendy McFadden, Nancy Miner, Nate Hosler, 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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