Newsline for May 14, 2021

1) Most Brethren camps are planning to be ‘in-person’ this summer

2) BFIA grants go to three more churches

3) Hillcrest School issues statement about former principal

4) Churches for Middle East Peace condemns violence in Jerusalem

5) Walt Wiltschek to serve as Illinois and Wisconsin District executive minister

6) Brethren bits: Remembering Ernie Bolz, continued prayer for India and Venezuela, Bermudian Church of the Brethren history, Southern Ohio and Kentucky District offers virtual camping, On Earth Peace webinars, Laszakovitz sermon chosen for El Camino collection

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

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1) Most Brethren camps are planning to be ‘in-person’ this summer

By Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

“In person” is the mode for most Church of the Brethren camps this summer. Representatives of several of the camps reported on their planning for the 2021 season in a recent Zoom meeting of the Outdoor Ministries Association, chaired by Gene Hollenberg with Linetta Ballew as vice-chair.

Barry LeNoir of Camp Bethel in Virginia reported having to grapple with changing state guidelines, as did others on the call. Virginia is one of the states issuing new guidance and COVID protocols to allow overnight camps this summer in light of the availability of vaccines and lower numbers of cases and deaths from the disease.

The Outdoor Ministries Association Zoom meeting on April. 26

Camp representatives talked about a variety of COVID mitigation measures that may help keep campers safe. Each camp is making its own plan. Examples of what different camps are doing based on CDC guidelines, the American Camp Association Field Guide, and varying state and local regulations: requiring staff and counselors to be vaccinated, COVID-19 screening such as quarantines or negative test results before arrival, reducing numbers of campers and staff, shortened schedules, social distancing, separating campers into small-group “bubbles,” requiring face masks, keeping cabins open to the air and ventilated, setting up dining tents, and using other means to do as much as possible outdoors.

Outdoors is better, they all agreed. Camp Pine Lake in Iowa is even asking for donations of pup tents so that campers and counselors don’t have to sleep in cabins.

Some camps, such as Camp Placid in Tennessee, already have been hosting retreat groups or longterm rentals this spring. Others, such as Shepherd’s Spring in Maryland, are offering day camps as well as overnight camps this year, in order to reach more campers. Shepherd’s Spring is planning a few weeks of day camps for inner-city children from Hagerstown, Md., in addition to several weeks of overnight camps, said Zane Garrett. This fall, he also anticipates a good turnout of school groups and retreat groups.

Camp Pine Lake is taking another tack to reassure families who have concerns about camper health and safety. Taking advantage of having a number of small cabins, children up through fifth grade will bring a parent to bunk with for a shortened camp experience, reported Barbara Wise Lewczak.

Camp Brethren Heights in Michigan is making a covenant with campers to either quarantine for two weeks or get a negative COVID-19 test before arrival. The camp is renting a large tent for outdoor dining, limiting cabin capacity to 50 percent, and keeping cabin doors and windows open. “We’re a rustic, outdoor camp,” said Randall Westfall. “Let’s be rustic outdoors!”

At Brethren Woods in Virginia, Ballew reported plans for a slightly reduced camp season, from the usual six weeks to four. The first overnight camp is scheduled to start two weeks after school is out, to allow time for children to quarantine.

Camp Blue Diamond in Pennsylvania is planning just as many camping weeks as usual, but holding fewer camps each week, said Dean and Jerri Wenger. In another protective measure, the camp installed a new hand-washing station outside the lodge. In addition to the summer camping season, and the school groups that they have already started hosting this spring, Blue Diamond will be the site for this year’s Song and Story Fest, the annual Church of the Brethren family camp co-sponsored by On Earth Peace.

Camp Bethel is getting help to ventilate its cabins this summer from “DIY air filters” that are being assembled by volunteer teams with items and supplies purchased by supporters of the camp. Shown here is a volunteer team assembling one of the 19 box fan air filters during a workday on April 3.

The explanation tag that the camp hangs on each reads:
Camp Bethel Box-Fan Air-Filter
Place on floor, fan blowing UP, in center of room or cabin.
On high, this unit filters 900 cubic feet of air per minute and entire room in 3 minutes; 5 minutes on low.
These MERV-13 filters are 85% efficient in removing airborne droplets. COVID-19 can only be airborne inside wet or dried respiratory particles 1 micrometer or larger.
Weather permitting, open screened windows and doors while in this room.
Turn off the fan when you leave this room.
Replace these filters after Oct. 3, 2021.

A video about the “DIY air filter” is at

In addition to looking ahead to the summer, the OMA meeting also looked back at what the pandemic has done to camps across the denomination. Surprisingly, it was not all bad news. “We survived 2020,” said LeNoir. “We kept all our staff. We begged for money. Some 60 percent of our income was from gifts.”

Camp Emmaus in Illinois also has survived financially through the generosity of donors, but is having to increase camp registration fees this year to pay for the expenses of meeting CDC and county re-opening guidelines.

Camp Alexander Mack in Indiana used the slowdown in 2020 to carry out some $800,000 worth of improvement projects including a new health center, and is planning a robust summer camping season. Although the camp’s pandemic protocols have put off some retreat groups that canceled–because they didn’t want to wear masks, for example–the camp is starting to receive reservations from school groups for this May and June.

Similarly, Camp Koinonia in Washington State used this past year to accomplish “a bunch of projects,” said Kevin Eichhorn. The projects were carried out with donations and the work of volunteers. The camp has been hosting interfaith groups as well, he reported.

At Camp Colorado, Bud Taylor reported that the pandemic has been a good opportunity “to just slow down.” He anticipates a good camping season this year. “The kids want to come. The counselors want to come.”

A continuing problem for all the camps, however? Recruiting enough counselors for this summer season.

For a listing of all the Church of the Brethren-related camps, with their websites and other contact information, go to

2) BFIA grants go to three more churches

Three more churches have received grants from the Brethren Faith in Action (BFIA) fund. This fund gives grants to Church of the Brethren congregations and camps in the United States, using money generated by the sale of the upper campus of the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.

Antelope Park Church of the Brethren in Lincoln, Neb., received $1,250 to expand its outreach ministry to the neighborhood and ways the community may use its property. Community children already play and bike in the parking lot and play basketball on a court set up by the church, and community members admire the garden run by Community Crops and cared for by members of the church. Improvements funded by this grant will include a peace sign, additional play facilities for children, benches and tables around the parking lot, new signs for the church building, and a community “free pantry” on the property. In addition, the church is planning educational events and community discussions about topics such as racial justice and healthy cooking.

Dupont (Ohio) Church of the Brethren received $5,000 to turn an oxbow creek on the congregation’s wilderness camp into a 1.5-acre pond. The church was given a 26-acre wilderness camp with woods, three miles of trails, a sports field, an oxbow creek, a conference center, and a chapel with a deck that overlooks the creek. The congregation’s outreach ministry at the property, named Fresh Encounter Woods, will include baptisms, outdoor services, nature walks, devotional time, and outdoor recreation. The renovations to the pond will include dredging the creek, clearing fallen trees and logs, placing stones around the pond, and landscaping including an irrigation fountain and waterfall. Cost is estimated to be $10,500.

Pleasant Hill (Ohio) Church of the Brethren received $5,000 to purchase video equipment to stream worship and enhance capacity to take its ministries virtual. Pleasant Hill has been streaming worship services on Facebook since Spring 2020, drawing individuals and families from beyond the church’s geographic area. Grant funds will purchase better film and sound equipment to strengthen the church’s online presence. Pleasant Hill applied for and was granted a matching fund waiver.

For more about the fund and how to apply for grants go to

3) Hillcrest School issues statement about former principal

Hillcrest School in Jos, Nigeria, has issued a statement about former principal James McDowell’s admission of having molested students. He was principal from 1974-1984. He made the admission in a Facebook post on April 15.

McDowell was not a Church of the Brethren mission worker. He worked for one of the other missions, known as cooperating bodies, that participated in the board of the school. During his tenure, there were children of Church of the Brethren mission families attending Hillcrest.

An April 16 statement on the school’s blogsite, signed by Hillcrest superintendent Anne Lucasse and board chair John Brown, said in part: “We are working with the Child Safety Protection Network (an international organization, of which Hillcrest is a member, dedicated to the safeguarding of students), members of the Board of Governors, Mr. McDowell’s mission and current Hillcrest Administration to address the issue of Mr. McDowell’s past abuse of students.

“Hillcrest actively works to protect our students from any abuse. Since January 2015, Hillcrest has implemented and robustly used our Student Protection policy and protocols to: guard our students from threats of abuse, teach our students what abuse is and how, no matter how old they are, to fight against any abuse, and support teachers from false claims. We are committed to act with transparency and accountability.”

A group of alumni is calling for McDowell to turn himself in to local authorities where he lives in Canada.

Hillcrest was founded by the Church of the Brethren as a mission school in 1942. By 1955 it had become an ecumenical endeavor as several other mission groups joined in. Today it is an international Christian school, owned and operated by a board of governors representing the cooperating bodies involved.

4) Churches for Middle East Peace Condemns Violence in Jerusalem

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” Psalm 122:6

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) has issued a statement condemning the violence in Jerusalem and calling for the Biden administration to intervene immediately. The Church of the Brethren is a member organization of CMEP. The statement, from May 10, 2021, follows:

Churches for Middle East Peace logo with dove and olive leaf

Over the past several days we have seen a sharp increase in violence in Jerusalem including assaults against Muslims worshipping at al-Aqsa Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, a violation of religious freedom. On Monday, May 10, 2021, during Jerusalem Day events, Israeli police forces used rubber bullets, stun grenades, and tear gas canisters against Muslim worshipers at the al-Aqsa mosque. Orthodox Israeli participants attempted to break into the compound through locked gates. Per the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, 331 Palestinians were injured, 250 of whom were hospitalized. With tensions escalating by the hour, rockets have been launched from Gaza toward Jerusalem with Hamas publicly taking responsibility. Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) calls for an immediate cessation of all violence and condemns these acts of aggression targeting civilians.
Over the past few days, Israeli police have also attacked peaceful Palestinian protestors in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian families face impending eviction and forcible transfer at the hands of Israeli settlers. Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) denounces the violent actions in Jerusalem and calls on the U.S. State Department and Secretary Blinken to immediately intervene with the Israeli government to stop the aggression toward Palestinians, many of whom are observing Ramadan, and to put an immediate and permanent end to eviction threats against Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

The evictions in East Jerusalem are not an anomaly; they are part of a larger and systematic effort to displace Palestinians. Over the past several decades we have seen a significant increase in de facto annexation, with Palestinians expelled from their homes throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, to make way for expanded illegal Israeli settlements. The continued hold on de jure annexation has not lessened the threats faced by Palestinians as evidenced by the situation in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, another East Jerusalem neighborhood, where several families face eviction orders.

Kyle Cristofalo, CMEP’s Senior Director of Advocacy and Government Relations, said: “The Biden Administration has consistently said human rights and rule of law will be at the center of U.S. foreign policy. We call on the Administration to move beyond statements that fail to address how the current situation stems from the ongoing occupation and the systematic power imbalance. The U.S. cannot play a positive role in helping to bring a peaceful end to the conflict in Israel/Palestine where all people living in the land are treated equally and with respect unless we can acknowledge the primary drivers of the ongoing occupation and use diplomatic pressure to help to bring about its end.”

CMEP calls on the Biden Administration to:

  • Publicly declare that Israeli settlements are illegal and that the U.S. opposes all settlement activity, including in occupied East Jerusalem.
  • Intervene directly with the Israeli Government to ensure the cancellation of all pending eviction orders in East Jerusalem immediately.  
  • Support Congresswoman Betty McCollum’s (MN) legislation, HR 2590, which calls for greater transparency on how U.S. security assistance to Israel is used, specifically seeking to ensure U.S. taxpayer funds are not used to abuse Palestinian children, annex Palestinian land, or demolish Palestinian homes. 

CMEP’s Executive Director, Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, said: “We stand strongly in support of a prosperous future for all in Jerusalem and throughout Israel/Palestine, where all who live in the land called Holy—Israelis and Palestinians alike—have their rights protected and can live in peace. We condemn all violence, the ongoing occupation of the Palestinian people, and the conditions which have led to the injury and death of Israelis and Palestinians in the last week.” 

Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is a coalition of 30 national church communions and organizations, including Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Evangelical traditions that works to encourage US policies that actively promote a comprehensive resolution to conflicts in the Middle East with a focus on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. CMEP works to mobilize US Christians to embrace a holistic perspective and to be advocates of equality, human rights, security, and justice for Israelis, Palestinians, and all people of the Middle East.


5) Walt Wiltschek to serve as Illinois and Wisconsin District executive minister

The Church of the Brethren’s Illinois and Wisconsin District has called Walt Wiltschek to serve as district executive minister. He will begin in this half-time position on Sept. 1, planning to relocate to the district in November.

An ordained minister, Wiltschek currently is pastor of Easton (Md.) Church of the Brethren as well as an academic advisor at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills, Md., and is a member of the district ministry interviewing task team. He also chairs the Camp Mardela board of directors. Over the years, he has given much volunteer time to youth ministry and camping, having participated in the ministries of many of the Church of the Brethren camps.

He currently serves the denomination as at-large editor for the Church of the Brethren’s Messenger magazine, in a part-time contract position. He was editor of the magazine from January 2004 to Feb. 1, 2010, after having been director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. He worked on the denomination’s communications staff for more than 10 years, beginning in August 1999. During his tenure on the denominational staff, he was seconded several times to assist with communications at large events of the World Council of Churches. More recently, he also briefly worked in communications for the Mennonite Church USA.

From 2010-2016 he held the position of university chaplain and director of Church Relations for Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind.

In previous work, he was associate pastor of Westminster (Md.) Church of the Brethren, program director for Camp Eder in Fairfield, Pa., and a sports copy editor and staff writer for the York (Pa.) Daily Record.

Wiltschek holds a bachelor of science degree in secondary education/mathematics from York College of Pennsylvania; a master of arts in communications and journalism/media from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill.; a certificate of biblical studies from Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Harrisonburg, Va.; and a master of arts in religion with a concentration in education and youth ministry from Lancaster (Pa.) Theological Seminary.

6) Brethren bits

Remembrance: Ernest (Ernie) Bolz, 77, of Wenatchee, Wash., a retired pastor who served on the former General Board of the Church of the Brethren, died on May 4 in a hiking accident in Oregon. He pastored three congregations, most recently Ellisforde Church of the Brethren in Tonasket, Wash. His term of service on the General Board ended in 1999. The accident happened when Bolz “was hiking the Rogue River Trail in southern Oregon with his good friend Dean Hiser,” said an email from Debbie Roberts, a leader in the Church of the Brethren’s Pacific Northwest District. “They were three days into a six-day hike when Ernie stepped on a weak area of the trail and it gave way…. Ernie was a pastor, friend, and so much more to many of us, and we will be in grief and shock for some time. Our prayers go out to Sharon, and their two children, Justina, and Chris, as well as his extended family, church families, district contacts, and all who loved him.” A memorial service will likely take place in late June in Tonasket. The Ellisforde congregation will remember him in worship this coming Sunday, May 16. Social distancing and the wearing of face masks will be required.

Continued prayer for India and Venezuela:


Prayer is requested for the Church of the Brethren in Venezuela, where the health system has been overrun by COVID-19. Many church members have had or currently have COVID, including Robert Anzoategui, president of the denomination.

The Venezuelan Brethren are paying tribute to Obed Rincón, principal clarinetist, saxophonist, and flutist for the Brethren Band. Rincón passed away from COVID-19. Anzoategui sent the following tribute to Church of the Brethren Global Mission staff:

Nuestro Dios ha llamado a nuestro Hermano Obed Rincón a las filas de la gran orquesta celestial dónde su Saxo, flauta y clarinete sonarán eternamente. agradecemos el haber contado entre nosotros a este exelente músico, gran amigo, compañero y cristiano ejemplar. Apocalipsis 14:13: “Y oí una voz del cielo que decía: Escribe: ‘Bienaventurados los muertos que de aquí en adelante mueren en el Señor.’ Sí–dice el Espíritu–para que descansen de sus trabajos, porque sus obras van con ellos.”

Our God has called our brother Obed Rincón to the lines of the great celestial orchestra where his sax, flute, and clarinet will sound eternally. We are grateful for having counted among ourselves this excellent musician, great friend, companion, and exemplar Christian. Revelation 14:13: “I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord.’ Yes, says the Spirit, they will rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.”


A prayer request for church members in India and their relatives living here in the United States has been shared by the Illinois and Wisconsin District office. “We have certainly heard on the news of the increasingly difficult situation in India due to the fast spread of the virus there, so we know what a concern this is,” said the prayer request. “Let us pray for the whole situation.” The specific prayer request from the district is for the family of Vivek Solanky, licensed minister at Naperville (Ill.) Church of the Brethren, whose sister and brother-in-law in Gujarat, India, have contracted COVID-19 and have been hospitalized in two different hospitals.

Bermudian Church of the Brethren’s history is told in a blogpost titled “A tour in pictures of remote and beautiful western York County.” The post published by the York Daily Record includes stories and photos from a tour of the area with 99-year-old Glenn Julius, focused on the relationship of York County’s Seventh Day Baptists, a settlement emerging from the Ephrata Cloister, and a congregation known today as Bermudian Church of the Brethren. “The story of the farmworker shows how two groups coming to America in the 1700s to, in part, escape religious persecution could work things out, while living near each other in a remote part of York County. They formed a community, a membership, that exists to this day…. The two groups eventually intermarried and the Seventh Day Baptist group became part of Bermudian Church of the Brethren by about 1820.” Read the story and see the photos at

Southern Ohio and Kentucky District’s Camping and Retreat Ministries have opened registration for the summer camp season, which will be virtual and online. “Everyone can come to camp from the safety of their homes,” said an announcement. “No masks are required on the Zoom connections. It will be great to see friends and have an exciting time together learning about God’s creation and ways we can build up our communities.”

A special camp being offered this summer is the College and Careers Camp for those who are out of high school and in college or newly in the workforce. This virtual camp will meet at 7 p.m. (Eastern time) on Tuesday evenings to “give campers a place to discuss God’s leading in their lives. Together we will explore how choices we are making impact creation. By gathering together, campers can reflect on daily ups and downs or changes being faced. Self-expression will be encouraged with water colors, clay, crafts, and creative writing. This new and very special camp will have fun finding the fascinating ways creation is speaking to us.” Find more information on the district website at

On Earth Peace is holding a 90-minute webinar offering an introduction to Kingian Nonviolence on Saturday, May 15, at 12 noon (Eastern time). Participants are invited to “meet others interested in Kingian Nonviolence, build Beloved Community, and connect with On Earth Peace’s Kingian Nonviolence Learning Action Community,” said an announcement. The webinar will cover the four pillars of Kingian Nonviolence, initial introduction to the six principles and six steps–the “Will” and the “Skill” of Kingian Nonviolence–and the social dynamics of Kingian Nonviolence. Register at

On Earth Peace also is jointly sponsoring a webinar with the Good Shepherd Collective and the Hebron Defense Committee on Saturday, May 15, at 3 p.m. (Eastern time) or 11 p.m. “Palestinian time.” The webinar titled “Hebron: In Between Restriction and Resistance” will hear from Hisham Sharbati of the Hebron Defense Committee, reporting on “the situation in Hebron, the restrictions in area H2, and the activists’ work on the ground,” said an announcement. “Together we will discuss how the situation in Hebron is linked politically and economically to the US and how people across the world can get engaged in solidarity work.” Go to

Greg Davidson Laszakovitz, an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren, has had a sermon selected for inclusion in a collection on immigration. The collection, called “El Camino,” or “the way” in English, has been published by Sojourners. The collection is described as “sermons on the way to a robust engagement with immigrant justice.” Laszakovitz’s sermon titled “Philoxenia vs. Xenophobia,” was preached at Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren last year. “There are dozens and dozens of scriptures in our Bible that talk about the love of the stranger and how we are to treat people, even people who are different from us. It’s at the beginning of the Bible, it’s at the end of the Bible, and it runs throughout the Bible…. We know that these compassionate scriptures are rooted in the experience of God’s people because God’s people were often the foreigners and the outsiders themselves,” said an excerpt. Go to

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 Linetta Ballew, Jeff Boshart, Barbara Daté, Stan Dueck, Andrea Garnett, Steve Gregory, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Gene Hollenberg, Greg Davidson Laszakovitz, Barry LeNoir, Eric Miller, Debbie Roberts, 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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