Newsline for May 21, 2021

1) Brethren Volunteer Service reaffirms statement on racism

2) Church members are invited to sign up to pray for Annual Conference 2021

3) Global Food Initiative grants go to projects in Nigeria, Ecuador, Uganda, US

4) Material Resources program seeks more donations of disaster relief kits

5) Bethany Seminary receives Lilly Endowment planning grant to bolster antiracism initiatives

6) Norman and Carol Spicher Waggy conclude interim assignment in Global Mission

7) David Shetler to retire from leadership of Southern Ohio and Kentucky District

8) Shine offers new Sunday school curriculum resources

9) ‘Thinking Theologically with Our Hands’ webinar to take place June 13
10) Song and Story Fest 2021 to be in-person at Camp Blue Diamond

11) Paul’s prayer for the ‘Big Meeting’

12) Brethren bits: Correction, remembering Mary Catherine Dowery and Bernice (Brandt) Pence, prayer concerns from Nigeria and India, music groups rehearse at the General Offices, Tennessee’s oldest Church of the Brethren is reopening, the Annual Conference mug, and more

Quote of the week:

“Almighty and Everlasting God: Our days are in your hands; we lift up all those in the Holy Land who are victims of violence and injustice, that you might empower your Church to bring healing to the wounded, relief to the suffering, and comfort to those who mourn; we pray also that you would soften the hearts of all those involved in the recent conflicts, that they would be led to work for justice and lasting peace in the land where your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, first came to bring hope and abundant life to all people; these things we ask in his Holy Name. Amen.”

— A prayer by Diocese of Jerusalem Archbishop Hosam Naoum, offered with an invitation to Christians around the world to join him in praying for Palestine and Israel. Read more at

A note to readers: As many congregations return to in-person worship, we want to update our listing of Churches of the Brethren that will continue to offer online worship. If your church’s entry at needs to be updated, please send the new information to

Landing page of Church of the Brethren COVID 19 related resources and information:

Church of the Brethren congregations offering online worship in English and other languages:
*Spanish/bilingual; **Haitian Kreyol/bilingual; ***Arabic/bilingual
*español/bilingüe, **kreyol haitiano/bilingüe, ***عربي / ثنائي اللغة

Lifting up Brethren who are active in health care:

Send information about churches to be added to the listing of online worship offerings to

Add a person to the list of Brethren active in health care by sending first name, county, and state to

1) Brethren Volunteer Service reaffirms statement on racism

A release from BVS

“As a ministry of the Church of the Brethren, BVS has been the hands and feet of Jesus by advocating justice, working for peace, serving human need, and caring for creation for more than 70 years. The horrific recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and a long list of others before them, has brought further attention to the oppression of and violence towards our black brothers and sisters and demands that we continue to be Christ’s hand and feet by advocating justice today. BVS stands firmly that Black lives matter and that racism is sin. As a BVS community, how are we using our voices to advocate justice in this time? We confess that we have been silent during times that marginalized communities have suffered and that our silence has made us complicit in giving power to white oppression. We repent of these sins and commit to increasing our listening, education, and dialogue about anti-racism. While working to understand how we perpetuate systemic racism, we will purposefully create space to amplify black and brown voices during our orientations and in our office as a staff. Micah 6:8 says, ‘And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ May it be so.”

The above statement was released on June 19, 2020. In November of 2020, BVS was asked to take the statement down temporarily because some of the language was offensive to members of the Church of the Brethren. In the spirit of the 2009 Annual Conference statement “A Structural Framework for Dealing with Strongly Controversial Issues,” BVS staff took time to work at mutual understanding, doing much research, listening, and learning. After reviewing Annual Conference statements, referencing the newly adopted Mission and Ministry Board Strategic Plan, and in light of events that have occurred since its initial release, BVS staff feels the need to restate its stance on racism and recommit itself to working towards healing racism.

Brethren Volunteer Service has been devoted to peace witness for over 70 years. According to the 1991 Annual Conference statement “Peacemaking: The Calling of God’s People in History,” “[t]housands of today’s Brethren point to their BVS experiences as turning points in their lives.” The ideas of what should be included in peace witness have changed since 1948, with the same 1991 statement stating that “[o]ver time, the church grew in its understanding of peace. Peace is not only the opposite of war, it is the presence of justice in a world where pervasive and systemic injustice prohibits peace.” That same 1991 statement states that our “role as communities of God’s peace may include…raising prophetic voices that challenge injustice.” Based on this call from the 1991 statement, along with the 1977 Annual Conference statement “Justice and Nonviolence” call to “become aware of the rampant injustice and subtle hidden violence in today’s world, examine our own involvement, and identify non-violently with the oppressed and suffering,” BVS recognizes the importance of stating firmly that Black lives matter and that racism is sin.

Based on 2 Chronicles 7:14, we are called to humble ourselves, and “pray and seek [God’s] face and turn from [our] wicked ways.” The 2009 revision of the Annual Conference statement “A Structural Framework for Dealing with Strongly Controversial Issues” provides guidance on how to engage with each other when there are “deep differences among us” to “work for mutual understanding.” We are called to understand our role in racism through the 1991 Annual Conference “Report of [the] Committee on Brethren and Black Americans,” particularly the call to “make strong commitments” when inequity is discovered and to “stand in solidarity with [B]lack Americans.” The 2007 Annual Conference statement “Separate No More” calls on Annual Conference agencies to require “intercultural orientation/education for staff and program volunteers” and to “[e]stablish a discernment process during hiring which considers candidates’ intercultural competence,” both of which BVS recommits to in the above statement.

Find the BVS statement on racism and the above release online at

2) Church members are invited to sign up to pray for Annual Conference 2021

From the Annual Conference prayer coordinators

Prayer is already an important part of our preparation for and participation in all Annual Conference events. This year, however, we are seeking to blanket the entire event in prayer…morning to night. The 2021 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference takes place as a virtual, online event on Wednesday through Sunday, June 30-July 4.

Below, find the link to sign up to pray. Call your friends, make announcements at church, include the information in your bulletins so that others can sign up, too. The link below will take you to a webpage where you can choose a day and a portion of that day to hold Annual Conference in prayer.

You will be asked to provide your name and contact information. Only the prayer coordinators will be able to see your information.

Go to

— Lidia Gonzalez and Karen Cassell are the prayer coordinators for Annual Conference 2021. For more information about the Conference, go to

2020 Annual Conference Logo
The logo for Annual Conference 2021. Art by Timothy Botts

3) Global Food Initiative grants go to projects in Nigeria, Ecuador, Uganda, US

The Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Initiative (GFI) has announced grants to support agriculture and food security projects in four countries including a soybean project in Nigeria, a food crops project in Ecuador, a maize mill project in Uganda, and two community gardens in the US.


A grant of $17,000 has been given to the Soybean Value Chain Project of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Out of that amount, $15,000 supports EYN’s agriculture staff as part of the denomination’s Integrated Community Based Development Program (ICBDP).

The remaining $2,000 provides an honorarium to Dennis Thompson, who has been consulting and providing training visits in Nigeria as well as connecting the project to a pan-African program of the Feed the Future Initiative of US AID’s Soybean Innovation Lab.

Plans for the project in 2021 include quality seed multiplication, support of 15 volunteer extension agents, training on soybean processing for women, advocacy for soybean production, processing and marketing soybeans within EYN and beyond, and a 10 percent administration fee for EYN’s general operating costs.


A grant of $11,000 has gone to a food crops project of La Fundación Brethren y Unida (FBU, the United and Brethren Foundation). The project is part of a strategic plan to address financial stability after much of FBU’s income–typically generated by school and university groups who take short courses at the FBU center–disappeared during the pandemic.

A recent hailstorm and flooding have hampered efforts, causing crop loss and damage to irrigation systems. This grant will accompany a $15,000 grant allocation from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to help with repairs. Total damage to farm and buildings is estimated at $30,000 with FBU contributing $5,000.


A grant of $5,000 is given to a maize mill project of the fledgling Church of the Brethren in Uganda. The grant will be used to purchase a grain mill, construct a structure to house the mill, and cover one year of start-up and operational costs. The mill will support the church’s work with five communities in Kasese District, reaching 500 participants with a focus on the most vulnerable including widows, orphan-led households, and the elderly.

Participants will receive training in the production of maize flour food items along with micro-financing to purchase seed and fertilizer. The mill also will be available for a fee to community members who are not direct recipients of trainings or micro-finance, which will help support other ministries of the church.

United States

A grant of $3,000 supports the garden advocate/casual labor fund of Capstone 118, a community garden in New Orleans, La. Capstone 118 is an outreach project of the Church of the Brethren’s Southern Plains District, which is providing matching funds. In 2018, Capstone began using the “Casual Labor Fund” idea put in place by other community gardens. The change was necessary due in part to the high rate of part-time employee turn-over.

A grant of $1,500 has gone to Springfield (Ill.) First Church of the Brethren for a community garden associated with the church and neighborhood. The garden grows fresh produce for a feeding program for Harvard Park Elementary School students in partnership with a local nonprofit, Compass for Kids. The grant will help fund a stipend for a garden advocate to organize volunteers and reach out to community families, and will help pay for seeds and tools.

Find out more about the Global Food Initiative at

4) Material Resources program seeks more donations of disaster relief kits

The Church of the Brethren’s Material Resources director Loretta Wolf has issued a plea for more donations of Church World Service (CWS) disaster relief kits. The Material Resources staff process, warehouse, and ship disaster relief materials and other goods working out of the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.

Wolf is asking for “donations in any way possible…. We have very little on hand to process and the needs continue. School kits and clean-up kits are especially needed.”

School kits offer children affected by disasters the supplies they need to continue their school work including notebooks, pencils, crayons, and more.

Clean-up kits, called “emergency clean-up buckets” by CWS because they are packed in five-gallon plastic buckets, include the common cleaning supplies needed by disaster survivors to clean up their homes following incidents such as hurricanes and floods.

Material Resources staff prepare to ships pallets of CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets. Photo by Terry Goodger

Find detailed information about how to assemble the various CWS kits at Please send or deliver donated kits to the Brethren Service Center using this address: CWS, Brethren Service Center, 601 Main St., P.O. Box 188, New Windsor, MD 21776-0188. For more information call Material Resources at 410-635-8795.

5) Bethany Seminary receives Lilly Endowment planning grant to bolster antiracism initiatives

By Jonathan Graham

Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., has received a $50,000 planning grant from the Lilly Endowment, which will bolster ongoing efforts to provide students with robust intercultural and antiracist learning opportunities. The grant was issued as part of the endowment’s Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative, a three-phase initiative that will provide a total of $87.5 million in funding to theological schools across the United States and Canada. The program is designed to help members of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) “strengthen and sustain their capacities to prepare and support pastoral leaders for Christian churches–primarily ordained pastoral leaders and secondarily congregational lay ministers.”

“We are honored and grateful to be part of Lilly Endowment’s visionary effort to prepare pastoral ministers for the challenges of a rapidly changing world,” says president Jeff Carter. “Over the past year, it has become clear that Bethany must do much more to further the cause of racial justice. This grant will provide us crucial support as we better understand how we can prepare our students to be antiracist pastors and to see how the difficulties of the present time align with our mission.”

Bethany plans to use the grant to hire consultants who will make recommendations about how the institution’s curriculum and policies can better support the seminary’s antiracist aspirations, and also provide ongoing professional development for faculty and staff. This initial grant will help the institution prepare to apply for the second and third phases of the program, which will award seven-figure grants through a competitive process in 2021 and 2022.

Courtney Hess, assistant to the president for strategic initiatives, says that this grant opportunity comes at a fortuitous time for the seminary. “Our students have asked us to broaden the range of experiences and perspectives they will encounter at Bethany, particularly with regard to race. As a predominantly white institution, it is incumbent on us to carefully examine our approach to theological education and ministry preparation as we seek to better prepare our students to engage in antiracist ministry. This grant will be used to support our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion–so that the world flourishes.”

— Jonathan Graham is director of Marketing and Communications at Bethany Theological Seminary. Find out more about the seminary at


6) Norman and Carol Spicher Waggy conclude interim assignment in Global Mission

Norman and Carol Spicher Waggy have concluded an interim assignment as directors of Global Mission for the Church of the Brethren, as of May 14. They served in the position on a part-time basis starting March 2, 2020.

During their 14 months directing the Global Mission office, their work included the development of country advisory teams, facilitation of gatherings of the Global Church of the Brethren Communion via Zoom, and continuation of the work of living into the denomination’s Global Mission philosophy–all while navigating the challenges of a global pandemic. They also were speakers for a Moderator’s Town Hall webinar about the global church. Most recently, they provided orientation and transitional support for incoming executive directors of Global Mission, Eric Miller and Ruoxia Li.

The Waggys worked remotely from their home in Goshen, Ind., where they are members of Rock Run Church of the Brethren, and from the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

7) David Shetler to retire from leadership of Southern Ohio and Kentucky District

David Shetler has announced his retirement as executive minister of the Church of the Brethren’s Southern Ohio and Kentucky District, as of Dec. 31. He has served in leadership of the district for 11 years, since Jan. 1, 2011.

His district tenure included the sale of Camp Woodland Altars and the ensuing establishment of several endowment funds that continue to support district and congregational ministries. A number of new commissions and task teams were formed to carry out district ministries under his leadership.

During his years as a member of the Council of District Executives he served as secretary and executive committee member and represented the council on the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board 2014-2018 and on the denomination’s Leadership Team 2016-2018. He was a member of the Ministry Advisory Council that assisted in producing the 2014 Ministerial Leadership polity paper of Annual Conference and he also contributed to the writing of the 2017 report “Authority of Annual Conference Regarding Accountability of Ministers, Congregations, and Districts.”

An ordained minister with more than 40 years of service in the church, he previously filled pastorates in Shenandoah District and Western Pennsylvania District as well as Southern Ohio and Kentucky District. He was employed by Everence Financial as field representative/financial advisor/church relations 2006-2010. He was director of Admissions and Student Development at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., from October 1996 to June 2003.

Shetler holds a master of arts in Religion degree from Eastern Mennonite Seminary, with an emphasis in historical and theological studies, and a bachelor of arts in Philosophy and Religion and Business Administration from Bridgewater (Va.) College.


8) Shine offers new Sunday school curriculum resources

“You told us that you’d like a choice, so we’re offering both print and digital teaching resources this fall,” said an announcement from Brethren Press and the Shine curriculum produced jointly with MennoMedia.

The curriculum is seeking help to estimate how many congregations will want print resources as well as digital resources for Sunday school classes starting this fall. “If you can place your order early–by June 30–we’ll be better able to set a print quantity that’s just right,” said the announcement. “You can still order later, but there might be a delay in filling print orders.”

Student resources continue to be print only. Teacher books and other resources are available in digital format.

In addition, Shine is offering a brand-new, non-dated, digital curriculum called Current, meant to serve the whole church. “Bring children, youth, and adults together in worship and learning!” said an announcement. The first unit of Current is on the topic “Seeking Justice Together,” exploring biblical justice and wholeness for humanity and all of God’s creation.

New for Fall 2021

Shine’s new Teaching Kits are available in both print and digital formats. Teaching kits include a teacher’s guide, illustrated story pictures or “Follow the Story” cards, and full-color teaching posters. When ordering, choose the desired format (print or digital), add student materials, story Bibles, and music CDs. Extra print teacher guides are available to purchase as “add ons” after purchasing a print teaching kit.

New age groupings are a result of surveys in which Shine staff learned that congregations may be planning to combine some early childhood classes. The curriculum has adjusted by regrouping materials. For Fall 2021, the age categories are Pre-K to Kindergarten, Elementary (grades 1-5), and Junior Youth (grades 6-8).

All Together: God’s Story For You & Me is new for the fall, with Bible stories that are central in the Shine curriculum. This Bible storybook is the source of each session’s Bible story for elementary-age students for the 2021-2022 curriculum year. Order one for each student and teacher.

Shine at Home for Fall 2021 is a streamlined version of the weekly sessions for families to do at home. These weekly mini-sessions help children and families explore the Bible story if the congregation is not offering in-person Sunday school. Purchase a downloadable PDF and email it to all the families in the congregation.

Go to to purchase the Fall 2021 resources from Shine and to support the publishing ministry of the Church of the Brethren.


This new non-dated, digital curriculum is intended for congregations to use in intergenerational gatherings as well as the separate age groups. It is suitable for summer, mid-week, or special events at any time of the year. Current offers age-appropriate sessions for preschoolers, elementary-aged children, youth, adults, intergenerational groups, and also includes resources for worship.

The first unit of Current is on the topic “Seeking Justice Together,” exploring biblical justice and wholeness for humanity and all of God’s creation. It is available as a comprehensive bundle for the whole church, but age levels and worship resources also are sold separately.

Go to to purchase Current resources from Shine and to support the publishing ministry of the Church of the Brethren.


9) ‘Thinking Theologically with Our Hands’ webinar to take place June 13

By Erika Clary

“Thinking Theologically with Our Hands,” a virtual webinar featuring MaryAnn McKibben Dana, will be presented by the Church of the Brethren’s Youth and Young Adult Ministries on June 13 from 5-6 p.m. (Eastern time). Registration is free, and ministers may earn .01 continuing education units through the Brethren Academy for $10.

It is both an exciting and nerve-wracking time to be engaged in ministry, especially for those who work with youth or young adults. Ministry may look nothing like what was imagined, and that was even before a global pandemic! In this webinar, McKibben Dana will guide participants in exploring faith formation through the lens of improvisation as holy work. Participants will learn practices for thriving in the midst of chaotic, unpredictable lives.

McKibben Dana is a writer, minister, speaker, and coach who lives in Virginia. When writing, she crafts books that she herself longs to read. She is a mother of three who loves to bake muffins, knit, and occasionally run a marathon. She considers herself to be a recovering perfectionist who likes her back-up plans to have back-up plans. With this in mind, she wrote God, Improv, and the Art of Living, which embraces improvisation as a spiritual and life practice.

Register at For more information, contact Becky Ullom Naugle, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, at

— Erika Clary will be serving as coordinator of National Youth Conference 2022, working through Brethren Volunteer Service.

10) Song and Story Fest 2021 to be in-person at Camp Blue Diamond

“We’re taking the leap and getting back together, in person at Camp Blue Diamond in beautiful central Pennsylvania! Won’t you join us!? We’ve got a great group of leaders coming and are looking to see you, too!” said an invitation to this year’s Song and Story Fest annual family camp–the event’s 25th.

This intergenerational camp for all ages features Church of the Brethren storytellers and musicians. Dates are July 4-10. The event is organized by director Ken Kline Smeltzer and co-sponsored by On Earth Peace.

The 2021 theme, “PRESENTE! Onward We Go, Together!” is “an affirmation that people shout out in a gathering of persons committed to continuing a transformational movement,” said the announcement. “It signals that those present physically and those who have passed on are still spiritually alive, active, and present. Through these pandemic and political times of turmoil, we invite you to be present and to reflect on being people of faith in these challenging struggles.”

Organizers are asking that all older teens and adults be vaccinated with at least one dose before attending the event. Request a registration brochure from Smeltzer at 814-571-0495 or Find out more at


11) Paul’s prayer for the ‘Big Meeting’

By Paul Mundey, moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference

As we approach Annual Conference, many voices are clamoring, and rightfully so. The church is truly the church as multiple tribes and dialects and tongues “speak into” the meaning of faithfulness and obedience to the one true God (Revelation 7:9-17).

In that vein, I wondered: beyond our voices, what might a biblical voice say? In particular, the voice of the Apostle Paul? What follows is an attempt to capture the voice of that “other Paul,” based on his words to the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 1, and his words to the church in Ephesus in Ephesians 3.


From Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…to [the Church of the Brethren] to those…who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord…. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!


I always thank my God for you because of the grace of God that was given to you in Christ Jesus…. God is faithful, by whom you were called into fellowship with his son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Divisions in the church

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree together, to end your divisions, and to be united by the same mind and purpose. For [your moderator, brother Paul Mundey] has made it clear to me…that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each of you is saying, [“I am with the Conservatives,” or “I am with the Progressives,” or “I am with the ‘born Brethren,’” or “I am with ‘new Brethren.’”]. Is Christ divided?…. For Christ [did not send me to “do my own thing” or to be partisan,] but to preach the gospel–and not with clever speech, so that the cross of Christ would not become useless.

The message of the cross

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will thwart the cleverness of the intelligent.” …Has God not made the wisdom of the world foolish?… For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

[As you approach your Annual Conference] think about the circumstances of your call, brothers and sisters…. God chose what is low and despised in the world…so that no one can boast in his presence. He is the reason you have a relationship with Christ Jesus…so…as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:1-31 NET, adapted).

And so, bow down to the mighty God in Christ. Exit your “echo chamber” and surrender your partisan bias, proclaiming supreme loyalty to God and the ministry of his one and only Son, Jesus. “Fear God with a childlike heart,” to quote one of your patriarchs, Alexander Mack, Sr. “Contemplate all his commandments day and night; keep them with a pure heart, let them be thy counselors, and pray continually for the Holy Spirit, who will guide thee into…all truth.” (Carl Bowman. Brethren Society: The Cultural Transformation of a “Peculiar People.” Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1995. p. 27.)

Paul’s prayer

And so, as you approach your “Big Meeting,” “I pray that according to the wealth of [God’s] glory he will grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, that Christ will dwell in your hearts through faith, so that…you will be able…to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you will be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power that is working within us is able to do far beyond all that we ask or think, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:16-21 NET).

— Paul Mundey is serving as moderator of the 2021 Annual Conference, to take place as a virtual, online-only event on June 30-July 4. Find out more and register at

12) Brethren bits

Correction: The editor apologizes for misspelling Greg Davidson Laszakovits’ name in the May 14 issue of Newsline.

Remembrance: Mary Catherine Dowery, 88, a former long‐time employee of the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., died on May 11 in Union Bridge, Md. She began her work for the Church of the Brethren in 1966 as a clothing sorter and packer. In 1982, she became workgroup supervisor and was the first person donors and volunteers met on their arrival at the center. She later served as waitress for evening and weekend banquets at Zigler Hall. She retired in 1996 after 30 years of service. Born May 9, 1933, in Frederick, Md., she was the daughter of the late Mary Thomas. She was the wife of Elwood M. Dowery Sr., who died in 2003. She was a member of the Gospel Spreading Church of God and the M & Ms (Modern and Mature) at Union Bridge Church of the Brethren. Surviving are children Deborah Owens and husband Thomas of Westminster, Janet Dowery of Mt. Airy, Carter Thomas of Columbia, S.C., and Jeffrey Dowery and wife Teresa of Union Bridge; grandchildren and great grandchildren. A funeral service was held on May 17 at Hartzler Funeral Home in Union Bridge. A full obituary is available at‐

Remembrance: Bernice Maurine (Brandt) Pence, 94, who served with the Church of the Brethren in Germany following World War II, died at Hillcrest Retirement Community in La Verne, Calif., on Jan. 17, with family at her side. She was born to Jesse and Kathryn (Bomberger) Brandt on June 24, 1926, in Pomona, Calif., and grew up in La Verne. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Music from La Verne College (now University of La Verne), graduating in 1947. While there, she met Gerald W. Pence to whom she was married for 72 years. After spending two years in Germany on a service assignment for the Brethren Service Commission, she taught elementary school in southern California including 20 years at Roynon School. She was a lifelong member of La Verne Church of the Brethren where she taught Sunday school, sang in the choir and co-directed the Children’s Choir, and played the piano and organ for summer worship, weddings, and memorial services, often accompanying her husband as a baritone soloist. She is survived by her husband; children Christine Meek (Jack), Dena Pence, Jeffrey Pence (Debra), and Kimberly Salazar (Frank); grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Memorial gifts are received for La Verne Church of the Brethren. Find a full obituary at

“Our NYAC 2021 service project will be a diaper drive through the National Diaper Bank Network. Even if you cannot attend NYAC, you can still donate to the drive!” said an announcement from Becky Ullom Naugle, director of the Church of the Brethren’s Youth and Young Adult Ministries. Donations can be made at

National Young Adult Conference (NYAC) will be held as a virtual, online-only event on May 28-31. It offers people ages 18 to 35 a chance to enjoy fellowship, worship, recreation, Bible study, service projects, and more. This year’s theme is “Unfolding Grace” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). The registration fee is $75. Register and find out more at
This winter and spring, the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., has been hosting music rehearsals of several different ensembles of the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra (EYSO). “Because of the pandemic, their normal rehearsal spaces were unavailable,” said Shawn Flory Replogle, executive director of Organizational Resources for the denomination. “Since our building was closed to the public, and the rehearsals were in the evenings, I made space available for the small groups to meet and rehearse. It provided the added benefit of the offices getting to support some other local nonprofits.”

This month and next, the building will host more rehearsals of EYSO ensembles as well as rehearsals of the Chicago Brass Band (shown above). The latter is planning a “thank you” concert in June as an outdoor event for Church of the Brethren staff and their families as well as the General Offices neighborhood, taking place on the front patio of the building where a large lawn space will accommodate a socially distanced audience.

Photo by Shawn Flory Replogle

A prayer concern for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) has been shared by Zakariya Musa, EYN head of Media. “Pray for EYN as it mourns the death of one of its young pastors, Rev. Bulus Zamdai, who was killed by unknown gunmen at his residence in Gombi local government area in Adamawa State.”

Continued prayer is requested for India, where COVID-19 death rates continue to climb. Sanjay Malaviya of the Church of North India (CNI) this week communicated with former staff of the Church of the Brethren Global Mission office to share prayer concerns. CNI is one of the Church of the Brethren’s two partner denominations in India. Concerns include an astronomic rise in cases of COVID-19, the overwhelming of the health care system, acute shortages of hospital beds, medicines, medical oxygen, and healthcare professionals, multiplied by challenges in the responses of state and federal governments, as well as many more deaths than are being acknowledged or reported by the government and resulting overwhelming of crematoriums. “According to a local newspaper, while officially approximately 4,100 people died in Gujarat, about 130,000 death certificates were issued during last 2 months,” he wrote. “The Christian community has been really hit hard. A large number of believers got infected and many lost lives…. This is very painful as in many households more than one member has died. Children have been left orphaned, or parents have lost a child or children even. Many families have lost the chief bread-earner. The CNI Gujarat Diocese has been deeply pained and grieved as it has lost 11 pastors and 3 missionaries till now in the second wave…. One of the beautiful and heartwarming things that I experienced during this terrifying situation is that most people were ready to provide help and did their best to be of help.”

— Tennessee’s oldest Church of the Brethren is reopening, according to an article in the Blue Mountain Eagle. The church operated in Hawkins County for nearly 200 years before closing in 2015 because of a loss of membership. “Cedar Grove Church of the Brethren, 297 Hickory Cove Rd. near Rogersville, was founded in 1824 and originally congregated in an old log barn,” said the article. “The current church was built in the late 1800s has recently undergone a renovation thanks to Rev. Kristie Wilson and her husband/deacon Charles Wilson. He told the newspaper that the cemetery “has some headstones that are actually from the 1700s.” Kristie Wilson, who is a chaplain at Holston Valley Medical Center, is the new pastor of the church, and she and her husband are renovating the old building to serve a new congregation, with the approval of the district. She said, “It’s a good thing that this church stays alive and continues to thrive for the people. It is part of the history of this community and we want it to stay open for another 200 years. The world needs hope right now more than ever, and I really hope we can be that beacon of light for this community.” Read the article at

Hanging Rock Church of the Brethren in Augusta, W.Va., has joined in the USDA Food Box program. Pastor Robert “Bob” Combs Sr. was asked by another church to join in, and the West Marva District newsletter reported the story. “We decided to do this as it is a great community service for members of our community” said the article. “In the beginning, we were taking turns with pick-ups for each church, picking up the 2-3 skids for each church of 35-pound food boxes.” The boxes usually contain milk, yogurt, sour cream, potatoes, apples, meat balls, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, carrots, and onions, with some items varying each week, the article said. “At the food distribution before Easter, we received large slices of Smithfield Ham to pass out with Food Boxes.” The project is growing, and the church has now been approved by the USDA to begin receiving a tractor trailer load of food boxes for distribution to those in need.

Pre-orders are now being received for the official mug of the 2021 Annual Conference–this year a thermal mug featuring the Conference logo. Order from Brethren Press at
EYN head of Media, Zakariya Musa, reported that the annual meeting of the ministers’ wives was held May 18‐21 at the EYN Headquarters, Kwarhi, Nigeria. The meeting included 146 new members whose husbands were ordained in 2019, 2020, and 2021. They “were welcomed to the fellowship by the EYN leadership in a celebrated moment on Thursday,” he wrote. “The annual meeting could not be held in 2020 due to the global pandemic, which paused many activities until this year.”

Western Plains District has published “a HUGE shout-out to The Cedars” in its newsletter. The Church of the Brethren retirement community in McPherson, Kan., donated 240 COVID-19 testing kits to the district camps for use this summer. “These kits are one way that we are able to open up both Camp Colorado and Camp Mt. Hermon and keep our campers and staff as safe as possible,” the newsletter said.

The Witness Commission of the Northern Plains District Board has joined Team Feed to help end hunger, said the district newsletter. “We’d like to challenge the district to raise $1,000 for Feeding America by district conference in August. No one should go without a meal, yet Feeding America estimates over 50 million people in America will face hunger this year. We created this fundraiser to help provide these much-needed meals to our neighbors through the Feeding America network of food banks and we’re asking you to join us in our cause.”

Shenandoah District has reported on preparations for a long-awaited return to an in-person disaster auction this weekend. “It has been two long years since the Brethren gathered at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds to enjoy one another’s company and take home livestock, quilts, plants, crafts, pies, and miscellaneous auction finds. Sadly, COVID-19 kept the auction from happening in 2020, but there are great reasons to celebrate this year.” An anonymous donor will match the money raised at the two-day auction on May 21-22. “The committee anticipates that with the auction this year, the overall amount raised should top $5 million.” The event will be held in person, with COVID-19 protocols in place including face masks.

Information about a 2021 Climate Ride has been shared by Illinois and Wisconsin District. “The Climate Ride is an initiative of the Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions, and is part of an effort to engage Anabaptist congregations in conversations about climate change,” said the announcement from Mark Lancaster, pastor of Good Shepherd Church of the Brethren in Southern Ohio and Kentucky District. “Our group of 15 riders, plus leaders, is excited about the conversations they will have as they cross the country and learn from the experiences and perspectives of a wide variety of individuals and groups on this important issue…. Riders will stay overnight in a variety of Mennonite churches, campsites, and private homes along the way. We are hopeful that Church of the Brethren churches and members might be interested in joining the conversations.” Information about the ride and its route is at

In the newest episode of the Dunker Punks Podcast, Brethren Volunteer Service worker Evan Ulrich “continues to learn about what it means to love and serve as a Christian,” said an announcement. “Listen to hear more about the work of Brethren Disaster Ministries, the impact that volunteering has on your life and the lives of the people you work with, and how caring for others is not a partisan idea.” Listen at and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

The Global Women’s Project Steering Committee is extending thanks “to all of you who participated in our Mother’s Day Gratitude Project this year. With the generous donations you sent honoring and memorializing your mothers, spouses, sisters, daughters, women in your church family, church secretaries and other important women in your lives, we raised over $6,500–a record-breaking total for us!” The money raised will support partner projects in India, Rwanda, Mexico, Uganda, South Sudan, and Wabash, Ind.

Today is the 16th annual Endangered Species Day!” said an email from Creation Justice Ministries, a partner organization of the Church of the Brethren. “We have been given this incredible responsibility of caring for God’s creatures and creation and today is a great day to reflect on how we respond to that call…. Today, we are choosing to highlight a specific endangered species–the North Atlantic Right Whale. These whales are majestic creatures that live in the northern Atlantic ocean and contribute to the massive biodiversity of the ocean. Did you know that it is estimated that there are less than 400 of these whales left? Once we lose this critical creature, there is no going back. Their most critical threat is humans, and therefore we bear a responsibility to ensure they survive. One way you can help these whales is by sharing your support of the reinstatement of protections for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument at”
Find the organization’s Endangered Species Resource at

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) joined more than 50 other church leaders from North America and Europe in signing a letter calling on the UN Security Council to secure an immediate ceasefire to the violence in Israel and Palestine. The letter urged the council “to act immediately to address the continuing underlying causes of injustice that will otherwise remain a constant threat to peace in the Holy Land: occupation, land dispossession, displacement, and the withholding of basic human rights we take for granted.” The Church of the Brethren is one of the denominations participating in the CMEP coalition of 30 national church communions and organizations.

The National Council of Churches (NCC), as a core member of Faiths4Vaccines, has issued an invitation to “the largest multi-faith gathering to support equitable and far-reaching vaccine distribution in the United States.” The online “summit” called “Teach, Train & Traverse Local Contexts to Support Equitable Distribution” takes place Wednesday, May 26, at 1-4 p.m. (Eastern time). Faith leaders and faith-based organizations in attendance will receive training and empowerment to engage their communities to ensure equitable vaccine access and education for all, said the announcement. Representatives from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Ad Council will share how faith communities can decrease vaccine hesitancy. Register at

In related news, the NCC is asking congregations that hosted vaccination clinics to fill out a survey before Wednesday, May 26. Findings from the survey, titled “Faith Communities & Vaccine Administration in the USA,” will be shared at the Faiths4Vaccines event on May 26. Find the survey at

Information about how to get help with Internet expenses is shared by the National Council of Churches (NCC). “Accessing the internet at home is essential to attend school, work remotely, connect with our doctors, and stay updated on health and safety guidelines,” said the announcement of access to federal funds for those who meet the criteria during the pandemic. “If eligible, members of our congregations can receive: up to a $50/month discount on your broadband service and associated equipment rentals; up to a $75/month discount if your household is on qualifying Tribal lands; a one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer (with a co-payment of more than $10 but less than $50). More information is at

A World Council of Churches (WCC) webinar “Change in Moral Teaching–Exploring Continuity and Discontinuity” is offered May 27. It will examine historic examples of churches modifying or changing their understanding of a specific moral issue, said an announcement. Participants will be using Churches and Moral Discernment. Volume 2: Learning from History, a WCC Faith and Order publication in which expert historians, theologians, and ethicists examine the occasions for and the processes of change within church traditions. “Current tensions within and between churches are often the result of disagreements over moral issues,” said the announcement. “Churches thus face challenges to preserve unity and meet obstacles to restore unity. Seeing the urgency of the matter, the webinar is designed to assist churches in finding ways to deepen mutual understanding leading to dialogue.” It is the second in a series of three webinars on moral discernment. Speakers include Myriam Wijlens, University of Erfurt (Germany) (moderator); Morag Logan, Melbourne (Australia); Antigone Samellas, Athens (Greece); Dirk J. Smit, Stellenbosch University (South Africa) and Princeton Theological Seminary (US); Hermen Shastri, general secretary, Council of Churches of Malaysia; Bernd Oberdorfer, University of Augsburg (Germany). Register at Learn more about the series at

Jeffrey Clouser of Palmyra (Pa.) Church of the Brethren will receive the May Schwarz Award given to “a graduating student who show[s] outstanding potential for and commitment to the church’s music ministry” as he graduates with a master of arts degree in Church Music from Trinity Lutheran Seminary on Saturday, May 22. He serves as director of Music Ministries at the Palmyra Church, works as a special education para-educator for Lancaster‐Lebanon IU13, and, as time permits, sings with the Elizabethtown College Community Choir and serves as president of the Central Pennsylvania Handbell Festival.

Ellis and Rita Yoder of Monitor Church of the Brethren “are one of the six Kansas Master Farmer and Farm Homemaker couples to be recognized this year,” according to Kansas Farmer. In an article titled “Yoders grounded in respect for land, community,” the couple are lauded for their care for the family’s 120-year-old farm southwest of McPherson, Kan. “In 1985, Rita Lauer was working as the McPherson County Extension home economist when she met Ellis, and the two fell in love and started their lives together,” the article said. “Rita came from a farming family in nearby Dickinson County with its own history in the land. From the start, the couple knew they wanted to raise the fifth generation of Yoders on the homestead.” The couple are involved with the Growing Hope Globally organization, raising funds to assist farmers in need in other countries. They also have “spent the last 30 years incorporating no-till and regenerative agriculture practices into the farming operation…. ‘I’m looking down the road 50 years, when my son is my age,’ Ellis says. The goal is to have healthier soils so that their grandchildren will be able to continue the family’s ties to the land and the community.” Find the article at

Mikayla Davis of Mohrsville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren has been crowned the 2021-2022 Berks County dairy princess, according to Lancaster Farming. “She is the 20-year-old daughter of Michael and Angela Davis of Leesport,” the report said. “Her family lives on a small farmette where they raise Holstein heifers. Davis was a member of the Northern Berks 4-H Dairy Club for 10 years…. She is attending Penn State studying agribusiness.” 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 Jeff Boshart, Shamek Cardona, Karen Cassell, Erika Clary, Jeffrey Clouser, Jacob Crouse, Chris Douglas, Carol Elmore, Lidia Gonzalez, Jonathan Graham, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Jeff Lennard, Sanjay Malaviya, Nancy Miner, Paul Mundey, Zakariya Musa, Becky Ullom Naugle, Shawn Flory Replogle, Ken Kline Smeltzer, Kim Hill Smith, Emily Tyler, Roy Winter, Jay Wittmeyer, Loretta Wolf, 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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