Virtual National Older Adult Conference to offer keynote presentations, worship and Bible study, unique online gatherings

National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) is fully online this year. The dates are Sept. 6-10. The theme, “Overflowing with Hope,” is inspired by Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Christian Standard Bible).

Register at (For paper registration forms call 800-323-8039 ext. 303.) Registration costs $100 per person or $150 for a couple (spouse, friend, or relative). Registration provides access to all keynote presentations, worship services, Bible studies, workshops, virtual field trips, virtual “campfires” and “ice cream socials,” and recordings after the event.

All who register will receive an email with basic information about how to access NOAC events online, and by late August will receive a conference booklet in pdf format also via email. During NOAC, registrants will receive an email every morning with the schedule, login information, and links for that day.

A help line at 800-323-8039 will be available each day of the conference from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Eastern time) for questions or assistance to log in.

The NOAC 2021 schedule (all times Eastern)

Monday, Sept. 6

— 6:50 p.m. – Congregational singing, welcome, announcements, and NOAC News

— 7:30 p.m. – Worship with preacher Christy Dowdy

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, Sept. 7-9

— 8:20 a.m. – Congregational singing, welcome, and announcements

— 8:30-9:30 a.m. – Bible study led by Joel Kline

— 9:35 a.m. – Welcome, announcements, and NOAC News

— 9:45-11 a.m. – Keynote presentations: Karen González on Tuesday (with panel discussion to 12:05 p.m.); “From Trolleys to Tub: The History of NOAC News” on Wednesday; and a keynote presentation by Lisa Sharon Harper on Thursday (with panel discussion to 12:05 p.m.)

— 1:30-2:45 p.m. and 3:15-4:30 p.m. – Workshops and virtual field trips

— 6:50 p.m. – Congregational singing, welcome, announcements, and NOAC News

— 7:30 p.m. – Worship with preacher Paula Bowser on Tuesday; Andrew J. O. Wright on Wednesday; and Don Fitzkee on Thursday

— 8:30-10 p.m. – Virtual campfires and ice cream socials (online gatherings and reunions)

Friday, Sept. 10

— 8:50 a.m. – Congregational singing, welcome, announcements, and NOAC News

— 9:15-11 a.m. – Keynote presentation by Ken Medema and Ted Swartz

— 11:05 a.m. – Closing worship with preacher Eric Landram

Many of the NOAC events will be pre-recorded and streamed at the time indicated on the schedule. The live portions of NOAC are: the keynote presentations and panel discussions on Tuesday and Thursday; welcoming statements and announcements from coordinator Christy Waltersdorff and others before each Bible study, keynote presentation, and worship service; and closing remarks on Friday after worship.

Keynote presentations

Karen González will be the keynote speaker on Tuesday, Sept. 7, at 9:45 a.m. (Eastern time). González is a speaker, writer, and immigrant advocate who herself immigrated from Guatemala as a child. She is a former public school teacher and for the last 11 years a nonprofit professional, currently working for World Relief. She attended Fuller Theological Seminary, where she studied theology and missiology. Her book about her own immigration story and the many immigrants found in the Bible is titled The God Who Sees: Immigrants, The Bible, and the Journey to Belong (Herald Press, May 2019).

“From Trolleys to Tub: The History of NOAC News” is the keynote presentation on Wednesday Sept. 8, at 9:45 a.m. (Eastern time). This retrospective reviews the history of the ever-popular NOAC News humorous video segments produced by the Church of the Brethren videography team of David Sollenberger, Larry Glick, and Chris Brown.

Lisa Sharon Harper presents on Thursday, Sept. 9, at 9:45 a.m. (Eastern time). She leads trainings that increase clergy and community leaders’ capacity to organize people of faith toward a just world. A prolific speaker, writer, and activist, Harper is the founder and president of, a consulting group dedicated to shrinking the narrative gap by designing forums and experiences that bring common understanding, common commitment, and common action. She also has written several books and previously worked as the chief church engagement officer for the Sojourners community in Washington, D.C.

Ken Medema and Ted Swartz are the keynote presenters on Friday, Sept. 10, at 9:15 a.m. (Eastern time). They have been popular performers at National Youth Conference, Annual Conference, and past NOACs. Medema is a Christian musician, singer, and songwriter who, though blind from birth, has for four decades inspired people through storytelling and music. Swartz is a Mennonite playwright and actor whose performances touch the intersection of humor and the biblical story to unearth new understandings of scripture. He is executive director of the Center for Art, Humor, and Soul.

Worship and Bible study

Christy Dowdy preaches for the opening worship on Monday, Sept. 6, at 7:30 p.m. (Eastern time). Dowdy has been a pastor in the Church of the Brethren for 31 years. She co-pastored with her spouse, Dale Dowdy, for many of those years at Antelope Park Church of the Brethren in Lincoln, Neb., and Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon, Pa. Currently, she is an interim pastor at Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren.

Paula Bowser will bring the message on Tuesday, Sept. 7, at 7:30 p.m. (Eastern time). Bowser is a retired pastor from Englewood, Ohio, and a writer. She has written for Brethren Press, authoring two devotionals–The Word Made Flesh and Holy Manna–and two Covenant Bible Studies–Jonah and Women of the Hebrew Bible. She has worked as a high school English teacher, as a reporter, and as an ecumenical campus minister at Iowa State University.

Andrew J. O. Wright will preach on Wednesday, Sept. 8, at 7:30 p.m. (Eastern time). Born and raised in England, he was introduced to the Church of the Brethren and married his wife, Debi, while teaching at Hillcrest School in Nigeria. In the US, he pastored three congregations in southern Ohio before retiring in 2019, and now serves as an interim pastor. He also has had a career as a musician.

Don Fitzkee brings the message on Thursday, Sept. 8, at 7:30 p.m. (Eastern time). Fitzkee is pastor of worship at Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. He previously served for 20 years as a “free minister” and worked on the staff of COBYS Family Services. On the denominational level, he has chaired the Mission and Ministry Board and preached at the 2015 Annual Conference. He has written for Brethren Press and Messenger and is author of Moving Toward the Mainstream, a 20th century history of Atlantic Northeast District.

Closing worship at 9 a.m. (Eastern time) on Friday, Sept. 9, features Eric Landram, pastor of Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. He has preached for National Youth Conference in 2018 and National Young Adult Conference in 2016, and has been one of those planning worship for Young Adult Conferences. In addition to pastoring, he has worked for the state of Virginia serving those with severe mental illness.

Bible study is at 8:30-9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, led by Joel Kline. A retired Church of the Brethren minister, Kline most recently pastored Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill.

Karen González
Lisa Sharon Harper
Ken Medema
Ted Swartz

Workshops and virtual field trips

Each afternoon offers a choice of two workshops or virtual field trips.


Topics range from poetry and memoir writing to “Art in the Church,” “Viruses and Other Issues Infecting our Economy,” “Doing Well for Someone of My Age,” and many more. Find a full list at

Virtual field trips

— “Brethren Heritage Tour” led by David Sollenberger, and “Ephrata Cloister” led by Elizabeth Bertheud, on the afternoon of Tuesday, Sept. 7

— “Civilian Public Service and Plough Boys in China” led by Karen Dillon and Ivan Patterson, and “Global Food Initiative” led by Jeff Boshart, on the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 8

— “John Kline Homestead” led by Mike Hostetter, and “300th Anniversary Celebration” led by David Sollenberger, on the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 9

Find the online listing of field trips at

Virtual campfires, ice cream socials, gatherings, and reunions (8:30-10 p.m., Eastern time)

A popular feature of past NOACs has been the ice cream socials sponsored by Bethany Seminary and the church-related colleges and universities. This year, that tradition continues with the addition of a virtual campfire and camp reunions sponsored by the Outdoor Ministries Association. Although participants will have to supply their own ice cream, these virtual events will be an opportunity connect with school and camp friends in Zoom gatherings. Registrants will receive emails giving the links needed for each day.

“Virtual Campfire and Camp Reunions” sponsored by the Outdoor Ministries Association takes place on Monday night.

The Bethany Theological Seminary reunion will be Tuesday night.

On Wednesday night are college reunions for Bridgewater (Va.) College, Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., and McPherson (Kan.) College.

Thursday night college reunions will be held by Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, the University of La Verne, Calif., and Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind.

Find the schedule with a couple of fun videos at

Service projects

A virtual “Fundraising Walk Around the Lake” this year raises funds for the Emergency Disaster Fund and assists congregations that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Donations may be made online at

A Lake Junaluska Elementary School Book Drive will help Ira Hyde, school librarian, create a more culturally diverse library for children in grades K-5 in this low-income community. With help from Church of the Brethren volunteer Libby Kinsey, a list of suggested books has been created. Donate funds to purchase books at

NOAC online bookstore

Brethren Press is offering a special online NOAC bookstore at Among the new products is a commemorative NOAC News mug designed by artist Mitch Miller, on sale for $20 each.

Watch parties

NOAC organizers are encouraging people to join together with others in their congregations or retirement communities to participate in watch parties. If you want ideas for how to do this, contact NOAC coordinator Christy Waltersdorff at

The NOAC Planning Team includes Waltersdorff along with Glenn Bollinger, Karen Dillon, Jim Martinez, Rex Miller, Pat Roberts, Paula Ulrich, and Discipleship Ministries staff Josh Brockway and Stan Dueck.

For more information and to register go to


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