Brethren bits

— Correction: A remembrance for Ron Sider included in the last issue of Newsline neglected to include the previous name of the organization Sider is best known for founding: Evangelicals for Social Action. That organization is now known as Christians for Social Action.

— Galen Fitzkee is completing his year of service with Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) on Aug. 12. He has been serving as an associate with the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy in Washington, D.C. He will begin a new job as legislative associate for the Mennonite Central Committee National Peace and Justice Ministries Office.

— The Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) Summer Unit 331 is gathering for orientation at Camp Wilbur Stover in New Meadows, Idaho, from Aug. 9 through Aug. 17. “This is the largest in-person orientation group we’ve had since the pandemic,” reported Pauline Liu, coordinator of volunteers for BVS. “Ten volunteers, including five from EIRENE [a partner organization based in Germany]. The EIRENE volunteers, since our winter unit, have been able to get visas into the country. This is the first time orientation has been hosted at Camp Wilbur Stover.” For more information about BVS go to

— Taylor Peterson begins Aug. 13 as youth coordinator for the Church of the Brethren’s Northern Ohio District. She is from the North Bend congregation, has her teaching degree, substitute teaches, and works part-time at a hardware store.

— SERRV International has named Kate Doyle Betts as its new president and chief executive officer. She has held senior leadership roles in marketing, including 22 years with Williams-Sonoma in merchandise and inventory planning. A fair-trade organization founded by the Church of the Brethren 72 years ago, SERRV partners with 8,000 artisans in 24 countries in marketing craft and food products via eCommerce, catalog, and wholesale operations. It has office and warehouse facilities in Madison, Wis., and at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., as well as nearby Westminster, Md.

— Community Peacemaker Teams (CPT) has announced a new Palestine Delegation scheduled for Nov. 3-14, 2022. “Olive trees have always been symbols used to describe the resistance of Palestinians in their land, and the olive harvest season is the season that brings Palestinian families together and reminds them of the importance of defending their homeland,” said the announcement. “Join a CPT Palestine delegation to learn how the Israeli occupation makes the yearly harvest harder for these families, but also experience how Palestinians still find joy their lives in the H2 area and the South Hebron Hills.” The application deadline is Oct. 21. Go to

— A Climate Resilience Summit is being planned as an online event for Thursday, Aug. 18, at 5-8 p.m. (Eastern time) with sponsorship from Creation Justice Ministries, among others. Creation Justice Ministries originated with the National Council of Churches and is an ecumenical partner organization for the Church of the Brethren. Said an announcement: “The impact of climate change on our communities is no longer in doubt. We all feel these impacts in one way or another, be they from heat waves, wildfires, or floods. Often, our faith buoys us through these difficult times by providing food, shelter, or hope for a better tomorrow. But moving beyond reaction, how can faith communities be hubs of resilience, helping our neighbors weather the physical, social, and spiritual storms of the climate crisis? How do we plan and build a world in which the most vulnerable are not simply protected from these climate impacts, but empowered to thrive?” The evening will include panel discussions, workshops, and presentations from faith communities, academics, and government officials across the country. Among the featured speakers and panelists are Queen Quet, chieftess and head-of-state for the Gullah/Geechee Nation; Beth Norcross of the Center for Spirituality in Nature; Emily Wirzba of the Environmental Defense Fund; Miyuki Hino, assistant professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at UNC-Chapel Hill; with Rick Spinrad, administrator of the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA), giving the closing keynote address. Find a full schedule and register at

Annual Conference leadership held meetings at the Church of the Brethren General Offices this past week. The Program and Arrangements Committee including the Annual Conference officers met, as did the denomination’s Leadership Team, and the Worship Leadership Team for the upcoming 2023 Annual Conference.

Above: The Program and Arrangements Committee shown here in the chapel at the General Offices (from left): Beth Jarrett, Jacob Crouse, Conference secretary David Shumate, Nathan Hollenberg, moderator-elect Madalyn Metzger, moderator Tim McElwee, and Conference director Rhonda Pittman Gingrich.

Below: The Worship Leadership Team shown here in one of the General Offices courtyards (from left): Don Mitchell, David R. Miller, Beth Jarrett (chair and liaison from the Program and Arrangements Committee), and Laura Stone.

(Photos by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford)

In an update from Annual Conference, the total offering received for Girls Inc. of Omaha, the “Witness to the Host City,” now stands at $14,162.71. The offering included monetary donations received onsite and online as well as via mail in subsequent weeks, and onsite donations of material goods that filled three pallets to overflowing with backpacks, school and art supplies, games, sports equipment, hygiene supplies, clothing, and more. Read the Newsline article about Girls Inc. of Omaha and how the Annual Conference offering will help at

— On Earth Peace is offering a webinar on migrant justice, to take place online on Sept. 7 at 2 p.m. (Eastern time). “We will use this panel discussion and online conversation to fuse our efforts in helping those who risk their lives for a safe place to work and call home here in the US,” said an announcement. “This is an opportunity to connect with other advocates and activists to share local, regional, and national ideas. Have an opportunity to share what your church, organization, or you as an individual are doing around this issue that may strengthen our networks of advocacy.” Panelists include Sarah Towle, London-based US-American author, educator, podcaster, and presenter, whose forthcoming book is titled The First Solution: Tales of Humanity from the Borderlands, and who posts Witness Radio: Podcast about Immigration; Andrea Rudnik, a former teacher who helped found Team Brownsville in 2018, since then becoming one of the strongest humanitarian assistance groups in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas working to assist asylum seekers; Sandy Strauss, director of advocacy and ecumenical outreach for the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, and an active supporter of Shut Down Berks Coalition fighting to close the Berks County immigrant prison in Pennsylvania; and Tonya Wenger, co-founder of the Shut Down Berks Coalition working to close the Berks immigrant prison where ICE is imprisoning immigrant women as young as 18 years old. Register at and scroll down to the Sept. 7 event.

— The 26th annual Bike & Hike hosted by COBYS Family Services takes place Sunday afternoon, Sept. 11, at Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. “The signature components of the gathering continue,” said an announcement, “with this year’s festivities featuring a bigger and better Incredible Ice Cream Celebration!” The event “has raised more than two million dollars in its history. These funds provide critical care for children and families receiving services through the COBYS foster care, adoption, counseling, and family life education ministries.” This year, participants can choose from three modes of transportation and four routes: a 3-mile walk through Lititz, a 10- or 25-mile bicycle ride through Lancaster County scenery, and a 65-mile motorcycle ride circling the countryside around Lancaster. Individuals, families, and groups are encouraged to attend, gather sponsors, “or even just hang out at our Incredible Ice Cream Celebration to learn more about the ministries of COBYS while enjoying ice cream from Fox Meadows Creamery,” said the announcement. “People who have not participated before, or heard about COBYS and its services, are encouraged to attend, supporting vulnerable children and families in our community.” A full schedule of events can be found on the event website at, where registration is also available with a minimum donation of $25 before Sept. 5 or $30 after. Learn more about COBYS and the services it provides at

Photo of a previous year’s walking group at the COBYS Bike & Hike, courtesy of COBYS.

— “Violent Extremism, Radicalization, and Boko Haram” is the topic for a continuing education event sponsored by the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center (SVMC) on Oct. 19, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. hosted at Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon, Pa. Leading the event will be Amr Abdalla, scholar in residence at the Baker Institute at Juniata College. He is professor emeritus at the United Nations-mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica. He began his career as a prosecutor in Egypt’s National Security Office where he was a member of the public prosecutor team investigating the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, and numerous other terrorism cases. He then earned a doctorate in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, and embarked on a three-decade career of teaching, training, and research in the field of peace and conflict resolution worldwide. Cost is $37 for .55 continuing education units, or $27 without CEU credit. Lunch is included. Register at

— Carl Bowman, a Church of the Brethren sociologist and author, will be the speaker for the 53rd annual Dunker Church Service at Antietam Civil War battlefield. Special music will be provided by the Hagerstown (Md.) Men’s Chorus. The event takes place Sept. 18 at 3 p.m. For more information contact Ed Poling at

— “The Nature of It All: Visions, Dreams, and Greetings from Afar” is the title of a death row art show now open at Washington City (D.C.) Church of the Brethren in partnership with the Death Row Support Project (DRSP). Wrote DRSP’s Rachel Gross in a recent newsletter: “Over the last several years, I have been blessed by men on death row who have sent their artwork to me as a thank you for finding them a pen pal. Sadly, apart from an occasional opportunity to display the artwork, it has mostly been sitting in a box. That is, until this past year when DRSP writer Jessie Houff, community arts minister at the Washington City Church of the Brethren, agreed to create a display of that artwork. The timing was perfect as her congregation was in the process of repurposing part of their space to include an art gallery. On June 25, the gallery opened with death row artwork as the first display…. Through the next year, we hope the exhibit will travel to Church of the Brethren congregations. Please contact me if you are interested in hosting the exhibit!” To offer to host the traveling exhibit, email To arrange a time to visit the display in Washington, D.C., email For more information go to

— Registration is now open for the 2022 Christian Unity Gathering of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC). The gathering will take place Oct. 10-11. “Our virtual platform affords us the opportunity to tap into powerful voices from around the world,” said an announcement. “The virtual event also will facilitate increased attendance, provide scheduling flexibility, eliminate travel barriers, reduce the event’s carbon-footprint, and be more inclusive. The purpose of the Christian Unity Gathering is to give witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ, to demonstrate the churches’ visible unity, and to engage today’s church-dividing issues.” The theme for this year’s gathering is “The Challenge of Change: Serving a Never Changing Christ in an Ever-Changing World” (Isaiah 43:19 and 2 Corinthians 5:17). Speakers will include NCC interim president and general secretary Bishop Vashti McKenzie. The fee to attend on the Whova platform will be $25 per attendee. The recorded sessions will be available via Whova for future viewing. Register at

— A call to stop the war in Ukraine was heard by a delegation from the World Council of Churches (WCC), led by acting general secretary Ioan Sauca, when they visited the country in early August. They met with the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, as part of an effort to ensure the participation of Ukraine churches at the upcoming WCC assembly in Germany, said a WCC release. “During the Russian aggression, your initiative to visit is very important for us and the religious society of Ukraine,” said Marcos Hovhannisyan, bishop of the Ukrainian Diocese of Armenian Apostolic Church and chair of the Ukrainian Council. Members of the Ukrainian Council expressed their hope that the voice of the WCC and world churches will help stop the war in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Council represents 95 percent of religious communities in the country including Orthodox, Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Evangelical churches as well as Jewish and Muslim religious groups. Find the release at

— Dawn Blackmon, a minister at Champaign (Ill.) Church of the Brethren, was to be one of the first community leaders to receive a gardening tool made from guns in a week-long “Guns to Garden Tools” that started July 29, according to a report published by Illinois Newsroom. Hosting the event was the Randolph St. Community Gardens, where Blackmon is coordinator. The event was put on with the leadership of the Champaign-Urbana Interfaith Alliance and the Ministerial Alliance of Champaign-Urbana & Vicinity, and with involvement from Champaign Church of the Brethren, Champaign-Urbana Moms Demand Action, and the Central Illinois Mosque and Islamic Center (CIMIC) in Urbana. The blacksmith collective RAWTools based in Colorado and in the Mennonite tradition did the work of transforming guns into yard signs and shovels for distribution to various local gardens. Read more at

— A book by Church of the Brethren member Robert C. Johansen, Where the Evidence Leads: A Realistic Strategy for Peace and Human Security (Oxford University Press, 2021), will be the topic of a book symposium sponsored by the Kroc Institute on Aug. 25 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. He is professor emeritus at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. The hybrid event will be offered as a Zoom webinar and an in person event in the auditorium at the Hesburgh Center for International Studies. Said an announcement: “This full-day event will feature conversations between scholars, practitioners, and policymakers discussing alternatives to nationalist routes of ensuring sustainable security, peace, and flourishing for all humans.” Panelists include Bina D’Costa, senior fellow and professor of International Relations at the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, the Australian National University; Josefina Echavarría Alvarez, associate professor and director of the Peace Accords Matrix at the Kroc Institute; Peter Wallensteen who is the Richard G. Starmann Sr. Research Professor Emeritus of Peace Studies; Xabier Agirre, senior coordinator of the International Criminal Court; Raul F. Campusano, academic director of the Master of Environmental Law Program and professor of International Public Law at the University of Desarrollo Law School; Isis Nusair, associate professor of Women’s Studies and International Studies at Denison University; Alex Dukalskis, associate professor at the School of Politics and International Relations, University College Dublin; Richard Falk, theAlbert G. Milbank Professor of International Law and Practice, Emeritus, Princeton University; Mark Massoud, professor of Politics and Legal Studies and director of the Legal Studies Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz; among others. Registration is not required for in-person attendance but masks are strongly encouraged. Register to attend via Zoom at

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