Brethren bits

— Remembrance: E. Stanley Smith, 88, who served on the former General Board of the Church of the Brethren, passed away on March 12 at Timbercrest Senior Living Community in North Manchester, Ind. He was born in Shouyang, China, where his parents–Frances Jane Sheller and William Harlan Smith–were mission workers for the Church of the Brethren. He earned a degree from Manchester College in 1955 and went on to Bethany Seminary in Chicago, graduating in 1958. He was a pastor and served a combined 35 years in pastorates in Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana. He was a member of the General Board, the predecessor body to the current Mission and Ministry Board, from 1984 to 1989. He was married for 68 years to Jean Weaver Smith; they met as freshmen at Manchester College and were married on Memorial Day, 1953, at Manchester Church of the Brethren. He is survived by his wife, their children–Melea Smith, Michelle Brown, and Bret Smith–and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Memorial gifts are received to Timbercrest Senior Living, Heart-to-Heart Hospice of Ft. Wayne, Ind., and the Parkinson’s Foundation. A Celebration of Life service will be held later this Spring. A full obituary is posted at

— Remembrance: Gene G. Swords, 93, of Brethren Village in Lititz, Pa., who was a “seagoing cowboy” with Heifer Project following World War II, died on March 13. Born on Oct. 25, 1928, he was the son of the late Willard G. and Eva (Nolt) Swords Gingrich. When he was 17, he became one of the seagoing cowboys and helped to tend some 800 horses that were shipped to Czechoslovakia following World War II as a part of the Church of the Brethren Heifer Project (now Heifer International). He earned degrees from Elizabethtown (Pa.) College and Temple University. His professional career included teaching and working in school administration at the elementary school level for some 40 years. He was a lifelong member of Mountville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. His life’s work included performing music until a stroke in 2006. Over the decades, he sang with the Lancaster (Pa.) Opera Workshop and the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra Chorus. He celebrated 72 years of marriage with Barbara (Bowman) Swords on Aug. 26, 2021. He is survived by his wife, their children–Theodore (Donna Martin), Richard (Catherine Castner), Joanne (Siang Hua Wang), Jeanine (Marlin Houff), Robert (Elaine Zimmerman), Jeanette (Robert Beisel), and Judy (Mark Miller)–and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A service celebrating his life is planned for March 26 at 11 a.m. at Mountville Church of the Brethren. Memorial gifts are received to the Good Samaritan Fund at Brethren Village. For a full obituary go to

— Registration for the Summer 2022 FaithX season is still open. “We are offering middle school trips to Roanoke, Va., Harrisburg, Pa., Camp Mack in Milford, Ind., Lincoln, Neb,, and Winston-Salem, N.C. We are also excited to offer a trip for We Are Able hosted by Camp Swatara in Bethel, Pa., and a trip to Rwanda for any adult!” said an announcement from the FaithX office. For more information on this year’s exciting FaithX opportunities, find the schedule at Registration is open until April 1 at

— A video about the recent annual conference of ASIGLEH, the Church of the Brethren in Venezuela, is now online at Find a report about the conference as published in Newsline on March 11, at

— The latest issue of Brethren Disaster Ministries’ Bridges newsletter is now available to download from This Winter 2022 issue include information about Hurricane Florence long-term recovery, winter tornado response, volcano response in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Homes for Haiti, Nigeria Crisis Response update, Children’s Disaster Services news, and more.

— Atlantic Southeast District is requesting prayer for one of its congregations. “The building where the Orlando [Fla.] Haitian congregation meets caught fire during the night on Friday,” said an email from Vicki Ehret in the district office. “No one was in the building. No one was hurt. The electricity and water were turned off after the fire was put out.” She added that there was heavy smoke damage. Pastor Renel Exceus was to meet with the owner of the building. In the meantime, the congregation planned to meet at Camp Ithiel until more is known about their meeting site. Prayers are requested for pastor and congregation as they continue to worship and serve as they are able.

Southern Pennsylvania and Mid-Atlantic Districts are planning their 44th Annual Meat Canning Project for April 18-21.

— “Drones 101: A Webinar on the Human Cost of Remote Warfare” is offered by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) on Tuesday, March 22, at 12 noon (Eastern time). Said an announcement: “This webinar is an opportunity to hear directly from impacted communities; including a speaker from Yemen who will discuss the effects drone strikes have had there, and a U.S. Army veteran who will share how the U.S.’s use of drones affected him. Speakers will discuss armed drones, how they’re being used, what impact they’ve had, and why a growing number of religious organizations are working to ban or restrict their use.” The featured speakers are Bonyan Gamal, a lawyer based in Sana’a, Yemen, who is an Accountability and Redress officer at Mwatana for Human Rights; and Justin Yeary, an anti-war and anti-imperialist activist as well as a veteran of the US Army who served from 2014 until 2021 as a satellite communication operator. He was honorably discharged in March 2021 as a conscientious objector. Go to

— The World Council of Churches (WCC) has shared information about an online event discussed common solutions to protect children, particularly girls, in the critical context of climate change. It was co-hosted by the End Violence Against Children Partnership, of which the WCC is a member. “As a result of climate change, more girls fleeing from floods and droughts are exposed to trafficking and sexual exploitation,” said Frederique Seidel, WCC program executive for Child Rights and one of the speakers at the event. “Churches are helping at all levels. From providing support to victims and addressing the root causes of the climate crisis, to advocating for climate-responsible finance, one of the most effective initiatives to stop the path.” The event also discussed the systems and architecture that enable or impede the realization of child rights in the context of climate change. Connected agendas for a child-centered approach and an integrated response were offered as crucial steps to tackle the problem.

Several resources have been developed to help churches organize activities with children to protect our planet, linked online at A new WCC toolkit empowering churches to work with children and youth for climate justice is available at

– Mel Hammond, who received a gold award from the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards for 2021 in the category of “Animals/Pets Non-Fiction” for her book Pets: Getting Them, Caring for Them, and Loving Them (American Girl), has had a book published in the American Girl’s “Smart Girls Guide” series. Her new book is titled Body Image: How to Love Yourself, Live Life to the Fullest, and Celebrate All Kinds of Bodies. Go to Hammond also has written Banana Pancakes and Love the Earth: Understanding Climate Change, Speaking Up for Solutions, and Living an Earth-Friendly Life (American Girl) (

Church of the Brethren Annual Conference moderator David Sollenberger requests prayer for his upcoming international trip. He and his wife, Mary, along with Marla Bieber Abe and Gordon Hoffert, plan to leave March 22 for a trip to Rwanda and Uganda, to visit the Churches of the Brethren and other partners in those countries. They plan to meet up with Chris Elliot and his daughter Grace, who are working in Rwanda; Athanasus Ungang, mission staff working in South Sudan; and a representative of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

A series of Lenten meditative videos based on “stations of the resurrection” and the art of Paul Grout, who has been moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference and is a leader for A Place Apart, is available to congregations and individuals for use during this Lenten season.

The videos include scripture texts and reflections on those texts. They have been made available online with help from current Annual Conference moderator David Sollenberger. He is inviting Brethren to “download them and use them in their services…. Those who do will be blessed.”

Art by Paul Grout

The artwork of Paul Grout may be familiar as having appeared at previous Annual Conferences and in other Church of the Brethren venues and publications, and remains evocative and meaningful for today.

Grout wrote in an email to subscribers to the series, which also is available by email request: “Within this season of Lent through Easter our A Place Apart community is walking together through the Stations of the Resurrection. In light of recent events, I have been reminded that Jesus was walking within a land that had been conquered by an Empire that sought absolute control over people’s lives. Jesus was seen by Empire as a minor threat to its absolute control. Empire sentenced Jesus to a torturous death. Empire believed a minor disturbance had been extinguished. Empire was wrong. Empire is again seeking to violently destroy a people it sees as a threat to its absolute control.”

Art by Paul Grout

An introduction to the series is at

The series of video titles, length (given in minutes), and online links are listed here alphabetically, and not in the order in which they would appear in the biblical story:

“Ascension” (1:34)

“He Set His Face”

“In the Garden” (2:24)

“In the Tomb” (0:54)

“Jesus Turns the Table”

“Judas Betrays Jesus” (1:11)

“Mary Mother of Jesus” (2:51)

“Peter Denies Jesus” (1:31)

“Remember Me” (1:20)

“Resurrection” (1:40)

“Simon Carries His Cross” (2:02)

“The Body of Christ” (4:40)

“The Costly Gift” (2:20)

“The Crucifixion” (2:02)

“The Death of Jesus” (1:41)

“The Presence of Women” (1:27)

“The Review” (4:42)

“The Scourging” (1:59)

“Two Basins” (2:18)

“Two Crowds” (2:38)


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