Brethren bits for Jan. 28, 2022

— Remembrance: Ellis J. Shenk, 90, who worked for two decades in Brethren Service and was a “seagoing cowboy” for Heifer Project, died at home in Bel Air, Md., on Dec. 28, 2021, surrounded by family. He was born Feb. 10, 1931, in Hershey, Pa., to Harvey Kurtz Shenk and Sylva Longenecker Gingrich. At Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. After college, he joined Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) and served for four years in post-World War II Germany working to resettle refugees. He started his BVS assignment in 1953 as a seagoing cowboy on a boat carrying heifers to war‐torn Europe. Once back in the US, he spent several months visiting Church of the Brethren congregations across Pennsylvania to speak about BVS. He married Carolyn Ressler and they moved to Washington, D.C., where he earned a master’s degree in International Service from American University. His many years of service with the Brethren Service Commission (BSC) began in Washington, where he worked with the National Service Board for Religious Objectors (NSBRO). The couple then worked with BSC in Europe and in the Caribbean for the next 15 years. In Sardinia, Italy, they worked on refugee resettlement for more than five years, with Ellis Shenk serving as administrator of the HELP project that had connections with actor and then-BVSer Don Murray. At Castañer Hospital in Puerto Rico, Shenk served for almost a decade as hospital administrator. He then joined World Vision, working as director of development projects in Bangladesh and later as an assistant administrator at a hospital in Ecuador. Returning to the US, he worked in New York City for CODEL (Coordination in Development), which focused on community-based development requiring coordination between Catholics and Protestants, serving as coordinator for Asia and the Pacific and managing projects in the Philippines, the Fiji Islands, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, and Thailand, among others. He ended his working career as coordinator at ECPAT (End Child Prostitution in Asia Tourism). Following retirement he moved to Bel Air, where he was involved with Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren and volunteered at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. For his service to humanity, his alma mater, Elizabethtown College, awarded him the “Educate for Service Award.” He enjoyed traveling and meeting people from all over the world, and over the course of his life traveled to all 50 states and more than 30 countries. He spoke English, German, Italian, and Spanish, as well as some French and Bangla. He also had a passion for genealogy, loved music, and enjoyed singing. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Carolyn Shenk, and their five children: Suzanne Shenk and husband, Scott Siegal, Todd Shenk, Krystal Shenk, Jolyn Shenk, and Shawn Shenk and wife, Kelly Shenk; and six grandchildren.

— The Juniata College chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) has won an Outstanding Chapter Award from the SPS National Office. Juniata is a church-related college in Huntingdon, Pa. A release said this is the 23rd consecutive time the chapter has been recognized “for its excellence as a top-tier student-led physical sciences organization, a designation given to fewer than 15 percent of all SPS chapters at colleges and universities in the United States and internationally, and the longest uninterrupted run of recognition in the country…. The SPS chapter at Juniata College is advised by Jim Borgardt, Woolford Professor of Physics, and is led by student officers, including co-presidents, Elyzabeth Graham ’22 of McKinney, Tx., and Thomas Cope ’22 of Fogelsville, Pa.”

Brethren Voices is celebrating its 200th episode with “Mike Stern and Bill Jolliff in Concert Supporting the World Friendship Center, Hiroshima, Japan.” Reports Ed Groff, producer of this video series produced for public access television, Brethren Voices is celebrating nearly 17 years with an episode featuring the musicians Mike Stern and Bill Jolliff in concert. The World Friendship Center was founded in Hiroshima, Japan, in August 1965 by a Quaker, Barbara Reynolds, “as a place for building friendships, one at a time, promoting peace in the world without nuclear weapons,” Groff writes. “Bill Jolliff is a frequent featured performer at the annual Song and Story Fest preceding the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. Bill Jolliff shares songs that he has written as well as ‘There’s Sunshine in My Soul, Today’ by Maria Good, written in 1888. Bill indicated that he could identify with this song, being a professor of English at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. He teaches American literature, poetry writing, and literary criticism…. Mike Stern was featured in the January 2022 Brethren Voices. His song, ‘As if the Flowers Knew,’ provides the musical introduction to this program with video of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park provided by Brent Carlson. Mike spent many years as a family nurse practitioner and recently has been working on creating a couple of song books for his creations. Mike is known for his songs of peace, justice, wonder, compassion, and love.” Groff hosts this episode. View it on YouTube at

— “If your church is looking for a two-octave set of previously owned handbells, the Brethren Heritage Center has a set of American-made Schulmerich handbells with cases that need a home,” said an announcement shared by Neal Fitze, a volunteer at the center located in Brookville, Ohio. “Schulmerich handbells are one of the top makers of handbells and are preferred by many churches and schools. These handbells are in excellent condition. They were new in 1983 and have had only one owner. If you have some interest, please email us at”

Photo courtesy of the Brethren Heritage Center

– The World Council of Churches (WCC) has posted three job openings for leadership staff following decisions made by its executive committee during meetings last November. The openings include program director for Unity and Mission, program director for Public Witness and Diakonia, and director of the WCC Commission on Faith and Order. “These three positions will be integral for the work of the WCC to continue with a strong and sustainable leadership team after the WCC 11th Assembly,” said Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC Central Committee, in a release. “The three positions are open due to retirement of two deputy general secretaries, at the end of 2022.” The new staff will be appointed by the Executive Committee in June 2022 and will join the WCC in November 2022, working together for two months with the present colleagues in those positions, for proper handing over and learning. Web pages providing more information about each of these positions are as follows: Program Director for Unity and Mission, Program Director for Public Witness and Diakonia, Director of Faith and Order The deadline for all applicants is April 30.


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