1) Consider contributing to the National Youth Conference offering of school kits
2) Bethany Seminary celebrates the Class of 2022
3) On Earth Peace holds 2022 Spring board meeting
4) ‘Blessed Be’: Michael Stern shares new music for the 2022 Annual Conference
5) Brethren bits: Job openings, National Youth Sunday is May 1, National Young Adult Conference is coming up, Yearbook survey, Messenger playlist for May, ecumenical notes, and more
As many congregations return to in-person worship, we want to update our listing of Churches of the Brethren at www.brethren.org/news/2020/church-of-the-brethren-congregations-worship-online.html. Please send new information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lifting up Brethren who are active in health care: www.brethren.org/news/2020/brethren-active-in-health-care.html. Add a person to the list by sending first name, county, and state to email@example.com.
1) Consider contributing to the National Youth Conference offering of school kits
By Erika Clary
This year, the National Youth Conference (NYC) 2022 Office has partnered with Brethren Disaster Ministries and the Brethren Disaster Relief Auction in Pennsylvania to collect certain school supplies to assemble Church World Service (CWS) school kits. We are trying to make at least 3,000 kits. The auction already has contributed $20,000 to this project.
The school kits will be given to children who are going to school in difficult settings. We have asked NYC participants to commit to bringing school supplies for the kits, using an online signup sheet at www.slottr.com/sheets/18267897.
If you are not attending NYC but would like to support this offering, you can commit to purchasing supplies and then send them with youth from your congregation. If you are not attending NYC and there are no youth from your congregation attending, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can support this project.
To learn more about the school kits we are assembling, please visit https://cwskits.org/assemble-kits/school-kits.
— Erika Clary is coordinator of the 2022 National Youth Conference, serving through Brethren Volunteer Service. The 2022 NYC will take place July 23-28 in Fort Collins, Colo. Not yet registered for NYC? Do so as soon as possible using this link: www.brethren.org/nyc/registration.
2) Bethany Seminary celebrates the Class of 2022
A release from Bethany Seminary
Bethany Theological Seminary will honor its Class of 2022 graduates during an Academic Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 7, at 10 a.m. (Eastern time) in Nicarry Chapel on the campus in Richmond, Ind.
The featured speaker at the ceremony will be Kelly Burk, chaplain and director of Quaker life at Earlham College in Richmond. Her sermon is entitled, “The Listening Ear,” and will reference Isaiah 30:15-21.
Burk is a graduate of Bethany Theological Seminary who lives in Richmond with her husband, Chris, and daughter Ava. Ordained in the Church of the Brethren and recorded by the Religious Society of Friends, she has served in multiple ministry positions including resident chaplain at Georgetown University Hospital, pastor of Richmond Church of the Brethren, spiritual director, and her current position of chaplain and director of Quaker life at Earlham College. This summer, she expects to graduate from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis with a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. For fun, she loves to travel, exercise, and spend time with her family and friends.
The ceremony will feature special music provided by organist Carolyn Ripp.
Seating is limited and tickets are required to attend this event. To help protect the health of all, face masks will be worn by all attendees.
The ceremony will be broadcast via Zoom (use passcode bts-grad22). For more information on Commencement activities and for the Zoom link, visit https://bethanyseminary.edu/commencement.
3) On Earth Peace holds 2022 Spring board meeting
A release from On Earth Peace
On Earth Peace held its 2022 Spring board meeting virtually on Zoom, April 7-9. Those attending included interns from as far away as Spain and Gaza. Six current board members are people of color and an equal number are younger than 40, leaving older and white board members as a slight minority for the first time in the board’s history.
It was a delight to see co-chair Melisa Leiter Grandison holding her newborn daughter, Mikyla Soul, on her shoulder during the meetings. All current board members are members of the Church of the Brethren or persons with deep family roots in the Brethren tradition. With young adult interns and fellows providing skilled leadership for portions of the meetings, the benefit of including younger and more diverse leadership was evident, reflecting the value of developing intergenerational leadership.
Business was preceded by times of worship grounding those present in the Jesus-centered spirituality that guides the board’s work for justice and peace. Lucas Al-Zoughbi shared a video of a joyful Palestinian wedding in Bethlehem, his home town, demonstrating the gift of joy in the midst of injustice and struggle.
Providing a framework for understanding decisions before the board, staff opened the meetings with a comprehensive report on the current interim staffing arrangement. Responsibilities previously carried by the executive director are now divided among the three staff: Darlene Johnson, Marie Benner-Rhoades, and Matt Guynn. Board co-chairs Melisa Leiter Grandison and Irvin Heishman meet with staff twice a month to provide staff support and collective accountability.
Staff have stepped up more robust development work. Interns are assisting in making donor calls and interns in Gaza are preparing a second Palestinian cooking video to be shared in May. This one will demonstrate how to make a Palestinian dessert with strawberries and will include information on how the Israeli occupation of Gaza negatively impacts Palestinian strawberry farmers. The board is assisting with a concert fundraiser at the Manchester (Ind.) Church of the Brethren (and online) featuring Friends with the Weather on Dec. 3.
The Resource Management and Development Committee reported that Beverly Eikenberry has been appointed as treasurer. She led board members through a tutorial on how to read financial reports and on fiduciary responsibilities.
With this background information, the board was ready to consider proposals supporting the development of a new staffing structure for the organization. The board is eager to move away from a hierarchical structure that concentrates power in a few hands and toward a model that allows for shared power and broad input from diverse representation. The board received a report from a subcommittee formed to prepare a staffing structure recommendation. In two separate proposals, the board approved an adjusted timeline reducing the sense of urgency to rush the process and funding to allow the subcommittee to access resources and expertise to inform its eventual recommendation.
Final matters before the board had to do with its own internal transformation toward becoming “unapologetically multiracial/multicutural” and “driven by an anti-racist/anti-oppressive lens toward the transformation of society” and its work to embolden the Church of the Brethren to become a living justice and peace denomination.
As part of its internal work, a difficult decision was made to review its power and process observation practice. These observations have resulted in significant improvements, making meetings safer places for many participants, but this pause will provide space to investigate a more inclusive process for all marginalized identities.
Time was also taken for a caucus process designed to help board members gain awareness of how internalized racial superiority and oppression show up in the board process. For the caucus, the board forms two groups, one for people of color and one for white board members. Both groups considered the same focus question then prepared a report back to the other group. The question for this meeting was how internalized racial superiority and oppression impact the way we hold each other accountable and how it impacts our sense of authority in the roles we hold. The conversation revealed significant findings and proposals for moving forward with greater board and staff accountability.
The board also held initial conversations about its own “branding,” with reports on a survey conducted prior to the meeting. Survey results indicate there is broad support for reviewing the organization’s logo design and color template to more accurately reflect mission and vision. In addition, the board considered recommendations that each board member be trained in Kingian Nonviolence, along with staff and interns, and to institutionalize practices that create safe space for staff and volunteers.
In relation to its work to embolden the Church of the Brethren, the board celebrated the progress made by two of its interns working independently but in parallel with that of the Supportive Communities Network in conversation with National Youth Conference (NYC) staff. For the first time at NYC, there will be training for all adult advisors with guidelines in place to protect queer youth from bullying as well as providing identified safe space and advisors.
Conversations with the Standing Committee Task Team about On Earth Peace’s decision to join the Supportive Communities Network has given rise to some cautious hope for a breakthrough in understanding with potential for positive recommendations. The Leadership Team of the Church of the Brethren will be bringing a polity recommendation to Annual Conference, five years after On Earth Peace asked for clarification of polity relating to agencies. The new polity does not provide guidelines for addressing differences as On Earth Peace had hoped. Apart from these concerns, the polity being submitted to Annual Conference is an improvement over previous drafts that had been presented to the agencies for consideration.
Tim Button-Harrison presented a report to the board on behalf of the Council of District Executives. He expressed hope that the relationship between the two entities might be restored following a decision by the council several years ago to discontinue inviting On Earth Peace to its meetings. The break in relationship occurred after On Earth Peace decided to join the Supportive Communities Network of open and affirming congregations and organizations. Leaders of both groups have been meeting toward the goal of renewed cooperation and interaction.
The Board Governance Committee presented two candidates for approval as board members:
Tamera Shaw works as program coordinator within the Psychology Department at George Mason University (Va). She led racial justice sessions as an On Earth Peace intern for the Southern Ohio/Kentucky and Mid-Atlantic Districts. These experiences motivated her to stay involved and so she applied for the Organizing Fellow position. In this position, she has been working to mobilize constituency toward addressing both global and local militarism.
Jessie Houff is community arts minister at Washington (D.C.) City Church of the Brethren, Community Arts coordinator at Wesley Theological Seminary, and adjunct professor at the seminary. She enjoys diving deeply into her spiritual roots as they connect with the arts, and living a sustainable, minimalist life.
Both were affirmed as board members and will begin their terms of service in 2023. An additional board member will be affirmed at this year’s Annual Conference.
On Earth Peace is the Church of the Brethren partner with Community Peacemaker Teams. Marie Benner-Rhoades reported on CPT work in a number of locations where volunteers accompany local people at risk of violence. CPT has issued a bulletin of perspectives on the war in Ukraine including concern about how white supremacy prioritizes media attention for this war above wars in people of color locations. An upcoming Messenger article will introduce CPT’s new name and what led to the change.
In reflections on the meetings, several noted that the board is gaining in skill and trust, enabling the group to be “real” with each other. Board members, interns, and staff engaged in conversation at a deep and honest level, with passion for the possibilities for continuing transformation of On Earth Peace and the church toward the transformation of the world around us, a world liberated from oppression, violence, and war.
4) ‘Blessed Be’: Michael Stern shares new music for the 2022 Annual Conference
Michael Stern will be sharing original music during one of the evening concerts planned for the 2022 Annual Conference, taking place in Omaha, Neb., on July 10-14. His presentations at Conference–in addition to the evening concert on July 13–include leading the children’s choir and with his wife, Carol, keynoting the Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) luncheon.
A Church of the Brethren member, composer, folksinger, peace activist, and nurse practitioner in Pacific Northwest District, Stern recently published a new songbook of 22 songs of faith and action under the title “Blessed Be.” It is available both as a songbook and on CD (find links and sample songs at: www.beatinpathpublications.com/MS/home.html).
Stern invites parents and children who will be participating in activities at the Conference to become familiar with the two songs that he will share with the children’s choir.
“I composed ‘God Made Them All’ specifically for the children’s choir this summer. So it’s brand new,” he said. “‘One World’ is the other song we’ll be teaching the kids. Both songs lend themselves to sign language interpretations that kids can learn to express in their own way while we sing. If parents, Sunday school/Christian Ed teachers, or music leaders at local churches want to introduce either or both songs to their congregations, at least some of the kids might have heard the tunes prior to the limited time we’ll have with them at Annual Conference.”
To request music or audio/video links for the two children’s songs, contact Stern via his website at www.mikesongs.net/contact-michael-stern.
Another one of the songs on “Blessed Be” of particular interest to Brethren is “Lest We Forget,” with a touching vignette written by Deanna Brown about the life and ministry of her father Dale Brown.
Stern has traveled extensively while singing and working for peace and justice. His website notes his trips to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, which offer inspiration for the cover art of “Blessed Be.” He studied theology at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, received his bachelor and master of science degrees in nursing at the University of Washington in Seattle, and is a Certified Laughter Leader. He recently retired as a Family Nurse Practitioner and research clinician who has focused much of his career on vaccine preventable diseases.
On his many albums, he is joined by various musicians including Eric Smith, William Limbach, Grammy nominated pianist David Lanz, and Jacob Jolliff–who has performed with the former Mutual Kumquat and who was the National Mandolin Champion of 2012.
5) Brethren bits
— Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) is seeking candidates for a marketing director and a Retirement Plans director. These are fulltime, exempt positions working for a not-for-profit, faith-based organization that aligns with peace church traditions and provides retirement, insurance, and organizational investing to more than 5,000 individual and client organizations nationwide. The majority of work is done remotely from home. Candidates must work well independently. A fair compensation structure includes a strong benefits package that includes organizational contributions for retirement, medical, life, and long-term disability, as well as options to add dental, vision, and short-term disability coverage, and 22 days of vacation a year, accrued at the start of the year. Work hours are flexible within a basic work day structure. BBT offers products and services that enable security, wellness, and stability in a constantly changing world. Within that context, the organization is looking for people who will lead strategic initiatives but also pitch in with seemingly small tasks that show care for those served. BBT is currently in the process of rebranding away from its denominational title. Employees practice their faith in a diverse array of worldviews and denominations. Learn more at https://cobbt.org. To apply for either of these open positions, email a cover letter, resume, and three references to Tammy Chudy at email@example.com.
This Sunday, May 1, is the suggested date for National Youth Sunday observances offering an opportunity for congregations to feature youth leaders in worship. The theme is the same as for NYC 2022, “Foundational,” with the theme scripture from Colossian 2:5-7: “For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, and I rejoice to see your morale and the firmness of your faith in Christ. As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Worship resources offered by the Youth Cabinet range from calls to worship to benedictions, a children’s story, hymn suggestions, scripture jam, theme interpretation, and more–including a commissioning for those planning to attend NYC this July. “Upload photos of your National Youth Sunday service,” said an invitation. Find instructions to upload photos and find links to the worship resources at www.brethren.org/yya/national-youth-sunday.
The marketing director will lead the organization’s marketing efforts. Requirements include at least an undergraduate degree, 4 to 8 years of experience, effective oral and written communication skills, experience in building and executing promotional plans. This position requires a person who enjoys working in a team environment, promotes products and services with an entrepreneurial mindset, is both data- and detail-oriented, and is proficient in systems related to promotion (e.g., social media platforms). This position requires attendance at an Annual Conference each year in July. In addition, the organization meets as a whole a couple of times a year. Other conference opportunities include the Church Plan Workshop in April and the Church Benefits Association in early December. The marketing director also may be invited to participate in client or strategic partner meetings. Other networking or educational opportunities also might be available.
The Retirement Plans director will lead the retirement plan product line. Requirements include at least an undergraduate degree, 4 to 8 years of experience, effective oral and written communication skills, and experience in benefit or retirement plans. This position requires a person who enjoys working in a team environment, views the retirement product line with an entrepreneurial mindset, is both data- and detailed-oriented, and is proficient in computer systems, particularly Excel and PowerPoint. The individual will use this background to develop and manage the programs related to retirement plan products and services. The position requires attendance at an annual Church Plan Workshop in April, a Church Benefits Association conference in December, and organizational in-person meetings a couple of times a year. Other networking or educational travel also might be available.
— National Young Adult Conference is coming soon, planned for May 27-30 on the theme “I Am Because We Are” based on Romans 12:5. The conference will take place at the Montreat (N.C.) Conference Center for people ages 18-35. Participants will enjoy fellowship, worship, recreation, Bible study, service projects, and more. For more information and registration go to www.brethren.org/yya/yac.
— The Yearbook Office and Brethren Press invite you to complete a brief survey related to how you use the Church of the Brethren Yearbook, which is published annually. “We are evaluating the usefulness of this resource and would like to know what you find helpful (or don’t) in your work and ministry,” said the announcement. The survey results will inform decisions as changes are made to what is published in the Yearbook. Find the survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/MWPWLMC. Find out more about the Yearbook at www.brethren.org/yearbook.
— Messenger’s website is sharing music playlists to accompany the themes of current issues of the Church of the Brethren magazine. May’s playlist was selected by Jeff Lennard, director of Marketing and Sales for Brethren Press. Find it at www.brethren.org/messenger/playlists/playlist-may-2022. Invites the editorial team: “What music would you add? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to make comments or suggestions. Would you like to curate a playlist for a future issue of Messenger? Let us know at email@example.com.”
— Worship resources for the Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) 2022 event on the theme “Fierce Urgency: Advancing Civil and Human Rights” are available for local congregations, small groups, and worshipping communities “to prepare hearts and minds to address civil and human rights,” said an announcement. The staff of the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy are among those who work on the EAD event each year in Washington, D.C. All worship resources, including the full recording of the EAD Worship Service, the sermon by Otis Moss III, and the worship bulletin are now available at https://advocacydays.org/worship.
— Also from the NCC: a new resource titled “A Christian Approach to Suicide Prevention.” Said an announcement: “According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, on average there are 130 suicides per day in the United States. Churches can offer support and care for community members impacted by suicide. The NCC’s new resource sheet provides several trainings and resources that have been specifically created for people of faith. These resources can help clergy and lay leaders provide care, assistance, and hope for those who may be considering suicide. Trainings can help ministers recognize signs of suicide risk, comfort those who experience suicide loss, and integrate strategies for suicide prevention into the life and ministry of local congregations and faith communities.” Get the fact sheet as a download from http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Suicide-Prevention-fact-sheet-2022.pdf.
— The Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Initiative is sharing information about Bread for the World’s annual Offering of Letters to Congress. “Each year, Bread members gather in churches, homes, and on college campuses, as well as virtually, to write letters and present them as an offering to God before sending them to Congress,” said the announcement from Bread for the World. Participants get involved in order to advocate for increased funding and improved governmental policies and programs that affect people facing hunger and poverty, both in the US and around the world. Learn more about this year’s Offering of Letters at https://ol.bread.org.
— On Earth Peace is sharing a follow-up to its online cooking class last December. “It is strawberry season in Gaza, Palestine!” said the announcement. “We thought we’d share a favorite strawberry dessert in Gaza…. Mabrousha or Mabshoura is a jam filled tray dessert with a shredded topping. Mabrousha/mabshoura is translated ‘shredded.’” Added the announcement: “As we prepare this snack, it is also important to understand how the Israeli occupation affects farmers. We include a video sharing that story.” The announcement shared links to an instructional video that includes the recipe for making the dessert, at www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpNxiMNpDb0, and a video about the situation of farmers in Palestine, at www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmozosaTPFE.
— From Mid-Atlantic District, a reminder that “our 41st Annual Mid-Atlantic District Disaster Response Auction is coming up next week on Saturday, May 7, 2022, at the Carroll County Agricultural Center Shipley Arena in Westminster, Maryland.” Wrote Jeff McKee, chair of the district’s Disaster Response Auction Committee, “We hope to see you and your friends there!”
— Two Church of the Brethren districts recently held a Joint District Women’s Online Retreat. Women from Western Plains and Missouri Arkansas Districts met online on April 1-2 for a retreat on “Coping and Hoping.” Participants were provided with tools to help cope such as making a coping box, journaling, and stress relief exercises including a session on how music can relieve stress, reported the Missouri Arkansas District newsletter.
— Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., has received a donation of more than $5 million “for furthering the development of its environmental science departments off-campus facilities,” reports the Huntingdon Daily News. “The $5 million donation was made anonymously, and was designated for use at sites like Juniata’s Raystown Field Station. Juniata College President James Troha said the gift will be put towards investing in equipment and infrastructure related to the Raystown Field Station as well as other external properties.” He told the paper: “Receiving gifts of this depth are unusual. I can count on one hand in my time in education that we received a gift of this amount. (The donor) really wanted to make a difference in the lives of our students in how it relates to environmental education.” The college’s Raystown Field Station at Raystown Lake, developed in collaboration with the US Army Corps of Engineers in the mid-1970s, hosts the college’s study away program for students studying environmental science and biology, and operates a bird banding center and water quality analysis lab, and partners with local elementary and high schools on developing curricula around lake ecology, wetlands ecology, and forest ecology, the article reported. Executive director Charles Yohn is a member of Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon. “Our unique approach to residential semesters at the station has been highly successful and is now considered a national model for field stations,” he said in the article. “I am deeply grateful to the donor.” Read the full article at www.huntingdondailynews.com/news/local/juniata-college-receives-over-5-million-donation/article_ebbd1860-0d62-5616-9f01-96469568e791.html.
–– McPherson (Kan.) College announced the first-ever seven-figure gift made to Bulldog Athletics, in a release. “The commitment made by Craig and Karen Holman of McPherson, which totals more than $1 million, will support the Sport Center expansion project included in the Building Community comprehensive fundraising campaign.” The Sport Center project will include the addition of 5,000 square feet to expand the weight room and training room capacity as well as additional locker rooms and team spaces, and also includes a remodeling project. Construction will begin this summer. Said McPherson president Michael Schneider, “I am proud to share that we will add the Holman name to the Sport Center at an event this fall during Homecoming.” Craig Holman and both of the couple’s children are McPherson graduates. He is a member of the college Board of Trustees and a volunteer assistant coach for the Bulldog tennis teams. The family have been loyal supporters of McPherson-area tennis, and funded the Holman Family Tennis Center on campus.
–– In more news from McPherson, the college awarded three alumni as this year’s Citation of Merit recipients at a dinner on April 22:
Annette Van Blaricum (’68), of Wichita, Kan., as a student participated in activities like theater and choir and met her husband, Ken (’67). She taught kindergarten and Title 1 for more than 30 years, retiring in 2006. She has been an active volunteer in her United Methodist Church community and was state president of the American Association of University Women, among other involvements.
Roger Trimmell (’73) was head coach for the college men’s basketball team for 27 seasons from 1982 to 2008 and was an assistant professor in the health and physical education program. “His impact on the lives of hundreds of students and colleagues is immeasurable,” said the release. During his time as head coach for the Bulldogs, 61 players were named to All-Conference teams, including three who were named KCAC Player of the Year, and three who received NAIA All-American honors. Additionally, the graduation rate for all his senior players was 100 percent. He is affectionately known to McPherson College as the Father of Dogball. His teams qualified for the NAIA District 10 playoffs six times and his overall conference record, 221-211, gives him the most victories in KCAC men’s basketball history. He was named KCAC Coach of the Year twice, and was inducted into the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame twice–once as a coach and once as a member of the 1968 Wamego, Kan., undefeated state basketball championship team. He is a member of Countryside Covenant Church.
Jeff Bach (’79) graduated from McPherson with a double major in elementary education and German language. His professional career included teaching German at area high schools before being called to the ministry, earning a master of divinity degree at Bethany Theological Seminary, completing a doctoral program in the department of religion at Duke University, publishing a dissertation about the religious views of the Ephrata (Pa.) Community, pastoring churches in Iowa, teaching history and Brethren studies and serving as director of Peace Studies at Bethany, serving as director of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College and serving as associate professor of religious studies. As director of the Young Center, he oversaw fundraising efforts that resulted in the addition of an archive and special collection to the library, an addition to the center facility, and $1 million endowed program support. He supervised acquisitions of several rare materials and books and developed content for the Bowers Interpretive Gallery, a museum-quality multi-media exhibit of artifacts, graphics, and text to interpret the Anabaptist and Pietist movements. He retired in 2020 and was recently named director emeritus. Currently he is convener of the planning committee for the Brethren World Assembly in 2023 and is the liaison between the Brethren Encyclopedia Board and the Alexander Mack Museum in Schwarzenau, Germany. He and his wife, Ann (’79), also are part-time ministers at Stevens Hill Church of the Brethren in Elizabethtown.
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 Marie Benner-Rhoades, Jeff Boshart, Erika Clary, James Deaton, Jenn Dorsch-Messler, Galen Fitzkee, Tina Goodwin, Nathan Hosler, Michael Stern, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Please send news tips and submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org . Find the Newsline archive at www.brethren.org/news . Sign up for Newsline and other Church of the Brethren email newsletters and make subscription changes at www.brethren.org/intouch . Unsubscribe by using the link at the top of any Newsline email.
Find more Church of the Brethren news: