Newsline for Feb. 11, 2022

1) Yearbook Office offers guidance on measuring online worship attendance

2) Faith groups send letter on nuclear dangers

3) Emily Tyler resigns as director of Brethren Volunteer Service

4) Brethren Volunteer Service winter unit ends orientation, volunteers go to project sites

5) Nurturing Ministry Skills series offered through Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center

6) Central Roanoke team launches gatherings to prepare for conversations about reparations

7) Brethren bits: Remembering Janet Crago, job opening, new center for autistic children in China, church anniversaries, New Yorker’s Emma Green to headline symposium on ‘Brethren and the Polarizing Pandemic,’ webinar series on Gaza, a prayer for 900,000 deaths to COVID in the US, and more

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Quote of the week:

“Black History Month offers a hallowed time for all of us to give thanks to ancestors like these and to actively engage in solidarity with their legacy, which calls us to faith, love, equity, and hope. It is a time to not only recognize the public and visible leadership of those most often celebrated, but to also recognize those who have been less visible, invisible, and even removed from the memory of yesteryears. . . . Stories, individuals, and peoples of Africa and of African descent have been systematically erased from our memories. This erasure includes Black lives who did not survive infancy as well as those who gave life. Black lives have been erased from cradle to grave. This lack of memory de-sanctifies Black lives and compromises the history and herstory of all of us.”

— Angelique Walker-Smith is senior associate for Pan African and Orthodox Church engagement at Bread for the World, a partner organization of the Church of the Brethren. Read her full reflection at

Students from the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and related sanctuaries will be sharing their voices during Bread for the World’s Black History Month observance, and the organization will be convening leaders from Black farming communities to address the upcoming farm bill while celebrating the sanctity of Black lives. Said an announcement: “We invite you to join us as we remember and honor Black lives, as we advocate together to end hunger.”

A note to readers: As many congregations return to in-person worship, we want to update our listing of Churches of the Brethren at Please send new information to

Lifting up Brethren who are active in health care: Add a person to the list by sending first name, county, and state to

1) Yearbook Office offers guidance on measuring online worship attendance

By James Deaton

Many congregations have added an online option to weekly worship as part of their response to the pandemic. Last year’s survey by the Church of the Brethren Yearbook staff showed that 84 percent of Church of the Brethren congregations responding said they had worshiped online during the pandemic. When asked if they planned to continue this in the future, 72 percent said yes. That means online worship numbers are now a meaningful part of total worship participation.

Over the past year, the Yearbook Office has learned some best practices for measuring online engagement. The Church of the Brethren is a member of the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB,, where data gatherers from many religious groups share ideas and learn from one another. Last year’s meeting focused heavily on the issue of online worship data. Some Christian denominations have years of experience on this topic, and we benefit from their knowledge.

One metric that ASARB members agree on is the need to keep in-person (onsite) attendance separate from online attendance. Technologies change rapidly, and measuring online participation is a puzzle. What platforms will we use 30 years from now? No one knows. Statisticians must be able to compare numbers consistently from year to year, trusting they are comparing apples with apples. Denominations that have had multiple platforms for years have always kept these numbers separate, and we must do the same.

What should congregations do for 2021?

Yearbook forms for reporting 2021 worship attendance have been mailed to congregations, due April 15. On the Statistical Form, congregations should report only in-person worship attendance (even if they had no in-person services at all). Everyone recognizes that statistics for this period of time during the COVID-19 pandemic will carry a big asterisk.

Since many congregations worshiped partly or fully online during 2021, counting online worshipers is the only way to provide a sense of overall worship attendance. Even though counting participants on any online platform can be complex and unreliable, congregations may have created their own system for counting, or they may have not kept track at all. Either way, if congregations would like to provide a number, even if it’s an estimate, there is an optional addendum in the packet of forms that can be completed and returned. Filling this out is optional.

How do congregations count online worship attendance for 2022?

Some denominations use a complex formula for calculating online attendance, but that doesn’t seem quite right for the Church of the Brethren. Here are some best practices that we’ve learned from other denominations:

— Check viewership statistics for the seven-day period following the service. The goal is to gauge the congregation’s weekly rhythm of participation. Don’t wait until the end of the month or the end the year to obtain totals for each week’s video.

– Count only those present for most of worship. Each platform tracks this differently, but the goal is to track those viewing all or at least half of the service.

– To estimate the number of viewers, count viewing devices and then convert it to the number of individuals based on what is known about the congregation’s households. Or multiply by 2.5, the national average household size (or the state’s average).

It is important for congregations to do their best, even if it’s an estimate. Just be faithful to the overall intent and be consistent in calculations.

For more FAQs on counting online worship attendance, visit

Yearbook Office staff understand this can be complex and are grateful for the patience and help as we all navigate these changes together. Thanks be to God that church communities have been able to gather for worship, even in challenging times.

If congregations have further questions, please contact Jim Miner, Yearbook specialist, 800-323-8039 ext. 320 or

— James Deaton is managing editor for Brethren Press and serves on the Yearbook staff.

2) Faith groups send letter on nuclear dangers

The Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy is one of the faith groups that signed a letter to President Biden calling on the US administration to “seize this moment and move us closer to a world free from the existential threat of nuclear war.” The interfaith letter was written around the President’s previous commitments to reform US nuclear weapons policy and the upcoming Nuclear Posture Review. In total, 24 faith organizations and churches signed onto the letter. It was sent to contacts within the White House National Security Council, the State Department, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Energy.

The full text of the letter follows:

Photo courtesy of FCNL

February 04, 2022

The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20050

Dear Mr. President:

As organizations who ground our work in our faith, we urge you to follow through on your previous commitments to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security policy. We believe it is both deeply immoral and highly irrational to threaten mass civilian casualties and risk planetary annihilation as a way of keeping Americans safe.

Faith leaders across a wide array of traditions, including Pope Francis, have spoken to the immorality of nuclear weapons possession and the existential threat of nuclear war.

“In a world where millions of children and families live in inhumane conditions, the money that is squandered and the fortunes made through the manufacture, upgrading, maintenance and sale of ever more destructive weapons are an affront crying out to heaven… The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, as is the possession of atomic weapons.” – Pope Francis, 2019

Continuing to embrace nuclear weapons as an essential part of U.S. national security strategy contradicts your own recognition that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” Nuclear weapons are the antithesis of true security, creating a perpetual cycle of fear and distrust that makes diplomacy and international cooperation more difficult.

Especially as tensions between Russia and the United States rise over Ukraine, efforts to invest in diplomacy, peacebuilding, nuclear risk reduction, and arms control are far more effective ways of promoting human security than continued investment in weapons of mass destruction and war. As President Eisenhower so presciently proclaimed, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

Your upcoming Nuclear Posture Review is your opportunity to step back from the brink of war, advance arms control, and position the United States as a leader in the effort to create a more peaceful world. We urge you to seize this moment and move us closer to a world free from the existential threat of nuclear war.


Alliance of Baptists
American Friends Service Committee
Archdiocese of Santa Fe
Church of the Brethren, Office of Peacebuilding and Policy
Disciples Peace Fellowship
Dorthy Day Catholic Workers, Washington DC
The Episcopal Church
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Franciscan Action Network
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ
InterReligious Task Force on Central America and Colombia
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
National Council of Churches
Outdoor Ministries of the Christian Church Disciples of Christ in Northern California
Pax Christi USA
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Religions for Peace USA
Soka Gakkai International-USA (SGI-USA)
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalist Association
United Church of Christ, Justice and Local Church Ministries


3) Emily Tyler resigns as director of Brethren Volunteer Service

Emily Tyler has resigned as director of Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS), effective Feb. 18, after three years in the position. She started as director of BVS on Feb. 4, 2019. She has been employed by the Church of the Brethren and BVS for almost 10 years, since June 27, 2012, when she began as coordinator for BVS recruitment and the Workcamp Ministry.

She is starting a new position as membership and communications specialist for the Association of Professional Chaplains in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

As director of BVS, she has overseen this longterm program that trains and equips units of volunteers each year to serve fulltime in a wide variety of project sites located in the United States and internationally. In addition, she has provided supervision for FaithX (formerly the Workcamp Ministry), along with the orientation and recruitment staff and volunteers who work in the BVS office. During her tenure, the Workcamp Ministry successfully transitioned to a new model under the name FaithX. Under her leadership, BVS and FaithX have lived into the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, adapting new ways to do orientation, training, and placement of BVS volunteers, and creating a tiered model for FaithX experiences intended to offer options for a variety of pandemic conditions.

Prior to being employed by BVS, Tyler was a BVS volunteer, serving as co-coordinator of National Youth Conference in 2006, and coordinator for Young Adult Conference in the same year. She also has taught music and choir at the elementary school level in Arizona and Kansas, where she received the Kansas State Teacher of Promise Award in 2004. She is a graduate of McPherson (Kan.) College.

4) Brethren Volunteer Service winter unit ends orientation, volunteers go to project sites

Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) Unit 330, the winter 2022 unit, has completed orientation, and the newly trained volunteers have begun work at their project sites.

Shown here are the new volunteers, from left: Johannes Stitz of Westphalia, Germany, who will serve at SnowCap Food Pantry in Fairview, Ore.; Marvin Blenkle of Berlin, Germany, who will serve with Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren and bcmPEACE; Tate Johnson of McPherson, Kan., and McPherson Church of the Brethren, who will serve at Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center in Little Rock, Ark.; and Florian Wesseler of Westphalia Germany, who will serve at SnowCap Food Pantry in Fairview, Ore.

The winter orientation was held at Camp Bethel near Fincastle, Va., from Jan. 18 to Feb. 4. The new BVSers and staff visited Troutville Church of the Brethren and Daleville Church of the Brethren. Two workdays were held at the Botetourt Worship and Outreach Center. One workday was held at Camp Bethel.

BVS Unit 330 completed orientation in winter 2022

Find out more about Brethren Volunteer Service at

The next orientations will be held July 31-Aug. 19 at Camp Wilbur Stover, New Meadows, Idaho (applications are due June 19, with flexibility), and Sept. 18-Oct. 7 at Camp Brethren Heights, Rodney, Mich. (applications are due Aug. 7, with flexibility). Find the application form to take part in BVS at

— Pauline Liu, volunteer coordinator for Brethren Volunteer Service, contributed to this report.


5) Nurturing Ministry Skills series offered through Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center

By Donna Rhodes

The Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center (SVMC) is launching an additional educational series entitled Nurturing Ministry Skills. Available to both clergy and laity, this online (Zoom) series launches on Monday, March 7, from 7-8:30 p.m. (Eastern time) with “Coping with Two Years of a Pandemic: Care for Self and Others” led by Jim Higginbotham, professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at Earlham School of Religion.

The series will continue quarterly with various presenters and topics on leadership, conflict management, pastoral benefits calculator, as well as many other topics. More information on the future sessions will be available soon. The Nurturing Ministry Skills series will occur virtually on Zoom. Continuing education units are available for $10 per event. Registration is required, but free. During the registration process, participants will have the opportunity to pay for the CEUs. Register at

Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center

SVMC is a Church of the Brethren ministry education partnership with the districts of Atlantic Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Middle Pennsylvania, Southern Pennsylvania, and Western Pennsylvania, as well as Bethany Theological Seminary and the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership. Our mission is to equip leaders for ministry in a regionally based, Christ-centered, culturally relevant context in ways that bear witness to the beliefs, heritage, and practices of the Church of the Brethren.

Our Nurturing Ministry Skills series will provide opportunities for clergy and laity to learn together. Be creative in your gatherings! Think about who in your congregation you can invite to join you to listen to the presenter, participate in discussion, and learn together as brothers and sisters in Christ.

— Donna Rhodes is executive director of the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center. Find out more about SVMC and its ministry at


6) Central Roanoke team launches gatherings to prepare for conversations about reparations

From the Race Education Team at Central Church of the Brethren

As part of its commitment to make local faith-based reparations to repair historical and current racist practices, a team at Central Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va., has launched regular gatherings with Black and white faith communities.

“We’ve learned that before identifying acts of reparation using our financial resources, we must first engage in a process to build trust and relationships across racial lines,” said Eric Anspaugh, one of four members of Central’s Race Education Team. Team member Jennie Waering finds that “the relationship building is a learning adventure requiring open minds and open hearts, and especially open ears.”

To help foster such relationships, local faith communities publicize and encourage attendance at community events where Black and white brothers and sisters can work and learn together. These activities include voter registration drives, clean up of a neglected Black cemetery, a Martin Luther King service day, attendance at Watch Night services to celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation, a webinar on Critical Race Theory, a vigil to mark the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capital, and an anti-gun violence march.

Beginning Feb. 18 and continuing through April 8 the group will meet once a week (via Zoom) to study the book Reparations: A Christian Call for Repentance and Repair.

“Starting in September 2021 we have come together two times as the larger group and one time with a smaller group for discernment,” said Anspaugh, a retired Church of the Brethren minister. “Our team is thankful for how God’s Spirit is at work within this movement of ‘Jesus in the Neighborhood.’”

Kevin Kinsey, pastor of Central Church, said a key moment on the church’s journey in exploring reparations came on April 12, 2021. That’s when the Church Council adopted a “Congregational Statement on Racism.” In brief, he said, “the statement condemns the sin of racism, a confession of our individual and collective complicity in racism, and an acknowledgement that history and present-day racial injustice reveal the role that faith communities have and continue to have in fostering racism.”

The statement concludes with eight affirmations, one of which states that the congregation will “commit to making faith-reparations locally through the use of our resources to help correct manifestations of racism, injustice, and inequality in our community. These faith-based reparations will be decided by the Church Council as the voice of God’s people.”

We are committed to this process of moving toward reparation and doing so following Jesus’ teachings.

— The Central congregation’s Race Education Team includes Eric Anspaugh, Chuck Hite, Jennie Waering, and pastor Kevin Kinsey.

7) Brethren bits

— Remembrance: Janet Crago, a former mission worker with the Church of the Brethren, died on Feb. 3. She and her husband, Tom Crago, worked in Nigeria for the Church of the Brethren and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and also served in the Dominican Republic. The Cragos worked in Nigeria in 1968-1971, and after early retirement they returned in 2001 to serve as funding consultants for the Theological College of Northern Nigeria. They returned again in 2002 to assist the Nigerian church with a membership count. From 2003-2004 they worked as the interim mission coordinators in Nigeria. A few years later, they worked with EYN to establish a new pension plan for its church workers, which the EYN Majalisa (annual conference) implemented in April 2006. Janet Crago also helped develop an employee pension database for the EYN Pension Office and did some computer training for EYN staff. They were in the Dominican Republic in 2009-2010 as volunteers with the Church of the Brethren Global Mission program, working on a project to help improve the administration of funds within the Dominican church. In 2015 they returned to Nigeria to serve as volunteers with the Nigeria Crisis Response, a joint effort of EYN, Global Mission, and Brethren Disaster Ministries. During this time she blogged, wrote articles, and shared photographs of the experience of the Nigerian Brethren in one of the worst periods of violence during the Boko Haram insurgency. Janet and Tom Crago were married for 54 years. A memorial service was to take place Friday, Feb. 11, at Beth-El Mennonite Church in Colorado Spring, Colo. A recording of the service may be made available on the church’s YouTube channel at

FaithX (formerly the Workcamp Ministry) is tweeting out about locations for the short-term service experiences being planned for this summer. Above: A tweet highlights the site at Camp Alexander Mack in Milford, Ind.

— Northern Ohio District of the Church of the Brethren is seeking a district youth coordinator to fill a non-clergy, hourly position based on a 20-hour work week. Work on evenings and weekends often will be required to meet job objectives. Responsibilities include coordinating and overseeing all district junior high and senior high group activities in cooperation with the District Connections Commission and the appointed advisors and cabinets, and developing opportunities for young adults to connect with each other on a district level for fellowship and leadership development, among others. Preferred qualifications include a bachelor’s degree, a youth ministry major or minor, and youth ministry experience. Additional qualifications include excellent communication and interpersonal skills; highly developed attention to detail; ability to work independently and prioritize multiple tasks; proficiency with Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office software, and social media; willingness to become familiar with the district organization and geography; and desire to work in a Christian organization, supporting the ministry and mission of the Church of the Brethren. The applicant shall be a member of the Church of the Brethren, committed to Brethren beliefs and values. Find the full job opening announcement at

— This week’s prayer update from the Church of the Brethren Global Mission Office included a call for prayer for the You’ai (Brethren) Hospital’s new center for autistic children, led by a Christian occupational therapist who lives in the house formerly occupied by Global Mission co-executives Ruoxia Li and Eric Miller. “Quality services for these children are rare in much of China,” said the announcement. “Work began with the first student before the newly renovated center was completed.”

— Eglise des Frères Haïtiens, a predominantly Haitian congregation of the Church of the Brethren in Miami, Fla., in Atlantic Southeast District, will be celebrating its 40th anniversary next month. The church is pastored by Ilexene Alphonse.

– Sunrise Church of the Brethren in Harrisonburg, Va., will celebrate its 20th anniversary during the 10 a.m. worship service on Feb. 20. JD Glick and Jan Orndorff will be bringing the message together. Light refreshments will follow for “eat-in” or “to go” to meet various comfort levels for gathering during the COVID-19 era.

Emma Green

The New Yorker’s Emma Green, who covers cultural conflicts in academia, will headline the symposium on “Brethren and the Polarizing Pandemic: What Next?” at Bridgewater (Va.) College on March 10-11. The sponsor of the event is the Forum for Brethren Studies. The event is open to the public. Prior to working for The New Yorker, Green was a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she covered religion and politics and led a series called The Atlantic Interview. Her work has been featured in outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and NPR, among other media outlets. Read more at

– Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is offering a webinar series of discussions on Gaza in February and March. CMEP is a partner organization of the Church of the Brethren. “This program will openly and honestly present the reality of the siege, the occupation, and political leadership as well as include ways participants can advocate with their elected officials to encourage US policies that will help end the siege of Gaza and advance human rights and security for all,” said an announcement. The series is co-organized by CMEP, the Arab American Institute, and American Friends of Combatants for Peace. Each 90-minute session will present on one of these four aspects of Gaza: history and historical significance, politics, culture, and economics. For more information go to

— Also from CMEP, the organization is announcing its first in-person “Pilgrimage to Peace” tour since 2019. “This April, Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon (Executive Director) and Tala AlRaheb (Ambassador Warren Clark Fellow) will travel to Colorado, California, and Washington State to host a conversation with churches and other community groups about peacebuilding and advocacy related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said an announcement. Groups interested in hosting these speakers in Colorado, California, and Washington States during the period of April 18-May 2 may contact

— Community Peacemaker Teams (CPT, formerly Christian Peacemaker Teams) has opened early-bird registration for congregations and individuals to participate in a special day of prayer and action this Easter season. CPT is preparing resources to be used during worship on May 8, the Fourth Sunday of Easter. The theme for this year’s prayer and action is to “explore nurturing soil for abundant and just communities to thrive. We will learn about experiences of Colombian communities resisting violence and oppression while rooted in peace, justice, and love,” said an announcement. Go to

– This summer, Lombard (Ill.) Mennonite Peace Center will offer in‐person attendance at a Mediation Skills Training Institute for Church Leaders for the first time in two years. “Grace Presbyterian Church in Fort Mill, S.C., will host this popular and practical event on June 13‐17, 2022,” said an announcement. “Clergy and other church leaders are invited to join us for this essential training. The fee is $750 for five full days of instruction and a hard copy of the MSTI manual.” Go to‐events. For more information contact 630‐627‐0507 or

— The National Council of Churches (NCC) has congratulated the country of Liberia on its bicentennial. The letter dated Feb. 8 from Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, NCC Governing Board chair and presiding bishop of the Fifth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, was sent to Bishop Kortu K. Brown, President of the Liberia Council of Churches. “We rejoice that the voices of the Liberian churches are a part of this landmark anniversary!” the letter said. “The nation of Liberia was founded by formerly enslaved Americans seeking to escape ongoing oppression as the vestiges of American slavery continued to impact their lives. By God’s grace, the vision of freedom in their own country came to fruition and has survived for 200 years! We join in this celebration with humble hearts and acknowledging that the church in the USA did not do enough to prevent the subjugation and discrimination of black people. In many instances, people of faith actively participated in this systematic enslavement and later marginalization of human life. We join with you in celebrating God’s vision of unity for the church and a respect for all human life, regardless of race, color, creed, nationality or religion. May God strengthen us all as we strive to be voices of hope and advocates for justice.”

The NCC release also celebrated a US Presidential Delegation that has been announced to attend the Bicentennial Celebration of the Arrival of the First Free Black Americans to the Republic of Liberia. Jefferson-Snorton will be joining the delegation that will be present for the celebration on Feb. 14, as appointed by President Biden: “This marks the arrival of the first Free Black Americans to Providence Island in 1822, which led to the establishment of the City of Monrovia, and in 1847, the Republic of Liberia.” Leading the delegation will be Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Ambassador to the United Nations.

— The National Council of Churches has shared a prayer in memory of the 900,000 deaths to COVID-19 in the United States:

O Lord, lift our sorrow from us and comfort us. Bless the memories of our loved ones and friends who have died. Give us strength in this difficult time. Renew our spirits and lead us to love one another. Amen.

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 Eric Anspaugh, Shamek Cardona, James Deaton, Pamela B. Eiten, Galen Fitzkee, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Nathan Hosler, Pauline Liu, Nancy Miner, Donna Rhodes, Carol Scheppard, Julie Watson, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Please send news tips and submissions to . Find the Newsline archive at . Sign up for Newsline and other Church of the Brethren email newsletters and make subscription changes at . Unsubscribe by using the link at the top of any Newsline email.

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