Newsline for Feb. 4, 2022

1) Bridgewater College community mourns fallen heroes, General Secretary reaches out with condolences on behalf of the Church of the Brethren

2) ‘In the shadow’: Reflections on working with the Church of the Brethren in Rwanda

3) Bethany Seminary receives $1.2 million gift from the estate of David and Jane Wood

4) Praise God for the return of four girls abducted from Chibok area of Nigeria

“But you [God] do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief, that you may take it into your hands” (Psalm 10:14a).

5) Michigan District names District Executive Team with Beth Sollenberger as interim executive minister

6) Annual Conference office announces opening of online registration

7) Brethren Press publishes 2022 Lent devotional

8) Brethren bits: Correction, BHLA’s next Facebook Live event “Vintage Recipes” happens on Valentine’s Day, personnel notes, and job openings

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) Bridgewater College community mourns fallen heroes, General Secretary reaches out with condolences on behalf of the Church of the Brethren

The Bridgewater (Va.) College community is mourning the deaths of police officer John Painter and campus safety officer Vashon “J.J.” Jefferson, who were shot and killed on the college campus on Feb. 1. The two men were coworkers and close friends. Media report that a former student has been charged in their deaths.

Church of the Brethren general secretary David A. Steele has reached out to Bridgewater College president David W. Bushman with a letter of condolence.

“Our church and its members reach out with Christian caring during this time of grief for the officers’ families, the college’s students, faculty, and staff, as well as the town and the entire community that has been touched by this tragedy,” the letter said, in part. “We realize that you are mourning a deeply personal loss, while also walking through a time of great fear and anxiety that will have repercussions for some time to come–in particular for students and staff and their families.”

Find a copy of the full letter below.

Classes at Bridgewater are canceled through Sunday, and the college is making mental health counseling and qualified clinicians available to all students without charge, reported the Daily News-Record in an article about the many ways the Bridgewater community is grieving.

On Wednesday morning, students, staff, alumni, and community members gathered to sing the school’s alma mater, “Bridgewater Fair,” the paper reported. Choral director Ryan Keebaugh led the singing of the alma mater inside the Concert Hall at the Carter Center, and the song was sung again outdoors on the Learning Commons. Find videos of the singing of the alma mater posted on the college’s Facebook page at

The Church of the Brethren’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry has shared a request for prayer, scripture, or encouraging words for the young adults affected by the tragedy at Bridgewater College. Sharing may be posted on the Facebook page for Young Adults of the Church of the Brethren at

Bridgewater Church of the Brethren is hosting an ecumenical prayer gathering for the college and the town on Saturday, Feb. 5, starting at 6 p.m. The event will include singing, prayer, and reflection in the sanctuary at 420 College View Drive, and will be live-streamed at, said an announcement from Shenandoah District. Participants at the in-person event are asked to wear masks. For more information, email pastor David R. Miller at

A release from the college announced a law enforcement procession along Interstate 81 on the afternoon of Feb. 3 to return the two officers home from Roanoke. Funeral arrangements are currently pending, and the families of both officers are asking for respect and privacy during this time, the release said.

The college has established the John Painter and Vashon “J.J.” Jefferson Memorial Student Support Fund with its specific uses to be finalized in consultation with members of the Bridgewater College Campus Police Department. Find the release, with memorial statements for both men, at

2) ‘In the shadow’: Reflections on working with the Church of the Brethren in Rwanda

Chris Elliott, a farmer and pastor from Pennsylvania, and his daughter Grace are serving in Rwanda from January to May 2022, working on behalf of the Church of the Brethren Global Mission. Chris Elliott is helping with farming and also visiting other churches and projects in Rwanda and nearby countries. Grace Elliott is teaching in the nursery school of the Church of the Brethren in Rwanda. Here is a reflection on their experience:

In the shadow

By Chris Elliott

Grace and I have been here in Rwanda for over two weeks now and are enjoying it immensely.

We’ve been learning a lot, even if it is a slow process. The expression here for something tedious is “buhoro buhoro,” meaning “slow by slow.” It takes time! Our American/Western mentality pushes us to be dissatisfied if things don’t happen quickly and on time. Not an easy lesson, but one that Grace and I are studying every day.

Photo by Chris Elliott

One example is husking and shelling corn (referred to here as maize). When it is harvested, there is still moisture in the kernel. In the US it is shelled in the field by a combine, then hauled to the farm or the elevator to be dried before longterm storage. Here in Rwanda, as in most of sub-saharan Africa, it is harvested with the husks still on. Last week we husked three heaping pick-up loads. A few strips of husk are left on to tie a few ears together, then hung over the rafters or a drying rack to let dry. Once dry, it is shelled by hand for final drying in the sun on a tarp, then sacked for storage.

For me, as an American, and a farmer at that, this takes entirely too long. There are machines that can do this. What is taking days can be done in minutes (or hours, at least). Truth be told, I have enjoyed this process immensely. In the US, I do my job with my machine; you do your job with your machine and there is little interaction. We go to the drive-in window to pick up our lunch; we do our banking through the app on our smartphones; we order things online to have them placed in our mailbox or dropped on the porch. The human interface is minimal, if at all. Here, there are 6, 8, 10 people sitting together husking and shelling. The conversational chatter would never happen if machines were noisily clanging.

All of our gadgets and time-saving devices have not made our relationships stronger or better. Time cannot be saved. You can’t put an hour in a safe place and keep it until tomorrow. Time can only be spent. Slowing my pace to that of Rwandans might never fully happen for me (I won’t speak for Grace). After all, I only plan stay for four months. But if I gain a greater appreciation for the simpler life of my African sisters and brothers, I’ll get a little bit closer to seeing how most other people in the world live. North Americans are very much in the minority on this one.

— Chris Elliott and his daughter Grace are working with the Church of the Brethren Rwanda. Find out more about the work of Global Mission at

3) Bethany Seminary receives $1.2 million gift from the estate of David and Jane Wood

A release from Bethany Seminary

Bethany Theological Seminary has received a gift of $1.2 million from the estate of the late David Thomas Wood and Jane Merchant Wood of Boones Mill, Va. Their gift is one of the largest estate gifts in the 116-year history of the seminary.

Their gift will help support the vital functions of the seminary including faculty support and student scholarships.

“All of us at Bethany are humbled by David and Jane Wood’s generosity to the seminary,” says president Jeff Carter. “This gift will help us continue to make an exceptional biblical and theological education accessible and affordable for all qualified students. I believe this gift leaves a legacy that will honor the memory of the Woods and their decades of service to the church. We are so grateful for their support of the seminary as well as their dedicated service to the denomination and their local church.”

The Woods were farmers and orchardists, raising beef cattle and producing apples. They were longtime members of Bethlehem Church of the Brethren and both served the larger denomination as well as their local congregation. David Wood’s service included teaching Sunday school and serving as a member of the Virlina District reconciliation committee. He was the first lay person to serve as moderator of the Church of the Brethren. Jane Wood chaired the church board of the Bethlehem church, worked with children in the congregation, volunteered at the district office, and served as a member of the former General Board of the Church of the Brethren.

“Church was always a central part of their lives,” says Janice Yetmar, niece of David and Jane Wood. “This gift is simply a reflection of how they lived their lives.”

Lynn Myers, former chair of the Bethany Board of Trustees, knew David and Jane Wood well. He notes, “David and Jane were hard workers who lived faithful and simple lives. They were well respected leaders of their local and the greater church. Both supported Bethany in many ways in addition to sharing their resources. David was congenial and knowledgeable in diverse areas and was well known for his storytelling and vibrant conversations.”

The entire Bethany community is grateful for this generous gift.

4) Praise God for the return of four girls abducted from Chibok area of Nigeria

By Zakariya Musa

Praise God for the return of four girls who were abducted from Kautikari, in the area of Chibok in northeast Nigeria, on Jan. 14, 2022. Kautikari village is located east and about 20 kilometers drive from Chibok town, predominantly occupied by Christians.

The girls were abducted by ISWAP, according to Ayuba Maina, the District Church Council secretary for that district of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). He said the girls are still with the Nigerian military in Chibok, where their parents met them.

The girls are Lami Yarima, age 9; Na’omi Titus, age 18; Hauwa Gorobutu, age 17; and Rahab Thumur, age 20.

Chibok, which is about 150 kilometers from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, has continued to suffer a series of attacks from both Boko Haram and ISWAP. Recently, members of the Chibok community have called for an end to the attacks in the area, seeking the return of the schoolgirls believed to still be in Boko Haram captivity. Kibaku Area Development Association (KADA), an association of people from Chibok, spoke during a press conference in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, on Saturday. The group lamented that since the outbreak of insurgency over a decade ago, the area had been attacked more than 72 times, with more than 407 persons killed.

“On behalf of the entire Chibok community, we are using this medium to once again call on President Muhammadu Buhari to rescue Chibok community, an ethnic nationality, from total annihilation by the Boko Haram terrorists. This is because since the mass abduction of 276 of our daughters on April 14, 2014, where about 57 escaped on their own, we still have 110 of them still unaccounted for,” said KADA national president Dauda Iliya.

“We call on all well-meaning Nigerians and Mr. President in particular, to rise up to the occasion and urgently save our people from total annihilation and starvation.”

CHANNELS reported that the group also advised the federal government to seek support and synergize with the armed forces in tackling insecurity in the region. While asking the government to set up a camp for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the community, the association is still hoping for the safe return of the remaining 110 schoolgirls abducted more than seven years ago.

— Zakariya Musa is head of Media for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).


5) Michigan District names District Executive Team with Beth Sollenberger as interim executive minister

The Leadership Team of the Church of the Brethren’s Michigan District has made changes to the District Executive Team that cares for the essential functions of the district. The team has approved the hiring of Beth Sollenberger as interim district executive minister for a two-year term beginning immediately. Sollenberger began as interim district executive consultant in May 2020 and continues her role with this position of 10 hours per month.

In addition, the following leaders carry out the mission and work of the district:

— Frances Townsend, pastor of the Onekama and Marilla congregations, will serve as the district’s representative to the Council of District Executives.

— Dan Rossman of the New Haven congregation continues in a part-time volunteer position as director of Pastoral and Congregational Support.

— Wendy Russell of the Living Peace congregation will chair the district’s Leadership Team.

— Frank Polzin of the Church in Drive congregation continues as the team’s representative to Camp Brethren Heights.

— Jennifer Betts Pendragon serves as administrative assistant.

The district office contact information: c/o Onekama Church of the Brethren, 8266 Mill St., P.O. Box 35, Onekama, MI 49675; 616-258-1945;


6) Annual Conference office announces opening of online registration

By Debbie Noffsinger

Online registration for the 2022 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference taking place in Omaha, Neb., on July 10-14 will open on March 1 at 12 noon central time / 1 p.m. Eastern time. Online registration will be available for both delegates and nondelegates at the Annual Conference website

The advance delegate registration fee is $310 per delegate. Advance registration will close on June 10. The fee for registering delegates onsite in Omaha will be $385. Don’t wait!

The advance nondelegate registration fee is $130. Advance registration will close on June 10. The fee for registering nondelegates onsite in Omaha will be $165.

There also will be an option to register as a virtual nondelegate to watch business online, view special events and concerts, and participate in a number of equipping sessions. Information will be shared on the Annual Conference website.

The link for hotel reservations will be on the last page of the registration site, appearing immediately after completing registration, and will be in the registration confirmation email. Everyone can reserve a room upon completing their registration. Do not call the hotel to make a reservation! Annual Conference discounted room fees are only available for online registrations.

There are two hotels in the Conference block: Hilton Omaha at $106 per night (plus tax) and Doubletree by Hilton Omaha at $106 per night (plus tax). This is the lowest hotel rate the Conference has enjoyed since 2009. Please go to for more hotel information.

Delegate registration fees provide each delegate with a Conference booklet, the business materials packet, a designated delegate name tag, and seating at the delegate tables at Annual Conference. Each congregation registering a delegate will receive a copy of the 2022 Annual Conference minutes.

Registering a delegate

Congregations may register their delegate(s) using online registration beginning Tuesday, March 1, 2022. Payment options include paying by credit card or sending a check. Go to and click on the “Registration” button and then choose “Delegate Registration.” Each delegate’s complete name, address, email, and phone number are required. Pertinent Conference information will be emailed to registered delegates, so an email address is required. For delegates who do not have an email address, an email address of the church office or family member is required. For assistance call the Annual Conference office at 800-323-8039 ext. 366.

Delegate eligibility and allotment

Delegates must be full members of the Church of the Brethren. The number of delegates for each congregation is based on the membership statistics as reported in the 2021 Church of the Brethren Yearbook. The number allowed is as follows:
— up to 200 members: 1 delegate
— 201 to 400 members: 2 delegates
— 401 to 600 members: 3 delegates
— 601 to 800 members: 4 delegates

Nondelegate registrations

Nondelegate registration opens the same day as delegate registration. When registering anyone other than a delegate, click on the “Non-Delegate Registration” button.

Additional orders

Delegates and nondelegates can go to the online “store” to purchase additional items such as meal event tickets, a choir packet, tour tickets, a Conference booklet, and more.

Worship services

All five worship services will be available free of charge to all registered and non-registered persons.

New attendee orientation

Delegates and nondelegates who have never been or have not recently been to Annual Conference are encouraged to attend the New Attendee Orientation session in Omaha at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 10. The location will be listed in the Conference booklet.

COVID Response Plan

Caring for the health and wellbeing of Conferencegoers is a priority. In consultation with medical professionals, a COVID Response Plan has been developed, outlining the safety protocols that may be in place depending on the state of the pandemic in July. For more information go to

Online information

Please check the Annual Conference webpage at for more information about Annual Conference in Omaha, including leadership, themes, schedules, meal and food options, meetings and events, the COVID Response Plan, and much more. New information is added regularly, so check back often!

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

— Debbie Noffsinger is Conference assistant in the Annual Conference Office. Contact her at 847-429-4366 or 800-323-8039 ext. 366 or


7) Brethren Press publishes 2022 Lent devotional

We Wait for Light” is the title of the 2022 Lent devotional for Ash Wednesday through Easter published by Brethren Press. The author of the devotional is Walt Wiltschek, district executive minister for Illinois and Wisconsin District and a member of the editorial team for the Church of the Brethren magazine Messenger.

The devotional, a small paperback booklet, is available online at for the cost of $4.50 for the regular print size, or $8.95 for the large print size.

“Sometimes darkness seems to last forever,” said a description of the devotional. “We gaze toward the horizon for any gleams of light, rays of hope. This Lent, we wander in exile with Isaiah, waiting and scanning the sky for the first hints of Easter brilliance. God assures us that we are not forgotten. A new day is coming.”

The Brethren Press devotional series is published twice a year in anticipation of the Advent and Lenten seasons. Becoming a seasonal subscriber costs only $8 a year for both regular print booklets, or $16 a year for both large print booklets. Subscriptions are renewed automatically each year at the discounted rate and bulk quantities can be adjusted with a simple phone call. Subscribers can cancel their enrollment in the program at any time. To subscribe to the devotional series, call Brethren Press at 800-441-3712 and ask about the seasonal devotional standing order program.

8) Brethren bits

— Correction: An incorrect email address was given for the Brethren Heritage Center in last week’s “Brethren bits.” The correct email address is

— The Brethren Historical Library and Archives at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., seeks applicants for its Archival Internship Program. The purpose of the program is to develop interest in vocations related to archives and libraries and/or Brethren history. The program will provide the intern with work assignments in the BHLA and with opportunities to develop professional contacts. Work includes processing archival materials, writing descriptive inventories, preparing books for cataloging, responding to reference requests, and assisting researchers in the library. Professional contacts may include attending archival and library conferences and workshops, visits to libraries and archives in the Chicago area, and participation in a Brethren Historical Committee meeting (pending COVID-19 restrictions). BHLA is the official repository for Church of the Brethren publications and records. The collection consists of more than 10,000 volumes, 3,500 linear feet of manuscripts and records, 40,000 photographs, plus videos, films, DVDs, and recordings. The one-year internship begins July 2022 (preferred). Compensation includes housing, a stipend of $550 every two weeks, and health insurance. A graduate student is preferred, or an undergraduate with at least two years of college, with interest in history and/or library and archival work, willingness to work with detail, accurate word processing skills, ability to lift 30-pound boxes. Full COVID-19 vaccination is a condition of the internship. Submit a resume to or contact the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 367. All submissions must be completed by April 1, 2022.

The next Facebook Live event from the Brethren Historical Library and Archives (BHLA), “Vintage Recipes,” is planned for Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, at 2 p.m central time / 3 p.m. Eastern time. The special focus will be doing vintage baking and making sweets for the holiday. “Join us in the kitchen as we explore both vintage recipes in our BHLA collection and the denominational cookbook, The Inglenook Cookbook on this special Valentine’s Day edition of our Archives Live!” said an invitation. Go to

— Patty Sturrock has left the position of kitchen manager for Brethren Woods, a camp and outdoor ministry center near Keezletown, Va., after more than a decade of dedicated service, said the camp newsletter. Sturrock is leaving in order to focus more fully on her own catering and food service business. “While we are sad to see her go, we wish her all the best in this new endeavor. You can enjoy Patty’s friendly service and delicious food by visiting her at The Cafe at The Shops at The Old Shed in Weyers Cave,” said the announcement.

— Brethren Woods is now seeking a food service director, which is a new role. This quarter-time, year-round, salaried position is based on an average of 10 hours per week with more hours during the summer season, less hours in the fall and spring, and limited hours in the winter. Additional hours, if desired, are available when fulfilling the role of head cook. The food service director is responsible to plan and coordinate camp food service and staffing for all scheduled groups, activities, and events throughout the year. Benefits include a salary, based on experience and within the context of the nonprofit environment, and professional growth funds. Apply by sending a resume to by March 1. Questions can be directed to Linetta Ballew, acting director of Brethren Woods, at 540-269-2641 or

— The Center on Conscience and War (CCW) is seeking a new director of development to help support the nonprofit organization’s ninth decade of work to extend and defend the rights of conscientious objectors to war. The CCW’s predecessor organizations were founded by the historic peace churches including the Church of the Brethren. CCW is the only national organization whose primary mission is to support conscientious objectors, or COs. “We are a small, but very busy office, serving many soldiers of conscience, and our victories on their behalf fortify us to continue the struggle for peace: our work literally helps to change lives every day–challenging the violence of war–one soldier at a time,” said an announcement of the job opening. The director of development will manage all aspects of CCW’s modest fundraising. The ideal candidate will have experience developing and managing a variety of fundraising campaigns, using social media to reach new audiences and grow a base of support, researching and applying for new and appropriate grant opportunities, and employing other creative ways of engaging broad grassroots support. The position will begin as part-time, with potential to grow. Compensation is competitive. The CCW workplace strives to be cooperative and non-hierarchical. CCW’s office is located in the District of Columbia, on the fourth floor of a walk-up. Proximity to Washington, D.C., is not a requirement and work can be performed in the office or from anywhere in the US. For more information go to

– Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is seeking a part-time finance manager who will implement and contribute to CMEP’s annual finance strategy including payroll, bookkeeping, accounts payable and receivable, audit support, and other financial tasks. The preference is for someone who can work from Washington, D.C., but remote work is possible. Hours are 10 hours a week with seasonal increases. Includes PTO benefits. Find out more at

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 Shamek Cardona, Chris Elliott, Jan Fischer Bachman, Neal Fitze, Jonathan Graham, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Jeff Lennard, Eric Miller, Zakariya Musa, Debbie Noffsinger, Allison Snyder, David Steele, 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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