Newsline for Jan. 21, 2022

1) COVID response plan is set in place for 2022 Annual Conference

2) National Youth Conference registration begins, more presenters are announced

3) Brethren Faith in Action round up for 2021

4) EYN reports lives lost and churches and homes burned in Kautikari attack

5) Kay Gaier and Anna Lisa Gross named to interim leadership of South/Central Indiana District

6) Brethren bits: Jim Winkler completes service with NCC, “Intro to Kingian Nonviolence” webinar, Northern Plains District offers insight sessions, CPT conversation about new name, world churches pray for Tonga, York Center member interviewed in Wall Street Journal

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Quote of the week:

“The Church of the Brethren has asserted that, ‘We believe that government…can be strengthened by participation of its entire citizenry…[and] we support steps by our government to recognize the full enfranchisement of all of our citizens.’ In both our church and the country in which we reside, we aim to make this a reality. Though this has been imperfect in practice, we strive and urge for full and just participation for all.”

— Nathan Hosler, director of the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, in a statement he made as one of the members of the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches (NCC). The Governing Board member statements were incorporated in the organization’s statement published this week titled “Voting Rights Are Human Rights.” The Church of the Brethren is a founding member of the NCC. Read more at

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) COVID response plan is set in place for 2022 Annual Conference

From the Program and Arrangements Committee of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference

As we look ahead to Annual Conference on July 10-14, 2022, in Omaha, Neb., one of our top priorities is caring for the health and wellbeing of all Conferencegoers. In the highly politicized context of the ongoing pandemic, this has proven to be a challenging task. The Program and Arrangements Committee developed the following plan in consultation with epidemiologist Dr. Kathryn Jacobsen and physician and former Program and Arrangements Committee member Dr. Emily Shonk Edwards.

We have decided not to implement a vaccine requirement for all conference goers—a decision affirmed by Dr. Jacobsen and Dr. Shonk Edwards after consultation with district and denominational leadership. However, we STRONGLY ENCOURAGE VACCINATIONS for everyone who is eligible to receive initial doses and boosters. The currently-available vaccines have been proven to be very safe and very effective at reducing the risk of hospitalization and death. Vaccines will be required for key leadership and others who may need the flexibility of removing masks to be better understood while speaking. Vaccines also will be required for anyone volunteering with the early childhood program since our youngest Conferencegoers likely will not yet have access to vaccines.

The theme and logo for Annual Conference 2022

Likewise, we also do not currently plan to require proof of a negative COVID test result upon arrival at Annual Conference or daily testing. The usefulness of a test is limited in relation to a multi-day event, since a test result only reflect one’s status at the moment it was taken. However, we ENCOURAGE COVID TESTS for everyone within 24 hours prior to arriving at Annual Conference. (Please note that the guidance on timing for testing prior to arrival may change depending on real-time circumstances this summer.) If you test positive–or if you have had a known exposure to someone who has tested positive to COVID-19–please, please, please stay home. We will refund your registration fee.

So, what will we be doing to protect your health and safety? We have a developed a four-tiered response plan. The level of our response will be determined prior to Annual Conference based on two factors: the nationwide transmission rate as reported by the CDC using their county-by-county COVID tracker and guidance from local health officials in Omaha. The plan level for Annual Conference will not be any lower than the level of community transmission in Omaha at the time of Annual Conference. For example, if Omaha is orange on the CDC COVID Tracker, the level for Annual Conference will be at least orange (and might be red, since red is a higher level of precaution). We expect to make a decision about the level sometime in mid or late June.

Plan Level Precautions

BLUE: More than 90 percent of counties across the country report a low (blue) level of transmission; no counties are in the orange or red zones; the Omaha area is blue.
— No mandated restrictions.
— Individuals can choose to do what feels comfortable to them.
— All activities will proceed as planned.

YELLOW: More than 90 percent of counties across the country report a low (blue) or moderate (yellow) level of transmission; no counties are in the red zone; the Omaha area is blue or yellow.
— Masks will be required at all times in the convention center, but individuals may choose a mask with which they are comfortable.
— We can engage in congregational singing.
— Meal events will take place as planned. Masks may be removed to eat, but should be put back on immediately when done eating.

ORANGE: More than 10 percent of counties across the country report a substantial (orange or red) level of transmission; the Omaha area is not red.
— N95 or KN95 masks will be required at all times in the convention center.
— We can engage in congregational singing.
— Meal events will take place, but limits will be placed on numbers to allow for more social distancing and planners will be asked to present the program first and participants will be given a boxed meal they can either eat in the room or take with them to eat elsewhere.
— Social distancing markers will be placed on the floor in areas where people tend to congregate in lines.

RED: More than 10 percent of counties across the country report a high (red) level of transmission OR the Omaha area is red.
— N95 or KN95 masks will be required at all times in the convention center.
— We will NOT engage in congregational singing.
— No food will be served in the convention center. While we will not be eating together, planners of meal events can still host participants for the program portion of their event. (Note: Not meeting our Food and Beverage Minimum will result in a financial hit to Annual Conference, so Conferencegoers will be given the option of requesting a refund or donating the cost of their meal ticket to support Annual Conference.)
— Social distancing markers will be placed on the floor in areas where people tend to congregate in lines.
— We will make a hybrid option available for delegates as well as nondelegates. This will only be an option if circumstances demand that we adopt red-level precautions.

If anyone begins to feel ill at Annual Conference, we ask that they get tested and then isolate until they have a test result. If they test positive, they should not return to in-person activities. We ask that anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 while at Annual Conference or immediately following Annual Conference inform the Annual Conference office so we can inform those with whom they might have had close contact (such as other children in children’s activities or table-mates during business sessions).

This guidance is rooted in science. However, for Dr. Jacobsen and Dr. Shonk Edwards, the Annual Conference staff, and Program and Arrangements Committee members, this is not just a matter of science, but a matter of faith. Jesus calls us to love one another, to care for the lost and the least. As members of a community of faith, we must be willing to adhere to precautions that protect the lives and health of others–our brothers and sisters within the community of faith and the people of Omaha who will be welcoming us into their community. This is why (high quality) masks may be required; they are proven to protect others.

Annual Conference is a multi-generational event bringing people from across the country together for a large indoor event during which social distancing is not always possible and activities like singing and sharing meals together are important. In that single sentence describing Annual Conference, we find a compilation of proven risk factors. We want to gather in person, but also want to do so in a way that is safe and reflects our faith-based commitment to care for the most vulnerable among us.

Please note: we offer this plan as guidance in your decision-making, but as science evolves and new information becomes available, we may revise this plan in response to changing circumstances. These are challenging times and we ask for your grace and cooperation in our efforts to make Annual Conference a healthy and productive event.

The Program and Arrangements Committee:
David Sollenberger, moderator
Tim McElwee, moderator-elect
Jim Beckwith, Annual Conference secretary
Carol Hipps Elmore
Beth Jarrett
Nathan Hollenberg
Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, director of Annual Conference
Debbie Noffsinger, Conference assistant

Annual Conference exists to unite, strengthen, and equip the Church of the Brethren to follow Jesus.

— The Annual Conference COVID Response Plan is posted online at

Current policies in place at CHI Health (Convention) Center, as of Jan. 20, 2022 (more information can be found at

— In compliance with Douglas County Health Department’s mask mandate that went into effect on Jan. 12 and will remain in place for four weeks before being reevaluated, face coverings must be worn in the CHI Health Center. Beyond this, the convention center has assured us that staff who interact with guests will comply with any precautions we put in place for our event.

— Hand sanitizing stations are available throughout the building.

— Employees who become symptomatic are required to self-report, at which point they are directed to immediately end their shift and leave the building.

— CHI Health Center is staffing additional custodial crews before, during, and after events who routinely use disinfectant for daily cleaning procedures. Areas of frequent human contact (restrooms, hard surfaces, doorknobs) are cleaned multiple times a day. They are using the Clorox Total 360 system that utilizes electrostatic technology and non-bleach Clorox products for surface treatment with the capability to clean even the hardest-to-reach places.

— Visual reminders are posted throughout the building to encourage social distancing, to avoid handshaking, or touching one’s face.

— The in-house food services provider has modified front and back of house procedures in consideration of best safety practices, including training, personal hygiene, sanitation, reduced touchpoints in food preparation, required masking for unvaccinated workers.

— The CHI Health Center is a cash-free environment. All major debit and credit cards are accepted and Cash 2 Card machines are available onsite for customer use.

2) National Youth Conference registration begins, more presenters are announced

By Erika Clary

More than 350 people from across 17 Church of the Brethren districts have registered for National Youth Conference (NYC) 2022 since registration began on Dec. 1. Many of those participants took advantage of the December registration incentive and will receive a free t-shirt.

We are all looking forward to a week of worshiping, growing, listening, and learning. NYC takes place July 23-28 on the campus of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo.

Haven’t registered for NYC yet? Do so as soon as possible so you can join the NYC community! Registration, which includes all meals, lodging, and programing, costs $550. A $225 deposit is due within two weeks of registration to reserve your spot. Go to

In more news, ongoing announcements of presenters for NYC 2022 continue. The NYC 2022 office is happy to announce that all the worship preachers for the event have been confirmed. Continue reading about the NYC speakers and a special guest below.

COVID-19 protocols

Wondering what the COVID-19 protocols are for NYC 2022? Each participant signs a covenant agreeing to a number of rules, including wearing a mask any time they are indoors (unless they are eating/drinking, showering, or in their own dorm room). By signing the covenant, participants also acknowledge that they will follow protocols outlined by the NYC staff immediately prior to the event, as appropriate protocols cannot be defined until closer to July. We strongly encourage all participants to get vaccinated.

More information (including the Youth Speech Contest guidelines, schedule, preacher biographies, and more) can be found on our website at

Register today for this mountaintop event that only happens once every four years! Go to

Questions? Contact Erika Clary, 2022 National Youth Conference coordinator, by phone at 847-429-4376 or by email at

More NYC speakers and a special guest

Each Saturday in recent weeks, a preacher was announced on the NYC social media pages as part of a series called “Speaker Saturday.” Previously, five speakers plus the theme of the Youth Speech Contest were announced. They can be found at

More speakers:

Dava Hensley is pastor of First Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va. She graduated from Bethany Theological Seminary in 2009 with a master of divinity degree and graduated from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in 2020 with a doctorate of ministry with an emphasis in preaching. She currently serves on the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board and on the Virlina District New Church Development Committee. When she has time, she loves to golf, read, cook, travel, and go to the movies.

Rodger Nishioka is director of Adult Faith Formation at Village Presbyterian Church in Kansas. Before starting at Village Presbyterian, he taught at Columbia Theological Seminary for 15 years. He formerly served as the national coordinator for Youth and Young Adult Ministries for the Presbyterian Church and received a doctorate in Social and Cultural Foundations from Georgia State University.

Jeremy Ashworth is a husband, father, and pastor of Circle of Peace Church of the Brethren in Peoria, Ariz., a Phoenix suburb. He likes tacos.

Seth Hendricks is an experienced midwesterner, having lived in Nebraska, Kansas, Ohio, and now residing in Indiana where he is pastor of Youth Ministry and Congregational Life at Manchester Church of the Brethren in North Manchester, Ind. He is also a musician and composer of three National Youth Conference theme songs. He hopes to win his first Brethren Volunteer Service-sponsored NYC ultimate frisbee tournament with his youth group.

The NYC office also is pleased to announce that Ken Medema will be joining us for the whole week of NYC. Blind from birth, Medema sees and hears with heart and mind. He has inspired people through storytelling and music for 4 decades and has reached audiences of up to 50,000 people in 49 states and more than 15 countries on 4 continents. He custom designs every musical moment of his performances with improvisation that defies description. He is a great friend of the Church of the Brethren and has performed at Annual Conference and National Older Adult Conference as well as previous NYCs.

Dava Hensley
Rodger Nishioka
Jeremy Ashworth
Seth Hendricks
Ken Medema (photo by Nevin Dulabaum)

For more NYC announcements, be sure to visit the NYC social media (Facebook: National Youth Conference, Instagram: @cobnyc2022).

— Erika Clary is the 2022 National Youth Conference coordinator, serving through Brethren Volunteer Service.

3) Brethren Faith in Action round up for 2021

By Stan Dueck

Here is the funding summary for Brethren Faith in Action (BFIA) grants in 2021. The total amount granted was $80,870.89; 20 of 26 applications were approved for grants; 15 congregations and 5 camps received funds. Five of the six non-funded applicants did not provide the additional information requested by the BFIA Committee to complete the review process.

The grant recipients represent these 12 districts in the Church of the Brethren:

  1. Atlantic Northeast
  2. Atlantic Southeast
  3. South/Central Indiana
  4. Michigan
  5. Mid-Atlantic District
  6. Northern Ohio
  7. Southern Ohio and Kentucky
  8. Pacific Northwest
  9. Pacific Southwest
  10. Northern Plains
  11. Western Plains
  12. Virlina

— Stan Dueck is co-coordinator of Discipleship Ministries for the Church of the Brethren. Find out more about the Brethren Faith in Action Fund at

4) EYN reports lives lost and churches and homes burned in Kautikari attack

By Zakariya Musa, head of Media, Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria

In an ISWAP/Boko Haram attack on Kautikari town on Jan. 15, at least three people were killed and five people were abducted. Two churches of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and more than 20 houses were burned. Kautikari is one of many communities devastated in Chibok and other local government areas in Borno State, Nigeria, where churches and Christians are targeted.

Those killed in the attack were Joseph Shagula, age 57; Friday Abdu, 37; and Ayali Yahi, 30.

Those who were abducted included Lami Yarima, age 9; Naomi Titus, 18; Hauwa Gorobutu, 17; Rahab Thumur, 20; and 18-year-old Saratu, who has since escaped.

The churches that were burned were EYN No 1, Kautikari, which was recently rebuilt by concerned church members; and EYN LCC Mission Road, which was organized by EYN president Joel Billi in May 2021 as a Local Church Council (congregation).

In other losses during the attack, 26 houses were burned, 4 cars were burned, a car and a tricycle were stolen, and much additional property was lost.

Let us continue praying.

— Zakariya Musa is head of Media for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Yuguda Mdurvwa of the EYN disaster ministry also contributed to this report and provided the photos that accompany this article.

Above: a building burned in the attack on Kautikari town in Borno State, Nigeria. Below: people remove furniture from one of the churches burned in the attack. Photos courtesy of Yuguda Mdurvwa, EYN disaster ministry.


5) Kay Gaier and Anna Lisa Gross named to interim leadership of South/Central Indiana District

South/Central Indiana District of the Church of the Brethren has called Kay Gaier and Anna Lisa Gross to serve as co-interim district executive ministers in a half-time position beginning Jan. 17.

Gaier will focus on supporting pastors and congregations, connecting with district committees and teams, and continuing orientation and educational opportunities for pastors. Gross’s role will feature her experience with interim work as she relates to congregations, the district board, and other constituent bodies. She will focus on pastoral and congregational transitions and will represent the district with the Council of District Executives, Camp Mack, Timbercrest retirement community, Manchester University, and the Annual Conference agencies.

Gaier is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren and a graduate of Bethany Theological Seminary with a master of divinity degree. She also holds a master’s degree in Counseling and Family Studies from Michigan State University. She served for 14 years as pastor of Wabash (Ind.) Church of the Brethren. In her time as a pastor, she served the district as moderator, on the Shalom Team, and on teaching committees for several ministers in training, supporting their ministry formation.

Gross is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren with a master of divinity degree from Bethany Theological Seminary. She has served as interim pastor for six congregations (one in the United Church of Christ, the remainder in the Church of the Brethren) and is now a part-time settled pastor at Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Northern Indiana District.

6) Brethren bits

— Jim Winkler has completed his service as president and general secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the US (NCC), having completed two terms in the position. In this week’s newsletter from the NCC, he shared his gratitude and hopes for the ecumenical movement. “As you can imagine, it is the opportunity of a lifetime to serve God as president and general secretary of the National Council of Churches,” he wrote, in part. “My goal was to leave the NCC in a better place than it was when I took over eight years ago and I believe that has been achieved.” The achievements he mentioned included completing an update of the New Revised Standard Version in partnership with the Society of Biblical Literature, quintupling the NCC’s financial reserves, raising the public profile of the NCC and having “re-established the Council as a major ecumenical entity both in the United States and around the world,” holding a major rally to end racism on the National Mall and re-focusing on the goal of eradicating racism, initiating new interreligious dialogues, advocating for peace and justice, continuing to publish the International Sunday School Lessons, and strengthening longstanding “Faith & Order” work. “All of this was done with a tiny staff of less than 10 persons and a budget of about $2 million a year,” he wrote. “I pray the NCC will thrive in the years ahead.”

— On Earth Peace is offering a two-hour “Intro to Kingian Nonviolence” webinar on Feb. 4 at 12 noon (Eastern time). The online event is for those interested in meeting others who are interested in Kingian Nonviolence, building Beloved Community, and connecting with On Earth Peace’s Kingian Nonviolence Learning Action Community. The webinar will cover “the 4 pillars of Kingian Nonviolence, initial introduction to the 6 Principles and 6 Steps–the ‘Will’ and the ‘Skill’ of Kingian Nonviolence, the Social Dynamics of Kingian Nonviolence,” said an announcement. Register at

— Northern Plains District and district moderator Susan Mack-Overla have announced monthly insight sessions hosted by the District Conference Planning Committee in preparation for the 2022 district conference to be held in August. January’s session, which took place online on Jan. 18, was titled “Jesus in the Neighborhood in Northern Plains” and explored the District Witness Commission project to bring the denomination’s vision of “Jesus in the Neighborhood” to congregations and their neighborhoods through $500 grants to be used for an event, project or activity in 2022.

Upcoming district insight sessions include:

— “Counting the Cost,” a Bible study on Luke 14 led by Dan Ulrich, Bethany Seminary Wieand Professor of New Testament Studies, planned for Feb. 15.

— “Embracing One Another as Christ Embraces Us: A Preview of Annual Conference” led by Dave Sollenberger, Annual Conference moderator, planned for April 19.

— “Counting the Cost: What the Early Brethren Were Thinking at the Time of the First
Baptisms in August 1708” led by H. Kendall Rogers, Bethany Seminary Professor of Historical Studies, planned for May 10.

— Community Peacemaker Teams (CPT, formerly Christian Peacemaker Teams) has announced an opportunity to join in a conversation around the new name. “After 35 years as Christian Peacemaker Teams, CPT adopted Community Peacemaker Teams as its new name. This decision was not made lightly and is the result of a long discernment process in consultation with our teams on the ground,” said the announcement. “You may have questions about this process and this change, so we want to give you the opportunity to dialogue directly with our teams.” The online conversation takes place Jan. 27 at 12 noon (Eastern time) at

— The World Council of Churches (WCC) reports that churches from the Pacific Islands and across the world “continued to voice their prayers of support and care as Tonga copes with the aftermath of the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano.” The Jan. 14 eruption covered many areas of the islands with ash and triggered tsunami waves that hit the archipelago and also affected Fiji and other Pacific islands and Pacific Rim countries, the release said. It included a request for Christians around the world to pray for “Tonga and our Pacific household of God in these challenging times of activity in the Pacific Ring of Fire, cyclone season, COVID-19, all continuing to be exacerbated by climate change.” Find the WCC release at

— Arbie Karasek of York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill., was one of the nurses at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Ill., who were interviewed in a recent Wall Street Journal article about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on hospital staff. She is one of the nurses taking part in a new program called “Growing Forward,” that has been created by one of the hospital chaplains to help staff deal with increased stresses as the omicron variant has again increased hospital caseloads. Find the article by Ben Kesling, titled “To Help Battle Covid-19, a Hospital Borrows Tactics from Combat Veterans,” 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 Erika Clary, Stan Dueck, Nathan Hosler, Susan Mack-Overla, Clara McGilly, Yuguda Mdurvwa, Zakariya Musa, Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Christy Waltersdorff, Walt Wiltschek, Roy Winter, 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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