Brethren bits for Feb. 24, 2023

— The Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., has been hosting two gatherings this week:

Below: The Church of the Brethren denominational staff held its first in-person staff gathering since the start of the pandemic. The guest leader was Bob Smietana, author of Reorganized Religion and a reporter with Religion News Service (RNS) who has been published in the Washington Post and many other media outlets.

Photos by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Above: Continuing over the weekend is a “Reflective Practices Retreat” of the Part-time Pastor; Full-time Church program of the Office of Ministry. The group “is reflecting on the progress of the grant program so far and envisioning future steps towards a goal of program sustainability,” said Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, director of the Office of Ministry. Participants include several of the program’s “circuit riders,” two district executives, advisory committee members, director and staff of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, among others. The retreat facilitator is Greg Davidson-Laszakovits of GDL Insight.

The National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) planning team is hard at work preparing for the Sept. 4-8 conference. “We are excited about gathering once again at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina,” writes coordinator Christy Waltersdorff. Online registration for NOAC will open on May 1. An email will be sent out next week to all past participants with more details. For up-to-date information, go to or follow NOAC on Facebook at Announcements of the NOAC preachers are being rolled out on the Facebook page.

The planning team is now accepting proposals for workshops. If you are interested in leading a workshop at NOAC, please send a message to to request a proposal form.

The planning team also is announcing a partnership with the Fellowship of Brethren Homes to be a sponsor of NOAC, which allows for all of the Church of the Brethren-related retirement communities to access online NOAC at no cost. The online access will include the morning Bible Study led by Christine Bucher and Bob Neff; keynote speakers Mark Charles, Ken Medema, Ted Swartz, and Osheta Moore; one virtual field trip each day; and evening worship. To receive the access link, please send a note to

Please pray… For those planning this year’s National Older Adult Conference (NOAC).

The Brethren Historical Library and Archives seeks volunteers. See the announcement above, and contact

— Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) is announcing “a rare and exciting opportunity for volunteers interested in serving in Northern Ireland! Corrymeela is currently accepting applications for their 2023-2024 volunteer program and they want a BVSer to join them! If you’re interested in working with an organization that focuses on peace and justice while living in a tight-knit international community, then this is the place for you.” Applications close on March 9. Apply at

— Discipleship Ministries has extended through March 31 the early-bird price of $109 for the New & Renew Conference. The theme of the event, scheduled for May 17-19 at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., will be “Disciples–Called, Equipped, and Into the Neighborhood!” This registration price will be for both onsite and virtual attendance. Included in the price will be a copy of Jessie Cruickshank’s soon-to-be-published book Ordinary Discipleship: How God Wires Us for the Adventure of Transformation. Said an announcement: “This three-day hybrid conference has more than 20 sessions to broaden your knowledge of church planting and congregational renewal. Besides the workshops, inspirational worship, keynotes, and storytelling will invigorate your calling and passion for ministry.” Registration affords you the ability to earn more than 2.0 continuing education units, not only from the onsite and virtual participation but also by watching the recorded sessions after the event. For further information go to For questions please contact Randi Rowan at

— Children’s Disaster Services is calling for potential volunteers to participate in training workshops. A series of these events, which train CDS volunteers to care for children and families following disasters, is planned for this spring in various parts of the country. Go to

— “Come to God’s peace table where there’s room for everyone!” said an announcement from Brethren Press about The Peace Table, a Bible storybook from the Shine curriculum. “The Peace Table includes biblically faithful retellings of 140 Bible stories. Stunning artwork from 30 illustrators invites children to see themselves reflected in God’s story. Along with each Bible story, there are prayer prompts, questions, and action ideas to guide reflection and conversation. Twelve Peace Paths allow children to ‘choose their own adventure’ through the book, exploring how peace themes are woven throughout the Old and New Testaments. A resource section includes ideas for how to experience peace with God, self, others, and creation, as well as maps, background information on the Bible, interactive ways to pray, and prayers for many occasions. The Peace Table is an excellent resource for families and faith communities who want their children to love Jesus, grow in faith, and become peacemakers who change the world!” Preorder any quantity between now and June 1 and receive a 25 percent discount. View a sample and preorder your copy today at

— The historic Rock Creek Church of the Brethren building was moved to the Albany Museum, north of Sabetha, Kan., on Friday. Photo at right by Lauri Hertzler, courtesy of Cheryl Steele Mishler, who posted the news on Facebook. Find more photos at her Facebook page.

— First Chicago (Ill.) Church of the Brethren has invited Marvin Holt to join the congregation for worship on March 19, at 11 a.m. Holt is the architect who designed the windows that replaced the original windows that were present when First Church purchased the building in 1925. The current windows were installed in 1975 celebrating 50 years of ministry on the corner of Central Park and Congress in Chicago. The event will include conversation about the process of designing the windows, choice of material, significance of each panel, importance of the windows for the neighborhood, and the ministry of the windows. “First Church gives thanks to the many people who supported our need for new windows, which brings much joy to those who enter the sanctuary,” said an announcement from Joyce Cassel. “Each time one enters there is a different frame of light on the windows and thus a new understanding of Christ’s mission here at 425 S. Central Park, Chicago.”

— “It Started…with an Idea: The Story of Heifer Project and Heifer International” is the title of Brethren Voices’ March episode. Said an announcement: “Dan West was a farmer from Indiana, as well as a leader in the Church of the Brethren. In 1937, Dan went to Spain and volunteered in a program that combined the efforts of the Mennonites, Brethren, and American Friends Service Committee to assist the survivors of the Spanish Civil War. He developed a personal desire, to do as much for peace as soldiers do in war…. Dan saw, first-hand, that giving people food was a short-term solution. As a farmer, he felt that providing them with animals would provide a steady supply of nutritious food for an entire family. With a great deal of planning and inspired generosity, on the part of Brethren members and friends, the Heifer Project became a reality. The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration endorsed Dan’s plan, to send livestock to wartorn Europe. Following the Second World War, a group of young farmers volunteered to accompany the first shipments of livestock into devastated communities of Europe, Asia, and even behind the Iron Curtain…. These volunteers became known as the Seagoing Cowboys.” Today, what started as Heifer Project is now Heifer International and has assisted millions of people out of hunger, to sustainability. View this and other episodes at

Brethren Voices is a monthly public access television show. Producer Ed Groff writes: “All Brethren Voices films are available for any Public Access TV station in the country–and world–to broadcast. Phone your local public access TV station and ask them to broadcast this film. The station can download the film from for broadcast to your local community.”

— Dunker Punks new episodes start March 4. Listen in to the new podcasts at Image credit: Dunker Punks.

— The Global Women’s Project steering committee is bringing attention to International Women’s Day on March 8. “The 2023 theme is Embrace Equity,” said an announcement. “Give equity a huge embrace by renewing your determination to ‘challenge gender stereotypes, call out discrimination, draw attention to bias, and seek out inclusion.’” The International Women’s Day website is The Global Women’s Project has posted worship resources for the observance at “But celebrate International Women’s Day in ways that are your own!” the steering committee encouraged.

— Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is condemning “the alarming increase in violence against Palestinians in the West Bank by Israeli authorities and settlers,” said a release. The Church of the Brethren is a member denomination of CMEP. “Every day brings news of new violations, killings, and provocations. Core issues–Israeli settlement activities, lack of accountability for settler and state violence, and provocations at Al-Aqsa Mosque–must be solved for cycles of violence to end. CMEP calls on the United States to do everything in its power to intervene to stop violence from both sides.” The release noted the recent legitimization by the Israeli cabinet of nine illegal Israeli outposts in the West Bank that are “considered illegal by the international community, international law, and by Israel itself. Finance Minister Betzalel Smotrich, a settler himself, also announced on the same day that plans were moving forward to build 10,000 new residential units in existing settlements, the largest single expansion in years. In the past, these kinds of settlement developments have occasionally been challenged by the Supreme Court of Israel, but the new government is advancing laws that would severely curtail needed judicial oversight of Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territories. The massive protests taking place in Israel right now are in opposition to this move to reduce judicial oversight.” CMEP executive director Mae Elise Cannon said in the release: “I am horrified by the latest flood of violence, the killings, the raids, the provocations. Tensions are overflowing. Families are grieving. People are scared and angry. When will the current US administration wake up and truly engage? We must act to end violence on both sides by addressing the core issues that fuel the conflict.” Find the full CMEP release at

— On the eve of presidential and National Assembly elections in Nigeria, the World Council of Churches (WCC) has shared prayers for peace for the people and nation of Nigeria. In a statement, WCC general secretary Jerry Pillay, on behalf of the global fellowship, extended prayers for an enduring peace. “We pray in particular that the electoral processes will proceed freely and fairly without any form of violence, and that the outcome will be credible and accepted by all, and that the new government will genuinely commit to the welfare of all people of Nigeria.” The WCC is participating in an ecumenical election observation team during the elections, in partnership with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Christian Council of Nigeria, and the All Africa Conference of Churches. Read the full message at

— Marci Frederick, director of libraries at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., is researching Brethren communion bread practices, including recipes, spiritual practices while making bread, purchased bread, and how the bread is used. In an announcement of a survey for this research, she requests “your personal and congregational stories as she attempts to track how recipes spread and changed.” The survey is open through April 30 at For more information on this Eastern Mennonite University sabbatical project, feel free to contact

— “The Stories We Share” is the title of a public presentation of a doctor of ministry project by Audrey Hollenberg-Duffey, co-pastor of Oakton Church of the Brethren in Vienna, Va. The event on March 18 from 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon at the Oakton church is open to the public. It will present research done for Wesley Theological Seminary “exploring how sharing stories deepens connection in the church and ultimately helps the church be who it was made to be,” said a flier. The event will open with a time of worship. Ministers can register to receive 0.2 continuing education units for participating in the event, at a cost of $10. Please RSVP to indicate your desire to receive CEUs and/or to receive the Zoom link. Go to


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