Brethren bits for March 2, 2023

— Remembrance: Bob Richards, an Olympic gold medalist in the pole vault and a Church of the Brethren minister, died on Feb. 26. He was ordained in the Church of the Brethren and briefly served as a pastor in Long Beach, Calif. He attended Bridgewater (Va.) College, spent a year at Bethany Biblical Seminary in Chicago, Ill., and taught at the University of La Verne in southern California. Richards ran for president in 1984. His picture was on Wheaties boxes for a dozen years. His story was included in two books published by Brethren Press: Preaching in a Tavern (1997) and Brethren Brush with Greatness (2008). His obituary in the New York Times begins: “An ordained minister known as the Vaulting Vicar, he was an Olympic gold medal winner and the first athlete to appear on the front of Wheaties boxes.” Read the full obituary at

— Remembrance: Joanne Nesler, 90, the first woman director of Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS), passed away in Inverness, Fla., on Feb. 19. In addition to directing BVS from 1976 to 1980, she also served as administrative assistant to the treasurer of the Church of the Brethren denomination, from 1970 to 1976, and managed the SERRV Handcrafted Gifts International store in Dundee, Ill., from 1983 to 1988, when it was still a part of the denomination. Her work for the Church of the Brethren began in 1950 when she started as an employee of the Brethren Publishing House in Elgin, Ill. After four years she joined BVS and was assigned to Kassel House in Germany to work with refugee programs for children and the elderly. Upon returning to the US, she earned a degree in sociology from Manchester College in Indiana and a master’s in social work from Michigan State University. She resumed employment with the Church of the Brethren in 1968. In other community leadership positions, she was executive director of Elgin’s Well Child Conference. In 1989, she was the recipient of the Elgin YWCA Leader Luncheon Award for social services. She served a term as chair of the Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren board. In 1999, she retired to Florida, settling in Homosassa and becoming active in the Spring Hill Presbyterian Church. Among survivors are her son, York Davis, his wife, Amy, and their son. A memorial service is planned for March 10 at Spring Hill Presbyterian Church.

— The Brethren Heritage Center in Brookville, Ohio, seeks a part-time center manager. Responsibilities include overseeing operations and volunteers; facilitating, designing, and creating exhibits; promoting the center’s activities and collections; among additional responsibilities to be discussed at interview. Other desired skills and knowledge include a working knowledge of Brethren groups; computer/technology knowledge; and a focus on archives. The Brethren Heritage Center is an equal opportunity employer. Apply by sending a resume to or Brethren Heritage Center, c/o Gale Honeyman, Interim Director, Box 35, Laura, Ohio 45337.

— A Global Peace Prayer is announced for March 22 by the World Council of Churches (WCC). The online event “will draw Christians together in hope for better future,” said a release. The planning committee explained that Christians are called into prayer and advocacy for peace. “In a global context where war and violence abound, the practice of peace has become even more urgent,” reads their message, which also noted that the war in Ukraine has entered its second year while, simultaneously, escalating violence in Palestine, continuing military exercises threatening peace on the Korean Peninsula, state violence in Myanmar, a fragile situation in Ethiopia, and war in several other parts of the world threaten peace. The event is a collaboration of the Conference of European Churches, Baptist World Alliance, Lutheran World Federation, Mennonite World Conference, World Methodist Council, and World Communion of Reformed Churches, along with the WCC. Register at

— Also from the WCC, the worldwide ecumenical organization will participate in the 67th Commission on the Status of Women, taking place March 6-17 in New York City and online. The WCC is involved in online side events scheduled for March 9, 14, and 16. The theme for the event is “Innovation and technological change, education in the digital age for achieving gender equality, and the empowerment of all women and girls.” It coincides with International Women’s Day on March 8, for which the theme is “Digit-ALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.” Said a release: “Everyone is asked to wear blue on March 8.” The WCC involved side events are: on March 9, a webinar on “Algorithms, the Digital Divide, and Polarization: Impact on Gender Justice”; on March 14, a webinar on “Resiliency of Rural Indigenous Nigerian Girls & Women: Surviving Kidnapping & Gender-Based Violence”; and on March 16, an online discussion on “Reaching for the STARS: Safeguarding the Creativity, Security and Safety of our Girls.” Advance registration is required for these events. Find out more at

Lower Miami members and friends paint over graffiti in the church parking lot during a service held Wednesday to respond to a hateful incident. Photo courtesy of Jan Largent

Leaders at Lower Miami Church of the Brethren in Dayton, Ohio, reached out for prayer support from the wider church following an incident directed at the congregation and its pastor. In response, the church and friends in the neighborhood, district, and beyond gathered for a special service on Wednesday, March 1.

The incident included, in addition to theft of the church’s rainbow flag (which has been stolen at least eight times over the years), a graffiti statement painted on the parking lot directed to the congregation’s pastor, who is a woman. “The person(s) who violated our church also left us another message,” said the request for support. “1 Timothy 2:12 was spray painted on the parking lot. ‘I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man, she must be quiet.’

There were 30 to 40 people at the service on March 1. Several congregations were represented, and not all from the Church of the Brethren. The service included time to paint over the graffiti and to chalk messages of love in its place.

“It was felt that offering forgiveness to the perpetrator(s) was the best way we could show the love that Jesus has for all and we will pray for those involved in this act of violence toward our congregation and Pastor,” said the statement from the church. The service also showed “support for all women in ministry, as we know there is still much work to be done in the world and by the distortion of scripture for selfish, hateful reasons. Please hold the congregation in prayer as we deal with this violation of our ministry as well as those women in ministry at Lower Miami as we face this type of attack.”

The incident was covered by Channel 2 in Dayton, Ohio:

Members and friends of Lower Miami Church of the Brethren chalk loving images in their parking lot. Photo courtesy of Jan Largent

Please pray… For Lower Miami Church of the Brethren, its pastor and leadership, church members, family and friends, and neighborhood. Please pray for the perpetrator of the hateful message against the church.

— David Crumrine, pastor at First Church of the Brethren in Roaring Spring, Pa., has been featured by the Altoona Mirror for his shift to pastoral ministry after “spending nearly 39 years in education.” The paper reported that the former teacher and principal at Spring Cove’s Central High School “is able to maintain a ‘very good rapport’ with the school-aged kids, First Church of the Brethren’s Board Chair Kaye Russell said. ‘So the youth in our congregation always follow his lead. It’s not like he’s an old man talking at them,’ Russell said. Crumrine told the paper: “The relationships I built I think have been an advantage. I learned how to deal with people who were having the worst day of their life in a lot of ways.” Find the full article at

— Frances Townsend, who pastors two Churches of the Brethren in Michigan, including the Onekama congregation, has gained media attention for her work to rescue and rehabilitate old sewing machines. In doing so, she is helping others and saving the machines from the landfill. “When coming across an old sewing machine at the local thrift store, some people just see a dust catcher. But where others see junk, the Rev. Frances Townsend sees potential,” said the article from the News Advocate. “ECHO His Love Resale in Manistee is just one of those benefactors. For the last several years, Townsend has been testing and providing maintenance to sewing machines that are donated to the store…. Store manager Heidi Carter estimates that at least 12 of these refurbished machines have been sold since August.” Find the full story at


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