By Jeff Bach
The seventh Brethren World Assembly will take place July 26-29, 2023, at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College and at Germantown Church of the Brethren in Philadelphia, Pa., on the final day, July 29.
The theme of the assembly is “Brethren Faithfulness: Priorities in Perspective.” The gathering marks 300 years of the Brethren in America and the 300th anniversary of the Germantown Church. The event also marks the centennial of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The scheduled sessions relate to the history and developments of the Brethren in America from 1723 up to the Civil War, with an additional session about EYN. Opening devotions and evening worship services will open and close each day.
The assembly begins on July 26 at 1 p.m. with opening devotions. Dale Stoffer, retired professor and dean of Ashland Theological Seminary (Brethren Church), will present the keynote address assessing factors in the Brethren move to Pennsylvania. Denise Kettering Lane, associate professor of Brethren Studies at Bethany Theological Seminary (Church of the Brethren), will lecture on circumstances surrounding the organization of the Brethren in Germantown in 1723.
The topics on July 27 will include more focus on developments among the Brethren in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Stephen Longenecker, retired professor of history at Bridgewater College (Church of the Brethren), will speak on Christopher Sauer II, colonial Brethren minister and printer. Jeff Bach (Church of the Brethren) will speak on the Ephrata division. Other presentations will address geographical expansion and the roles of elders and Annual Meeting. Samuel Funkhouser, director of the Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center at Harrisonburg, Va. (Old German Baptist Brethren, New Conference), will present, as will elder Robert Matthews (Old German Baptist Brethren, Original Conference).
On July 28 the sessions will include a lecture on the ministry of Alexander Mack Jr. by Jared Burkholder, professor of history at Grace College (Charis Fellowship/Grace Brethren). Two panel discussions will take place. The first panel will address Brethren attitudes toward slavery. Sheilah Elwardani, adjunct faculty at Virginia Western Community College, will present new research on Brethren and slavery in southern Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. Jack Lowe, retired minister (Church of the Brethren), and Bach will contribute comments to the discussion. The second panel will focus on the significance of ordinances and practices among the Brethren. Members of the planning committee for the assembly will speak. Samuel Dali, a past president of EYN, will lead a celebration of the centennial of EYN.
A worship service will conclude each of the first three days of the assembly. On July 26, Dave Guiles, former executive director of Encompass World Partners (Charis Fellowship, also known as Grace Brethren Fellowship, International), will speak on the topic of faithfulness. On July 27, Dali (EYN, Church of the Brethren) will preach on the theme of Brethren. The worship service at the end of the day on July 28 will feature minister Michael Miller (Old German Baptist Brethren, New Conference), speaking on the theme of priorities.
The final day of the assembly, July 29, will take place at the Germantown Church in Philadelphia. Registration for the day in Germantown is separate from the fee for the rest of the conference.
Please pray… For the congregation at Germantown Church of the Brethren and the church’s pastor and leadership, and for the Planning Committee of seventh Brethren World Assembly, as they prepare for a celebration of 300 years of the Brethren in America.
Activities at Germantown begin at 10 a.m. and offer stations to learn about the past and the present ministry of the Germantown congregation. Tours of the historic cemetery will be available. A worship service will take place at 11 a.m. followed by lunch for all registrants at 12 noon. Richard Kyerematen, pastor of Germantown Church of the Brethren, will preach, and Germantown members will provide special music. Throughout the day, shuttle buses will take those who sign up to visit the site of the first Brethren baptisms in America at Wissahickon Creek in Fairmount Park. The day will conclude with a devotional service from 3:30-4 p.m. A special volunteer choir of members of various Brethren groups will sing. This service will mark the conclusion of the seventh Brethren World Assembly.
The Brethren Encyclopedia Board
This assembly will focus on historical topics that were recommended by the Brethren Encyclopedia Board members to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Brethren in America. The speakers, panels, and preachers will explore faithfulness and varying priorities among the multiple branches of the Brethren movement.
The Brethren Encyclopedia Board was created in 1976 to bring representatives from the different Brethren branches to discuss commonalities. From the initial meetings came the Brethren Encyclopedia, with articles about the Brethren tradition. In 1992, the board sponsored the first Brethren World Assembly for members of all the Brethren groups. The first assembly was held at the Young Center at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. Assemblies have taken place every five years since then, each with a unique theme. They are open to all people and groups who consider themselves spiritual descendants of the Brethren movement that began in Schwarzenau, Germany, in 1708. The general public also is invited.
The planning group
Members of the Planning Committee for the seventh Brethren World Assembly are Jeff Bach, chair (Church of the Brethren); Dan Thornton (Charis Fellowship/ Fellowship of Grace Brethren, International); Christopher Knight (Conservative Grace Brethren); Larry Dentler (Covenant Brethren Church); James Eberly (Dunkard Brethren); Jeff Brovont (Old German Baptist Brethren, New Conference); and Robert Matthews (Old German Baptist Brethren, Original Conference). Jason Barnhart (Brethren Church) also has participated in the planning.
Members of Germantown Church of the Brethren who have led in planning include pastor Richard Kyerematen, Joseph Craddock, RuNett Ebo, Sheryl Jenkins Gates, Lester Outterbridge, Alice Wells, Marilyn Wheatley Ansah, and James Wilson.
For the entire Brethren World Assembly, July 26-29, including the day at Germantown, fees are $310 (early bird cost, registered by May 15) or $370 (tegular cost, registered between May 16 and June 15).
For the days in Elizabethtown only, July 26-28, fees are $190 (early bird, registered by May 15) or $225 (regular cost, registered between May 16 and June 15).
The fees for the “one day only option” for people who want to attend only one day at Elizabethtown are $100 (early bird, registered by May 15) or $120 (regular cost, registered between May 16 and June 15).
The “one day only option” at Germantown for July 29, with round trip transportation between Elizabethtown and Germantown, costs $120 (early bird, registered by May 15) or $145 (regular cost, registered between May 16 and June 15).
Lodging on campus at Elizabethtown College will cost $134 per person for dormitory double occupancy, staying three nights, including two breakfasts and a linen fee; $158 for one person, dormitory single occupancy, staying three nights, including two breakfasts and a linen fee; or $412 for one person in an apartment, including a linen fee but no breakfasts–with an additional linen fee of $22 per person for up to three additional occupants per apartment.
People registering to share a double occupancy dormitory or an apartment must provide the names of the other occupants. Roommates will not be assigned. Minors must be accompanied by a parent or guardian at all times.
In addition to campus housing, there are hotels in the Harrisburg, Elizabethtown, and Hershey areas. Two campgrounds are also located near Elizabethtown including the Elizabethtown/Hershey KOA and the Hershey Road Campground and RV Park. People wishing to use hotels or campgrounds must make their own reservations.
Registration closes on June 15, 2023. No late registrations will be accepted after that date. This firm deadline is necessary in order to reserve buses, vans, and equipment.
For more information, send emails to BWA23@etown.edu or call 717-327-8188. Postal correspondence can be sent to:
The Young Center
Attn: Brethren World Assembly 2023
One Alpha Drive
Elizabethtown, PA 17022
A website and information about how to register will be forthcoming.
— Jeff Bach, representing the Church of the Brethren, is serving as chair of the Planning Committee for the seventh Brethren World Assembly.
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