Today at NOAC 2023 – Monday, Sept. 4 – “Watch for the New Thing”

“Do not remember the former things
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth; do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches,
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the deser
to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise”
(Isaiah 43:18-21, NRSVue).

Lake Junaluska under fog. By Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Today at the Church of the Brethren National Older Adult Conference (NOAC): A team of staff and volunteers welcomed participants to Lake Junaluska, N.C., for a week of worship, learning, personal and spiritual enrichment, fellowship, relaxation, and fun. Today’s events started with registration and a Welcome Festival, and included an exhibit hall and the Brethren Press onsite bookstore. The day closed with evening worship, and a late evening campfire sponsored by the Outdoor Ministries Association (OMA).

The NOAC team is led by coordinator Christy Waltersdorff with the planning team of Glenn Bollinger, Karen Dillon, Jim Martinez, Leonard Matheny, Don Mitchell, Bonnie Kline Smeltzer, Karlene Tyler, and staff Stan Dueck and Josh Brockway of the Church of the Brethren’s Discipleship and Leadership Formation department.

Find today’s NOAC photo album at A new album is planned for each day this week, and additional photos will be added as they become available.

Quote of the day

“Behind us is a life we can never go back to,
and before us is a life we have yet to claim.”

Jeremy Ashworth, pastor of Circle of Peace Church of the Brethren in Peoria, Ariz., the day’s preacher, speaking about the state of the Church of the Brethren denomination. He shared an urgent and passionate call for change, urging Brethren to be honest about the trajectory of the church and to seek the new thing that God is doing. “The Church of the Brethren, we’re not okay,” he said. “We’ve not been okay for a long time. If our retirement portfolio performed the way the church is, we would be making changes.” He cited dwindling attendance numbers and the shrinking of the church throughout his lifetime. His prescription for change? “Renew our love for Jesus and renew our love for our neighbors.” He told about his congregation is growing and thriving because of its attention to and affection for its neighbors. “Look at our neighbors and love them,” he urged. “And never let memory become an idol. Let memory be a witness,” he told the older adult crowd. “God is still doing new things. . . . Don’t just watch for the new thing. Pray for the new thing. . . .Sacrifice for the new thing. . . and let our lives be changed.” He closed by inviting people to speak with him after the service, to share their ideas about the new thing our church may become.

Jeremy Ashworth preaching the opening sermon of NOAC 2023. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Old friends meet again at NOAC. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

By the numbers

$3,035.02 received in the Monday evening offering to support the work of Discipleship and Leadership Formation (online donations to be reported later)

581 total registration including 551 people onsite plus 30 individuals registered to attend virtually, including staff and volunteers. In addition, nine of the Church of the Brethren-related retirement communities are streaming NOAC main sessions for their residents this year.

At the Welcome Festival

Spur of the moment

The decision to come to National Older Adult Conference was “spur of the moment” for For Karen Hanes of Anderson, Ind. She’d actually been thinking of traveling to Pennsylvania with a friend, but after some consideration had canceled.

“Five minutes later I got a call—’Do you want to go to NOAC with me?’” A friend’s spouse blurted out, “You want to go to NOAC?” after a relative had decided not to go because on doctor’s advice it was suggested more time was required for recovery from a medical procedure. A few days later, here she was, at the Welcome Festival at the 2023 NOAC.

Karen Hanes. Photo by Frank Ramirez
Dan Burgette. Photo by Frank Ramirez
“Peep Show” – a sculpture by Dan Burgette. Image used with permission of the artist.

Open to the new

Dan Burgette of Tetonia, Idaho, is a sculptor who often finds inspiration for his work on some of the canoe trips he takes. In one instance, he conceived a piece on a canoe trip that took him to the edge of the Arctic. He spotted a flock of sandpipers flying off rapidly, for less than 10 seconds. Wanting to capture that “feeling of kinetic energy,” he took a 200-pound maple log and carved away enough wood to leave its “best two and a half pounds” to portray that flock of birds.

Burgette specializes in what he calls “bird sculpture.” His work runs the gamut from wood carvings to bronze sculpting, in styles from extreme realism to the simply symbolic. One bronze that he titled “Beginner’s Luck” depicts a peregrine falcon capturing its prey from within the midst of a scattering flock. In another, the birds escape the falcon for the moment. In another, a capture is made.

Burgette, who was a climbing ranger in the Tetons for 27 years (“I was involved in lots of rescues”) believes in being open to new experiences, which includes sculpting. He’s also interested in archaeology. He was fascinated by Banks Island and Thompson Island in British Columbia, which he described as home to more than 68,000 musk ox. Archaeological remains of the human inhabitants centuries ago demonstrated they had discovered how to survive extreme cold during the extraordinarily short days of winter. Burgette admires the smarts necessary to find the means for survival.

Burgette’s work is displayed in many galleries, including the Jackson (Wy.) National Museum of Wildlife Art. He has connections to both Manchester University and Anderson (Ind.) Church of the Brethren.

Seek new challenges

When Sam Frankhouser of Ephrata, Pa., retired from a career in education—teaching everything from grade six through graduate-level courses that included writing curriculum for all levels—he decided, “I wanted to try something new.” That something was a children’s book titled “Levi the Whoopie Pie.” A favorite treat in Lancaster County, known as Amish Country, whoopie pies consist of vanilla frosting sandwiched between two cookies that are more like chocolate cake. In the book, Levi meets Sam the Soft Pretzel, and sets out to fulfill his destiny.

“They are a little messy,” Frankhouser admitted. He added, “Doing something different is always a challenge for older people,” so he encourages older adults to not be afraid to seek new challenges.

— Frank Ramirez

Sam Frankhouser. Photo by Frank Ramirez

The Press Team for NOAC 2023 includes Frank Ramirez, writer and pastor of Union Center Church of the Brethren in Nappanee, Ind.; Benjamin Hoffmann, photographer and a volunteer with Brethren Volunteer Service; Russ Otto, on the website staff for the Church of the Brethren; and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, editor and news director for the Church of the Brethren.