Today at NOAC 2023 – Tuesday, Sept. 5 – “…What God Has Done”

“As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea, for they were fishers. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Mark 1:16-18, NRSVue).

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.

Morning devotions. Photo by Benjamin Hoffmann
Bethany Seminary president Jeff Carter (left) at the evening’s ice cream social. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Today was the first full day of the Church of the Brethren National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) 2023. The day started with early morning devotions and continued with Bible study and a keynote presentation. After lunch were a variety of choices of activities, from workshops to bus tours to workshops, arts and crafts, recreation, and more. The evening worship was followed by an ice cream social sponsored by Bethany Seminary and a talent show sponsored by Brethren Volunteer Service.

Quotes of the day

“Our nation is built on a history of white Christian nationalism. . . . If we don’t understand this history we are never going to be able to fix it. . . . The United States of America needs a national dialogue on race, gender, and class on par with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. Only [here] it should be called Truth and Conciliation Commission.”

Mark Charles, the day’s keynote speaker, bringing a powerful review of how the history of Christianity has led and fed into white Christian nationalism in the United States. His topic, “For 2,000 Years the Holy Spirit Has Been Calling the Church to Do a New Thing, and It’s Radically Inclusive,” also called for consideration of how Jesus turned away from empire and political power because his goal was not to rule the world, but to build the church. Charles is a speaker, writer, and consultant, who teaches about the complexities of American and church history regarding race, culture and faith in order to help forge a path of healing and conciliation. The son of an American woman and a Navajo man, he is a leading authority on the Doctrine of Discovery and co-authored with Soong-Chan Rah the book Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery.

“Personal piety and social transformation go hand in hand. It’s not one or the other. They fit together…. They belong together and that’s our challenge.”

Christina Bucher, who led the morning Bible studies with Bob Neff. The two are co-authors of the new book from Brethren Press on Luke-Acts. Bucher is emerita professor of religious studies at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. Neff is an Old Testament scholar who taught at Bethany Seminary in a long career that included serving as general secretary of the Church of the Brethren and president of Juniata College, among other leadership positions. Later in the presentation that focused on Mary the mother of Jesus, and her song the Magnificat, Neff added, “It’s really interesting that Luke frames his gospel with women who believe and men who do not.”

“However God calls you, he will always reveal it to you. How will you know? If you have a hunger that others do not have.”

Christina Singh, pastor of Freeport (Ill.) Church of the Brethren, the day’s preacher, speaking about the call to follow Jesus. Born and raised in India to Hindu parents, she shared her story of finding Jesus as a young girl, and her struggle to leave her family and become a Christian. She claims her Freeport congregation as her family, and the wider Church of the Brethren as well. She is a graduate of Bethany Seminary and recently completed a term on the Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren.

Christina Singh. Photo by Benjamin Hoffmann

By the numbers

$4,120.28 received in the Tuesday evening offering to support the work of Discipleship and Leadership Formation (online donations to be reported later)

580 total registration including 550 people onsite plus 30 individuals registered to attend virtually, including staff and volunteers. In addition, 9 of the Church of the Brethren-related retirement communities are streaming NOAC main sessions for their residents this year.

Worship at NOAC. Photo by Benjamin Hoffmann
Tour to Cherokee Village. Photo by Benjamin Hoffmann

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.

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