Today at NOAC 2023 – Wednesday, Sept. 6 – “…What God Is Doing”

“As they were going along the road, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?’ He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more and went on his way rejoicing”
(Acts 8:36-39, NRSVue).

Today at National Older Adult Conference there were early morning devotions, Bible study, a keynote presentation, workshops, bus tours, arts and crafts, recreation, and worship, as is usual for days at NOAC. Special events included two service projects, ice cream socials sponsored by church-related colleges and universities, and a game night.

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.

Lake Junaluska. Photo by Benjamin Hoffmann

Quotes of the day

“He [the Ethiopian eunuch] is a devout person studying scripture who was not able to be in the center of a faith beloved and cherished. . . . [The Isaiah scripture] is about a lamb that’s being cut off from what’s important. Philip sys to him, ‘This is meant for you.’ . . . This widening circle we’re talking about includes the sexually despised. No questions asked. It dares to widen the worldwide dimension of the people of the way.”

Bob Neff, who led the morning Bible studies with Christina Bucher. The two are co-authors of the new book from Brethren Press on Luke-Acts. 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. Bucher is emerita professor of religious studies at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College.

Bob Neff. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Ted Swartz. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

“Silence, and stillness, and silence is where I really feel.”

Ted Swartz who with Ken Medema presented the morning’s keynote program. They often have performed together, and separately, for NOAC and other Church of the Brethren conferences and are crowd favorites. Swartz is a Mennonite actor, writer, and producer is known for his portrayal of biblical stories that breaks open the scriptures in new and relevant ways. Later in the program he portrayed a preacher, asking for a copy of the Bible to borrow from the audience. “The Bible is not a fragile thing,” he said, in part. The reason we are still doing biblical exegesis after thousands of years of reading the Bible is “because our world is alive. We’re still learning and thinking…. The Bible is an amazing, glorious collection…but in here is good news. It is good news.”

Ken Medema. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

“Life moves on
you take a breath
now there’s birth
now there’s death.
Love moves on
it circles round…
something’s lost
something’s found.”

— A stanza of a song by Ken Medema, from the keynote presentation he performed with Ted Swartz. Medema is a singer/songwriter who for four decades has inspired people through storytelling and music. Blind from birth, his ability to capture spirit in word and song is unparalleled. He is a cherished presence at Church of the Brethren conferences, for his music and spirit, and also for his ability to listen to personal stories from the audience and bring them to life in musical improvisations.

“When we join hands and open the circle wider, the wilderness becomes a place of living water and abundant new life for all.”

Deanna Brown bringing the evening’s message in worship. Speaking about the nature of suffering and joy, and how they are related, she focused on the story of the Ethiopian eunuch and also shared her personal story. She invited the NOAC audience to consider the many ways that older adult life brings suffering and change, but also opportunity. “This conference is a stunning opportunity for all of us to awake to what is needed to keep our souls alive so that we can help other souls stay alive.” Brown is ordained in the Church of the Brethren and has served in congregational and campus ministry settings for nearly three decades. She currently is founder and facilitator of Cultural Connections.

Deanna Brown. Photo by Benjamin Hoffmann

By the numbers

$10,082.03 received in the Wednesday evening offering to support the work of Discipleship and Leadership Formation (online donations to be reported later)

1,375 hygiene kits assembled during the afternoon service project organized by Burt and Helen Wolf of southern Ohio. The kits will be distributed to disaster survivors and others in need through the Material Resources program and Brethren Disaster Ministries.

From a Facebook post by NOAC coordinator Christy Waltersdorff: “We are honored this week to learn from these great teachers at the National Older Adult Conference! Bev Van Der Molen, Ted Swartz, Mark Charles, and Ken Medema.”

Tracing a traumatic history, laying bare the roots of the Doctrine of Discovery

By Frank Ramirez

This article draws upon an interview with Mark Charles as well as the keynote address he gave at the Church of the Brethren National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023.

One of the reasons Mark Charles believes that the United States needs a Truth and Conciliation Commission instead of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission conducted by South Africa, is that we cannot be reconciled if we have never experienced conciliation in the first place.

Our nation and our churches “have resisted creating common memory,” he said. The country has resisted disclaiming the influence of the Doctrine of Discovery from its foundations to the present day.


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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