Brethren bits

— Two facilitator trainings for the “7 Prompts” conversation initiative of the Standing with People of Color Committee of Annual Conference are offered in April. The committee is asking the entire Church of the Brethren to engage in the initiative over the next year, using seven discussion prompts that were developed along with the “BELOVED” model to invite participants to look within themselves and reflect on their own experiences and perspectives. “It is our prayer that these conversations, across the denomination, can help foster broad engagement and create a path toward faithful and passionate Brethren involvement in racism and racial justice in our times,” said an announcement. The online facilitator trainings are scheduled for April 2 at 6:30-8:30 p.m. (Eastern time) and April 6 at 1-3 p.m. (Eastern time). Register at

— The Sounds of the Mountains Storytelling Festival is at Camp Bethel in Fincastle, Va., on April 12-13. The 2024 story teller line-up includes Motoko, recipient of the National Storytelling Network’s 2017 Circle of Excellence Award; Antonio Rocha, originally from Brazil, an award winning internationally acclaimed storyteller; Bil Lepp, a five time champion of the West Virginia Liars’ Contest, and Kevin Kling, a playwright and storyteller best known for his commentaries on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. Musical guests are the Common Ground Bluegrass Band. Purchase tickets at

“Don’t wait–there are only a few days left to register for a FaithX service trip this summer!” said a reminder from the Church of the Brethren program offering short-term service trips. “If you are still considering signing up for FaithX, there is no better time than now! Registration closes this Monday, April 1.” Service trips that still have available spots are a junior high trip to Roanoke, Va., on June 19-23; a junior and senior high trip to South Bend, Ind., on June 18-23; a junior and senior high trip to Winston-Salem, N.C., on July 28-Aug. 2; a senior high trip to Camp Koinonia in Cle Elum, Wash., on June 8-14; a senior high trip to North Fort Myers, Fla., on July 14-20; a trip for adults to Ecuador on June 1-10; and the We Are Able trip to Elgin, Ill., on June 24-27. Find the registration form at

— A seventh annual Neurodiversity Symposium at the University of La Verne (Calif.) will address “Equity in Gifted Education and Neurodiversity” on April 20 from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (Pacific time) at the Sara and Michael Abraham Campus Center. Lunch will be provided. Sponsored by the school’s LaFetra College of Education, in collaboration with the Center for Learning and Innovation and the Center for Neurodiversity, Learning, and Wellness, the symposium “aims to address inequitable issues in gifted education and provide actionable strategies for creating inclusive and sustainable services,” said a release. “Three keynote speakers will join the event and are each experts in gifted education. These individuals include gifted program coordinator Dina Brulles, senior research scientist Jack Naglieri, and former executive director of the Herberger Young Scholars Academy Kimberly Lansdowne. Together, they discovered that 1.2 million non-white gifted students who were previously unidentified as gifted students. They each have dedicated time, education, and experience to identifying historically marginalized gifted students to create a more equitable program for all.” Find the full release at

Mikah Overman at the Song & Story Fest (photo courtesy of Ed Groff)

— Mikah Overman shares “We Are All Australian” in the April episode of the Brethren Voices show for community television. Overman, a 14-year-old from Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren, was a baby at his first Song & Story Fest. Years ago, he “became interested in the song, ‘We Are All Australian,’ which was written by Bruce Woodley of an Australian group, the Seekers and Dobe Newton of the Bushwackers,” said an announcement of the episode from producer Ed Groff. “The song discusses some of the history of Australia and its many cultures. Looking at some of the patriotic songs of the United States, Mikah discovered that the many cultures in our country really are not mentioned in our songs. Suggesting this topic to the 2023 Song & Story Fest planning committee led to Mikah’s leading a workshop,” Groff wrote. “What needs to change about American patriotism and national identity? Group participants created a song for the United States.” This episode is hosted by Seth Spire, a Brethren Volunteer Service worker. Find it on YouTube at

— The Brethren and Mennonite Heritage Center in Harrisonburg, Va., invites all to an outdoor worship service on Easter Sunday morning, on a hilltop overlooking the Shenandoah Valley. The service starting at 6:30 a.m. will feature Daniel House giving a meditation, Lori Friesen as worship leader, and special music by a flute ensemble from Bridgewater Church of the Brethren. An offering will support the Heritage Center. Dress warmly and bring a lawn chair for seating. See

— Join Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) tomorrow for an Easter Vigil live from Palestine: Saturday, March 30, 3 p.m. (Eastern time). This special live Easter service takes place on Zoom with leadership from Munther Isaac of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, and involvement by Bethlehem Bible College, Christ at the Checkpoint, Freedom Road, Gaza Ceasefire Pilgrimages, Global Emersion, Kairos Palestine, Network of Evangelicals for the Middle East, Red Letter Christians, and Telos. Register at

— Churches in South Sudan are appealing for humanitarian assistance “amid fears that the consequences of climate change, macro-economic shocks, and the war in Sudan could sink the country further into the worst humanitarian crisis since independence,” said a release from the World Council of Churches (WCC). “A large part of the population continues to live on relief aid or are in need of it, due to a combination of factors–including insecurity and inter-ethnic violence. More than four million people are displaced, with over two million being internally displaced and 2.2 million being refugees in the neighbouring countries,” the release said, in part. It noted that “the country’s churches have been reaching millions of citizens with peace building messages and activities, which advocate for healing, forgiveness, reconciliation and give hope to the communities.” The release included comments from James Oyet Latansio, general secretary of the South Sudan Council of Churches; Thomas Tut Puot Mut, moderator of the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church; and Catholic bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of Yambio-Tombura Diocese. Read the full release at

— “Peggy’s War” is a debut novel by Karl Rhodes, great-great-grandson of Margaret “Peggy” Rhodes, telling her story as a Brethren woman living under the Confederacy during the Civil War. “Known as a fiercely loyal Unionist living in the Shenandoah Valley, an area that strongly supports the Confederacy, Peggy conceals draft dodgers and deserters in a secret cellar under her bedroom floor, all while caring for her dying husband and five children,” said an article from the Northern Virginia Daily newspaper. Rhodes “stumbled upon this ancestral story” first as a child. More recently, he “found himself reading a six-volume historical set of books titled ‘Unionists and the Civil War Experience in the Shenandoah Valley’ researched and compiled by David Rodes and Norman Wenger and edited by Emmert Bittinger.” He learned the stories of Mennonites and Brethren of the time, including women like Peggy Rhodes. Find an extensive article about the author and how he came to write the book, at


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