Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Remembrance, personnel, top interfaith stories of 2009, and more.
  • Online registration opens Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. (central time) for this summer’s Church of the Brethren workcamps. Go to to register. A workcamp schedule including locations and dates is available at The dozen workcamps range from a young adult trip to Haiti on June 1-8, to a "We Are Able" workcamp for intellectually disabled youth and young adults, to seven junior high workcamps at various locations in the US, to Brethren Revival Fellowship-sponsored events for senior highs in the DR and Mexico. To register, first create a personal log-in at the Church of the Brethren website being sure to have a congregational code available (find it at Registrations are reserved when the Workcamp Office receives the deposit of $100. For questions, contact the Workcamp Office at or 800-323-8039 ext. 286.

  • The successful "Heeding God’s Call" campaign against gun violence by people of faith in Philadelphia--has been nominated among the top interfaith stories of 2009 by Odyssey Networks. The campaign began at last January’s "Heeding God’s Call" gathering sponsored by the Historic Peace Churches (Church of the Brethren, Quakers, and Mennonites). Odyssey Networks is a coalition of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim groups dedicated to achieving interfaith understanding and promoting peace and social justice through media. The organization asked for nominations of activities and events of 2009 that "best illustrate the important and hopeful work being done by faith communities working together." Odyssey Networks invites people to vote for their choice of top interfaith news story of the year at

  • Remembrance: Richard D. Speicher, 85, of Youngstown, Ohio, passed away on Dec. 22 surrounded by family. Speicher chaired the Church of the Brethren’s Committee on Interchurch Relations (CIR) from 1991-94 and was a member of the committee from 1988-94. He also served as Protestant chaplain at Youngstown State University 1970-77 and as executive director of the Mahoning Valley Association of Churches 1974-89. He grew up in Berkey Church of the Brethren in Windber, Pa., where he was baptized, licensed, and ordained. During World War II, out of his pacifist convictions, he served as a conscientious objector in Civilian Public Service. He was ordained in the Church of the Brethren in 1946, and was made an elder in 1953. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind., in 1949, and a master of divinity degree from Bethany Theological Seminary in 1952. He pastored several Church of the Brethren congregations during his 60-year career as a minister. His volunteer commitments also included service on the Older Adult Ministries Cabinet of the former Association of Brethren Caregivers, the Mahoning County Council on Aging, the Mahoning Valley Labor Management and Citizens Committee, the CROP Committee of Mahoning County, the Peace Council of Youngstown, the Investigational Review Board of St. Elizabeth Hospital, and the Boardman Ministerial Association. He received the Church of the Brethren’s Ecumenical Award in 1996. His obituary begins with a sentence aptly describing his life’s work: "A life spent enabling God’s people to do God’s work together." He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Marianne Miller Speicher; children Timothy, Anna, Ellen, and Sara; daughter- and sons-in-law Jill, Paul, and James; and four grandchildren. A service celebrating his memory is held today, Dec. 30, at Woodworth Church of the Brethren in Youngstown with visiting hours from 5-7 p.m. and a service at 7 p.m. Memorial contributions are being received by the Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120. Messages of support and sympathy may be sent to Marianne Miller Speicher, 1310 5th Ave., Apt. 603, Youngstown, OH 44504.

  • The New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center is welcoming back volunteer hosts Dick and Erma Foust of New Lebanon, Ohio. They begin Jan. 5 hosting the Old Main building through February.

  • A piece airing on National Public Radio’s "All Things Considered" credits conscientious objectors from the Historic Peace Churches (Church of the Brethren, Quakers, and Mennonites) for improving horrific conditions in mental institutions while doing alternative service during World War II. Some 3,000 COs were assigned to 62 state mental hospitals around the country. Steven Taylor, a professor of disability studies at Syracuse University, has written a new book on the subject, "Acts of Conscience: World War II, Mental Institutions, and Religious Objectors." Among others, the book tells the story of Quaker Charlie Lord who surreptitiously photographed conditions at Philadelphia State Hospital. The photos were published by "Life" in 1946. "The immediate reaction by many people to these photographs were that these look[ed] like the Nazi concentration camps," Taylor said. "People could not believe that this was the way we treated people with mental illness and intellectual disabilities in our society." For the full story go to

  • A letter sent from the Gulf Coast Civic Works Campaign to the Obama Administration’s Long Term Disaster Recovery Working Group has been signed on behalf of the Church of the Brethren by Global Mission Partnerships executive director Jay Wittmeyer. The letter was directed to the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. It calls on the government to ensure the rights of survivors of Hurricane Katrina to return and participate in rebuilding a more equitable and sustainable future in the Gulf Coast. "On this fifth Human Rights Days since Hurricane Katrina, our national response has yet to properly protect the well-being of America’s most vulnerable people and places through long-term disaster recovery policies which restore the environment, rebuild lives and respect human rights," the letter said in part.

  • Dates for the 2010 North American Conference in Christian Philanthropy have been announced: April 14-16 in Indianapolis, Ind., on the theme, "Connect the Dots" between faith and giving. The Church of the Brethren is one of the organizations participating in the Ecumenical Stewardship Center, which sponsors the conference. It is intended for clergy and lay leaders in congregations, as well as gift planning professionals, foundation personnel, church finance administrators, stewardship chairpersons, estate and financial planning professionals. Plenary speakers include John Wimmer, Religion Program director at Lilly Endowment. Also on the schedule are workshops on a wide variety of topics. For information go to

  • The Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College and affiliated with Bethany Theological Seminary is offering several ACTS (Academy Certified Training System) courses in coming months: "Introduction to Theology" will be taught by David Banaszak on the evenings of Jan. 19 and 26, and Feb. 2, 16, and 23; "Interpreting the Bible" is taught by Connie Maclay on the evenings of March 16 and 30, April 13 and 27, and May 11; "Song, Mission, and Culture" with Gill Waldkoenig is offered on Feb. 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, and 26-27; "History of the Church of the Brethren" with Jeff Bach will be offered on March 12-13 and 19-20, April 16-17, and April 30-May 1. For more information contact or 717-361-1450.

  • A "growing project" of three Church of the Brethren congregations in Kansas--McPherson, Monitor, and Hutchinson Community--along with First United Presbyterian Church in Hutchinson, has reported an excellent crop in 2009 according to Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF) manager Howard Royer. Through the GFCF, Brethren congregations participate in growing projects benefiting the Foods Resource Bank. The acreage under cultivation is near the Monitor Church. According to outreach team leader Jeanne Smith of McPherson Church of the Brethren, this year’s soybean harvest brought in over 61 bushels per acre, and sold for close to $10,000. The funds will aid a gardening project for vulnerable families in Malawi. In addition, the Foods Resource Bank has made a short five-minute video, put to music, of Monitor Church of the Brethren member Ellis Yoder farming the land--filmed in segments from preparation to planting to harvest. Yoder "lent and farmed the best 18 1/2 acres of his land for our McPherson-Reno County FRB project, just as his late father, Milo Yoder, did before him," Smith said.

  • A challenge from Williamsburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren has raised $8,300 for the Church of the Brethren disaster rebuilding project in Haiti, according to the Middle Pennsylvania District newsletter. Impetus came from church members Barbara and Barry Gordon, who purchased a wall hanging at the 2009 Annual Conference quilt auction. The hanging included a patch from the Williamsburg Church, made by Shirley Baker, along with patches from two congregations other churches in the district: Snake Spring Valley Church, whose patch was made by Beverly Creps, and the Waterside Church. The Gordons presented the hanging to their congregation, which challenged the other two churches to help raise enough to build a house in Haiti at the cost of $4,000. Williamsburg sold homemade doughnuts, Snake Spring and Waterside donated offerings from revival services.

  • Two holiday concerts--one by the Los Angeles Master Chorale at Disney Hall, and one at La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren--featured arrangements by Shawn Kirchner, a member at the La Verne Church and a Los Angeles Master Chorale tenor, songwriter, arranger, and pianist. A freewill offering taken at the church concert will help fund a summer tour to Hungary by the church choir. Nik St. Clair, the La Verne Church choir director, also is a Los Angeles Master Chorale singer, and a Cal Poly Pomona music professor and USC choral conducting doctoral candidate.

  • Church of the Brethren member Florence Daté Smith has received a long-overdue degree from the University of California at Berkeley. The degree was finally awarded to the 88-year-old "67 years after her senior year on campus came to an abrupt end," according to a report in the "Register-Guard" of Eugene, Ore. Daté Smith is Japanese-American and was among about 500 Berkeley students who were held in internment camps during World War II. In July, the California university system ended a ban on honorary degrees in order to award Japanese-Americans with their diplomas. While she was at the Topaz internment camp in Utah, Daté Smith led an effort to begin a school where she taught fourth- and fifth-grade students with "no desks or textbooks, only benches," she told the paper. She eventually completed her degree at the University of Chicago in 1946, then 30 years later went on to earn a master’s in special education and taught students with learning disabilities in Springfield, Ore. Go to
Source: 12/30/2009 Newsline

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