Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Districts work at church renewal through Springs initiative.

The "Springs of Living Water" church renewal initiative is entering into its fifth year. The initiative is the work of ordained minister David S. Young and his wife, Joan, who are members of Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren.

Three Church of the Brethren districts currently are engaged in Springs of Living Water, in an effort to bring renewal to existing congregations: Northern Ohio District, where congregational renewal teams attended training at Camp Inspiration Hills on Oct. 31; Shenandoah District, which on Jan. 16 plans training for its second cluster of churches taking part in the process; and Western Pennsylvania District, where 21 churches are taking part and a first training experience was held in September.

The initiative "came out of deep prayer and years of experience," David Young said in a telephone interview. It grew out of his doctor of ministry project at Bethany Seminary, which was based on the Gospel of John. At the time, Young was pastoring Bush Creek Church of the Brethren in Monrovia, Md., where he began the work of revitalization with an emphasis on spiritual growth. He also helped the congregation work on the biblical concept of servant leadership, and experienced the process of a renewal team working with the pastor to guide the church's work.

Then Young was invited to put together a renewal program for American Baptist congregations. Over the years he also connected with the Renovaré spiritual disciplines movement led by Richard J. Foster, and the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership founded by Robert K. Greenleaf.

For Baptists, the image of renewal was fire and the program was named "Rekindle" ("They have a bit more fire than we do," he commented with a chuckle). But during a prayer retreat five years ago this Advent, he received the image of a spring bubbling up to represent renewal among Brethren, using John 4:14. He had been praying about how his own denomination could be revitalized--a primary concern that has motivated his work ever since.

"If we wonder if Brethren can (experience renewal), yes!" he said. "The Brethren have something very unique to offer. When we talk about servant leadership, no one understands that better than we do. Among the Brethren, our best model of leadership is the foot tub."

The Springs concept focuses on the centrality of Christ for congregational renewal, discernment of congregational strengths, and the idea that each congregation will have its own approach. The initiative provides a framework for each church to develop a mission plan "out of an assessment process carried out by the congregation itself," Joan Young explained. Other key elements are the deliberate practice of spiritual disciplines by the entire church, and servant leadership--or the willingness of leaders to welcome involvement by each person in the congregation.

Congregations follow a four-year process that includes forming a renewal team, implementing spiritual disciplines, holding gatherings to build energy among church members and to look at their strengths and where God may be leading, studying the ministry context combined with studying scripture to find a key biblical text for each church, developing a specific mission in each congregation, forming clusters of congregations to walk alongside each other in the process, participating in district gatherings, and sending leaders to training events and spiritual retreats.

What does a renewed congregation look like? "We want the output to be maturing, growing Christians," David Young said. The ultimate goal is for a congregation to enter into a spiritual path as a body, he said. "We need our churches to really give attention to their spiritual development." As by-products, he has witnessed congregations becoming more upbeat, has seen relationships improve within congregations, and often has seen people show a greater willingness to participate in church ministries.

"To see the church shaped as a body of disciples" is the goal of the Springs work, in Joan Young’s words. She emphasized the way spirituality and being in mission together make for a healthy direction in a congregation.

It is this particular combination--spiritual growth, Christ-centeredness, biblical guidance, working together as a body, servant leadership, and emphasis on mission--that makes the Springs initiative "so Brethren," David Young said.

The Springs initiative is "coloring outside the lines denominationally," said Northern Ohio District executive minister John Ballinger. "It’s been a blessing. It has brought hope and vitality. When folks leave the Springs meetings, they are excited."

A Shenandoah District report highlighted the experience of Mount Pleasant Church of the Brethren in Harrisonburg, Va., a congregation of less than 100 people. "We knew we were ready to move forward spiritually and however else God decided for us," the report said. "Our Leadership Team, now known as the ‘Bucket Team,’ whose purpose is to draw in what is good and pour out blessings, has been swimming deeply to meet the challenge of leading the congregation through this process of growth."

To begin, Mount Pleasant spent several months hearing sermons and reading scriptures about the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life. The sermon series inspired a daily devotion on a Facebook page, which spilled over into discussions in a young adult class, and in turn led to a new Friday night discussion group. "The Bucket Team is searching for ways to increase the fire and make this process a life-long and life-changing endeavor," the report said.

In addition to offering leadership for the initiative in districts, David Young gives one-day renewal events and a pastor’s track, and has taught occasional courses such as a weekend intensive held at Lancaster (Pa.) Theological Seminary in early September that was tailored for "new pastors and others who feel led toward church renewal."

A nine-member advisory group helps guide the initiative, which also receives support from prayer partners. David Young’s two books are resources: "Springs of Living Water: Christ-Centered Church Renewal" with a foreword by Richard Foster (2008, Herald Press), and "Servant Leadership for Church Renewal: Shepherds by the Living Springs" (1999, Herald Press). His books can be ordered through Brethren Press for $12.74 or $9.99 respectively, plus shipping and handling; call 800-441-3712.

Although financially the Youngs carry out their work on a shoe-string, they said they are committed to serve each congregation that asks for help. The Youngs write regular e-mails about the Springs initiative to keep their supporters up to date, and most express gratitude for blessings. "Could we be in prayer and in thanksgiving this month of November," asked a recent e-mail, "seeing how God is leading renewal in our denomination, in the lives of people, and in our churches?"

For more about Springs of Living Water go to or contact

Source: 12/30/2009 Newsline
OMA conference addresses seven foundations of Christian camping.

More than 40 people gathered at Woodland Altars in Southern Ohio District for the 2009 national conference of the Church of the Brethren’s Outdoor Ministries Association (OMA). The event, held every three years, took place Nov. 13-15 with the theme "Christ as Cornerstone."

The conference featured keynote speaker Rick Dawson of Camp Highroad, a United Methodist camp in northern Virginia. Dawson focused his presentation around his "Seven Foundations of Christian Camping," which he developed with a team working on a new vision for camp ministries in their church region.

Dawson outlined the dimensions of each of the seven foundations, which include providing an intentional place apart, teaching creation care and appreciation, developing Christian spiritual leaders, extending genuine Christian hospitality, nurturing Christian faith and discipleship, equipping guests to do love and service, and collaborating with churches and agencies.

"Try to make sure that everyone who comes to your camp has a mountaintop experience," Dawson said. "Offer them every tool you can."

An afternoon session led by Dawson encouraged "nuts and bolts" sharing in small groups on how the seven foundations might apply in practical ways to particular camp settings. He encouraged the development of a strategic plan at each camp to achieve those objectives, along with setting clear roles for staff and examining the camp’s church relationships.

The weekend also included a concert by John and Jan Long of Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind., who provided a mix of folk and peace tunes, including some sing-alongs, accompanied on banjo, dulcimer, and guitar. Breakout sessions between Dawson’s keynote addresses provided an opportunity to hike, do creative arts and crafts, or have further conversation with Dawson.

The annual OMA auction was held Saturday evening, and worship closed the gathering Sunday morning. Following the conference, camp directors, managers, and other staff remained at Woodland Altars for their annual networking retreat through Nov. 19.

-- Walt Wiltschek is editor of the Church of the Brethren’s "Messenger" magazine.

Source: 12/30/2009 Newsline
Church representative attends unique human rights hearing.

The Church of the Brethren’s representative to the United Nations, Doris Abdullah, was among those attending a first-ever hearing on human rights treaties implementation held by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law. The hearing took place in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 16.

Abdullah represents the church at the UN, serves on the Sub-Committee for the Elimination of Racism of the UN’s NGO Committee on Human Rights, and is a board member for On Earth Peace.

Testimony at the hearing was given by Thomas E. Perez, Justice Department Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights; Michael H. Posner, State Department Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; Wade Henderson, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; and Elisa Massimino, President and Chief Executive Officer of Human Rights First.

In her written report from the hearing, Abdullah noted, "The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights treaties have been signed and ratified by the Congress. Having been ratified, these three international treaties are part of US Law.

"Although the US has signed, Congress has yet to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women," she added.

Her report on the event referenced Jesus’ commandment to love with "heart...soul...strength...and mind" in Luke 10:27, and expressed concern for the lack of human rights protections for women and children in the United States. "I dare to believe that most Americans would be outraged to know that the US stands alone with Somalia, a country without a government, in not having ratified the treaty to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.... Do the people know that the US and a handful of other countries have not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child thereby causing misery and death to children in our land?" Abdullah asked.

"Our laws on children vary by state and lack uniformity and in some case common decency," she reported. "Sexual abuse in the home, child prostitution, sale of children, child pornography, and even child sex tourism (are issues) which lack government attention.... The need to protect children cries out to the religious community."

Abdullah also called attention to lack of rights afforded to prisoners, and the fact that "the US also has the largest number of juveniles held in prison than any other country and the US is the only country on the planet that has sentenced children under 18 (some as young as 13) to life in prison without parole for crimes that did not result in the death of the victim."

She added an additional concern about the use of torture by US government agencies, although she stated that "credit must be given to the Bush Administration for complying with treaty obligations to bring the United States up to date with the various treaty data."

"‘One small step’ is what some called yesterday’s hearing," Abdullah’s report concluded. "While Mr. Perez at the department of Justice and Mr. Posner at the department of State as well as the administration can want to do the right thing, I believe that we the people have the obligation to make our government live up to what we as a nation want to do.

"If we want to do justice and live out the moral commandment giving to us by our Lord to love our neighbor with all our heart, strength, soul, and mind, it is up to us to get out the ‘good news.’ The United Nations has declared 2010, the year of ‘Human Rights Learning,’ let us get started anew."

Source: 12/30/2009 Newsline
Youth share in ‘A-maize-ing Grace’ gardening project.

Iowa youth have participated in growing produce to benefit a Foods Resource Bank (FRB) food security program in Madagascar. The project was part of the "A-maize-ing Grace" Growing Project sponsored by a cluster of congregations that includes Ivester Church of the Brethren in Grundy Center, Iowa.

Also involved are three Presbyterian churches, three Methodist churches, a Church of God congregation, and the Bethel Grove Christian Church.

Produce was grown by students and sold in a local grocery store with proceeds benefiting the FRB. Proceeds from the Gardening Project were over $3,000. The youth recommended the income be given to a food security project in Antsirabe Tanatave, Madagascar.

Leigh Carson and Jay Borgman, youth that participated in the Gardening Project, told of their experiences to a meeting of the "A-maize-ing Grace" Growing Project on Dec. 3. "The gardening was fun, but work!" they said. "It gave us a good feeling knowing we were working together to help other people in need."

Don Linnenbrink, one of the adults involved, commented that the youth were good workers. "If someone was gone on vacation, others were willing to pitch in and care for that person’s garden plot."

Three other communities will each receive $2,000 from the "A-maize-ing Grace" Growing Project: Totonicapan, Guatamala; Bateyes, the Dominican Republic; and Cambodia. The Church of the Brethren is the lead sponsor for the Totonicapan and Bateyes food security projects. A little over $700 will be sent to the FRB national office for staff support, and $5,000 will be retained in the local treasury to assist with planning a 2010 fundraising event in cooperation with students at Iowa State University.

This FRB Gardening Project was the first of its kind in the nation, and the youth are receiving widespread recognition. Joan Fumetti of the FRB staff will recognize the youth and thank the many people involved at a public event--a Soup and Sandwich luncheon at 12:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church in Conrad, Iowa, on Sunday, Jan. 10.

It is hoped that in the future youth and adults in other area churches will consider participating in gardening projects to raise funds for FRB.

-- Lois Kruse is a member of Ivester Church of the Brethren in Grundy Center, Iowa.

Source: 12/30/2009 Newsline
Seymour to manage sales of health and welfare benefits for BBT.

Diana Seymour has accepted the position of manager of sales for health and welfare benefits at Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT). She will begin her duties on Jan. 4, 2010.

She brings more than 22 years of experience in the health insurance industry, and a current state of Illinois Life and Health Insurance license and current non-resident licenses in 14 other states. She has had experience working with church plans, particularly with the Archdiocese of Miami, Fla. Most recently, she has served as account manager with the Plexus Groupe in Deer Park, Ill., where she worked with insurance renewals and marketing.

She and her family live in Bartlett, Ill., and are active in Baker Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Charles, Ill.

Source: 12/30/2009 Newsline
On Earth Peace sends delegation to Israel and Palestine.

A delegation co-sponsored by On Earth Peace and Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) will be traveling in Israel and Palestine on Jan. 5-18, 2010. The delegation is led by On Earth Peace executive director Bob Gross.

Delegates will meet with Palestinian and Israeli human rights representatives and peace workers in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. They will travel to the city of Hebron and the village of At-Tuwani in the South Hebron Hills and experience firsthand the work of CPT alongside Israeli and Palestinian partners. They will visit Palestinian families whose homes and livelihoods are threatened by expanding Israeli settlements.

"An important part of this experience is meeting both Israelis and Palestinians who are working for creative solutions and nonviolent alternatives," explained Matt Guynn, program director for On Earth Peace. "Delegates will be learning how centuries of history intersect with today's news, and will look for the new possibilities that are emerging."

Delegation members include Pamela Brubaker of Simi Valley, Calif.; Joyce and John Cassel of Oak Park, Ill.; Mary Cox of North Manchester, Ind.; Tana Durnbaugh of Elgin, Ill.; Fletcher Farrar of Springfield, Ill.; Beth Gould of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia; Nick Kauffman of Richmond, Ind.; Peter McArdle of Newcastle, Australia; Shannon Richmond of Seattle, Wash.; Frank Schneider of Chicago, Ill.; Joseph Stuart of Mt. Vernon, Ohio; and Sharon Wiggins of Victoria, Texas.

Prayers are invited for the delegates. Follow the delegation on its blog at

Source: 12/30/2009 Newsline
Deacon Training Workshops are offered this winter.

Based on the theme, "His Hands and Feet," two sessions of deacon training are scheduled for this winter, offered by the Church of the Brethren’s Deacon Ministry. The first session will be held on Saturday, Feb. 6, at Bremen (Ind.) Church of the Brethren. The second session takes place on Saturday, March 6, at New Fairview Church of the Brethren in York, Pa.

Workshops will address the following topics: "What Are Deacons Supposed to Do, Anyway? (The Four Functions of Deacons)," "The Art of Listening," "Offering Support in Times of Grief and Loss," and "Deacons and Pastors: The Pastoral Care Team" (topics may vary slightly depending on location).

To register for the Feb. 6 training, contact the Bremen church at 574-546-3227. To register for the March 6 training, call the Southern Pennsylvania District Office at 717-624-8636. For general information contact Donna Kline, director of Deacon Ministry, or 800-323-8039 ext. 304.

Source: 12/30/2009 Newsline
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
Gathering V calls Western Plains District to ‘Behold a New Thing.’

About 300 people converged on Webster Conference Center in Salina, Kan., on Oct. 23-25 for Western Plains District’s fifth Gathering conference, a project of its transformation movement. If they came for inspiring preaching exploring the theme, "Behold, a New Thing--Do You Perceive It?" or for stretching ideas for ministry back home, lively music, and Brethren fellowship and fun, they were not disappointed.

Jonathan Shively, Carol Mason, and Ken and Elsie Holderread were the preachers, while Shively and Shawn Flory Replogle led related general sessions. Eleven workshops were offered. Marie Rhodes and Seth Hendricks were featured leaders at a youth retreat. Numerous persons led about 16 hours of children’s activities and infant care.

On Saturday evening several activities celebrating the ministry of Ken and Elsie Holderread as district executives since 2003. A "Service of Celebration" used visuals and teams of narrators to tell the district’s story during their time of ministry. A reception in their honor followed.

-- Dale Minnich wrote this article for the Western Plains District newsletter.

Source: 12/30/2009 Newsline Extra
Western Pennsylvania District meets on theme, ‘Go, Run Your Race.’

Western Pennsylvania District held its 143rd District Conference on Oct. 24 at the Fred M. Rogers Center on the campus of Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, Pa. Moderator William A. Waugh challenged the 218 participants with the theme "Go, Run Your Race." The district comprises 68 churches and two fellowships with a membership of over 9,300.

Insight sessions were held in the morning. The subjects included an overview of the work of two agencies of the denomination, the Church of the Brethren and On Earth Peace; a presentation on preparations for the Annual Conference to be held in Pittsburgh, Pa., on July 3-7, 2010; and a presentation about congregational ethics.

In a business session, a district budget of $189,824 for 2010 was adopted by 187 delegates representing 54 congregations. The delegates also approved a query to be presented to Annual Conference concerning guidelines for implementation of the Congregational Ethics paper. The delegates accepted a revised and updated version of the District Constitution that will be implemented when the accompanying by-laws are updated and approved.

New leadership was called. Ruby F. Mader was installed as moderator of the district for the next year. Wesley J. Berkebile was named moderator designate. Six people were called to three-year terms on the District Leadership Team: Betsy J. Statler, chair; Erin E. Marker; Joel A. Wilcher; William R. Frey Sr.; Jane Wolfhope; and Carol J. Walker. District treasurer Carole J. Horner was appointed to another three-year term.

Dottie H. Grew and Linda K. Stoner were called to three-year terms on the District Conference Program and Arrangements Committee. Christopher A. Forry was called to a three-year term and Gerald R. Baxter was called to complete an unexpired term on the District/Camp Charitable Trust Board. Marie Camut and Donna L. Ramer were named to five-year terms on the Board of Trustees for the Brethren Home Community in Windber. Called to three-year terms on the board of directors of Camp Harmony were Erin E. Marker, Harold "Bill" Miller, Jack Harrison, and Priscilla Haines. Frank P. Young was called to serve a four-year term on the district’s gifts discernment team.

Worship and music were interspersed throughout the business of the day. A highlight of the conference was an auction of three hours of time by the district’s Children/Youth Ministries coordinator Abby Shaffer and Camp Harmony program director Dan Shaffer. The couple donated their time to encourage attendance at the district’s fourth annual Auction that took place Nov. 7. Congregations and individuals also brought enough "Gifts of the Heart" hygiene and school kits to send a full van load to be distributed by the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.

-- Suzanne Moss is administrative assistant for Western Pennsylvania District.

Source: 12/30/2009 Newsline Extra
Oregon and Washington District meets at Camp Koinonia.

Moderator Howard Ullery convened the Oregon and Washington District Conference on Sept. 25-27 at Camp Koinonia in Cle Elum, Wash. The approximately 70 attendees enjoyed seasonably warm, early fall weather in a delightful camp setting.

The conference theme was "Come to the Lakeshore." Ken and Elsie Holderread, co-district executives in Western Plains District, were the keynote speakers. Starting with the text from John 21 in which Jesus advises the disciples to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, the Holderreads talked about innovative ways Western Plains is "doing district."

The business session featured a report from the district’s finance committee. For the past few years, regular income to the district has not been sufficient to cover yearly costs of ministry. The district’s bank balance has been drawn down, and funds designated for other uses have been tapped to meet these costs. Churches are being encouraged to make district ministries a part of their regular church budget. The committee observed that average Sunday morning attendance throughout the district is approximately 610. If that many people contributed a quarter a day the district would have the funds needed to accomplish shared district ministries.

Meeting in small groups, delegates and attendees brain-stormed ideas for special events to highlight district ministries, build cooperation and fellowship, and raise funds. Delegates adopted a budget of $56,790 for the coming year.

Frosty and Nancy Louise Wilkinson organized the disaster auction. Ken Michael was again an entertaining auctioneer. Over $2,000 dollars was raised for disaster relief. Marie Wiles and Pat Wright also provided an opportunity for attendees to purchase items from artisans around the world through a SERRV Store. Carol Bowman organized a talent show on Saturday night with Mike Titus as master of ceremonies.

Before Sunday morning worship, the assembled group thanked Ullery for his service as moderator for the past two years. Ken Rieman led in a special anointing service for a member who is contending with ALS (Lou Gehrig s disease). Continuing prayers on her behalf would be appreciated. Ken Holderread sent the participants home with closing words of hope and inspiration.

-- This report first appeared in the Oregon and Washington District newsletter.

Source: 12/30/2009 Newsline Extra
Middle Pennsylvania District Conference meets despite early snow.

The 148th Middle Pennsylvania District Conference had a new twist this year with an unexpected early snow fall in the days leading up to the conference, which required cautious travel for some. Lori Knepp served as moderator.

Pre-conference activities began Friday evening with an annual Ministers’ Banquet. Seventy ministers and their spouses enjoyed a wonderful buffet dinner provided by Juniata College and hosted by Juniata president Tom Kepple.

The conference opened with evening worship on the theme, "God Lives in Us" (1 John 4:11-12). Kurt Borgmann, pastor at Manchester Church of the Brethren in North Manchester, Ind., preached on "To Love One Another." Joel Nogle, pastor at Memorial Church of the Brethren in Martinsburg, Pa., preached on Saturday morning, sharing the message that no matter where you come from your heavenly Father is "Your Daddy."

The conference business included audit reports of the district finances and Disaster Response Action Team. The Coordinating Team presented a 2010 Mission Plan. The $211,700 plan, which represents a $9,945 reduction from the 2009 plan and included no program, ministry, or outreach cuts, was affirmed by the delegate body.

Also a part of conference business was the "Query--Cooperative Ministry Among the Brethren." Full text of the query can be found at The query originated from pastors in the district’s Area 3 and was passed on to the delegate body for consideration by the Coordinating Team. After discussion, a motion from the floor to send it on to the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference was defeated. A second motion to pass it back to the Coordinating Team for study and action was passed.

District leaders shared information about ministries of their respective teams, such as the Shalom Team, the Calling and Credentialing Team, the Ministers’ Education and Support Team, and others. Individuals from congregations told about ways district ministries have aided them in their local ministries. The Youth Ministry Team held a service of consecration for the ministries they share throughout the district. District executive minister David Steele challenged each church to disciple five new members in the next year.

Friday evening offerings totaling $1,087 were designated to District Youth Ministry and the Pennies for Congregational Ministries offering on Saturday totaled $5,547.77. The District Conference outreach project was a collection of nonperishable food items and donations for the Huntingdon Area Food Pantry.

A slate of leadership was affirmed. Moderator designate is David Filson. Named to the Gifts Discernment team were Eric Biddle and Barbara Rowe. Named to the District Conference Program and Arrangements Committee was Freeman Snair. Jeff Imler was named to the Audit Committee. David Crumrine was named district delegate to the Standing Committee of Annual Conference. Named to the Coordinating Team were Rich Allison, Doris Miller, Bobbie Replogle, and Marian Goshorn. Jim Ake was named district treasurer.

Lowell Witkovsky, 2010 district moderator, was consecrated for his leadership in the coming year. He asked for congregations to be in prayer for the tasks ahead. The 2010 District Conference will be held on Oct. 15-16 at Maitland Church of the Brethren in Lewistown, Pa.

Source: 12/30/2009 Newsline Extra
‘Blessed to Be a Blessing’ provides theme for Shenandoah District.

The 42nd yearly conference of Shenandoah District was held at Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren on Nov. 6-7. The conference began with worship led by moderator Matthew Fike on the conference theme, "Blessed to Be a Blessing."

A Deputation Team from Bridgewater College provided music and worship leadership for the opening service. Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission Partnerships, gave a Moment for Mission on the denomination’s 100 Homes in Haiti project. The evening offering, totaling $1,627.53, will benefit the Haiti project.

Conference participants numbered 355 on Saturday. The conference-goers enjoyed informative insight sessions highlighting district and denominational ministries such as Brethren Woods, National Youth Conference, Brethren Disaster Ministries, and the district’s annual auction. The district’s Mission Implementation Team held a session to inform delegates about a proposed governance plan. Conference participants also had time to browse exhibits and enjoyed a time of fellowship and refreshments provided by the Pleasant Valley congregation.

In business sessions, the district approved a new governance plan. The recommendation came from the District Board. Revisions grew out of the board’s desire to move to a governance model that assists congregations to be vital, effective, and healthy. The new model streamlines decision making with a Leadership Team replacing the district’s Executive Committee and District Board. Ministry Teams will be more nimble and focused on empowering congregations and groups within the district. At the heart of the model is the biblical concept of discerning gifts for ministry. A major emphasis will be on working with congregations to call and train persons for leadership.

Delegates came forward to share questions, concerns, and support for the proposed changes. Following discussion, moderator Fike led the delegate body in a time of prayer. Delegates approved the revisions to the constitution and by-laws by an 89 percent vote.

Throughout the business sessions, congregational highlights were given from across the district. The Mill Creek Church shared about its emphasis on Youth Ministries. The Mt. Pleasant Church shared about the blessings of the Springs of Living Water church renewal initiative. The Pleasant Valley Church told about Hope Chapel, a worship initiative to reach out to families and individuals in Augusta County who visit the Verona Food Pantry.

The District Board portrayed scenes from an Executive Committee meeting illustrating many ministries that are supported through the district budget. During the celebration, Christian Growth Institute dean Ed Carl presented graduating students with certificates. Those receiving certificates included Jerry Shiflet, Scott Payne, Richard and Janet Parkhurst, and David Chappell.

Other items of business included a "Mission Challenge Budget" for 2010 with income and expense parameters of $407,469. Delegates were informed of possible reductions to the budget if end-of-year finances and commitments for 2010 do not meet the approved income level.

Election results included Janet Elsea as moderator-elect, Ellen K. Layman as clerk, and Gilda Gilbert called to the District Conference Program and Arrangements Committee. Called to the District Board were Martha Barlow, Karen Fleishman, Martha Graves, Sharon Lantz, Linda Neff, Darren Howdyshell, Sue Sandy, Charles Simmons, and Randy Simmons. Henry Elsea Jr. was named district delegate to the Standing Committee of Annual Conference.

Bernie Fuska will serve as moderator for 2010. Jim Miller, district executive, led a consecration service for newly elected personnel, installing moderator Fuska and moderator-elect Janet Elsea with a laying on of hands. Fuska adjourned the conference by sharing a vision for the district which centers on Christ’s teaching of "the things that make for peace."

Source: 12/30/2009 Newsline Extra
Virlina District Conference celebrates the Name of Jesus.

The 39th Virlina District Conference was held in Roanoke, Va., on Nov. 13-14. "At the Name of Jesus Every Knee Should Bend!" (Philippians 2:5-11) was the theme. Total registration was 529 people. This included 253 delegates and 276 non-delegates from 78 congregations. Patrick C. Starkey, pastor of Roanoke Ninth Street Church of the Brethren, served as moderator.

Speakers for worship services were Daniel D'Oleo, Donald Gearheart, Hannah Oakes, Dava C. Hensley, and Stafford C. Frederick. An all-conference choir was led by Laura Heptinstall.

Ninety-nine people attended a Ministers and Spouses Banquet held on Friday evening at Peters Creek Church of the Brethren. David K. Shumate, district executive, was the featured speaker.

Business included the granting of a request from Danville (Va.) First Church of the Brethren to change its name to Schoolfield Church of the Brethren, and the approval of a District Board Budget of $289,389.97 for 2010. Delegates also heard that the Camp Bethel budget for 2010 will be $612,210.

Nineteen individuals were called to positions of leadership. Roy A. McVey was called as moderator-elect. Cathy S. Huffman was named the district delegate to the Standing Committee of Annual Conference. Anna W. Hale and Linda B. Vaught were called to the District Conference Program and Arrangements Committee. Patricia A. Edwards, Harriet F. Rader, and Michael J. Huffaker were named to the Nominating and Personnel Committee. Stephanie L. Naff and Julie A. Sink were called to the Outdoor Ministries Committee.

Called to the District Board were Myrna M. Ferguson, R. Keith Beckner, Roy U. Turpin, Mary Ann Mellen, Lula Belle Wood, Michelle Wirt Eaton, Royce L. Saunders, Paul F. Stutzman, and Michael W. Wray. Lynn N. Myers will serve as chair of the District Board for 2009-10.

The conference consecrated Daniel D'Oleo as pastor/developer of the Roanoke, Renacer Project, beginning Jan. 1. Jimmy Robinson and James C. McKinnell were honored for 50 years of ministerial service. The graduation of John G. Edwards from the Training in Ministry (TRIM) process was celebrated.

The conference received offerings of $4,424.25, including $1,647.00 for National Youth Conference, $2,017.25 for the expenses of the District Conference, and $760 for Hispanic Ministries.

The 40th Virlina District Conference will be held Nov. 12-13, 2010. Sharon S. Wood will serve as the 2010 District Conference Moderator.

-- David Shumate is district executive minister of Virlina District.

Source: 12/30/2009 Newsline Extra

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren, or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Matt Guynn, Cori Hahn, Marlin Heckman, Donna Kline, Donna March, Howard Royer, Jeanne Smith, John Wall, John Ward contributed to this report.