Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Denominational board adopts a Strategic Plan for the decade.

A Strategic Plan for denominational ministry in this decade, 2011-2019, was adopted by the Church of the Brethren’s Mission and Ministry Board at its spring meeting. The meeting took place March 10-14 at the church’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The board used a consensus style of decision making, led by chair Dale E. Minnich.

Also on the agenda was a thorough overview of the current financial situation of denominational ministries, approval of the annual report, and reports on new church development, work in Haiti and southern Sudan, a delegation to Israel/Palestine, and the Christian Churches Together annual meeting that centered on the continuing problem of racism in US churches, among others.

The board spent an afternoon in private conversation to seek a working relationship while dealing with controversial issues facing the church, including the Special Response conversation on matters related to sexuality.

Strategic Plan:

As in its fall meeting last year, the board spent much of its time on a Strategic Plan. It adopted a final document at this meeting. (Find the Strategic Plan at The plan received verbal accolades from board members, both in a discussion of the plan by the Executive Committee, and in comments in the full board meeting.

"This is a major step for us," said Minnich as he introduced the item of business. In a slide explaining the process used to arrive at the plan, he identified its purpose in this way: "Provide a Christ centered focus for MMB (Mission and Ministry Board) program that fits the gifts and dreams of the Brethren."

"I desperately want members of the church engaged with this (plan) and to see what we’re doing," said vice-chair Ben Barlow.

Repeatedly, board and staff leaders emphasized the interrelated nature of six sets of directional goals and objectives for ministry in the program areas of "Brethren Voice," church planting, congregational vitality, international mission, and service, and an organizational goal of sustainability. Each is based in scripture. The objectives were written with help from small working groups of staff and board liaisons, and in some cases advisory groups from the wider church.

Commenting on the objectives for church planting, Congregational Life Ministries executive director Jonathan Shively told the Executive Committee, "These objectives only work when they’re paired with the objectives for Brethren Voice and others."

"None of them can stand alone," Barlow said in agreement. He characterized the goals in their entirety as "envisioning a vital and dynamic church...into the future."

At previous meetings the board had approved several sections of the plan including a preamble prayer, six broad directional goals, and next steps such as how the plan will be implemented. The organization’s vision, mission, and core values statements ( are considered foundational understandings.

The objectives for congregational vitality, which in the words of Ministry Office executive Mary Jo Flory-Steury lay out a vision of what a vibrant and vital church is, began receiving positive responses even in advance of the board meeting. Board member Tim Peter already has written about them for a newsletter, and told the Executive Committee "how this particular directional goal resonated with people in Northern Plains District.... Yes, this is important to us!" he said.

The board spent an afternoon discussing the new objectives, asking questions, and giving feedback. One point of clarification requested was how the specific number of 250 new church plants for the decade was decided. Shively explained that the assumption is not that denominational staff are planting the churches, but that the denomination’s ministry is to support church planters in the districts. The number of 250 new plants is an achievable objective in terms of that support, he said.

"We can’t do this on our own power," he added. "This is a spiritual discipline.... That’s the spirit in which that number was imagined and offered." Shively also told the board that as he meets with district leaders, he is seeing the church planting movement "finding its wings."

Members of the finance staff also offered helpful explanations about the objectives for sustainability--that the goal is to be forward looking, with objectives designed to sustain the Church of the Brethren’s mission into the future, and not necessarily tied to current program and staffing structures. "We are not trying to sustain an organization," said LeAnn Wine, assistant treasurer and executive director of Systems and Services. "It is about creating sustaining resources for the mission. As the mission changes, we need to be flexible."

Two ex-officio board members raised concerns about whether the objectives give enough prominence to the peace witness, and whether an objective for interfaith relationships ought to be added. Their concerns were discussed but led to no changes in the Strategic Plan.

Work toward this new Strategic Plan began when the former General Board and the former Association of Brethren Caregivers merged to become the Church of the Brethren, Inc. Then, using an "appreciative inquiry" process focused on identifying strengths of the organization, data was gleaned from a five-year evaluation of the work of the General Secretary and a survey of leadership groups in the denomination. Rick Augsburger of the Konterra Group based in Washington, D.C., served as consultant. A Strategic Planning Working Group of board members and executive staff guided the effort.

A reading of the plan’s Preamble Prayer closed the business sessions of the board. Brian Messler, a board member from Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren, also shared how he will be bringing ideas from the service objectives back to his congregation, suggesting that other board members do the same. "The juices are flowing, the Spirit is moving, and praise be to God!" said Minnich.

Financial reports:

A review of the financial situation for denominational ministry centered on a smaller than expected net loss in the Core Ministries Fund in 2010, which reduces the anticipated deficit that had been budgeted for this year.

Other positive points came with news that since 2008 the denomination’s investments have rebounded and have regained $4 million in value--more than half of the value lost in the economic downturn of three years ago. Congregational giving continued strong in 2010 given the overall economic situation in the nation, beating budget projections. Online giving increased significantly. In addition the Annual Conference experienced a turnaround, reversing a deficit that had been greatly increased by poor attendance at the 2009 Conference.

While income to the Core Ministries Fund was less than anticipated overall, giving to all Church of the Brethren ministries was up significantly when the more than $1 million in donations to disaster relief work in Haiti was taken into account.

However, finance staff also reported several negatives, chief among them the negative net asset balance for the New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center, which doubled to over a half million dollars by the end of last year. In her report about a situation she called "very daunting," Keyser said the problem is a result of the wider economic downturn that has affected use of the conference center, along with costs associated with the older buildings and staffing. "We’ve never had a half million dollars" in a negative net asset balance before, she told the board. "Everything is being discussed by your staff. We’re talking about all the options."

The extensive financial reporting reviewed pre-audit income and expense results for Church of the Brethren ministries in 2010, designated fund balances, net assets balances, stabilization strategies for investments, cash flow analysis, a 10-year budgeting history of the organization, and other areas of concern as the board anticipates a difficult financial situation next year. The projection given by Keyser is that denominational ministries will enter 2012 with a potential shortfall in income of some $696,000.

During the meeting, a collection to support the work of the church received donations from board members and staff. A final gift following the meeting brought that total to around $2,500.

A detailed report of pre-audit financial results from 2010 appeared in Newsline on March 9, find it at A photo album of the meeting is at

Work team worships and works with Haitian Brethren.

A work team recently spent at week (Feb.24-March 3) worshiping and working together with the National Committee of Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti). The group was jointly sponsored by the Global Mission Partnerships of the Church of the Brethren and the Brethren Mission Fund of the Brethren Revival Fellowship.

The team, consisting of 14 members, was led by Douglas Miller of New Oxford, Pa., Marie Andremene Ridore of Miami, Fla., and Jeff Boshart of Fort Atkinson, Wis.

During the week the group helped lead Vacation Bible School activities in two churches and two schools, joined church members in Morne Boulage and Saut d'Eau to assist in church construction projects, distributed Bibles to church leaders, and spent one day working on a guesthouse being built by Brethren Disaster Ministries to house volunteers in Croix des Bouquets. The group was able to visit permanent homes being built by Brethren Disaster Ministries, and to meet Haitian Brethren living in temporary housing provided by the program.

This was the first team to be hosted by the National Committee of the Haitian Brethren. Treasurer Romy Telfort thanked the team for its presence and expressed what a blessing it was to serve together in this way. General secretary Jean Bily Telfort shared his appreciation for the support of the Church of the Brethren in the US.

-- Jeff Boshart is coordinator of the Brethren Disaster Ministries response in Haiti, and a consultant for Global Mission Partnerships.

McPherson couple gives course in Brethren history to CNI seminary.

Herb and Jeanne Smith recently taught a course in Brethren history and traditions at Gujarat School of Theology, a seminary of the Church of North India (CNI). Affiliated with McPherson (Kan.) College, the Smiths have taken students and alumni on international trips every January interterm. They also have taught at universities in Japan and India during sabbaticals. This second experience in India, however, of all their travels and teaching was the most impactful. Following is their report:

India assaults the senses, intrigues the intellect, and inspires the spirit. In this land of enchanting diversity, the Church of the Brethren initiated its mission in 1895. Eventually over 90 schools were founded along the central western coast in an area of over 7,000 square miles.

As we were anticipating flying to Ahmadabad to teach at the Gujarat School of Theology, we were naturally apprehensive. Both of us during our educational training had experienced presentations by guest professors from other cultures, not usually in sync with the students. The apprehension was heightened when upon arrival we found out that our teaching would be translated line by line from English to a Gujarat dialect.

To our surprise, the sessions on Church of the Brethren history and traditions were very well received by both the seminary students and the professors who attended.

The School of Theology is the graduate seminary for CNI. In 1970, amid considerable controversy, the Church of the Brethren joined this consortium consisting of six denominations. The school is located in the semi-arid city of Ahmadabad, where Mahatma Gandhi had his ashram and began the long trek of his epic salt march.

Because most of the seminarians and faculty had come from other denominational backgrounds, the history and traditions of the Brethren were almost entirely new to them. The service motif and the pacifist stance were highlighted. Since CNI has adopted both the Apostles and Nicene Creeds, we featured the Brethren emphasis on the teachings of Christ, which are totally omitted by the creeds. Also, much emphasis was placed on the monumental change when the fourth century Roman emperor Constantine militarized his understanding of the Christian faith.

One of the seminary students shared about his background and decision to join the Christian faith and prepare for the ministry. His decision was made under threat of death in a province where the right-wing BJP political party promotes a brand of Hindu fundamentalism, and Christianity is not well received by the general population.

Stirring the emotions was a visit to the leprosy settlement supported by CNI. Everyone has heard of Mother Teresa, but few have been told about Father Albert--except for people who beg throughout north India. Lame since birth, this saint personally applies salve to the wounds of those with Hansen’s disease (leprosy) and directs an orphanage of 76 children whose parents have died of this debilitating disease. In India, those with leprosy often are shunned by their families and are left homeless in the streets. Father Albert’s compound provides warmth in the context of Christian love.

From the pioneer era of Mary and Wilbur Stover along with Bertha Ryan, the Church of the Brethren continues to have an impact on the lives of many in India.

-- For more about Church of the Brethren relationships in India, where the denomination relates to both the Church of North India and the Church of the Brethren India, go to

Palsgrove resigns from Brethren Service Center staff.

Ed Palsgrove, director of Buildings and Grounds at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., has announced his resignation effective May 10. He has worked most of the last 35 years improving, fixing, and re-creating the rooms and buildings needed for ministries housed there.

Palsgrove began working at the Brethren Service Center on Oct. 15, 1975, as a truck driver. His breadth of skills also includes plumbing, electrical, HVAC, fire fighting, phone system management, construction coordination, locksmithing, and much more. He is known for approaching the work at the center with integrity, careful stewardship, and care for God’s creation. He plans to continue living in New Windsor, where he will start in a new position with a local manufacturer of high tech testing equipment.

Fasting initiative focuses on world’s vulnerable.

The Peace Witness Ministries of the Church of the Brethren, located in Washington, D.C., and the Global Food Crisis Fund are highlighting a fasting initiative scheduled to begin March 28.

Appealing to Americans to seek divine guidance by humbling themselves before God, hunger advocate Tony Hall announced he will begin a spiritual fast on March 28 to reflect on the condition of the poor and hungry in the US and around the world. He is inviting others to join personally and collectively in the venture.

Concerned over the impact of rising food and energy prices and Congressional budget cuts on the poor, the former Ohio Congressman envisions collective fasting and prayer forming "a circle of protection" around the vulnerable people of the world.

The Peace Witness Ministries office for the past several months has been calling on church members to contact their representatives in Congress on issues ranging from the federal budget to the situation of the Gulf Coast, from the war in Afghanistan to gun violence. "What is perhaps even more important, however, is that these actions grow out of our spiritual practices, and be grounded in a sense of worship," said advocacy officer Jordan Blevins.

In 1993 Hall fasted for 22 days to call attention to what he termed "the lack of conscience in the US Congress for hungry people." "But," he reflected, "everything we planned didn’t work, but what did work was greater than anything we planned."

"What fasting is about is God--putting God first," he continued. "It’s way beyond us. We need to humble ourselves and get out of the way. When you both fast and pray, fasting puts a real edge to your prayers."

Hall invites those who join with him to define for themselves what sacrificial participation means. Where the fasting leads and how long it will go on are unknown, but what is known is the fervor that Hall has "to grow the circle" around the country.

With support from the Alliance to End Hunger, the organization that Hall heads, along with Bread for the World, Sojourners, World Vision, and a host of other organizations engaged in hunger advocacy and action, the focus on fasting will utilize the social media. The fast will be announced at a prayer vigil on Capitol Hill in partnership with Ecumenical Advocacy Days, where more than 600 Christians will gather.

An action alert from Peace Witness Ministries at provides information about Ecumenical Advocacy Days. The website spells out principles, rationale, and platform for the fast. Bread for the World offers a guide to fasting as a spiritual discipline at

-- Jordan Blevins and Howard Royer provided this information. Royer manages the Global Food Crisis Fund and participated in a March 15 conference call in which Hall and Alliance staff convened leaders of faith-related hunger groups. He welcomes ideas about how Brethren may take part in the fast, contact or 800-323-8039 ext. 264. Blevins is advocacy officer and ecumenical peace coordinator for the Church of the Brethren and the NCC. For information about worship and advocacy opportunities contact him at

Registration is now open for National Older Adult Conference.

Registration has begun for the 2011 National Older Adult Conference (NOAC). Brochures have been mailed to past participants, congregations, district offices, and retirement communities, and a copy is in the April "Source" packet mailed to each church in the denomination. Complete conference information and online registration is available at .

Participants may register online with a credit card or print the form to pay by check through the mail. Reservations for lodging at the Lake Junaluska (N.C.) Conference and Retreat Center must be postmarked or faxed April 1 or later. Those with special lodging needs are encouraged to make their reservations between April 1-15 for priority consideration.

NOAC begins Monday, Sept. 5, with evening worship featuring Robert Bowman as preacher, and concludes following the closing worship service on Friday morning, Sept. 9, when Susan Boyer delivers the message.

In between, participants will enjoy keynote presentations by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, David E. Fuchs and Curtis W. Dubble, and C. Michael Hawn; a musical performance by Amy Yovanovich and Chrystian Seay; a hymn sing; and a concert by Mutual Kumquat. Cherokee tales will be offered by Freeman Owle, while Philip Gulley will share humorous and poignant stories of small-town life. Gulley also preaches for Wednesday evening’s worship. Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm will lead morning Bible studies. There also will be many opportunities for learning, recreation, creativity, service, fellowship, and enjoying the beautiful conference grounds.

NOAC would not be complete without the ice cream socials sponsored by the Fellowship of Brethren Homes, Bethany Seminary, and the six colleges and university associated with the Church of the Brethren. NOAC organizers appreciate the financial sponsorship of Brethren Benefit Trust (morning Bible studies), Brethren Village (Fuchs and Dubble keynote speech), the Palms of Sebring (concert by Amy Yovanovich and Chrystian Seay), and Everence (Robert Bowman’s presentation).

For additional information about NOAC contact 800-323-8039 ext. 302 or Information also is at

-- Kim Ebersole is conference coordinator for NOAC and serves as director of Family Life and Older Adult Ministries in the Church of the Brethren.

Invest in education: A note from the president of Manchester College.

The following reflection on budget decisions at the state and federal levels, and their potential effect on college students, was shared by president Jo Young Switzer of Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind. It appeared March 1 as a reflection in her "Notes from the President":

"Budget decisions at the state and federal levels are dominating the news. The State of Indiana and the nation are struggling to bring their budgets under control, work that is long overdue. When I was responsible only for my own classes and students, I did not understand the powerful impact of budget policies on students’ access to college.

"My hope for this process is that our representatives and senators would a) cut areas that are overfunded or not central to our most important priorities and simultaneously b) invest in initiatives and programs that will spur economic recovery. How disappointing it is that both in Indianapolis and in Washington, D.C., the conversations moved quickly to reductions in aid for the financially neediest of college students.

"Manchester College receives no direct funding from the state. Our students, however, qualify for state and federal need-based grants. How disappointing that the legislators are choosing to increase funding for students at for-profit universities, several of which are under investigation for encouraging excessive student loan borrowing and for garnering 90 percent of their revenues from these student loans, many of which are in default. How disappointing that several public universities hired teams of lobbyists to persuade legislators to decrease scholarship levels for Indiana students at independent colleges and universities in the state.

"We will continue to advocate for financial aid for students whose families cannot carry their college expenses alone. We hope you will join us in that advocacy. At the same time, the college also has chosen to provide significant financial aid for our students. We cannot, however, continue to make up for such large decreases in state and national grants. State aid alone has decreased 38 percent over the last two years. Manchester has long welcomed students with modest means and we now find it harder and harder to provide enough scholarships to keep those students in school.

"In the end, the state and the nation must invest in education. Educated citizens bring the abilities to address complex problems, including reducing the national debt. Educated citizens have the skills and dispositions to overcome differences and find imaginative solutions to difficult problems. Education is an investment in the future. In the days ahead, I hope our politicians realize that."

Brethren bits: Personnel, job opening, Year for People of African Descent, more.
  • The positions of dishwasher and Conference Center secretary at the New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center have been eliminated as of March 22, and the services of David Zaruba and Connie Bohn ended on the same date. The elimination of these positions occurred due to the significant budget shortfalls at the Conference Center over the past several years and the budget reduction measures put in place to remedy the situation. Both Zaruba and Bohn will receive a three-month severance package for regular salary and benefits as well as outplacement services. Zaruba was hired as dishwasher in Dining Services on May 8, 2003, and Bohn has served in the Conference Center secretary position since June 2, 1999.

  • Bethany Theological Seminary seeks a full-time director of communications. Bethany is the graduate school and academy of the Church of the Brethren, located in Richmond, Ind., offering MDiv and MA programs with local and distance tracks. The director will have education and experience in communications to strengthen, expand, and manage the image and awareness of the seminary; develop and execute communications plans, strategies, and tactics; serve diverse stakeholder groups, both internal and external; work collaboratively with director of electronic communications; share the vision of an inquiring thoughtful Christian faith. Candidates should have strong organizational abilities, interpersonal skills, excellent writing and oral communication, knowledge of electronic technology and software for design and production of communication pieces, and an eye and imagination tuned to newsworthy developments in the Bethany community to be sent as timely printed and electronic news releases. Bachelor’s degree with experience and knowledge of the Church of the Brethren preferred. Letters of application, resumes, samples of work or portfolio should be sent to: Director of Communications Search, Bethany Theological Seminary, 615 National Road West, Richmond, IN 47374; or Application deadline is May 1 or until the position is filled.

  • Doris Abdullah, Church of the Brethren representative to the United Nations, will bring opening remarks at the International Day for the Elimination of Racism program at the UN tomorrow, March 24. She is co-chair of the Subcommittee for the Elimination of Racism of the NGO Committee on Human Rights. The focus will be the International Year for People of African Descent in 2011, which "aims to advance the integration of people of African descent into all political, economic, social, and cultural aspects of society and to promote a greater knowledge of and respect for their diverse heritage and culture." The program will consist of panel presentations, a poetry performance, and audience interaction. Speakers include Howard Dodson of the New York Public Library Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, along with representatives of the missions to the UN from Colombia, Ghana, and Jamaica, and James Jackson of the University of Michigan. Performing will be Anis Mojgani, two-time National Poetry Slam Champion and Winner of the International World Cup Poetry Slam. The event is 3-6 p.m. on the 10th floor of the Church Center in New York.

  • A new Spanish language certificate-level ministry training program, Seminario Biblico Anabautista Hispano-de la Iglesia de los Hermanos (SeBAH-CoB), is available through the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership. This program is a partnership between the Brethren Academy and the Mennonite Education Agency (MEA)-Hispanic Pastoral and Leadership Education office. Twenty students from Atlantic Northeast District attended an orientation weekend Jan. 20-23 at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Seven students from Pacific Southwest District will participate after attending orientation March 6-12. Rafael Barahona, associate director of MEA and director of SeBAH, was the orientation instructor. Both districts are providing significant spiritual, academic, and financial support for their students in this ministry training program. For information contact the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership at or 800-287-8822 ext. 1824.

  • Photographs of Brethren "extending the table" are sought for a presentation during the closing worship service of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. The service is Wednesday, July 6, in Grand Rapids, Mich., on the theme, "Jesus Extends the Table to Us." Photographs will be displayed on large screens during an act of commissioning for the congregation. The worship planning team asks for help from Brethren photographers in acquiring photos of ways in which congregations extend hospitality and welcome to others, because Jesus welcomed us. Images may be from celebrations of Love Feast, but also may show ways congregations greet people as they arrive for worship, reach out into the community, and engage in service ministries. Photographers are requested to contribute only their own original works, and to have the permission of people pictured in any photos that are submitted. Send photographs as jpg attachments to an e-mail to Rhonda Pittman Gingrich at, along with credit information and written permission for their use by the Annual Conference.

  • Bethany Theological Seminary is offering "Sabbath space" on its campus in Richmond, Ind., on March 27-28. An announcement said: "At this moment in our national and denominational life, and taking Jesus seriously, Bethany Seminary is opening a Sabbath space for all people beginning on Sunday, March 27, at 5 p.m. with a simple fellowship meal and closing on Monday, March 28, by 3 p.m. The purpose of our gathering is to remember together that God is our creator, that we belong to God, and that we find our freedom and our joy in reconciliation with God and one another." The event will include worship, opportunities for prayer in small groups, and space for individual meditation. There is no charge, but those who plan to attend are requested to register. A registration form is at

  • Churches interested in becoming sites to provide food to hungry children through the federal Summer Food Service program are invited to the USDA’s "Summer Food Service Program Webinar for Faith-Based Organizations" on March 29 from 3-4 p.m. (eastern time). Each summer, 22.3 million students are at risk of going hungry when the school year ends. For many children, school meals are the only complete and nutritious meals they eat, and in the summer they go without. The Summer Food Service Program helps fill the gap for low-income children. It is federally funded and administered by states that reimburse organizations for meals served to children during the summer. Participants in the webinar will need access to a phone line and a computer with Internet access. To participate, complete the registration form at More information is at

  • Lakeland Song and Story Fest takes place June 26-July 2 at Camp Brethren Heights near Rodney, Mich. This is the 15th summer in a row for the annual intergenerational family camp co-sponsored by On Earth Peace. Ken Kline Smeltzer serves as director. This year’s theme is "Between the Waters." The camp features Brethren storytellers, musicians, and workshop leaders. Registration is $250 for adults, $200 for teenagers, $120 for children ages 4-12, children 3 and under welcome at no charge. Maximum fee per family is $750. Daily fees also are available. Registrations after June will be charged a late fee. Register online at For more information go to or contact

  • Washington City Church of the Brethren in Washington, D.C., is part of a new rainbarrel project to prevent pollution in the Anacostia River from stormwater runoff from buildings in Washington, D.C. A 650 gallon rainwater cistern will collect rain water from the church roof, thanks to a grant from the District Department of the Environment. The project is a community partnership bringing together Capitol Hill houses of worship and neighborhood groups for stormwater education, cistern installation, and garden care. Partner organizations are Anacostia Riverkeeper and Groundwork Anacostia, which employs local youth to help install the cisterns.

  • "Is Pacifism a Core Christian Value?" is the theme for a March 26 event of Mid-Atlantic District Peace and Justice Committee, at University Park Church of the Brethren in Hyattsville, Md. Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren, is keynote speaker. Panel members include Jordan Blevins, ecumenical peace advocate for the Church of the Brethren and National Council of Churches; Marie Benner-Rhodes, coordinator for peace education, On Earth Peace; and Jeff Scott, JD, of Westminster Church of the Brethren. The event is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Attendees are to prepare by reading "Christian Understanding of War in an Age of Terror(ism)," available at (scroll down to "Visioning Conversations" and click "Full Text of the Five Vision Papers", then select the above paper). Register by contacting Terri Meushaw at or 410-635-8790.

  • The Shenandoah District Office in Weyers Cave, Va., is serving as a kit depot for Church World Service (CWS) through April 21. Health kits, school kits, baby layette kits, and clean-up buckets are being accepted. Drop off completed kits at the lower level of the office from 9 a.m. to noon, Mondays through Thursdays. All kits must be boxed in order to be loaded onto the truck for delivery to the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Boxes and tape are provided. Plastic buckets are available for a $2 donation. Kits will be loaded onto the truck on April 25.

  • Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village has received high scores in Maryland’s survey of residents’ families, according to a release from the Brethren retirement community near Boonsboro. For 2010, the survey contacted 16,765 persons representing residents at 224 homes. "This is the fourth year of the survey, and the Boonsboro facility has received some of the state’s highest ratings every time," the release said. For example, of Fahrney-Keedy’s responding parties in 2010, 98 percent said they would recommend the nursing home to others, compared with a 90 percent average statewide. For overall care received, Fahrney-Keedy respondents rated the home at 9.3 on a 10-point scale. Statewide in this category, homes received an average rating of 8.4.

  • The Ann and Steve Morgan Auditorium Dedication Week at the University of La Verne, Calif., will feature journalist Mark Pinsky speaking on "Faith, Media and Pop Culture," March 31 at 7:30 p.m. A release from the university noted that Pinsky has authored books on faith and entertainment including "The Gospel According to Disney," "The Gospel According to the Simpsons," and "A Jew Among the Evangelicals: A Guide for the Perplexed." The event is free, seating is limited. Visit or call 909-593-3511 ext. 4589.

  • The Young Center at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College holds its Durnbaugh Lectures on April 7-8 with Dale Stoffer, academic dean of Ashland Theological Seminary. The lectures commemorate the scholarship of Donald and Hedda Durnbaugh. Stoffer will present "The Pilgrim and the Printer: The First Two Bibles in Colonial America" at 7:30 p.m. on April 7 in the Susquehanna Room of Myer Hall. The lecture follows the annual Young Center banquet. A reception begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by the dinner at 6 p.m. Stoffer also will present a seminar, "From Berleburg to Germantown: Radical Pietist Readings from the Bible," at 10 a.m. April 8 at the Young Center. A lunch is available after the seminar. Lecture and seminar are free. Cost for the banquet is $18. Cost for the luncheon is $10. Reservations required by March 24, call 717-361-1470.

  • A new book from Elizabethtown (Pa.) College professor Michael G. Long marks the first publication of early letters of Thurgood Marshall. "Marshalling Justice: The Early Civil Rights Letters of Thurgood Marshall" was published by Amistad/HarperCollins in February. Long is associate professor of religious studies and peace and conflict studies. "I undertook this study partly to supplement our image of Thurgood Marshall as the first African American justice on the Supreme Court," Long said in a press release. From 1967-1991, Marshall was the most important and influential civil rights leader in the US before the emergence of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1955. Almost 20 years prior to the Montgomery bus boycott, Marshall began work as an attorney for the NAACP and played a critical role in the growth of the civil rights movement.

  • The Global Women’s Project Steering Committee met on March 3-5 in Richmond, Ind. Founded in 1978, the project is a Brethren-related group with the purpose to "educate about wealth, power and oppression, encouraging one another to live more simply and be mindful of our luxuries and join in empowerment with women around the world, sharing resources with women’s initiatives." The committee reaffirmed and released funds to partner projects in Rwanda, Wabash, Ind., Uganda, and Sudan, and planned for education and outreach in the coming year. They had the opportunity to speak at a Peace Forum at Bethany Theological Seminary and Earlham School of Religion, and provided leadership for a chapel service. Sister Stella Sabina, from a partner project in Uganda, spoke about the oppressive tribal traditions in her homeland and her efforts to educate and support women and girls there. The group also met with Roland Kreager, general secretary of Right Sharing of World Resources, a Quaker organization. On the committee are Kim Hill Smith of Minneapolis, Minn.; Anna Lisa Gross of Richmond, Ind.; Carrie Eikler of Morgantown, W.Va.; and Nan Erbaugh of W. Alexandria, Ohio.

  • Ruby Sheldon, a pilot and active member of Papago Buttes Church of the Brethren in Scottsdale, Ariz., was celebrated in a newsletter from Pacific Southwest District. "At age 92, Ruby is only 70 years older than the younger pilots in last June's 34th annual Air Race Classic," the newsletter said. She and about 100 other female pilots flew 2,000 miles in four days. She has often been among the top 10 finishers of the race, taking first place in 1995.

  • The unusual blog "Who are the churches in your neighborhood" comments on a recent visit to an unidentified Church of the Brethren congregation, during week 12 of a year-long project to worship with the 50 closest churches to the author’s home. The post titled "Who’s in Charge Here Anyway?" celebrates the way each person "acted as if this church was their home." Find it at

Newsline is produced by the news services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford at Contributors include Lowell Flory, Elizabeth Harvey, Julie Hostetter, Karin Krog, Terrell Lewis, Glen Sargent, Kim Hill Smith, and Julia Wheeler.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Newsline Extra: Update on Japan relief effort

Church provides grant for disaster relief in Japan; Brethren Disaster Ministries, BVS receive reports from partner organizations

An initial grant of $25,000 from the Church of the Brethren's Emergency Disaster Fund is being given in support of disaster relief work in Japan following the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit the island nation a week ago today. The grant will support work by Church World Service (CWS) and local partner organizations.

"This is a very unusual situation," reported Brethren Disaster Ministries executive director Roy Winter, who has been in meetings with CWS and ecumenical partners about the situation in Japan.

"Usually CWS and Brethren Disaster Ministries do not respond to an international disaster in such a developed country," he said, "but the complexity and extent of this disaster simply demands we respond when the need is so great. The Japanese government is clearly leading the response effort, but our help is needed to meet the extensive need of so many who have lost so much."

On March 11, a powerful and devastating earthquake in Japan resulted in a tsunami and a complex disaster. "The extensive destruction of quake and water is now laced with evacuations and fear as radiation leaks from nuclear power plants," said Winter's grant request. "In many ways the disaster is still unfolding, with over 11,000 deaths and more expected. A half million people are displaced and the need for relief supplies increases as supplies in the area are depleted."

The Japanese government has described the destruction and crisis as the "worst since World War II." In an appeal from CWS, the agency reported that the "reported death toll and missing combined as of March 16 stands at 11,521 people with fear of thousands more unaccounted for. More than 460,000 people are now staying in evacuation sites, where the number of people arriving exceeds the capacity of space, food, water, and toilets." In addition, explosions continue at the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, CWS said. As of March 16, a 20 kilometer radius was considered a "need to evacuate" zone.

The initial grant from the Brethren fund will provide emergency relief supplies at evacuation sites where basic needs of food, water, sanitation, electricity, and fuel are not being met. CWS is coordinating the response by working with partners such as the Japan Platform and the National Council of Churches in Japan. A relationship with the Japan Platform was developed during the response to the Indonesia tsunami in 2005.

Also, Gift of the Heart Hygiene Kits are being sent to Japan from warehouses in region. "These warehouses will be resupplied from the Brethren Service Center" in New Windsor, Md., Winter reported. He highlighted this as a key part of the response for the Brethren.

Go to for information about how to collect and donate hygiene kits, which provide disaster survivors with simple but essential self-care items such as soap, towels, toothbrush, toothpaste, and more.

Go to for online giving to the Emergency Disaster Fund to support the relief effort, or send to Emergency Disaster Fund, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.

Brethren Volunteer Service project sites report from Japan

Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) currently has two volunteers serving in Japan. Ron and Barb Siney from southern Ohio are directors at the World Friendship Center in Hiroshima, which is in an area less affected by the disaster. They will complete their two-year term in mid-May, reported BVS director Dan McFadden, who is scheduled to speak with the Sineys by telephone today.

The Asian Rural Institute is a BVS site in the north of the country, some 80 miles from the damaged nuclear plants. The institute "did experience structural damage to some of their buildings," said McFadden, who clarified that "we do not have a BVSer there yet" because the institute just this year became a project site for BVS.

The institute also is a grant recipient from the church's Global Food Crisis Fund, which earlier this year designated $3,000 for its work. GFCF manager Howard Royer today said that the grant is on its way.

A March 14 e-mail from the institute to the BVS office included the following prayer concerns:

"How can you pray for us:
  • Pray for the continued safety of our community and others in Japan as tremors continue.

  • Pray that God would bring control to this powerplant situation and protect us and others in Japan.

  • Pray that God would give us wisdom as to the future. We have to decide soon about accepting new students as well as clean up the campus.

  • Pray that God will use us to help in this community for the furthering of His Kingdom.

  • Pray for the various rescue teams that are working around the clock to rescue people, especially in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures.

  • Pray that this situation would lead to the Salvation of many in Japan and that people would have a chance to think of what is life really for.... May the Love of Christ be with you and us and may we continue to praise God for all of his supply."
"Please keep them and all of the people of Japan in your prayers," McFadden asked.

Reports from CWS and other ecumenical partners

The initial CWS appeal for the Japan emergency, issued on March 16, totals $2,590,450. CWS said that the two most immediate needs for affected families are rescue for those who are trapped and mobilization of relief goods to evacuation sites. Rescue interventions are primarily being carried out by the Self-Defense Force of Japan and other specialized agencies, including the Japan Rescue Association. The Japanese government has requested international assistance in response to this massive disaster.

The need for relief supplies is increasing, CWS reported, particularly in areas where the some 460,000 displaced people are now living. These sites are reporting a lack of food, water, electricity, health and hygiene kits, as well as blankets and stoves, which are critical given the current cold and freezing temperatures.

The CWS response centers on emergency relief support to at least 5,000 families, about 25,000 individuals, now living at 100 evacuation sites in the northeastern area of Japan--the prefectures of Miyagi, Fukushima, Iwate, Ibaragi and Tochigi. Assistance will include immediate required food items and non-food items through a partnership with the Japan Platform, known by the acronym JPF. CWS is focusing on evacuation sites where basic needs of food, water, sanitation, electricity, and fuel are not being met. These sites are presently being prioritized and identified by JPF.

The CWS response will include ready-to-eat food, distribution of sanitation kits including napkins and soap, and will address water needs including perhaps prepared green tea. Blankets, accessed from sources from within the region, are being prioritized to help protect people from the cold, which is becoming an increasingly dire problem as fuel and gas supplies are running out. In order to maintain radio contact at evacuation sites, batteries will be supplied to support victims receiving vital news on nuclear and radiation related developments, information collection and communications. Gas and fuel supplies will also be provided to evacuation sites.

The CWS Asia Pacific head of emergencies is stationed in Tokyo this week to coordinate the response along with a CWS team on the ground in Japan. CWS also is coordinating with Japanese organizations that have been involved in previous international ACT Alliance disaster responses including the National Council of Churches in Japan, the United Church of Christ in Japan, and Asia Volunteer Center.

In a CWS conference call today, Winter learned that ecumenical partners and other Christian denominations are monitoring their mission personnel in Japan, who in some cases are planning to evacuate or are moving to safer areas of the country. In some cases, clergy and church members are still unaccounted for, at least one denomination reported. Some church groups are still assessing their role in the disaster response, others have launched appeals for funding.

CWS has provided the following link to a World Health Organization (WHO) website of FAQs about Japan nuclear concerns:

The Mennonite community has provided a page of worship resources for people of faith who are concerned about the Japan crisis, find it at The Mennonite World Conference is making plans to walk and work alongside Japanese Anabaptists in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami. An intercontinental teleconference on March 16 brought together representatives from Mennonite, Mennonite Brethren, and Brethren in Christ churches and agencies, including Mennonite Central Committee.


Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren, or 800-323-8039 ext. 260.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Japan Earthquake Response
Church board issues call to prayer for Japan and all affected by earthquake and tsunami.

The Church of the Brethren’s Mission and Ministry Board this afternoon issued the following call to prayer for the people of Japan and all those affected by Friday’s earthquake and tsunami. The Mission and Ministry Board currently is holding its spring meeting at the denomination's General Offices in Elgin, Ill.:

A Call to Prayer for Japan, March 12, 2011

As we meet, the Mission and Ministry Board calls the whole church to pause and remember the Japanese people in prayer, and all who have been affected. They are living through the horrific tragedy of an earthquake, then tsunami, and the resulting technological disasters that compound the loss of so many lives and so many homes.

Merciful Lord, in their hour of anguish, hear and answer the cries of the Japanese people. Hear our prayers as our tears exclaim our compassion for all people who suffer. May your love, grace, and compassion bring a sense of comfort for those who mourn. Be with the many who work to bring relief, food, water, and shelter to those in need. And gracious God especially touch those mourning the loss of loved ones.

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.... The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge" (Psalm 46:1-3, 11).

Brethren Disaster Ministries begins planning to support CWS relief efforts in Japan.

Brethren Disaster Ministries has begun planning to support Church World Service (CWS) and its partners in relief efforts in Japan. The powerful earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan overnight Friday also may have affected areas in the Pacific Rim where CWS has programs, and the organization is monitoring effects of the tsunami in Hawaii and other Western state coastal areas in the United States.

In Japan, Church World Service is prepared to support efforts of partners there, including the National Christian Council of Japan and the United Church of Christ of Japan, both of which are planning relief efforts. CWS is considering other partnerships in Japan as well, and may be involved in the issue of disaster risk reduction.

Roy Winter, executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries, also said that the program will be planning to support the Voluntary Organizations of Japan providing disaster assistance. This group received training and guidance from the US based National VOAD organizations, including Brethren Disaster Ministries.

"Japan is obviously a country of substantive resources and a construction industry that is renowned and the country has been on the cutting edge of building earthquake-resistant housing," said Donna Derr, director of CWS’s development and humanitarian programs. "As such, this bodes well for them being able to manage a pretty effective recovery over time themselves. However, with devastation of this magnitude, we stand ready to assist as a determination is made of where international assistance can be most helpful."

Brethren may support this relief effort through gifts to the Emergency Disaster Fund. Give online at or send donations to Emergency Disaster Fund, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.


Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren, or 800-323-8039 ext. 260.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Church of the Brethren posts financial results for 2010.

Building an annual budget for the denomination in the midst of economic challenges requires both careful analysis and faith that gifts and other income will offset expenses. When planning for 2010, it was important for the Church of the Brethren staff to be realistic about the impact the economy would have, but to count on faithful donors as well.

The 2010 budget for the Church of the Brethren’s Core Ministries, the fund whose many ministries are funded primarily by donations, included a planned deficit of $380,930 to be covered by net assets. Staff planned for this deficit spending to allow for stability during an uncertain economic climate. However, the 2010 deficit has been smaller than expected--$327,750, according to pre-audit results.

Overall income for Core Ministries was short of budget in 2010. Individual giving had the largest shortfall at $221,200 under budget. Income from investments fell somewhat below budget by $44,290, despite improvement in investment performance. However, congregational giving exceeded budget and totaled $2,602,590. This is a generous amount, given that congregations also struggle with finances.

Gifts to the Emergency Disaster Fund reached $2,082,210--more than $1 million higher than 2009--because of giving directed to the earthquake that hit Haiti in January 2010. The Global Food Crisis Fund received $182,290, about $100,000 less than the year before.

Five self-funding ministries of the denomination receive income from the sale of goods and services: the Annual Conference fund, Brethren Press, Material Resources, "Messenger" magazine, and the New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center.

Brethren Press ended the year ahead of budget, with income over expense of $4,250; a continuing challenge is overcoming its accumulated deficit.

The Material Resources program that warehouses and ships relief materials from the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., ended the year with a net loss of $24,690.

The New Windsor Conference Center was especially affected by the economy. A 30 percent shortfall in budgeted income resulted in a loss of $244,500, doubling prior years’ accumulated deficits. Options for the conference center are being reviewed because sales are substantially lower and accumulated deficits have reached an unsustainable level.

"Messenger" finished the year with a positive $34,560, largely because of transition in staffing.

The Annual Conference fund was able to significantly reduce a deficit that had developed from the 2009 Conference held in San Diego, Calif. The Conference Office received 9 percent more income than budgeted, saved on expenses, and received a large special gift to end the year with income over expense of $254,570. While the Conference Office made progress financially in 2010, it faces several upcoming Annual Conference sites where attendance likely will be smaller, making it difficult to cover expenses.

The above amounts were provided prior to completion of the 2010 audit. Complete financial information will be made available in the Church of the Brethren, Inc., audit report, to be published in June.

-- Judy E. Keyser is associate general secretary of operations and treasurer for the Church of the Brethren.

Leadership Team meets, rejoices over deficit reduction.

Rejoicing over a significant reduction in the Annual Conference Fund deficit was a highlight of the January meeting of the Church of the Brethren Leadership Team. The meeting involved general secretary Stan Noffsinger and the three Annual Conference officers: moderator Robert Alley, moderator-elect Tim Harvey, and secretary Fred Swartz. It was held Jan. 26-27 in conjunction with meetings of the Inter-Agency Forum and the Council of District Executives. All of the groups met in Cocoa Beach, Fla.

A gift from Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, plus good attendance at the 2010 Annual Conference, has considerably lowered the Annual Conference deficit that stood at $251,360 at the end of Dec. 2009. Additionally, an all-out effort to reduce Conference expenses has cut the deficit nearly 75 percent, according to a report given the Leadership Team by the general secretary. In order to keep the deficit-cutting trend, Noffsinger warned, there will need to be registrations of 3,500 or more at the next two Annual Conferences.

Another factor related to the future of Annual Conference is the anticipated report of a Leadership Team-appointed committee that is studying factors that can "revitalize" the Conference. Chairing that committee is former moderator Shawn Flory Replogle. Other members are Kevin Kessler, Becky Ball-Miller, Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, Wally Landes, and Chris Douglas. The committee has begun its study and hopes to report to the Leadership Team sometime within the year.

The Leadership Team also worked on an assignment given to it by the 2010 Annual Conference to create a process by which Standing Committee can hear appeals of decisions made by the Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee. In addition to creating that process, the Leadership Team was asked to review the process established by Standing Committee in 2000 for responding to appeals of district actions. The Leadership Team has a report on both assignments for the 2011 Standing Committee.

In other actions, the Leadership Team:
  • Updated the position descriptions for Annual Conference officers.

  • Celebrated the good reception the newly-completed "Moderator’s Manual" has received.

  • Noted the progress of the denominational Vision Committee and the Congregational Ethics Committee.

  • Acted to continue reports at Annual Conference of Church of the Brethren peacemaking activity, changing for 2011 the former "Living Peace Church Reports" to "Peacemaking and the Church of the Brethren." The business session segment this year will consist of three reports of ecumenical involvement by the denomination, and a report of a congregational peacemaking activity.

  • Worded a recommendation to Standing Committee and the Mission and Ministry Board for establishing a committee to evaluate the involvement of the Church of the Brethren in ecumenical activity and how responsibility for that role is structured. The recommendation also includes a concern expressed by the Committee on Interchurch Relations as to what that committee’s purpose and role should be.
Ongoing discussions on the Leadership Team’s agenda are about how the denomination can "market" its program and gifts in keeping with the nature of Brethren values of humility and service, and what kind of activity can be initiated to recruit and nurture denominational leadership.

-- Fred W. Swartz is secretary of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference.

Increased security and compliance efforts at BBT protect church members.

What does it mean for a non-profit organization like Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) to be compliant in this day of increased regulations, including more recent laws like HIPAA and HITECH that protect personal health information, and the Pension Protection Act of 2006? We’re finding out.

Last fall, BBT hired a consulting company that specializes in helping organizations assess compliance needs and risks. BBT has numerous compliance mandates that are regulated by state and federal laws. All BBT staff met with representatives from the consulting firm over a two-day period as they learned about the data managed through the Brethren Pension Plan, the Brethren Foundation, Brethren Insurance Services, and as staff of the Church of the Brethren Credit Union.

Senior BBT staff members have since met with the lead consultant for a few more meetings to assess threats and possible outcomes. This is leading the organization to create a number of policies and procedures intended to make BBT fully compliant with applicable laws and with top standards of business.

One example is the need to ensure that confidential information is not left unattended on computer screens, fax machines, printers, or in file cabinets that are accessible to staff from other departments or others beyond the BBT staff. BBT’s office space was configured within the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., at a time when privacy regulations were not as stringent. Now that these regulations are so much more strict and directive, BBT must assess how best to meet the guidelines of today.

The BBT staff have identified risks and are in the process of writing drafts of new policies and procedures, and anticipate the need to make changes in how data is handled, and changes to the accessibility of office space. In truth, changes have already begun--confidential e-mail is encrypted, as is data on laptops and memory sticks; faxes are becoming segregated by department; perimeter doors are locked; and video cameras are set up in key areas.

With compliance issues permeating the work, BBT is at the point of needing a coordinator of compliance initiatives. Thus, in late January the creation of a new position was announced--a chief operating and compliance officer.

Why the combination of a compliance position with that of a chief operating officer portfolio? Over the past two-and-a-half years, BBT has worked hard to improve customer service and product offerings and to strengthen relationships, while also responding to an economic crisis and the subsequent recovery. All of these tasks were more short-term and reactive. It is now time to move our planning from the immediate to the future. Strategic planning and thinking, a review of policies and procedures, and an evaluation of all of BBT’s positions are in order.

As part of strengthening and growing BBT’s ministries, we are engaged in several other special activities. The search for a permanent chief financial officer will soon begin. A mid-level manager position in the finance department has been filled, and a help desk/programmer for the Information Technology department is being sought. The Brethren Pension Plan Task Force also met on Feb. 25 in Mechanicsburg, Pa., to consider ways to strengthen the plan for decades to come. The online portal for Brethren Foundation continues its beta testing prior to being launched for all Foundation clients.

Among these new and special initiatives, the BBT staff continues to support members, clients, and the entire Church of the Brethren denomination. Thank you for the opportunity for us to continue to be in your service.

-- Nevin Dulabaum is president of Brethren Benefit Trust.

Brethren volunteer hosts meeting for Agent Orange delegation to Vietnam.

Grace Mishler, a Church of the Brethren member working in Vietnam, recently helped organize and hosted a meeting between local disabilities activists and members of a delegation that is visiting the country to explore the continuing effects of Agent Orange/dioxin. The toxic blend of herbicides known as Agent Orange was used as a defoliant by the US military during the Vietnam War.

Mishler teaches in the Department of Social Work at the National Vietnam University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City, training others to compassionately mainstream the physically disabled. Her work as a program volunteer is supported, in part, by the church’s Global Mission Partnerships.

The delegation group is sponsored by the Ford Foundation and includes Charles Bailey, director of the Ford Foundation Special Initiative on Agent Orange/Dioxin; Susan Berresford, former president of the Ford Foundation; David Devlin-Foltz, vice president of Policy Programs at the Aspen Institute; Gay Dillingham, co-founder and former president and chair of Earthstone International, LLC; Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause; James Forbes Jr., president of Healing of the Nations and former senior pastor of Riverside Church in New York City; C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance; Connie Morella, former Republican member of the US House of Representatives from Maryland; David Morrissey, executive director of the United States International Council on Disabilities; Suzanne Petroni, vice president for Global Health at the Public Health Institute in Washington, D.C.; Pat Schroeder, former Democratic member of the House of Representatives from Colorado and member of the National Governing Board of Common Cause; Karen A. Tramontano, chief executive officer at Blue Star Strategies.

The delegation's goals, according to a blog posted by Common Cause leader Edgar, are "to see and understand the Agent Orange/dioxin challenges in Vietnam. To explore the issues, contradictions, and questions that arise and find ways that they can best be answered. To grasp the extent of the problem by seeing the military bases where Agent Orange was stored and to talk face-to-face with some of the affected people and their families. To understand what is being done about remediation and to help the affected people, we will meet with NGO leaders and Vietnamese and American officials."

Monday’s blog reported on the meeting set up by Mishler: "After breakfast this morning, David Morrissey invited Charles Bailey, Susan Berresford, David Devlin-Foltz, Le Mai, and myself to travel with him to meet 15 of his friends in the ‘differently abled’ community here in Ho Chi Minh City. We traveled by taxi to a beautiful restaurant located on the waterfront. Led by Grace Mishler, Social Work Practice Advisor from the Vietnam National University, who is partially blind, we were warmly welcomed to the meeting. We listened for over two hours to speaker after speaker highlight their work training and assisting persons with a variety of physical and emotional conditions. WOW!"

Yesterday, Edgar focused his blog on children affected by Agent Orange: "It doesn’t take long to remember why we’re here when we visit with the children of Vietnam. Their struggles are matched only by their infectious joy, and it becomes even more obvious that we must do what we can to help increase that joy and lessen the struggles." (Find the blog and photos at

Mishler continues to be in contact with delegation members as their trip moves on to other venues. "Today, they are visiting Da Nang airport that is barren with agent orange spray," she reported in an e-mail this morning. "(The) delegation will be wearing special throw away shoes. I asked David be sure his walking cane has shoes too. He did not think of it. This is at-risk for all, but speaks well of their commitment." For more about Mishler’s work go to

Manchester College group sets new Four Square world record.

A persistent, and bone-weary team of Manchester College students appears to have set a new world record in the schoolyard game of Four Square. Fifteen students bounced the ball for 30 hours, unofficially besting the Guinness World Record TM by a full hour in the Feb. 25-26 effort. They topped the record shortly after 6 p.m. Eastern time on Feb. 26, in the College Union.

At times, the challenge was almost overwhelming, said first-year student Todd Eastis, who chaired the challenge. "It was toughest trying to get through the night and make it to sunrise Saturday. But I never heard anybody say they wanted to quit." The sociology major was back at class Monday morning, admitting it took 12 hours of sleep to rejuvenate.

The challenge, led by the campus faith group Simply Brethren, also raised $1,000 for Camp Alexander Mack in Milford, Ind. Each fall since 1925, Manchester College students, faculty, and staff members have spent a day at the camp doing service, playing softball, canoeing...and playing Four Square. Camp Mack lost its main building, Becker Lodge, to fire last summer.

"Thank you, we look at you as inspiration as we look at the task ahead of us," said Camp Mack executive director Rex Miller, of reconstruction at the camp. Construction on the new John Kline Welcome Center, which will partially replace Becker Lodge, is under way. It is expected to be ready by the end of May.

Official observers and timers from the community (they could not be associated with the college) provided continuous, around-the-clock support, as did many college employees and students.

The record the students claim is unofficial. Now the students will gather and send in witness statements and log books, photographs, media coverage and other proofs of their feat. Validation typically takes six to eight weeks, they've been told. They hope to unseat holders of the 29-hour record, Buenos Aires International Christian Academy in Argentina.

The 15 players included Katelyn Carothers from Glendale, Ariz.; Todd Eastis from Warsaw, Ind.; Kay Guyer from Woodbury, Pa.; Lucas Kauffman from Goshen, Ind.; Laban Wenger from Petersburg, Pa.; Sarah Leininger from Timberville, Va.; Julia Largent from Muncie, Ind.; Miranda DeHart from Clayton, Ohio; Andrew Miller from Elgin, Ill.; Matt Hammond from Dayton, Ohio; Jesse Steffen from Goshen, Ind.; Hunter Snapp from Flora, Ind.; Turner Ritchie from Richmond, Ind.; Laura Lichauer from Wakarusa, Ind.; and Marie Stump from Garrett, Ind.

-- Jeri Kornegay and Walt Wiltschek of the Manchester College staff provided this release.

Daniel to retire as district executive of Idaho District.

Sue Daniel has announced plans to retire as district executive minister of Idaho District effective Dec. 31. Her ministry there began in Jan. 2006 when she started as administrative executive for the district.

In addition to administrative, executive, and clerical responsibilities in the district, she has been active with the Council of District Executives, having served on the "District Purpose Committee," and currently is representative to the Ministry Advisory Council. She holds a degree in Sociology from the University of La Verne, Calif. She first retired in 2004 from the state of Oregon, having worked 13 years as a caseworker with Children's Services Division and 24 years as a distance education center director for Eastern Oregon University. She has been active in the Church of the Brethren her entire life and has assumed various roles at the local, district, and most recently denominational levels.

Pinecrest Community selects Ferol Labash as new CEO.

Pinecrest Community, a Church of the Brethren-affiliated retirement community in Mount Morris, Ill., has announced Ferol J. Labash as chief executive officer effective April 16, following the retirement of Carol Davis.

Currently the director of Development for Pinecrest, Labash has been employed there for nearly four years. She holds a bachelor of science in Accounting with a minor in Business Management from Purdue University, Krannert School of Management. She recently passed the Illinois Nursing Home Administrator Supplemental Exam and will take the National examination this month. In previous positions she has worked in commercial lending as an analyst. In June 2007 she joined Pinecrest as annual giving manager, prior to being promoted to director of Development. She and her family live in Mount Morris and are active at Crossroads Community Church in Polo, Ill.

Pinecrest will hold an Open House from 2-4 p.m. on April 14 for Carol A. Davis, CEO, who will retire on April 15. "Please join us in wishing her the very best," said an open invitation. "Carol has been with Pinecrest for seven years and will be greatly missed."

Wagoner named chaplain for University of La Verne.

Zandra Wagoner has been named chaplain for the University of La Verne (ULV), a Church of the Brethren-related school in La Verne, Calif. She is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren and holds a Ph.D. in religious studies. Wagoner will be transitioning out of her current role as assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and will begin her new responsibilities in April.

In previous work for ULV, she has served in both the Dean’s and Provost’s Office. As chaplain she will function as interfaith religious leader for the university, and will guide a new vision for a comprehensive interfaith office of religious and spiritual life, furthering the university’s commitment to diversity, the development of global citizens, and the education of whole persons.

BVS Unit 292 completes orientation and begins service.

The volunteers who completed orientation in Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) Unit 292 have begun work at their new projects. Following are the volunteers’ names, congregations or home towns, and BVS placements:

Rebekah Blazer of Garden Prairie, Ill., to Hadley Day Care Center in Hutchinson, Kan.; Markus Hayrapetyan of Syke, Germany, to Abode Services in Fremont, Calif.; Julie Henninger of Mt. Holly Springs, Pa., to the Family Abuse Center in Waco, Texas; Nico Holz of Hamburg, Germany, to the Center on Conscience and War in Washington, D.C.; Jonas Kremer of Koblenz, Germany, to Su Casa Catholic Worker in Chicago, Ill.; Samantha Lyon-Hill of Sylvania, Ohio, to the Abrasevic Youth Cultural Center in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina; Jessi Marsiglio of Imperial Heights Church of the Brethren in Los Angeles, Calif., to Meeting Ground in Elkton, Md.; Sue Myers of York, Pa., to CooperRiis in Mill Spring, N.C.; Joe Pitocco of Long Beach, Calif., to L'Arche Kilkenny in Kilmoganny, County Kilkenny, Ireland; Susan Pracht of Johnston, R.I., to Gould Farm and then Church and Peace in Schoffengrund-Laufdord, Germany; Kevin Siedsma of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to San Antonio (Texas) Catholic Worker House; Rachel Sprague of Hartville Church of the Brethren in Alliance, Ohio, to Camp Courageous in Monticello, Iowa; Hilary Teply of Lancaster, Pa., to Abode Services in Fremont, Calif. (For more about BVS see

Decade to Overcome Violence to culminate in Jamaica in May.

Jamaica--a proud and independent Caribbean nation struggling with a high level of violence and criminality--is the location of the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) facilitated by the World Council of Churches (WCC) from May 17-25. The event is the "harvest festival" of the Decade to Overcome Violence, which since 2001 has been coordinating and strengthening peace work among WCC member churches.

The convocation, prepared in cooperation with the National Council of Churches of Jamaica, will take place near the capital Kingston and will be the largest peace gathering in WCC history with an expected participation of about 1,000 people from around the world (by invitation).

The theological basis of the peace convocation is an ecumenical call for a just peace--a milestone in the developing of an ecumenical theology of peace. The theme will be "Glory to God and Peace on Earth." The just peace which the call envisages is seen "as a collective and dynamic yet grounded process of freeing human beings from fear and want, of overcoming enmity, discrimination and oppression, and of establishing conditions for just relationships that privilege the experience of the most vulnerable and respect the integrity of creation."

In Bible study, worship, workshops, seminars, and plenary sessions, participants will deal with four thematic areas: Peace in Community, Peace with the Earth, Peace in the Economy, and Peace Between Nations.

For the churches of the Caribbean the convocation is a high watermark event according to Gary Harriott, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Jamaica. "This year is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the National Council of Church of Jamaica," he said. "It is a real privilege for us to be able to celebrate this anniversary together with the worldwide ecumenical community." A cultural high point will be the Concert for Peace, to which musicians have been invited to bring their own message of peace. The concert will take place in Kingston, and will be broadcast by radio throughout the island.

A course for seminarians is being offered at the IEPC. Theological students can register to participate in this program by April 1, in cooperation with the United Theological College of the West Indies and the Boston University School of Theology. The aim of the course, for which credits can be obtained by students from their own schools, is to strengthen ecumenical education through theological reflection and students’ own experiences.

On Sunday, May 22, Christians in all parts of the world are invited to relate worship in their own churches to the peace convocation. Hymns, Bible texts, and prayers--for example a "peace prayer" written by the Caribbean churches--can be included in worship services. The hope is that there will be a worldwide wave of praise and prayer for peace, radiating out from Jamaica.

-- Annegreth Strümpfel is a theologian and scholar working on a doctoral thesis about the history of the WCC in the 1960s-70s. More information about the IEPC is at Ideas to celebrate World Sunday for Peace are at Information on the IEPC course for seminarians is at and

Brethren bits: Personnel, job opening, registration deadlines, more.
  • Jeremy McAvoy on March 7 began a term of service with the Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) office in Elgin, Ill. He will work as a volunteer for recruitment alongside Katherine Boeger, recently hired as coordinator of recruitment and service advocate for BVS and Global Mission Partnerships. Previously he served one year with Brethren Disaster Ministries in Indiana. He is a member of Live Oak (Calif.) Church of the Brethren.

  • The New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center is expressing gratitude to volunteer hosts Dick and Erma Foust of New Lebanon, Ohio, who served in the Old Main building in January and February. The center also welcomed Tom and Maryellen Foley from Cape Porpoise, Maine, as volunteer hosts in Zigler Hall for March and April.

  • Pinecrest Community, a Church of the Brethren-affiliated continuing care retirement community in Mount Morris, Ill., is seeking a director of development to plan, develop, and maintain a comprehensive fundraising program through grants, bequests, trusts, and donations to enhance Pinecrest’s mission. The director coordinates and leads the efforts of the Capital Fundraising Campaign and supervises the Annual Giving Manager. Demonstrated success in activities to coordinate, attract, and close major gift funding support including face-to-face solicitation of gifts is sought. The ideal candidate will possess knowledge of marketing strategies and techniques, knowledge of long-range planning processes, interpersonal skills, and be an organized and professional representative of Pinecrest. Qualifications include a bachelor’s degree and a minimum of four years of experience including knowledge of annual giving, capital campaign, foundation/corporate solicitations, and deferred giving. Submit application to Victoria Marshall, Pinecrest Community, 414 South Wesley Ave., Mt. Morris, IL 61054.

  • March 19 is the deadline to register for the Church of the Brethren’s annual Intercultural Consultation and Celebration on April 28-30 in Mills River, N.C. Register at

  • "Re:Thinking Church" (Acts 2:1-4) is the theme for the Young Adult Conference on May 28-30 at Camp Inspiration Hills near Burbank, Ohio. The event is for young adults ages 18-35. Cost is $95 prior to April 22, $120 thereafter. Register online at

  • A letter to members of Congress raising concerns about the federal budget has been signed by Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger along with Christian leaders from a wide range of denominations and ecumenical organizations. The letter opened: "Our witness as faith leaders is grounded in love for God and neighbor and all Creation. Accordingly, we are compelled to speak out against the proposed deep cuts in FY2011 discretionary domestic and poverty-focused foreign aid spending. Jesus challenged people to define themselves by the measure of their love for one another, with particular concern for those struggling in poverty and marginalized by society. His Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) transforms and broadens our definition of the neighbor and lifts up a model of relationship with our neighbors that should define and sustain our community, national, and international life." The 16 signers included top leaders of some of the largest denominations in the country including the United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Episcopal Church, American Baptist Churches USA, Presbyterian Church USA, and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Find the letter at

  • "The national initiative, Let’s Move!, is focused on solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation. As parents, as Christ-followers, as human beings, we cannot ignore the reports that for the first time in two centuries, the current generation of children in America may have shorter life expectancies than their parents." These are the opening words in a letter signed by general secretary Stan Noffsinger encouraging Church of the Brethren congregations to take up this challenge locally. A Toolkit for Faith-based and Neighborhood Organizations offers lots of ideas ( ). Over the next few months denominational staff will be holding up the "Let’s Move!" imperative with challenges specific to the Brethren identity of "peacefully, simply, together," continuing the healing work of Jesus in support of children. Find the general secretary’s letter at

  • Churches have the opportunity to become sites providing food to hungry children this summer through the federal Summer Food Service program, recommended to Brethren by Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission Partnerships. "When school is finished, the 20 million children who receive free or reduced-price lunch during the school year through USDA’s National School Lunch Program will be in trouble," said an announcement from Max Finberg, director of the USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. "We want to make sure that no child in the US goes to bed hungry, whether school is in session or out." Churches can help by being a site or sponsor in the program. Go to

  • On Earth Peace has announced four new peace retreats for youth programming: "Agape Community Peace Retreat" invites youth to consider Jesus' call to agape love of enemy and neighbor alike. "Meeting Place Peace Retreat" teaches strategies for healthy communication and alternatives to violence. "Enemy Love Peace Retreat" encourages youth to follow Jesus' call to "love our enemies" and will consider what scripture and tradition have to say about violence and war; alternatives to military service through conscientious objection are introduced. "Who Is My Neighbor Peace Retreat" for middle school youth engages the parable of the Good Samaritan. Contact Chelsea Goss, peace retreat coordinator, at

  • Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren is having a Peace Forum on March 20 led by Jordan Blevins and Greg Laszakovits. Blevins will speak at the two traditional worship services, at 8 a.m. and 10:15 a.m., on the topic, "Who Are We Called to Be?" (Acts 2:43-47) and he will lead a Thoughtful Life adult Sunday school class at 9:15 a.m. Laszakovits will speak at the two contemporary worship services at 9 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. on the topic, "The Gospel of Peace Is Dead" (Matthew 5:38-45). The senior high youth will serve lunch, after which the speakers will make presentations and respond to questions. Church member Jay Weaver has written hymn text for the occasion to the tune of St. Thomas, titled, "My Peace I Give to You." In other news from Lancaster Church, after the Outreach Ministry Team challenged the congregation to give $6,500 to help Brethren Disaster Ministries build a house in Haiti, over $22,000 has been received. "Enough to build more than three houses," said a note from moderator Allen Hansell. "Our drive remains open until March 13. We are so excited about the congregation's response."

  • The San Diego (Calif.) Friends Center, in which San Diego First Church of the Brethren is a partner, is holding its Opening Celebration on March 11-13. San Diego First Church and its partners--the Peace Resource Center, American Friends Border Project, and the San Diego Friends--are sponsoring the center.

  • The Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center connected with Bethany Seminary is offering "Alternative Stories in the Bible" with instructor Robert Neff on March 29 at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., or Sept. 20 at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. Cost is $50 with an additional $10 charge for continuing education units. For more details or to register contact Amy Milligan at 717-361-1450 or Registration deadline is March 14.

  • Cliff Kindy, an organic farmer and member of Christian Peacemaker Teams, is the speaker for Regional Youth Conference at McPherson (Kan.) College on March 11-13 on the theme "New Order Breaking In" (Mark 1). Brian Kruschwitz will lead songs, stories, and activities. Youth in middle school and high school may attend. The registration form is at or contact Tom Hurst, director of Campus Ministries, 620-242-0503 or

  • "I Believe I Can Fly" (1 Timothy 4:12) is the theme of the Southeastern Youth Roundtable on March 18-20 at Bridgewater (Va.) College. David Radcliff of New Community Project will be guest speaker. The event is planned and sponsored by the Interdistrict Youth Cabinet. Cost: $50.

  • Employees at Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village, a Church of the Brethren retirement community near Boonsboro, Md., have been recognized for their service. Eight received Service Excellence Awards, and 19 were honored for their years worked. Those honored for their service were Pam Burger, Deb Manahan, Tammy Payne, Mary Moore, Beth Phebus, Airey Smith, and Pam Miley, all in nursing; and Nick Hill, IT. Employees were recognized for length of time at Fahrney-Keedy in multiples of five years: Recipients with five years were Tina Saunders, LPN, Grace Irungu, LPN, Nadine Christie, GNA, Sue Scalia, GNA, Angel Burris, GNA, Stacy Petersheim, GNA, Pam Miley, GNA, Brittany Smith, GNA, Ann Thomas, GNA; Angie Howard, transportation; Nick Hill, director of IT; Gary Heishman, maintenance, and Wayne Stouffer, CFO. At 10 years was Sandy Morgan, CMA; 15 years, Susie Lewis, dietary; 20 years, Wanda McIntyre, CMA; 30 years, Denise Painter, laundry; and at 45, Ruth Moss, GNA-CMA.

  • Brethren Revival Fellowship (BRF) is on track to publish the last of the 18 volumes of its Brethren New Testament Commentary series this month. "The Gospel of Mark" by Ray Hileman, pastor of First Church of the Brethren in Miami, Fla., will be the final volume in the series (280 pages, $18). The entire 18-volume set, covering all 27 books of the New Testament, will be available for $243.90 (includes shipping and discount). For more information, go to

  • A New Community Project Learning Tour returned from Southern Sudan on Feb. 18 after visits in the communities of Nimule and Narus. The delegation was led by director David Radcliff and included 10 Church of the Brethren members. Hosting the group were the Girlchild Education and Development Association, and the Sudan Council of Churches. "We found the people buoyed by the results of the January referendum for southern independence," reported Radcliff. "For the common people, however, many of the same challenges remain amid the euphoria--the need for clean water, fire wood, education, and adequate food production in the face of a changing climate." For more go to

  • Jan West Schrock, a former director of Brethren Volunteer Service and a daughter of Heifer Project founder Dan West, is one of those leading a course on "Cultivating Peace: Heifer International’s Work as a Peacemaker" on April 28-May 1 at the Heifer Learning Center in Los Altos Hills, Calif. "I believe members of the Church of the Brethren would love learning how Heifer wages peace at the grassroots by bringing communities together...climbing out of poverty and making plans to avoid civil strife in the future," Schrock said. The $225 fee includes all programming, double occupancy lodging, and meals. Register at

  • Pilju Kim Joo of Agglobe Services International, a ministry partner with the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF), has been named one of "150 Women Who Shake the World" by "Newsweek" and the "Daily Beast." The two create a list of extraordinary women every year. Dr. Joo is chair of the Ryongyon Joint Venture that oversees a farming and agricultural development enterprise in N. Korea that receives GFCF grants. Find the list of 150 women at Find a photo album featuring Joo’s work in N. Korea at