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
Devotion and study resources are available for Lent

"Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice...? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry...?" (Isaiah 58:6a, 7a).

Brethren organizations and ecumenical partners are making a wide variety of resources available for study and reflection in this season of Lent:
  • "The Cost of Following Jesus: Devotions for Ash Wednesday Through Easter" by J.D. Glick is the annual Lenten devotional from Brethren Press ($2.50 plus shipping and handling, call 800-441-3712). The paperback booklet is suitable for individuals and for congregations to provide for their members. It includes a daily scripture verse, meditation, and prayer for the season of Lent through Easter. The Brethren Press devotional series is published twice a year in anticipation of the Advent and Lenten seasons.

  • A new Lenten Spiritual Disciplines folder has been posted by Springs of Living Water, an initiative in church renewal that is active in several districts of the Church of the Brethren. Find the resource at Titled "Forty Days of Living the Good News: An Invitation to God's Grace and Resurrection Hope," the folder follows the lectionary readings and topics used for the Brethren Press bulletin series for Lent and Easter. Along with suggested Sunday texts and messages there are daily scriptures leading up to the next Sunday, for personal devotions. An insert gives options for next incremental steps in spiritual growth. Also on the Springs website are Bible study questions for each of the daily texts written by Vincent Cable, pastor of Uniontown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. These questions can be used by individuals and groups. For more information contact Joan and David Young at

  • The Global Women's Project is offering Lenten Calendars as a way to have a daily time of spiritual centering throughout the season. "This is also an important way for us to share our wealth with our sisters and brothers around the world who are working for empowerment and sustainability," said an announcement. Order a calendar or receive it as a daily e-mail by contacting Go to to download the daily donation log that accompanies each day's meditation.

  • The National Council of Churches is offering two study and reflection resources for this Lent season: A study guide, "Journey to Lent, Journey to Learn: A Reflection on Public Education in God's World Today," is offered by the Committee on Public Education and Literacy for personal devotion or as the basis for group study; go to The Eco-Justice office is inviting reflection on the many biblical teachings that call Christians to be good stewards of God's creation and to seek justice for all, through weekly Lenten reflections posted on a blog at

  • Bread for the World, a Christian organization doing advocacy to end hunger at home and abroad, is providing daily devotions on its website The organization also is calling for fasting and prayer for hungry and poor people during the current federal budget process. An invitation from Bread’s president David Beckmann said that he and others are beginning this special emphasis on fasting and prayer today, Ash Wednesday. His announcement also included a Prayer for Congress: "O God, we ask you to guide and bless our senators and representatives in Congress. Give them courage and wisdom to provide for the needs of all people--especially those who struggle to feed themselves and their families. Amen."

  • Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), of which the Church of the Brethren is a member group, will journey through the Gospel of Matthew considering some of its passages on peace. CMEP is a coalition of churches to promote a just, lasting, and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The CMEP Lenten study guide offers scripture, reflections, action suggestions, and prayer focused on being peacemakers with the people of the Holy Land. Find it at

  • "Water and Just Peace" is the theme of reflections provided by the Ecumenical Water Network and the World Council of Churches. Each Monday starting on March 7, the weekly reflections explore the connection between access to water, struggles over this precious resource, and building just peace. Biblical reflections are posted week by week at along with complementary links and ideas for activities for individuals and congregations. Worship materials for World Water Day on March 22 and for Maundy Thursday are also available. The importance of access to water was recently affirmed by the Central Committee of the WCC, which issued a statement in February calling for the implementation of the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right.

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren, or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Greg Dewey, Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Allen Hansell, Philip E. Jenks, Donna Kline, Don Knieriem, Victoria Marshall, Ralph McFadden, Craig Alan Myers, David Radcliff, and Julia Wheeler contributed to this report.