Thursday, December 27, 2012

Newsline: December 27, 2012


Delegation learns about sensitivities in the Holy Land, calls for continued work for two-state solution.

Church of the Brethren leaders have returned from an ecumenical delegation to Israel and Palestine with a renewed commitment to a place sacred to the Brethren faith tradition, and a call for the expression of love to all the people involved in the violent struggles ongoing in the Middle East.
In an interview made after their return to the United States, general secretary Stan Noffsinger and associate general secretary Mary Jo Flory-Steury commented on their experience of joining with other Brethren leaders and a group from the American Baptist Churches USA in an ecumenical faith pilgrimage earlier this month.

The ecumenical delegation to Israel and Palestine poses for a group picture
Along with the general secretary and his wife Debbie Noffsinger, and Flory-Steury and her husband Mark Flory-Steury, the Brethren delegation included Keith Goering, Andy Hamilton, and Pam Reist, who are members of the Mission and Ministry Board. The total delegation numbered 16, and included American Baptist general secretary Roy Medley.

In addition to an opportunity for a first-hand view of the situation in Israel and Palestine, and chances to meet with and talk with people on all sides of the conflict there, Noffsinger and Flory-Steury emphasized the value of renewing relationships with the American Baptists. The two denominations have a long history of working together, but in recent years the relationship has not been maintained as closely as in past decades.

In addition, the two church leaders said they benefited from the opportunity to better prepare themselves to speak publicly on behalf of the denomination about the realities of a Middle Eastern situation they characterize as complex, with geo-political as well as religious dimensions.

The delegation was led by three people representing the three main faiths in the region--Jewish, Christian, and Muslim. The experience was “an immersion into the life of the living stones” of the Holy Land, Noffsinger said, and included visits with Israelis and Palestinians who are active religiously and politically. The range of people the group visited represented “a broad spectrum” that included peacemakers as well as those holding more extreme views.

The group also visited historic sites important to the Brethren and Baptist traditions, such as the place where it is thought Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. At each historic site, they read scripture, prayed, and had a meditation. They also began every day together with worship, with a key scripture coming from Isaiah 11:3-4a. On their last evening together the group shared in a Love Feast with feetwashing. The experience of an intentional ecumenical faith journey has sparked other ideas for getting groups of Brethren and American Baptists together in the future, Noffsinger said.

Learnings about a complex land

Both Noffsinger and Flory-Steury commented on the importance of the experience for their personal spiritual lives, as well as for their professional development. A key aspect was increased understanding of a complicated place that is yet so important to the Christian faith.

“One of my learnings is the very small percentage of people in the land that are Christian,” Noffsinger said. He noted that only two percent of the population is Christian, and that percentage has fallen dramatically in recent years. “But they’re a vibrant community,” he added. He heard from the Christians with whom the delegation met “a desire to find a just peace for all peoples.”

“Everybody there is tired of the peace process, because it has not worked and there is a lot of distrust,” noted Flory-Steury. One key learning for her is that problems surrounding the peace process are linked to the increase of growth in Israeli settlements. Also, Christians expressed to the delegation the conviction that there is no one solution, nor an easy solution, to the issues they face.

People of all backgrounds talked to the delegation about the importance of caring for the needs of all the human beings involved. One speaker told them, “As Americans, don’t love one of us and hate the other. Love the people of the land, both Israeli and Palestinian,” Noffsinger quoted from his notes.

Flory-Steury remembers a leading Lutheran pastor asking the group to urge American Christians to reflect on their theology in relation to the people of the Holy Land. The pastor pointed out that some theological attitudes held by Americans are doing harm to Palestinian Christians.

Another Palestinian Christian leader, the president of a Bible college, said to Noffsinger: “The decision to be a Christian is something I consider daily as I cross the border (into Israeli controlled territory). I choose to show the poor young Israeli soldier Christ’s peace and love.”

Civil, human, and equal rights are of high importance, Flory-Steury said. These rights should include equal access to holy sites, as well as equal access to water, she added. One issue that has not gained much space in the news is the problem of who controls the water, she said. Another issue noted by Noffsinger is the inequalities experienced by Palestinians living in Israeli territory, who pay taxes yet may not receive equal services.

Meeting with parents who lost children to the violence

The last people the group met with were bereaved parents, who had lost children to the violence ongoing in Israel and Palestine. From her notes, Flory-Steury quoted one woman who spoke with the group: “There is either compassion or revenge after the killing of a child,” she said. “The seeking of revenge kills you because there is no revenge. Forgiving is giving up your just right to revenge.”

Noffsinger quoted the words of a man whose daughter had been killed: “Letting go and forgiving gives you the freedom to move on.”

Following is the letter that Noffsinger and Medley issued after they returned to the United States, which has been delivered to the White House:

Dear President Obama,

We write to you with the highest sense of urgency about the situation in Palestine and Israel to plead to you for a strong voice against the establishment of a Jewish settlement in the E-1 area. We write as religious leaders who love Israel and pray for the peace of Jerusalem. We write as religious leaders who love the Palestinians and pray for the fulfillment of their yearning for self-determination. We write as religious leaders who are committed to peace and whose denominations have long supported a two-state solution.

We have just returned from a joint visit to Israel and Palestine. We have spent time with Israelis and Palestinians in Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem. We came with open hearts and minds as we have sought "the things that make for peace." We have encountered courageous people in every place who are working to bridge hatred and animosity with love and respect, affirming the image of God in each and every one.

In every place we visited we were met with a growing alarm that the two-state solution is being dealt a death blow by the announcement that a Jewish settlement will be built in the E-1 area. There is strong consensus that without strong intervention by yourself and our government to oppose this and to bring the parties together to do the hard work of negotiating a peace, the legitimate desires of both people to live in security and freedom will be dashed, the forces of extremism will be strengthened, and catastrophic armed conflict in the area will ensue.

Therefore, we urge you to act firmly to bring the power and influence of the United States to bear by clearly and forcibly stating our opposition to the expansion and by opening serious discussions that will lead to a negotiated settlement based upon a two-state solution that guarantees the rights and security of both Israel and Palestine.

Source: 12/27/2012 Newsline

National Youth Cabinet is announced for 2013-14.

2013 Nat Youth Sunday logo
"In God's Image" is the theme for the next National Youth Sunday in 2013.
The Church of the Brethren's National Youth Cabinet for 2013-14 has been announced by the Youth and Young Adult Ministry office.

Youth members of the new cabinet include:
  • Emmett Eldred from Middle Pennsylvania District
  • Brittany Fourman from Southern Ohio District
  • Sarandon Smith from Atlantic Northeast District
  • Sarah Ullom-Minnich from Western Plains District
  • Kerrick van Asselt from Western Plains District
  • Zander Willoughby from Michigan District
Adult advisors to the cabinet are:
  • Rhonda Pittman Gingrich of Northern Plains District
  • Dennis Lohr of Atlantic Northeast District.
Becky Ullom Naugle, director of the denomination's Youth and Young Adult Ministry, will work with the cabinet to plan National Youth Conference 2014.

Source: 12/27/2012 Newsline

Save the date for next deacon training events, says Deacon Ministry.

"It’s not too late, save the date," reminds the Church of the Brethren's Deacon Ministry office.

Just a few days remain before registration ends for the first deacon training event of 2013, to be held on Saturday, Jan. 5, at Chambersburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. Topics will include "So What are Deacon Supposed to Do, Anyway?" "The Art of Listening," and "Beyond Casseroles: Offering Support Creatively." The registration fee of $15 per person or $25 for a couple includes lunch. An additional fee of $10 is required from those ministers desiring .45 units of continuing education credit. Registration ends on Monday, Dec. 31. Register now at .

Mark your calendars now for the fourth annual pre-Annual Conference deacon workshops on Saturday, June 29, in Charlotte, N.C. The morning workshop, "Listen and Play: Ministry with Children in Times of Stress," will be offered in conjunction with Children’s Disaster Services. The afternoon workshop will be on "Conflict Transformation," presented with Ministry of Reconciliation (MoR) staff. Cost $15 per person or $25 for a couple, lunch is on your own. Go to for registration materials.

Source: 12/27/2012 Newsline

Stuart Murray Williams to lead webinar on ‘Living the Biblical Vision.’

Stuart Murray WilliamsA webinar titled, “Living the Biblical Vision of a Multi-Voiced Church,” will be offered in January as a collaborative resource from the Church of the Brethren’s Congregational Life Ministries and the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership.

The webinar will take place in two parts:
  • Webinar 1, “Monologue or Multi-Voiced Learning?” will be held Jan. 22, 2013, at 12 noon-1:30 p.m. (Pacific time, 3-4:30 p.m. eastern).
  • Webinar 2, “The Vision for a Multi-Voiced Church,” takes place Jan. 29 at 12 noon-1:30 p.m. (Pacific time, 3-4:30 p.m. eastern).
There is no pre-registration and no fee required to attend the online event. Participants may earn .15 continuing education units for attending the live sessions.

“The New Testament indicates that the early churches were multi-voiced, participative, and expected that the Holy Spirit would speak through all the members of the community,” said an announcement of the webinar. “First-generation renewal movements (such as the Anabaptists) have typically been multi-voiced as well, recovering this New Testament characteristic. But institutionalization has persistently reduced such diversity of participation and resulted in many aspects of church life becoming mono-voiced or restricted to only a few voices. The webinars will survey mono-voiced and multi-voiced expressions of church. Murray Williams will offer insights and engage participants in a discussion on the biblical and missional basis advocating for a multi-voiced church, and exploring practical ways of developing multi-voiced communities today.”

The presenter is Stuart Murray Williams, founder of Urban Expression, a pioneering church planting agency with teams in the United Kingdom, Netherlands, and the US. Regarded as one of the world’s leading advocates for contemporary forms of Anabaptism, he is a scholar, trainer, mentor, writer, strategist, and consultant with particular interest in urban mission, church planting, and emerging forms of church. He holds a doctorate in Anabaptist hermeneutics and is an associate lecturer at the Baptist College in Bristol. His books on church planting, urban mission, and the contribution of the Anabaptist tradition to contemporary missiology include “The Power of All” and “The Naked Anabaptist.”

For more information about the webinar contact Stan Dueck at 800-323-8039 ext. 343 or

Source: 12/27/2012 Newsline

Fifth Presidential Forum to be held at Bethany Seminary.

Image for Bethany Seminary fifth Presidential ForumBethany Theological Seminary will hold its fifth Presidential Forum on April 5 and 6, 2013, at the Bethany campus in Richmond, Ind. The forum’s theme, “The Bible in Our Bones: Telling and Living the Stories of Our Faith,” invites all to encounter God’s word with fresh eyes and to live and share its life-giving messages with insight and integrity. Scholars, storytellers, artists, and other ministerial leaders will guide this exploration of biblical story through worship, instruction, and reflection.

David L. Barr and Thomas E. Boomershine will serve as plenary speakers. Barr’s address, “It’s Not the End of the World: The Fantastic Story of John’s Apocalypse,” will present the book of Revelation not as a prediction of the future, but as a story of how the followers of Jesus are to live in the world. Having taught at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, since 1975, Barr currently holds the title of professor of religion. He also has served as director of the University Honors Program and chair of the Departments of Religion, Philosophy, and Classics, and was named the Brage Golding Distinguished Professor of Research in 2004. His recent books include "Tales of the End," a narrative commentary on the apocalypse of John, and "New Testament Story: An Introduction."

Boomershine will deliver a plenary address titled “Mark’s Story of Jesus and the Gospel of Peace.” While the understanding of Jesus as a Messiah of peace is often drawn from the birth narratives and the Sermon on the Mount, Boomershine will illustrate how this theme is most explicit in the passion and resurrection narrative. Boomershine is president of GoTell Communications and founder of the international Network of Biblical Storytellers. He is also the organizer of the Bible in Ancient and Modern Media group in the Society of Biblical Literature and the NBS Seminar, both helping develop a paradigm of biblical study focused around performance criticism. Boomershine is professor emeritus of New Testament at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.

Husband and wife collaborators Garrison Doles and Jan Richardson will lend their artistic and leadership skills to the forum’s worship services and workshops. A prolific and celebrated songwriter and singer, Doles tours nationally and has won major songwriting competitions in North Carolina, Texas, Florida, and Massachusetts. Also the cofounder of Theatre Downtown in Orlando, Fla., he has produced, acted, directed, designed, and written for the stage. Richardson is an artist, writer, and ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. She serves as director of the Wellspring Studio, LLC, and travels widely as a retreat leader and conference speaker. Characterized by a distinctive intertwining of word and image, Richardson’s work has attracted an international audience.

Complementing the formal sessions, a wide array of instructional and interactive workshops will encourage personal engagement with scripture. A number of Church of the Brethren educators, lay leaders, and members in ministry will join Boomershine, Doles, and Richardson to provide leadership. From music to "bibliodrama" to storytelling with children, attendees may take away new techniques or insights for themselves and their faith communities. Among other workshop topics are interpretations of scripture, living out the gospel’s messages, and questions of faith among today’s young adults.

Friday evening will feature a performance of "Requiem," composed and directed by William E. Culverhouse, director of choral music at Earlham College, and performed by members of the college choral program. This rich and varied work for mixed chorus and harp draws on texts taken from the King James Bible and the "Book of Common Prayer" and incorporates elements of Celtic folksong  and American folk hymnody.

A Pre-Forum Gathering will again welcome Bethany alumni/ae and friends to the seminary for fellowship and interaction with faculty, staff, and students. Sponsored by Bethany’s Alumni/ae Coordinating Council, the gathering will open Thursday evening, April 4, with dinner, worship, and a coffeehouse, and will continue April 5 with four educational sessions. Drawing on both historical and contemporary contexts, current and former faculty will speak to the presence that scripture has in human experience: Amy Gall Ritchie, director of student development; Scott Holland, professor of theology and culture; Eugene Roop, president emeritus of Bethany Seminary and adjunct professor in the DMin program at Anderson University; Michael McKeever, adjunct professor in New Testament Studies for Bethany and professor in biblical studies at Judson University; and Enten Eller, director of electronic communication.

The Presidential Forums were inaugurated in 2008 under the direction of president Ruthann Knechel Johansen. By exploring topics that thoughtfully address issues of faith and ethics, the forums strive to build community among those at Bethany, the wider church, and the public, and to provide visionary leadership for re-imagining the role of seminaries in public discourse. In fall 2010, Bethany received a generous grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations to endow the Presidential Forums.

The forum will begin with dinner and worship on Friday, April 5, and extend through Saturday afternoon. Registration will open Jan. 15, 2013. Registration costs will increase modestly after Feb. 15. A discounted rate is available for students. Each event qualifies for 0.5 continuing education units. Registration will be capped at 150 participants. For a complete schedule, registration information, and housing options, visit .

-- Jenny Williams is director of Communications and Alumni/ae Relations for Bethany Theological Seminary.

Source: 12/27/2012 Newsline

Brethren bits.

  • Linda Reed has begun as the new director of Admissions at Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village, a Church of the Brethren continuing care retirement community near Boonsboro, Md. She began work on Nov. 12. Prior to coming to Fahrney-Keedy, she was a financial consultant to nursing homes in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and most recently was director of Admissions and Marketing for six years at Reeders Memorial Home in Boonsboro. She and her family also operate a carriage company, and volunteer horse-and-wagon rides at nursing communities in the area. She is a member of Downsville Church of the Brethren.
  • Good Shepherd Home, a full-service continuing care retirement community located in Fostoria, Ohio, is seeking a fulltime long-term care chaplain. Salary will be based on experience and education in the ministry field. The Good Shepherd Home was developed by the Northwest Ohio District of the Church of the Brethren and opened in 1904. It is a member of the Fellowship of Brethren Homes. It currently serves about 200 seniors. To apply, submit a résumé to Good Shepherd Home, 725 Columbus Ave., Fostoria, OH 44830, Attn: Chris Widman, Executive Director. Résumés must be received by March 1, 2013.  For information about the home visit . Good Shepherd Home is an equal opportunity employer.
  • The new Sunday school curriculum to be produced by Brethren Press and MennoMedia is accepting applications for a part-time contract editor. Editors work closely with curriculum writers to edit manuscripts in accordance with editorial and production guidelines. Candidates must have excellent editorial and writing skills, understand faith formation and developmental stages, and operate well in a collaborative environment. Must be well-grounded in Church of the Brethren or Mennonite beliefs and practices. A bachelor’s degree is required; a graduate degree in theology or education is preferred. See Job Opportunities at .
  • The Global Mission and Service office is producing a monthly prayer guide lifting up Church of the Brethren mission workers and mission partners around the world. Daily prayers are provided in a flier format easy to download and print from an online document. Find the January 2013 issue at .
  • Online registration has opened or will open soon for church events in 2013. Unless otherwise noted, find registration links at . Registration is open now for the Christian Citizenship Seminar for high schoolers and adult advisors on March 23-28 in New York City and Washington, D.C. Registration for congregational and district delegates to the 2013 Annual Conference on June 29-July 3 in Charlotte, N.C., opens Jan. 2 at (non-delegate registration will open Feb. 20). Registration opens Jan. 4 for the National Junior High Conference set for June 14-16 at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College (please note that an online parental consent form is required to register). Registration opens Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. (central time) for summer workcamps (find out more at ). On Jan. 25 young adults may begin registering for the Young Adult Conference on May 25-27 at Camp Pine Lake in Eldora, Iowa.
  • A national call-in day to Congress against gun violence has been set for Feb. 5, 2013, in an announcement from the National Council of Churches. NCC president Kathryn M. Lohre wrote, “Sisters and brothers in Christ, it is because of my hope in the birth of Jesus that I dare to ask: What will it take? How many more communities will suffer in the wake of gun violence? How will we honor those lives lost in Aurora, Oak Creek, and Newtown, and all those lives lost over the years to gun violence on the streets and in homes throughout the US? When will we heed the call to action? Now is the time to raise our voices and pray with our feet!” The NCC is joining several interfaith partners in calling for a national religious call-in day in which congressional representatives will be urged to enact gun control legislation within 50 days. Those participating in the day are encouraged to contact President Obama to urge him “to continue to act swiftly to end this national epidemic.” A Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath weekend to prepare churches and other faith groups for the effort is set for the first weekend of the year, Jan. 5-6. Go to to sign up to receive more information as it becomes available.
  • In the wake of the Newtown school shooting, Heeding God’s Call brought Philadelphia area faith leaders together to name gun violence a “spiritual and religious issue,” according to a release. The group stood at a historic spot for a press conference and rally Dec. 19--the west sidewalk of North Sixth Street between Race and Arch, site of Pennsylvania Hall, where Philadelphia leaders in 1838 named slavery as a spiritual and religious problem and demanded its end. Faith traditions represented included Mennonites, Society of Friends (Quakers), United Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church USA, Episcopal Church USA, United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and Reform Judaism. Heeding God’s Call is a movement to prevent gun violence, started during a meeting of the Historic Peace Churches (Church of the Brethren, Mennonites, Quakers) in 2009. It seeks to bring faithful and public pressure to bear on gun shops to persuade them to avoid selling to those who would put guns on the street. Find out more at .
  • “In this new year, the Cloverdale Church will mark their 100th anniversary as a congregation,” reports the Virlina District newsletter. Celebration of Cloverdale (Va.) Church of the Brethren’s centennial started on Dec. 16, when James Flora was guest speaker for worship. Flora was called into ministry by the Cloverdale congregation in the late 1940s, the announcement said. Additional anniversary events will include Cloverdale hosting the Roanoke-area Brethren Lenten services known as “Awakening” in March. On May 5, Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley Noffsinger will speak for worship. The “big” anniversary weekend will be July 5-7. On Dec. 22, 2013, the congregation will mark 100 years since the dedication of the original Cloverdale church meetinghouse.
  • McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren raised more than $20,000 at an 8th annual Christmas Gift Market on Nov. 10, reports a note from Jeanne Smith in the Western Plains District newsletter. The event began in 2005 when the church's Leadership Team challenged the board to come up with a year-long project that would kindle excitement for church ministries, Smith reported. “This year the eight-year total surpassed $138,000, a tremendous out-pouring of love from the church and community,” she added.
  • Peoria (Ill.) Church of the Brethren has held a special “Mountain Mission Trip” dedicated to Jim Harshbarger, who suddenly passed away the afternoon after loading his truck for the trip. The Illinois and Wisconsin District newsletter reported that for many years he had promoted the trip to the congregation and spent many hours driving around the area collecting donations of furniture, appliances, household items, and clothing to contribute to the annual trip to Missions in Eastern Kentucky. “There was a noticeable empty space in the caravan this year,” the report said. “Even though Jim was missing his son, David, and grandsons Dylan and Randy took over the helm of Jim’s GMC/Ford truck and trailer to make the trip in his Dad’s memory.”
  • Central Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va., was represented at a Homeless Person's Memorial Service at Greene Memorial United Methodist Church, as part of the Congregations in Action effort. “Even more exciting was the presence of eight Highland Park Elementary School students, and the ENTIRE Highland Park faculty, who came in support of Congregations in Action and their students,” reported pastor Tim Harvey in a Facebook post. Harvey delivered the sermon for the service. The “Roanoke Times” reported on the event, which remembered the 21 homeless residents of Roanoke who died in the past year (go to ). “Some were welders and constructions workers,” Harvey wrote. “Some held master's degrees. All were created in the image of God.”
  • Peaceknits is a charity knitting and crocheting group that meets the first and third Mondays of the month at Bedford (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. “In preparing for the group's Christmas lunch on Dec. 14, a tally was made of what the group has donated since its beginnings in 2008,” reported the Middle Pennsylvania District newsletter. “Peaceknits has hand made 405 items from donated yarn and given them to: Bedford UPMC Hospital, World Vision, Bedford County Children and Youth Services, Your Safe Haven, Special Olympics, a refugee center in Istanbul, the children of Alakanuk, Alaska, and Hurricane Sandy victims.”
  • Virden (Ill.) Church of the Brethren celebrated its 100th anniversary at the Illinois and Wisconsin District Conference this year. Patricia Barnett wanted to do something to help the congregation celebrate, so she crocheted over 200 crosses to give out at the conference, reports the district newsletter. The theme of the conference, chosen by moderator Fletcher Farrar, was “The Courage of Daniel” and was represented by the artwork of Kay Guyer. Delegates numbered 64. A silent auction and a live auction of donated quilts and a cedar chest raised a total of $2,865. During the conference, the district youth group visited Pleasant Hill Village Healthcare, met residents, and learned about Alzheimer’s and dementia care.
  • The Shenandoah District Pastoral Support Committee is sponsoring a day-long faith-based conference on substance abuse on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, at Bridgewater (Va.) College. Location will be Bowman Hall. The conference will be led by associate professor of psychology Brian M. Kelley, who has done extensive research and lecturing about addiction. Continuing education units will be offered. Among topics to be considered are risk factors for addiction, signs and symptoms of abuse, and tools for churches to become engaged with the problem of substance abuse. Cost is $30, which includes a DVD, handouts, and a light breakfast. The lunch buffet will cost an additional $7.50. A fee of $10 will be charged to receive continuing education credits. To RSVP by Jan. 11 contact .
  • Gilbert Romero will be performing in Shenandoah District with the Bittersweet Gospel Band in January. Then the band will leave for a week of ministering with the Puerto Rican Brethren on Jan. 14, reports the district newsletter. The band will play several times for Puerto Rican churches and at the Assemblea, the annual meeting of the island churches, to be held at Castañer. Romero will speak at Staunton (Va.) Church of the Brethren on Sunday morning, Jan. 13, and a Bittersweet Concert will be held at the Staunton church that afternoon at 3 p.m. The band also will perform at Sunrise Church of the Brethren in Harrisonburg, Va., on Jan. 12 at 6:30  p.m. For more information go to .
  • “Why Young People Leave the Church and What to Do about It” is the title of a two-part workshop in Southern Ohio District on Jan. 12, 2013, at New Carlisle Church of the Brethren and Feb. 9 at Eversole Church of the Brethren. Each workshop begins at 9 a.m. and ends at noon. “Most young adults are striving for financial and emotional independence, and the energy they pour into this activity often draws them away from practicing faith,” said an announcement. “The percentage of young adults who leave the church has stayed pretty steady since the 1970s. But one thing has definitely declined: The hope that if we do nothing they will soon come marching back (along with spouses and kids). If we build a church, they may not come. But if they leave, what should we do about it?” The workshops will review proposals for how the church should change, and explain terms such as “missional” and “emergent.” Participants will look at ways churches can connect with young adults and help them connect with God. The workshop is offered in conjunction with a “Focus on Finance” workshop. Bekah Houff and Russell Haitch, staff and faculty of Bethany Seminary, respectively, are presenters.  Go to for more information and to register.
  • Brethren Woods is holding a “Caving Adventure Day” on Feb. 10, 2013. The half-day underground adventure will visit natural subterranean features in a cave near Bridgewater, Va. Participants will gather at 12:30 to 1 p.m. at Bridgewater Church of the Brethren and travel to a cave site together, returning to the church by 6 p.m. Lester Zook of WildGuyde Adventures and EMU’s Outdoor Ministry and Adventure Leadership Department will be the guide. Cost is $45 and includes a bag lunch, transportation, headlamp, caving helmet, and some additional gear. For more information and permission slips/waivers, as well as registration (due by Jan. 25) go to or call 540-269-2741.
  • Springs of Living Water, a Christ-centered church renewal initiative, has announced “Celebrating the All Sufficient Christ” as the title of its next spiritual disciplines folder for Epiphany, the Season of Light. The resource is for the season beginning Jan. 13, 2013, up to the start of Lent. “This short season of one month will focus on Paul’s book of Colossians with the highest Christology,” said the announcement. “Meditating on and pondering on these scriptures on a daily basis can be life changing.” Instructions for use of the folder by the entire congregation are given and an insert invites participants to next steps of Christian growth. Along with the disciplines folder are Bible study questions written by Pastor Vince Cable of Uniontown Church of the Brethren. Find the resources at . In another announcement from the Springs initiative, registrations are now being received for the first Springs Academy course, “Foundations of Christ-centered Church Renewal,” for pastors and church leaders using interactive telephone conference calls. For more information contact David Young at .
  • January 2014, Bridgewater (Va.) College chaplain Robbie Miller will lead a 15-day study tour of Israel and Palestine as part of a “Lands of the Bible” interterm course. The tour, conducted by the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem ( ), will visit sites of biblical and religious importance. The Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center related to Bethany Seminary will grant 8 continuing education units for the study tour. Pastors and members of the Church of the Brethren are welcome to participate as space permits. Contact or 540-828-5383.
  • The Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education has awarded Elizabethtown (Pa.) College a $50,000 program development grant. A release reports that the grant, which is supported by Lilly Endowment Inc., provides colleges and universities with funds to foster the intellectual and theological exploration of vocation in their campus communities. Elizabethtown intends to use the grant to create programs that deepen faculty, staff, and student understanding of its Educate for Service motto related to purposeful life work and ethical leadership across disciplines and departments. One program that will receive funding is a summer retreat for faculty to have an opportunity to think about their life's work and how engaging in reflection can make them better mentors.
  • Che Wiechart, a Manchester University student, is a finalist in the Everence Financial “Money Talks” video contest. Wiechart’s video is one of seven that made the final cut as visitors voted on the Everence website at , reports a release. The voting continues through Jan. 15, 2013. The theme “Money Talks: The World Is Listening” encouraged people to think and talk about the role of money in the world today. The finalist who receives the most votes will win the contest and a cash prize as well as a grant to their favorite charity. Awards also will go to the second- and third-place vote getters and their selected charities.
  • Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., has committed to purchase 50 MWh of Keystone Solar annually for the next seven years, according to a release. Community Energy will supply the clean energy generation from the Keystone Solar Project in Lancaster, Pa. “As the country and state move toward a clean energy future, sponsorship of the Keystone Solar Project highlights Juniata College's commitment to environmental sustainability,” the release said. “Juniata College has a college-wide initiative to reduce its carbon footprint.... In a difficult economy that demands excellence, Juniata College has set a strong example for how to not only set an environmental goal, but make that goal mean something.” The Keystone Solar Project is a 5 megawatt (AC) ground-mounted solar project that will produce approximately 8,000 MWh of electricity annually, the equivalent of powering 950 homes or avoiding 5,516 tons of carbon dioxide each year. As part of the program, the college will have access to "Building Keystone Solar," an online course designed to invite students and professors behind the scenes at real-world solar projects.
  • A new online publication from the World Council of Churches (WCC) invites congregations to explore the themes of Christian unity, justice, and peace in advance of its upcoming 10th Assembly. “Pilgrimage to Busan: A Journey into Ecumenical Christianity” is a six-unit resource designed for study groups, adult forums, and retreat groups to study the theme of the upcoming assembly, “God of Life, Lead Us to Justice and Peace.” The resource includes participants’ and leaders’ guides, which are available online for free download, and also suitable for printing. The assembly will take place Oct. 30-Nov. 10, 2013, in Busan, Republic of Korea (South Korea). It is anticipated to be the most diverse Christian gathering of its size in the world, the WCC release said.Translations of the resource in French, German, Spanish and Korean are underway. Find the study resource at .
  • The 2013 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will be celebrated on Jan. 18-25.  Sponsored jointly by the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Week of Prayer invites congregations all over the world to share in common prayer for Christian unity. A WCC release announced that the materials for 2013 were initially prepared by the Student Christian Movement of India and shaped by the context of great injustice experienced by the Dalits or “untouchables.” The theme will be “What Does God Require of Us?” (Micah 6:6-8). To order congregational resources for this year’s celebration, go to
  • The National Council of Churches (NCC) is inviting young adults to apply for seed grants to start ecumenical projects. The NCC’s New Fire Task Force, in partnership with the Ecumenical Young Adult Ministries Team, invites young adults to apply for seed grants of up to $500 to support local ecumenical young adult-initiated projects, a release said. The New Fire Network is a network of young adult Christians who are connecting and organizing young adult ecumenical leadership to re-invigorate and re-envision cooperative Christian community. Through the Seed Grant Program, New Fire seeks to support ecumenical projects that connect young adults to an experience of Christian unity in a concrete and meaningful way. The grant program aims to break down divisions among those age 18-35; renew the relationship between the church and young adults; equip young adults to be agents of love, justice, and peace; and facilitate capacity-building opportunities for young adults to expand knowledge and skills so they can better serve churches and the ecumenical movement. Find the application form online at or contact for a copy. Applications are due by Feb. 28, 2013, and can be submitted to the New Fire Task Force at . Award decisions will be announced by March 31.
Source: 12/27/2012 Newsline


Newsline is produced by the news services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at Contributors to this issue of Newsline include John Ballinger, Stan Dueck, Philip E. Jenks, Donna Kline, Don Knieriem, Michael Leiter, Madalyn Metzger, Amy Mountain, Becky Ullom Naugle, Rose Stutzman, John Wall, David S. Young, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Newsline Special: December 21, 2012


Brethren leaders send letter of support to the people of Newtown.

In a call made from Jerusalem Dec. 14, Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley Noffsinger expressed his deep sorrow upon hearing the news of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The news reached Noffsinger while he and a group of Brethren leaders were in Israel, taking part in a delegation to the Middle East along with a group from the American Baptist Churches USA. The group has since returned to the United States (look for a report on the delegation to appear in the Dec. 27 issue of Newsline).

Along with the general secretary and his wife Debbie Noffsinger, the Brethren delegation included associate general secretary Mary Jo Flory-Steury and her husband Mark Flory-Steury; and three members of the denomination’s Mission and Ministry Board: Keith Goering, Andy Hamilton, and Pam Reist.

In his phone call, Noffsinger commented on how news of the school shooting had a profound effect on all in the delegation. The group heard about the shooting after spending an evening at the Wailing Wall praying for peace for all people. The next morning they had prayer together with the American Baptist group. “From the Holy City we send prayers,” Noffsinger said.

The Brethren delegation to Israel and Palestine sent the following letter of support and encouragement to the people of Newtown, Conn., addressed to the First Selectman of the town and the Superintendent of Newtown Public School District:
To the people and leaders of Newtown,

Our condolences on the loss of your children, loved ones, friends, and co-workers.

We heard of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School while in the Holy City of Jerusalem. Returning from an evening of praying for peace for all people at the Wailing Wall, the news of the shooting and the deaths of so many of Newtown’s children has had a profound effect on us.

As a delegation of Church of the Brethren leaders to Israel and Palestine, during this Advent season we are visiting a place where people have seen centuries of violence. Yet even here, the news of your suffering has been shared widely and it is clear that the whole world is paying attention and is walking alongside you in your loss and grief.

Out of our long church history of working and praying for peace, we know that all people are created in God’s image and that God loves and cares for all human lives. We add our prayers to those of so many others who hold Newtown in our hearts this day. We pray especially for the parents who have lost children, the siblings who have lost brothers and sisters, and the families of the school staff who were killed.

For the leaders of Newtown and Sandy Hook Elementary School, we pray for strength, courage, and wisdom in this difficult time.
In the peace of Christ,

Stanley J. Noffsinger, General Secretary, and Debbie Noffsinger
Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Associate General Secretary, and Mark Flory-Steury
Keith Goering, Mission and Ministry Board
Andy Hamilton, Mission and Ministry Board
Pam Reist, Mission and Ministry Board
Source: 12/21/2012 Newsline Special

National Council of Churches press conference calls for meaningful action on guns.

Cross superimposed on gun, from the National Council of Churches
Photo by courtesy of National Council of Churches
The National Council of Churches (NCC) has been active since the school shooting in Newtown, by making available resources to congregations (see story below) and encouraging religious leaders to address the issue of gun violence.

The ecumenical organization, of which the Church of the Brethren is a member, is holding a press conference in Washington, D.C., where religious leaders will speak out on gun violence.

In the hours following the shooting last week, NCC president Kathryn Lohre said, "As a parent, I cannot comprehend the grief other mothers and fathers are feeling tonight. I share President Obama's instincts to hug my own child especially close tonight. And my heart breaks to know so many parents in Connecticut are no longer able to do that.

“Tragedies like the shootings in Newton are impossible for theologians and clergy to explain," Lohre said. "But we seek comfort in our faith that our God is a God of love, and God's heart is breaking tonight, too."

The press conference takes place Friday, Dec. 21, at 9 a.m. (eastern) in the nation’s capital. The group of religious leaders are expected “to call on Congress and the President to take meaningful action to address the national epidemic of gun violence,” said an NCC release.

“We must do more than lament the loss of life and comfort those who are engulfed in grief; we must come together as people of faith in a collective call to action to end this crisis gripping our country,” said an announcement of the event from Barbara Weinstein, associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

“The time to end senseless gun violence is now, and as religious leaders of national prominence, the responsibility to provide moral leadership to achieve that cause is ours.”

The speakers who are expected to take part in the press conference are NCC president Kathryn Lohre; Carroll A. Baltimore, Sr., president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention; Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America; Gabriel Salguero, senior pastor of Lamb's Church; David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly; and Michael Livingston, a past president of the NCC and most recently director of the NCC’s poverty initiative, who directs the Washington Office of Interfaith Worker Justice.

Read the 2010 NCC resolution on “Ending Gun Violence” and a related resolution made by the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board in support of the NCC action, at

Source: 12/21/2012 Newsline Special

NCC asks churches to ring bells for Newtown victims, support January action day on gun violence.

Hand bells with a candle centerpieceThe National Council of Churches (NCC) is inviting the nearly 100,000 churches related to its member communions to ring church bells the morning of Friday, Dec. 21, to mark one week since 20 children and six adults were killed by a gunman in a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.

The houses of worship that take part in the “Church Bell Ringing to Honor Newtown” observe a minute of silence and sound their bells 26 times in memory of those who died in the school. Authorities believe the alleged shooter also killed his mother before going to the school with an automatic rifle.

“I hope that you will join me not only in continued prayer but also in raising a faithful witness against this and other forms of violence,” said Peg Birk, NCC transitional general secretary, in an e-mail announcing other upcoming actions to which NCC members churches are invited. “No nation or community should witness the suffering of such innocents.

“We will be convening staff from our member communions shortly after the holidays to discern additional ways that we, as the body of the National Council of Churches, can work together to prevent gun violence and other long term systemic issues of justice and peace,” Birk added.

A “Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath” has been announced for Jan. 6. Congregations around the country are being asked to offer sermons, prayers, or education forums against gun violence. To register a congregation and receive a free, downloadable toolkit for the observance go to

A “Call-in Day Against Gun Violence” will be held in early January. The NCC is inviting the interfaith community in the US also to join together in this call-in day to legislators, urging them to address gun violence. Sign up to receive information about this upcoming advocacy action at

Source: 12/21/2012 Newsline Special

NCC provides resources for churches to address gun violence and its aftermath.

Home Page image for peace pole covered in snow“I have been inspired by the great outpouring of support and compassion I have seen in the faith community's response to the devastating shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School,” said Peg Birk, National Council of Churches transitional general secretary, in an NCC release this week. “From prayer vigils to pastoral care resources, and from moving sermons to the many, many prayers for the families and community in Newtown--the outpouring of God's love to this community through God's people has been hope fulfilled.”

The National Council of Churches is making a number of the response it has received to the Newtown tragedy available online, along with worship and action resources for churches to address gun violence and help parishioners deal with the aftermath of a tragedy that has affected the entire nation.

A sampling of the responses and prayers from member communions of the NCC is available at

Upcoming actions and resources on gun violence from NCC member churches is at

Another new resource made available through a joint effort of the NCC and the Presbyterian Church (USA) is the documentary film “Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence.” Produced by David Barnhart of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance for the NCC, which distributes television programming through the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission, the film was released to NBC Television in mid-November for airing by network affiliate stations.

“Drawing upon conversations with lawmakers, emergency room chaplains and surgeons, survivors and victims' families, former ATF officials, police officers, community leaders and others, ‘Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence’ shares the story of how gun violence impacts individuals and communities and examines the ‘ripple effect’ that one shooting has on a survivor, a family, a community, and a society,” said the release. The film “also addresses the critical issue of gun violence prevention (such as keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill) by moving the conversation away from the polarizing extremes that have long dominated the debate and lifting up the voice and experiences of those who seek common ground and a new way forward.”

The NCC encourages church members to contact their local NBC affiliate station and ask that the documentary be aired in their area.

Source: 12/21/2012 Newsline Special

Prayer, new carol text are written by Brethren pastors after the tragedy.

Following are worship resources by two Church of the Brethren pastors, a prayer sparked by the tragedy at Newtown and a new version of the Christmas carol, “What Child Is This?”

A Prayer for Comfort and Peace

(Commemorating the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, 2012)

O God, as we gather for worship today, we realize that we are very close to the celebration of Your birth on Christmas Day.

However, many of us find it difficult today to think about any kind of celebration. Our hearts, minds, and souls are filled with the sickening news of the shootings that took place on a December morning at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. A young man aimed a gun at innocent children, teachers, and even his own mother. Before he took his own life, 20 first graders, 6 teachers, and his mother died from the weapon he held in his hands. The thought that their lives could end so quickly and violently makes us sad, angry, numb, and sick.

Most of us do not personally know any of the victims of this senseless act. However, every person in this room knows someone who is 6 or 7 years old. Every one of us knows parents and relatives of first grade children. We also know many teachers who have shaped our lives and the lives of those who are dear to us. That is why a tragedy like this rips at the very fiber of our being.

We lost track of how many times we heard others ask, “WHY?” We admit that we are asking the same question today. Deep in our hearts we realize that no answer could possibly help us make sense of what took place. As we ask this question, remind us that it can become our prayer at a time when we are not even sure how to pray. It helps us unite our hands and hearts and voices with people around the world who gather for prayer vigils and times of remembrance. You invite us to turn to You with all our tears and all our questions. Help us to recognize Your presence in the midst of all this brokenness.

As we search our hearts for other ways to pray, we think about the family members and friends of those who died. Comfort them, O God, and grant them wisdom and courage for the facing of the hours ahead. We think of the teachers who put the safety of their students before their own safety and security. Thank You for their unhesitating courage and sacrifice. We think of the law enforcement officers, paramedics, and other first responders who witnessed unspeakable sights as they did their work. Bless them with the peace that You alone can give. We also pray for those who escaped or survived the bullets that were fired that morning. Grant them the precious gift of healed memories, O God.

We wonder how we may honor the memory of these innocent children and adults. You remind us that one way we can do this is to cherish the relationships we share with our own children and family members. May we never overlook an opportunity to love them with our words and our deeds.

Show us how we can express gratitude to those who are prepared to teach us, protect us, rescue us, and practice the healing arts for our sake. Their sacrifice and dedication is a genuine blessing.

Finally, Prince of Peace, deliver us from weapons of our own making and choosing. Guide our thoughts, words, actions, and intentions. Bless each of us with courage to replace senseless acts of violence with sensitive deeds of care and compassion. May this be so from this time forth and forever more. Amen.

-- Bernie Fuska is pastor of Timberville (Va.) Church of the Brethren. His prayer was shared by Shenandoah District. “Bernie used this in his worship yesterday as a candle of remembrance was lighted in place of the Advent wreath candles. We are free to use and adapt it,” the district said in its e-mail message. “Permission is granted to adapt and use these prayer thoughts.”

CandleWhose Children These?

(A new hymn text by Frank Ramirez for the Christmas carol “What Child Is This?” originally written by William C. Dix, 1865, set to the tune Greensleeves, a traditional English melody.)

Whose children these, who laid to rest,
Tear every heart in weeping?
Whose children these, God, tell us please?
Uphold them in your keeping.
Each reaching above the fray
To heaven’s border where angels pray,
Love, moving past hate and fear,
To save and cherish our children.

The wind blows cold. These ills behold,
As rage and evil come feeding.
We see, we hear, Oh God, we fear
That none can staunch the bleeding.

You are greater than evil’s reign.
Stand in our midst, we pray, remain.
Comfort hearts, we’ll play our parts,
So nothing love impeding.

Each child’s name with us remain,
These sorrows sharing with those who weep
Whose loss is great, against this hate
Your love abiding be done.

Reign! Rein in insanity,
Install in all your divinity!
So then may we, one humanity,
See your will as in heaven be won.

-- Frank Ramirez is pastor of Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. “Here is a hymn text I wrote around 2 a.m. this morning for use in our worship service,” Ramirez wrote when he submitted the hymn as a resource for Newsline readers. “For my message I added the text from Matthew on the Slaughter of the Innocents.... We sang it at the end of worship to (the tune) Greensleeves. Here it is, in case others want to sing it.”

Source: 12/21/2012 Newsline Special


Newsline is produced by the news services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Philip E. Jenks, Ronald E. Keener, Nancy Miner, Jerry L. Van Marter of the Presbyterian News Service, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Newsline: December 13, 2012


Brethren Disaster Ministries celebrates with Pulaski.

Brethren Disaster Ministries started its Pulaski, Va., project site in August last year. Since then, several hundred volunteers have given their time to help rebuild what two tornadoes tore down in April 2011.

Volunteers who served at the Pulaski site got the pleasure of sleeping in the First Christian Church outreach building. The church graciously donated the use of this building for close to 15 months following the tornadoes. The building was large and comfortable, giving volunteers and project leaders room to relax after working all day, get a good night’s sleep, and cook some delicious meals.

The church members were incredibly kind as well, helping out when needed, inviting volunteers and leaders to church services and events, and even sharing their own stories of the tornado.

Thanks to willing volunteers, donors, the town of Pulaski, and First Christian Church, Brethren Disaster Ministries was able to rebuild 10 houses and repair numerous others.

This November the work in Pulaski was completed. To celebrate, First Christian Church sent out an invitation to all of the volunteers, townspeople, and office workers who helped bring Pulaski back. On Nov. 14 more than 100 people piled into the outreach center for an evening of fellowship, food, and giving thanks.

Randy Williams, pastor of First Christian Church, welcomed everyone and said thank you to a few of the key people who really ran the project. Afterward, Pulaski mayor Jeff Worrell, who is also on the church board, gave his own personal thank you. “A person, I guess, only has one hometown and Pulaski is mine. To see it laid low like it was on April 8, 2011, and then over the past 18 months to see it all come back, to see it rebuilt, a lot of areas better than they were before the tornado--it overwhelms me when I think about it.... There is no way we could have recovered from the tornado without this group.”

Worrell surprised Brethren Disaster Ministries with a check for $10,000 from First Christian Church. The church had decided to “pay it forward” to the next project of Brethren Disaster Ministries, so that the Brethren could continue to rebuild towns like Pulaski.

Zach Wolgemuth, associate director for Brethren Disaster Ministries, thanked the church for the check and for all they did, remarking, “The word ‘no’ isn’t in this church’s vocabulary....  Everything BDM needed they managed to provide for us.” He presented the church with a plaque commemorating its support in rebuilding Pulaski.

The night ended with hugs, tears, and laughter as everyone gave thanks and recalled their time in Pulaski.

-- Hallie Pilcher is serving at Brethren Disaster Ministries as a Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) worker.

Source: 12/13/2012 Newsline

Fund makes grants to start new Brethren disaster project, aid Congolese refugees.

Grants from the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) have been given to start up a new Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding site in southeastern Indiana, and to help a church group that is aiding Congolese refugees fleeing violence on the border with Rwanda.

An allocation of $20,000 opens a new Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding project site in Holton, Ind., following a tornado that destroyed nearly 20 homes and damaged dozens of others in March.

This fall, district disaster coordinators in the region were contacted by the local recovery agency seeking volunteers to assist with construction of new homes to replace those that had been destroyed. In response, Brethren Disaster Ministries staff have been collaborating with district coordinators to develop a joint response that couples regional and national resources to address the need.

The EDF grant will underwrite operational expenses related to volunteer support including housing, food, and travel expenses incurred on site as well as volunteer training, tools, and equipment needed for rebuilding and repair.

A grant of $8,000 has been made to Gisenyi Friends Church located on the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in an area where violence has been a part of life for years as different armed groups fight with government forces or each other.

Recent violence has focused around the city of Goma, in an area considered the front line between government troops and the M23 rebel group. The ACT Alliance, in which the Church of the Brethren participates, has expressed “extreme” concern for the situation of displaced Congolese civilians in the province, especially children and other vulnerable groups.

Gisenyi Friends Church, a Quaker congregation, is at the edge of this area and has been receiving many Congolese people displaced by the violence. Pastor Etienne is a graduate of Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Ind., a sister school to Bethany Theological Seminary. The town of Gisenyi is near Goma but across the border in the country of Rwanda.

The Gisenyi church’s committee on social justice has appealed for help with immediate needs for the displaced Congolese. The church hopes to support at least 275 families, and is attempting to care for the most needy and vulnerable, particularly women and abandoned children, as well as rape survivors. The grant will help the Gisenyi Friends purchase corn and beans for refugees and will cover transportation costs for delivery of the food.

Source: 12/13/2012 Newsline

Brethren make efforts to support Nigerians in the face of violence.

Several efforts to support and encourage Nigerian Brethren affected by violence are being made by American Brethren, responding to concern for Nigeria expressed during the Annual Conference in July and to news of continuing incidents of terrorist violence including the recent shooting of a Nigerian Brethren pastor and 10 church members (see the report at ).

A season of prayer for Nigeria has been announced by Annual Conference moderator Bob Krouse. The moderator read scripture and called the Brethren to pray for those affected by violence in Nigeria in a short online video, standing alongside general secretary Stan Noffsinger who prayed for the Nigerian Brethren, and Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer. View the video on the denomination’s home page at (double click to view the video at full size).

Wittmeyer invites American Brethren to offer words of encouragement that will be shared with Nigerian families who have suffered loss, and is requesting contributions to the Compassion Fund of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

The Compassion Fund was initiated by EYN as a mechanism for Nigerian Brethren to demonstrate mutuality in support of one another. A primary focus of the fund is to financially support the surviving spouses of clergy who have been killed in the terrorist-type violence that has rocked northern Nigeria in recent years, Wittmeyer said. The fund also supports church members who have lost homes or businesses to the violence.

“Many Church of the Brethren members in the US have been in prayerful support of the Nigerian Brethren and have sent cards and condolences, as well as financial support to rebuild churches,” Wittmeyer said. “The Compassion Fund is an important means of offering our support for our sister church community.”

In one recent example, the congregation of Turkey Creek Church of the Brethren has given $10,000 to the EYN Compassion Fund out of moneys made available as the congregation merges with Nappanee (Ind.) Church of the Brethren. Former pastor Roger Eberly and his wife Mim took part in a goodwill delegation to Nigeria in Jan. 2010, and during their trip began hearing stories of the violence that Nigerian Brethren have suffered. Since then, he said in a telephone interview today, the couple have followed news from Nigeria. As they began hearing of increased violence recently, he said the time seemed right for such a gift.

Ironically, Nappanee was started as a “daughter” church to Turkey Creek, Eberly said, adding that Turkey Creek “came to a greying time” after a vibrant history in which it planted several daughter congregations. The opportunity to make significant gifts has helped make the congregation’s move more meaningful. Among other gifts made by Turkey Creek, which met for worship for the last time on Sept. 30, is a donation to help Camp Mack rebuild key facilities lost to a fire in 2010, a Bethany Seminary scholarship for students studying church planting, and gifts to a number of other organizations including Heifer International and Habitat.

Virlina District also is among the US Brethren announcing projects of support and encouragement for the church in Nigeria.. The district reports in its recent newsletter that a project started at the Sept. 2012 Virlina District Peace Sunday Service, in response to the sharing about Nigeria that occurred at Annual Conference this summer. “In addition to remembering our Nigerian brothers and sisters in prayer, the Peace Affairs Committee is asking for individuals and congregations to write a brief message of encouragement and care,” the newsletter said. Wittmeyer, who is planning a late January trip to Nigeria, personally will carry the collection of postcards to the Nigerian Brethren.

Contributions to the EYN Compassion Fund and words of encouragement for Nigerian Brethren may be offered online at or sent by mail to Church of the Brethren, Attn: EYN Compassion Fund, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.

Source: 12/13/2012 Newsline

Nigerian Brethren development center graduates 167 women.

The Women Development Center of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) has graduated 167 women at its 11th graduation ceremony.

The graduation ceremony was held at the EYN Conference Center in Kwarhi. The group of girls and a few married women received three or six months of training in sewing, knitting, cooking, and computer use.

Principal Mrs. Safiratu and Mrs. Aishatu Margima presented the certificates of attendance on behalf of the EYN Director of Education.

The students presented a wedding cake during the ceremony to show one of the things that they can produce after the training. The center enrolls new students again in its January 2013 class.

-- Zakariya Musa reports on the work of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria in EYN”s “Sabon Haske” publication.

Source: 12/13/2012 Newsline

Pacific Northwest District announces its new name.

The former Oregon and Washington District is changing its name to Pacific Northwest District. “Our District Conference in September affirmed this change and the board took official action at our October meeting,” reports district executive minister J. Colleen Michael.

The legal status of the district’s name change is pending with the Attorney General of Oregon, Michael said by e-mail.

The Pacific Northwest District is using a new e-mail address:

The district’s mailing address and phone number continue to be the same: Pacific Northwest District Church of the Brethren, P.O. Box 5440, Wenatchee, WA 98807-5440; 509 662-3211.

Source: 12/13/2012 Newsline

New Life Ministries concludes its ministry, passes baton to E3.

After more than 16 years of service to Anabaptist congregations, New Life Ministries (NLM) will officially conclude its ministry on Dec. 31. Official action to conclude New Life Ministries took place at the fall board meeting of NLM on Oct. 19.

Commenting on NLM’s long run of ministry, board chair Paul Mundey reflected: “What an honor to ‘come alongside’ the life and witness of so many Brethren Church, Church of the Brethren, and Mennonite Church congregations, as we worked together toward new expressions of faithful, inviting ministry, centered in Jesus.”

Over the years, New Life Ministries has been known for its unapologetic commitment to Anabaptist values, and a conviction that Anabaptist values needed to be shared with unchurched and churched alike. New Life Ministries has specialized in resources promoting hospitality, faith-sharing, and congregational growth and vitality.

Along with providing written resources, New Life Ministries also offered personalized consultation, workshops, and conferences featuring speakers such as Tony Campolo, Eddie Gibbs, Myron Augsburger, and Ron Sider. New Life Ministries also maintained a popular website, utilized not only by Anabaptist congregations but also by congregations from a variety of Christian denominations across the US.

In addition to taking formal action to conclude its ministry at its fall board meeting, New Life Ministries also affirmed the ministry of E3 Ministry Group, LLC, an exciting new organization focused on church renewal. As NLM concludes its work in the area of congregational vitality, the NLM board acted to “affirm the new call of E3 to resource congregations for vitality and growth. We give our blessing and unqualified support, praying that God will use E3 in mighty ways.”

For more information on E3, contact John Neff, E3 Ministry Group, LLC, 1146 La Casa Court, Moneta, VA 24121; 540-297-4754;

As New Life Ministries concludes its ministry, “passing the baton” to E3, it does so with a continuing conviction that Christ’s church needs to develop even greater expressions of faithfulness and outreach. Reflecting on this conviction, NLM ministries board chair Paul Mundey concluded: “The Church of Jesus Christ, and the particular values of the Anabaptist movement, are more relevant and needed than ever before. Thus externally focused, vital, faithful congregations are more needed than ever before.”

-- This article is from a New Life Ministries press release.

Source: 12/13/2012 Newsline

‘Brethren Voices’ is now broadcast across the country.

“The brothers and sisters in the faith that I've learned about through ‘Brethren Voices’ make me proud (in the humblest Brethren way) to be part of the Church of the Brethren!” says Melanie G. Snyder of Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren.

What was meant to be a local community television program informing others about the Church of the Brethren has now taken on a much wider scope. In its 8th year of production, “Brethren Voices,” the community television program of Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren, is being broadcast in communities on the East Coast and West Coast and places in between.

Easy, a producer at CMTV Channel 14--the community access station of Spokane, Wash.--has taken “Brethren Voices” under his wing. After receiving copies of the show a few years ago, Easy told us that "Brethren Voices" should be on every community access station in the country. He really appreciated the appeal of a program promoting peace and justice with wonderful examples of community service.

As a result of his appreciation, Easy placed “Brethren Voices” on the website (PublicEducationGovernment). Community access cable television stations can now download the program from this site and broadcast it in their communities.

During the past two years, the program has been picked up by 12 to 14 stations in areas of the country where there are few or no Brethren congregations. Between six to eight community access stations in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Vermont have been broadcasting “Brethren Voices.” Other stations in Alabama, Montana, California, and Illinois also have shown “Brethren Voices” in their communities.

To date, stations have downloaded various “Brethren Voices” programs just under 200 times. Church of the Brethren congregations could do the same thing by requesting the local access stations to broadcast “Brethren Voices.” The cost is 70 cents for each time the program is downloaded. Easy and “Brethren Voices” have paid this expense, amounting to about one-third of the cost of mailing copies by postal mail.

Since its beginnings, there have been Church of the Brethren congregations in Westminster, Md.; York, Pa.; Springfield, Ore.; La Verne, Calif.; and New Carlisle, Ohio, that have submitted “Brethren Voices” to their local community access stations. Many more Brethren congregations have community access stations in their areas who depend on viewers to request programing. Why not let others see what the Brethren are doing as a matter of their faith?

“Brethren Voices” also is receiving viewership on YouTube thanks to Adam Lohr of Palmyra (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. While presenting the premier showing of a “Brethren Voices” program concerning child slavery in the chocolate industry, Lohr, son of pastor Dennis Lohr, suggested that the show should be made available on YouTube. Adam said, “More youth would see the programs if they were on YouTube.”

A proposal of Adam’s idea was presented to the Peace Church of the Brethren board and by consensus we agreed to give it a try. There are now 25 “Brethren Voices” programs to be viewed on the channel at Now over 1,100 views of the channel have been made, of the various “Brethren Voices” programs that feature Annual Conference moderators, Brethren Disaster Ministries, Brethren Volunteer Service, New Community Project Learning Tours, and guests such as David Sollenberger and Wendy McFadden.

“Brethren Voices” has a mailing list of 40-plus congregations and individuals who each receive a DVD of the programs. Some congregations use the 30-minute productions as visual resources for Sunday School classes and worship services.

We’re currently working on program 92 featuring an interview with Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger. Another program in the works features Annual Conference moderator Bob Krouse. Just completed is a program with pastor Audrey DeCoursey of Living Stream Church of the Brethren, the first online church plant of Pacific Northwest District.

-- Ed Groff produces “Brethren Voices” on behalf of Portland Peace Church of the Brethren. Contact him at for more information and samples of “Brethren Voices” programs.

Source: 12/13/2012 Newsline

Mission office sends new program volunteers to South Sudan, Nigeria.

A new volunteer has begun serving in South Sudan on behalf of the Church of the Brethren, and two new staff soon will arrive in Nigeria. The three are program volunteers for the denomination’s Global Mission and Service office, and will work as seconded staff for Sudanese and Nigerian organizations respectively.

Jocelyn Snyder of Hartville (Ohio) Church of the Brethren has begun work in South Sudan through Brethren Volunteer Service. She is working in the area of Yei with a focus on HIV/AIDS and as a youth minister. In South Sudan, she joins two other Church of the Brethren program volunteers: Jillian Foerster, who is serving with RECONCILE, and Athanasus Ungang, working to establish and build a new Brethren Mission Center in the town of Torit.

In related news, Global Mission and Service is planning a workcamp to South Sudan in the spring of 2013 to work on construction of the new Brethren Mission Center. Indicate interest in the workcamp by e-mailing

Carl and Roxane Hill have been named seconded staff to Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). They will teach at Kulp Bible College, on the headquarters compound of EYN. The couple hope to leave for Nigeria before Christmas. In Nigeria, they join Carol Smith who is serving as a Church of the Brethren teacher at the EYN Secondary School.

Source: 12/13/2012 Newsline

Dranesville holds Peace Service marking anniversary of Civil War battle.

At the start of the Civil War, Union and Confederate troops met at Dranesville, Va., in a short, bloody battle that left more than 50 dead and 200 wounded. Today, part of the battlefield belongs to Dranesville Church of the Brethren, a pacifist church that has resisted war for more than three centuries. On Dec. 16, at 7 p.m., the congregation will gather to remember the battle and pray for peace.

The Battle of Dranesville started Dec. 20, 1861, as Confederate troops under J.E.B. Stuart started out from their Centerville camp, looking for winter forage for their horses. At the same time, Union troops under E.O.C Ord set out looking for the same thing.

Stuart and Ord selected Dranesville for the same reason. The town, larger then than it is today, was a hotbed of secessionism. Local farmers owned an average five to ten slaves. Nearly all residents voted to secede from the Union. Stuart figured local farmers would give to the Confederate cause. Ord figured the same thing--and aimed to get the forage before the Confederates did.

Shortly after noon, Union troops arrived in Dranesville. Ord set out with 10,000 men, but left 5,000 in reserve at Colvin Mill. Ord took five regiments of infantry, one regiment of cavalry, and a small artillery battery to Dranesville.

Stuart's troops arrived at about the same time. The flamboyant cavalry leader had about 2,500 men: four regiments of infantry, one of cavalry, and one artillery battery. Stuart also had virtually every haywagon in the Army of Northern Virginia.

The troops started skirmishing outside Dranesville, and soon fell into battle formation across the Leesburg Pike. Most of the action took place between Ord's artillery position near the present site of the church and down the hill towards the old town of Dranesville--near the present site of the Dranesville Tavern.

A reporter described the three-hour battle as "one incessant firing." Green Confederate troops fired at each other in the confusion of their first battle. Unusually accurate Union cannon fire blasted Stuart's artillery, killing six--three by decapitation. Stuart got his haywagons to safety and retreated to Frying Pan meeting house.

Stuart claimed victory, but Confederate forces took the far greater casualties: 43 dead, 150 wounded. Union forces had seven dead, 60 wounded. The North, which had been trounced earlier in the first Battle of Manassas and the disaster at Balls' Bluff, near Leesburg, hailed the battle as a great Union victory.

Dranesville Church of the Brethren arrived about 50 years later, in 1903. The Brethren, like the Quakers and Mennonites, have a long tradition of pacifism. During the Civil War, the Brethren, then called Dunkers, paid dearly for that belief. The Battle of Antietam, the single bloodiest day of the war, swirled around a Brethren meeting house. Brethren farmers owned many of the fields around Antietam--and Gettysburg, too.

The Brethren refusal to fight in the Civil War impressed even Stonewall Jackson, the famous Confederate general. He urged Jefferson Davis to grant them conscientious objector status: "There lives a people in the Valley of Virginia," Jackson wrote, "that are not hard to bring to the army. While there, they are obedient to their officers. Nor is it difficult to have them take aim, but it is impossible to get them to take correct aim. I, therefore, think it is better to leave them at their homes that they may produce supplies for the army."

Jackson's enemy, Abraham Lincoln, had similar views on the Brethren: "These people do not believe in war," Lincoln wrote. "People who do not believe in war do not make good soldiers. Besides, the attitudes of these people has always been against slavery. If all our people had held the same views about slavery as these people hold there would be no war."

The Brethren congregation in Dranesville began worshiping at the Liberty Meeting House, now Dranesville Methodist Church. In 1912, they built their own meeting house. As it turned out, the donated land was where General Ord had placed his cannons.

Brethren hold an annual peace service at the Dunker church on the Antietam battlefield. Dranesville Church of the Brethren has decided to hold its own peace service on Sunday, Dec.16. Congregation members have discovered the names of about 35 of the 50 men who died at Dranesville that day in 1861. At the service, candles will be lit in their memory--and then extinguished, one by one, to symbolize war's terrible cost in human suffering.

The service will start at 7 p.m. at the Dranesville chapel. A small exhibit on the battle--including a few artifacts found near the church--will be in the downstairs meeting hall. Information about the Brethren and their stand on peace will be available as well. Contact the church for further information at 703-430-7872.

-- This article by John Waggoner is reprinted from the newsletter of Dranesville Church of the Brethren, with permission.

Source: 12/13/2012 Newsline

Workcamp office highlights ‘We Are Able’ event.

The Church of the Brethren’s Workcamp Office is highlighting a special workcamp to take place next summer: the “We Are Able” workcamp for intellectually and physically disabled young adults.

The workcamp “is a wonderful opportunity for intellectually and physically disabled young adults,” reports Tricia Ziegler, assistant workcamp coordinator. “The workcamp is going to take place in New Windsor, Md., and will be accompanied by a Young Adult Assistant Workcamp. This workcamp is provided as an opportunity for disabled young adults (ages 16-23) to have a chance to serve others and be successful at the same time.”

The workcamp is four days long, from June 10-13, 2013. Participants will have opportunities to meet new people, have fun, and work and worship together.

“Spread the word about this awesome ministry, and together let us make this a great summer for workcamps,” Ziegler said.

Go to for more information and a full list of next summer’s workcamps for young adults, senior high and junior high youth, and intergenerational groups. Workcamp registration opens online on Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. (central time). Please note that a parental consent form must be filled out prior to registration for junior high events.

Source: 12/13/2012 Newsline

Springs of Living Water Academy in Church Renewal launches in 2013.

The Springs of Living Water initiative for church renewal is announcing a new academy for pastors and church leaders, which will offer courses with formal learning objectives that participants will localize in their own settings.

The first course offered will be “Foundations for Christ-centered Church Renewal,” with basic texts “Springs of Living Water, Christ-centered Church Renewal” by David S. Young with foreword by Richard J. Foster, and “Celebration of Discipline, the Path to Spiritual Growth” by Richard J. Foster.

The course consists of five interactive two-hour telephone conference calls taught by Springs founder David S. Young, with guests telling stories from churches. Dates are Saturday mornings on Feb 9, March 2 and 23, April 13, and May 4, from 8:30-10:30 a.m. (eastern time). Register by Jan. 30, 2013. Cost is $185 plus $10 for continuing education units. Scholarships according to need may be available. Participants will call an 800 number to connect with the conference calls.

Participants will learn to: enlist a congregation in renewal, spiritually discern and train a renewal team; help individuals and churches in a spiritual journey using disciplines folders; use servant leadership from scripture to approach the life cycle of a church; be a renewal pastor in all its dimensions including modeling, equipping, and shepherding; guide a church in a seven-fold path for renewal, in which the church builds on it strengths; help a church spiritually discern a scripture, vision, and ministry plan; assist a congregation to implement a renewal plan of focused ministries.

Participants can engage in spiritual disciplines using Springs folders during the course. Also a few people from the congregation will walk alongside the participant through the course. A seminal solidifying paper will reflect both course content and application in a local setting of ministry.

For a fuller description of this course and for the Springs of Living Water Academy of Church Renewal brochure, contact Young at or 717-615-4515. To register for the academy send name, address, phone number, fax number, and payment to David S. Young, c/o Springs of Living Water, 464 Ridge Ave., Ephrata, PA 17522. Make checks payable to David. S. Young. For more information go to

Source: 12/13/2012 Newsline

Advent reflection: 75th anniversary of the disappearance of China missionaries.

On Dec. 2, 1937, Minneva Neher was serving as a Church of the Brethren missionary in China, along with Alva and Mary Harsh. Times were difficult in the place she was serving; Japan and China were at war, and there were many Japanese soldiers in the area in which she lived. Hardship was all around.

And yet Minneva was not without hope, for the difficult times were providing ample opportunity to preach the gospel. In a letter to her parents written that day, Minneva wrote that many people in the area had moved into the mission compound, trusting that it would be a place of refuge and safety in the midst of the violence of war. She wrote, “their being here is giving us the most unique opportunity to preach the gospel that I have seen since I have been in China, as many of these folks never had anything to do with the mission before.” She and the Harshes led--among other things--daily evangelistic services.

Her hope in God in the face of difficult circumstances is a source of optimism; yet that is not the end of the story. Later that very day, she and the Harshes were called to come outside the compound to provide assistance for someone in need. They were never heard from again.

An investigation into their disappearance yielded no clues as to their whereabouts. It is presumed that they were martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ on that day. Seventy-five years later, my own Church of the Brethren congregation began our Advent preparation by remembering the faith of these co-laborers for Christ.

This story from our faith tradition sheds light on our Advent preparation in two directions. The story sheds light backward onto Mary’s story, helping us understand the great risks God sometimes asks us to take on His behalf. Mary’s choice to say yes to God is almost absurd when you consider how much she had to lose: a marriage and the source of economic security and social status that came with that; and even her very life, as she might have been executed for becoming pregnant out of wedlock. But even with these very real risks, this young girl found within herself the courage to say yes to God, and thus give birth to our Savior. Such faith ought to provoke some questions in our lives: Would I have said yes to God? Do I believe that following Jesus might involve this level of sacrifice?

The story of the Brethren martyrs in China sheds light forward into our own day, when society seems almost in a frenzy to solve all of our woes through the power of the consumer. Christmas shopping displays, carols, and TV ads appear earlier each year, and Black Friday has begun a very noted creep backward into Thanksgiving Day itself. We may ask a second set of questions about our own discipleship: With how much intention are we living our lives? What might we be willing to sacrifice in order to say “yes” to God? Do we believe that God would ask something this big of us?

When seen from these two directions, our Advent preparations take on a different tone. For what are we preparing? The coming--and coming again--of Jesus? The coming of many family members, with all the attendant presents to purchase and food to prepare? In the midst of this, might God do something else in our lives? Could Advent, with all of its extra worship, caroling, and devotional reading, become a time when something new is born in our lives? To what lengths may we go in order to say “yes” to God?

These are not simple questions. Perhaps the greatest gift we can give ourselves this Advent is the gift of time--time to examine the depths of our own commitment to Christ and the church.

-- Tim Harvey is past moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference and pastor of Central Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va. A short video on the disappearance of the Brethren missionaries is at Dec. 2 marked 75 years since Minneva Neher of La Verne, Calif.; Alva Harsh from Eglon, W.Va.; and Mary Hykes Harsh from Cearfoss, Md., disappeared from their post in Shou Yang in Shansi Province.

Source: 12/13/2012 Newsline