From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Newsline - Church of the Brethren news update

Date Fri, 3 Jan 2003 10:54:20 EST

Date: Jan. 3, 2003
Contact: Walt Wiltschek
V: 847/742-5100 F: 847/742-6103

 1) A look back at 2002: Moments to celebrate and remember.
 2) Youth meet for Bethany-sponsored "mini" discernment event.
 3) Juniata receives International Education Week award from BCA.
 4) Emergency Disaster Fund ends 2002 with trio of grants.
 5) Brethren bits: Disaster relief, BVS, and, more.

 6) "Fair-trade" possibilities percolate for Brethren coffee



 1) During a year filled with rumors of war, economic difficulties,
and controversy, there was still much to celebrate in the Church of
the Brethren. In an annual tradition, Newsline takes a brief review
of some highlights of Christ's ministry through the denomination in
the past year:

*An energetic and inspirational National Youth Conference brought
together more than 4,000 senior high youth and advisors at Colorado
State University in July for worship, fun, learning, meeting new
people, service, and spiritual growth.

*People everywhere rejoiced at the miraculous rescue of nine
trapped miners near Somerset, Pa., two of whom were members of the
Church of the Brethren. Widely called an answer to prayer, the
rescue received national recognition and became a made-for-TV

*A "Church Planting: The Next Step" event jointly sponsored by
Bethany Theological Seminary and the General Board's New Church
Development Committee drew about 100 people to Richmond, Ind., to
focus on planting new churches. A tree planting symbolized the

*Delegates tackled a very full agenda of business at the 2002
Annual Conference in Louisville, Ky., while also joining with other
participants for moving worship services and a host of other events
during the week.

*The denomination responded to growing tensions with Iraq in many
ways, including an adult Christian Citizenship Seminar to study the
issues, a variety of statements, contacts with congressional
representatives through the Washington Office, Brethren on the
ground in Iraq, and educational materials.

*Special anniversaries included 50 years since the founding of the
Association of Brethren Caregivers, a 40th birthday for Brethren
Colleges Abroad--which relocated to new offices in Elizabethtown,
Pa., and 30 years of Brethren Volunteer Service work in Northern

*The sixth National Older Adult Conference in Lake Junaluska, N.C.,
sponsored by the Association of Brethren Caregivers, drew a record
attendance of more than 1,100 people age 50 and over representing
nearly every district. More than 100 participants had attended all
six of the conferences, and several people were in their 90s.

*The General Board held a fall celebration rejoicing in more than
50 years of partnership with Church World Service. CWS executive
director John McCullough was the guest of honor and featured
speaker at the event.

*International Brethren met for a consultation at the General
Offices in Elgin, Ill., and had a significant presence at Annual
Conference, including the first International Visitors Dinner;
moderator Paul Grout traveled to annual assemblies in the Dominican
Republic and Nigeria. Delegations from Cuba and the World Council
of Churches also visited the offices, and a worship team of
Brethren young adults from the Dominican Republic, sponsored by
Southern Pennsylvania District, was a big hit at National Youth

*Bethany continued development of its "Connections" distributed
education program, including the appointment of professor Daniel W.
Ulrich as associate dean and director of distributed education. The
program is scheduled to launch in summer 2003.

*Brethren Benefit Trust unveiled a new medical insurance plan
through Mennonite Mutual Aid, as it worked to keep down rising
premium costs while still providing necessary benefits.

*Lerry Fogle of Frederick, Md., succeeded Duane Steiner as
executive director of Annual Conference after Steiner had guided
the "big meeting" for a decade. A thank-you reception for Steiner,
who retired in November, was held at the 2002 Conference in
Louisville. . . . General secretary Judy Mills Reimer and Bethany
academic dean Richard Gardner also announced retirements, effective
in 2003, during the past year.

*More than 110 members and friends of the Church of the Brethren,
including college students from eight colleges and universities,
gathered in North Manchester, Ind., for a weekend of "Organizing
for Peace" last spring. On Earth Peace staff Matt Guynn and Kim
Stuckey were the overall coordinators of the gathering,
co-sponsored by On Earth Peace and the Manchester College Peace
Studies Institute. 

*The agencies at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.,
co-sponsored "The Big Picture: What Does Peace Have To Do With Me?"
with more than 100 attending the June 8 event.

*The 2002 Youth Peace Travel Team spent the summer visiting six
western Church of the Brethren camps, as well as Annual Conference
in Louisville and National Youth Conference in Colorado. 

*Ongoing discernment events for youth, young adults, and
second-career adults at Bethany, and the Ministry Summer Service
internship program for college students, helped people of all ages
test a call to ministry.

*The General Board's Global Food Crisis Fund and Emergency Disaster
Fund combined to make more than 40 grants totaling hundreds of
thousands of dollars. Significant support went to southern Africa,
Afghanistan, and the Middle East, as well as domestic projects. The
Angolan embassy conveyed special thanks to the Church of the
Brethren for its help.

*On Earth Peace sponsored "Preachin' & Prayin' for Peace: A Revival
of the Spirit," at Camp Swatara in Atlantic Northeast District this
fall. Over the weekend, more than 60 people of all ages gathered
for times of worship, Bible study, meditation, spiritual direction,
silence, recreation, music, and creative expression. 

*A June 2 Day of Reconciliation at the Amwell (N.J.) Church of the
Brethren lifted up the history shared between the Church of the
Brethren and the Brethren Church and expressed hopes for further
cooperation in the future.

*Brethren in the young, new church in Brazil celebrated a
first-ever licensing service, with four of their own called to the

*Bethany called Russell W. Haitch as assistant professor and
director of the Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults,
seeking to build this key, fledgling program.

*The number of Church of the Brethren congregations committing to
the worldwide Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV) topped 125 in 2002.
On Earth Peace and the General Board's Brethren Witness office
co-sponsor the DOV initiative within the denomination.	

*Annual Conference delegates unanimously approved a "Call to
Prayer" query that will extend into 2003, reminding the
denomination of the central importance of a vital prayer life.

*Brethren Volunteer Service had its largest orientation unit since
1991, with 31 volunteers gathering this fall in New Windsor, Md. It
came on the heels of BVS marking its 250th unit since the program
began in 1948.

*The General Board partnered with other denominations through Net
Results to sponsor a pair of "Evangelism Connections" events in
Louisville and Philadelphia. Congregational Life Team members led
workshops, and about 70 Brethren attended one of the conferences.

*Don Vermilyea embarked on his "Walk Across America," beginning in
February in Arizona and reaching Idaho by year's end. He will
continue trekking to Brethren congregations across the US in 2003.

 *Association of Brethren Caregivers staff provided leadership for
12 deacon training events over the course of the year. Topics for
the workshops included what it means to be a deacon in the 21st
century; evangelism; deacons as caregivers; ministering in times of
illness and trauma; and ministering in times of separation and

*Brethren Benefit Trust's petition to ban smoking in YUM! Brands
corporate-owned restaurants, including Pizza Hut, Long John
Silver's, and KFC, drew the support of 10 percent of shareholders,
double the amount needed to allow BBT to continue the initiative in

*New energy came from the beginning of a General Board Small
Membership/Rural Church Committee and a lively Cross-Cultural
Consultation in Germantown, while youth ministers experienced
renewal through a sabbath retreat held at Shepherd's Spring in

*Disaster Child Care workers responded en masse to hurricanes along
the Gulf Coast, while disaster relief work occurred in Virginia,
West Virginia, Wisconsin, and elsewhere. During 2002, 69 families'
homes were repaired or reconstructed by Emergency Response/Service
Ministries volunteers. In all, 655 volunteers gave 4,147 workdays,
or 33,176 hours, at seven locations following six major natural
disasters. The value of this donated labor is estimated at

*Thirteen new asset management clients joined the Brethren
Foundation through October, with assets totaling nearly $1.3
million. The Foundation also created 50 new gift annuities,
totaling about $610,000.

*Large groups met before and after Annual Conference for the Song
& Story Fest at Woodland Altars in Ohio and for the Ministers'
Association meetings featuring Dr. Tex Sample.

*Representatives from nine retirement communities met in McPherson,
Kan., for the Brethren Homes Forum 2002, sharing, learning, and
touring facilities. A special training event for chaplains was also
held during the year.

The work of Jesus continues!

 2) Bethany Theological Seminary sponsored another in its series of
discernment events for youth Nov. 22-24 with the first "mini"
Exploring Your Call (EYC) weekend, held at Juniata College in
Huntingdon, Pa.

This weekend was the first of two scheduled mini EYC events, with
the second planned for Feb. 7-9 at Bethany's Richmond, Ind., main
campus. The mini EYCs are shorter versions of the 10-day summer
experience for high school juniors and seniors, after the
cancellation of last summer's EYC due to National Youth Conference
spurred the seminary to consider offering discernment events for
youth in other formats.

Youth representing five districts attended the Juniata event.
Seminary personnel and ministers from Middle Pennsylvania District
provided leadership, including Kate Gandy, assistant to the
director of Admissions and Student Development at Bethany; Dave
Witkovsky, campus minister at Juniata; Dale and Christy Dowdy,
co-pastors of Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon; and
Bonnie Kline Smeltzer, pastor of the University Baptist & Brethren
congregation in State College. Noel Naff, a Bethany senior student,
served as coordinator.

As in the 10-day event, the goals for the mini EYC were to give
attendees the opportunity to consider God's call in their lives as
it relates to their faith and chosen occupation, and to increase
their understanding of ministry as a vocation. The youth
participated in worship sessions and two discussion sessions. In
the first session leaders shared their own experiences of God's
call and about their current ministry, while the second dealt with
hymnology and elements of worship. 

The Stone congregation hosted the group for a Saturday evening
Thanksgiving meal and again on Sunday morning, giving the
participants a chance to experience Sunday worship in a church
other than their own.

Exploring Your Call is made possible by grants from the Lilly
Foundation and the Barnabas and Alina Foundations. The Lilly grant
was awarded to Manchester College, who submitted the proposal on
behalf of the eight Church of the Brethren institutions of higher
education. Registration is still open for the February mini EYC
event, as well as for the summer 2003 EYC, slated for July 24 to
Aug. 4.  Because of the financial support from the grants, the only
cost to participants is travel expense to and from Bethany's
Richmond campus. For more information, visit the EYC page at or call Bethany's admissions office
at 800-287-8822 ext. 1810.

 3) Brethren Colleges Abroad (BCA) has announced two winners of the
third annual BCA International Education Week Contest. Juniata
College and DePauw University will each receive $500 for creativity
in their recognition of International Education Week, held Nov.
18-22. The awards can be used for scholarships for students
attending any BCA study abroad program, or for faculty and
administrators participating in a BCA International Seminar.

Juniata (Huntingdon, Pa.) organized an outreach program called
"Around the World in Ninety Minutes." Aimed at four local
elementary schools, it brought activities related to learning about
world cultures and languages to students in grades K-5 and their

The event was hosted by Juniata's Center for International
Education and Community Service, and by the parents, faculty, and
staff at each participating school. Also involved from Juniata were
international students, faculty and staff, and students who have
studied abroad. More than 400 children and family members
participated in the international event.

 4) The General Board's Emergency Disaster Fund closed out 2002
with a trio of allocations totaling $25,000, bringing the total
number of grants made during the year to 27.

An allocation of $5,000 will support a Church World Service appeal
to assist internally displaced persons living in the west African
nation of Sierra Leone. The funds will help provide food security,
health and medical services, and sanitation facilities, and will
aid peace/reconciliation efforts.

A $10,000 grant will support another Church World Service appeal,
this one to assist with disaster response and recovery efforts in
some 70 US communities hit by tornadoes in seven states in recent
months. The funds will support seed grants to faith-based groups
responding to immediate and long-term needs.

And a final grant of $10,000 will assist the ongoing recovery
efforts of the Wyoming County (W.Va.) Long-Term Flood Recovery
Committee. The funds will help provide building materials,
supplies, and assistance with work that requires contracted

 5) Brethren bits: Brief news items around the Church of the
Brethren and beyond.
 *At the Dec. 13 meeting of Maryland Voluntary Organizations Active
in Disaster (MDVOAD), General Board Emergency Response/Service
Ministries disaster relief coordinator Jane Yount was elected chair
for 2003. MDVOAD is an association of disaster response
organizations whose aim is to foster inter-agency cooperation in
disaster readiness and recovery; a VOAD chapter can be found in
every state. The Church of the Brethren has been a member of the
national VOAD since its founding in the early '70s.

 *The 2003 Youth Devotional Booklet, with a devotional written by
Brethren youth and youth leaders for each week of the year, is
available from the General Board's Youth/Young Adult office. One
complimentary copy was sent to each person on the office's youth
advisor list; additional copies, such as for each youth in a
congregation, are available for order through Brethren Press
(800-441-3712) at $1.95 each. Call 800-323-8039 for further

 *Brethren Volunteer Service will hold a special unit with guest
leader Paul Grout May 28-June 17 in Putney, Vt., with five days
spent in New York City. The orientation unit will emphasize living
a "God-centered, Christ-led, and Holy Spirit-empowered life," with
a strong focus on spiritual growth and following the teachings of
Jesus Christ. It will include spiritual disciplines such as prayer,
exercise, silence, and fasting. For more information, contact the
BVS office at 800-323-8039 or Application
deadline is April 16.

 6) Some new opportunities are brewing for Brethren
coffee-drinkers. A Brethren entrepreneur and the General Board's
Brethren Witness office are both advocating "fair-trade" coffee
that supports small-scale coffee growers.

Manchester College student Eric Christiansen became strongly
interested in the issue after spending last year at a study-abroad
program in Xalapa, Mexico, in the heart of a coffee-growing region.
Christiansen, a senior Spanish major, said that experience
"cemented my idea" of starting a fair-trade coffee company.

He had previously done a Ministry Summer Service internship in
Tijuana, Mexico, which started his thinking. Some exploration on
the Internet added further ideas.

"I wanted to figure out something practical I could do," said
Christiansen, who is also a licensed minister in the denomination.
"I'm studying Spanish, I have a commitment to peace and justice,
and I like coffee. I just put those three things together." 

On Nov. 1, Christiansen and his wife began Manos Latinas
(, selling five varieties of fair-trade
coffee. They work with a wholesale company, choosing where they
want the coffee from, how it's roasted, and the volume. Once it
arrives, they measure it out, label it, and sell it. They began
with 40 pounds and had sold about 80 through mid-December.
Eventually, they hope to buy their own roasting equipment and

"We're just building pound by pound, so to speak," Christiansen
says. "We're seeing where it takes us." 

Brethren Witness, meanwhile, is working with an organization called
Equal Exchange--a non-profit, US-based company that works with
cooperatives of small-scale coffee growers in Latin America. Equal
Exchange, founded in 1986, sold 60 tons of coffee through its
network in 2001, supporting 18 cooperatives representing more than
60,000 farmers. It pays farmers double to triple the average world
coffee price, according to Religion News Service.

More than 5,000 congregations, including some in the Church of the
Brethren, participate in the Equal Exchange program. The Church of
the Brethren is one of six denominational partners.

Additional details on the Equal Exchange project, including an
order form, can be found at 

Newsline is produced by Walt Wiltschek, manager of news services
for the Church of the Brethren General Board, on the first, third,
and fifth Friday of each month. Newsline stories may be reprinted
provided that Newsline is cited as the source. Marcia Shetler, Bob
Gross, Nevin Dulabaum, Lerry Fogle, Mary Dulabaum, and Kim Chaffin
contributed to this report.

To receive Newsline by e-mail or fax, call 800-323-8039, ext. 263,
or write CoBNews@AOL.Com. Newsline is available at
and is archived with an index at Also see Photo
Journal at for photo coverage
of recent events.

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