From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Newsline - Church of the Brethren news update

Date Fri, 30 Apr 2004 12:22:27 EDT

Date: , 2004
Contact: Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
V: 847/742-5100 F: 847/742-6103

Newsline       April 30, 2004

"O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you...."
Psalm 63:1 

1) Gather 'Round chosen as name for new curriculum.
2) Global Food Crisis Fund supports projects of Heifer
3) Emergency Response program plans new west coast and West
Virginia projects.
4) Workshop teaches skills for conflict transformation.
5) Renewal event stirs up hope for the church.
6) The church remembers district leader Helen Constable.
7) "Messenger" awarded for conference coverage, design.
8) Brethren bits: National Youth Sunday, Nigeria delegation, and

9) Genelle Wine will serve as BVS coordinator of orientation.


1) Gather 'Round chosen as name for new curriculum.

Gather 'Round: Hearing and Sharing God's Good News, was chosen as
the name for a new Brethren and Mennonite Sunday school curriculum
by an advisory group that met April 14-17 in Elgin, Ill. The group
discussed goals for the curriculum as well as theological and
educational foundations, a theme scripture, Bible outlines, print
pieces, printing technology, electronic media, and marketing.

The name implies "wholeness and heart," said Gwen Gustafson-Zook,
a representative of Mennonite Church USA. The group envisioned the
name as a call to Christians to gather around the Word, around the
table of the Lord, at church and at home, and around the world in
service and evangelism. The name also calls up images of Jesus
gathering children to him.

The curriculum is a cooperative venture of the Church of the
Brethren, Mennonite Church Canada, and Mennonite Church USA through
Brethren Press and Mennonite Publishing Network (MPN). Plans call
for Gather 'Round to be available in the fall 2006 as a successor
to the highly successful curriculum Jubilee: God's Good News. The
last quarter of Jubilee will be available in the summer 2006.

Anna Speicher, project director, emphasized that Gather 'Round will
not simply be a reworking of Jubilee but will build on Jubilee's
strong points. Foundational to both curricula is "respect for
children as people already in relationship with God," Speicher
said. The new curriculum will build on Jubilee's strengths of
familiarizing children with basic Bible stories and making Sunday
school a "time for learning the habits of worship, including
ritual, silence, and prayer," she added.

New elements will include strengthening the partnership between
church and home, embedding more teacher training in lesson plans,
and increasing the serviceability of the curriculum. Also new is
the way in which Bible texts are used, with the age groups all
studying the same scriptures each week. This creates the
opportunity for a significant new feature of Gather 'Round: a class
for parents and others who care for children. The class, which may
be offered for Sunday school, Bible study, or as a support group,
will provide tips for talking about faith and scripture with
children and opportunities for parents to grow spiritually. To her
knowledge no other publisher is producing such a complete resource
for parents, Speicher said.

Adults who care for children are one of six age groups to be served
by the curriculum. The others are early childhood, primary,
middler, junior high, and a multi-age group that could include
children of all ages and adults. Multi-age lessons "will help small
congregations who don't have capacity for different age groupings"
as well as respond to increasing interest in intergenerational
learning opportunities, Speicher said.

Another feature of the new curriculum will be its sensitivity to
busy volunteer teachers who often do not have time to attend
trainings or go to outside sources for lesson preparation. Lesson
plans will include teacher training such as tips for dealing with
age-specific issues.

Speicher is recruiting Brethren and Mennonite scholars to write
biblical backgrounds for the lessons. She reports that Old
Testament scholar and former Church of the Brethren general
secretary Robert W. Neff has agreed to write the Bible backgrounds
for the first quarter on the book of Genesis. "We will also be
asking our lesson writers to emphasize Brethren and Mennonite
values of peace and justice, discipleship, community, and simple
living," she said, adding that the publishers expect to be able to
sell the curriculum to other like-minded churches with similar
values. To make the curriculum more responsive to user feedback and
changing needs, lesson plans will be written new every year rather
in a three-year cycle that is repeated.

The 15-member advisory group included Wendy McFadden and Jewel
McNary of Brethren Press; Julie Hostetter and Del Keeney of the
General Board's Congregational Life Ministries, Association of
Brethren Caregivers executive director Kathy Reid, and Pam Reist,
pastor of Christian nurture at Lititz Church of the Brethren, Mount
Joy, Pa.  For more information contact Anna Speicher at
800-323-8039 or e-mail

2) Global Food Crisis Fund supports projects of Heifer

In recognition of the 60th anniversary of Heifer International
(HI--formerly Heifer Project International) and the role that the
Church of the Brethren played in its formation and continues today,
the General Board's Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF) has allocated
$60,000 to HI-supported projects in Armenia, Zimbabwe, and Albania.
The grants engage the fund in three new countries, according to
GFCF manager Howard Royer, and bring the total of grant monies
issued in the first four months of 2004 to a quarter of a million

In Albania, $30,000 will support a "guns for cows" program
providing a pregnant cow for every two or three guns surrendered.
The program is a pilot effort begun by the United Nations Disarming
Program after 1997, when Albanians took more than 500,000 weapons
from military depots during a time of national upheaval.

A grant of $20,000 will help improve nutrition and income of people
affected by the AIDS pandemic. HI partners with four
community-based groups to distribute heifers, bulls, goats,
chickens, and rabbits in a densely populated farming area where the
number of AIDS cases is the highest in the nation. The funds also
will help provide training in livestock handling, financial
management, and child care.

A grant of $10,000 has been approved for the Aigabetz "Sunrise"
Project for teenage and adult orphans in Armenia. With a sizeable
orphan population that lacks a social net, Armenia is experiencing
a rising tide of crime and prostitution among its youth, according
to GFCF's grant recommendation. The Aigabetz program aids
recipients' constructive release from the trauma of childhood in an
orphanage and helps their self-sufficiency by forming extended
communes in which residents receive basic resources to enable them
to become entrepreneurs. Each teenage orphan or orphan couple is
equipped with a small tract of irrigable land, modest living space,
livestock, vocational training, and seed money.

The grant for Armenia was approved shortly after the 89th
anniversary of the 1915 Armenia genocide on April 18. The first
international relief effort by the Church of the Brethren was for
Armenia, in 1918-1921 when Brethren contributed about $267,000
according to the "Brethren Encyclopedia." Royer noted that some
historians regard the Armenia relief offering as the beginning of
Brethren Service.

3) Emergency Response program plans new west coast and West
Virginia projects.

Three new disaster relief projects are planned in the west coast
states of California and Washington and in West Virginia by the
General Board's Emergency Response program. An ongoing project in
Poquoson, Va., continues as well.

In the town of Julian, Calif., Church of the Brethren volunteers
will join in a fire clean-up project organized by Mennonite
Disaster Service, beginning the week of Aug. 1. The clean up
follows deadly wildfires that swept through southern California
last October claiming 22 lives and destroying 3,631 homes.
Volunteers will clear the land of burned trees, and cut, stack, and
chip wood. Pacific Southwest District has committed to supply
volunteers to work with the project, and volunteers from other
districts are invited to participate. Contact Milton Ewert, Pacific
Southwest District disaster coordinator, at 209-523-9490 or e-mail

In Skagit County, Wash., a flood recovery project will rebuild
homes for ten low-income families. Heavy storms last October
brought floods that affected dozens of homes in the county. The
Church of the Brethren has been invited to participate in the
project managed by the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee.
Brethren from any district are welcome and encouraged to volunteer.
Contact Nancy Wilkinson, Oregon-Washington District disaster
coordinator, at 360-848-1827.

The Emergency Response program is gearing up for a flood recovery
project in Greenbrier County, W.Va., following severe storms last
November that caused flash floods and mudslides across the state.
Details for the new project are not yet in place, but staff hope to
get it started by late June. To volunteer or schedule a group of
volunteers to work for a week in the summer, call Emergency
Response staff Jane Yount at 800-451-4407 or e-mail

4) Workshop teaches skills for conflict transformation.

Forty church leaders from seven districts gathered at the Brethren
Service Center, New Windsor, Md., on April 23 to attend "Conflict
Transformation for Congregational Leaders," a Ministry of
Reconciliation workshop co-sponsored by Southern Pennsylvania and
Mid-Atlantic Districts and On Earth Peace (OEP).  The goal of the
workshop was to broaden leaders' skills and knowledge in the area
of reconciliation work.

"When pastors, deacons, and other congregational leaders handle
conflict effectively, the whole congregation benefits," explained
Annie Clark, OEP's coordinator for conflict transformation. Overall
leadership was provided by Angela Lahman-Yoder of the Circle of
Peace Church of the Brethren, Glendale, Ariz., along with Bob Gross
and Matt Guynn of OEP. Participants spent the morning learning the
dynamics of conflict, and transformation in conflict settings. In
the afternoon, participants chose one of three tracks to sharpen
their reconciliation skills in meeting facilitation, deacon
ministry, or pastoral ministry.  Participant Earl Fowler of the
Drexel Hill (Pa.) Church of the Brethren found the day
"enlightening." He stated, "It was interesting and informative to
find people approaching conflict in a different manner."

As part of the celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of On Earth
Peace, the workshop will be offered at four sites around the
country in the next year: June 12 at Bethany Church of the
Brethren, New Paris, Ind.; Aug. 14 at Bridgewater (Va.) Church of
the Brethren; Nov. 13 at McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren;
and early 2005 in Pacific Southwest District.

7) Renewal event stirs up hope for the church.

"Something exciting is stirring in Atlantic Northeast District,"
according to David Young, chair of the district's Spiritual Renewal
Team that sponsored a "Ministry R&R" event for district leaders on
April 27. Over 75 people attended the annual retreat, which also
included ministers of Southern Pennsylvania District and was hosted
by Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. At the end of a day of challenge to
personal renewal and renewal of the church, participants "left
feeling excited and hopeful for where God is stirring in the midst
of our lives and our denomination," Young said.

"It was a day of optimism, hope, and encouragement for the
pastors," said Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan
Noffsinger, who was one of those who led the group through a
reflective journey exploring "Vision, Identity, and Ministry,"
along with Annual Conference moderator-elect Jim Hardenbrook and
Atlantic Northeast District executive Craig Smith.

In an opening meditation, Hardenbrook helped the group reflect on
Mark 10, where Jesus asked the blind man, "What do you want me to
do for you?" This became the centering question for the day.
Speaking on identity, Hardenbrook also looked at what it means to
be apprentices of Jesus Christ and to lead others into
discipleship, and affirmed the attractiveness of Brethren identity.
Exploring the topic of vision, Noffsinger challenged the group to
keep its compass on the risen Christ and to live what that means in
terms of the mission of the church. Smith spoke of the courage
entailed in pastoral leadership. He encouraged risk-taking
adventures, leading the church in the grand adventure of "living in
the leap." The retreat closed with prayer groups and anointing.

8) The church remembers district leader Helen Constable.

Helen Constable, former associate district executive for Western
Pennsylvania District and a former General Board volunteer, died
April 18 in West Chester, Pa. She was 76 years old.

Constable served the district for 27 years beginning as
administrative assistant. She served as associate district
executive for 14 years, with a focus on Christian education. Her
work included planning and leading district meetings and workshops
for congregations, and working with the district's age and interest
group planning committees. She retired in 1992.

Along with her work for the district, she also was actively
involved in Edu-care and other programs related to nurture, and
served the Council of District Executives as treasurer and on its
executive committee. She was licensed to the ministry in 1987 by
Tire Hill (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. 

After her retirement, Constable served for two and a half years,
1993-95, as volunteer coordinator for congregational resourcing for
the General Board's Parish Ministries Commission and Brethren
Press's then-new Jubilee curriculum. She helped introduce the
curriculum to the districts, organized teacher training for
district representatives, and tracked sales. "In her quiet and
humble way, she was a powerhouse," remembered Brethren Press
publisher Wendy McFadden. One of Constable's years as a program
volunteer was spent with her husband Jim at the General Offices in
Elgin, Ill.

9) "Messenger" awarded for conference coverage, design.

The Church of the Brethren magazine "Messenger" received two "Best
of the Christian Press" awards at the Associated Church Press
convention April 20 in Toronto, Canada, in the categories of
convention coverage and design.

A first-place "award of excellence" went to editor Fletcher Farrar
and author Walt Wiltschek for the Annual Conference preview in the
May 2003 issue, and for coverage of the conference in the August
issue. In the category of design, Messenger received a second-place
"award of merit" for the October 2003 issue designed by Paul
Stocksdale of The Concept Mill and cover design by Debbie

10) Brethren bits: National Youth Sunday, Nigeria delegation, and

*Sunday May 2 is National Youth Sunday in the Church of the
Brethren. In many congregations, youth will lead the service on the
theme, "Seeking, Thirsting, Longing," from Psalm 63:1.

*On April 28 a delegation of Church of the Brethren leaders left
for Nigeria with plans to meet with leaders of Ekklesiyar Yanuwa a
Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and to view
EYN programs in action. Participants included Stan Noffsinger,
general secretary; Merv Keeney, executive director of Global
Mission Partnerships for the General Board; Robert Krouse, who will
begin as the board's mission coordinator for Nigeria this summer;
and David Sollenberger, who will film the trip for a videotape
related to this fall's mission offering emphasis. Noffsinger is on
his first trip to the West African nation and will preach at a
church in Yola on Sunday May 2. The group will return to the US on
May 8.

*The Mission and Ministries Planning Council (MMPC) held a
consultation on Haiti in Miami, Fla., April 19, bringing together
more than a dozen invited guests to tell about their involvements
in Haiti. Some of the involvements connected back to former General
Board ministries to Haiti in the 1970s. Eglise des Freres Haitiens,
a Haitian Church of the Brethren congregation in Miami, hosted the
gathering. "Participants expressed deep passion and commitment for
mission efforts of evangelism and service to Haiti," noted Stan
Noffsinger, general secretary and MMPC chair. In the coming weeks,
MMPC will reflect on the insights and enthusiasm shared during the
event and will shape a recommendation on mission efforts in Haiti.

*Tearcoat Church of the Brethren in Augusta, W.Va., was the setting
of a Level I Disaster Child Care Training Workshop April 16-17. The
training was a success with nine people participating. Leadership
was provided by Lydia Walker, from Berkley Springs, W.Va., and Bev
Abma, from Byron Center, Mich. Another Level I Training Workshop
was held April 24-25 at Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren, Ft.
Wayne, Ind., with 17 persons registered to attend and leadership by
John Kinsel, from Dayton, Ohio, and Patricia Ronk, from Roanoke,

*The Leona Z. Row Eller Peace Lectureship for 2004, "Peacemaking
Journeys through Playback Theater," will be performed at 7:30 p.m.
May 22 at the Washington (D.C.) City Church of the Brethren. The
two groups presenting the improvisatonal piece--Dumbarton Playback,
a group from the United Methodist Church, and the Jubilee Troupe,
a Church of the Brethren-related ensemble--also will participate in
worship at the church at 11 a.m. May 23. "Peacemaking Journeys"
invites the audience to recall desires for a peaceable world and
share brief personal stories of peacemaking, which will be enacted
on the spot.

*The 24th Mid-Atlantic Disaster Auction will be held May 1 at the
Agricultural Center in Westminster, Md. The auction begins at 9
a.m. with general items, and the quilt auction will start at 12:30
p.m. Booths will feature everything from crafts to baked goods as
well as an assortment of food. Childcare will be provided from 10
a.m. to 2 p.m.

*"Thriving Beyond Boundaries" is the theme for the bi-annual
convention of the Brethren/Mennonite Council for Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual, and Transgender Interests (BMC) on Oct. 9-11 near
Buffalo, N.Y. The resource person for the event will be Julia
Kasdorf, an author and poet whose creative work is influenced by
her Mennonite upbringing. For more information visit the new BMC

11) Genelle Wine will serve as BVS coordinator of orientation.

Genelle Wine, of Imperial, Neb., has accepted the position of
coordinator of orientation for Brethren Volunteer Service.
Currently living and studying in Germany, she previously served two
years as a BVS volunteer, one of those years as assistant to the
director of BVS.

Wine is a graduate of McPherson (Kan.) College and is completing an
intensive German language study program at Multi Lingua in
Bayreuth, Germany, while she works as an au-pair with a German
family. She also was a participant in Up with People in 1998-99,
and has served as a houseparent in a BVS project, Casa de Esperanza
de los Ninos in Houston, Texas. She is a member of Enders (Neb.)
Church of the Brethren.

Wine will begin her work with the General Board in August and will
be based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin,

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news
services for the Church of the Brethren General Board, on the
first, third, and fifth Friday of each month, with other editions
as needed. Newsline stories may be reprinted provided that Newsline
is cited as the source. Walt Wiltschek, Annie Clark, Jonathan
Emmons, Barb Sayler, Helen Stonesifer, David Young, and Jane Yount
contributed to this report.

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