Monday, May 01, 2023

The Reflector - May 2023

The Village ILWIDIot

Walt Wiltschek

“I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me.” —Phil. 3:13b, CEB

One of my friends for Christmas gave me a desk calendar filled with a series of delightfully horrible puns, one for each day. Most don’t lend themselves to theological pondering, but recently one caught my eye: “Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be,” it said.

Nostalgia literally means “homesickness”—a desire to return home, to what is familiar. It’s full of wistfulness and longing. And it seems to be present in abundance recently, whether in relation to our country, our communities, or our church. Moving forward can be hard. But, of course, it’s the only way to go. Like most sharks, if you don’t move forward, you sink.

Greg Davidson Laszakovits, a Brethren coach/consultant who spent several days with us in April (see below), reminded us of the challenge as he shared first with many of our district pastors and then with a wider group at our Potluck Experience event. His keynote presentation focused on that very theme: “Honoring the Past, Re-Imagining the Future.”

I’ve been watching some of Greg’s work over the past year or so, and I continually have felt that he’s asking the right questions. He won’t claim to have all the answers, but he has framed the issues in helpful ways and is providing some tools and resources to help congregations find a path into the unknown that lies before us.

Churches are, in most places, no longer the center of their communities. We can’t take it for granted that most people will want to be in a sanctuary on Sunday mornings. Technology has shifted the ways that people engage and participate. Numbers are down almost across the board—the Southern Baptist Convention announced recently that it had lost half a million members in the past year, for example—and fewer Americans identify as Christian.

Yet we are still the church. And our central call remains the same: Go into all the world, share the cup of cold water, love your neighbor, do justice and love mercy. We take the best of who we’ve been, and we find fresh ways to bear the light of Christ into our communities and our world. It’s often in adversity—as our brothers and sisters in Nigeria have shown—that the church most remarkably rises to the occasion.

I’ve seen glimpses of that in this district, with congregations responding to need in creative ways—some with seemingly small initiatives, some with incredible outreaches in exponential relationship to the congregation’s size, but all faithful to who they are and can be.

So, no, perhaps nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. But the call of continue the work of Jesus still is. And thus we “engage the change,” as Greg put it, and we keep on swimming.


In addition to regular meetings, Walt will be attending the New and Renew Conference in Elgin May 17-19 and taking part in Yellow Creek’s 175th anniversary celebration on June 11.

Walt will be on vacation May 21-June 3. If you have immediate needs during this time, please contact the district office or Leadership Team chair Carol Kussart.

Walt is available to visit your church, do pulpit supply, lead sessions, have conversation times, or otherwise connect with your congregation. Please contact to schedule a time.


  • District book study (“Dear White Peacemakers”) continues each Wednesday evening through May via Zoom, 7-8:30 p.m.
  • Property and Assets Management team meeting, May 15, 4 p.m.
  • Church Revitalization and Development Team meeting, May 20, 9 a.m.
  • Leadership Team meeting, June 6, 6:30 p.m.
  • Annual Conference briefing, June 10, 10 a.m.
  • Ministry Leadership Development Team meeting, June 13, 6 p.m.
  • Program and Arrangements Committee meeting, June 18, 6:30 p.m.
[all meetings via Zoom unless otherwise noted]


A district prayer calendar has been created for your use in praying for our district and related programs through the year. We invite you to include the following in your prayers in coming weeks:

Week of May 15: Pray for the Oakley Brick congregation this week, and for the “New and Renew” church planting and renewal conference occurring in Elgin, Ill., May 17-19.

Week of May 22: Pray for the Rockford Community fellowship as it adapts to a new way of being together, and pray for the “Part-Time Pastor, Full-Time Church” program as it works to support and encourage small congregations and their pastors.

Week of May 29: Pray for the Cerro Gordo congregation, and for the “FaithX” workcamp trips that will take youth and others to a variety of locations to serve this summer.

Week of June 5: Pray for Camp Emmanuel in Astoria as it marks its 75th anniversary of outdoor ministry this year. Be in prayer for all the children and youth coming there this summer, and for managers Don and Kelly Davis.

Week of June 12: Pray for the Woodland congregation, and be in prayer for the National Junior High Conference being held June 16-18 at Juniata College in Pennsylvania—and for all the youth of our district.


Congratulations to Zech and Jen Houser (Highland Avenue), who have been approved for ordination by the district and their congregation! An ordination service at Highland Avenue is being planned for August.

Congregational vacancies: Chicago First and Girard have recent pastoral vacancies and are exploring next steps, currently using lay leadership and pulpit supply, with Terry Link (Springfield) assisting in providing leadership at Girard. Cherry Grove also is using regular pulpit supply. Dixon is being served by interim pastor Michael Cole, who is pursuing credentialing in the Church of the Brethren.

Grants available: The denomination’s Office of Ministry has shared that grants are available through the Part-Time Pastor, Full-Time Church program for pastors who would like to do a sabbatical or continuing education experience. For more information or an application, contact district executive minister Walt Wiltschek at

At this year’s Annual Conference in Cincinnati, an equipping session will be offered at 12:30 p.m. July 6 titled “Toolbox for Caring for Your Pastor: Money and Beyond.” Members of the denomination’s Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee will lead the session.


Yellow Creek Church of the Brethren (Pearl City) is celebrating its 175th anniversary in 2023! The congregation will hold a celebration on Sunday, June 11, with worship beginning at 10 a.m., followed by a catered meal at noon and a celebration service at 1:30. All are welcome.

After about a quarter-century of service, the Illinois “Way of Christ” movement has decided to bring the movement to a close, as attendance numbers have declined in recent years. The Illinois/Wisconsin District along with the Illinois Mennonite Conference provided seed money for the startup of this Anabaptist effort, which equipped and inspired about 1,000 people in Illinois over the course of its ministry through three-day retreats. This movement was a spiritual growth tool for equipping believers in their personal response to Christ and leadership in their congregations and community. We are grateful to Dan Rusmisel (Lanark) and Judd Peter (Neighborhood) for their leadership in this program, and for all the others who have assisted and participated in its ministry over the years.

With no handy storage spot for its large Christmas tree, West Branch (near Polo, Ill.) came up with a creative solution: Rather than hauling the conifer into the hard-to-access nooks and crannies of the historic church, it now just leaves the tree up all year, decorating it for each season as a part of the worship center. So this spring, for example, it became a spring-themed Easter tree. Members of the congregation transform it regularly for other occasions through the calendar.

Cherry Grove (Lanark, Ill.) has several special events coming up, including an outdoor worship in its shelter with breakfast on June 11 and again on Aug. 13, starting at 9:30 a.m., and a potluck with homemade ice cream following worship on July 16. A wiener roast with homemade ice cream will take place Sept. 16 at 5:30 p.m. The congregation has also been gathering supplies for several area service organizations.

The Champaign congregation is taking the denomination’s “Jesus in the Neighborhood” emphasis seriously, devoting a large amount of its resources to reach its surrounding area. Though the church is small in numbers, its in-town location allows it to connect readily with numerous people in need. Ministry team member Dawn Blackman has taken the lead in the community outreach, which includes activities for children and youth, a large donation space in the church’s basement, skills training classes, a nearby community garden, and other services for the area. Champaign has been in its current building on Neil St. for 70 years, but its history in the city goes back to about 1900.

Terry Link, former chaplain at Pleasant Hill Village in Girard, is planning to hold a reunion event in June for family members of residents who were at the Church of the Brethren-founded retirement community before the nursing care portion of the facility closed in 2018. The remaining assisted living portion was sold in 2021.

On May 7, architect Marvin Holt led a presentation on the stained glass windows in the Chicago First church. Holt designed the windows, which replaced the originals that were present when the congregation purchased the building in 1925. The current windows were installed in 1975, celebrating 50 years of ministry at the current location. The event included conversation about the process of designing the windows, choice of material, significance of each panel, importance of the windows for the neighborhood, and the ministry of the windows. “First Church gives thanks to the many people who supported our need for new windows, which brings much joy to those who enter the sanctuary,” said member Joyce Cassel. “Each time one enters there is a different frame of light on the windows and thus a new understanding of Christ’s mission here at 425 S. Central Park, Chicago.”

Do you have congregational news: celebrations, milestones, “Jesus in the Neighborhood” stories or other things to share with our district family? Please send those to the district office:


Avis (Smith) Dadisman passed away Sunday, May 7, in Springfield. She was 105. Born and raised in Iowa, Avis graduated from McPherson College in Kansas and then married Elmer Dadisman, a pastor who later became administrator of Pleasant Hill Village. They were members of Girard Church of the Brethren, where Avis—who worked as a professional seamstress—was a moderator, church board chair, Sunday school teacher, and deacon, and was active in the district; she also served as a member of the Pleasant Hill Village board. She is survived by four daughters, eight grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren. Funeral services took place May 13, at Airsman & Calvert Funeral Home in Virden, followed by burial at the historic Pleasant Hill Cemetery. The full obituary can be found at Avis Emma (Smith) Dadisman Obituary - The State Journal-Register (

Marjorie Ann "Marge" Powers, 95, passed away March 26 at Pinecrest Manor in Mount Morris. A member of Mount Morris Church of the Brethren, she had served as district moderator and in other district leadership positions during a long life of service. Marge was born in Kentucky, grew up near Monmouth, Ill., attended Sterling College in Kansas to become a teacher, and eventually taught third grade in Mount Morris, finishing her bachelor's degree at Northern Illinois University. She married Bill Powers in 1955, and they had four children together—including Tom, now an ordained Church of the Brethren pastor serving in Virginia. Marge was also an active volunteer and board member at Pinecrest Community, served as a deacon and teacher and choir member at Mount Morris, served on the board and as volunteer coordinator of the congregation's Loaves and Fish Food Pantry, and was active at Camp Emmaus. A memorial service was held at the Mount Morris congregation on Saturday, April 29. The full obituary can be found at: Marjorie Powers Obituary (1927 - 2023) - Mt. Morris, IL - Ogle County News (

Terry Hatfield, 76, who served as pastor at Peoria First from 1980 to 1987, passed away April 19. Born on Jan. 28, 1947, in Oswego, Kan., he began attending the Church of the Brethren in Parsons, Kan., as a teenager and was licensed into ministry there while in college. He held degrees from Labette Community College and Pittsburg State University, where he graduated with a degree in business administration with a major in marketing. He later earned a master’s degree in theology and a doctor of theology in pastoral counseling. He was ordained to ministry in the Church of the Brethren in 1971 and spent 54 years serving congregations in the Church of the Brethren, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the United Methodist Church. While pastor at Peoria, he was part of the congregation’s peace witness against nuclear weapons. He also worked as director of substance abuse treatment programs for the Missouri Department of Mental Health. From 1987 to 1994 he was district executive minister of the Church of the Brethren’s Northern Indiana District. A memorial service was held April 29 at Independence (Kan.) First Christian Church. Find a full obituary at:

Larry Bryant, a lifelong member of Chicago First, passed away on April 17. A memorial service was held at the church on May 6.

York Center will hold a service for long-time member Phoebe Young at 2 p.m. on May 20. Young, 99, died on March 30. She was a former member of the Manchester University Board of Trustees and volunteered regularly at the Church of the Brethren General Offices and elsewhere.


The Illinois/Wisconsin District will offer an Annual Conference briefing on Saturday, June 10, at 10 a.m., via Zoom. Annual Conference moderator Tim McElwee will be joining us for this time together. It is especially designed for delegates, but anyone is welcome to attend. Lasting no more than an hour, the briefing will include an overview video from Annual Conference, updates from the moderator and from Standing Committee, and a time for questions. The Zoom link is below. If you have questions about this event or Annual Conference more generally, please be in touch with the district office.

Illinois Wisconsin District is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Topic: Annual Conference briefing
Time: Jun 10, 2023 10:00 AM Central Time (US and Canada)

As of early May, the Annual Conference office had received delegate registrations from Cerro Gordo, Highland Avenue, Peoria First, Franklin Grove, Freeport, Mount Morris, Polo, Springfield, Woodland, and York Center. If your congregation would still like to send a delegate, visit for more information.


The Illinois/Wisconsin District online book study on Osheta Moore’s book, “Dear White Peacemakers: Dismantling Racism with Grit and Grace,” is off to a good start. Led by pastors Christy Waltersdorff (York Center) and Dennis Webb (Naperville), the study has had about a dozen participants in the first two sessions.

The study will gather three more times on Zoom each Wednesday this month, continuing May 17, 24, and 31, from 7-8:30 p.m. Anyone who needs a copy of the book can order it via Brethren Press: or 800-441-3712. You do not need to attend all five weeks in order to participate, so even if you haven’t been able to join thus far, please feel free to do so for the remaining sessions.

The Zoom link for the studies is: If you need a phone dial-in number, please contact the district office.


It’s been a busy month in the district, with three special events taking place in the span of a few weeks.

Greg Davidson Laszakovits, a Church of the Brethren pastor who also runs a consulting and coaching business, was keynote speaker for two of those events: the spring clergy retreat held April 19-20 at the Bishop Lane Retreat Center in Rockford, and the biennial district Potluck Experience, held April 22 at Dixon.

At the clergy retreat, Greg provided a variety of exercises, tools, and resources to help pastors and others think about how we carry the church forward in rapidly changing times with “strategies for leading positive organizational change.” Using a tool called “Lawson’s Architecture” and other ideas, pastors were encouraged to think about where their congregation should be in the coming years and how to get there successfully. He noted that the process can also lead us through places that are uncomfortable, and emphasized the pastor’s role as shepherd with its various dimensions. A total of 19 people attended this year’s retreat.

The Potluck Experience presentation continued some of these themes, drawing participants into considering how we both honor an important past with its heritage and traditions while also re-imagining what the future of the church can look like. In addition to a keynote session, Greg led a workshop to follow up and look at church trends, some of them surprising.

Other “equipping session” workshops included reaching kids in the community, led by Lisa Fike (Woodland), designing creative and meaningful worship centers, led by Sharon Rice and Phyllis Stowe (York Center), and the 75th anniversary of Brethren Volunteer Service, led by Chelsea Goss Skillen (Highland Avenue). About 60 people attended the event, which also featured its namesake table-full of food for a delicious potluck lunch. Moderator Phyllis Batterton (Woodland) and moderator-elect Christy Waltersdorff (York Center) led an opening worship on this year’s “Encourage One Another” theme, with several people sharing stories of encouragement.

Then, on April 29, noted speaker and author Drew Hart came to the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin for an event organized by the denomination’s Discipleship Ministries office. Hart, a member of Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren, talked about moving “from statement to action,” looking at the value and challenges of the various statements that church groups craft, and the need to move from words to action in meaningful ways.

Thank you to everyone who was part of planning and supporting and attending these events! We are especially grateful to the denomination’s Part-Time Pastor, Full-Time Church program for providing a $5,000 grant to cover Greg’s expenses and allow us to offer the clergy retreat at no charge to participants this year. See below for other exciting events coming up in the district and denomination, and watch for future updates!


The Church of the Brethren 2023 New & Renew Conference will take place May 17-19 at the Church of the Brethren General Offices, Elgin, Ill., with a hybrid/virtual option also available. The conference theme is “Disciples: Called, Equipped and in the Neighborhood!”, based on Matt. 28: 16-20; Eph. 4:11-16; and John 20:19-20. This three-day hybrid conference will have more than 20 sessions to broaden knowledge of church planting and congregational renewal. In addition to workshops, the event will feature inspirational worship, keynote addresses, and storytelling. Those who register can access the recorded sermons, keynotes, and workshops recordings for six months after the event. CEU credits will be available.

Registration cost (not including travel/lodging for those attending in person) is $189. CEU credits cost an additional $10. Registration includes the new book by keynote speaker Jessie Cruickshank, Ordinary Discipleship: How God Wires Us for the Adventure of Transformation. Registration and more details (including hotel reservation options) are at

It is still possible to register, and the district’s Church Revitalization and Development Team is making some free scholarships available to cover the cost to attend this event. A few scholarships are still available. Participants need only to cover their transportation if attending in person. If you would like to take advantage of that opportunity, register at the link above, and then send your receipt to the district office for reimbursement:


Plans are taking shape for this year’s Illinois/Wisconsin District conference! It will take place Nov. 3-4 at Lanark Church of the Brethren. Phyllis Batterton (Woodland) is serving as moderator this year and has chosen the theme “Encourage One Another.”

Madalyn Metzger, the 2023-2024 Church of the Brethren moderator—who is originally from the Springfield congregation but now lives in the Elkhart, Ind., area, will be with us and will share the message during the opening worship service.

The Lanark congregation is making arrangements for meals onsite, and plans for “equipping session” workshops, the conference auction, exhibits, and other events are under way. A block of hotel rooms is being reserved in Savanna. A pre-conference continuing education session for clergy (and other church leaders interested in attending) will feature Chris Douglas on the theme of spiritual practices.

Note that delegates will need to attend in person this year; no virtual option will be available. The church is working on being able to stream worship and business during the weekend, and segments will at minimum be recorded for later viewing.

The conference booklet should be available by early September. Watch for more details in the coming months!


General registration for the biennial Church of the Brethren National Older Adult Conference opened May 1. NOAC will be held Sept. 4-8 at the Lake Junaluska Conference Center in western North Carolina.

Conference registration is $200 until July 15 (this does not include lodging and meals, which require a separate registration with the conference center—you will receive a link after registering). An online participation option is also available for $100. Special accommodations are available for those with mobility issues. Registration and more information are available at National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) – Discipleship Ministries ( (For a paper form registration, contact Randi Rowan at 847-429-4303.)There is also a NOAC Facebook page. Registration closes Aug. 15.

The week includes worship, workshops, Bible study, ice cream socials, fellowship and activities, and more. The worship speakers this year include our own Christina Singh (Freeport) and Katie Shaw Thompson (Highland Avenue). Christy Waltersdorff (York Center) is the conference coordinator, and Leonard Matheny (Peoria) and Josh Brockway (Highland Avenue) are part of the planning team. Mark Charles, Ken Medema, Ted Swartz, Osheta Moore, Jeremy Ashworth, Deanna Brown, and Lexi Aligarbes are among the other featured speakers and performers, along with the famed "NOAC News" team.

For transportation, a bus is available through Western Plains District with pick-up points in St. Louis/southern Illinois available. Information on that is below. The return hotel stop is in Mount Vernon, IL. If you need assistance in making this rendezvous, please contact the district office. Direct flights to Asheville, N.C., are available from Chicago O'Hare or Midway airports (via United, American, or Allegiant), or connecting service is available from other cities.

BUS INFORMATION (David Fruth, coordinator): A bus leaving from McPherson, Kan., Sun., Sept. 3, will arrive at the conference on Mon., Sept. 4. After the conference is over the bus will return to McPherson arriving Sat., Sept. 9. Costs for the bus trip will be $425 including bus travel and two nights at a motel. For more information or to reserve a space on the bus contact David Fruth at 620-245-0674 or 316-708-1760 or email at To hold a seat a $100 deposit is required by June 1.


The next Church of the Brethren National Junior High Conference will take place June 16-18, 2023, at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., for youth in grades 6-8 and their advisors. The theme is “What Does God Want from Me?”, drawing on Micah 6:8. Registration cost is $300 through May 31. A $200 non-refundable deposit is due within two weeks of registration. Register and learn more at

The Center on Conscience & War (formerly NISBCO) was started by the Historic Peace Churches and supports people who are seeking conscientious objector status. The organization is running a contest for youth in grades 9-12 about why the military draft should be permanently eliminated. Top entries (a video and essay) win prizes up to $1,000. Submission deadline is June 30. Details and a link to the entry form are at #NoDraft Video/Essay Challenge - Center on Conscience & War. Winners will be announced in September. For questions, call 202-483-2220 or email


Camp Emmaus
has announced its camping schedule for 2023:

April 22 Spring Into Camp Event
May 26-29 Memorial Day Weekend Family Camp
July 9-15 Senior High Camp (Grades 9-12)
July 16-20 Intermediate Camp (Grades 3-5)
July 21-23 Young at Heart Camp (Young Adults/Adults)
July 23-29 Middle School Camp (Grades 6-8)
Aug. 4-6 Counselor-in-Training (CIT)
Aug. 5-6 Elementary Camp (Grades 1-2)
Aug. 10-12 Women’s Camp
Aug. 18-20 Men’s Camp
Sept. 1-4 Labor Day Weekend Family Camp

The Camp Emmaus board has announced the launch of the Camp Emmaus Endowment Fund. The board has set a goal of raising $100,000 for this fund in the next 12 months, helping to provide a new revenue stream for camp and allowing a wider range of planned and deferred gifts. To learn more about this endowment, arrange to make a donation, or discover other ways to get involved, please reach out to treasurer Dan Radcliff at

Camp Emmanuel has also announced its 2023 camping schedule:

April 22-27 Work Week
June 2-4 Women’s Camp
June 9-11 High School Camp
June 11-17 Middle School Camp
June 18-21 Junior Camp
June 23-25 Pre-Junior Camp
July 17-21 Day Camp
Aug. 11-13 Men’s Camp
Sept. 1-4 Family Camp

In addition, Camp Emmanuel will be celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2023! A celebration at the camp, including a fish fry, is being planned for Sept. 30. Watch for details as they become available.

Stay up to date on what’s happening at our district camps! Visit for Camp Emmanuel news and for Camp Emmaus news.


As has been the practice in recent years, the Illinois/Wisconsin District has agreed to provide up to eight volunteers for the week following Thanksgiving, Nov. 26–Dec. 2, 2023. That week of volunteering again will be shared with the South/Central Indiana District. A major change from recent past Brethren Disaster Ministries assignments, is that the project site, Dawson Springs, Kentucky, is a relatively nearby “neighbor,” just 70 miles south of Evansville, Indiana. This provides a great opportunity for those who want to serve with BDM but hesitate to travel hundreds of miles to a project site.

Dawson Springs was in the path of the devastating outbreak of tornados that swept through eight states in December 2021 with Kentucky, Illinois, and Missouri the most heavily impacted. Estimates are that around 75 percent of the town of Dawson Springs, which was home to around 2,500 people, was leveled by a tornado. More information about the Dawson Springs BDM project is at

Click here to access a complete 2023 schedule for the Dawson Creek project. In addition to the week of Nov. 26, there are openings in other weeks in 2023 with the opportunity to join other districts. To register your interest in joining this year’s Illinois/Wisconsin group, contact our district disaster coordinator, Loren Habegger at To volunteer with other groups for the listed openings, contact Kim Gingerich at


The 2023 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference will take place July 4-8 (a Tuesday-through-Saturday schedule this year) in Cincinnati with the theme “Living God’s Love.” Tim McElwee of Fort Wayne, Ind., will serve as moderator. Advance delegate registration will be $320 per person ($395 onsite); non-delegate adult advance registration is $140 for the week ($175 onsite; $40 for post-high school through age 21, free for high school age and below). A virtual non-delegate option to participate online will also be available. Conference hotels will be $122 per night, plus tax. Registration and housing reservations are open.

Author and spiritual director Sheila Wise Rowe will be the featured presenter for the Church of the Brethren Ministers’ Association pre-Annual Conference continuing education event, July 3-4 in Cincinnati. Rowe describes herself on her website as “a truth-teller who is passionate about matters of faith and Christ-centered emotional healing” and “advocates for the dignity, rights, and healing of abuse and racial trauma survivors, and racial conciliation.” She spent a decade in South Africa ministering to unhoused and abused women and now lives in Massachusetts. Rowe has a master’s degree in counseling psychology and more than 28 years of experience as a Christian counselor, spiritual director, educator, writer, and speaker. Her award-winning book, Healing Racial Trauma: The Road to Resilience, will be the focus of this pre-Conference event. Find flyers in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole, as well as registration links on the Office of Ministry pages at

In other Annual Conference news:

• The Nominating Committee of the Standing Committee of district delegates to the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference has presented the ballot for the 2023 Conference, with elections to be held during the meeting in Cincinnati:

Moderator-elect: Dava Hensley (Roanoke, Va.); Del Keeney (Mechanicsburg, Pa.)

Program and Arrangements Committee: Emmanuela Attelus (Miami, Fla.); Gail Heisel (La Verne, Calif.)

Mission and Ministry Board, Area 2: John Ballinger (West Salem, Ohio); Tina M. Hunt (Mansfield, Ohio)

Mission and Ministry Board, Area 3: Linetta Shalom Alley (Broadway, Va.); Deirdre Moyer (Eden, N.C.)

Bethany Theological Seminary board, representing clergy: Jennifer Hosler (Washington, D.C.); Jonathan Prater (Linville, Va.)

Bethany Theological Seminary board, representing laity: Mark Gingrich (Burnsville, Minn.); Julia Wheeler (La Verne, Calif.)

Eder Financial board: Raymond Flagg (Annville, Pa.); Dennis Kingery (Littleton, Colo.)

On Earth Peace board: Carol Young Lindquist (Fort Wayne, Ind.); Audrey Zunkel-DeCoursey (Portland, Ore.)

Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee: Lori Hurt (Boones Mill, Va.); Rudolph H. Taylor III (Cloverdale, Va.)

• Annual Conference has also announced preachers for the conference:

— Tuesday evening, July 4: Annual Conference moderator Tim McElwee will preach on the theme “Living God’s Love,” drawing on John 13:34-35, Ephesians 5:1-2, and 1 John 4:7-12.

— Wednesday evening, July 5: Sheila Wise Rowe, a Christian counselor, spiritual director, educator, writer, and keynote speaker for this year’s pre-Conference Brethren Ministers’ Association event, will preach on the theme “Bearing the Fruit of God’s Love,” drawing on Mark 12:28-34 and John 15:1-17.

— Thursday evening, July 6: Deanna Brown, founder and facilitator of Cultural Connections and a member of Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind., will preach on the theme “Responding in Love to the Needs of Others,” drawing on Luke 10:25-37 and 1 John 3:16-24.

— Friday evening, July 7: Jody Romero, pastor of Restoration Los Angeles (Calif.) Church of the Brethren and lead chaplain for the Los Angeles Christian Health Center, will preach on the theme “Seeing and Loving Like God,” drawing on Luke 7:36-50 and 1 Corinthians 13.

— Saturday morning, July 8: Audri Svay, an English professor, pre-school teacher, and pastor of Eel River Community Church of the Brethren in Silver Lake, Ind., will preach on the theme “Loving the Least in the Family of God,” drawing on Matthew 25:31-46 and John 21:15-19.

The worship services are being planned by Don Mitchell, Laura Stone, and David R. Miller. Beth Jarrett, the third-year Program and Arrangements Committee member, is chairing the worship team. Kyle Remnant will serve as music coordinator, Becca Miller as pianist, Marty Keeney as choir director, and Pam Hoppe as children’s choir director.


Annual Conference moderator Tim McElwee recently sent out an update to the denomination:

It’s exciting to say that in just a couple of months thousands of us will gather in Cincinnati for the 2023 Annual Conference! I hope you will be one of them, and I look forward to seeing you there. A great deal of work has already taken place to ensure that when we gather everything will be in place to ensure a joyous and meaningful gathering as the Body of Christ. And even more preparations are still under way!

As you may know, our theme for Annual Conference this year is Living God’s Love. It is based on Ephesians 5:1-2, but the central message is found throughout the Bible. In fact, I think this calling is the most basic and most important teaching we can commit ourselves to live out as disciples of Jesus Christ.

To illustrate the call to live God’s gift of inclusive love, our Annual Conference logo this year refers to the three words, Living God’s Love, as they appear in English, along with the translation of these three powerful words in Spanish, Creole, and Hausa. We are truly a global church and no matter where we live, we are called to live God’s love in a bold, compassionate, and inclusive manner—which is how God loves us.

Between now and when we gather July 4-8 in Cincinnati, I urge you to make a commitment to seek out those in your midst who may not often experience the love of God. Search for those in your community and in your church who are often marginalized, ignored, or forgotten. Find you sisters and brothers who are readily dismissed because of their sexual orientation, their faith perspective, or their personal characteristics. Once you’ve found them, demonstrate God’s love for them as completely and as fully as you possibly can.

Jesus said: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same” (Luke 6:32-33). God, through Christ, calls us out of our comfort zones and into all of humanity. My fervent prayer is that we love inclusively and extravagantly within this family of God that we call the Church of the Brethren.

During Annual Conference we will have many exciting opportunities to experience God’s love and to hear about the many ways we are living out God’s love as ‘Jesus in the Neighborhood’ stories are shared. We will also be inspired as we welcome new fellowships and celebrate the growth of the global church, while we learn together through Equipping Sessions, as we are renewed through worship services, and as we are strengthened through fellowship during common meals, concerts, and countless discussions. It will also be a joy to celebrate the 75th anniversary of BVS and the 100th anniversary of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria: EYN!

It will be wonderful to see you in Cincinnati and to hear about the many ways you are living God’s love in your church and in your home community.

In Christ and through God’s love,
Tim McElwee, 2023 Annual Conference moderator


• The Ventures in Christian Discipleship program operated by McPherson College is offering “Black Panther Films as Metaphor: Lessons about Race, Colonialism, Violence, and Identity in Wakanda,” 7-9 p.m. June 5, led by Steven Schweitzer. To learn more about Ventures in Christian Discipleship and to register for courses (suggested donation of $25 per course), visit CEU credits are available.

• New online (Zoom) continuing education courses are being offered by the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center in its “Nurturing Ministry” series: On June 6, 12-3 p.m. Central, Julie Guistwite will lead “Grief Literacy.” Registration for is $35 including .3 CEUs or $25 without CEUs. Learn more and register at

• Upcoming courses from the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership include “Healing Racial Trauma,” led by Audrey Hollenberg-Duffey, July 3-4 onsite in Cincinnati prior to Annual Conference (registration deadline May 29); “Defining Set-Apart Ministry within the Multi-Vocational Reality,” led by Sandra Jenkins Sept. 6-Oct. 31 online (registration deadline Aug. 2); “Church of the Brethren History,” led by Craig Gandy, Sept. 11-Nov. 5 online (registration deadline Aug. 7) in partnership with the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center; and “Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures,” led by Matt Boersma, Oct. 11-Dec. 5 online (registration deadline Sept. 6). CEU’s are available for clergy taking the courses. Register for the Church of the Brethren History course by contacting Karen Hodges at Register for other courses and pay online at Brethren Academy Course Registration/Biannual TRIM Payment | Bethany Theological Seminary (

• William S. Middleton Memorial VA Hospital in Madison is offering a free virtual clergy training event, June 13 from 1-3 p.m. The event will be two hours long, focusing on the topics of Moral Injury and Suicide Prevention. Leaders are chaplain Victoria Fishel and social worker/therapist Darlene Ezman. Registration information is at

Lands of the Bible study tour: In July 2023, Bridgewater College chaplain Dr. Robbie Miller will again lead a study tour of Israel, Palestine, and Jordan. The tour, conducted by the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem (, will visit sites of biblical and religious importance including Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jericho, Capernaum, Caesarea, Masada, Qumran, Petra, and many more. The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership will provide 4.0 CEUs for the study tour. For an itinerary and more information, contact Robbie at or at 540-421-2720.

• The organization Faith+Lead (through Luther Seminary) has available on demand a 6-hour self-guided course called “Hybrid Ministry in a Post-Pandemic Church,” helping pastors and others think about ways to create a framework for church that engages and connects the entire community. Cost is $75. Learn more and register at

Lombard Mennonite Peace Center is offering a “Restorative Congregations” webinar via Zoom May 23 or Nov. 2 (9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Central). The “Healthy Congregations” workshop will be offered June 1 via Zoom. A new one-day “Fractured Lives, Fractured Churches” workshop will be offered June 15 via Zoom. And “Conflict Transformation Skills for Churches” will be offered via Zoom Sept. 16 (9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Central). For more details and registration information, and to see other events, go to

NCP Learning Tours: New Community Project will offer an educational trip to the Amazon region of Ecuador June 1-7, to Lybrook, N.M., June 22-28, to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons July 20-27, and to central and southern Alaska Aug. 7-15. These trips are open to all ages and explore the beauty of and challenges facing God’s creation and God’s children. Learn more at


The Brethren Volunteer Service office has two full-time volunteer positions open (serving as a BVSer) for a BVS orientation assistant and as assistant FaithX coordinator. For information on those opportunities, contact BVS director Chelsea Goss Skillen at

The Brethren Heritage Center in Brookville, Ohio, seeks a part-time center manager. Responsibilities include overseeing operations and volunteers; facilitating, designing, and creating exhibits; promoting the center’s activities and collections; among additional responsibilities to be discussed at interview. Other desired skills and knowledge include a working knowledge of Brethren groups; computer/technology knowledge; and a focus on archives. The Brethren Heritage Center is an equal opportunity employer. Apply by sending a resume to or Brethren Heritage Center, c/o Gale Honeyman, Interim Director, Box 35, Laura, Ohio 45337.

Camp Bethel in Fincastle, Va., seeks a dependable, caring leader to be full-time salaried camp director. Summer camp experience is required, and staff management experience is preferred. This position is available immediately with the possibility of orientation with the current camp director. The camp director joins other full-time staff including facilities manager, program coordinator, food services coordinator, and guest services coordinator. Starting package includes salary based on experience with benefits of family or personal medical insurance, a pension plan, paid vacation, and professional growth funds. Onsite housing is also possible. Visit to review the position description and submit a letter of interest, a faith statement, resume’, and/or any questions to Naomi Powers, chair of the search committee, at

Camp Brethren Heights in Rodney, Mich., has an upcoming opening for a part-time Camp Director position. Those interested in the position should contact the camp board chair, Jack Durnbaugh, at Learn more at

The Western Pennsylvania District seeks a half-time district executive minister. The office location is negotiable, working remotely or on location at the district office in Jerome, Pa. Travel is required both within and outside of the district. Responsibilities include the primary areas of: Applicants are requested to contact three persons who are willing to provide a letter of reference.


Carolyn Neher,
a member of the York Center congregation in Lombard, has been hired by the Church of the Brethren as associate director for Children’s Disaster Services (CDS), a program of Brethren Disaster Ministries based at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. A CDS volunteer since 2014, Carolyn has been deployed as a CDS volunteer to six disasters, has taken advanced training to be a project manager, and is also a volunteer trainer. She is a graduate of McPherson College, with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, and of National Louis University, with a Master of Education in early childhood leadership and advocacy. Carolyn has extensive past experience in early childhood education and is currently working as a paraprofessional supporting children with autism in the school setting. Carolyn begins as associate director on June 5.

Virginia Rendler has been hired by the Church of the Brethren as interim volunteer coordinator for Brethren Volunteer Service. She is a 2020 graduate of Manchester University with a Bachelor of Arts in peace studies and philosophy with a minor in religious studies. Virginia currently serves as a program volunteer for the Corrymeela Community in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland through BVS. Virginia will begin working as a remote employee from North Manchester, Ind., on July 17.

Bethany Theological Seminary has hired Derek Parker to serve as Coordinator of Community Engagement, a newly created position. Parker is a graduate of Earlham School of Religion (ESR) and brings 25 years of experience in pastoral, administrative, and nonprofit leadership roles, including in the Wayne County community. He is a recorded minister by the New Association of Friends (Quaker) and an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister. He has served in pastoral roles in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan, and currently serves the Universalist Church of Eldorado, Ohio in a part-time role. He also currently serves as assistant director of Open Arms Ministry, a non-profit sponsored by multiple faith-based organizations in Richmond that provides emergency utility and rental assistance to low-income families in crisis. Parker earned a bachelor’s degree in geophysics from the University of Chicago and a Master of Divinity from ESR. He is currently working on a Doctor of Arts in Religion and the Humanities from Harrison Middleton University.

Joy Dawes of Madison, Ala., began May 8 as public relations manager for Eder Financial. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications and sociology from the University of Alabama. Her previous work experience has included a     mix of public relations and client advocacy. While her developmental years were spent in the United Methodist denomination, she and her family currently practice their faith as Roman Catholics.

Rich Osei began April 24 as a part-time accountant with Eder Financial. He has been working for the organization as a contractor for the last few months. Osei holds degrees in mathematics and accounting as well as a master of business administration with an emphasis in finance, all from Governor’s State University in Park Forest, Ill. He is a certified public accountant and is certified as an accountant in global organizations. He brings to the position a wide variety of experiences within management consulting and for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.


Bethany Theological Seminary conferred 14 master’s degrees and 12 graduate certificates during its 2023 Academic Commencement Ceremony on May 13. The ceremony was held in Nicarry Chapel, with Jana Carter, a Bethany alumna, delivering the commencement address. The event also included remarks by Dr. Eric Bishop, chairman of the Bethany board of trustees, and organ music performed by Carolyn Ripp. Eight students received Master of Divinity degrees, while six completed a Master of Arts.

Community Peacemaker Teams (CPT) was awarded the International Peace Award by the Community of Christ Church and the Shaw Family Foundation on April 22. CPT got its start as a joint project of the Historic Peace Churches (Church of the Brethren, Mennonites, and Friends or Quakers). Said a CPT announcement: “Honoring CPT’s 35 years of peacemaking while presenting the award, the awarding body said, ‘We do this in recognition of your significant contribution to peacemaking through nonviolent accompaniment with those actively working for human rights and just peace. Your work includes spiritually-centred peacemaking, evidenced by your multifaith relationships and organization. And we recognize that you do all this with a willingness to put yourself in harm’s way.’ We want to express our gratitude to the Community of Christ and the Shaw Family Foundation for this award, but also to recognize that this award is a recognition of the communities and organizations that we accompany who allow us to walk in solidarity, and to our support network who do make it possible to continue the work we do.”

Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and one of the places people are coming together to mark the occasion is on Facebook. A “Brethren Volunteer Service–75th Anniversary” Facebook group has been created, and more than 500 people have joined. A flurry of photos, stories, and other recollections have been filling the page’s feed, from the earliest years of BVS up to the present. It’s a public group, so anyone can view the page at And a new book celebrating the BVS anniversary, A Year of Living Differently, by author Jim Lehman, will be published this summer by Brethren Press. Pre-order for $19.48 at

Annual Conference moderator Tim McElwee is sponsoring a series of four online “Shalom Conversations” in webinar format. Each will feature a set of panelists who will engage in conversation based on their own personal backgrounds and experiences of the church. “I describe these sessions as something like a group of friends sitting around a table having coffee and sharing conversation,” McElwee said. “Those in the gallery could be understood as other friends, within earshot, and listening in to the conversation with permission.” The sessions are as follows:

— Thursday, May 18, 7-8 p.m. (Central time)

— Thursday, May 25, 8-9 p.m. (Central time)

— Sunday, May 28, 6-7 p.m. (Central time)

— Wednesday, June 14, 8-9 p.m. (Central time)

Katie Shaw Thompson, pastor at Highland Avenue, will be one of the May 18 panelists, and Brethren Press publisher Wendy McFadden (Highland Avenue) will be one of the June 14 panelists. More details are at Moderator sponsors online ‘Shalom Conversations’ – News (

The 2023 Song and Story Fest family camp co-sponsored by On Earth Peace will be hosted at Camp Peaceful Pines on July 29-Aug. 4. The camp and outdoor ministry center of the Church of the Brethren’s Pacific Southwest District is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park, near Dardanelle, Calif. The theme for this year’s Sierra Wildfire Song and Story Fest is “After the Fire…” (Psalm 19:1-3). The event is billed as an intergenerational camp for all ages, individuals, and families.

Storytellers, musicians, and workshop leaders include Rhonda and Greg Baker, Hannah Button-Harrison, Matt Guynn, Bill and Jacob Jolliff, Erin and Cody Flory Robertson, Anna Lisa Gross, Kathy Guisewite, Jonathan Hunter, Jim and Peg Lehman, Mike Stern, and Barbara West.

Registration includes all meals, on-site facilities, and leadership, and is based upon age–adults $370, teens $240, children age 5 to 12 $150, children 4 and under free–with a maximum fee per family of $1,000. Daily fees are available. Registrations after July 1 add 10 percent as a late fee. Register online at

At this year’s Associated Church Press convention in April, the Church of the Brethren’s Messenger magazine won four awards including the James Solheim Award for Editorial Courage, Award of Excellence, for “If Only that Were True” by Gimbiya Kettering, published in the Sept. 2022 issue. This year’s contest had 728 entries from 58 organizations across 78 categories. Other awards for Messenger included an award of excellence (first place) in national reporting—short format for Walt Wiltschek; an award of merit (second place) in column writing for Wendy McFadden; and an award of merit in magazine/journal design for designer Paul Stocksdale.

Church of the Brethren membership in the United States and Puerto Rico is just over 87,000, according to the statistical report in the 2022 Church of the Brethren Yearbook, published by Brethren Press. The 2022 edition–published late last year–includes the 2021 statistical report and the 2022 directory for the denomination.

The Yearbook reported 87,181 members in 24 districts and 887 local worshiping communities (congregations, fellowships, and new church projects) in 2021. This represents a net loss of 4,427 members over the previous year. The number of local worshiping communities included 852 congregations, 23 fellowships, and 12 new church projects. Average worship attendance for the denomination was reported as 23,164. Five years ago, in 2018, total denominational membership stood at 104,446.

Three Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) volunteers served April 12-13 at a Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) in Marble Hill, Mo., caring for children affected by a strong tornado that hit Bollinger County (southeastern Missouri) in the early hours of April 5. The MARC was organized by the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA). A MARC provides a “one-stop” location where disaster survivors seek many different services and apply for assistance from multiple agencies and organizations.

An emerging Church of the Brethren denomination is in process of formation in Mexico, reports Global Food Initiative manager and Global Mission staff Jeff Boshart following a trip to Tijuana in mid-April. Documents to make the group an official church in the country are being submitted to Mexican authorities, beginning a process that is expected to take several months. The next step will be official recognition by the Global Church of the Brethren Communion.

The annual Clergywomen’s Breakfast will be held on July 5 at Annual Conference in Cincinnati. The keynote speaker, Margaret “Maggie” Elwell, is Assistant Professor of Peace Studies at Bethany Theological Seminary. Elwell has served as director of the Center for Theology, Women, and Gender at Princeton Seminary, taught English and humanities in Baltimore City Public Schools, and provided leadership to projects focused on social justice and disaster relief. She is a critical theorist of violence and a narratologist. Tickets can be purchased when registering for Annual Conference; if you have already registered, use the Additional Purchases button. Tickets will also be available while they last onsite. A limited number of partial scholarships are available. Contact for information.

A new Church of the Brethren Gun Violence Prevention Action Team launched in January 2023 and has already met several times. On Earth Peace is convening this action team as part of a broader campaign to activate advocates for gun violence prevention. Its work draws on a 1978 Annual Conference statement, “Violence and the Use of Firearms.” As an initial step, the team is planning a Public Witness for Gun Violence Prevention event during Annual Conference in July, in partnership with local groups working on these issues. The purpose of the witness is to pray, to support those touched by gun violence, and to be inspired to take action after Conference. The team hopes this event can support and strengthen the work of gun violence prevention groups in Ohio and build a network of Church of the Brethren gun violence prevention advocates. 

A silent auction will be held by the Program and Arrangements Committee at the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, this summer. Two-thirds of the proceeds will support Brethren Disaster Ministries, with the remaining one-third to offset Annual Conference expenses as the Conference continue to face challenges brought on in large part by the pandemic. Donations are requested in three categories: Experiences (trips, events, etc.), gift baskets, and arts & crafts items. To make a contribution, go to to submit your contact information and a description of the item you wish to contribute. Online submissions must be received by June 1. Actual items must be onsite at Annual Conference no later than 10 a.m. on Tuesday, July 4. Volunteers willing to assist with the auction can sign up at

Brethren Press has announced the upcoming release of a storybook Bible from the “Shine” curriculum titled The Peace Table. It will include biblically faithful retellings of 140 Bible stories with colorful, diverse art by 30 illustrators. Along with each Bible story, there are prayer prompts, questions, and action ideas to guide reflection and conversation. Twelve Peace Paths allow children to ‘choose their own adventure’ through the book, exploring how peace themes are woven throughout the Old and New Testaments. A resource section includes ideas for how to experience peace with God, self, others, and creation, as well as maps, background information on the Bible, interactive ways to pray, and prayers for many occasions. Preorder any quantity between now and June 1 and receive a 25 percent discount. View a sample and preorder a copy today at

The Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry has created an online video resource of six segments featuring congregations that are creatively practicing the priesthood of all believers and thereby meeting their needs for pastoral leadership. At a time when congregations are struggling to find pastors to serve their needs, this series produced by videographer David Sollenberger is offered as a reminder that God places abundant spiritual gifts within congregations, just waiting to be discovered, affirmed, and nurtured. The series features three congregations, Warrensburg and Cabool in Missouri and Arkansas District, and Clover Creek in Middle Pennsylvania District. Their pastoral teams consist of as few as two to as many as five people. The series is a testimony to the effectiveness of the Brethren practice of the priesthood of all believers in fostering a culture of calling set-apart ministers. Find the new resource at

The seventh Brethren World Assembly will take place July 26-29 at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College and at Germantown Church of the Brethren in Philadelphia on the final day, July 29. The theme of the assembly is “Brethren Faithfulness: Priorities in Perspective.” The gathering marks 300 years of the Brethren in America and the 300th anniversary of the Germantown Church. The event also marks the centennial of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The scheduled sessions relate to the history and developments of the Brethren in America from 1723 up to the Civil War, with an additional session about EYN. Opening devotions and evening worship services will open and close each day. For the entire Assembly, July 26-29, including the day at Germantown, fees are $310 (early bird cost, registered by May 15) or $370 (tegular cost, registered between May 16 and June 15). For the days in Elizabethtown only, July 26-28, fees are $190 (early bird, registered by May 15) or $225 (regular cost, registered between May 16 and June 15). One-day options are also available. Lodging is additional. Registration closes June 15. For more information, contact or call 717-327-8188.

Creation Justice Ministries, which is a partner organization for the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy is relaunching a “52 Ways to Care for Creation” bulletin insert series. Each week’s bulletin insert highlights a creation justice idea for action or reflection that corresponds with the season or the church calendar. Find out more at


The district's Church Revitalization and Development Team (CRDT) is taking applications for two new grant programs. A total of 10 combined grants ($100 each) from the two programs will be given this year, and any congregation in the Illinois & Wisconsin District is welcome to apply.

First, a Being Jesus in the Neighborhood Grant: Congregations can apply for seed money to start a new outreach project or initiative in their local communities, or to expand an existing one. These should be projects that intentionally engage with the neighborhood immediately around the congregation, or—for those in rural locations—with the town or area around the church. Each congregation receiving a grant will be asked to share a little about their project at district conference.

Second, a Give Your Pastor a Break Grant: Congregations can apply for up to $100 for a grant to cover or help cover a guest speaker for an extra Sunday to give your pastor a day off--or at least a day off from having to prepare and preach a sermon. Any time can be challenging to be a pastor, especially when many are filling those roles part-time, and the pandemic and other current events have made it especially so. We hope this might be part of the ways you care for your pastor.

Each congregation may receive only one grant per calendar year. Applications are available on the district website (, or contact the district office. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Blessings to each of you as you faithfully seek to serve your communities!


Is your congregation beginning a new mission outreach program but a little short on cash? Is your congregation faced with a major repair or capital improvement project that exceeds your congregation’s capacity to pay for it? Did you know that the district has a program to assist with your needs? It’s called the Mission and Mortar Grant/Loan Program and is available to help meet the needs mentioned above.

Grants are available up to $2,500, and non-interest bearing loans up to $5,000. A congregation that applies must provide financial data and be a regular contributor to the district. Applications are considered on a first-come first-served basis and are reviewed/approved by the district Leadership Team.

If you would like more information or wish to apply, visit the district website. Send completed applications to the IL/WI District Office, 269 E. Chestnut St., Canton, IL 61520.


The Illinois/Wisconsin District is active in a variety of ministry and mission efforts, both directly and indirectly. For these efforts to continue, resources are needed in the form of time, tools, knowledge, and especially finances.

Consider making a contribution to one or more of the following:

  • Disaster Relief Fund
  • Endowment Fund
  • Mission and Mortar Fund
  • Youth Fund (new!)
  • General Fund
  • Emerging Ministries
  • Ministry Training

Look for the donate button at, or send your checks to the district office: 269 E. Chestnut St., Canton, IL 61520. Thank you!

Saturday, April 01, 2023

The Reflector - April 2023


Walt Wiltschek

“Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?” —Amos 3:3, NLT

In a recent magazine article, Eastern Mennonite University president Susan Schultz Huxman talked about “the power of place,” pondering the locations and settings that are important in our lives.

Years ago, for example, early Brethren who migrated to the US decided where to live and, eventually, where to plant congregations, and later where to locate colleges and camps and retirement communities. As Brethren moved across the country, “Western” Brethren often had views that diverged in places from their Eastern counterparts.

Our experience as Christians here is very different than it is for our brothers and sisters thousands of miles away in Nigeria, who have faced recent persecution and loss of life and property yet have found ways to continue to be the church and thrive in the midst of it. The economic situation for most of us is much less tenuous than it is for those in Honduras, where Bill Hare (Polo) recently wrote of those he has encountered in his work there who have “less than nothing” and lack proper nutrition and health care.

Closer to home, recent studies in this country have highlighted differences between “blue states” and “red states” and the divides between those who live in large cities versus small towns and rural areas. Some people live much more in a technological and digital world than others. For better or worse, our communities shape who we are and how we interact with one another.

Reflecting on some of those varied settings, Huxman noted research that suggests “coffee shops are a special venue for bridging difference. They function as social magnets, attracting conflicting actors to put off their differences in lieu of community building. They are also safe, vibrant gathering places which allow (people) to converse and commune with ‘the other.’ These places give us a sense of belonging and shape our sensibilities as a civil society that prizes difference.” She calls it a way of “practicing shalom.”

Our district includes urban, suburban, small-town, and rural congregations across hundreds of miles. We have members from a variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds, younger and older. We hold views all over the theological and political spectrums. We have long-time Brethren and those who are newer to our faith community. And yet, most of the time, we seem willing to “hang together” and even to enjoy being together.

While we don’t have any Brethren coffeeshops in the district, we do have places like that where we come together and form community: the biennial Potluck Experience, for example, which we’ll gather for again on April 22 at Dixon; our district conference each fall; the coming together at our camps, Emmanuel and Emmaus; traveling on disaster relief projects, mission trips, and workcamps; and other occasional events and gatherings along the way.

There is indeed power in our places of connection. I’m grateful for this one that we call the Illinois/Wisconsin District, and I hope we continue to gather around the tables to better know and appreciate one another as we follow Christ together.


In addition to regular meetings, Walt will be worshiping at and meeting with Cherry Grove on April 16, attending the district clergy retreat April 19-20 and the Potluck Experience event at Dixon April 22, worshiping and visiting Champaign on April 23, attending the Council of District Executives continuing education event and regional meetings April 23-25 at Bethany Theological Seminary in Indiana, attending the Drew Hart event in Elgin on April 29, and preaching for and visiting with Girard on May 7.

Walt is available to visit your church, do pulpit supply, lead sessions, have conversation times, or otherwise connect with your congregation. Please contact to schedule a time.


  • Clergy Retreat at Bishop Lane Retreat Center, Rockford, April 19-20
  • Spring Potluck Experience event at Dixon Church of the Brethren, April 22, 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
  • CODE continuing education event at Bethany Theological Seminary, April 23-26
  • Drew Hart event at Church of the Brethren General Offices, Elgin, April 29, 4:30-6:30 p.m.
  • Program and Arrangements Committee meeting, May 1, 6:30 p.m.
  • Part-Time Pastor, Full-Time Church advisory committee meeting, May 2, 3:30 p.m.
  • District book study (“Dear White Peacemakers”) begins, May 3, 7 p.m. [continues each Wednesday evening through May]
  • Property and Assets Management team meeting, May 15, 4 p.m.
  • Church Revitalization and Development Team meeting, May 20, 9 a.m.
[all meetings via Zoom unless otherwise noted]


A district prayer calendar has been created for your use in praying for our district and related programs through the year. We invite you to include the following in your prayers in coming weeks:

Week of April 17: Pray for the district’s Ministry Leadership Development Team, especially as it leads a retreat for clergy in Rockford this week. And pray for the district’s Potluck Experience Team, and for the special “Potluck” event taking place in Dixon on April 22 with leadership from Greg Davidson Laszakovits.

Week of April 24: Pray for the Milledgeville (Dutchtown) congregation, and for the youth Christian Citizenship Seminar being held this week in Washington, D.C.

Week of May 1: Pray for the York Center congregation, and for the denominational Young Adult Conference taking place May 5-7 at Camp Mack in Indiana, as well as for all the work of our denomination’s Youth/Young Adult Ministries office.

Week of May 8: Pray for the members of the Franklin Grove congregation as their long history of ministry in the town has come to a close, and for the continuing presence at the nearby historic Emmert Cemetery and its chapel.

Week of May 15: Pray for the Oakley Brick congregation this week, and for the “New and Renew” church planting and renewal conference occurring in Elgin, Ill., May 17-19.


Bill Hare, outgoing manager of Camp Emmaus, has done service work in Honduras for many years. At a celebration of that work in Mount Morris last month, Bill shared the following reflection from his experience:

“Two Brothers”
One lives in Honduras
One in the U.S.
One lives in a small block home
One in a nice wood frame home
One has a crumbling concrete floor
One has floors with carpet
One carries all water for daily use
One turns on a faucet
One has almost no gainful employment
One has never been without a job
One experiences a wet season and a dry season
One experiences summer heat and winter cold
One lacks proper nutrition and is often hungry
One eats too much
One has virtually no access to health care
One has unlimited health care
One has a simple kitchen filled with wood smoke
One has a modern kitchen and cooks with electricity
One has been 80 miles from home
One has traveled the world
But when these two meet with hugs and tears they are together again … brothers in the family of God.


Zech and Jen Houser (Highland Avenue) have been approved by the district Ministry Leadership Development Team and Leadership Team for ordination, and they are scheduled for a final congregational vote next month. Our prayers are with them on this ongoing journey of ministry.

Congregational vacancies: Chicago First and Girard have recent pastoral vacancies and are exploring next steps, currently using lay leadership and pulpit supply, with Terry Link (Springfield) assisting in providing leadership at Girard. Canton has also shifted to a creative team model, with Kevin Kessler continuing in a part-time role leading that team.

Cherry Grove is also using regular pulpit supply. Steve Needham, formerly at the Decatur congregation, is currently serving the La Place congregation with preaching and worship leadership as they discern next steps.

Grants available: The denomination’s Office of Ministry has shared that grants are available through the Part-Time Pastor, Full-Time Church program for pastors who would like to do a sabbatical or continuing education experience. For more information or an application, contact district executive minister Walt Wiltschek at


Canton dedicated a “Little Library” box following worship on a sunny Sunday, March 26. After brief thoughts, a responsive reading, and prayer, everyone placed books in the little box that was designed, constructed, and set by Josh Blevins. The purpose of the Little Library is to share books and literature with the community. Everyone may borrow books from it and put books in it. A supply of books will also be kept inside the church building and added to the box as needed, or swapped out occasionally to refresh the selection.

The presentation by Marvin Holt at Chicago First had to be postponed from its original March date and is now scheduled for May 7 at 11 a.m. Holt, an architect, designed the windows that replaced the original windows present when the congregation purchased the building in 1925. The current windows were installed in 1975, celebrating 50 years of ministry at the current location. The event will include conversation about the process of designing the windows, choice of material, significance of each panel, importance of the windows for the neighborhood, and the ministry of the windows. “First Church gives thanks to the many people who supported our need for new windows, which brings much joy to those who enter the sanctuary,” said an announcement from Joyce Cassel. “Each time one enters there is a different frame of light on the windows and thus a new understanding of Christ’s mission here at 425 S. Central Park, Chicago.”

Yellow Creek Church of the Brethren (Pearl City) is celebrating its 175th anniversary in 2023! The congregation is tentatively planning to hold a celebration Sunday on June 11, with a special worship time and potluck meal. Watch for more details in the coming months.

Eder Financial recently sent out information for church treasurers and others who work with setting up benefits for pastors and other staff. Notes included reminders to promptly inform Eder Financial of hire and termination dates (at and making sure that congregations have an adoption agreement in place as of Jan. 1, 2021, or later in relation to the retirement plan. For questions, contact

Do you have congregational news: celebrations, milestones, “Jesus in the Neighborhood” stories or other things to share with our district family? Please send those to the district office:


The Illinois/Wisconsin District will be offering an online book study in May, led by pastors Christy Waltersdorff (York Center) and Dennis Webb (Naperville). The focus will be the book “Dear White Peacemakers: Dismantling Racism with Grit and Grace,” by Osheta Moore.

The five-part study will run on Zoom each Wednesday during the month, starting May 3, from 7-8:30 p.m. Anyone who needs a copy of the book can order it via Brethren Press: or 800-441-3712.

While we encourage you to take part in as many of the sessions as possible, you do not need to attend all five weeks in order to participate. The Zoom link for the studies is: If you need a phone dial-in number, please contact the district office.


Drew Hart, professor of theology at Messiah University in Pennsylvania and a member of Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren, will be sharing a presentation at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin on Saturday, April 29, 4:30-6:30 p.m. The district is partnering in this event, sponsored by the denomination’s Discipleship Ministries office, and everyone from the district is welcome to attend. The program will also be livestreamed at

Drew is nationally known as a speaker and author, and he was one of the preachers at last summer’s Church of the Brethren National Youth Conference. His books include Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism, and his blog, “Taking Jesus Seriously,” is hosted by The Christian Century.

At the April 29 event, Drew will share and do a Q&A time from 4:30-6, followed by a book signing. Brethren Press will have a display of books available for purchase.