Sunday, January 01, 2023

The Reflector - January 2023

The Village ILWIDIot

By Walt Wiltschek

“I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way, who can’t see where they’re going. I’ll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don’t fall into the ditch. .’” —Isaiah 42:16a, MSG

When I traveled to Iceland this past summer—taking a few recently graduated youth for some hiking and exploring—our adventures included a search for offshore spots where puffins nest and swoop down over the ocean. It’s almost mesmerizing watching them do their wobbly yet graceful flights. One of the youth even ran across a nest with a baby puffin, known as a “puffling,” sitting in it and looking rather indignant at being disturbed.

As I read up on these native birds, I learned that residents of the small island often have to help these young birds after they’re born, as they are drawn to the lights of the nearby town rather than flying toward the sea, and many become lost or injured. A “Puffling Patrol” of local citizens rescues the stranded birds, fixes them up if needed, and carries them back to the ocean. Some 3,000 pufflings needed such care this year.

I expect everyone needs that sort of care at some point, perhaps especially so these days. While we strive to follow Christ, it’s easy to become rather disoriented with everything we have faced in recent years. We have an idea of where we need to go, but getting there is a challenge. And all around us are people facing similar or greater struggles.

Over the past month, I read a lesser-known book by John Steinbeck titled The Short Reign of Pippin IV—an imagined tale of an unexpected king of France. In one scene, the reluctant king escapes the confines of the castle and heads into the countryside in disguise.

There, while eating lunch, he encounters an elderly man who is pulling small statues out of an algae-covered moat. The man explains that some local hooligans push the statues into the murky water a few times a year; he always dutifully pokes around until he can find and retrieve them, setting them back in place. “Why do you pull them out?” the king asks. “Why—I don’t know,” the elderly man replies. “I guess there’s people that pull things out—that’s what they do. I guess I’m one of that kind.”

In difficult, disorienting times, I pray each of us is that kind, too: those who strive to help out and set things right, no matter the odds. And when we are the ones who need that help, may we encounter those who will likewise extend their hands and hearts and pull us out once more—the human equivalent of a “Puffling Patrol” (a Brethren Brigade, perhaps?).

Blessings to all of you in this new year as we seek the path to which we’re called, together.

District executive schedule:

In addition to regular meetings, Walt attended the Camp Emmaus board retreat Jan. 20-21, visited Dixon for a call weekend with a pastoral candidate Jan. 22, will be preaching at York Center Jan. 29, will be visiting the Franklin Grove rummage sale Feb. 4 and at Polo on Feb. 5, and will be attending an Office of Ministry event at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin Feb. 24-26.

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

UPCOMING MEETING & EVENTS

Potluck Experience Team meeting, Jan. 24, 6 p.m.
Ministry Leadership Development Team, Jan. 25, 6 p.m.
Church Revitalization and Development Team, Jan. 28, 9 a.m.
Program & Arrangements Committee, Jan. 30, 6:30 p.m.
Leadership Team, Feb. 7, 6:30 p.m.
CODE Midwest meeting, Feb. 21, 1 p.m.
Franklin Grove closing service, March 12, 3 p.m.
Spring district youth retreat, Camp Emmaus, March 17-19
[all meetings via Zoom unless otherwise noted]

CODE MEETINGS

Walt Wiltschek was among representatives from 19 of the congregation’s 24 districts who gathered for the Council of District Executives’ annual winter meetings in Florida Jan. 6-11. CODE was joined by Annual Conference officers and agency representatives for portions of the meeting. Items of discussion included updates from the districts, reports from committees, budget items, approving a group covenant of accountability for CODE, conversation on possible updates to the denomination’s ministry ethics guidelines, sharing with the Annual Conference “Breaking Down Barriers” study committee, and other planning. Worship and prayer were also woven through the meetings. CODE will next meet for a continuing education event at Bethany Theological Seminary in late April, and then for its regular meeting at Annual Conference in July.

IN OUR PRAYERS

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 the coming weeks:

Week of Jan. 23: Pray for the new Brethren group taking shape in Madison, Wisconsin, as they work on their vision for that gathering and find new ways to be together.
Week of Jan. 30: Pray for the Allison Prairie congregation, and for the important work that happens at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.
Week of Feb. 6: Give thanks to God for Brethren Volunteer Service as it celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. If possible, also say thank you to someone who has served through BVS.
Week of Feb. 13: Be in prayer for the Leadership Team of our district, including chair Carol Kussart (Cerro Gordo) and vice chair Jonathan Shively (Highland Avenue), as it makes decisions in the year ahead.
Week of Feb. 20: Pray for the Yellow Creek congregation as it celebrates its 175th anniversary this year, a long legacy of ministry in northwestern Illinois.
Week of Feb. 27: Pray for the Chicago First congregation, and for the work of the denomination’s Intercultural Ministries office.

MINISTRY NEWS

Congregational vacancies: Dixon Church of the Brethren held a call weekend with a pastoral candidate on Jan. 22. Chicago First and Girard have recently had pastoral vacancies occur and are exploring next steps. Cherry Grove and La Place also have current vacancies and are at various stages of the search process, currently using pulpit supply.

Bob DeBolt, an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren (and former pastor of the Oak Grove congregation), retired Dec. 31 as pastor of Washburn (Ill.) Christian Church. He lives in the Peoria area and is a member of Peoria First Church of the Brethren. Bob has expressed an interest in continuing to do pulpit supply. We wish Bob all the best in retirement!

Our prayers continue for Diana Verhulst, Krista Hernandez, and Becky Shipman, who entered the TRIM program of ministry study this past year. Several others in the district are exploring calls to licensing or ordination. If you have an interest in exploring a call to ministry, please contact the district office or a member of the Ministry Leadership Development Team.

CONGREGATIONAL/LOCAL NEWS

The new “Madtown Brethren” group in Madison, Wis., held its second worship and fellowship gathering on Jan. 8. They are planning to meet the first Sunday of each month, and the next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 5 at 10 a.m. Meetings are rotating among members’ homes. The group also hopes to begin doing some service projects. If you or someone you know in the Madison area would have interest in being part of the gatherings, contact Ken & Diane Weaver at 815-541-1938 or Everett Teetor at 847-309-2554. A Facebook group page has been created for communication.

Yellow Creek Church of the Brethren (Pearl City), one of the oldest congregations in the district, will celebrate its 175th anniversary in 2023. Plans for specific events are under way. Happy anniversary, Yellow Creek! (The oldest currently, according to denominational records, in case you’re curious, is Hurricane Creek—1843—followed by Franklin Grove and Canton in 1845, and West Branch in 1846. Several others followed Yellow Creek in the 1850s and 1860s.)

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: andreag.iwdcob@gmail.com.

HONORING THE LEGACY OF FRANKLIN GROVE

The district is invited to gather at Franklin Grove Church of the Brethren (121 W. North St.) at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 12, for a farewell service. Franklin Grove, one of the oldest congregations in the district, held its last regular service on Dec. 24 after voting earlier in the fall to close. The building has been sold to a local group that plans to use it as a school, preserving many of its features, and the sale is expected to close in mid-March.

This time of worship, prayer, singing, and remembering will be an opportunity to honor Franklin Grove’s legacy in the district and denomination and provide some measure of closure for those who have been connected to it over the years. District conference will officially act on closure of the congregation in November.

The church will hold a rummage sale featuring various items from the building Feb. 3-4, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. each day. Items for sale include pictures, a ping-pong table, communion items, various Christmas decorations and other décor items, small wooden tables, chairs with arms, a variety of banners, toys, a rolling cart, TVs (one an older model), printer, computer, two white vinyl tables with chairs, music material and books, a 16’ fiberglass ladder, a 20’ wooden ladder, a glass display case, tablecloths and related materials, totes of satin and felt and burlap material, pots and pans, and kitchen supplies. To inquire about items or for questions or more details, contact Linda Erisman at 815-535-1689.

A group from the church will continue to oversee and care for the nearby Emmert Cemetery and chapel as a separately incorporated board. The chapel will be available to use for functions in the future as needed. Our prayers are with all the members and friends of Franklin Grove in this time of endings and transition.

REMEMBERING


Alan George Kieffaber
, 83, a former mission worker in Nigeria who also filled other denominational roles, died at his home in North Manchester, Ind., on Nov. 2. He was born May 24, 1939, in Akron, Ohio, the oldest of five children. He graduated from Manchester College (now Manchester University) in 1961 majoring in peace studies and religion. He graduated from Bethany Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity in 1964. He pastored Church of the Brethren congregations in Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, and Maryland over the span of his career. Kieffaber also was church relations representative for Bethany Seminary in Oak Brook, Ill., 1977-1979, and campus pastor at McPherson (Kan.) College, 1979-1982. A service celebrating his life was held Jan. 7 at Manchester Church of the Brethren. A full obituary is online at www.mckeemortuary.com/obituary/Alan-Kieffaber.

IMAGINE: 2023 CLERGY RETREAT & POTLUCK EXPERIENCE EVENT

The district’s Ministry Leadership Development Team will sponsor the 2023 Clergy Spring Retreat April 19-20 at the Bishop Lane Retreat Center near Rockford. Greg Davidson Laszakovits, a former Church of the Brethren pastor and current congregational consultant/leadership coach will be the keynote speaker.

This time together will focus on helping pastors and others re-think and imagine the future for their congregations and ministry settings, work that has been at the center of Greg’s work through GDL Insight. How do we cast a new vision in changing times? At least 0.5 CEU’s will be available for pastors who participate. Further details on cost and schedule will be coming soon.

Greg will also be the keynote speaker at the district’s 2023 Potluck Experience event, which will be Saturday, April 22, at the Dixon Church of the Brethren using the district’s 2023 theme, “Encourage One Another.” Several “equipping session” workshops will also be offered to help us continue imagining, along with a time of worship, and, of course, a good potluck meal in the midst of it all! Stay tuned for more information on that event in the coming weeks, as well.

NEW AND RENEW

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 in-person or virtual attendance is $109 per person prior to Feb. 28, then $149 March 1-April 17, and $189 April 18-May 18. 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, to be released on May 9. Registration and more details are at www.brethren.org/newandrenew.



NATIONAL OLDER ADULT CONFERENCE

The 2023 Church of the Brethren National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) will take place Sept. 4-8 in Lake Junaluska, N.C., with the theme “God Is Doing a New Thing,” drawn from Isaiah 43:19. Keynote speakers include Mark Charles, Ted Swartz, Ken Medema, and Osheta Moore. Worship preachers will be Freeport Church of the Brethren pastor Christina Singh, Highland Avenue pastor Katie Shaw Thompson, Jeremy Ashworth, Deanna Brown, and Lexi Aligarbres. Bible studies will be led by Bob Neff and Christina Bucher.

Christy Waltersdorff, pastor at York Center and district moderator-elect, is the 2023 NOAC coordinator. Leonard Matheny (Peoria First) is among those on the planning team, along with Church of the Brethren staff Josh Brockway and Stan Dueck. Learn more at www.brethren.org/noac.

If members of your congregation might have interest in district group transportation to NOAC, please contact the district office.

CAMP NEWS

Camp Emmaus
has announced its camping schedule for 2023:

April 22 Spring Into Camp
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 dradcliff@eder.org.

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 next year. Watch for details as they become available.

At its Family Camp this year, Camp Emmanuel dedicated a new prayer garden in honor of Leon Sweigart, in recognition of his many years of service to the camp. This lovely spot along the trail to Vesper Hill has been set aside as an area for quiet meditation and prayer. The garden features two benches in a white-rocked circle surrounded by flowering plants that will appear each spring and provide beauty through the summer. Special thanks goes to the Brandenburg family for designing the garden and helping the managers carry out this project. The camp also installed a new ga-ga ball pit this past summer, thanks to a donation and installation work from Hurricane Creek Church of the Brethren.

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

SPRING DISTRICT YOUTH RETREAT

A retreat for Illinois/Wisconsin District youth currently in grades 9 through one year beyond high school will be held March 17-19 (Friday evening through Sunday morning) at Camp Emmaus’ retreat lodge in Mount Morris. The weekend will include games, food, sessions, worship, a hike, and a possible service project.

Cost is $35 per person. Registration materials will be available soon at www.iwdcob.org. Congregations sending youth are also asked to send at least one advisor for every four youth attending. Advisors may attend at no cost.

YOUTH & YOUNG ADULTS

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. Early-bird registration through Jan. 31 is $225, then $250 until April 30. A $200 non-refundable deposit is due within two weeks of registration. Register and learn more at www.brethren.org/yya/njhc.

The Church of the Brethren’s Christian Citizenship Seminar for youth in grades 9-12 and advisors will be held April 22-27 in Washington, D.C. The theme will be “Hot and Hungry,” looking at climate change and food insecurity. Cost is $500 plus transportation. Registration opened Jan. 9 at www.brethren.org/yya/ccs.

The 2023 Church of the Brethren Young Adult Conference, for young adults ages 18-35, will be May 5-7 at Camp Mack in Milford, Ind. Registration is $250, but an early registration discount will be available. Watch for updates at www.brethren.org/yya/yac.

FaithX registration opens Feb. 1 at 6 p.m. Central Time at brethren.org/faithx! FaithX is a short-term service program through Brethren Volunteer Service that offers weeklong service trips (“workcamps”) domestically and internationally for youth, young adults, and adults. Participants can serve in a variety of ministry and non-profit settings, live and worship in community, explore a new place, and examine their values and beliefs. Summer 2023 options include four junior high trips, five for senior high, one for junior and senior high combined, an adult trip to Spain, and a “We Are Able” experience for youth with special needs along with adult helpers. Sites are located across the US. For more information on these events, watch for updates on www.brethren.org/faithx.

ANNUAL CONFERENCE

The 2023 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference will take place July 4-8 (a Tuesday-through-Saturday schedule) 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 will open to the public March 1.

The Association for the Arts in the Church of the Brethren (AACB) will be holding its annual quilt auction at Annual Conference, with proceeds benefiting hunger projects (recently for needs in Nigeria through the Church of the Brethren Global Food Initiative). Each congregation is asked to send an 8 ½” x 8 ½” quilt block for the quilts/wall hangings. Blocks should be postmarked by May 15 and sent to Margaret Weybright, 1801 Greencroft Blvd., Apt. 125, Goshen, IN 46526. A donation of $1 or more is requested with each quilt block to offset the cost of quilting materials. Further details/instructions are available in the attached flier.






EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES

Spring district pastors/ministers retreat: As noted above, the district’s Ministry Leadership Development Team has scheduled the 2023 spring retreat/continuing education event for clergy April 19-20 at the Bishop Lane Center in Rockford, with at least 0.5 CEU’s available. Watch for more details.

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 (https://uhl.ac/), 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 Dr. Miller at rmiller@bridgewater.edu or at 540-421-2720.

• The annual Festival of Homiletics is relatively close this year, in Minneapolis, and an online option is also available. The 2023 event will take place May 15-18 with an all-star cast of speakers and the theme “Preaching Hope for a Weary World,” which they note is a “response to the hardships and heaviness that have been our reality the last few years. In these wearying days, what is our call to preach? Hope. The Festival of Homiletics 2023 will inspire us to a renewed sense of our radical calling. Our weary world needs us, preachers.” Registration ($345 early-bird in person/$95 online) and further details can be found at: Registration and information here.

• The Ventures in Christian Discipleship program operated by McPherson College announced that the “Beyond Burned Out to Boundaries and Balance” event with Jen Jensen of the denomination’s “Part-Time Pastor, Full-Time Church” program, which had been scheduled for Dec. 6, had to be postponed, with details on rescheduling to come. The full spring 2023 schedule will be announced soon. To learn more about Ventures in Christian Discipleship and to register for courses, visit www.mcpherson.edu/ventures.

• 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 https://t.e2ma.net/click/vfs32k/zarqt/3d8o7ab.

Lombard Mennonite Peace Center is offering its one-day Healthy Congregations webinar (via Zoom) on Jan. 26 and March 22 (8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Central), as well as some additional dates in 2023. Cost is $99. A Restorative Congregations webinar will be presented via Zoom Feb. 23, May 23, and Nov. 2 (9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Central). Conflict Transformation Skills for Churches will be offered via Zoom April 11 and Sept. 16 (9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Central). For more details and registration information, and to see other events, go to https://lmpeacecenter.org/all-events/.

• Upcoming courses from the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership include “Wisdom Literature” by Steve Schweitzer March 15-May 9 (online); “Pathways for Effective Leadership Part 2” by Randy Yoder March 24-25 and April 28-29 (online intensive); and “What Brethren Believe” by Denise Kettering April 19-June 13. Registration deadline for the Wisdom Literature course is Feb. 8.

Register for courses and pay online at Brethren Academy Course Registration/Biannual TRIM Payment | Bethany Theological Seminary (bethanyseminary.edu).

Strength for the Journey: A program from the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, named “Strength for the Journey,” invites pastors and others serving in ministry to take part in cohort groups for support, encouragement, and accountability.

Three types of cohorts are being formed in 2023: one for chaplains in health care settings, one for those in interim ministry, and one simply for pastors interested in connecting with other pastors around ministry topics—especially pastoral care. Cohorts typically will have five to eight people and meet for 10 to 12 90-minute sessions via Zoom during the year. CEU credits will be available.

The Brethren Academy aims to form the groups by mid-December. Each group will be assigned a convener and will begin meeting after Jan. 1. There is no cost to participate; funding for registration, resources, and some travel assistance if needed is being provided by the David J. and Mary Elizabeth Wieand Trust.

For more details and applications, visit www.bethanyseminary.edu/brethren-academy.

NCP Learning Tours: New Community Project will offer an educational trip to South Sudan May 11-22, 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 www.newcommunityproject.info/learning-tours.

JOB OPPORTUNITIES

The Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board is seeking a full-time Executive Director of Discipleship and Leadership Formation, reporting directly to the general secretary. The executive director will guide the Discipleship Ministries and Office of Ministry staff to foster the discipleship and leadership formation of pastors, youth and young adults, and congregations through events, resources, and ministries that live out of the Mission and Ministry Board’s strategic plan. Required skills and knowledge include grounding in Church of the Brethren heritage, theology, and polity; ability to articulate and operate out of the vision of the Church of the Brethren; 10 years of pastoral ministry, including administration; expertise and skills in group dynamics, including networking with diverse groups of people; and knowledge and experience in budget development and management. A Master of Divinity degree or equivalent required. The position is based in Elgin, Ill.; location is negotiable. Candidates should send a cover letter and resume’ to COBApply@brethren.org.

The Church of the Brethren is seeking a full-time Office Manager of Global Mission. This position is based at the General Offices in Elgin. Skills and knowledge required include strong communication skills, competency in Microsoft Office, ability to problem-solve and prioritize and handle confidential information, excellent organizational skills, and an appreciation of the church’s role in mission. Experience with video editing software and some Spanish, French, and/or Haitian Creole is preferred. Applicants should have one to five years of executive administrative experience and multicultural/international experience. A bachelor’s degree or similar relevant education is required. Applications will be received beginning immediately and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. Qualified candidates are invited to send a resume’ to COBApply@brethren.org.

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: pastoral/congregational Transitions; pastoral support; leadership development with respect to calling and credentialing of ministers; consultations with congregations and throughout the district structure; and management of district staff and administrative oversight of district finances. Requirements include: Minimum completed SVMC or Academy level training and ordained in the Church of the Brethren; personal skills in organization, administration, and communication; committed to the Church of the Brethren locally and denominationally and willing to work ecumenically; demonstrated leadership skills; and pastoral experience. To apply, send a letter of interest and resume’ to Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Director of Ministry, via email at officeofministry@brethren.org. Applicants are requested to contact three persons who are willing to provide a letter of reference.

The Brethren Historical Library and Archives in Elgin has a one-year archival intern position available beginning June 2023. Interns receive housing, a stipend of $550 every two weeks, and health insurance. Applicants must have a completed undergraduate degree, interest in history and/or archival work, be detail-oriented, and have computer skills. Interested candidates are invited to send a resume’ to COBApply@brethren.org by April 1.

PERSONNEL NOTES

Heidi Gross
, a member of Chicago First Church of the Brethren, has been named managing editor of Brethren Press, the publishing house of the Church of the Brethren. She will begin Feb. 6 in a part-time contract role and transition to full-time employment June 19. Heidi is currently assistant director of the Center for Civic Engagement at Northwestern University. She is also special projects manager and editor at The Together Group. Heidi holds an M.A. from Northwestern and a B.S. from Manchester University. She lives in Chicago. 

LaDonna Sanders Nkosi has resigned as Director of Intercultural Ministries for the Church of the Brethren’s Discipleship Ministries. She concluded her work with the denominational offices effective Dec. 31. LaDonna began her service on January 16, 2020. In recent years, she had also been working with The Gathering Chicago, a new church effort of the district.

The South/Central Indiana District of the Church of the Brethren has called Laura Stone to serve as district executive minister beginning Feb. 1. Laura currently serves as chaplain at Timbercrest Senior Living Community in North Manchester, Ind., a position she has held since May 2018. Ordained by the South/Central Indiana District in 2019 and a member of the Manchester congregation, Laura was raised in the Kokomo congregation. A graduate of Manchester University, she holds a Master of Divinity degree from Andover Newton Theological School and has done work on her Ph.D. in practical theology at Boston University School of Theology. She is a spiritual director, having received her training at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind. Laura’s denomination experiences include serving as a member of the Annual Conference worship planning team currently; as a National Youth Conference speaker; an instructor, and planning committee member of the Brethren Leadership Institute of the South/Central Indiana District; and as a writer for and current board chair of Brethren Life and Thought. She was elected by Annual Conference this past July as a trustee of Bethany Theological Seminary representing clergy.

Bethany Theological Seminary has hired Laura Kelley as Director of Annual and Leadership Giving. In this newly established role, Kelley will have primary responsibility for the Bethany Fund, which supports all aspects of the seminary’s educational mission, and work with individual donors to match their philanthropic interests with the Seminary’s needs. She began Jan. 9. Kelley is a 2020 graduate of Earlham College with a bachelor’s degree in Peace and Global Studies, with minors in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and religion. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in religion at Earlham School of Religion. Since September 2021 she has served as Admissions and Marketing Coordinator for the Graduate Programs in Education at Earlham. Her previous work experience includes stints at Asheville (North Carolina) Catholic School and the Human Rights Campaign.

Russ Chrusciel has been hired as Operations Manager, Organizational Investing and Deferred Gifts, for Eder Financial. Russ initially joined Eder as a member of the Product & Services team on Dec. 12. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s degree in business administration (concentrations in Finance and Entrepreneurship) from the University of Illinois-Chicago. He brings a wealth of practical experience from a variety of customer-facing and technical roles within the financial markets, financial services, and software sectors. Russ lives in Geneva, Illinois with his wife of 25-plus years, Karna. They have four daughters. Russ is a member of Chapelstreet Church in Geneva.

Byrl Shaver began serving as quarter-time interim district executive minister for the Michigan District on Jan. 1. Byrl currently serves in a half-time position as pastor of Nappanee Church of the Brethren in the Northern Indiana District, a role he has held since 2008. He holds degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and from United Theological Seminary, where he obtained his Master of Divinity degree. His previous ministry settings include pastorates in Pacific Southwest and Southern Ohio/Kentucky districts and chaplaincy at the Pendleton Indiana Correctional Facility. Byrl will continue his ministry with the Nappanee congregation while he serves in this new role.

Daniel L. Rudy has been called to serve as district executive minister for the Virlina District beginning Feb. 6. He has served as pastor of Ninth Street Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va., since 2011 and has been an instructor in the Christian Growth Institute of the Virlina and Shenandoah districts. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Bethany Theological Seminary and a Bachelor of Arts from Bridgewater College. Emma Jean Franklin Woodard is serving a five-week interim role for Virlina’s district executive position to bridge from the retirement of David Shumate, which became official on Dec. 31, and the beginning of Daniel Rudy’s service.

Pauline Liu has resigned as the volunteer coordinator of Brethren Volunteer Service. She will conclude her work with Church of the Brethren effective Feb. 2. Pauline began her service on May 18, 2020, as the orientation assistant of Brethren Volunteer Service.

Michael Brewer-Berres resigned as interim program assistant for Brethren Volunteer Service. She will concluded her work with the Church of the Brethren effective Dec. 16. Michael began her service on Aug. 23, 2021, as the BVS orientation assistant. Emily Bowdle began her service on July 18, 2022, as the orientation assistant in the BVS office and ended her time of service with Brethren Volunteer Service on Dec. 16.

DISTRICT WEBSITE

When is the last time you visited the IL/WI District Website? There you’ll find helpful information about your district including but not limited to:

• District Calendar
• Eco-Stewardship
• District Newsletter
• Ministries

Don’t delay! Check it out! See what you can learn about your district!

DENOMINATIONAL NEWS/NEWSLINE

The Breaking Down Barriers Study Committee was asked by delegates of the 2022 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren to explore how we gather and how we might create greater equity in access, so that we can include as many people as possible in Annual Conference and other church gatherings. The committee wants to hear from as many corners of our denomination as possible. Participate in the committee’s survey at: www.surveymonkey.com/r/breaking-down-barriers by Jan. 31. York Center member Jeanne Davies is a member of the study committee.

On Earth Peace is developing worship and study resources for a 2023 Lenten series titled “Open Our Eyes, Lord,” exploring the intersection of faith and race. Pastor Rosanna McFadden of Creekside Church of the Brethren (Elkhart, Ind.) is serving as the lead author. Weekly worship resources will be provided that congregations are free to use and adapt. Video presentations with study questions for use in Sunday school and other settings will also be available, along with book suggestions for small group study. Rosanna and OEP staff will facilitate a “preview” session on Feb. 9, 12-2 p.m. Central Time, to worship together using some of the resources and provide connection with others interested in using them. Register at www.onearthpeace.org/events.

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 www.creationjustice.org/resource-hub/category/bulletin-insert.

The Church of the Brethren Discipleship Ministries office is offering resources on mental health in cooperation with Anabaptist-based We Rise International. “Helping Loved Ones with Addiction, Even if They Seem to Not Want Help” will be shared online on Feb. 2 at 6 p.m. Central Time. Register at www.weriseinternational.thinkific.com/collections. Other recorded sessions, including “Surviving Trauma,” are available at the site for viewing.

Manchester University has announced a $20 million expansion in Fort Wayne, Ind., which is a health science hub and base for the university’s pharmacy program. The 32,000-square-foot expansion of the Parkview Health campus will add educational opportunities in health careers that are in high demand, such as physical therapy and nursing. Accepting students now, the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program begins in May, the Master of Science in Nutrition and Nutrigenomics degree program begins this fall, and students currently in the traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing track will complete their final two years in Fort Wayne. Read the full release at www.manchester.edu/about-manchester/news/news-articles/2022-news-articles/manchester-announces-fort-wayne-expansion.

McPherson (Kan.) College has received a $1 million gift from the Rob and Melani Walton Foundation, which will go toward a $500 million match campaign announced in late 2022. The college is announcing the creation of the Rob Walton Scholarship Fund, which will focus on attracting and retaining the best students in the college’s unique automotive restoration program. “The anonymous double-match estate commitment of $500 million is the largest in the history of any liberal arts college in the United States,” said the release from McPherson. “This grant helps us fulfill our mission of being the center of excellence for students serious about automotive restoration,” said McPherson president Michael Schneider.

David Button, a former mission worker with the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, passed away Dec. 3 after a struggle with dementia for the past few years. Button spent some years working and teaching in Garkida, Nigeria, which he remembered as the high point of his life. He was a brother of Tim Button-Harrison, district executive minister for the Church of the Brethren’s Northern Plains District. A memorial service was held Dec. 17 at Ames (Iowa) First Christian Church, with Nigerian Brethren leaders Samuel and Rebecca Dali participating in the service.

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 BWA23@etown.edu or call 717-327-8188.

The Church of the Brethren offers nursing scholarships of $1,000 to $2,000 for church members who are enrolled in LPN, RN, or nursing graduate programs. A limited number of scholarships are awarded each year. Scholarships of up to $2,000 for RN and graduate nurse candidates, and up to $1,000 for LPN candidates, will be awarded. A preference is given to new applications. Also, preference is given to nursing students who are in their second year of an associate’s degree or third year of a baccalaureate program. Scholarship recipients are eligible for only one scholarship per degree. Nominees must be members of the Church of the Brethren. Applications and supporting documentation must be submitted by April 1. Candidates awarded scholarships will be notified in July and funds will be sent directly to the appropriate school for the fall term. Find the application form and more information at www.brethren.org/discipleshipmin/nursingscholarships.

GRANTS AND GIVNG

District Mission and Mortar Grant/Loan Program


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.

SUPPORTING YOUR DISTRICT

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
  • General Fund
  • Emerging Ministries
  • Ministry Training
Look for the donate button at iwdcob.org, or send your checks to the district office: 269 E. Chestnut St., Canton, IL 61520. Thank you!

WHAT COULD YOU DO WITH $100?

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 (iwdcob.org), 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!

GIFTS DISCERNMENT AND CALL COMMITTEE

The Gifts Discernment and Call Committee (GDCC) is commissioned to discern the gifts of persons for the purpose of inviting and calling them in to positions of leadership and team/committee participation. The GDCC delves into this work based on the names and information available to them. The likelihood is that gifted persons are not invited and called to serve because the GDCC lacks names and information. If you feel compelled to serve in the district and have not been asked, you can connect to the district webpage and learn how to share your name and information with the GDCC. Simply complete the online profile form after clicking on the “online profile form” link in the website article. Or call the district office (649-6008) and a profile form will be emailed to you.

Do you know someone you believe has gifts to serve at the district level? Invite them to visit the district webpage or share their name with the GDCC or district office.

Serving is rewarding!

Friday, December 02, 2022

The Reflector - December 2022

Thursday, December 01, 2022

THE VILLIAGE ILWIDIOT

By Walt Wiltschek

“So the Lord's promise came true, just as the prophet had said: ‘A virgin will have a baby boy, and he will be called Immanuel,’ which means ‘God is with us.’” —Matt. 1:22-23, CEV

At the Church of the Brethren National Youth Conference held in Colorado this past summer, youth were asked in their small groups to name things that they appreciated about their congregations.

A variety of responses came back, dozens of them in all. What struck me in looking over the list was how many of those responses included some variation of “community.” Some youth specifically named that word, while others said things like “never feeling like an outsider,” “unfaltering support," “welcoming,” “it feels like a family,” “accepting,” “tightly knit,” “how close we are,” and, my personal favorite, “a big group of loving people.”

That shouldn’t surprise us, as study after study has reported that things like acceptance and belonging are key needs in adolescent development—and probably significant needs for most people, really. In the church, we often focus on belief and behavior, but many have noted that people won’t be willing to take those steps until they feel that they belong, that they are welcome and “at home.”

In the Gospel of Matthew, we are reminded that Jesus’ arrival among us at Christmas was indeed “Immanuel (or Emmanuel),” Hebrew for “God with us.” In the Gospel of John, it poetically expresses that concept by saying, “The Word became flesh and lived among us” (1:14a).

For the people of ancient Palestine some two millennia ago, that sense of “God with us” was a living reality. For those of us all these years later, Jesus continues to dwell in our hearts and God moves in our midst, but it’s less tangible. It’s up to all of us who claim to follow Christ to continue “putting flesh” on that holy wonder through our work and witness.

Those youth who lifted up things like support, love, and welcome have experienced what it is like to have “God with us,” often because of caring, giving, encouraging, compassionate people in their congregations. How many more youth and others out there might be seeking the same?

In this Advent and Christmas season, let’s celebrate that amazing gift of God’s presence with us, both in Bethlehem and now. But let’s also be attentive to all those still plaintively singing, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” in their souls today, aching and searching for that sense of divine accompaniment in their lives—made real, perhaps, through a simple act of true community.

District executive schedule: In addition to regular meetings, Walt will be worshiping and meeting with Chicago First Dec. 11, attending a retreat at Camp Emmaus Dec. 16-17, preaching/meeting with search committee at Dixon Dec. 18, and attending/traveling to the Council of District Executives winter meetings in Florida Jan. 6-12. Walt will be away on vacation for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays Dec. 22-Jan. 2.

UPCOMING MEETINGS & EVENTS

District Potluck Experience team, Dec. 13, 6:30 p.m.
Council of District Executives winter meetings, Florida, Jan. 7-11, 2023
Ministry Leadership Development Team, Jan. 25, 6 p.m.
Church Revitalization and Development Team, Jan. 28, 9 a.m.
Leadership Team, Feb. 7, 6:30 p.m.
[all meetings via Zoom unless otherwise noted]

MERRY CHRISTMAS


 

DISTRICT CONFERENCE LOGO

Thanks to the work of Debbie Noffsinger, a member of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren, we have a new logo for the 2023 district conference theme! Moderator Phyllis Batterton (Woodland) chose the logo from several options with the input of the district Program & Arrangements Committee. Debbie, a professional graphic designer who also does work for the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, has been creating the district logo for several years now. You can see more of her work at Debbie Noffsinger Design (dndesignsite.com). The 2023 district conference will take place Nov. 3-4 at Lanark Church of the Brethren.

IN OUR PRAYERS

A district prayer calendar has been created for your use in praying for our district and related programs through the years. We invite you to include the following in your prayers in coming weeks:
  • Week of Dec. 5: Pray for the Romine congregation this week, and for their ministry in and around Salem in Marion County.
  • Week of Dec. 12: Pray for the Hurricane Creek congregation this week, and for their ministry in and around Pleasant Mound, Smithboro, Mulberry Grove, and beyond.
  • Week of Dec. 19: Pray for the Neighborhood congregation this week, and for their ministry in the Boulder Hill community, Montgomery, and beyond. Pause also in the joy of Christmas, thanking God for the great gift of Jesus’ life among us.
  • Week of Dec. 26: As the year ends, pray for the Woodland congregation and for their ministry in and around Astoria. Pray that God will fill the year ahead with good work and new possibilities.
  • Week of Jan. 2: As we enter this new year, spend time in prayer asking God where your congregation might be led in the months ahead.
  • Week of Jan. 9: Be in prayer for the Council of District Executives as they hold their winter meetings this week, and for all the work of our denomination’s 24 districts.

MINISTRY NEWS

Benjamin Reynolds has announced his resignation as transitional pastor at Chicago First effective Dec. 31. The congregation is working on plans going forward.

Ron Bryant has resigned as pastor of the Girard congregation effective Dec. 31 following 12 years of service there.

The Virden congregation has called Katrina Spencer as its pastor. She can be reached at Pastor.Katrina@hotmail.com.

Welcome to Annali Topf, an ordained Church of the Brethren minister who recently moved to the district from Pasadena, Calif. Annali has begun a position as chaplain at the VA Hospital in Milwaukee and hopes to connect with Illinois/Wisconsin. She is a graduate of Fuller Seminary and did a Clinical Pastoral Education residency at UCLA Health. Our prayers are with her as she begins this new work.

The Dixon congregation is in the pastoral search process. It is a half-time position. Cherry Grove and La Place also have current vacancies and are various stages of the search process.

CONGREGATIONAL/LOCAL NEWS

The new project in Madison, Wis., is taking shape! The group, which has named itself “Madtown Brethren,” after a nickname for the city, held its first official worship and fellowship gathering at the home of Ken & Diane Weaver on Dec. 4. It plans to meet the first Sunday of each month (but Jan. 8 due to the holiday) for a time of worship and sharing using a house church model, with service projects and additional events scheduled at other times. Our prayers are with them as this exciting new venture begins.

The Stanley congregation in west-central Wisconsin has voted to close. It had not been holding regular worship services for several years. The congregation has accepted a bid on its building from a local buyer and is working toward finalizing the sale.

Yellow Creek Church of the Brethren (Pearl City), one of the oldest congregations in the district, will celebrate its 175th anniversary in 2023. Plans for specific events are under way. Happy anniversary, Yellow Creek!

The Rockford Community fellowship, facing significant maintenance and repair needs to its large facility, sold the building and 3.5 acres of land to another area church on Nov. 3. Rockford plans for now to continue as a virtual church with occasional ‘house church’-type meetings.

Franklin Grove, another of the district’s oldest congregations, voted in October to cease regular worship services at the end of 2022, and to formally close sometime next year. A closing service will likely be scheduled for next summer or fall.

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: andreag.iwdcob@gmail.com.

‘WITNESS’

As a word of encouragement to all our congregations and others seeking to make a difference in the world in the name of Christ, we share this poem from Anglican priest Tim Watson of Staffordshire, England, which was sent out recently by the Parish Collective:

Witness
You are faithful
In the thoughtful way
You live out your life
By each word spoken
Through small acts
Every gesture is more than
A token,
It is truth
Truth that you live
a quiet revolution
In your neighbourhood
In your community
Amidst the reality of lived life.
For you thanks is given
Grateful prayers for the witness
Present in every breath.

REMEMBERING

The district is remembering with gratitude the life of Bob Lake. Bob, 69, passed away Dec. 4 in Ashland, Ohio. He was part of the Polo Church of the Brethren community while his wife, Leslie, was pastor there. Born in Pittsburgh, Pa., Bob was a graduate of Capital University and Ashland University in Ohio. He spent most of his career in education, serving as a math teacher, assistant principal, and principal, and also served as a coach and choir director. He and Leslie had been married for 49 years. A celebration of life service will take place this Sunday, Dec. 10, in Ohio. The full obituary is available at https://www.denbowfh.com/obituaries/Robert-Bob-M.-Lake?obId=26529802#/celebrationWall. Our prayers are with Leslie, the Polo church, and other family members and friends in this time of loss.

CHANGES AT PINECREST

The Illinois/Wisconsin District in November received official word from the Pinecrest Community in Mount Morris that the retirement community would be sold effective Nov. 30 to Allure Healthcare Services. Those who were at district conference heard from CEO Ferol Labash about the severe financial and staffing challenges they were experiencing. This was unsustainable, and their board opted for the best possible way forward.

This ends Pinecrest's 129-year connection to the Church of the Brethren, which founded Pinecrest in 1893. While congregations may want to adjust their outreach budgets accordingly, we encourage congregations and individuals to continue to volunteer and connect with residents as circumstances allow under the new ownership, as the residents will need our continued prayers and support. Rodney Caldwell, pastor at the Mount Morris congregation, will remain in his role as chaplain at Pinecrest.

We are grateful for the leadership that Ferol and others have given at Pinecrest over the years, and especially through this difficult period. Our prayers are with all the staff in this time of transition. The full press release from Pinecrest follows:

After a 129-year history of serving seniors, Pinecrest Community announces its planned sale November 30, 2022, to Allure Healthcare Services.

Many factors played a role in the Pinecrest Board of Directors' decision to seek a buyer for Pinecrest. The low Illinois Medicaid reimbursement rates have been insufficient to cover the cost of care for Pinecrest residents for decades. Financial challenges caused by Medicaid were compounded by the COVID pandemic. Staffing shortages and lower resident census negatively impacted revenue. Wage pressures, hazard pay, and the added costs of PPE, testing and other supplies increased expenses exponentially. Losses experienced each month over the last three years accumulated at a rate that was unsustainable. At the same time, the COVID pandemic significantly impacted fundraising efforts. Due to these factors, the Board recognized the need for change.

Pinecrest's Board of Directors set the priorities of maintaining a retirement community in Mt. Morris, honoring its commitment to provide quality care and meet its financial commitments to Pinecrest residents, providing continued employment for staff and meeting obligations to vendors. These priorities provided the framework for the search for a buyer.

The Pinecrest Board selected Allure Healthcare Services to continue the operations that were started by the Church of the Brethren in 1893. Allure Healthcare Services is committed to quality care for its residents and to creating a family atmosphere among its staff. Started in 2019, Allure Healthcare Services owns nine other communities in Sterling, Mt. Carroll, Geneseo, Prophetstown, Moline, Galesburg, Stockton, Lake Storey and Zion.

The Board of Directors and leaders of Pinecrest grieve the loss of more than a century-long connection to the Church of the Brethren. Our rich history with the Church of the Brethren has been woven through every day of our service to Pinecrest residents and our greater community. This connection will be a bedrock for committed staff as they continue to serve residents with the new owners. We are forever grateful to the Church of the Brethren and its members for 129 years of support of Pinecrest's ministry to seniors.

A GIFT OF COMPASSION

Following the news of the sale of the Pinecrest Community, a member of the Mount Morris Church of the Brethren—which is located just down the street from Pinecrest—decided they wanted to do something to support the retirement community’s staff.

The member, who wished to remain anonymous, decided to send a $20 gift card for a local supermarket to every staff member. They asked that the congregation send the cards with a letter of support to the employees, about 150 in all.

And so on Nov. 28, a letter signed by pastor Rodney Caldwell, moderator Brenda Nevenhoven, and leadership team chair Dianne Swingel accompanied the gift, beginning: “Thank you for your compassionate service to the residents of Pinecrest Community.” Noting the history between the denomination and Pinecrest, it continued, “Pinecrest Community has been dear to the heart of our church community for over a century. Although the sale of Pinecrest Community brings a conclusion to our formal relationship, please be assured of our continuing support, concern, and prayers. May God continue to bless the vision that led to the founding of the “Brethren Home” in Mt. Morris in 1893.”

LEADERSHIP TEAM SCHEDULE

At its reorganization meeting following district conference, the district Leadership Team worked at setting a meeting schedule for 2023. Due to the schedule needs of some new members, the team will shift from meeting on Saturday mornings (mostly virtually) to Tuesday evenings.

Meeting dates for the coming year will be Feb. 7, April 4, June 6, Aug. 1, and Oct. 3, plus the reorganization meeting following the 2023 district conference in Lanark.

Carol Kussart (Cerro Gordo) and Jonathan Shively (Highland Avenue) were called to serve as chair and chair-elect, respectively, for another year.

2023 CLERGY RETREAT & POTLUCK EXPERIENCE EVENT

The district’s Ministry Leadership Development Team will sponsor the 2023 clergy spring retreat April 19-20 at the Bishop Lane Retreat Center near Rockford. Greg Davidson Laszakovits, a former Church of the Brethren pastor and current congregational consultant/coach will be the keynote speaker.

Specific details are still being finalized, but Greg has done intriguing work with helping congregations re-think and create new visions for their future in this season of changing dynamics in the church. That forward-looking and creative approach will be the focus of our retreat time.

So that more people can benefit from his sharing, Greg will also be the keynote speaker at the district’s 2023 Potluck Experience event, which will be Saturday, April 22, at the Dixon church. Stay tuned for more information on that in the coming weeks, as well!

DISASTER RESPONSE

Illinois/Wisconsin District sent a team to the Brethren disaster response project in Waverly, Tenn., Nov. 27-Dec. 3, doing construction work in an area that was hard-hit by storms and flooding. Thank you to district disaster response coordinator Loren Habegger and others on the team there for their work!

Brethren Disaster Ministries recently announced that a new project would open in January in Dawson Springs, Kentucky—where a tornado hit in December 2021—as the Tennessee project closes. A short-term project was held in Dawson Springs in October to begin the work, and the new project there is expected to continue through 2023, with a goal of building 20 homes.

WHAT COULD YOU DO WITH $100?

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 (iwdcob.org), 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!

EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES

  • Spring district pastors/ministers retreat:
    As noted above, the district’s Ministry Leadership Development Team has scheduled the 2023 spring retreat/continuing education event for clergy April 19-20 at the Bishop Lane Center in Rockford. Watch for more details.

  • The annual Clergy Tax Seminar will take place Jan. 28 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Central Time with leadership from Deb Oskin. Sponsors are the Brethren Academy, the Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry, and Bethany Theological Seminary. Students, clergy, and anyone who deals with clergy finances are invited to participate in this online Zoom seminar. Participants can receive 0.3 continuing education units for the first portions of the seminar. Registration is $40 per person. Current Brethren Academy, Bethany Theological Seminary, and Earlham School of Religion students may attend at no cost, although registration is still required. Instructions and handouts and a Zoom link will be sent prior to the event. Registration deadline is Jan. 18. Register at https://bethanyseminary.edu/brethren-academy/clergy-tax-seminar.

  • The Ventures in Christian Discipleship program operated by McPherson College announced that the “Beyond Burned Out to Boundaries and Balance” event with Jen Jensen of the denomination’s “Part-Time Pastor, Full-Time Church” program, which had been scheduled for Dec. 6, had to be postponed, with details on rescheduling to come. The full spring 2023 schedule will be announced soon. To learn more about Ventures in Christian Discipleship and to register for courses, visit www.mcpherson.edu/ventures.

  • 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 https://t.e2ma.net/click/vfs32k/zarqt/3d8o7ab.

  • Lombard Mennonite Peace Center is offering its one-day Healthy Congregations webinar (via Zoom) on Jan. 26 and March 22 (8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Central), as well as some additional dates in 2023. Cost is $99. A Restorative Congregations webinar will be presented via Zoom Feb. 23, May 23, and Nov. 2 (9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Central). Conflict Transformation Skills for Churches will be offered via Zoom April 11 and Sept. 16 (9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Central). For more details and registration information, and to see other events, go to https://lmpeacecenter.org/all-events/.

  • Upcoming courses from the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership include “Wisdom Literature” by Steve Schweitzer March 15-May 9 (online); “Pathways for Effective Leadership Part 2” by Randy Yoder March 24-25 and April 28-29 (online intensive); and “What Brethren Believe” by Denise Kettering April 19-June 13. Registration deadline for the Wisdom Literature course is Feb. 8.

    Register for courses and pay online at Brethren Academy Course Registration/Biannual TRIM Payment | Bethany Theological Seminary (bethanyseminary.edu).

  • Strength for the Journey: A program from the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, named “Strength for the Journey,” invites pastors and others serving in ministry to take part in cohort groups for support, encouragement, and accountability.

    Three types of cohorts are being formed in 2023: one for chaplains in health care settings, one for those in interim ministry, and one simply for pastors interested in connecting with other pastors around ministry topics—especially pastoral care. Cohorts typically will have five to eight people and meet for 10 to 12 90-minute sessions via Zoom during the year. CEU credits will be available.

    The Brethren Academy aims to form the groups by mid-December. Each group will be assigned a convener and will begin meeting after Jan. 1. There is no cost to participate; funding for registration, resources, and some travel assistance if needed is being provided by the David J. and Mary Elizabeth Wieand Trust.

    For more details and applications, visit www.bethanyseminary.edu/brethren-academy.

  • NCP Learning Tours: New Community Project will offer an educational trip to Nepal Jan. 11-22, to South Sudan May 11-22, 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 www.newcommunityproject.info/learning-tours.

JOB OPPORTUNITIES

Camp Emmaus (Mount Morris, Ill.) has an opening for the position of Camp Manager. This position is open currently and housing is provided. Qualifications include strong skills in administration, organization, marketing, leadership, communication, maintenance, record keeping, along with basic accounting and computer skills. The camp manager should be a Christian and member of the Church of the Brethren or have an appreciation and understanding of Brethren beliefs and values. Responsibilities of the Camp Manager are: to work with the Camp Emmaus Board; do grounds and building upkeep; promote usage of the facilities; work with rental groups; keep camp records; be available and willing to assist in summer youth camping ministry; work with district churches holding events on the camp property; and provide a Christian caring environment for those using, renting and/or visiting the facilities. While in the past we have had a full-time onsite Camp Manager, at this time schedule and salary may be negotiated. Please send letters of interest and resume to Camp Emmaus board chair Aaron Gerdes c/o Camp Emmaus 12340 North Grove Rd, Sycamore, IL 60178 or via email to tlldrnkwtr@yahoo.com.

The Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board is seeking a full-time Executive Director of Discipleship and Leadership Formation, reporting directly to the general secretary. The executive director will guide the Discipleship Ministries and Office of Ministry staff to foster the discipleship and leadership formation of pastors, youth and young adults, and congregations through events, resources, and ministries that live out of the Mission and Ministry Board’s strategic plan. Required skills and knowledge include grounding in Church of the Brethren heritage, theology, and polity; ability to articulate and operate out of the vision of the Church of the Brethren; 10 years of pastoral ministry, including administration; expertise and skills in group dynamics, including networking with diverse groups of people; and knowledge and experience in budget development and management. A Master of Divinity degree or equivalent required. The position is based in Elgin, Ill.; location is negotiable. Candidates should send a cover letter and resume’ to COBApply@brethren.org.

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: pastoral/congregational Transitions; pastoral support; leadership development with respect to calling and credentialing of ministers; consultations with congregations and throughout the district structure; and management of district staff and administrative oversight of district finances. Requirements include: Minimum completed SVMC or Academy level training and ordained in the Church of the Brethren; personal skills in organization, administration, and communication; committed to the Church of the Brethren locally and denominationally and willing to work ecumenically; demonstrated leadership skills; and pastoral experience. To apply, send a letter of interest and resume’ to Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Director of Ministry, via email at officeofministry@brethren.org. Applicants are requested to contact three persons who are willing to provide a letter of reference.

The South/Central Indiana District, which comprises 40 congregations in the middle of the state of Indiana and represents a wide range of theological views, is seeking a district executive minister. The DEM’s commitment to Jesus Christ and the scriptures is essential. This full-time position is currently open. Interested and qualified persons may apply for this position by sending a letter of interest and a resume to: Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Office of Ministry, 1451 Dundee Avenue Elgin, IL 60120, or officeofministry@brethren.org. Applicants will be asked to complete a Candidate Profile on receipt of resume. Applicants are requested to contact three or four persons to provide a letter of reference.

Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., seeks applicants for the position of director of Annual and Leadership Giving to join the Institutional Advancement team. This individual will develop and lead the seminary’s “mass-market” fundraising appeals and maintain a portfolio of donors (individuals and churches). The director will strategize and actively work to build relationships with a variety of constituents, enlisting financial support for the seminary. Find the position announcement and application instructions at https://bethanyseminary.edu/jobs/director-of-annual-and-leadership-giving.

Bethany is also seeking a Coordinator for Community Engagement and Ministry Formation. Responsibilities include investigating and developing congregational, nonprofit and NGO connections and networks for service work and field education opportunities that summon students to work on issues of diversity and division. In managing the Bethany Neighborhood project, the Coordinator will lead students to critically reflect on their field education experiences and help create a sense of belonging and responsibility to the community. Required qualifications include a bachelor’s degree in divinity, religion/religious studies, education or educational leadership, social work, counseling, theology, or a related academic field; background in religious, nonprofit, and/or social justice-oriented settings; and experience in community organizing preferred. Send cover letter and resume to communitycoordinatorsearch@bethanyseminary.edu.

Camp Alexander Mack (Milford, Ind.) is seeking an assistant facility director and an assistant program director. The facility position has responsibility for special projects, IT hardware, camp safety, and monthly preventive maintenance. The program position will assist in providing robust well-rounded programs throughout the year, with primary responsibilities in outdoor education, high and low ropes management, summer camp, and waterfront supervision. Housing may be available as part of a salary/benefit package for both positions. To apply, go to campmack.org/employment to download the application. Send application and resume to todd@campmack.org or mail to Camp Mack, PO Box 158, Milford, IN 46542.

The Church of the Brethren seeks applicants for the full-time, salaried position of managing editor of Brethren Press. The managing editor manages the publishing projects and production schedule for Brethren Press; supervises the work of contracted writers, editors, designers, and others; edits and typesets selected publications; and handles acquisitions and permissions. Qualifications include experience in project management, excellent writing and editing skills, strong organizational abilities, and the capability to become deeply informed about the identity and beliefs of the Church of the Brethren. A bachelor’s degree is required, and a master’s degree in a related field, such as divinity or biblical studies, is preferred. The managing editor is expected to work proficiently in Microsoft products, InDesign, Adobe Acrobat, and Access. The position is based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.; location is negotiable. A position description will be provided upon request. Applications will be reviewed and will continue to be accepted until the position is filled. Apply by sending a cover letter and resume’ to COBApply@brethren.org; Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120 ; 800-323-8039 ext. 367.