Sunday, January 02, 2022

The Reflector - January 2022

Saturday, January 01, 2022

The Village ILWIDIot

By Walt Wiltschek

In my work in higher education circles, one of the buzzwords I’ve heard regularly is “persistence.” In that context, it refers to students’ ability to make it from their first year to their sophomore year and eventually on to commencement.

The extensive research around this area—tied in to the all-important “retention rate” of colleges and universities—has found a combination of factors at play. Some students are more naturally inclined to press on through hurdles and to be more motivated than others, for example. Some campus settings have more to offer geographically or culturally. And the education system itself can provide things such as support services, greater equity, and community-building. It can be a rather complicated stew.

“Persistence” occurred to me again recently as I was mulling all the challenges that the church has faced over the past few years: difficult demographic trends and—in many places—shrinking attendance; budget concerns; a limited supply of pastors and other leaders; and, of course, a global health crisis that has often significantly altered our ways of being together.

It has been hard for pastors, in particular, as they have faced a whole host of added responsibilities, frequently changing protocols to navigate, and new ways of ministry, It has taken a toll on congregations as a whole, too, as the pandemic has brought various degrees of isolation, fragmentation, and struggles with identity.

There’s no sugar-coating it. It’s not easy. Some places have fared better than others, and some new tools and creative possibilities have emerged from this time, but the stress and strain are universal. The district stands ready to offer encouragement and resources wherever we can, and the denomination has worked to support churches and pastors, as well. If you see additional ways we can help, let us know. In the meantime, please know you are in our prayers.

As the apostle Paul, who was no stranger to challenges, writes in 2 Corinthians 4: “We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We often don’t know what to do, but we don’t give up” (4:8, ERV). Like Paul, we “press on.” Persistence.

Whatever the road ahead might hold, may you, too, “not lose heart” (2 Cor. 4:16, NIV).


As COVID-19 surges yet again with the Omicron variant, please take the steps needed to keep you and your congregations safe. Almost every area of the country is seeing high levels of community transmission at this point, and while this latest strain has been less deadly—particularly for those who are vaccinated and boosted—it can spread rapidly. Depending on the situation in your community, a return to virtual services, hybrid options to allow more distancing, or other precautions should be considered, and mask requirements are wise in any indoor situation with groups of people. Visit or for the latest updates.

Upcoming Meetings

District Potluck Team: Tues., Jan. 18, 7 p.m.
Council of District Executives (virtual meeting): Jan. 24-27
Church Revitalization & Development Team (CRDT): Sat., Jan. 29, 9 a.m.
Leadership Team: Sat., Feb. 5, 9 a.m.
Ministry Leadership & Discernment Team (MLDT): Sat., Feb. 12, 9 a.m.
Calling the Called event: Sat., Feb. 26, 9 a.m.


Jay Wittmeyer, a member of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., and formerly executive director of Global Mission and Service for the Church of the Brethren, is to be presented the Humanitarian Award at the city of Elgin’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast on Jan. 15. For the second year running, the breakfast will be online-only. The award recognizes Wittmeyer’s decade of service to the local Dr. King Food Drive as well as his global engagement in mission, hunger, development, and justice ministries. While a member of the Witness Commission at the Highland Avenue Church, he was instrumental in arranging for the citywide food collections to be deposited, sorted, and boxed at the Church of the Brethren General Offices for distribution to area food pantries. The General Offices has hosted the sorting procedure for the past 10 years, staffed largely by student and youth volunteers (this year the food drive is hosted by Food for Greater Elgin). To find out more about the online event go to (from Newsline, 1/7/22)


The Illinois/Wisconsin District is remembering with gratitude the life of Jack Flores, an ordained minister who was a member of the Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin. Jack passed away Thursday, Dec. 16, following an illness.

A Chicago native, Jack had been active in district leadership, most recently serving on the Church Revitalization and Development Team. He was a graduate of the TRIM program of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership. He is survived by his wife, Louise; daughters Rebekah and Rachel; and several grandchildren. Our prayers go out to his family and all those who knew him. A memorial service will be planned at a later date.

The district is also remembering Richard Person, who was a long-time member of Polo Church of the Brethren, and more recently of the Dixon congregation. Richard passed away Dec. 28 in Polo. Born in Sterling, Richard attended North Central College and Manchester College before beginning a career in farming. A celebration of life service was held at Dixon on Jan. 5. He is survived by his wife, Joyce, an ordained minister in the district, and three children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


The Milledgeville (Dutchtown) congregation's opening for a full-time pastor has officially been published as they prepare for pastor Rick Koch's retirement in April. If you know someone who might be a good candidate, please encourage them to be in touch with the district office. Our prayers are with Milledgeville, as well, during this time of transition.

Calling the Called

Have you ever felt God might be tapping you on the shoulder to consider a professional ministry role in the church? Are there others you want to encourage to explore such a path? Are you a pastor or other church leader who seeks to help others discover their gifts? Do you just want to learn more about calling and being called?

If so, Illinois/Wisconsin District invites you to a special event Saturday, Feb. 26, 9 a.m. to noon. (This event had originally been scheduled in late October but was postponed.) Hear personal stories from some of those who have been called, learn about spiritual discernment and opportunities in the denomination, explore your questions about ministry, and connect with others who are trying to hear God’s call for them.

This event will be free and held virtually on Zoom. Watch for more details in upcoming newsletters, email announcements, and on the district website!

Clergy Tax Seminar

The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership’s annual Clergy Tax Seminar takes place on Jan. 29 via Zoom from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Central Time. It is intended for students, clergy, and anyone who deals with clergy finances. A continuing education credit of 0.4 units is available for credentialed ministers.

The event is sponsored by the academy along with the Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry and Bethany Theological Seminary. Leadership is provided by Deb Oskin, a tax professional specializes in clergy taxes and who is chairing the Church of the Brethren Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee. The event will include a special presentation from the committee about the brand new Pastoral Compensation Calculator and Integrated Annual Ministry Agreement expected to become effective as of the 2022 Annual Conference.

Cost is $40 per person. Current students at the Brethren Academy, Bethany Theological Seminary, and Earlham School of Religion students may attend at no cost, although registration is still required. Find more detailed information and register by Jan. 19 at

Heaven, Hell, and the Afterlife

The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership is offering Heaven, Hell, and the Afterlife, April 27 – June 21, 2022. TRIM participants will receive one credit in Bible/Theology. The instructor for this online course will be Craig Gandy. EFSM students may create a Learning Unit for the course. It can also be taken for general continuing education or personal enrichment. The deadline to register for this course is March 23, 2022.

Participants will explore biblical and theological understandings of Heaven, Hell, and God’s judgment, examining topics including: Sheol and Gehenna, the destiny of the unevangelized, the parousia and day of the Lord, the restoration of creation, the resurrection of the body, and the New Heaven and New Earth. Special attention will be given to the Brethren debate over Universal Restoration. Online courses "meet" for 8 weeks in Moodle, a virtual classroom. Register and pay online at There is a 3% service charge when registering online.

Questions may be directed to Academy Director, Janet Ober Lambert at or 765-983-1820.


Bethany Theological Seminary invites applications for the position of Executive Director of Institutional Advancement. The Seminary seeks an experienced and dynamic advancement leader with an exceptional track record of success. The ideal candidate for the Executive Director of Institutional Advancement position will be an experienced, engaging and inspiring advancement professional who is deeply committed to Bethany’s mission, vision, and guiding values. For more information about this position and to read the full position description, please go to the following link: Executive Director of Institutional Advancement.

The Lombard Mennonite Peace Center ( is looking to hire a full-time Office Coordinator. The competitive candidate will have excellent communication skills, an attention to detail, proficiency in basic computer programs such as Excel/Word/Publisher, and a commitment to the peace church tradition. He or she will be expected to work in the office in Lombard. This vacancy has been posted on and Interested persons may also call the LMPC office for further information at 630-627-0507. We hope to fill this position by the end of January, so please encourage anyone who might be a good fit to apply at their earliest convenience.


Register for National Youth Conference!

Registration is now open for the Church of the Brethren National Youth Conference (NYC), coming up July 23- 28, 2022, at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. This powerful event, held every four years, will have the theme "Foundational," drawn from Colossians 2:5-7, for the 2022 edition. It’s a week of fellowship, worship, workshops, recreation, and more.

Youth in grades 9-12 and one year out of high school this school year (2021-2022) are eligible to attend, along with advisors. More details on the conference, including announcements of speakers, can be found at Please spread the word to any youth and advisors in your congregation and other ministries who might want to attend.

Illinois/Wisconsin District will work at organizing a bus trip to the event for our attendees. Stay tuned for more information, and be in prayer for this major event in our denominational life.

NYC Youth Speech Contest

Do you know a youth who is attending NYC and would be interested in speaking? Encourage them to submit an entry for the Youth Speech Contest! The theme is “Bring Your Own Jesus Story.” Youth are encouraged to consider how Jesus’ teachings are foundational to their life, and then to choose a story about Jesus from the Bible and preach on it. Participants should send a written entry of 500-700 words and a video entry of about 10 minutes length to the NYC Office by email to The deadline is March 15, 2022.

2022 District Camp Dates

Camp Emmaus (Mount Morris, Ill.):
May 27-30: Memorial Day Weekend Family Camp
July 3-9: Senior High Camp (finished grades 9-12)
July 10-14: Intermediate Camp (finished grades 3-5)
July 15: Counselor Training (CIT, works with Elementary 1)
July 16-17: Elementary 1 Camp (finished grades 1-2)
July 21-23: Women’s Camp
July 29-31: Young at Heart Camp (ages 18 and up)
July 31-Aug. 6: Middle School Camp (finished grades 6-8)
Aug. 11-13: Men’s Camp
Sept. 2-5: Labor Day Weekend Family Camp
Visit to register or for more information.

Camp Emmanuel (Astoria, Ill.)
April 23-28: Spring Work Week
June 3-5: Women’s Camp
June 5-11: High School Camp
June 12-18: Middle School Camp
June 19-22: Junior Camp
June 24-26: Pre-Junior Camp
July 18-22: Day Camp
Visit to register or for more information.

National Young Adult Conference 2022

After so much pandemic living and the isolation it’s caused, the centrality of community compelled the Young Adult Steering Committee to choose Romans 12:5 as the theme for National Young Adult Conference (NYAC) 2022: “So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.”

NYAC 2022 will take place May 27-30 at the Montreat (N.C.) Retreat Center. Registration is now open. To learn more, visit

FaithX Registration is Open

Registration for FaithX (formerly workcamps) events in the summer of 2022 opened online Thursday, Jan. 13, at

“Boundless Faith” is the theme for the 2022 FaithX events. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7) is the theme scripture.

Annual Conference Quilting Bee

Calling All Needle Artists!

Celebrate 2022

Your congregation is invited to create a block for the 2022 Conference quilts.

ALL Quilt Blocks should be postmarked by May 15, 2022

Mail your quilt block and a dollar (or more) donation (checks payable to AACB) to offset the cost of quilting materials to:

Margaret Weybright
1801 Greencroft Blvd. Apt. #125
Goshen, IN 46526

Quilt tops are assembled before conference.
No blocks can be accepted at conference for this year’s quilts.
All blocks delivered at conference will be considered for next year’s quilts and wall hangings.


• Pre-shrunk cotton or cotton blend.
• If you use stabilizer, Please use only water soluble, very soft or easily removed backing.

Do not use: double knit,
counted cross-stitch on canvas,
liquid embroidery, padded blocks,
or heat-applied designs or photos.


• Use your own creativity to make your design.

Important: Identify your block with your congregation’s name, state, and/or district. This makes the quilts more valuable! (Second blocks from your congregation need not be identified.)

• Outside border: Not less than 8½ square AFTER it is worked.
• Inside design: Not more than 8” square with nothing in the seam allowance.
Cut the block to size AFTER it has been pieced, embroidered, or appliquéd.
Accuracy is important.
Blocks less than 8½ inches will not fit;
larger designs will be obscured.

We plan to be at Omaha for conference this year, but in the event of COVID restrictions, we will still do wall hangings to be quilted at a later date. So please, send those blocks!!

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:

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


Church of the Brethren membership in the United States and Puerto Rico is just over 91,000 (including 915 congregations, fellowships, and projects), according to the most recent statistical report in the 2021 Church of the Brethren Yearbook from Brethren Press. The 2021 Yearbook–published last fall–includes the 2020 statistical report and the 2021 directory for the denomination. The Church of the Brethren Yearbook is published annually as a searchable document in pdf format. It may be purchased for $24.95 at

Bill Scheurer completed 9 1/2 years as On Earth Peace executive director before the organization decided to restructure in 2021. His position ended on Jan. 7. Staff will work in a collaborative interim model until a more permanent restructuring occurs in 2023. Scheurer’s term of service was shaped by crisis and challenge within OEP, with the Church of the Brethren denomination, and in clarifying the organization’s identity. Bill reflected: “It’s been our shared work to address those three areas of crisis together as staff and board.”

Steve Van Houten, a former coordinator of the Church of the Brethren’s Workcamp Ministry and a longtime volunteer leader at the denomination’s National Youth Conference (NYC), died unexpectedly at his home in Plymouth, Ind., on Jan. 1–his 66th birthday–following a brief illness. A memorial service was held on Friday, Jan. 7, at Columbia City (Ind.) Church of the Brethren. The service was recorded and made available on the church’s Facebook page:

Larry L. Ditmars, 68, a longterm volunteer project leader for Brethren Disaster Ministries, died on Dec. 22 at his home in Washington, Kan., after a brief illness. A private family graveside service was held at Brethren Cemetery in Washington, Kan.

Manchester University president Dave McFadden in November announced a board decision to raze the Administration Building on the university campus in North Manchester, Ind. A service at noon on Jan. 21 is planned to honor the legacy of the Administration Building. The event will take place in Petersime Chapel. After the 30-minute service, those in attendance will have the opportunity to walk over to the building together. Find a release at

The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) issued a statement in memory of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. “We remember his strong spiritual witness and leadership in the long struggle against apartheid which he approached with humility, passion, and a fervent love for God’s people,” the remembrance said.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, held Jan. 18-25 with sponsorship from the World Council of Churches (WCC), will draw together churches across the globe to reflect on the hope and joy in Matthew 2:2, “We saw the star in the East, and we came to worship him.” Resources include an ecumenical opening prayer service, biblical reflections and prayers for eight days, and other elements of worship available in English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Arabic. Find out more at

Read more denominational news at


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 $2,500.00 and non-interest bearing loans up to $5000.00. 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.

Support Your District

The IL/WI District is active in a variety of ministry and mission efforts, both directly and indirectly. For these efforts to continue, resources are needed. Assets available to keep ministry and mission moving along include you (people serving people), tools (tool trailer w/ tools for disaster response work), knowledge and wisdom (years of experience and access to institutions of learning), and, of course, money (endowment, reserves, congregational and individual giving, bequests).

Assets are abundant but unless these gifts are cared for there is potential for depleting them. Therefore, district teams and the combined efforts of many work diligently to ensure asset sustainability.

Still, it is important to know where gaps exist, or a little extra boost would be helpful. For instance, our district has deep interest in and long-standing support of disaster relief efforts. A separate fund is established to assist folks who give of their time and travel great distances to assist. The district’s Disaster Relief Fund is hovering around $1,000.00. Sending a team to serve on a disaster response site can cost nearly $500 or more. To ensure the sustainability of this important ministry, designated gifts to this fund are welcomed and deeply appreciated. Having funds available to assist with travel may be the difference of someone sharing their gifts or staying home. Consider making a contribution!

Other options are available for contributing, as well, including the following:

  • Endowment Fund
  • Mission and Mortar Fund
  • General Fund
  • Emerging Ministries
  • Ministry Training

Every gift regardless of size is a significant boost to the abundance of assets in our midst. All contributions ensure that our district goes beyond the plateau of survival to the pinnacles of thriving, providing ample opportunities to serve faithfully.

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 thedistrict webpage or share their name with the GDCC or district office.

Serving is rewarding!