Friday, April 01, 2022

The Reflector - April 2022

The Village ILWIDIot

By Walt Wiltschek

As I’ve been walking through Lilacia Park in Lombard the past few weeks as I’ve headed to town or the train station, I’ve noticed more and more green things pushing their way up out of the ground. They were barely discernible at first, but now they’re evident everywhere.

At some point back when the park was a private estate, the owners planted the grounds with an incredible number of lilacs and tulips, and more were added over the years—some 700 lilacs and 35,000 tulips reside there today, according to the park’s website. After a bleak Midwest winter, the promise of color and life bursting from every corner is especially welcome.

Those green shoots assure me that burst is coming, even though the weather the past few weeks (at least where I live) hasn’t felt all that spring-y. I almost feel like I should stop and encourage the little shoots along in the face of some chilly days, but I know they don’t actually need it. They always find their way. In the words of an English proverb: “No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.”

In this season as we approach Holy Week and Easter morning, I feel that same promise and assurance. New life is coming. Always. Even when life feels as bleak as a Midwest January (or April!), resurrection is just around the bend or waiting at the next dawn.

Looking around our district, I see similar signs of hope and potential. For example:
  • The Ministry Leadership Development Team has approved three new people for licensing in our district this year, with a couple of others embarking on that journey.
  • More than two dozen youth and advisors from the district will be attending the Church of the Brethren National Youth Conference in Colorado this summer.
  • An energetic and creative Church Revitalization and Development Team is chewing on ideas for bringing new sparks to our existing churches and also actively pondering several new spots to begin new ministry ventures.
  • A special Potluck Experience event on May 18 will give us an opportunity to consider together how we move forward as a church from these two-plus years of pandemic realities.
  • In that vein, the Council of District Executives just gathered in Elgin recently—the first time in more than two years this group had met face-to-face—and the joy in that was palpable. Many of our congregations and other ministries are also enjoying greater in-person fellowship, and Annual Conference will gather in person in Omaha in July.
  • Springfield First is celebrating its 100th anniversary this month! Other churches in the district are near that milestone.
  • Our camps are gearing up for another summer of vital ministry and good community, serving children and youth from the district and beyond.
And the list could go on. As you gather around the love feast tables later this month—whether actual or virtual—and set your face toward the dawn of Easter, may you find the gleam of new life everywhere you look.

District executive schedule: In addition to regular meetings, Walt will be conducting a licensing service at Franklin Grove April 10 and speaking at Milledgeville April 24; attending the district clergy retreat in Rockford April 25-26; going to the Parish Collective “Inhabit” church planting & revitalization conference in Seattle April 28-29; attending the Annual Conference delegate briefing and Springfield’s centennial celebration on April 30; and taking part in National Youth Conference meetings in Elgin May 4-6. Walt is available for guest preaching and other events; to schedule, please contact

Upcoming Meetings & Events

Licensing Service for Diana Verhulst at Franklin Grove, Sun., April 10, 9:30 a.m.
Program & Arrangements Committee: Mon., April 11, 7 p.m.
District Leadership Team: Sat., April 23, 9 a.m.
Farewell Celebration for Rick Koch at Milledgeville, April 24
Clergy Retreat, at Bishop Lane Center in Rockford, April 25-26
Gifts Discernment and Calling Committee: Wed., April 27, 6:30 p.m.
Annual Conference delegate briefing at Springfield (Zoom option), Sat., April 30, 10 a.m.
First Springfield centennial celebration at Springfield, April 30-May 1
Midwest district executives meeting, May 3
Potluck Experience team meeting, Wed., May 11, 7 p.m.
“Stepping Out of the Pandemic” Potluck Experience Team event: Wed., May 18, 7 p.m.
Church Revitalization and Development Team, Sat., May 21, 9 a.m.
[all meetings via Zoom unless otherwise noted]


A district prayer calendar has been created for your use in praying for our district and related programs through the years. We invite you to include the following in your prayers in coming weeks:
  • Week of April 11: Pray for the La Place congregation this week, and for their ministry in and around the greater Decatur area. Also pause to offer praise and rejoicing as we approach the dawn of Easter morning.
  • Week of April 18: Pray for the Milledgeville (Dutchtown) congregation this week, as pastor Rick Koch completes his ministry of more than three decades there. Pray for their search process as they seek to call a new pastor, and for Rick that he will find continued blessings and fulfillment in retirement.
  • Week of April 25: Pray for the Springfield First congregation this week as they celebrate their centennial. Pray for all their ministry and outreach in and around Illinois’ capital city.
  • Week of May 2: Pray for the Oakley Brick congregation this week, and for their ministry in and around the Cerro Gordo area.
  • Week of May 9: Pray for the York Center congregation this week, and for their ministry in and around Lombard, just down the road from the former home of Bethany Theological Seminary.
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:


We rejoice with Diana Verhulst, who has been serving in ministry at Franklin Grove, as she will be officially licensed to the ministry in a service at the church on April 10. Congratulations also to Zech and Jen Houser of the Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin; the Ministry Leadership Development Team recommended them for licensing earlier this month.

Blaine Miner, pastor at the Dixon congregation for the past five years, has announced his retirement effective June 30.

Christy Waltersdorff, pastor of the York Center congregation, is continuing to recover after suffering injuries from a bad fall on an icy sidewalk about six weeks ago. We pray for her and for the church leadership at York Center as they work to cover ministry needs in her absence.


A retreat for licensed and ordained ministers in the district will be offered April 25-26 at Bishop Lane Retreat Center near Rockford. Recent Annual Conference moderator Paul Mundey will serve as the speaker/leader for the event, which is being planned by the district’s Ministry Leadership and Discernment Team. 

Paul will share at three sessions on the theme “Kingdom-Building: An Evangelism Workshop.” At least .6 CEU’s will be available for those attending. The time will also include worship, fellowship, meals, and opportunities for rest and renewal. 

Cost for the event is $125; anyone needing scholarship assistance should contact the district office. Private rooms with bathrooms will be included for all participants, and COVID protocols will be observed. Licensed and ordained ministers can register at by April 11. Directions to the retreat center can be found at



First Springfield Church of the Brethren will celebrate its centennial April 30-May 1. A special weekend is planned, including a concert by Jonathan Shively and Wild Columbine Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. and Annual Conference moderator Dave Sollenberger preaching Sunday morning for worship at 10:30 a.m., followed by a potluck meal.

Milledgeville (Dutchtown) Church of the Brethren is planning an open house and celebration on Sunday, April 24, to honor the retirement of long-time pastor Rick Koch.


The district’s Potluck Experience Team is planning a special event for May 18 at 7 p.m.: an online forum titled “Stepping Out of the Pandemic … and How???” Panelists Josh Brockway, LaDonna Sanders Nkosi, Katie Shaw-Thompson, and Carol Davis will share about their church experience during the pandemic and look at how we move forward in this new “normal.” District executive Walt Wiltschek will serve as moderator for the panel. The event will be free and held on Zoom. You can register for the event at; a Zoom link will be provided to all those who register.


The district’s Program & Arrangements Committee is hard at work on plans for the 2022 district conference. We anticipate it being an in-person event, with some hybrid options available for non-delegates. Harold Rose (Canton) serves as moderator this year, with Phyllis Batterton (Woodland) as moderator-elect. More details will follow in the coming months (and a new “District Conference” tab has been added to the district website), but for now mark your calendars for Nov. 4-5 at Peoria Church of the Brethren!


April 15 is the deadline for congregational forms to be received by the Yearbook Office in order for information to be included in the 2022 Church of the Brethren Yearbook. The Yearbook is published annually by Brethren Press and includes a statistical report and a directory for the denomination. The directory features detailed information about denominational structure and leadership, congregations, districts, ministers, and more. The statistical report on membership, worship attendance, giving, and more derives from self-reporting by congregations.

Paper copies of all forms have been mailed to each congregation. If you have not received them or would like digital copies, please contact Jim Miner, Yearbook specialist, at 800‐323‐8039 ext. 320 or Mail completed forms to: Yearbook, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120, or email to


‘Ventures’ courses
The next offering from the Ventures in Christian Discipleship program will be “Spirituality on the Screen,” led by Illinois/Wisconsin District executive Walt Wiltschek on May 2, 6-8 p.m. Central Time. Explore the intersection of faith and media and how religion is being portrayed in television, movies, and other platforms. Continuing education credit is available for $10 per course. During the registration process, you will have the opportunity to pay for CEUs and give an optional donation to the Ventures program. To learn more about Ventures in Christian Discipleship and to register for courses, visit

Basic Ethics
The Brethren Academy has set June 4 for the next training session of Ethics for Set-Apart Ministry: Basic Course, created by James Benedict. This training using Zoom, an online conferencing platform, is for newly licensed ministers and others seeking basic clergy ethics training. The training will be take place 9 a.m.-3 p.m. CDT with a break for lunch. The registration deadline to participate is May 23. This allows time to mail the workbooks to participants. Registrations and payment must be received by this date. Find more details at

Ministers’ Association event
The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership is offering Tempered Resilience: How Leaders are Formed in the Crucible of Change, July 9-10, with Carrie Eikler as the facilitator. This course is a Directed Independent Study Unit (DISU) in conjunction with attending the Ministers’ Association Pre-Conference event with Tod Bolsinger, in Omaha. This course is available for continuing education and personal enrichment. Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are awarded after the instructor has notified the Brethren Academy of successful completion of the course. Cost is $115. Learn more at Registration deadline is June 6.

NCP Learning Tours
New Community Project is offering Learning Tours to Rwanda and Malawi in early May; the Ecuadorian Amazon in late May; Lybrook, N.M., in mid-summer; Denali/Kenai Fjords, Alaska, in early August; and Arctic Village in mid-August. January 2023 will offer either Myanmar or Nepal. 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


Brethren Press is seeking candidates for a part-time, hourly position of customer service and warehouse specialist at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Responsibilities include shipping orders, receiving and maintaining inventory, and entering customer orders. Applications are being received and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. Send a resume’ to; Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 367.

The Brethren and Mennonite Heritage Center in Harrisonburg, Va., invites applications for the position of director of Advancement. This is a new role at the center that will focus on fundraising and marketing. It will be a half-time to full-time salaried position depending on the candidate’s interest. A position description and application information can be found at


David Shumate will retire as district executive minister of the Virlina District as of December 31, 2022. He is currently the longest serving middle judicatory staff person in the denomination as well as in the Commonwealth of Virginia. He began his service on January 1, 1993.

Shumate’s service as district executive minister includes various committees and roles within the Council of District Executives including most recently serving as treasurer, prior service as chairperson, Ministry Advisory Council member, and representative to the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee. He concluded 16 years as a member of the New Church Development Advisory Committee of the Mission and Ministry Board in 2014. During his tenure he compiled a manual for new church development, helped plan nine New Church Development events (attending eight), and taught two courses for Training in Ministry (TRIM) in conjunction with conferences.

Within the wider denomination Shumate served as Annual Conference moderator in San Diego in 2009. He served on three denominational study committees including World Mission Philosophy and Global Church Structure (1996-98), Vision of Ecumenism for the 21st Century (2013-18), and the Review and Evaluation Committee (2015-17). As a writer, he has completed three issues of the Guide for Biblical Studies and one People of the Covenant volume.

After a 40-year career working at Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT), Connie Sandman has announced her retirement as of April 30, with her last working day scheduled for April 22. Sandman holds the record for longest tenured employee, said a release from BBT. She began at BBT on April 26, 1982, pre-dating the current name of the organization. Her first role involved serving as a claims processor for Brethren Insurance Services, progressing to lead claims processor in 1995. She later transitioned from insurance to become the information services technician. In 2004, she became a member services representative for the Church of the Brethren Credit Union. For the last 11 years, she has served as Insurance Plans specialist. BBT board members and staff will celebrate Sandman’s retirement on April 22 as part of a BBT Board meeting.

Beth Sollenberger has been hired as a two-year part-time interim district executive and member of the Michigan District executive leadership team. She has been named as the official DE representative to the Council of District Executives.

Bethany Theological Seminary has hired Dr. Margaret (Maggie) Elwell, currently on the faculty of the University of Maryland, as Assistant Professor of Peace Studies. With a PhD from Princeton Seminary, Dr. Elwell will contribute courses in both Peace Studies and Theopoetics across Bethany's various degree and certificate programs. And Sam Locke will join Bethany in May as Executive Director of Institutional Advancement. Locke has extensive and varied experience in fundraising, including serving at the national office of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Most recently, he has served as Director of Development for Indiana Legal Services, a nonprofit law firm in Indianapolis. Earlier, he served the Presbyterian Church (USA) as national director for special offerings and direct response fundraising from 2008-2015.


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. Registration for the conference is $550. A $50 late fee deadline HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO APRIL 15.

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 a list of speakers and special events, 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 

Illinois/Wisconsin District
is organizing transportation to the event for our attendees. Estimated cost for the transportation portion is $300; some scholarship help may be available. Please contact district executive Walt Wiltschek ( as soon as possible with estimated numbers of attendees from your congregation. Stay tuned for more information, and be in prayer for this major event in our denominational life.

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 is open at

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


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
Aug. 5-7: Men’s Camp
Sept. 2-5: Family Camp
Visit to register or for more information.


The Church of the Brethren Annual Conference will take place July 10-14 in Omaha, Neb. Registration for delegates and non-delegates opened on March 1. This will be the first in-person conference since 2019, and COVID protocols will be in place. Please see the attached letter or go to for more information about the conference. A virtual option for non-delegates will provide access to business sessions, a Ted & Co. theatre performance, two concerts, and selected equipping sessions for a fee.


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!


Brethren Disaster Ministries is monitoring the needs of response partners and mapping out the Church of the Brethren response to the war in Ukraine. European churches and relief agencies already are addressing immediate needs of refugees traveling to surrounding countries. Churches in Poland and Hungary are receiving, feeding, and housing refugees from Ukraine. The Church of the Brethren response will support partners such as Church World Service (CWS), the ACT Alliance, European Baptist Churches, or Mennonite groups. The response will focus on people and locations that are underserved and have the greatest need for aid.

Prayers are also requested for a congregation with Church of the Brethren connections in Chernigov, in north-central Ukraine. And Church of the Brethren general secretary Dave Steele issued a denominational call to prayer for Ukraine.

To support the Ukraine Crisis Response, make an online donation at or mail a check to the Emergency Disaster Fund, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120 and earmark for “Ukraine Crisis.”

E. Stanley Smith, 88, passed away on March 12 at Timbercrest Senior Living Community, North Manchester, Ind. Born on the mission field in Shouyang, China, he was a member of the Church of the Brethren General Board from 1984 to 1989 and served a combined 35 years in pastorates in Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana. A Celebration of Life will be held later this spring. A full obituary is posted at

Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) is holding two volunteer trainings this spring. Registrations are currently open on the CDS website at for the following trainings: May 13-14 at Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren and June 3-4 at Bear Creek United Methodist Church in Woodinville, Wash., near Seattle.

Song and Story Fest 2022 on the theme “Into the HEARTland: Healing What Divides Us” is scheduled for July 3-9 at Camp Pine Lake in Eldora, Iowa. Song and Story Fest is a unique family camp featuring Church of the Brethren musicians and storytellers, with co-sponsorship from On Earth Peace, organized by Ken Kline Smeltzer. The annual event is usually held before or after the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, at a location relatively close to the Conference. This year’s is the 26th annual Song and Story Fest.

Registration includes all meals, on-site facilities, and leadership, and is based on age. Children age 4 and under are welcome at no charge. Registration fees for other ages: adults $360, teens $240, children ages 5 to 12 $150, maximum total per family $1,000. Registrations after June 10 add 10 percent as a late fee. Daily fees also are available. For details, go to For questions, or if you need financial help to attend, contact Ken Kline Smeltzer at

The business items for the Church of the Brethren’s Annual Conference on July 10-14 in Omaha, Neb., are now posted online. The Conference is returning to a full business agenda complete with queries and other new business after several years in which the compelling vision took precedence. The Conference will address one item of unfinished business, “Update to Polity Regarding Annual Conference Agencies,” and seven items of new business.

New business includes queries on “Standing with People of Color” and “Breaking Down Barriers–Increasing Access to Denominational Events”; three items related to pay and benefits for pastors: a new Integrated Annual Ministry Agreement and Revised Guidelines for Pastors’ Salaries and Benefits, a Revised Minimum Cash Salary Table for Pastors, and the annual cost-of-living adjustment to the Minimum Cash Salary Table for Pastors (the latter recommendation to come in June); amendments to the appeal section of the Ethics in Ministry Relations polity document; and revisions to the denomination’s bylaws. Learn more at

To watch the business online you must register as a virtual nondelegate. Business sessions will no longer be live-streamed free of charge. Go to

The Annual Conference office has announced the ballot to be presented at this summer’s Conference on July 10-14 in Omaha, Neb. Topping the ballot are two candidates for Annual Conference moderator-elect—Marla Bieber Abe and Madalyn Metzger—and two candidates for Annual Conference secretary—Connie R. Burkholder and David K. Shumate. A variety of other committee and board positions are also on the ballot. Complete biographical information is available at

The Church of the Brethren Intercultural Ministries has started an online Global Check-in and Prayer Series, which will welcome special guests to speak on various international topics. To view the first episode in this series, go to Upcoming episodes will be announced on the Intercultural Ministries Facebook page at

Jorge Rivera, a retired pastor and a leader in the Church of the Brethren in Puerto Rico for more than 30 years, passed away on March 5. He served Atlantic Southeast District as associate district executive minister in Castañer, P.R., from 1999 to 2011. Prior to that he was a member of the former Church of the Brethren General Board (predecessor body to the current Mission and Ministry Board), serving from 1982 to 1987. Services were held in Puerto Rico on March 8 at Yahuecas Church of the Brethren and Funeraria González in Arecibo, and on March 9 with the burial at the National Veterans Cemetery in Morovis. 

Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) 2022 will be held virtually on April 25-27 on the theme “Fierce Urgency: Advancing Civil and Human Rights.” The event will call participants “into solidarity to restore, protect, and expand voting rights in the United States and to realize human rights around the world,” said an announcement. “As people of faith, we know each person to be created in God’s image, imbued with dignity and having a voice that demands to be heard, heeded, and treated justly. We arise in unity, holding up a mirror to leaders of nations, putting injustice on display and tearing down the veil of oppression that obscures the beautiful, God-born light shining from within us all.” Leadership includes Otis Moss III from Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, who will be preaching, and Liz Theoharis from the Poor People’s Campaign, who will be one of the plenary speakers. Find out more at

Mel Hammond of Madison, Wis., who received a gold award from the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards for 2021 in the category of “Animals/Pets Non-Fiction” for her book Pets: Getting Them, Caring for Them, and Loving Them (American Girl), has had a book published in the American Girl’s “Smart Girls Guide” series. Her new book is titled Body Image: How to Love Yourself, Live Life to the Fullest, and Celebrate All Kinds of Bodies. Go to Hammond also has written Banana Pancakes and Love the Earth: Understanding Climate Change, Speaking Up for Solutions, and Living an Earth-Friendly Life (American Girl) (


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


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!