Wednesday, November 01, 2023

The Reflector - November 2023


Walt Wiltschek

“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.” —Psalm 9:1a (NRSV)

Come, ye thankful people, come,
raise the song of harvest home;
all is safely gathered in,
ere the winter storms begin.

When the majestic hymn “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” was written by Anglican pastor Henry Alford in the 1800’s, it was for use at village harvest festivals, according to, “when the life of the village during the winter depended on the bounty of the autumn harvest.” While it eventually moves into end-times theology—a more metaphorical take on “the harvest”—it begins with very real thanks for God’s provision in the nitty-gritty of life.

Much as I enjoy that liturgy and this season, it can be hard to feel thankful right now. Many difficult things are going on in our church, in our country, and around the world. The evening news or online updates are difficult to take in. It’s sometimes challenging to make much sense of it all, and hope often seems elusive.

During this year’s pre-district conference workshop, spiritual director Chris Douglas led participants in a variety of exercises related to contemplative prayer—ways to slow down and make better space to encounter God. One of those exercises came in the form of lectio divina (“divine reading”), a deliberate and meditative way to approach scripture and let it speak to one’s experience.

Before reading a Gospel passage aloud several times, Chris urged us as we listened to pay attention to anything in the passage that “shimmered” for us—a word or phrase that caused us to pause or tapped for our attention. It was a familiar text, but I did find within it words that shimmered, fascinating bits to which I had never paid much attention previously.

And likewise, when I pause long enough to breathe and look around the troubling landscape with fresh eyes, I also see blessings everywhere, from brilliant autumn colors to the most unexpected places. There, too, God is shimmering. I’ve appreciated good visits with congregations all across the district this fall, the good spirit of our district conference, and stories of individuals and churches doing fantastic things in their communities. Beyond our church, too, stories persist of people doing good, sometimes against all odds. In the glimmer of the divine, life finds a way.

And for that, I’m a thankful person.


In addition to regular meetings, Walt will be attending a congregational meeting at York Center Nov. 19, worshiping at Neighborhood on Dec. 10, and taking part in worship and meetings at Mount Morris on Dec. 17. Walt will be in Pennsylvania and Delaware over the Thanksgiving holidays.

Walt is available to visit your church, do pulpit supply, lead sessions, have conversation times, or otherwise connect with your congregation. Please contact to schedule a time. He is usually on district duty Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, plus Sundays.


Church Revitalization and Development Team, Nov. 18, 9 a.m.
Ministry Leadership Development Team, Dec. 6, 6:30 p.m.
Council of District Executives executive committee, Dec. 7, 1 p.m.
Council of District Executives winter meetings, Jan. 19-25, Melbourne, Fla.
Leadership Team, Feb. 6, 6:30 p.m.
Spring clergy retreat, April 15-16, Bishop Lane Retreat Center, Rockford

[all meetings via Zoom unless otherwise noted]


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

Week of Nov. 13: Pray for the Naperville congregation, and for the Church of the Brethren congregations in India.

Week of Nov. 20: Pray for the Rock Community congregation in Fairfield and for the Church of the Brethren in Venezuela and Colombia.

Week of Nov. 27: Pray for the West Branch congregation, and for the communications ministry of the denomination’s “Messenger” magazine.

Week of Dec. 4: Pray for the Romine congregation, and for the Church of the Brethren in Brazil.

Week of Dec. 11: Pray for the Hurricane Creek congregation, and for the Church of the Brethren in Spain.

Week of Dec. 18: Pray for the Neighborhood (Boulder Hill) congregation, and for the work of On Earth Peace.


David Roe
, who has been pastor at Oakley Brick (Cerro Gordo, Ill.) for more than a decade, has announced his retirement for next fall. He plans to finish his ministry there in November 2024.

The district’s Ministry Leadership Development Team will be doing licensed minister reviews in December. If you haven’t yet turned in paperwork for that process, please do so as soon as possible.

The five-year ethics training and CEU cycle for all ministers will be occurring in 2024-2025. An ethics training session will be held during the spring clergy retreat April 15-16 at Bishop Lane Retreat Center near Rockford. Another in-person training might be scheduled in the district at a later date for those unable to attend in April.

Open enrollment for health insurance began Nov. 1; depending on the insurance framework, enrollment runs through Nov. 30, Dec. 15, or the end of the year. Eder Financial has options available through Nov. 30 for pastors and other church employees. To learn more, contact 800-217-0067 or visit Open Enrollment 2024 (

If you have questions regarding pastoral salary contracts for 2024, please contact the district office.

Congregational vacancies:

Cherry Grove: Using regular pulpit supply
Chicago First: Using lay team and pulpit supply; considering future options
Girard: Terry Link is assisting in providing pastoral leadership
LaPlace: Steve Needham is serving as interim pastor
Oakley Brick: David Roe has announced his retirement effective November 2024
York Center: Christy Waltersdorff has announced her retirement effective December 2024

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


Several congregations (including Oak Grove and Canton) held Thanksgiving meals on Nov. 12, and others are celebrating with special meals in the coming weeks. Blessings to everyone this Thanksgiving season, and on every day of thanksgiving!

Peoria First took several loads of supplies and donations to eastern Kentucky Nov. 7 on its latest Mountain Mission trip. Several volunteers from the congregation also recently assisted with a Habitat for Humanity project in East Peoria.

Freeport is exploring hosting a Children’s Disaster Services volunteer training workshop in 2024.

York Center will be holding an Advent Fair following worship on Dec. 3.

The region in Honduras where former Camp Emmaus manager Bill Hare (Polo) has worked for more than two decades recently was hit by a devastating flood from a hurricane. Bill’s daughter, Beth Taylor, shared that villages in the southern part of the country “are in desperate need of resources.…Some of the villages are completely cut off by water, some are under water, wells have collapsed, and roads have washed out.” Food security and other basic needs are a major issue. Bill’s local partner in Honduras is working on providing relief. Any individuals or congregations that wish to assist can send checks payable to “Honduras Mission Fund” to Bill Hare, 408 S. McKendrie St., Apt. 144, Mount Morris, IL 61054. The Church of the Brethren’s Service Ministries also recently sent a 20-foot container of relief supplies to Honduras.

Howard Royer, from Highland Avenue, recently provided this update about the Growing Project of the Highland Avenue and Polo congregations:

“In mid-summer, due to distressing weather conditions, the prospect for the 30 acres of corn that make up the 2023 Polo Growing Project appeared bleak. But at harvest in mid-October, the results were no less than astonishing, the crop yielding an average of 247.5 bushels per acre. Net proceeds for the project stand at $45,500, a notch above last year’s near-record earnings of $45,000. All told, 19 years of planting and harvesting the Polo Growing Project by Jim and Karen Schmidt have netted $655,625 for investing in smallholder farmers in food-deficit communities around the world to expand local food production on a sustainable basis. Supported by four northern Illinois churches, Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren among them, the Polo venture is one of the more durable growing projects in the network of Growing Hope Globally, originally Foods Resource Bank.

“Adding to the good news element is that the Polo Growing Project will continue next year, named in honor of Jim Schmidt and Bill Hare whose vision and land became the foundation of the project. Steve Shaeffer, a neighbor who is renting the fields on the Schmidt farm, is the new grower and manager.”

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:


“Clothe yourselves with love!” (Colossians 3: 12-17)

What we wear tells the world a lot about who we are. The choices we make about the clothing we wear announce our values, beliefs, and priorities to those around us. Each morning, as we prepare to go to work or to school or to run errands, we choose what to wear based on where we are going and what we will be doing. What we wear to church may be different from what we wear to work in the garden. The type of clothing we choose also depends on the weather and many other factors. Some people put a lot of thought into what they will wear. Others throw on the first thing they find in the pile on the floor.

In his letter to the Christians in Colossae, the Apostle Paul encourages them to think about how they present themselves to each other and to the world. He reminds all of us that we have the choice of how we will greet the world: Will we choose to wrap ourselves in the things of God? Will we show compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience to the world? Will we wear the overcoat of love that leads to harmony?

Our culture encourages us to buy designer clothing; to wear the labels of companies on our bodies; to clearly exhibit our allegiance to sports teams and rock bands. As Christians, we are invited to show our allegiance to God: to wear the things of God, the things that make for peace, the things that lift up our sisters and brothers, the things that promote harmony.

In this district, we do not all believe the same things in the same way, but we claim our identity as brothers and sisters in Christ. We may not choose the same t-shirt, but we do choose the same God. Let us agree to dress alike so that we are all clothed with the love of Jesus Christ.

Christy Waltersdorff, York Center


The Church of the Brethren Illinois/Wisconsin District met for its district conference Nov. 3-4 at Lanark (Ill.) Church of the Brethren, with about 125 people attending, including 57 delegates. Phyllis Batterton of the Woodland congregation (Astoria, Ill.) served as moderator, with the theme “Encourage One Another.”

Former Annual Conference director Chris Douglas led a Friday pre-conference workshop on “Deepening Our Intimacy with God” for about 20 participants. Douglas, who is also a trained spiritual director, introduced the group to a variety of forms of contemplative prayer. Friday evening worship featured 2024 Annual Conference moderator Madalyn Metzger—who grew up in the Springfield First congregation—sharing some of her personal journey in the context of this year's Annual Conference theme, “Welcome and Worthy.” Dixon pastor Michael Cole and accompanist Joyce Person led an energetic hymn sing.

In business on Saturday, the delegate body overwhelmingly voted to send on to Annual Conference a query titled “Regarding Greater Congregational Latitude on Matters of Sexuality.” The query, which originated in the York Center congregation with support from Highland Avenue, asks whether decisions related to sexuality should be made at the congregational level rather than by the denomination or district given the personal nature of these matters, the wide range of viewpoints and ongoing disagreements, and the inconsistent enforcement of policy from one part of the church to another. Forty-eight voted in favor, with eight opposed and one abstention.

Delegates also approved the disorganization of the Franklin Grove (Ill.) and Stanley (Wis.) congregations, after each had become quite small in recent years and decided to discontinue worship. Each of the buildings has been sold to other groups, although a Brethren cemetery near each location will continue to be maintained. Delegates celebrated the century-plus ministries of each congregation. A closing service for the Franklin Grove church was held last March. The official end of the Pinecrest Community's relationship to the Church of the Brethren was also recognized, after the retirement facility in Mount Morris, Ill., was sold to a for-profit organization late last year following years of financial challenges.

Other items included approval of the 2024 district budget and the slate of those serving in district offices, updates from Camp Emmanuel and Camp Emmaus, reports from Girard Area Homes and other district and denominational programs, and the recognition of anniversary milestones for ordained ministers (led by Chris Douglas’ 45 years of service).

Midday equipping sessions were offered by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the denomination, on the centennial of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, and by Ryan Braught, a circuit rider in the Part-Time Pastor, Full-Time Church program, on “Exegeting Your Community.” An auction, which included both silent and live portions, raised more than $2,000 for district ministries.

Next year's conference will take place Nov. 1-2, 2024, at York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill., where musician Ken Medema will be a featured presenter/performer. Christy Waltersdorff (York Center) will serve as moderator for the coming year, with Bill Williams (Yellow Creek) as moderator-elect.


Pastors, chaplains, and other ministers: Mark your calendars! The district’s spring 2024 clergy retreat will take place April 15-16, again at the beautiful Bishop Lane Retreat Center near Rockford. The main event will be the every-five-years ethics training, led by a denominational facilitator, but food, fun, worship, and other activities will also be part of this time together. Watch for more details soon.


Kevin Kessler, pastor at Canton, is the author of this year’s Church of the Brethren Advent devotional booklet from Brethren Press, titled “All Things New.”

The description says, in part: Advent is a season of the church year in which we are reminded that God listens. Pleas and prayers were answered when God arrived among us in Jesus, the name that means God is my help. ... As you hear the yearning of people in these readings, perhaps you will connect at a very deep and personal level. You may be reminded of your desire for renewal, restoration, redemption, revival. May you find your new identity in the encounters you have with the One who came to us in the flesh, who lived and loved among us, who resides with us still.”

Order at ($4.50 each) or by calling 800-441-3712.


Camp Emmaus has announced its summer camping schedule for 2024:

July 7-11 Intermediate Camp
July 12-14 Young Adult and Young at Heart Camp (YAAYAH)
July 14-20 Senior High Camp
July 21-27 Middle School Camp
August 2-4 CIT
August 3-4 Elementary Camp
August 8-10 Women's Camp
August 16-18 Men's Camp

Camp Emmanuel will announce its summer 2024 schedule at a later date.

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


The Midwest region's Powerhouse Regional Youth Conference, sponsored by Northern Indiana District’s youth cabinet with assistance from some Manchester University students, will take place Feb. 16-18, 2024, at Camp Mack in Milford, Ind. David Radcliff, director of New Community Project, will be the keynote speaker on the theme “Caring for Others and Caring for God’s Creation.” Workshops will include leadership from Brethren Volunteer Service and FaithX, with other workshop options, worship, and recreation through the weekend. Cost is $99 for youth, $79 for advisors. Registration deadline is Feb. 2. Watch for more details soon.

The next Church of the Brethren Christian Citizenship Seminar, for senior high youth and first-year college students and advisors, will be April 11-16, 2024, in Washington, D.C. Online registration opens Dec. 1 at 12 p.m. Central. Those who register and pay in full by Dec. 31 will receive a free t-shirt! A non-refundable deposit of $250 is due within two weeks of registration in order to hold a spot. The 2024 theme is “And They Fled: Advocating for Just Immigration Policy,” drawing from Matthew 2:13-23. Registration cost is $500. Learn more at


Local service opportunity:
In the wake of record-setting heavy storms and flooding this past summer, and continuing with more recent rains, Cook County, Illinois (Chicago area), was declared a federal disaster area. Nearly 85,000 people have already registered for needed assistance in part due to sewers backing up into garden level homes and apartments. Work is being done to support Long-Term Recovery Group formation, getting teams in to help with clean-up, supporting training of local volunteers, and finding volunteer housing. World Renew is doing mold remediation training and then starting some clean-up work. Team Rubicon and Mennonite Disaster Services are also scheduled to come.

They are now seeking volunteers to begin the rebuilding/repair work. This is a wonderful opportunity for Illinois/Wisconsin District members to serve locally and support your own region’s recovery effort. For those interested in volunteering: You can volunteer individually, or organize a small group of friends or a team from your congregation or district. You can volunteer for a day or two or as often as you are able. Please contact Joy Medrano to make all arrangements by calling 309-509-3708 or contacting Please mention that you received this information from Brethren Disaster Ministries (BDM). BDM would like to receive any photos taken and would also be glad to receive any reflections from volunteers. Email those to Kim Gingerich, Program Assistant BDM Rebuilding, at If you sign up to volunteer or if you have questions, please contact district disaster coordinator Loren Habegger at

Annual disaster response trip: As has been the practice in recent years, the Illinois/Wisconsin District has agreed to provide up to eight volunteers for the week following Thanksgiving, Nov. 26–Dec. 2. That week of volunteering again will be shared with the South/Central Indiana District. The project site, Dawson Springs, Kentucky, is a relatively nearby “neighbor,” just 70 miles south of Evansville, Indiana. This provides a great opportunity for those who want to serve with BDM but hesitate to travel hundreds of miles to a project site. More information about the Dawson Springs BDM project, assisting with recovery from a tornado, is at

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


The 2024 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference
will take place July 3-7 (plus some pre-Conference meetings) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Madalyn Metzger, who grew up in the Springfield First congregation, will serve as moderator, with the theme “Welcome and Worthy.”

Advance registration (March 1-June 10) will be $330 for delegates and $150 for non-delegates attending the full conference (or $50 daily rate). Current high school students and younger can attend with no registration charge; those post-high school through age 21 are $40. Fees are higher for on-site registration beginning July 2. For virtual participation only, the non-delegate rate is $195 (or $75 daily) before June 10 and $225 thereafter.

Two hotel options, the Amway Grand Plaza and the Courtyard Grand Rapids Downtown, will be available for $119 plus tax (total of $136.90) per night with complimentary self-parking and in-room WiFi. Annual Conference registration and housing opens to the public March 1. For more information, visit

Nominations are also sought for positions on the Annual Conference ballot through Dec. 1. Open offices on the ballot to be presented to the 2024 Annual Conference include moderator-elect, Program and Arrangements Committee, Mission and Ministry Board for areas 4 and 5, Bethany Theological Seminary board representing colleges, and the On Earth Peace board. The full list of open positions and links to make nominations can be found on the Annual Conference website.


The Ventures in Christian Discipleship series, offered online by McPherson College, continues its 2023-2024 schedule on Nov. 18, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Central, when Springfield First pastor Bobbi Dykema will present “Meet the Matriarchs” (0.3 CEU’s). Suggested donation for each course is $25. Learn more and register at

Upcoming courses from the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership include “Engaging for Pastoral Care,” led by Debbie Eisenbise, Jan. 16-19 onsite at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind. (registration deadline Dec. 5); and “From Reformation to Today (Church History),” led by Josh Brockway of the Highland Avenue congregation, Jan. 24-March 19 online (registration deadline Dec. 19). CEU’s are available for clergy taking the courses. Register for other courses and pay online at Brethren Academy Course Registration/Biannual TRIM Payment | Bethany Theological Seminary ( “Church of the Brethren Polity” will be offered March 22-23 and April 26-27 online via Zoom by the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center. Randy Yoder will teach the course. Register by contacting Karen Hodges at

The Brethren Academy, along with the Office of Ministry and Bethany Theological Seminary, will also offer the annual clergy tax seminar via Zoom Jan. 27, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Central, led by Brethren tax professional Deb Oskin. Participants will receive 0.3 CEU’s. Registration is $40 per person; registration deadline is Jan. 19. Learn more and register at Clergy Tax Seminar | Bethany Theological Seminary (

Video recordings of online events sponsored by the Part-time Pastor, Full-time Church program
of the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Ministry are available online at The most recent is a webinar with Jon Ritner, author of the book Positively Irritating: Embracing a Post-Christian World to Form a More Faithful and Innovative Church, hosted by Ryan Braught, church planter and pastor of Veritas Community, a Church of the Brethren congregation. For more information contact Tabitha H. Rudy, administrative assistant for Part-time Pastor, Full-time Church, at

Lombard Mennonite Peace Center is offering its one-day “Healthy Congregations” training session Nov. 29, Jan. 16, and March 5. For more details and registration information, and to see other events, go to

NCP Learning Tours: New Community Project will offer an educational trip to Nepal Jan. 7-21, 2024; to Ecuador’s Amazon region June 1-7; to Lybrook, N.M., June 20-26; to the Denali/Kenai Fjords region of Alaska July 28-Aug. 4; and to Arctic Village, Alaska, Aug. 4-12. These trips are open to all ages and explore the beauty of and challenges facing God’s creation and God’s children. Learn more at


The Church of the Brethren is seeking an individual to fill a full-time salaried position of director of the Brethren Historical Library and Archives. The archivist promotes the history and heritage of the Church of the Brethren by administering BHLA and by facilitating research and the study of Brethren history. Skills and knowledge required include familiarity with Church of the Brethren heritage, theology, and polity; familiarity with library and archival disciplines; customer service skills; research and problem-solving skills, and proficiency in Microsoft software and experience with OCLC products, plus at least 3 to 5 years of experience in a library or archives. Master’s degree in library science/archival studies or a public history related program, and extensive knowledge of Church of the Brethren history and beliefs, or graduate degree in history or theology and/or certification by the Academy of Certified Archivists. This position is based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Applications will be received beginning immediately and reviewed on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. Qualified candidates are invited to send a resume to

The Church of the Brethren has an opening for a director of Intercultural Ministries. This position is full-time, salaried-exempt, with remote location, including travel as needed to carry out program objectives. Candidates should have five or more years in intercultural contexts, strong communication skills, program development and implementation experience, experience in a variety of urban and suburban settings, and work in areas of social justice and racial reconciliation. A bachelor’s degree is required, with master’s preferred. Interested applicants should send their resume to

Inspiration Hills, the Northern Ohio District camp in Burbank, Ohio, is currently seeking a full-time Facility Manager and a full-time Kitchen/Program Coordinator to begin January 1, 2024. A competitive salary and benefits will be offered to the qualified candidate. Please contact the camp at for more information or application. Job descriptions and qualifications can be found at:

Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., seeks candidates for the position of admissions recruiter. This is a full-time, exempt, administrative faculty position. Responsibilities include overseeing direct contact with potential students to help generate robust enrollment and to work with students to complete the full application process. This position requires extensive travel within the US. Minimum qualifications include admissions or relevant sales and marketing experience in higher education, preferred; a bachelor’s degree; familiarity with seminaries and theological education, preferred; affinity with the values and mission of the seminary, required; understanding of the Church of the Brethren in the Anabaptist-Pietist tradition, preferred; among others. Application reviews have begun and will continue until an appointment is made. A full job description is at To apply send a letter of interest, resume’, and contact information for three references to, Attn: Lori Current, Bethany Theological Seminary, 615 National Road West, Richmond, IN 47374.

The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership seeks candidates for the position of coordinator of Spanish-Language Ministry Training Programs. The academy is a joint program of the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Ministry and Bethany Theological Seminary, with offices located at the seminary in Richmond, Ind. The position will coordinate current and future Spanish-language ministry training and development programs for the Church of the Brethren through the Brethren Academy. It is a quarter-time position. Qualifications and requirements include fluency in Spanish and English, both in oral and written communication; experience in the Anabaptist Spanish-speaking church, either in the United States or abroad; completion of a ministry or theological training program in the Anabaptist tradition; practical experience in pastoral ministry; ability to travel to meet with students and supervisors as needed; ability to travel to the Bethany campus and to the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., as needed. Preferred qualifications include Spanish as a first language, licensing or ordination in the Church of the Brethren or another Anabaptist tradition, a bachelor’s or master’s degree in an appropriate field for the position. Applications will be reviewed upon receipt and will be accepted until the position is filled. Interested candidates should send their resumes, a letter of interest, and contact information for three references by e-mail to Janet L. Ober Lambert, Director, Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, 615 National Road West, Richmond, IN 47374;

The Church of the Brethren Mid-Atlantic District seeks candidates for the full-time position of district executive minister. The district includes 59 congregations in five states. The office is located in Westminster, Md. Travel is required both within and outside of the district. Responsibilities include direction, coordination, management, and leadership of the district ministries, as authorized by the district conference and implemented by the district leadership team; work with congregations in calling and credentialing ministers and in placement/call and evaluation of pastoral staff; provide support and counsel for ministers and other church leaders; share and interpret program resources for congregations; equip congregations for growth and renewal and encourage new church planting, evangelism, and missions; provide an important link between the congregations and the district and denomination by working collaboratively with the Council of District Executives and with Annual Conference and its agencies and their staff. Qualifications and experience include ordination in the Church of the Brethren; a Master of Divinity preferred with other approved ministry training programs considered; skills in organization, administration, and communication; commitment to the Church of the Brethren locally and denominationally and willingness to work ecumenically; demonstrated leadership skills; pastoral experience preferred. Apply by sending a letter of interest and resume’ to Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, director of the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Ministry, via email at Applicants are requested to contact three people to provide letters of reference. Upon receipt of a resume’, a candidate profile will be sent that must be completed and returned before the application is considered complete. Applications are accepted until the position is filled.


José Calleja Otero
has announced his resignation as district executive minister for the Puerto Rico District effective Dec. 6. He began the role on July 12, 2015. During his years as a member of the Council of District Executives he served as a member of the Ministry Issues Committee as well as the Council’s representative to the Mission and Ministries Planning Council. He holds degrees from the Theological Institute of the Church of the Brethren in Puerto Rico as well as a Bachelor of Science in communications technology from the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico. He also served as a professor of New Testament for the Theological Institute from 2010 to 2013.


A decision to close Material Resources—a Church of the Brethren program that collects, processes, warehouses, and ships material relief aid—and a statement on “Seeking Peace in Israel and Palestine,” as well as a budget for 2024 topped the agenda of the Mission and Ministry Board’s fall 2023 meetings Oct. 20-22 at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The board heard that a financial “pinch point” is coming soon, and Woolf noted that this year’s was a difficult budgeting process as staff needed to make additional reductions. The Executive Committee of the board will work to address the “pinch point” by processing how to prioritize denominational ministries.

On Oct. 28, Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) deployed a team of five Critical Response Childcare volunteers to Lewiston, Maine, in partnership with the Red Cross. This deployment was made in response to the mass shootings at two locations in Lewiston in which 18 people were killed and 13 others were injured. The Critical Response Childcare team arrived with a calm presence for children and families affected by this disaster, and a CDS Kit of Comfort—a suitcase with toys and activities chosen specially for children to play with to help their emotional recovery after such a traumatic event.

The ecumenical organization Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), of which the Church of the Brethren is a member denomination, has been offering a variety of resources for acting and praying for peace in Israel and Palestine, and for gaining a better understanding of the conflict there. A weekly briefing takes place online every Thursday from 9 to 9:30 a.m. Central Time, with a live report from CMEP staff and other experts. Register at Learn more at

The Council of District Executives held its fall meeting in a virtual format on Oct. 25. Business included a review of finances, welcoming new members to the group, saying farewell to a few who are finishing their service, going over details for the upcoming ordination renewal cycle in 2024-2025, hearing updates on queries and other district conference business, and receiving a report on some items from the recent Mission and Ministry Board meeting. CODE will next convene for its winter meetings in mid-January.

The Church of the Brethren FaithX program is offering a variety of opportunities in 2024: Older adults age 55-plus are invited to join a new short-term service opportunity at Camp Ithiel in Gotha, Fla., Feb. 25-March 1. Registration is now open at Later in the year, a full slate of junior high, senior high, and adult trips will be offered, plus the “We Are Able” trip for young adults with intellectual disabilities. An adult international trip for those 18 and older will travel to Ecuador to serve at Fundacion Brethren y Unida (FBU) June 1-10, and an adult domestic trip will occur in partnership with Brethren Disaster Ministries July 28-Aug. 3. Registration will open online on Jan. 10.

The 2024 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, scheduled for Jan. 18-25, will use worship resources prepared by Christians in Burkina Faso on the theme, “You shall love the Lord your God … and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Find resources at

Believing and Belonging,” an accessible Anabaptist membership curriculum from Anabaptist Disabilities Network, is now available at The curriculum is designed to help churches welcome people with disabilities into full fellowship in the body of Christ, according to a release from ADN.


Grants available through the district include the following:

1. Mission and Mortar: Sustaining and developing ministry (mission) within congregations, as well as maintaining property (mortar), is sometimes hindered because of inadequate financial resources. The Illinois/Wisconsin District, whose mission is to support the growth and development of member congregations, realizes that this dilemma exists and desires to financially support congregations that are in good standing with the district and have specific needs. More information can be found here.

2. Being Jesus in the Neighborhood: Congregations can apply for $100 in 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. More information can be found here.

3. Give Your Pastor a Break: 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. We hope this might be part of the ways you care for your pastor. More information can be found here.

4. Emerging Missions Fund: To facilitate the growth and establishment of new faith communities, this grant is available for church and ministry planting initiatives. New church and ministry plants are encouraged to apply by contacting the district office and/or the CRDT.


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

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

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

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