Saturday, December 02, 2023

The Reflector - December 2023

Friday, December 01, 2023


Walt Wiltschek

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” —Micah 5:2, NIV

This is a season of music. As we travel through Advent and into the Christmas season, the air fills with songs that are close to our hearts and deep in our traditions.

Among the many beautiful strains that echo through our churches, one of the most treasured is likely the 19th century carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Its gentle words, written after author Phillips Brooks had spent a Christmas in Bethlehem in the 1860’s, wrap us like a blanket.

It’s among my favorites. Yet it’s hard to hear it this year without acknowledging that the streets of Bethlehem are not still or silent during this Christmas season. While the war in Gaza is some 50 miles away, the reverberations of the violence have been felt across the West Bank, and in Israel and beyond. Little deep and dreamless sleep is occurring in Bethlehem or Nazareth, in Jerusalem or Jericho or Tel Aviv.

Even thousands of miles away in our own country, we have felt the pain of those connected to the hostages being held or those who have family members in the region, the rancor of political debate, and the ugliness of antisemitism and anti-Muslim rhetoric.

About a decade ago now, I had the opportunity to visit the “Holy Land” on a trip with Bridgewater College. The history and archaeology and all the religious connections were fascinating, and I appreciated the touchstones to my own Jewish and Christian heritage, but I was also struck by the warm hospitality we received all along our journey: from Jews, Muslims, and others. It’s a thread thoroughly woven into Middle Eastern culture.

One of the most memorable moments came after I had wandered off on my own to explore the streets and markets of Bethlehem, and a shop owner called out inviting me in for tea. I hesitated at first, but eventually went in and spent 15 minutes over a cup steaming with the aroma of mint. The conversation was nothing profound, just talking about our respective hometowns and thoughts of my time in Israel and Palestine and the life of a shopkeeper. Yet I still remember it vividly.

That region—a “crossroad of civilizations”—has been a battleground for much of history. Long swaths of that story are traced through our scriptures. And through it all, while governments and military leaders and others make decisions and lines shift and battles rage, ordinary people are caught in the middle and bear the brunt of the suffering. It was true in the Hebrew scriptures, it was true in Jesus’ time, and it continues in ours.

I don’t know the answers to the current situation in that part of the world. Ones far wiser than me will need to find just and sustainable solutions that bring life. But as we sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem this year,” and as we celebrate the Christmas season, I’ll be remembering not only the joyful events of two millennia ago, but also the sobering ones of the present. And perhaps that makes Jesus’ coming to live among us more important than ever.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray; cast out our sin, and enter in; be born in us today.


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 Christmas 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.


Program and Arrangements Committee, Jan. 11, 6:30p.m.

Council of District Executives winter meetings/Inter Agency Forum, Jan. 19-25,Melbourne, Fla.

Church Revitalization and Development Team, Jan. 27, 9 a.m.

Gifts Discernment and Call Committee, Jan. 31, 6:30 p.m.

Leadership Team, Feb. 6, 6:30 p.m.

Ministry Leadership Development Team, Feb. 21, 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 (NOTE: The 2024 prayer calendar was recently sent to our district list; if you did not receive a copy and would like one, please contact the district office.) We invite you to include the following in your prayers in coming weeks:

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

Week of Dec. 25: Merry Christmas, church! Spend time during this special holiday week giving thanks to God for all the gifts we receive, including the gift of Jesus coming to the world at Bethlehem.

Week of Jan. 1: At the start of a new year, pause in silence and ponder where it is that you feel hope for the year ahead. Hold in prayer all the three dozen congregations, two camps, and other ministries that are part of our district as the body of Christ.

Week of Jan. 8: Pray for the Panther Creek congregation in Roanoke, Ill., and for all the work of our denomination’s Youth/Young Adult Ministries office.

Week of Jan. 15: Pray for Brethren Disaster Ministries and its wide-ranging work, for outgoing district disaster coordinator Loren Habegger, and for all those who go out to serve across the country.


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 will likely be scheduled in the district at a later date for those unable to attend in April.

The denomination’s Yearbook office received updated forms and information from only 13 of our congregations this past year. The forms collect updates on contact information, church leadership, membership, and other statistics. Please keep an eye out for these forms when they arrive in early 2024 and send them back promptly to assist with denominational and district record-keeping.

A new planning resource for ministers, A Year of Intention: Reflection Prompts and Planning Tools for Clergy, is available from pastoral coach Laura Stephens-Reed. This planner with reflection prompts and planning tools is offered in the hope that it can help clergy focus on what is most important in their professional and personal lives and to name the behaviors and supports that will undergird that focus. Cost for this downloadable resource is $15.

Congregational vacancies:

Cherry Grove: Using regular pulpit supply

Girard: Terry Link is assisting in providing pastoral leadership

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



As noted earlier, the Mount Morris congregation is exploring the sale of its large building and property. Pastor Rodney Caldwell and other church leaders provided the following update:

Dear Brothers and Sisters of IL/WI District Church of the Brethren,

We, the Mount Morris Church of the Brethren, have recently listed our facility for sale with local Realtor Lori Peterson of Re/Max, Oregon, Ill.

First and foremost, we want you to know that we have no plans to disband. For now, while in this process, we continue to worship weekly as we have for decades. We expect to continue as an active witness for Christ in our community and as an active congregation in the ministry of the district. To leave the facility we have cherished for 70 years will be a significant transition. But, in the over-150-year history of our congregation we have been affiliated with six or so facilities. We will adapt to a new “meetinghouse” when required.

We have been debating this step for quite some time. We face the uncomfortable reality that we have far more space than our current congregation requires. The budgetary impact of supporting a facility built when our church had 600 members has become ever more difficult. Although we have sought alternatives, none have materialized. It is our hope that by enlisting a Realtor we may in fact discover a favorable solution.

We are concerned about the impact this step could potentially have on Mount Morris Loaves and Fish Food Pantry. The pantry is a community effort with its own board that we provide space to in our facility. We will do all we can to assist in securing the continuance of the pantry with as minimal disruption as possible. Please pray for the pantry’s provision during this transition.

You may be aware that for over a year the Little Prairie Mennonite church has shared our facility for weekly worship gatherings. We have been greatly blessed by this relationship. They hope to move to a newly constructed facility by August 2024. We pray God’s blessing upon them.

Please pray for us as we go through this process of leaving what has been our “church home” for so long and as we contemplate our next step as a congregation. Thank you in advance for your prayers and support.

Grace and Peace,

Mt. Morris Church of the Brethren, Mt. Morris, IL

Pastor Rodney Caldwell

Brenda Nevenhoven, Moderator

Dianne Swingel, Leadership Team Chair

We are grateful that Micah Kellerman, a member at Highland Avenue(Elgin) and a current student at UNLV in Las Vegas, was OK after a campus shooting incident at the school on Dec. 6. Micah was supposed to be in a class adjacent to the building where the shootings took place at the time of the incident, but the class had been cancelled earlier that day. Our prayers are with all those affected by these shootings, and for all those in the far-too-many other places where they have occurred. 

Our prayers are with Leonard Matheny (Peoria First), district financial secretary and Church Revitalization and Development Team chair, following news on Dec. 14 that his sister, Linda Crews, passed away in Tennessee following a lengthy illness. We also pray for Leonard’s wife, Vicki, and for Linda’s children, Dawn, Scott, and Heather, and other family members in this time of loss.

A series of short videos of conversations with Howard Royer, produced by David Sollenberger, have been published online by Messenger. Royer—a member of the Highland Avenue congregation in Elgin—is a former editor of Messenger who served on the denominational staff of the Church of the Brethren filling a wide variety of jobs for 50 consecutive years from 1953 to 2003, followed by eight years as part-time manager for the Global Food Crisis Fund (now Global Food Initiative). He started his career in the church as a 1-W conscientious objector and volunteer in stewardship, then filled successive roles as youth editor, news director, Messenger editor, coordinator of a salvation and justice program, and director of interpretation. Find the videos at [from Newsline]

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


The Illinois/Wisconsin District is remembering with gratitude the life of Ken Holderread, 85, who served as district executive minister here in the 1990’s. Ken passed away Nov. 28 at The Cedars retirement community in McPherson, Kan., where he and his wife, Elsie, lived in recent years.

Ken earlier served as a pastor and then with the Church of the Brethren General Board from 1984 to 1990, working first in Sudan and then in Elgin as the church's representative for Africa and the Middle East. He continued to be based in Elgin while serving as district executive until retiring in March 1999. He and Elsie, who served as human resources manager for the General Board, were members at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren during their time in the district.

Ken and Elsie later served as co-district executive ministers for Western Plains District, and they have served the church in a variety of other ways over the years—including work with McPherson College's popular Ventures in Christian Discipleship program and an active role at McPherson Church of the Brethren. Ken also served as a spiritual director. Earlier this year, he celebrated 55 years as an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren.

In a 2020 Anabaptist Disabilities Network article, Ken shared some of the health issues he had dealt with over the years and various current ones before concluding, "These issues greatly influence how I live. However, they do not prevent me from saying and believing that 'life is good!'"

At this time, service details are not yet available. That information and a full obituary will be posted at Our prayers are with his family and friends in this time of loss.

Joan Pelletier, 90, a former long-time employee of the Church of the Brethren General Board, passed away on Nov. 24 in Elgin. Born in Peoria, Joan and her late husband, Orv, moved to Elgin in 1957.

Joan began as a secretary in the former Parish Ministries Commission in April 1984. In April 1987 she accepted the position of administrative assistant in Parish Ministries. In July 1997 she became secretary for the former Congregational Life Ministries, a position she held until her retirement in May 2003.

A Celebration of Life service was held on Dec. 2 at Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Elgin. A full obituary is available at


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 Office of Ministry director Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Naperville pastor Dennis Webb, and district executive minister Walt Wiltschek. Food, fun, worship, and other activities will also be part of this time together. Watch for more details soon.


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


District disaster response coordinator Loren Habegger (York Center) has indicated his desire to retire from the position; a transition will be taking place in the coming months. If you have interest in being involved in facilitating disaster response work for the district, please contact the district office.

Annual disaster response trip: The Illinois/Wisconsin District had a team of five volunteers serve at the Dawson Springs, Kentucky, tornado recovery site Nov. 26-Dec. 2, sharing the work that week with volunteers from South/Central Indiana District. Volunteers from the district included Loren Habegger and Cindy Weber (York Center), and Allen Krall, Marjorie Hinds, and Diana Rokosz (Springfield First). Thank you for representing the district in this important work!

More information about the Dawson Springs Brethren Disaster Ministries project is at A complete schedule can be found here.


Church of the Brethren FaithX trips are short-term service experiences that challenge us to be more aware of ourselves, our communities, and our world. Through FaithX trips, participants grow in Christian discipleship, formed by the command to love God and neighbor, and inspired by Christ’s example of humbly serving others.

The trips provide opportunities for all ages to serve. Traditional junior and senior high youth trips are happening during summer, but a few new trip options are also available. In February, FaithX is hosting a service trip for older adults (55+) at Camp Ithiel in Florida—registration is open now for this trip. During the summer, a family trip with childcare provided will allow attendees of any age to experience service together. Additionally, the summer schedule includes adult trips in the US with Brethren Disaster Ministries and in Ecuador, a We Are Able trip for persons with intellectual disabilities, options for combined junior and senior high youth groups to attend together, or the opportunity to create a custom trip.

Registration for summer FaithX trips will open on Jan. 10 at 6 p.m. Central time. Registration for the winter older adult trip is open now and will close on Feb. 1. To register or to view the full 2024 FaithX schedule and learn more about the trips, go to . If you did not receive a 2024 FaithX brochure in the mail, reach out to the FaithX Office to have one sent to you. The FaithX Office can be contacted at or 847-429-4337.


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.”

Daily scripture themes are as follows: Wednesday, July 3: Romans 16:1-4(CEB) with supporting scriptures from Matthew 5:1-16 (CEB) and Revelation 7:9-10; Thursday, July 4: Luke 1:46-49 (NIV) with supporting scriptures from Jeremiah 1:4-10 and 2 Samuel 9:1-10a; Friday, July5: Romans 12:3-10 with supporting scriptures from John 15:9-13 and 2Chronicles 30:18-21; Saturday, July 6: Acts 2:42-47 with supporting scriptures from Ephesians 4:1-6 and 1 Peter 4:8-11; Sunday, July7: Philippians 2:1-11 with supporting scriptures from Micah 6:8, Zechariah7:8-10, and Galatians 6:2 and 6-10.

Worship preachers will be Annual Conference moderator Madalyn Metzger on Wednesday; Greg Broyles of Roanoke, Va. (Germantown Brick Church of the Brethren) on Thursday; Brandon Grady of Glenville, Pa. (Black Rock Church of the Brethren) on Friday; Leonard M. Dow, vice president of Community and Church Development for Everence and previously pastor of Oxford Circle Mennonite Church in Philadelphia on Saturday; and Cindy Laprade Lattimer of Huntingdon, Pa. (Stone Church of the Brethren) on Sunday morning.

Nathan Hollenberg of Broadway, Va., is serving as the Program and Arrangements Committee liaison to the worship team, which also includes Founa Augustin Badet of Delray Beach, Fla.; Calvin Park of Knoxville, Md.; and Amber Harris of Winston-Salem, N.C. The music coordinator is Seth Crissman of Harrisonburg, Va.; choir director is Julie Richard of Finksburg, Md.; and pianist is Jocelyn Watkins of East Peoria, Ill. The organist is Robin Risser Mundey of Frederick, Md., and the children’s choir director is Stephanie Rappatta of Elkhart, Ind.

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


  • Upcoming courses from the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership include “From Reformation to Today (Church History),” led by Josh Brockway of the Highland Avenue congregation, Jan. 24-March 19online (registration deadline Dec. 19); “Polarization as an Opportunity for Ministry,” led by Russell Haitch April 13 in person at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., with a Zoom session before and after(registration deadline March 7); and “Cultivating an Everyday Faith,” led by Joan Daggett, April 17-June 11 online (registration deadline March 13).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 Among 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 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 May 30-June 5;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 part-time (40 hours biweekly) salaried position of manager of the Global Food Initiative Fund (GFIF). This position reports directly to the executive director of Global Mission and is responsible for providing oversight and administration of the Global Food Initiative Fund and coordinates hunger-based programming with Global Mission, particularly with sister churches. This position is based in Elgin and can be remote with some travel required. Education or interest in agriculture or community development is preferred, as is language ability in French, Spanish, or Haitian Creole and experience in budget management. A bachelor’s degree is required, and a master’s or equivalent work experience is helpful. Interested applicants should send their resume’ to

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

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, IN47374.

The Shine Curriculum project seeks a full-time project editor for quarterly faith formation resources. Shine is a joint project of Brethren Press and Menno Media. The Project Editor provides editorial oversight and developmental editing for Shine’s faith formation resources for churches and families to guide children, youth, and intergenerational groups to love Jesus, grow in faith, change the world. Learn more at

The Church of the Brethren Mid-Atlantic District seeks candidates for the full-time position of district executive minister. The district includes59 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 being accepted until Dec. 31.

The Western Plains District is seeking a half-time district executive minister to serve its 36 congregations located in New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska. This is a half-time time position (approximately 25hours per week). The office location is negotiable. Travel is required both within and outside of the district. The full position description is posted at: Responsibilities include leading and coordinating district ministries, providing a strong emphasis on the missional church, working with congregations in calling and credentialing ministers and placing pastors, and providing a link between the district and denomination. Candidates should be ordained through an accredited program, have skills in organization and communication, and be committed to the Church of the Brethren, with five to 10 years of pastoral experience preferred. Interested and qualified persons may apply for this position by sending a letter of interest and resume’ to Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Director of Ministry, via email at Applicants are requested to contact three persons who are willing to provide a letter of reference. Upon receipt of the resume’, the individual will be sent a candidate profile that must be completed and returned before the application is considered complete. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.


The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership has announced Arlyn Morales as its new Coordinator for Spanish-Language Ministry Training Programs. Arlyn began her new position on Dec. 4. A 2020 graduate of Seminario Bíblico Anabautista Hispano de la Iglesia de los Hermanos (SeBAH-COB), she serves as the multi-vocational pastor of Iglesia Berith, Oasis De Esperanza, Church of the Brethren in Lebanon, Pa. She also serves the Migrant Education Program,(Millersville, Pa.), where she identifies, interviews, and enrolls eligible migrant students aged 0-21 and coordinates a variety of services for youthand their parents. Arlyn will coordinate the Brethren Academy’s Spanish-Language programs from her home in Pennsylvania. She may be reached by email at or by phone at 765-983-1821.

Shana Peachey Boshart has been hired as the new program facilitator for the Shine Curriculum, a partnership between Brethren Press and Menno Media. This grant-funded, full-time position was created to facilitate the development of the Everywhere Faith program, a new faith practice resource. Shine was awarded a grant of $1,250,000 in August 2023 from Lilly Endowment Inc. Peachey Boshart will work closely with churches and households to assess ministry needs and challenges in Christian education. Cohort churches and families will join focus group meetings, and the feedback will be processed between the Everywhere Faith network and Shine content developers. Focusing on recruiting and supporting contract facilitators to reach diverse families and parents, Peachey Boshart will work with current Shine staff and contractors to develop faith practice resources. She is a credentialed leadership coach and owner of Wisdom Calls Coaching. She attends Prairie Street Mennonite Church, where she is chair of the executive committee.

Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., has hired Carolyn Hiatt as administrative assistant for its Institutional Advancement office. She began work on Dec. 4. She brings more than 20 years of experience in abroad variety of administrative leadership, supervision, and support settings, including at the Idaho State Board of Education, the Department of Health and Welfare in Idaho, Miami University in Ohio), and the Wayne County (Ind.) Council/Green Acres, now known as Achieva, in Richmond.


This year, an important anniversary will be remembered on Christmas Day. According to author Donald F. Durnbaugh , the first Brethren baptisms and the foundation of the first Brethren congregation in the United States occurred on Dec. 25, 1723, near Germantown, Pa. (part of present-day Philadelphia). Migration within Germany was a common practice after persecution and eviction followed the newly formed Brethren movement in Schwarzenau, which began with the baptisms of Alexander Mack and seven others in 1708. However, religious persecution, disagreements and difficulties sustaining a living led many Brethren groups to emigrate from Germany. On Christmas Day 1723, the ice was broken on the Wissahickon Creek near the home of John Gumre, and pastor Peter Becker baptized six people. This occasion marked the official formation of the first Brethren church in the United States. A celebratory love feast followed the next day, and other congregations soon began to form as the Brethren gathered, worshipped, and expanded into the outlying areas of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. [from “Shenandoah District Update”]

The Shine curriculum’s Vacation Bible School for 2024 is titled “Seekers in Sneakers: Discover Jesus!” and is available for purchase through Brethren Press . The boxed set includes the basics needed to offer a VBS session this coming summer. The daily themes are “Jesus the Learner”(Luke 2:41-52), “Jesus Our Companion” (Matthew 4:17-22), “Jesus Our Teacher” (Matthew 5:14-16; John 8:12), “Jesus Our Example” (John 13:1-17), and “Jesus Our Helper” (John 21:1-14). Find sample sessions and more at The VBS kit is 20 percent off if you order by Dec. 31.

The Nominating Committee of the Standing Committee of district delegates to the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference continues to seek nominations for the 2024 ballot. The deadline for submitting nominations has been extended from Dec. 4 to Jan. 5. Please prayerfully consider people you know for the following offices: moderator elect, Program and Arrangements Committee member, Mission and Ministry Board member from Area 4, Mission and Ministry Board member from Area 5, Bethany Theological Seminary board member representing the colleges, and On Earth Peace board member. Detailed information regarding these positions is available at

Rachel Gross recently sent out a special issue of the Death Row Support Project newsletter announcing her retirement as director of the ground-breaking project. Here is an excerpt: “Recently I mailed postcards with the following message to those on death row who have requested pen pals from the Death Row Support Project; I wanted them to be the first to know about upcoming changes. In 1978, my husband, Bob, and I--with the support of the Church of the Brethren--began the Death Row Support Project. Now, 45 years later, I have made the difficult decision to retire from this work.” During her tenure, about 11,000 people signed up to write to people under sentence of death, and 15,000 assignments were made. Plans are underway to celebrate Rachel Gross’s 45 years with DRSP at the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., in July 2024. Read more at

Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) deployed a team of three volunteers to Oak Park, Ill., to aid children and families among asylum seekers who have been sent to Chicago from the southern border of Texas. The team served from Nov. 6 to 9, caring for 51 children. Chicago is a sanctuary city and has been receiving both buses and airplanes filled with asylum seekers sent by Texas. The city of Chicago requested Oak Park to house150 people for a week while they worked to get more permanent housing as the weather is turning colder.

Bethany Theological Seminary is celebrating a new Steinway B grand piano that was donated and purchased with money from a fund created by Nancy Faus-Mullen, professor emerita of worship and music, to support music and worship at the seminary. The piano was delivered to Nicarry Chapel at the end of the fall semester. “We are excited to bring this wonderful instrument to Bethany and we are so grateful to Nancy for her generosity,” said seminary president Jeff Carter in a release.

From Nov. 12-16, Camp Eder in Fairfield, Pa., hosted members of the Outdoor Ministries Association of the Church of the Brethren for a retreat/conference. Leadership from 14 camps and Brethren Volunteer Service joined together in exploring the theme of “Discipleship.” Pieter Tramper, from Brethren Woods in Virginia, was the coordinator. Throughout the four-day event, time was set aside for worship, conversation, learning, business, and rest. Meals were outstanding and prepared by volunteers under the leadership of kitchen manager Thad Smith.

Church of the Brethren Material Resources staff in New Windsor, Md., loaded ten 40-foot containers for Lutheran World Relief in early November, destined for Turkey. The containers were loaded with quilts, personal care kits, baby care kits, and other relief supplies.

Making a Difference: 75 Years of Brethren Volunteer Service” is the title of a recent episode of Brethren Voices, a community television program produced by Ed Groff and Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren and available at Chelsea Goss Skillen, director of BVS, serves as host of the episode, which features BVS orientation unit 334 that was held at Camp Koinonia in Cle Elum, Wash. Also, Brethren historian and author Jim Lehman shares the story, “The Beginnings of BVS.” Music, provided with permission, features Mike Stern performing his songs “River of Peace” and “We Can Make a Difference.”

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 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 toserve at Fundacion Brethren y Unida (FBU) June 1-10, and a n 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!