Friday, December 01, 2023


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.