Friday, March 01, 2024

The Reflector - March 2024

The Village ILWIDIot

Walt Wiltschek

“They found the entrance stone rolled back from the tomb, so they walked in.” —Luke 24:2-3a, The Message

Perhaps some of you have seen “Monsters, Inc.,” the Pixar film in which fictional monsters use colorful doors to enter the rooms of children as they sleep. A door is selected, put in place, and opens a passage between the two worlds, which otherwise never come into contact. And, of course, all sorts of adventures ensue.

Doors can open the way to new and unexpected places and experiences. When we first turn the knob or lever or watch the panel slide aside, we never know what might greet us on the other side.

I once heard education described as a “process of door-opening,” which I rather like. As we learn new things or come to eye-opening moments, it changes the way we see things. Few things are better than watching a child as their face lights up with some fresh understanding. Life is best lived when we continually seek and embrace those sorts of moments. We, too, enter a new world, in a sense.

For some, doors open through travel to unfamiliar places. For some, it’s through reading books or watching good movies. For some, it’s through conversations with those who bring different life experiences or unique perspectives. For some, it’s through taking a course or workshop or webinar. Or it could be through any number of other things.

Over the next few weeks, we will approach and celebrate again one of history’s greatest door-openings. As we remember the stone rolling away to reveal an empty tomb, heralding Jesus’ resurrection, we are reminded that an impossibly open doorway changed the world in ways that still reverberate. “He is not here! He is risen!”

But it’s not enough to read the story or celebrate it in church. We, too, like those early disciples need to step across the threshold, daring to discover what might be on the other side as we seek new life, new hope, and new understanding. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote that “A mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” The same should be true of our spiritual selves as the reality of resurrection bursts upon us.

As the world around us seems increasingly unhinged, what new doors might you open today?


In addition to regular meetings, Walt will be worshiping with Dixon March 24, preaching and leading the commissioning service for Larry Traxler at Cerro Gordo on April 7, attending Spring Into Camp at Camp Emmaus on April 13, worshiping with Dutchtown (Milledgeville) on April 14, attending the district clergy retreat in Rockford April 15-16, and attending an Outdoor Ministries Association meeting in Mount Morris April 19.

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, March 23, 9 a.m.
  • Leadership Team, April 2, 6:30 p.m.
  • Gifts Discernment and Call Committee, April 9, 6:30 p.m.
  • Spring clergy retreat, April 15-16, Bishop Lane Retreat Center, Rockford
  • Council of District Executives meeting, April 24, 12 p.m.
  • Creation care event, “One Earth, One Chance,” April 27, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren, Elgin, and via Zoom
  • Ministry Leadership Development Team, May 8, 6:30 p.m.
  • Program & Arrangements Committee, May 9, 7 p.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 year. We invite you to include the following in your prayers in coming weeks:

Week of March 18: Pray this week for the Oakley Brick congregation, especially as it prepares for a pastoral transition later this year, and for the work of the denomination’s Discipleship Ministries office as it equips congregations across the country.

Week of March 25: During this Holy Week as we journey toward Easter, look around for signs of life in your community and praise God for those places of joy and growth.

Week of April 1: Pray for the Cerro Gordo congregation, and for the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria), now the largest national Church of the Brethren body in the world.

Week of April 8: Pray for the Woodland congregation in Astoria, and for the denomination’s youth Christian Citizenship Seminar taking place this week in Washington, D.C.

Week of April 15: Be in prayer for the district’s Ministry Leadership Development Team as it encourages current and future pastors, chaplains, and others who are called to lead the church, and for TRIM ministry training coordinator Mary Jessup. Also pray for the clergy retreat that MLDT will be coordinating in Rockford this week.


Larry Traxler, pastor at Cerro Gordo, has been approved for commissioning by the district Ministry Leadership Development Team. Congratulations to Larry on the culmination of a long journey! District executive minister Walt Wiltschek will conduct the commissioning service during worship at Cerro Gordo on April 7, with a reception for Larry following.

Bobbi Dykema completes her service at Springfield First this month. Her final Sunday in the pulpit was March 17, followed by a farewell reception at the church. We wish her the best in her future ministry journey. With her departure from Springfield, Bobbi has also resigned as the district’s Standing Committee delegate. Gifts Discernment and Call Committee and Leadership Team are working on finding a replacement.

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. A team of nine ethics trainers recently met in Elgin to prepare for the events around the denomination. Dennis Webb (Naperville) helped create a new intercultural element that will be included in this cycle’s trainings. All ministers should also begin gathering information for their CEU report, which will be due by early 2025.

Congregational vacancies:
  • Cherry Grove: Using regular pulpit supply
  • Oakley Brick: David Roe has announced his retirement effective November 2024
  • Springfield First: Bobbi Dykema is completing her service in March
  • 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


Church of the Brethren Yearbook forms have been sent to congregations. Please take time to complete these important forms and return them to the denominational office by April 15.

The 2024 district directory was sent out earlier this year via email. If you did not receive a copy and would like one, please contact the district office at

Peoria First is gathering canned goods this month for its annual Can-A-Thon. Donations support community ministries and needs. The congregation also recently assembled snack packs for local school children.

The district Gifts Discernment and Call Committee has been meeting and working on district positions to be filled in the coming year. If you get a call from a GDCC member, please prayerfully consider whether you might be called to serve! Pat Ball (Dixon) is chairing the committee this year, with Dan McFadden (Highland Avenue) as vice chair.

A grant opportunity for creative church projects has been announced by the Brotherhood Mutual Foundation, a nonprofit connected with the Brotherhood Mutual insurance company, with which the Mutual Aid Agency ( and the Church of the Brethren denomination engage. “The Kingdom Advancing Grant supports innovative church programs or initiatives that not only connect people with Jesus but also are sustainable over time and can be replicated by other churches,” said the announcement. “Each Kingdom Advancing Grant recipient not only receives funding for their initiative or program, but also is paired with an experienced ministry leader who can provide guidance and assistance.” The grant is designed to support church programs or initiatives that are: intended to help build the Kingdom by introducing people to Jesus or strengthening their relationship with Jesus; involve a unique idea that’s innovative, creative, and new, and that other churches are not already doing; can be sustained over time; and can be replicated by other churches. The deadline to apply is March 31. Final decisions for the current round of grants will be made by July 2024. Go to [from Church of the Brethren "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 district’s Ministry Leadership Development Team invites all ministers in Illinois and Wisconsin to this year’s district clergy retreat, which will take place April 15-16 at the beautiful Bishop Lane Retreat Center just southwest of Rockford, Ill. Thanks to a subsidy from special funds the district received, the cost will be just $50 per person, which covers leadership, lodging (private room with bath), and three meals.

Our theme this year will be “Ethical Considerations,” as we take part in the denomination's every-five-years ethics training required for all credentialed ministers. Office of Ministry director Nancy Sollenberger Heishman will be the primary leader for the event, assisted by Naperville pastor Dennis Webb and district executive minister Walt Wiltschek. (Note that a CEU report for the past five-year period is also part of the credential renewal process; more information will be sent about that at a later date.)

The retreat will begin at 4 p.m. on Monday, April 15, and will end no later than 4 p.m. the following day. The ethics training will occur during three sessions over the course of our time together. Participants will receive 0.6 CEU's. In addition to the educational component and our common meals, we will also have times of worship together, as well as opportunities for fellowship, games, relaxation, and other activities.

While we will likely offer another ethics training elsewhere in the district at a future date for those unable to attend the retreat, we encourage you to be part of this gathering in April if possible. Please register by April 1 using this link: (note any dietary requirements or other special needs) and sending a check for $50 payable to “Church of the Brethren IL/WI District” to 269 E. Chestnut St., Canton, IL 61520. If you have questions, please contact the district office.


Since this is not a "Potluck Experience" year, the Illinois/Wisconsin District will be offering a free special event this spring focused on caring for God's creation. This hybrid event will take place Saturday, April 27, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin or via YouTube/Zoom (links will be sent in mid-April).

David Radcliff of New Community Project will be our keynote speaker with a presentation titled “One Earth, One Chance” during the opening hour. That will be followed by several breakout options led by David Radcliff, Randall Westfall and Jonathan Stauffer, and the Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren “Green Team,” providing opportunities for further discussion and learning. A resource table will also be available. We hope you can join us for this important conversation on our role as Christians in being good stewards of the earth!


A new “Escape to Emmaus” series kicked off March 2 with a sunny woodworking day enthusiastically attended by nearly 30 people of all ages. Camp manager Randall Westfall led the activity, showing participants some basic cutting techniques, followed by an opportunity to put those to use by carving whimsical trees, mushrooms, and other items. Additional Escape to Emmaus events coming up include April 6, Flintknapping and Arrowheads (10 a.m.-2 p.m., cost $12, tools provided); May 4, Birding (in partnership with Northwest Illinois Audubon); and June 1, Target Sports (archery/slingshots). See for details and registration.

The Camp Emmaus “Spring into Camp” event will be April 13, 1-6 p.m., with time to informally enjoy the camp’s amenities in the afternoon before a dedication of the new stone council ring at 4 p.m., a campfire at 4:30 p.m., and a cookout dinner (food provided) at 5:30 p.m.

Camp Emmaus (Mount Morris, Ill.) has also announced its summer camping schedule for 2024. Registration will open soon. This year’s curriculum theme will be “Linked by Love”:

April 13 Spring Into Camp
May 24-27 Memorial Day Family Camp
July 7-11 Intermediate Camp (grades 3-5)
July 12-14 Young Adult and Young at Heart Camp (YAAYAH)
July 14-20 Senior High Camp (grades 9-12)
July 21-27 Middle School Camp (grades 6-8)
Aug. 2-4 CIT training
Aug. 3-4 Elementary Camp (grades 1-2)
Aug. 8-10 Women’s Camp
Aug. 16-18 Men’s Camp
Aug. 30-Sept. 2 Labor Day Family Camp

Camp Emmanuel (Astoria, Ill.) has announced its summer 2024 camping schedule. Registration will open in March:

Women’s Camp May 31-June 2
Youth Camp (grades 9-12) 2nd week in June or 2nd weekend in June (to be determined)
Middle School Camp (grades 6-8) June 9-15
Junior Camp (grades 3-5) June 19-23
Pre-Junior Camp (grades K-2) June 28-30
Day Camp (grades K-5) July 15-19
Men’s Camp Aug. 9-11
Family Camp Aug. 30-Sept. 2
Creation Camp (grades 3-6) Sept. 6-8

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


Our own Nik Gameti (Naperville) was among members of the Church of the Brethren National Youth Cabinet who met in Elgin Feb. 2-4 to work on a theme for this year’s National Youth Sunday. The cabinet selected Jeremiah 29:11 as their focus scripture, with the theme “Your life; God’s direction.” Congregations are invited to celebrate the leadership of their high school youth by participating in National Youth Sunday, with a suggested date of May 5. Other members of the cabinet include Felisha Diamond of Eden, N.C.; Sebastian Eikler of Goshen, Ind.; Autumn Sauder of Mount Joy, Pa.; and Calla Stoltzfus of Elizabethtown, Pa.; with adult advisor Tony Price, pastor of Cedar Grove Church of the Brethren in Ohio; and staff member Becky Ullom Naugle, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Church of the Brethren. Worship resources, written by the cabinet, will be made available at

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. The 2024 theme is “And They Fled: Advocating for Just Immigration Policy,” drawing from Matthew 2:13-23. Learn more at

The 2024 Young Adult Conference will take place May 24-26 at Camp Shepherd’s Spring near Sharpsburg, Md., on the theme “Transformed by God” (Romans 12:-1-2, The Message). Registration includes housing, meals, and programing. For more information and to register, go to After May 1, a late fee of $50 will be added to the registration fee. Contact Becky Ullom Naugle, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries for the Church of the Brethren, for information about scholarships (for travel, for Brethren Volunteer Service workers) that may be available by request until April 15 at or 847-429-4385.


Rick Koch (Lanark) has agreed to become the district’s new disaster response coordinator. He succeeds Loren Habegger (York Center), who has been serving in the role in recent years. Loren plans to stay involved with Brethren Disaster Ministries but asked to step back from the coordinator role. We’re extraordinarily grateful for all of Loren’s good work and dedication, and also glad for Rick’s willingness to step into this important position. Rick has some past experience in the role and has been a regular in disaster ministry. Watch for more updates on disaster response opportunities in the months ahead!

More information about the Brethren Disaster Ministries tornado recovery project in Dawson Springs, Kentucky, is at BDM recently extended the Dawson Springs project through at least Aug. 17. A FaithX service trip will take place at the project this summer. A complete schedule can be found here.

A BDM volunteer appreciation breakfast will take place during Annual Conference. Register at by June 10. BDM will also again sponsor a blood drive at Annual Conference. Those who can’t attend but want to participate can join a virtual blood drive at


Freeport Church of the Brethren (777 W. Pleasant St., Freeport) will be hosting a Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) volunteer training workshop May 3-4.

The CDS workshop is a comprehensive 25-hour workshop (4:30 p.m. Friday to 5:30 p.m. Saturday) that uses applied, experiential activities to help participants integrate their learning. The workshop will train you to understand and respond to children who have experienced a disaster. Designed for people who have a heart and passion for children, the workshop helps you recognize and understand the fears and other emotions children experience during and following a disaster and how child-led play and various art mediums can start the healing process in children. Participants will experience a simulated shelter, sleeping on cots and eating simple meals. Once training is completed, participants have the opportunity to become a certified CDS volunteer by providing two personal references and a criminal and sexual offender background check. The workshop is open to anyone age 18 and over.

Participants should bring comfortable clothes, refillable water bottle, camping gear (sleeping bag or blankets, pillow, air mattress, flashlight), earplugs or sleep mask, and personal items (towel, washcloth, toiletries), as well as a desire to help others in need! Cost is $55 for early registration (postmarked at least three weeks before the workshop), and $65 thereafter. A reduced registration of $32.50 is available for current students. Meals and simple overnight accommodations are included.

To register, go to Workshop dates and locations – Children's Disaster Services ( If you are interested but can’t make the Freeport dates, another training session will occur April 12-13 in Ankeny, Iowa.


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.

The trips provide opportunities for all ages to serve. Traditional junior and senior high youth trips are happening during summer, and a few new trip options are also available. 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.

A new older adult FaithX trip to Camp Ithiel in central Florida was held in February, with more than a dozen people participating (including Linda Simler from Freeport!). The week included a variety of service projects, worship and singing, fellowship time, and games, along with a day trip to Silver Springs State Park that included a boat ride.

Registration for summer FaithX trips is now open! 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, July 5: Romans 12:3-10 with supporting scriptures from John 15:9-13 and 2 Chronicles 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, July 7: Philippians 2:1-11 with supporting scriptures from Micah 6:8, Zechariah 7:8-10, and Galatians 6:2 and 6-10.
Worship preachers will be 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.
Registration opened on March 1. Note that a new registration system is being used this year and might require some adjustments. Advance registration 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. Advance registration closes June 10. 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. New this year is an option for groups and institutions to participate virtually from a common location. For more information go to and select “Virtual.”
All congregations are encouraged to send delegates for which they are eligible. Congregations of up to 200 members receive one delegate, with an additional delegate for every 200 members or portion thereof beyond that. Our own Leonard and Vicki Matheny (Peoria First) head up on-site registration.
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. Housing reservations also opened to the public March 1. For more information, visit
Don Fitzkee (Lancaster, Pa.) and Gene Hollenberg (Nappanee, Ind.) head this year’s ballot as candidates for moderator-elect. Complete biographical information for all nominees is at and will be printed in the Conference booklet.


• Upcoming courses from the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership include “Interim Ministry,” online July 31-Sept. 24, led by Tara Hornbacker (registration deadline June 16); and “Church of the Brethren History,” online Aug. 21-Oct. 15, led by Denise Kettering-Lane (registration deadline July 17). Register and pay online at Brethren Academy Course Registration/Biannual TRIM Payment | Bethany Theological Seminary (

• The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership is also offering Listening for the Sound of Genuine July 2-3 with Audrey Hollenberg-Duffey as facilitator. This course is a Directed Independent Study Unit (DISU) in conjunction with attending the Ministers' Association Pre-Conference event with Frank A. Thomas, in Grand Rapids, Mich. TRIM/EFSM students will receive one credit in Ministry Skills upon completion. This also qualifies for the Annual Conference Experience. Clergy seeking CEUs will receive 2 continuing education units upon successful completion of this course. Registration deadline is May 28 at Learn more about the conference, and register for the conference, at

• McPherson College’s Ventures in Christian Discipleship program will offer “Introduction to Afrofuturism and Theology,” with instructor Tamisha Tyler, on April 2, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Central; and the two-part “Becoming a More Loving and Inclusive Church,” with instructor Tim McElwee, May 7 and 9, 7-8:30 p.m. Central each night. Register and learn more at Ventures in Christian Discipleship - McPherson College. Suggested donation is $25 per course.

• “Church of the Brethren Polity” will be offered March 22-23 and April 26-27 online via Zoom by the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center (SVMC). Randy Yoder will teach the course. Register by contacting Karen Hodges at SVMC is also offering “Worship Models from Genesis to Revelation” led by Leah Hileman April 13, 8-11 a.m. Central, via Zoom and “Christian ID in an Age of AI” led by Bethany Theological Seminary professor Russell Haitch April 27, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Central, also via Zoom. Cost for either seminar is $45 including 0.5 CEU’s or $35 without CEU’s.

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 them 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 “Conflict Transformation Skills for Churches” April 4 and “Restorative Conversations” April 17. 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 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 Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership is seeking a part-time (25 to 30 hours per week) administrative assistant to work in the Richmond, Ind., office, providing direct secretarial and administrative support to the BAML staff, students, and programs and working collegially with other offices. High school diploma is required, with associate’s degree preferred. Desired skills include clerical experience, strong professional and interpersonal skills, organizational and proofreading skills, knowledge of Microsoft Office suite and databases, and flexible schedule. Bilingual (English/Spanish) preferred. To apply, send resume’, letter of interest, and contact information for three references to Janet L. Ober Lambert, director, 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 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 25 hours 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.


Mid-Atlantic District has called Douglas Veal to serve as district executive minister beginning June 25. Doug holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bridgewater College and a Master of Divinity from Bethany Theological Seminary, as well as Clinical Pastoral Education training through Eastern Mennonite Seminary. He was ordained in the Nettle Creek congregation of South/Central Indiana District in 2010. Doug is currently pastor of the Wabash (Ind.) congregation of South/Central Indiana District and has also served both interim and settled pastorates in South/Central Indiana, Southern Ohio/Kentucky, and Virlina districts. He has been an instructor for the Christian Growth Institute of Virlina District and the Brethren Leadership Institute of South/Central Indiana District. Doug previously served as chair of the Virlina District’s New Church Development Committee for several years and has been a member of the New and Renew Advisory Team of the denomination for the past 10 years. Doug and his spouse, Tasha, will be relocating to the Westminster, Md., area.

The Atlantic Southeast District has called Beth Sollenberger to serve as interim district director of administration, a quarter-time position, beginning April 1. Prior to her retirement in 2021, Beth served as district executive minister for South/Central Indiana for nearly 11 years. She also served the Michigan District for several years as interim district executive minister and then as the district executive minister representative on Michigan’s district executive interim team. She will serve in a hybrid role for Atlantic Southeast both virtually from her home in Goshen, Ind., as well as periodically onsite within the district. The district staff also includes five other part-time director-level positions covering the areas of program ministries, English ministries, Haitian ministries, Hispanic ministries, and finance. Prior to her district service, Beth was employed by the Mission and Ministry Board (formerly General Board) as Director of Stewardship Education and then as the Congregational Life Team Coordinator for Area 2. She has served pastorates in Atlantic Southeast, Southern Ohio/Kentucky, Mid-Atlantic and Northern Indiana districts.


The National Older Adult Conference planning committee, led by NOAC coordinator Christy Waltersdorff (York Center) and including Leonard Matheny (Peoria), has announced the theme for NOAC 2025: “ALIVE IN THE SPIRIT” (drawing on Romans 15:13). Each day will have a daily sub-theme: “Living with Hope” (Tuesday); “Living with Gratitude” (Wednesday); “Living with Power” (Thursday); “Living with Joy” (Friday). NOAC 2025 will take place Sept. 1-5, 2025, at Lake Junaluska, N.C.

A Church of the Brethren L.E.A.D. (Listen – Equip – Adapt – Disciple) Conference is planned for Nov. 15-17, 2024, sponsored by the denomination’s Discipleship and Leadership Formation department. The event will be hosted at Ephrata (Pa.) Church of the Brethren on the scripture theme 2 Timothy 2:2. This will be a leadership development conference for congregational leaders such as pastors and church board members. The focus will be on raising the leadership skills of congregational leaders to help them be more effective in their local ministries. The event will be a mix of plenary and break-out sessions. Attendance will be capped at 250 participants. More information and registration will be available closer to the date.

H. Fred Bernhard, long-time pastor and 1996 Annual Conference moderator, passed away March 12 following a recent cancer diagnosis. In addition to his time as moderator, Fred served the larger church as a member of the former General Board, a member of the former Brethren Benefit Trust board, and as advancement associate at Bethany Theological Seminary. Following his retirement as pastor of the Oakland Church of the Brethren in Ohio, he continued in leadership at both congregational and district levels, including interim pastorates in Ohio and Virginia. A celebration of life will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 23, at Oakland Church of the Brethren (8058 Horatio Harris Creek Rd, Bradford, Ohio). Visitation will take place at the church from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday, March 22.

Bitrus K. Tizhe, who served as the first president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) from 1995 to 1999, died on Feb. 16. He was laid to rest at his home in Michika, Adamawa State, on Feb. 21, said a release from EYN.

Congregations are invited to create 8 ½ x 8 ½” quilt blocks for the 2024 Annual Conference quilts. All blocks should be postmarked by May 15 and sent to Margaret Weybright, 1801 Greencroft Blvd., Apt. 125, Goshen, IN 46526 with a dollar (or more) donation to cover costs. The outside border should be no less than 8 ½” square after it is worked, and the inside design should be not more than 8” square, with nothing in the seam allowance. Blocks (pre-shrunk cotton or cotton blend) should be cut to size after they have been pieced, embroidered, or appliqued. They should also include the congregation’s name and state and/or district. For a full instructional flier, contact the district office.

The Standing with People of Color Committee continues to seek to involve congregations, districts, and families in learning and growing together in ways to enable the Church of the Brethren to welcome believers from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Revelation 7:9). If you are interested in leading a “7 Prompts” workshop and would like to learn more about the process, two more online facilitator training events are scheduled for April 2, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Central, and April 6, 12-2 p.m. Central. Find out more and register at For questions, please contact

Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., has announced via Facebook post that alumnus Dan Sunderland (’88) and his wife, Kerry, have pledged $1 million toward strengthening the college’s commitment to educating and preparing students for careers in the health professions. “Their philanthropy will support a feasibility study to determine the viability of a future nursing program at Juniata College,” said the announcement. “Across the nation, hospitals, health systems, and medical offices are experiencing a shortage of nurses, and the numbers in Pennsylvania are among the highest.”

The Shine Sunday school curriculum of Brethren Press and MennoMedia is introducing a new initiative called Shine Everywhere. Shine Everywhere will provide new avenues of communication between those who create Shine curriculum and the congregations and families who use it. The purpose of the new initiative is to listen attentively to congregations and families and then incorporate their input into new Shine resources. A grant of $1.25 million from Lilly Endowment Inc. supports the development of Shine Everywhere. MennoMedia received the grant in 2023 on behalf of Shine, a joint publication of MennoMedia and Brethren Press. The grant is part of Lilly Endowment’s Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative, which aims to help parents and caregivers share their faith and values with their children. Anyone interested in learning more or joining the initiative can sign up at

The 2024 Song and Story Fest family camp co-sponsored by On Earth Peace will be hosted at Camp Brethren Heights in the Michigan District, July 7-13, immediately after Annual Conference in Grand Rapids. This is the 28th Song and Story Fest. The theme for this year’s Muddy Waters Song and Story Fest is “Exploring the Heights and Depths of Community.” The event is billed as an intergenerational camp for all ages, individuals, and families. Storytellers, musicians, and workshop leaders include Rhonda & Greg Baker, Susan Boyer, Louise Brodie, Hannah Button-Harrison, Debbie Eisenbise, Jenny & Jeffrey Faus Family, Erin & Cody Flory Robertson, Chris Good, Anna Lisa Gross, Kathy Guisewite, Jonathan Hunter, Tim & Byron Joseph & Marlene Wood, Brian Kruschwitz, Jim Lehman, Peg Lehman, and Mike Stern. The schedule includes morning intergenerational gatherings and worship followed by workshops for adults, children, and youth; in the afternoons, family time, recreation, story swaps, and music-making; and in the evenings, campfires, snacks, and concerts or a folk dance. Registration includes all meals, on-site facilities, and leadership, and is based upon age—adults $370, teens $240, children age 5 to 12 $160, children 4 and under free—with a maximum fee per family of $1,000. Daily fees are available. Registrations after June 1 add 10 percent as a late fee. Register online at

Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) has announced the dates for the next two volunteer orientations that will take place in 2024. The summer unit (Unit 335) will have orientation July 28-Aug. 5 at Camp Colorado, located near Sedalia, Colo., southwest of Denver. The fall unit (Unit 336) will take place Sept. 17-25 at Camp Brethren Heights in Rodney, Mich., north of Grand Rapids. Online pre-orientation meetings also take place before each group gathers together in person. To apply or to learn more, visit

The 2024 Earth Day resource from Creation Justice Ministries is titled “Plastic Jesus: Real Faith in a Synthetic World,” and is available to download at Said an announcement: “Every year at Creation Justice Ministries, we create a resource to help churches prepare for Earth Day. It’s always our hope that these resources won’t just inform the congregation’s actions for a day, but will inform their actions on behalf of God’s creation throughout the year.”

The Church of the Brethren Nursing Scholarship is available for 2024, providing up to $2,000 for RN and graduate nurse candidates and up to $1,000 for LPN candidates. Scholarships are awarded to a limited number of applicants each year. This scholarship, made possible by the Health, Education and Research Endowment, is available to members of the Church of the Brethren enrolled in LPN, RN, or nursing graduate programs. More information and an application form are at Applications and supporting documentation are due by April 1 of each year.


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!