Newsline for March 19, 2022

“O God, you are my God, I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).

1) Mission and Ministry Board’s Spring meeting addresses Ukraine, reviews Strategic Plan initiatives and BFIA guidelines, among other business

2) Prospects for new ministry in Ecuador emerge from passion and compassion

3) Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria dedicates two factories

4) Church World Service calls for signatures to support displaced Ukrainians

5) South Sudan church official highlights country’s humanitarian crisis, as global attention turns to Ukraine

6) Bridgewater College launches support program for students with autism spectrum disorder

7) Connie Sandman retires from 40-year career at Brethren Benefit Trust

8) Intercultural Ministries offers online Global Check-in and Prayer Series

Snowdrops emerge as one of the first spring flowers in northern Illinois. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

9) BBT offers webinar on clergy and church worker eligibility for Public Service Loan Forgiveness program

10) West Richmond Church participates in Henrico County book drive for school libraries

11) Using the gifts we have: A reflection from the church’s work in Brazil

12) Brethren bits: Remembering Stanley Smith and Gene Swords, prayer requests for moderator David Sollenberger’s trip to Rwanda and Uganda and for a fire at the Orlando (Fla.) Haitian congregation, FaithX registration open until April 1, video of annual conference of the church in Venezuela, Lenten videos based on the art of Paul Grout, and more

Quote of the week:

“May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who came to set us free from all sins of dividedness and domination,
and the love of God,
who created us to be with God and one another,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit,
who joins us together in truth, peace, and justice,
be with us all, now, and forever. Amen.”

— The benediction from a World Council of Churches (WCC) prayer service published for this Monday’s UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21. The WCC resource is a brief prayer service made up of a “patchwork of different elements from the daily regional prayers on antiracism that have been offered each day this week,” said a release. “These short daily prayers have been crafted with inputs from regional members of the recently formed WCC Reference Group on Overcoming Violence and WCC staff from the respective regions. In the spirit of the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace, the WCC invites you ‘to journey with one another and in prayerful solidarity.’” Scripture texts for the service are Psalm 63:1-8 and Luke 13:1-9. Find the full text for the service online at

A note to readers: As many congregations return to in-person worship, we want to update our listing of Churches of the Brethren at Please send new information to

Lifting up Brethren who are active in health care: Add a person to the list by sending first name, county, and state to

1) Mission and Ministry Board’s Spring meeting addresses Ukraine, reviews Strategic Plan initiatives and BFIA guidelines, among other business

A statement on the war in Ukraine topped the agenda of the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board at its meeting on March 11-13, held in person at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill., and via Zoom. Chair Carl Fike led the meeting, assisted by chair-elect Colin Scott and general secretary David Steele.

The top action item was a statement on Ukraine that called for a time of concerted prayer and action for peacebuilding; renewed commitment to Annual Conference opposition to conventional and nuclear war; committed to aid and advocate for refugees and migrants regardless of national origin; and committed to renewed efforts to care for those in need in every country involved in the Ukraine conflict and affected by the global financial disruption caused by the war and sanctions.

The statement is online at

The Mission and Ministry Board in Spring 2022 meetings. Shown here: A board development session on “Active Listening” is led by Jay Wittmeyer of the Lombard (Ill.) Mennonite Peace Center. Wittmeyer is a former executive of Global Mission and Service for the Church of the Brethren. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

The board also approved revisions to the Brethren Faith in Action Fund guidelines, approved hiring a consultant for a survey related to the Strategic Plan, and made an appointment to the Germantown Trust.

Numerous updates and reports were received including information about continued work on the Strategic Plan and an update from the Stewardship of Properties Committee as well as financial reports, among others.

A board development training on “Active Listening” was led by Jay Wittmeyer of the Lombard (Ill.) Mennonite Peace Center. Sunday morning worship was led by board member Christina Singh.

Revisions to the Brethren Faith in Action Fund guidelines

The eligibility of Church of the Brethren camps to apply for grants was extended through 2022, which extends for another year a measure first put in place to aid camps during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The BFIA committee recommended making the congregational contribution expectation into a sliding scale proportionate to congregational income. The board asked the BFIA committee to bring a proposal of that scale for consideration at its October meeting. In the meantime, an extension through 2022 of the matching funds waiver will continue.

The board also approved a recommendation that the Executive Committee work to revise the guidelines in order to clarify appropriate uses for grants.

Leading the board meeting was chair Carl Fike (at center), assisted by chair-elect Colin Scott (at left) and general secretary David Steele (at right). Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Survey to be carried out as part of Strategic Plan

The board approved hiring a consultant to do a survey of current and former members of the Mission and Ministry Board and its predecessor body, the General Board, and their staff, for an initiative related to the Strategic Plan’s “foreground vision” to seek God’s racial justice.

Board members in small-group discussion around their tables. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

The survey “to hear the candid stories of people of color who have served in leadership in the Church of the Brethren” is understood as the first step of this foreground vision initiative.

“The goal is to hear honest accounts from people of color so that the institution, especially white people in leadership, can recognize the barriers that are invisible to them,” explained a report from the task team.

Germantown Trust appointment

The board appointed Ben Barlow of Montezuma Church of the Brethren, an attorney working in Leesburg, Va., to the Germantown Trust. The trust holds responsibility for the historic property, buildings, and cemetery of the first Brethren congregation in the Americas, located in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. Barlow was nominated by the Brethren Historical Committee.

For the meeting agenda, background documents, and video reports, go to Find a photo album of the meeting at

2) Prospects for new ministry in Ecuador emerge from passion and compassion

By Jeff Boshart

There are some people that when you meet them, you just see Jesus. Maria Silva is one of those people. She is quick to pray, quick to smile, quick to hug, and quick to cry. Silva was born in Cuba and moved to Spain as a child before making her way to the US as an adult. Settling in New Jersey, she met her husband, Osvaldo, who came to the US from Brazil. While living and working in New Jersey, they would enjoy occasional trips to Lancaster County (Pa.) to visit the Sight and Sound Theaters.

Upon retirement, the couple decided to relocate to the area where they purchased a home in Strasburg. When searching for a church home, they settled on a new Church of the Brethren church plant, the Ebenezer congregation in Lampeter, pastored by Leonor Ochoa and Eric Ramirez.

People gather for prayer during the delegation’s visit to Ecuador. Photo by Jeff Boshart

At her new church, Silva brought her passion and compassion for children’s and youth ministries in Ecuador. One of her friends from work in New Jersey was from Ecuador. This friend invited her to on numerous trips to Ecuador to work with a church near the city of Cayambe with a local congregation, about an hour north of Quito, Ecuador’s capital city. In early 2020, Silva shared with her pastors the idea of organizing a trip to Ecuador. They were supportive but didn’t want to commit to anything without first checking with the Global Mission office. At this point, they began to learn about earlier Brethren mission work in Ecuador–and then all plans came to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Late in 2021, with a renewed sense that international travel could safely happen again, plans began to take shape. Conversations continued to include more voices, such as former mission staff in Ecuador; new Global Mission co-executives Ruoxia Li and Eric Miller; Global Food Initiative manager Jeff Boshart; Yakubu Bakfwash of Graceway International Community Church of the Brethren in Dundalk, Md. (the congregation hosts an Ecuadorian fellowship in its building); and Alfredo Merino, executive director of the Fundacion Brethren y Unida (FBU, the Brethren and United Foundation) in Ecuador.

The pandemic-caused delay allowed for more focused conversations and fundraising for this trip. Funds were provided by the Ebenezer congregation, Brethren World Mission, and the Global Mission office. Finally, all the prayer, planning, fundraising, and conversations culminated in a group of six people traveling to Ecuador for a learning and exploratory trip from Feb. 25 to March 2. The group consisted of the Silvas, Boshart, Ramirez, and Elizabeth College students Elliot Ramirez and Anneliz Rosario (Yakubu Bakfwash was unable to participate at the last minute).

The team utilized the FBU campus as home base for the week and Merino set up transportation and handled logistics. The itinerary included a worship service and meeting in Cayambe with the leaders of the church with whom Silva has established relationships over the years; attending a worship service and holding a meeting in Llano Grande with elders of a congregation established during past Brethren mission work in the country; and a tour of the FBU farm and facilities in the town of Picalqui, just a stone’s throw from the Pan American Highway. A visit with Joyce Dickens, widow of Washington Padilla, a theologian who authored numerous books on Protestant church history in Ecuador, had to be cancelled.

In conversations with church leaders in Cayambe, it was learned that there is a strong desire for a church that teaches and demonstrates a holistic gospel. Stories were recounted of various mission groups that came to share literature promoting a gospel of personal salvation without a recognition of physical needs. Often these groups would offer handouts instead of partnering with church and community leaders to promote self-reliance through educational or community development programs leading to dependency. Ramirez and Boshart shared briefly about Church of the Brethren work around the world and the denomination’s emphasis on peacemaking, simplicity, humility, disaster response, and community-based development. There was also strong affirmation for the Brethren style of local church governance with a church board or council making decision for the church instead of the pastor.

In Llano Grande, the formerly Brethren congregation is now a United Methodist congregation, but the elders shared how they have maintained lessons learned from Brethren workers many decades ago. Church members Mercedes and Andres Guaman recounted their fear of attending the school founded by the Brethren when they were children, and how people told them the missionaries wanted to turn them into sausages. However, to this day they have maintained lessons of self-reliance with skills gained from the missionaries such as sewing, organic agriculture, and the excellent academic tools to succeed in life that they received at the Brethren school.

Conversation and fellowship around the table in Ecuador. Photos by Jeff Boshart

Andres Guaman remembered the confusing events of the Brethren pullout from Ecuador. When asked how he felt about the Church of the Brethren leaving, he said it was a “golpe fuerte” or hard hit. All they knew was that there was an evaluation undertaken and they did not feel at all prepared. They were left without a pastor and thus looked elsewhere. The current United Methodist pastor was appreciative of our visit as he too learned a great deal and did not even know the history of this congregation. Mercedes Guaman promised to complete a scrapbook that she’s been working on and to share it when completed.

The delegation will continue to be in communication with the Global Mission office to determine any next steps. It is clear from this trip that the Church of the Brethren understanding of holistic mission would be welcomed in Ecuador. It also is clear that great care will need to be taken to live up to the Brethren ideals of humility and peacemaking in order to avoid creating division or conflict or a sense of cultural superiority in considering a return to Ecuador. As Ramirez stated to the group, “We aren’t here to fish in someone else’s pond.” Boshart shared that in Haiti, for example, the denomination will not accept any churches into the fold through an affiliation process. All new churches must be church plants. In contrast, the denomination in the Dominican Republic had some difficult issues when congregations that were once part of some other denomination or had been independent were allowed to join.

On the final day of the visit in Ecuador, a friend of Silva’s came to meet with the group. She has visited with Maria Silva and the Ebenezer congregation in Pennsylvania on numerous occasions. She shared that she would like to start a cell church in the Lago Agrio canton–a region on the Colombian border to the northeast of Cayambe. She already has a ministry in the community reaching out to youth who are dealing with drug addiction. Copies of Siguiendo las Pisadas de Jesus (To Follow in Jesus’ Steps) by C. Wayne Zunkel were shared and the Ebenezer congregation will remain in contact and be in prayer about next steps.

One concrete outcome of the trip was the connection of church leaders in Cayambe and Llano Grande with the work of FBU. FBU, although founded by the Church of the Brethren, by law is not allowed to have any particular religious affiliation. However, it is able to work with any community groups, including religious ones. In Cayambe and Llano Grande, both groups of leaders expressed a desire for projects that would benefit children and youth. Although the Ecuadorian government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has surpassed all others in the region regarding vaccination rates (over 90 percent) and low case numbers, child malnutrition has increased due to economic hardships connected to business closings and layoffs. The Global Food Initiative is encouraging direct dialogue on potential gardening and farmers market projects between FBU and community leaders in Cayambe and Llano Grande. A proposal will be developed with the assistance of FBU staff and submitted to the GFI for potential approval.

Is God opening a door for the Church of the Brethren to return to Ecuador to re-establish churches? The idea received affirmation from the executive director of FBU and even pastors of churches from other denominations. Leaders of the Ebenezer congregation remain committed to dialogue with the Global Mission office as well as interested partners in the US and Ecuador.

Maria Silva felt the tug of the Holy Spirit to organize this exploratory trip, and all involved will continue to discern the Spirit’s leading going forward.

– Jeff Boshart is manager of the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Initiative (GFI).

3) Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria dedicates two factories

By Zakariya Musa

Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) has dedicated water and bread factories on March 3. The factories are based in Mubi North Local Government Area, Adamawa State. The factories called Crago Bread and Stover Kulp Water are named after two of the Brethren missionaries from the USA who worked in Nigeria.

Stover Kulp Water is named after one of the first pioneer missionaries who founded the Church of the Brethren Mission in 1923, which is today called Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, aka, Church of the Brethren in Nigeria.

Tom Crago and his wife, Janet, initiated the creation of the EYN Pension Office in 2006. The bread factory managed by EYN Pension is based at the former Pension Office in the city of Mubi. [Janet Crago passed away on Feb. 3 this year; find her remembrance at]

All EYN district secretaries and chairmen were in attendance to witness the long-awaited actualization of these particular business formations.

– Zakariya Musa is head of Media for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria.

EYN president Joel S. Billi (right) and vice president Anthony A. Ndamsai (left) assess the bread production. Photo by Zakariya Musa
EYN officials at the dedication ceremony for the new bread factory, with vans to deliver the Crago Bread in the background. Photo by Zakariya Musa
The EYN Pension official and factory staff at Crago Bread. Photo by Zakariya Musa
EYN president Joel S. Billi (second from left) cuts the ribbon to dedicate the new water factory. Photo by Zakariya Musa
EYN president Joel S. Billi and other top church leaders visit the new water factory. Photo by Zakariya Musa

4) Church World Service calls for signatures to support displaced Ukrainians

Church World Service (CWS) is circulating a faith sign-on letter urging the administration to support Ukrainians and uphold protections for displaced and at-risk populations. The deadline for signatures is Wednesday, March 23.

Forms to sign on are available for faith leaders at and for congregations at

“The escalation of conflict in Ukraine has triggered an immediate and steep rise in humanitarian needs as essential supplies and services are disrupted and civilians flee,” said an announcement. “UNHCR has indicated that the situation looks set to become Europe’s largest refugee crisis this century and that 12 million people inside Ukraine will also need humanitarian assistance.”

In addition. CWS is urging the administration “to robustly respond to protection needs of all displaced and at-risk populations without discrimination, including displaced individuals of African-descent and stateless people.”

The specific asks to the administration included in the letter are:

Do everything in your power to see that the United States continues to invest in humanitarian and displacement assistance and to support UNHCR’s emergency response efforts to ensure people have access to shelter, food, medicine, and other forms of humanitarian aid in Ukraine and neighboring countries.Ensure swift processing of pending refugee applications for Ukrainians, and non-Ukrainians who had been in Ukraine, at all potential processing locations and especially in Ukraine’s neighboring countries.Facilitate family reunification processing to reunite loved ones, such as by processing Ukrainians and non-Ukrainians who had been displaced in Ukraine with pending I-130 family petitions through the US resettlement program.Support non-governmental organizations in Ukraine and neighboring countries to assist internally displaced individuals or individuals seeking asylum in Ukraine and other host countries.Recognize unique barriers encountered by stateless persons displaced in and fleeing Ukraine and better identify and protect such individuals.Immediately designate Special Student Relief (SSR) to protect Ukrainian students in the United States.

5) South Sudan church official highlights country’s humanitarian crisis, as global attention turns to Ukraine

A World Council of Churches release by Fredrick Nzwili

A church leader in South Sudan is urging the international community to keep its focus on the growing humanitarian crisis in the world’s youngest nation, as the globe beams its attention on the conflict in Ukraine.

James Oyet Latansio, a Roman Catholic priest who is general secretary of the South Sudan Council of Churches, said with the latest developments, such as the war in Ukraine, it was easy for the globe to focus on the new conflicts and forget old ones, such as the prolonged crisis in his country.

“I want to appeal to our ecumenical brothers and the global church: don’t forget South Sudan. Put South Sudan in your prayers and also in the priority for help,” said Latansio. “We understand there is donor fatigue, but we are victims of this situation. The common person–the poor, the young, the old–are innocent people paying the price.”

Last week, the UN’s World Food Program warned that while the world attention was focused on Ukraine, a hidden hunger emergency was engulfing South Sudan, with about 8.3 million people–of the country’s 12.4 million population–including refugees threatened by extreme hunger in the coming months. More than 600,000 of them have been displaced by floods.

The UN has classified South Sudan among countries around the globe where climate shocks, conflict, the coronavirus pandemic, and rising costs are driving millions of people closer to starvation.

The flood crisis and conflict have led to large-scale displacement, loss of livelihoods, destruction of farmlands and crops in parts of the country. Communities in Jonglei, Lakes, Unity, and Warrap states are most affected. According to reports, agencies are racing to deliver supplies in flood-prone areas before the rains start.

“The people are struggling now and will still struggle in the coming season. Humanitarian workers are being killed and humanitarian aid is robbed or looted because the people are desperate. The floods have subsided but there are some areas that are still underwater. At the moment, the people are not carrying out livelihood activities as they used to do before,” said Latansio, while adding that despite the challenges, people were still very hopeful.

The cleric said the church–with support from partners–has been moving some humanitarian aid while advocating for peace and reconciliation. It is also helping the people heal from the pains and trauma of the war. It has also been reaching out to politicians, helping them reconcile and build trust among each other so that they can accept peace.

Jane Backhurst, senior advisor on Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy at Christian Aid, said the situation in South Sudan was desperate, with climate-caused floods sweeping away homes, forcing families to flee, and impacting planting, harvesting, and depleting stocks.

“Severe food insecurity is escalating. In 2021, six counties had extreme levels of food insecurity but now there are thirteen,” said Backhurst. “Globally, current projections indicate that up to 13 million more people will be hungry globally due to rising food prices because of the crisis in Ukraine. Rising prices will also hit staples for people in South Sudan such as maize and oilseeds.”

According to the official, South Sudan’s economy was already in a downward spiral due to COVID-19, climate change-related events, and conflict.

“Even if supply was maintained, families will not be able to afford daily needs. Now more than ever, we need governments to fulfil their commitments to step up action to curb the escalation in hunger and take preventative action,” said Backhurst.

– Fredrick Nzwili is a freelance journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya.

6) Bridgewater College launches support program for students with autism spectrum disorder

A Bridgewater College release

Bridgewater (Va.) College has announced the launch of the Bridgewater Academic and Social Experience (BASE) program, a student-centered program offered to Bridgewater students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or who feel that they may benefit from the support provided. The program, run by the college’s Office of Academic Support and Disability Services, fosters and encourages independence for students. Through a variety of support mechanisms, students in the BASE program will learn to apply the skills, strategies, and self-advocacy needed to navigate the academic, social, and critical thinking demands of college.

“For some time, our office has recognized the needs of students with autism spectrum disorder and observed that a lot of students would benefit from additional support,” said Regina Wine-Nash, BASE program director at Bridgewater College. “This program adds an extra layer of support and meets a variety of needs, including academic, social, and vocational. It’s very individualized and takes a holistic approach to success in college that goes beyond academics.”

According to an article published in the Journal of College Student Development, only about 35 percent of individuals with ASD enroll in higher education within 6 years of leaving high school. The College Autism Network reported that as of May 2020, only 20 programs for students with autism spectrum disorder were offered at the 1,166 colleges and universities in the 12 states in the Southeast region, including Virginia.

“Bridgewater has always been a fantastic choice for students who want to have the extra support and encouragement a strong small college community can provide. The introduction of the BASE program is one more way the college has demonstrated its deep commitment to the success of all students,” said Jeffrey Pierson, dean of Graduate and Special Programs.

The BASE program is designed in a step-down format, in which students will receive the highest level of support when first enrolled at the college. It gradually evolves over time to promote independence based on each student’s needs and progress. To aid in the transition from home to residence hall life, students in the BASE program will move in early to get acclimated to their new surroundings. They also will be given a personalized campus tour based on their class schedules and routines before classes begin. Students in the program also will have access to Resident Assistants (RAs) who have specialized training and will receive weekly check-ins concerning residential life from a designated mentor.

Academic support includes meeting with a student academic coach to build time management, work completion, and personal responsibility techniques and skills. BASE program students will meet regularly with the program coordinator for academic support that includes course advising in collaboration with the student’s faculty advisor. Program participants also will receive access to a sensory reduced study area.

BASE program students will receive a variety of social support, including weekly meetings with specially trained program mentors as well as monthly group social events with other members of the program that are designed to enhance the opportunity for friendships and involvement on campus. The college’s Spectrum Sense Club also provides another outlet for students with ASD.

One of the cornerstones of the program is the peer-type mentorship between a BASE program participant and an appropriately trained Bridgewater College student mentor. In their weekly meetings, mentors will offer life skills support and problem-solving guidance, as well as connect students with campus resources.

“This type of helping relationship between student mentors and BASE program participants is exemplary of our BC community,” said Alan Eby, professor of Psychology and Master of Psychology-Mental Health Professions program director.

To ensure students in the BASE program are prepared for their chosen careers and life beyond college, they will receive tailored services on interview preparation, résumé writing, and more through the college’s Center for Career Development. And based on a student’s GPA and with the program director’s approval, they will be connected with an on-campus, paid student work experience during their second semester in the program. Students will work an average of 3 to 5 hours per week for 10 weeks and will gain invaluable skills in how to navigate a work environment and how to interact with a manager and fellow employees.

“There’s a huge disconnect of those with autism spectrum disorder not gaining meaningful employment, even with bachelor’s degrees,” Wine-Nash said.

Once admitted to Bridgewater College, students are eligible to apply to join the BASE program at Both the student and their parent/guardian will fill out questionnaires as part of the application process. Cost for the in-depth support program is $1,000 per semester.

“At Bridgewater College, we believe that the greatest possibilities in life are realized in what we build together as community,” Wine-Nash said. “The goal of the BASE program is to help support students toward their academic, social and vocational goals by connecting them with campus resources and creating valuable connections.”

For more information on the BASE program, go to, call Bridgewater’s Office of Academic Support and Disability Services at 540-828-5660, or email


7) Connie Sandman retires from 40-year career at Brethren Benefit Trust

After a 40-year career working at Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT), Connie Sandman has announced her retirement as of April 30, with her last working day scheduled for April 22. Sandman holds the record for longest tenured employee, said a release from BBT.

She began at BBT on April 26, 1982, pre-dating the current name of the organization. Her first role involved serving as a claims processor for Brethren Insurance Services, progressing to lead claims processor in 1995. She later transitioned from insurance to become the information services technician. In 2004, she became a member services representative for the Church of the Brethren Credit Union. For the last 11 years, she has served as Insurance Plans specialist.

BBT board members and staff will celebrate Sandman’s retirement on April 22 as part of a BBT Board meeting.


8) Intercultural Ministries offers online Global Check-in and Prayer Series

The Church of the Brethren Intercultural Ministries has started an online Global Check-in and Prayer Series, which will welcome special guests to speak on various topics.

The first episode in the series welcomed Josiah Ludwick to speak about the Rwanda FaithX journey coming up in June.

The next in the series, taking place Friday at 12 noon (Eastern), will feature Becky Ullom Naugle, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.

“It was my joy to interview our brother pastor Josiah Ludwick, co-pastor of Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren, who shared with us regarding the upcoming Rwanda FaithX (formerly known as workcamps) Experience,” said an announcement from LaDonna Sanders Nkosi, director of Intercultural Ministries. “Listen in and learn about how you and others you may know could take part and/or pray. #ListenIn #Pray #Share #JointheConversation.”

To view the first episode in this series, go to Upcoming episodes will be announced on the Intercultural Ministries Facebook page at

For more information about FaithX and the locations and schedule for FaithX experiences this summer, go to and

9) BBT offers webinar on clergy and church worker eligibility for Public Service Loan Forgiveness program

A release from Brethren Benefit Trust

A change in federal regulations governing student loan forgiveness means that clergy and other church workers, previously excluded from this program, are now eligible. If you are interested in learning whether your student loan debt qualifies for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, you are invited to attend a free webinar that will explain the qualifications and requirements, what the application deadline is, and what you must do to apply.

The webinar will be held Tuesday, April 5, at 1-2 p.m. (Eastern time). Participants must register in advance.

Until July 2021, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program excluded church workers from consideration, but now that exclusion has been removed, and there is a good chance that many pastors and church employees may qualify. There are many factors involved in applying to the program, including that your student loans must be federal loans through the Direct Loan Program, you are required to make (or have made) 120 payments, and the person applying must work fulltime for an employer that meets the qualifying standard.

There are many more details pertaining to the program and particular qualifications. Presenting at the April 5 webinar will be Kathleen Floyd of the Church Pension Group and Scott Filter of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They fielded more than 600 questions after presenting the webinar in January, prompting this second opportunity to share the information with more people.

The webinar is sponsored by CPG, the agency that handles pension and insurance administration for the Episcopal denomination. Through its involvement in the Church Benefits Association, the staff of Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) meets and works with other agencies, such as CPG, throughout the year to share and gather information that is helpful across denominations. This invitation to take part in the April 5 webinar is an example of how we share important information for the good of all workers in the faith community.

Register for the webinar at

— Jean Bednar of the BBT communications staff contributed this article to Newsline.


10) West Richmond Church participates in Henrico County book drive for school libraries

By Ann Miller Andrus

When pastor Dave Whitten of West Richmond (Va.) Church of the Brethren joined the Henrico Minister’s Conference (HMC) in 2021, he was seeking an opportunity to work with other local pastors to promote social justice and help meet immediate community needs in Henrico County.

The conference, with its goal of “Unity in the Community,” met Whitten’s objective. HMC’s member churches are of several denominations as well as nondenominational, are of varying sizes, and with diverse congregations. Some of HMC’s past projects to address community needs included the delivery of donated socks and underwear to people in jail, collecting and distributing food to families in need, and making donated classroom supplies or hats and gloves available to students in Henrico’s public schools.

To support Whitten’s interest in HMC and its work in the county, the church approved funding for the group in its 2022 church budget. The Witness Commission then expressed an interest in assisting the organization’s work beyond a simple financial gift. When Whitten asked the commission about participating in HMC’s recent project to donate books to some of the county’s school libraries, the members readily agreed and invited the congregation to contribute to the book drive.

HMC’s list of 24 suggested books with African American and multicultural themes for students in grades K-5 was circulated to the church membership. Books on the list included titles such as Hair Love, Black Is a Rainbow Color, and Your Name Is a Song, as well as I Believe I Can, I Am Every Good Thing, and Where Are You From? Like HMC, Whitten and the Witness Commission viewed the project as one that would accomplish two important purposes: expand the diversity of offerings in school libraries and promote an interest in reading among young students.

The congregation’s response to the request for books was heartwarming and overwhelming. Books with bright covers and attractive illustrations began to stack up in the pastor’s office. Church members, former members, and friends contributed to the book drive. Before the books were taken to HMC for delivery to schools during Black History Month, a label was placed inside each one identifying it as a gift from West Richmond Church of the Brethren.

On Sunday, Jan. 30, more than 65 beautiful new books were displayed at the front of the sanctuary. Whitten expressed appreciation for the generous response and the support for county students shown by the donations. He then offered a prayer of blessing that the books would inspire both students and teachers in meaningful ways.

Our congregation is pleased to have partnered with HMC on their literacy project. The congregation knows that because of this effort some county school libraries now include a greater number of books that explore and celebrate the experiences of a broader range of the school-age population living in Henrico County.


11) Using the gifts we have: A reflection from the church’s work in Brazil

By Marcos R. Inhauser

“The LORD answered me: Write down this vision; clearly inscribe it on tablets, so one may easily read it” (Habakkuk 2:2).

I have learned and believe that the church is a gift cooperative. Also, that in each local congregation, there are a variety of gifts. I have come to think that there should be all the gifts listed in the Bible in every local church.

In the pastoral ministry, however, that doctrine, in practice, is different. I found that there was not a multitude of gifts in the first two churches I pastored. The most common gift was the “gift of sitting idly by.” Another was the “passive observer” or worse, the “critical observer.”

As there wasn’t the variety of gifts I imagined there should be, I ended up taking on the role of a conductor of the orchestra who plays all the instruments. With my wife, we did everything. I felt powerful. But I got tired of being powerful, carrying the church alone on my back.

Suely and Marcos Inhauser (at left and center) shown here attending a church conference in the United States some years ago. Photo by Ken Bomberger

In my doctor of ministry studies, I researched gifts in a specific denomination. I discovered something interesting: there are congregations where there is the primacy of a specific gift. It goes along with the gift that the church pastor is revealed to have. If the pastor was an evangelist, the church was full of evangelists. If the pastor had the gift of service, the church tended to be a diaconic church. If the pastor had the gift of teaching, the church was full of teachers.

The question that came to my mind was: are these gifts, or are they “manufactured” by the leader? If they are gifts, why this crowding into a particular local church? Does the church have the predominance of a gift because people come to attend, feeling comfortable with the predominance of their gift in the community?

I didn’t get a definitive answer. I understand and accept today that each local community must pursue its ministry using the gifts that exist within it. To illustrate this, I want to tell a little about the history of Igreja da Irmandade (the Church of the Brethren in Brazil).

When we started the project, some of my students were motivated to participate. Five of those students were the ones with whom we started.

I have the gift of teaching, and, as I see it today, three of the five were also capable of teaching. None were evangelists. One had the gift of mercy and the other that of administration. It gave the identity that we are a church that teaches. Some who joined later also had the gift of teaching. We had difficulties counting on evangelists, or gifts of service, or gifts of healing, and contributions.

The crisis of the pandemic and the impossibility of meeting regularly shook us. How to develop our teaching ministry when more consolation was needed? How to keep the flame of communion lit if what unites us is learning/teaching?

After reflection, listening to members, and assessing the contextual situation of the church in Brazil, when we resumed face-to-face services we also started an online seminar. We are offering courses in church history, pastoral care for loss, a Bible book analysis, and others that are asked of us. There are four days of classes, one each week, lasting one hour.

We are using the gifts we have without complaining about the lack of others we don’t have.

– Marcos R. Inhauser along with his wife, Suely Inhauser, co-coordinates the Church of the Brethren mission in Brazil and is a leader in Igreja da Irmandade (the Church of the Brethren in Brazil).

12) Brethren bits

– Remembrance: E. Stanley Smith, 88, who served on the former General Board of the Church of the Brethren, passed away on March 12 at Timbercrest Senior Living Community in North Manchester, Ind. He was born in Shouyang, China, where his parents–Frances Jane Sheller and William Harlan Smith–were mission workers for the Church of the Brethren. He earned a degree from Manchester College in 1955 and went on to Bethany Seminary in Chicago, graduating in 1958. He was a pastor and served a combined 35 years in pastorates in Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana. He was a member of the General Board, the predecessor body to the current Mission and Ministry Board, from 1984 to 1989. He was married for 68 years to Jean Weaver Smith; they met as freshmen at Manchester College and were married on Memorial Day, 1953, at Manchester Church of the Brethren. He is survived by his wife, their children–Melea Smith, Michelle Brown, and Bret Smith–and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Memorial gifts are received to Timbercrest Senior Living, Heart-to-Heart Hospice of Ft. Wayne, Ind., and the Parkinson’s Foundation. A Celebration of Life service will be held later this Spring. A full obituary is posted at

– Remembrance: Gene G. Swords, 93, of Brethren Village in Lititz, Pa., who was a “seagoing cowboy” with Heifer Project following World War II, died on March 13. Born on Oct. 25, 1928, he was the son of the late Willard G. and Eva (Nolt) Swords Gingrich. When he was 17, he became one of the seagoing cowboys and helped to tend some 800 horses that were shipped to Czechoslovakia following World War II as a part of the Church of the Brethren Heifer Project (now Heifer International). He earned degrees from Elizabethtown (Pa.) College and Temple University. His professional career included teaching and working in school administration at the elementary school level for some 40 years. He was a lifelong member of Mountville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. His life’s work included performing music until a stroke in 2006. Over the decades, he sang with the Lancaster (Pa.) Opera Workshop and the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra Chorus. He celebrated 72 years of marriage with Barbara (Bowman) Swords on Aug. 26, 2021. He is survived by his wife, their children–Theodore (Donna Martin), Richard (Catherine Castner), Joanne (Siang Hua Wang), Jeanine (Marlin Houff), Robert (Elaine Zimmerman), Jeanette (Robert Beisel), and Judy (Mark Miller)–and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A service celebrating his life is planned for March 26 at 11 a.m. at Mountville Church of the Brethren. Memorial gifts are received to the Good Samaritan Fund at Brethren Village. For a full obituary go to

— Registration for the Summer 2022 FaithX season is still open. “We are offering middle school trips to Roanoke, Va., Harrisburg, Pa., Camp Mack in Milford, Ind., Lincoln, Neb,, and Winston-Salem, N.C. We are also excited to offer a trip for We Are Able hosted by Camp Swatara in Bethel, Pa., and a trip to Rwanda for any adult!” said an announcement from the FaithX office. For more information on this year’s exciting FaithX opportunities, find the schedule at Registration is open until April 1 at

— A video about the recent annual conference of ASIGLEH, the Church of the Brethren in Venezuela, is now online at Find a report about the conference as published in Newsline on March 11, at

– The latest issue of Brethren Disaster Ministries’ Bridges newsletter is now available to download from This Winter 2022 issue include information about Hurricane Florence long-term recovery, winter tornado response, volcano response in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Homes for Haiti, Nigeria Crisis Response update, Children’s Disaster Services news, and more.

– Atlantic Southeast District is requesting prayer for one of its congregations. “The building where the Orlando [Fla.] Haitian congregation meets caught fire during the night on Friday,” said an email from Vicki Ehret in the district office. “No one was in the building. No one was hurt. The electricity and water were turned off after the fire was put out.” She added that there was heavy smoke damage. Pastor Renel Exceus was to meet with the owner of the building. In the meantime, the congregation planned to meet at Camp Ithiel until more is known about their meeting site. Prayers are requested for pastor and congregation as they continue to worship and serve as they are able.

– Southern Pennsylvania and Mid-Atlantic Districts are planning their 44th Annual Meat Canning Project for April 18-21.

“Drones 101: A Webinar on the Human Cost of Remote Warfare” is offered by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) on Tuesday, March 22, at 12 noon (Eastern time). Said an announcement: “This webinar is an opportunity to hear directly from impacted communities; including a speaker from Yemen who will discuss the effects drone strikes have had there, and a U.S. Army veteran who will share how the U.S.’s use of drones affected him. Speakers will discuss armed drones, how they’re being used, what impact they’ve had, and why a growing number of religious organizations are working to ban or restrict their use.” The featured speakers are Bonyan Gamal, a lawyer based in Sana’a, Yemen, who is an Accountability and Redress officer at Mwatana for Human Rights; and Justin Yeary, an anti-war and anti-imperialist activist as well as a veteran of the US Army who served from 2014 until 2021 as a satellite communication operator. He was honorably discharged in March 2021 as a conscientious objector. Go to

— The World Council of Churches (WCC) has shared information about an online event discussed common solutions to protect children, particularly girls, in the critical context of climate change. It was co-hosted by the End Violence Against Children Partnership, of which the WCC is a member. “As a result of climate change, more girls fleeing from floods and droughts are exposed to trafficking and sexual exploitation,” said Frederique Seidel, WCC program executive for Child Rights and one of the speakers at the event. “Churches are helping at all levels. From providing support to victims and addressing the root causes of the climate crisis, to advocating for climate-responsible finance, one of the most effective initiatives to stop the path.” The event also discussed the systems and architecture that enable or impede the realization of child rights in the context of climate change. Connected agendas for a child-centered approach and an integrated response were offered as crucial steps to tackle the problem.

Several resources have been developed to help churches organize activities with children to protect our planet, linked online at A new WCC toolkit empowering churches to work with children and youth for climate justice is available at

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

Church of the Brethren Annual Conference moderator David Sollenberger requests prayer for his upcoming international trip. He and his wife, Mary, along with Marla Bieber Abe and Gordon Hoffert, plan to leave March 22 for a trip to Rwanda and Uganda, to visit the Churches of the Brethren and other partners in those countries. They plan to meet up with Chris Elliot and his daughter Grace, who are working in Rwanda; Athanasus Ungang, mission staff working in South Sudan; and a representative of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

A series of Lenten meditative videos based on “stations of the resurrection” and the art of Paul Grout, who has been moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference and is a leader for A Place Apart, is available to congregations and individuals for use during this Lenten season.

The videos include scripture texts and reflections on those texts. They have been made available online with help from current Annual Conference moderator David Sollenberger. He is inviting Brethren to “download them and use them in their services…. Those who do will be blessed.”

Art by Paul Grout

The artwork of Paul Grout may be familiar as having appeared at previous Annual Conferences and in other Church of the Brethren venues and publications, and remains evocative and meaningful for today.

Grout wrote in an email to subscribers to the series, which also is available by email request: “Within this season of Lent through Easter our A Place Apart community is walking together through the Stations of the Resurrection. In light of recent events, I have been reminded that Jesus was walking within a land that had been conquered by an Empire that sought absolute control over people’s lives. Jesus was seen by Empire as a minor threat to its absolute control. Empire sentenced Jesus to a torturous death. Empire believed a minor disturbance had been extinguished. Empire was wrong. Empire is again seeking to violently destroy a people it sees as a threat to its absolute control.”

Art by Paul Grout

An introduction to the series is at

The series of video titles, length (given in minutes), and online links are listed here alphabetically, and not in the order in which they would appear in the biblical story:

“Ascension” (1:34)

“He Set His Face”

“In the Garden” (2:24)

“In the Tomb” (0:54)

Jesus Turns the Table”

“Judas Betrays Jesus” (1:11)

“Mary Mother of Jesus” (2:51)

“Peter Denies Jesus” (1:31)

“Remember Me” (1:20)

“Resurrection” (1:40)

“Simon Carries His Cross” (2:02)

The Body of Christ” (4:40)

“The Costly Gift” (2:20)

“The Crucifixion” (2:02)

“The Death of Jesus” (1:41)

“The Presence of Women” (1:27)

“The Review” (4:42)

“The Scourging” (1:59)

“Two Basins” (2:18)

“Two Crowds” (2:38)

Newsline is the email news service of the Church of the Brethren. Inclusion in Newsline does not necessarily convey endorsement by the Church of the Brethren. All submissions are subject to editing. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Contributors to this issue include Ann Miller Andrus, Jean Bednar, Jeff Boshart, Elissa Diaz, Vicki Ehret, Jan Fischer Bachman, Galen Fitzkee, Paul Grout, Todd Hammond, Matt Hawthorne, Marcos Inhauser, Zech Houser, Jo Ann Landon, Eric Miller, Nancy Miner, Zakariya Musa, LaDonna Sanders Nkosi, Fredrick Nzwili, Diane Parrott, David Sollenberger, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Please send news tips and submissions to . Find the Newsline archive at . Sign up for Newsline and other Church of the Brethren email newsletters and make subscription changes at . Unsubscribe by using the link at the top of any Newsline email.

Find more Church of the Brethren news:

Newsline for March 19, 2022
Mission and Ministry Board’s Spring meeting addresses Ukraine, reviews Strategic Plan initiatives and BFIA guidelines, among other business
Prospects for new ministry in Ecuador emerge from passion and compassion
Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria dedicates two factories
Intercultural Ministries offers online Global Check-in and Prayer Series



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