Columbus, here we come!

Photo by Joel Brumbaugh-Cayford

Photo by Joel Brumbaugh-Cayford

“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3-5).

Annual Conference is two weeks away! Whether you’ll be in Columbus in person or not, there are many ways to participate in this important ministry of the Church of the Brethren. Here are a few ideas:

  • Daily offerings – During most evening worship services, an offering will be taken to support the ministry of Annual Conference. Funds raised will help cover the many expenses of producing such an efficient and creative conference. To participate online, visit .
  • Webcasting – If you won’t be at Annual Conference in person, be sure to join us online for all worship services and business sessions at . Webcasting is complimentary, but it is expensive, so please support our virtual community at .
  • Witness to the Host City – During Thursday evening worship, socks, disposable diapers, and hygiene kits will be collected for this year’s Witness to the Host City. Visit find what you can bring to share the love of Jesus with Columbus.
  • Special offering – A special offering will be taken during Friday evening worship this year. It will support the core mission and ministries of the Church of the Brethren like Congregational Life Ministries, Global Mission and Service, the Offices of Ministry and Public Witness, and many, many others. Participating in this special offering on July 4 will support the life-changing ministries of the Church of the Brethren, but if you can’t wait until then, visit today.

“Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).

(Read this issue of eBrethren)


Youth Peace Travel Team 2014 – Camp Mount Hermon Moments

Senior High Camp at Mt. Hermon, Western Plains Districtbell

Greetings, wonderful supporters of the Youth Peace Travel Team! This is Shelley speaking, and I’d like to take a moment to orient you in how we plan to blog our adventures throughout the summer. Each week, one team member will write an overarching summary of our time and leadership at each camp or conference, followed by more personal reflections from the remaining three members. This week, I have the honor of documenting a summary of our time at our first camp of the summer, Camp Mt. Hermon!

Moments – goofy moments spent interacting with senior high campers and fellow Camp Mt. Hermon staff, heartbreaking moments spent witnessing the struggles facing our youth and listening to their burdens, victorious moments in Ultimate Frisbee and Capture the Flag games. The 2014 Youth Peace Travel Team’s time at our first camp of the summer can be summed up by the joy and sorrow found in these precious moments.

We were first greeted by thousands of sandy-colored butterflies as we rolled down the rocky drive on Sunday afternoon, and next greeted by enthusiastic parents, campers, and staff at YPTT’s own Jake Frye’s home camp. It wasn’t long before the inevitable and all-uniting Frisbee discs were brought out to help us learn names and personalities, and not much longer until the bell, the central time-keeping device of camp, was rung. Throughout the week, it was the rustic metal bell that alerted us when it was time to come together to sing praises, break bread, swim ecstatically (cough cough Chris), gather around the campfire, and when to whisper our last prayers and fall asleep at the end of each life-giving day.

Jen Jensen, our director for the week, said it best when she proclaimed that at Camp Mt. Hermon, “we work hard, we play hard, and we worship hard”. We worked purposefully during daily chores, service projects at camp and church, and while serving lunch at a soup kitchen in Kansas City (a special Camp Mt. Hermon tradition). We played cooperatively during Camp Mt. Hermon Olympics, late-night glow-in-the-dark Ultimate Frisbee, and old-school tetherball before mealtimes. We worshipped wholeheartedly each night around the campfire, where campers had opportunities to illustrate both the burdens of daily life at home and the hope brought by camp and the power of God. The pinnacle of our worship occurred on Friday night when the feet of campers, counselors, friends, enemies, brothers and sisters, and once-strangers were washed all the same (for 2.5 emotional hours!). It was the bell that kept us in a daily rhythm, but the real human moments in between that make camp life and our work so special.

The leadership of YP-double-T at Camp Mt. Hermon was used primarily to lead campers in “hot topics” discussions, where we facilitated open and candid discussions about anything from war to drugs and alcohol. We experienced moments of honesty from campers who felt safe in sharing their opinions, moments of unity as youth discovered that they could respect the differing views of their peers, and moments of silence as we were called to deeply reflect upon current events through a Christ-centered lens. We also asked campers to help us in starting a big summer project – a traveling mural focused around their visions for peace. They blew us out of the water with their creativity and diligent work in illustrating Camp Mt. Hermon’s visions.

As we leave Camp Mt. Hermon with full hearts, we feel honored to have been welcomed into such an uplifting community and participated in its traditions and pastimes. We are thankful for the moments we shared connecting with campers, laughing with staff, continually getting to know each other, and serving our Lord. While the old reliable camp bell was anything but quiet, we are at peace with the Spirit-filled moments that we were blessed with each day at Camp Mt. Hermon.


small group

Shelley summed up daily, wonderful life at Camp Mt. Hermon, but no blog could contain all of the meaningful memories made this past week. One of the most significant ones for me came in the form of the homeless men and women that we met in the soup kitchen whom we served on Thursday afternoon. We sat and spoke with them while we all ate and discussed life. A man I conversed with over lunch was really open with me about his struggles with alcoholism and we were able to have an honest conversation that impacted us both. In the end, he left saying, “I hope all of your dreams come true, Christy” and I told him I would keep him and his family in my prayers. Moments like that are unforgettable. Another significant time for me was the concert played by my brother Jacob Crouse and friend Mat Thorton! From covers of “Let It Go” from Frozen, “Happy” by Pharell, and “One Day” by Matisyahu to their originally written and composed worship music, the concert got our hands a’clappin’ and our feet a’tappin’. I even got to sing on a couple songs with them, which felt amazing. Nothing can beat worshipping the Lord alongside both camp family and family family :). The music engaged us all and it meant a ton to every one of us for them to share their time and talent with the Camp Mt. Hermon community!


Art at mt hermon

Washing dishes

I attended Camp Mt. Hermon every summer from 2003-2012, including two years of counseling junior high youth in 2011 and 2012. During those two years of counseling that I met a great group of kids that I had the joy of returning to this summer. When I left that group in 2012, I viewed them as kids. Upon my return this summer I was greeted not by the kids I had left, but by young men and women with love and compassion for this community that lifts my soul. This love was most exemplified in our Friday night foot washing service. As a young Brethren man I have been a part of numerous foot washing services. But, none of them compare to the beauty of this service. For two and a half hours I watched young men and women wash each others’ feet. As tradition, four counselors volunteered to wash the feet of the campers, one of those privileged being me this year. It was incredibly humbling for me to be a servant for this amazing group of young people. The foot washing didn’t end with us counselors washing the feet of our campers, the campers then proceeded to wash the feet of their peers. Brothers and sisters, both in faith and in blood, serving each other in breathtaking acts of love. The community at Camp Mt. Hermon has always been its strongest attribute. This attribute is so much more beautiful and meaningful when you’re working behind the scenes though. The spiritual and emotional growth I’ve witnessed in these campers restores my faith the future of the church. Remembering their inability to sit still for a short camp fire just three years ago and surpassing it with this wonderful new memory of humility, love, and service. As I become part of the community which helps build Camp Mt. Hermon, I look at these young people and am assured that this community is one molded by God and bound together in a love that must be experienced in order to understand.


Chris thumbs up
At Camp Mt. Hermon we were called upon to lead a campfire on Wednesday night. The theme for that night was “Jesus as Teacher.” As we walked around the campfire leading songs, old and new, I was struck with awe at our energy. We were alive, we were singing the songs as loud as possible and the campers responded with their own vivacious cheer. We were together. The moment felt as if we had arrived, the beginning of a coming into being of what it really meant to be a member of the YPTT. I was impressed with our ability to draw in the campers and allow the energy to move through all of them.

As the campfire continued, Christy shared scripture and spoke more on how balancing one’s faith takes effort when we have the distractions of daily life set before us. Then I told a story about an incident with my brother that showed me what true grace was, and how Jesus had taught me through that moment. Jake described his life journey and how he struggled with his own foundation in life. He emphasized that Jesus teaches the importance of a strong foundation and challenged each camper to find their own stable base to rely on in times of uncertainty. Shelley ended the campfire with Peace Pilgrim’s Prayer.

It was a beautiful service and we really connected with the people of Camp Mt. Hermon. I felt caressed by the warmth and welcoming of Camp Mount Hermon, and the refreshing joy of starting such an exciting journey with three amazing people. I feel blessed.



Pentecost, Climate Change, and God’s Good Earth

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took a big step towards combating climate change when it announced that it is implementing the Clean Power Plan, which will cut the amount of carbon that power companies are allowed to release into the atmosphere to 30% below 2005 levels by the year 2030. The EPA and the Obama administration are hoping that this first step will encourage growth in clean and renewable energy sectors while also improving public health and showing consumers and other industries that business can continue successfully while complying with standards that allow us to be better stewards of our climate.

This is the first large public policy action on climate change that has been taken by the United States government under President Obama, but how are we to think of such things from a theological perspective? Why should the church comment on such matters? Well, perhaps the wonky details of the EPA’s plan are not of much immediate interest to many, but these wonky details are some of the biggest concrete steps towards addressing climate change that the US has ever made, and that should be important to us. Because when we talk about climate change, we are talking about God’s good earth that we are commissioned to be stewards of. We are talking about the same planet that the Psalmist praises God for in our lectionary text this week:

“O Lord, how manifold are your works!
 In wisdom you have made them all;
 the earth is full of your creatures.

 Yonder is the sea, great and wide,
 creeping things innumerable are there,
 living things both small and great.”—Psalm 104: 24-25

"The Fifth Day of Creation"--from

“The Fifth Day of Creation”–from

The Psalmist’s song of praise reminds of the goodness of God and all of creation, but we must also remember that this is the same Earth that we so often use and abuse for our own purposes. Ezekiel reminds us of our exploits and their consequences:

As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats: Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet? 19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with your feet?”—Ezekiel 34:17-19

We have for too long been like the stubborn, sheep and goats in Ezekiel’s passage who have had their fill of water and food and left nothing but fouled up water for everybody else. We have willfully ignored the global destruction of creation so that we could be comfortable in our little patch of earth.

But, despite this grim picture, the beauty of God is that God is always faithful. Even when we are unfaithful and foul the pasture and the water, God remains with us, pushing and prodding us to realize our sin, repent, and forge a new path. The miracle of Pentecost reminds us that new life is possible, but only with God. As the Psalmist reminds us:

“When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.”—Psalm 104:30

Pentecost is God fulfilling his promise to not abandon us. God sends the “Spirit of Truth” to the whole world and its people and this Spirit comes like a violent wind and shakes us up! God has sent the Spirit to renew us as a church and also to renew the very face of the ground we walk upon. We must never forget that just as all of creation was spoken into being by God, all of creation can and will be redeemed by God.

The way forward in addressing climate change will require many things of us because the EPA, or the United States for that matter, will not be able to protect creation on its own. Adequately addressing climate change will require first and foremost an understanding of our role as stewards of God’s good earth, and our failure up to this point in fulfilling this role. From this humbling position we must seek out ways to personally live so that we honor creation, love our neighbors, and help build up our communities.

If this means changing how and how much we consume, so be it. If this means supporting policies and legislation that protect God’s creation, so be it. If it means we have to change our behavior so that our lifestyles do not negatively affect our neighbors, communities and future generations, thanks be to God. Because ultimately that’s what this is all about, getting back into right relationship with God and the world around us. By consuming without conscience and exploiting the Earth’s resources without thought for the future, we have prevented the shalom God intends for us, our neighbors, and the whole world.

This is part of what the church will be discussing at Annual Conference this summer in Columbus. Our office will help present a statement on Climate Change and its effects on God’s Earth and God’s People. This statement will hopefully generate some constructive conversation about how the church can begin to creatively engage this pressing issue in a way that honors the Creator and Sustainer of all life.

We must never forget that the Spirit is leading us towards the time when the Lord will be called King among all the nations and the very trees of the forest will sing hymns of joy. The Heavens will be glad and the Earth shall rejoice at the coming of the Lord!

May it be so and may we join in this divine work of redeeming and honoring God’s creation.


-Bryan Hanger


The youth group held a carwash to fundraise for National Youth Conference. Each is excited to join a multitude of Church of the Brethren youth at NYC. Photos by Daniel D'Oleo

The youth group held a carwash to fundraise for National Youth Conference.
Each is excited to join a multitude of Church of the Brethren youth at NYC.
Photos by Daniel D’Oleo

By Gimbiya Kettering, Intercultural Ministries coordinator

Five years ago, Daniel D’Oleo and Dava Hensley met over a shared vision. As Church of the Brethren pastors (one of a new Spanish-speaking congregation, the other of an established “Anglo” one) they had decided to share a building. They discussed the practical details about shared space, utilities, and timing of events, and trusted that the Spirit would move in their midst. But neither could foresee how deeply Roanoke First Church of the Brethren and Roanoke Renacer would unite in their shared space. They certainly couldn’t have imagined how it would impact their youth.

Just over a year ago, the two youth groups decided to merge into one, big, multicultural crowd. The youth quickly bonded, and the groups became woven together into an inseparable mix. What started as a practical consideration of resources was revealed to be the Spirit of God blessing a vibrant gathering of young people.

There was just one problem: Roanoke First Church of the Brethren had been raising and saving money to send “their” youth to National Youth Conference since 2010, but the new, combined group was much larger than they had planned. Roanoke Renacer had not had as much time to plan for the conference, so they couldn’t send all the youth who came from that congregation.

Separating the youth group was unthinkable, so the two congregations combined their resources and the youth began joint fundraising in earnest. Between carwashes and luncheons, camping en route to save money on the trip to Colorado, and scholarships from Congregational Life Ministries, they made their goal. All the youth from Roanoke Renacer and First Church of the Brethren, as one large group, are NYC-bound.

For some, attending NYC will be a continuation of a faith and family tradition. For others, it will be the first time anyone from their family will have attended. Regardless of their history, each is excited to join a multitude of Church of the Brethren youth at National Youth Conference. And all are excited to do so together, as one, big, beautiful group, born of a shared vision, moved by the Spirit.

National Youth Conference is July 19-24. Register at .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)