United: Pursuing peace together


Learn more about the 2018 Mission Offering
at www.brethren.org/missionoffering

A scriptural exegesis written by Joshua Brockway, director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship, for the 2018 Mission Offering.

“Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Romans 14:19).

The early Brethren were part of the Pietist movement within the German Reformed church of their time. Pietists were those folks who sought to live what the Bible said. Those around them, also part of the church, did not use the name “Pietist” in a nice way. It was a slur. Today it would be like calling someone “holier than thou.”

It may be hard for us to think of piety as something negative. And though the word is not used as much as it was in the 18th century, the idea remains embedded within our tradition. We strive to live lives according to the Scriptures. As one Annual Conference theme reminded us, we “take Jesus seriously.” Yet, we should remember that what is pious to us may be legalistic to others.

That was Paul’s concern as he wrote these chapters in Romans. It appears that the Christians in Rome did not get along very well. As the capital city of the empire, it was home to people from all over. Some were Roman, either by birth or by citizenship, and had adopted the customs and practices of “good” Roman people. Historians now call these people Hellenists. They spoke Latin or Greek, or both, and saw the world through the prism of the great civilizations of Greece and Rome. There were also Hebrew people in the capital city. Though they were far from the worship practices of the temple in Jerusalem, they practiced their faith and culture with conviction. These diaspora people, or those scattered from their homeland, saw their religious customs as key to their identity, just as the Romans did their own culture.

For the early Christian community of Rome, these two cultural systems seem to have been a significant source of conflict. Much of Paul’s letter deals specifically with the conflict of law, religion, and culture that quickly emerged between Hellenist and Hebrew followers of Jesus. This letter, one that scholars and theologians call his most eloquent and succinct articulation of the gospel, was written to bring these to cultural groups together.

Food customs provided one of the sources of contention. Hebrew religious practice certainly dictated what food could and could not be eaten. And surely for the Hellenists, those customs were odd and parochial. Food valued by the Hellenists, even delicacies, were not within Hebrew kosher practice. Such a conflict might seem minimal to our modern sensibilities, but for the early church, eating together was a significant part of their life. Paul focused on this conflict because it was doing exactly the opposite of what shared meals in the church meant. Instead of bringing the people together, it was dividing them.

Ever the reconciler, Paul chastised the Roman Christians without naming fault. Instead, he revealed how any kind of piety practiced without faith and concern for others in the community, was not just divisive, it was sin. He did not call into question the sincerity of their customs, but instead highlighted how the practices of their piety were more about pride than they were about faith. Here, the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount echo just beneath the page: “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1, NRSV).

Paul’s critique, however, came with an instruction. “Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual edification” (Romans 14:19, NRSV). We might be tempted to emphasize Paul’s exhortation to peace in the church, but that would miss the qualifying clause at the end. Peace is not the end, in and of itself. Rather, the peace within the church is so that all believers might be edified and grow in their faith. Setting aside religious practices is not a decision to be made lightly. Rather, Paul’s admonition was for the church to emphasize two things—their shared faith in Christ and their need to build each other up in the faith. If the pious practices were sowing discord, they were also undermining the each one’s discipleship to Jesus.

For us good Pietists, Paul’s words to the Roman church are a clear challenge. While we deeply value the practices of our faith we must continue to examine our motivations and the impact on fellow believers. Peace, in this regard, is a characteristic of our community and our practices. When our practices sow discord and conflict, Paul warns us, we are not true Pietists. May our practices and changes of practice, both rooted in our faith, lead us to be United: Pursuing peace together.

Find a full order of service for the 2018 Mission Offering (suggested date Sept. 16) at www.brethren.org/missionoffering or support the Church of the Brethren today at www.brethren.org/give.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

New and renew

Worshiping together at the New and Renew Church Planting Conference. Photo by Doug Veal

By Stan Dueck, director of Organizational Leadership

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

I am on the highest of highs after the New and Renew Church Planting Conference that was held May 16-19. Participants experienced the presence and blessing of God during times of worship, prayer, and connecting with one another. Everyone departed the conference with a greater understanding of ministry and with useful resources to impact a new church plant or bring renewal to an established congregation. As one attendee stated, “This was an energizing conference with practical ideas and resources for different ministry contexts and situations.”

The conference theme, “The Risk, and Reward of Embodying Jesus Locally,” was based on John 1:14. The event provided the space for participants and presenters to share about the challenging and rewarding work of planting a new church, explore ways to be the dynamic presence of Christ in their local community, and offer testimonies of God’s faithfulness.

Another highlight at the event was seeing these pioneering, planting leaders as the embodiment of potential for multicultural diversity within the Church of the Brethren. Several church planters at the conference recently started Hispanic churches, including new projects in Los Banos, Calif. and Las Vegas, Nev.

Diversity could also be identified by the variety of new churches. One planter initiated a project in the Baltimore metropolitan area and it has become a growing multicultural church in just a year. Another leader in Chicago is pioneering a ministry that is extending the reach of their faith community into new places in their local context and also around the world. Another planter is pioneering the renewal of a congregation by connecting it to a startup ministry on a college campus.

The United States today is composed of a multitude of nationalities from every corner of the globe. Few other areas of the world bring together such varied ethnicity. And while all people groups retain some measure of their own historical identity, they also create unique subcultures as they become part of the ever-changing culture of North America.

As a result, the Church of the Brethren faces exceptional ministry opportunities that hold the promise of transforming countless lives through the gospel of Jesus Christ. The opportunities require fresh, creative approaches. These pioneer leaders, who are planting new churches and renewing established congregations, have a passion for seeing God glorified among those who are spiritually apart from the gospel of Jesus.

Discipleship Ministries of the Church of the Brethren, formerly known as Congregational Life Ministries, values the relationship with these pioneers who seek to care for their community as an extension of their call and passion to fulfill the Great Commission. Discipleship Ministries walks along these pioneers through coaching, training, and fostering relational networks.

Thank you for giving to further these ministries of the Church of the Brethren. Your prayerful and financial support of these ministries sustains these men and women as they serve God and their communities. Together we can celebrate the faithfulness of God as people discover Christ’s love and another way of living.

Learn more about Discipleship Ministries at www.brethren.org/discipleshipmin or support them today at www.brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Another way of living


Support Church of the Brethren ministries today at www.brethren.org/give

By David Steele, General Secretary

Greetings to you in the name of Christ our Savior!

Once again, I want to express my gratitude for the many ways you and your congregation faithfully strive to live out the gospel—to simply try to do what Jesus did. The vital ministries of our Church of the Brethren congregations, small and large, are at the heart of our church. We should never diminish the essential role that each unique part of the body plays in our common ministry together.

These are challenging, yet hopeful, times for the Church of the Brethren. It is easy to be consumed by our struggles, yet I am heartened by the incredible ministries and programs that are happening in our congregation, districts, and the denomination. I count it a privilege to work with an incredible team of staff working on your behalf to help us all continue the work of Jesus.

As a denomination, we have been working to refocus our efforts and adapt to meet the changing needs of the church. As has been reported via Newsline, there have been a number of staffing changes and ongoing internal structural adjustments. From an outside perspective, these changes may appear cosmetic, but they represent a shift toward a more holistic approach to our ministries, grounded in mission and discipleship.

Our mission aims to serve as Christ’s presence in communities, establishing local churches, both in the United States and internationally, that offer a cup of cold water to a thirsty world. Where there is conflict, we offer peace. Where there is suffering, we offer healing. Where there is hunger, we offer food. Where there is ignorance, education. Where there is despair, fellowship. Brethren mission stands as Christ’s light in the world, challenging the church to be more than a mere mouthpiece of the gospel, but also a doer of good works that demonstrate God’s love to the world.

Through our discipleship, we embrace Jesus’ call to go make and be disciples, sharing our lives more fully with others. This emerging vision of discipleship has its emphasis on making and growing disciples, forming and developing leaders, and transforming communities. As we strive to support new and renewing congregations, we are recovering a Brethren way of evangelism, helping congregations to disciple new people—more diverse people, more young people.

While intentionally grounding our ministries in mission and discipleship, we are also assessing our efforts at intercultural ministries. We as a church must more fully live into the 2007 Annual Conference statement “Separate No More: Becoming a Multi- racial Church.” This must be more than just a commitment. It must become our desire: desire not only expressed through advocacy but growing out of Christ’s commandment to love our neighbor. A desire that finds its roots in mission and discipleship. We must begin nurturing this kind of desire in our hearts and the hearts of others—into the heart of the church—because it is this kind of desire that will open us to new possibilities to thrive.

My friends, I do hope you believe that our struggle together is worthwhile. We are doing great things together in our congregations, in our districts, and in the denomination. Our efforts of offering the cup of cold water to the world reveals that we are about another way of living—the way of Jesus. May we not forget that through our simple acts of service and peacebuilding we, too, are working to save the world—in Jesus’ name.

I invite you to join me in another way of living.

Will you give to the Church of the Brethren today?
www.brethren.org/give

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

The ministry of calling

Nancy Sollenberger Heishman as Annual Conference 2014 moderator.
Photo by Glenn Riegel

By Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, director of the Office of Ministry

“And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47b).

Every year I look forward to the celebration of the Pentecost season. It is an opportunity to marvel anew at the awesome power of the Holy Spirit at work in the church and the world. What wonders were unleashed by the Spirit’s power as, like a persistent wind, it swept into the souls and lives of new believers. Persons of varying cultures and generations, and socioeconomic, educational, and religious backgrounds were caught up in the mighty power. Being called into the body of Christ, they also were sent out to look for those on the margins and to call others into the new community of God.

In my work as director of the Office of Ministry, I hear wondrous stories of persons being called to something bigger than they ever dreamed of. David Banaszak, the newly called district executive of Middle Pennsylvania District, recently shared the story of his call, and it struck me as particularly delightful.

As a young man, David drove his wife, Linda, to choir practice at Windber Church of the Brethren but sat out in the car with their dog, Skippy, until practice concluded. Being raised a nominal Catholic, David didn’t feel comfortable entering the church building and preferred to spend the evening with Skippy instead. Each Thursday evening, taking notice of the situation, pastor Dave Shetler would visit with David at his car window, and, without fail, would invite him inside. And every week, David would politely choose to remain in the car. Eventually, however, Pastor Dave convinced him to come inside, and the rest is history, as the expression goes.

David became a member of the Windber congregation and Pastor Dave, seeing great potential in him, invited him to consider a call to the ministry. And now, after 30 years of pastoral ministry, David has been called to district executive leadership. For David and many others, great service for the family of God has come from the persistent call of the Spirit through a faithful pastor, a fellow Christ-follower, or a nurturing community.

The stories I hear and the conversations I have while traveling throughout the denomination encourage me to remember that the Holy Spirit’s desire is still to stir us by a revolutionary call. God intends for us to invite persons to dive deeply into the life of our congregations, to eagerly look for gifts of ministry in new persons, and to persistently welcome and offer hospitality to all whom we encounter.

The Holy Spirit binds us together with others in ministry, service, and mutual love, and this often includes those from whom we initially choose to be separate. As we open ourselves to one another, share about our calling, and hear how it intertwines with theirs, we participate in God’s deep yearning for this world to be reconciled on earth just as spectacularly as it is in heaven.

As you celebrate this season of Pentecost and share in the ministry of calling in your own congregation, we invite you to also support this ministry in the denomination. Your gifts support the calling and training of new ministers and leaders so that they may serve God, their communities, and the larger church.

Thank you for partnering in the ministry of calling.

Learn more about the work of the Office of Ministry at www.brethren.org/ministryoffice or support it today at www.brethren.org/give.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Publishing good news

Wendy McFadden speaking at Inspiration 2017.

By Wendy McFadden, publisher of Brethren Press and Communications

The other day, Esther, a faithful supporter of the denomination, called to say how much she liked the April issue of Messenger. A call like that is always a pleasure, but in this phone call I also learned two fun facts: 1) Esther was turning 100, and 2) she has a life subscription to Messenger magazine.

What is a life subscription? Well, long ago Messenger offered a couple of special prices—a two-year subscription for $5 and a life subscription for $25. At the time, Esther did the math and thought the life subscription sounded like a good deal, which it certainly was. For those with enough foresight to pony up, that subscription has paid dividends!

From the business side, life subscriptions were a short-sighted decision, and it’s no surprise that the offer didn’t last long. But I love encountering the folks who bought them so many years ago. They represent a long-term commitment not just to Messenger, but to the Church of the Brethren. When the communication staff prepare each issue of the magazine, we are heartened by feedback from readers like Esther.

While Messenger magazine is just about the oldest communication medium in our church, it’s not the only one. In fact, in recent years there’s been an explosion of ways to communicate with each other—print newsletters, electronic newsletters, emails by interest group, websites, blog posts, social media, video, podcasts, webinars, exhibits. Nobody sees everything, but everybody can see something. In a church with a wide range of ages and interests, it’s necessary to communicate through as many channels as we can.

The tools are up-to-the-minute, but the ministry of publishing is nothing new. After all, the Old Testament prophet reminds us: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace, who brings good tidings of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’” (Isaiah 52:7, RSV).

Even though life subscriptions no longer exist for Messenger, faithful supporters like you have life subscriptions to the great work we do together. When you give to the Church of the Brethren, you help publish good news. When you subscribe to Messenger, newsletters, or any of our emails, you share in bearing witness to the work of God among us. Together we “proclaim the good news” (Matthew 10:7, NRSV).

Will you give to the Church of the Brethren today?
www.brethren.org/give

Caring for the vulnerable

Tori Bateman (far left) at the meeting about Unarmed Civilian Protection.

By Tori Bateman, associate with the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy

“God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish” (Psalm 9:18, NIV).

The Church of the Brethren’s identity as a historic peace church means that we are committed to nonviolence and peacebuilding around the world. During my time as a Brethren Volunteer Service volunteer in the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, I have had some amazing opportunities to advocate for peace in Washington, D.C.

Over the past several months, we have advocated for the practice of Unarmed Civilian Protection (UCP) in the Department of State, the United States Agency of International Development (USAID), and the Department of Defense. UCP is a method for keeping peace and safety in tense situations without the use of weapons or military action. Instead, unarmed individuals are empowered to work through relationships, mediation skills, and other peacekeeping methods to protect those living with conflict.

One example of the successful endeavor of UCP is from South Sudan. Women there were often raped by soldiers when they left their camps to collect firewood and water. To reverse this alarming trend, Nonviolent Peaceforce ran an accompaniment program that involved staff members going with women to collect firewood. As a result, whenever they encountered soldiers, the presence of international observers prevented rape from occurring. In 2015, there were no women afflicted by rape who were accompanied by Nonviolent Peaceforce staff. This is a great example of caring for vulnerable persons.

To present this innovative idea to U.S. policymakers, I worked with a colleague from a Catholic organization to coordinate a State Department meeting about Unarmed Civilian Protection. We invited Mel Duncan, co-founder of Nonviolent Peaceforce, and Nonviolent Peaceforce staff members to speak about the effectiveness of their practices.

The event was attended by staff from the Department of State, Department of Defense, and USAID. Attendees heard not only about the work of UCP, but also the amazing stories of the individuals in conflict zones who have been protected by the actions of UCP. The conversation lasted well after the event ended and we are excited about future opportunities to collaborate through relationships made at this meeting.

Your support for the Church of the Brethren makes possible this and other important peacebuilding initiatives. Thank you for helping us reframe the conversation about peacefully supporting and accompanying those in need.

Will you give to the Church of the Brethren today?
www.brethren.org/give

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Racial righteousness

Joshua Brockway and his Sankofa partner,
Drew Hart, stand with their group in July 2017.

By Joshua Brockway, director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship

Last summer I had the privilege of participating in the Sankofa Journey hosted by the Evangelical Covenant Church. Sankofa is an intentional effort to address racial injustice both within the church and in society. We traveled in mixed-race pairs on a bus to historically significant sites of the Civil Rights Movement—Birmingham, Montgomery, Selma, Jackson, and Memphis.

Sankofa is not a tourist trip. Rather, it is an intense learning experience built around conversations between partners and among the community that forms on the bus. The Evangelical Covenant Church describes Sankofa as a “journey towards racial righteousness.” Given the climate of race relations in the country today, I found that choice of words striking. We often think the counter to injustice is justice. So to use the theologically rich word of “righteousness” helped me to see racism in a new light.

In the New Testament, the Greek word for “justice” can also mean “righteous.” The meaning relates to relationships with one another and with God as well. In other words, to be just to one another is also to be reconciled with God, and to be reconciled with God is to be right with one another. Unfortunately, English is not able to bring those two important meanings together in one word.

Congregational Life Ministries staff are planning a racial righteousness workshop before Annual Conference this year to build on the rich meaning of biblical righteousness and justice. The city of Cincinnati played a key role in the Underground Railroad and has historic cultural resources related to our country’s story of racism. We have chosen to call this workshop “Diakaios,” after the New Testament Greek word for “justice” and “righteousness.”

We pray that this small effort will model prayerful conversations about race and white supremacy among the Brethren. And we are looking forward to the spiritual fruit it will bear in our church.

Your gifts to the Church of the Brethren support this and other initiatives that train Brethren disciples to continue the work of Jesus. The February issue of Messenger has articles by me and three others who participated in the Sankofa Journey last year. Your contributions supported the racial righteousness training of these individuals and prepared them to share in leadership at the workshop in Cincinnati. Please pray with us for a Spirit-led transformation of the church that works toward the vision of Revelation 7:9: a people from all nations, tribes, and languages gathering to worship the Lamb of God.

Learn about this summer’s “Dikaios and Discipleship” workshop at www.brethren.org/dikaios. Support the work of Congregational Life Ministries at www.brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

More than we can imagine

By Craig Thompson

By the Rev. Thea Leticia Racelis

“Now to God be the glory, who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

It is easy to feel overwhelmed when we look at all the areas of need in the world. There is hunger, sickness, decay, and injustice in so many communities. It is easy to feel that we are too small and too insignificant to make a difference and believe that nothing we do can help.

But there is hope! Better yet: we are that hope! As the Apostle Paul writes, “by the power at work within us,” God is able to “accomplish abundantly more than we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

Archbishop Desmond Tutu put it succinctly when he wrote, “We are the agents of transformation that God uses to transfigure the world.” We know that we are part of God’s answer to the need in the world! As followers of Jesus, we know that God’s dream for all people is not that we would strive to be separate, caring only for ourselves, but that in community, we would practice love and compassion. When we share our resources, there is enough for us all! We share our resources because, as Brian Peterson writes: “we are not simply filled ‘with’ God’s fullness as something to make us feel satisfied and content, but we are filled for the goal of God’s fullness in and for the world.”

We are all connected, and we derive our identity from God “from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name” (Ephesians 3:14b). We are all part of the family of God whether we live in an agricultural community in Nicaragua or in a bustling city in the United States.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians reminds us that we do not act alone. We act as the church, a gathering of God’s people, still living into Paul’s prayer and being “rooted and established in love” (Ephesians 3:17b). John Stott shares, “Paul likens [the Christians of Ephesus] first to a well-rooted tree, and then to a well-built house. In both cases, the unseen cause of their stability will be the same: love. Love is to be the soil in which their life is to be rooted; love is to be the foundation on which their life is built.”

As Christians, living into this loving legacy, we act out of faith knowing that God is using our contributions in ways that we can’t foresee and multiplying blessings in ways we would never expect. We act knowing that we are part of God’s imagination.

Will you be part of God’s dream for the world? Will you accept the invitation to make a difference and see what God will do with our giving?

We pray that you and your congregation will be inspired to give to One Great Hour of Sharing with hopeful expectation of what God will do. It will surely be more than we could imagine.

This theme interpretation was written for the 2018 One Great Hour of Sharing. Find this and other worship resources for the offering at www.brethren.org/oghs. Give today at www.brethren.org/giveoffering .

Living into the kingdom of God

Dan McFadden with volunteers from BVS Unit 316
Photo by Kelsey Murray

By Dan McFadden, director of Brethren Volunteer Service

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’… But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31, 33).

In our culture, we place high value on success. Success is often measured by appearance, material wealth, occupation, or career advancement. All these are external areas of our lives.

At Brethren Volunteer Service orientations, we invite Dana Cassell, pastor of Peace Covenant Church of the Brethren, to lead us for a day focused on vocation—particularly on what and how God calls us. During that time she shares a story from Henri Nouwen, who was at the top of his profession teaching psychology at Harvard, Notre Dame, and Yale, but left it all to work in a L’Arche community. It was a significant change to go from the halls of academia to closely serving persons with intellectual disabilities each day. During this experience, Nouwen learned three things: 1) Being is more important than doing, 2) The heart is more important than the mind, and 3) Doing things together is more important than doing things alone.

1) Being is more important than doing.

Almost 30 years ago I started working in the psychiatric unit at St. Joseph Hospital in Elgin, Ill., after graduating with a Master’s of Social Work. After several years in the social services field, I thought I had something to offer. A supervisor of the unit, a very wise nurse, took me aside and said, “Dan, the most important thing you will do here is listen.” In other words, being with the patients would be more important than doing anything for them. These words were difficult for me to hear. I had been trained to do things, to help others, and to help them figure things out. What did she mean by, “the most important thing you can do is listen?”

But she was right. Listening is one of the most challenging things to do. We can be so preoccupied with doing something for someone that we miss the opportunity to listen, to be present. This doesn’t mean we stop the doing—we still need to get things done—but, like Nouwen, we must realize that in the push to achieve the pinnacle of success, we often lose an essential component of life—being with people. The L’Arche community taught Nouwen this, and that was my supervisor’s lesson too. Being is more important than doing. Listening is the most important thing you will do.

2) The heart is more important than the mind.

Academic achievement certainly fits with our cultural value of success, and Nouwen certainly succeeded in this area as a professor at prestigious schools. However, he didn’t feel like he was supposed to be in those places. It was then that he asked God for a clear message about what to do next. After many years and an interesting call, he moved to a L’Arche community to serve alongside persons with intellectual disabilities. While this can be challenging work to say the least, it doesn’t require quite the brain power of an academic setting. Nonetheless, Nouwen felt fulfilled in that community and it was where he served the rest of his days. While the mind can be impressive, “love is where the heart is,” as the song goes, or maybe, the heart is where love is.

3) Doing things together is more important than doing things alone.

This is a very Brethren value. It’s even in our tagline: “Continuing the work of Jesus. Peacefully. Simply. Together.”

As members of the Church of the Brethren, we understand this, and many Christians do too. We understand following Jesus means working together in community. Together.

It does, however, run against cultural values of independence and success—being a self-made person, “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps,” and going it alone. One might think of things like Frank Sinatra’s famous line, “I did it my way.” We hear all the time about the success of someone doing something on their own, and it can be difficult to evaluate success when something is done together.

Even though our cultural lens limits success to individual achievement, Nouwen still affirmed that doing things together is more important, and I completely agree. I can’t lead Brethren Volunteer Service by myself; we need our whole team. And we can’t be the church by ourselves or do the work of Jesus alone; we need each other, the whole community, to discern and move forward together.

What Nouwen learned at L’Arche is still essential for us today. Instead of living for our own success, these principles guide us to be present, remain focused on matters of the heart, and value community. By embodying these lessons, may we more fully live into the kingdom of God.

Brethren Volunteer Service partners with L’Arche communities in Northern Ireland, Germany, and the US. Learn more about this ministry of the Church of the Brethren or support it today at www.brethren.org/bvs.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Bound together in Christ

Register at www.brethren.org/nyc

By Kelsey Murray, National Youth Conference coordinator

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14, NIV).

National Youth Conference, which started in 1954, is one of the largest gatherings of Brethren in the United States. It brings youth and advisors from across the country, and some from other countries, to Fort Collins, Colo., for a week-long experience unlike anything else. Each day there is worship, small groups, service projects, hiking, recreation, free time, and so much more. As like-minded Christians and loving Brethren, we come together to deepen our faith, ask meaningful questions, and walk with one another as Christ is present in the midst of this inspirational, faith-forming week. 

The National Youth Cabinet chose the theme of “Bound Together: Clothed in Christ” with the idea that we as Christians need to be unified in times of division. In our everyday, ordinary lives we need to wear compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience for others like we wear our clothes. These are the ideals and characteristics that should bind us together to be united with our brothers and sisters—not only within our local communities, congregations, and daily lives, but in our global communities as well.

This summer at NYC we are excited to hold service projects on the campus of Colorado State University. This will create a space for youth to really learn about the place where they serve and to more intentionally understand why we as a denomination hold service as so valuable. During our offering time, we will collect items for clean-up buckets for Brethren Disaster Ministries that will later be organized and packed as one of three service projects. This project is one sample of how we are bound in community with our brothers and sisters who have been affected by natural disasters, and it is our hope that youth will see this first-hand as they pack the buckets. 

We invite churches that don’t have youth attending NYC but would like to support these projects, to send supplies for the buckets to the General Offices (1451 Dundee Ave. Elgin, IL 60120) and we will take them to NYC. Brethren Disaster Ministries is generously helping to supply the buckets, detergent, and cleaner to make travel to CSU for youth a little lighter. 

As excitement for NYC continually builds, we can see God constantly working in all aspects of the planning for the conference, and trust that God will work in those who attend this mountain-top event. We can’t wait to see how youth will explore what it means to be “Bound Together: Clothed in Christ” and the ways this theme is woven into their lives. 

Registration for National Youth Conference opens tomorrow evening (Thursday, Jan. 18). Learn more about NYC 2018 or register at www.brethren.org/nyc . 

(Read this issue of eBrethren)