What will you bring to share?

Andy Murray speaking at Annual Conference 2015. Photo by Glenn Riegel

Andy Murray speaking at Annual Conference 2015.
Photo by Glenn Riegel

A reflection by Andy Murray, Annual Conference moderator

There is a question that I never heard my parents ask: “What can I get out of it?” Max and Dottie Murray had plenty of human foibles to moderate their saintliness, but preoccupation with personal payoff was not among them. Nor did I ever hear my parents express admiration for someone because of what he or she managed to accumulate during life’s journey. The people that were admired in my home were the people that contributed, not those that acquired.

There were times when I questioned the touch of naiveté in my mother’s unquestioning acceptance of pure motives, especially among public servants. She had so internalized the barn story (in Luke 12:16-21) that she really could not comprehend the idea of rewards for generosity. For her, giving was just a way of living. My mother could have written Jack Kennedy’s iconic, inaugural bromide: “Ask not what your country can do for you….”

Part of the Sunday morning ritual of preparing for church always included a question for us kids: “Do you have something for the offering?” If we did not remember or prepare to have something from our own allowance to put in the offering plate, my father would quietly slip us a coin. It was not just the sacrifice but also the habit, the discipline, the ritual that was important.

When it was time for our family to prepare for its (nearly) annual trip to the big Brethren meeting, there was little talk about what we could expect to get out of it. Of course we had fond expectations. For us children, most of those centered on travel, breaking from routine, seeing friends from far off places, and the general pageantry of thousands of people meeting to express their faith. Certainly my parents had similar fond anticipation but they also portrayed a sense of duty.

Annual Conference was as much an act of giving as it was of receiving. Whether or not we were delegates or had another official duty, we were expected to think of our time at Conference as a part of our contribution to the faith community that helped shape our values and our identity. Whether we were lending our voice to a sweet, a cappella rendering of a familiar hymn or giving the white kerchief send-off to traveling missionaries, we understood that our presence, in its own small way, added strength to the whole Body. We understood that without us the Body would be ever so slightly diminished. I think now that this was neither a self-absorbed conceit nor a sentimental ploy but a realistic understanding of how the church works and a spiritual response to what it means to be the Body of Christ.

I am often asked: “What are your hopes for Annual Conference?” One of my fondest hopes is that each person who comes will be aware of the importance of what he or she brings to Conference; that each of us will consider that what we will give in Greensboro will be as significant as what we get.

Learn more or register for the 2016 Annual Conference at www.brethren.org/ac . Early registration closes June 6.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Se Habla Español (Spanish is spoken here)

Imelda Velasquez Diaz (first on left) and Nancy Sollenberger Heishman (second from right) serving with the children’s ministry at West Charleston Church of the Brethren. Photo by Mary Bowman

Imelda Velasquez Diaz (first on left) and Nancy Sollenberger Heishman (second from right) serving with the children’s ministry at West Charleston Church of the Brethren.
Photo by Mary Bowman

An interview by Gimbiya Kettering, director of Intercultural Ministries

On July 22, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman began as part-time coordinator of the SEBAH-COB, the Spanish-Language Ministry Training Programs for the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership (a joint effort between the Church of the Brethren and Bethany Theological Seminary). Nancy holds a master’s of divinity from Bethany Theological Seminary and continues to co-pastor West Charleston Church of the Brethren in Tipp City, Ohio, with her husband, Irv Heishman.

What does SeBAH stand for?
Seminario Biblico Anabautista Hispano. It is a ministry training program for Hispanic pastors and congregational leaders coordinated by Bethany Academy in partnership with the districts. As coordinator, I will design a Spanish-language track for the Education for a Shared Ministry.

Before becoming the 2013 Annual Conference moderator, you were an interim coordinator for SeBAH. What excites you about returning to this role?
I look forward to reconnecting with students I worked with several years ago. I’m excited about encouraging and supporting more Hispanic leaders within the Church of the Brethren as they grow in their skills and understanding of ministry. I also look forward to working with Hispanic leaders to develop new programs that meet the unique needs of Hispanic Brethren.

How did you learn Spanish?

I began studying Spanish at age 48, which proves it’s never too late to learn a new language! When we arrived as mission coordinators in Santo Domingo in 2003, we spent a few months in intensive study at a language school, and then continued weekly classes as we began serving. However, I made the most progress in learning Spanish when I taught theological education classes in Spanish. That required quick learning for me, and lots of patience from my students.

What is your greatest challenge?
As an introvert, I have to continually challenge myself to reach out, being aware that my Spanish won’t be perfect, and depending on God’s grace and the patience of others.

What are your goals for SeBAH?
I would love to see an explosion of Hispanic congregations and ministries develop from the leaders trained through SeBAH. I hope the experiences of SEBAH students will lead to Hispanic Brethren taking on greater leadership roles on district, and denominational or related agency levels, transforming Brethren institutions and structures with their unique gifts and perspectives of the gospel. I also dream of many materials communicating Brethren identity, beliefs, practices, and understandings of the church being available in Spanish.

Learn more about Nancy Sollenberger Heishman’s role as coordinator of SeBAH at www.brethren.org/news/2015/nancy-heishman-to-lead-spanish-training.html .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Gathering to bear fruit

Photo taken at Annual Conference 2014.

Photo taken at Annual Conference 2014.

A reflection by Matt DeBall

“Abide in My Love… and Bear Fruit” (John 15:9-17).

What does it mean to embody the love of God? What does it look like to gather together and make decisions in a way that shows Christ’s love to others? As delegates and members of the Church of the Brethren gather for Annual Conference in less than 10 days, it is these questions that will guide their time in business and worship.

Those attending Annual Conference in Tampa, Fla. on July 11-15 will travel from near and far, domestically and internationally to be involved in this important gathering of the church. However, whether or not you will be in Tampa, there are several ways you can share the love of Christ and participate in this year’s Annual Conference:

  • Donate blood at the Blood Drive on July 13 and 14. 
  • View webcasts of business and worship. 
  • Support the ministry of webcasting so that it may continue for future Conferences. 
  • Go to the news index page for Annual Conference to keep up with news reports, daily photo albums, webcasting, sermons, and more at www.brethren.org/AC2015.


Regardless of how you participate in Annual Conference, we look forward to seeing how the love of Jesus transforms us in our time together. For it is when we are gathered together, whether in body or in Spirit, that we may remain in the love of Christ and bear much fruit.

Your participation at Annual Conference, whether on site or remotely, is valuable for the life of the Church of the Brethren. Learn more about Annual Conference 2015 at www.brethren.org/ac. Follow events during the Conference at www.brethren.org/AC2015.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Tampa

Annual Conference staff Debbie Noffsinger, Chris Douglas, and Jon Kobel standing by an E-boat in Tampa. Photo by Jane Godfrey

Annual Conference staff Debbie Noffsinger, Chris Douglas,
and Jon Kobel standing by an E-boat in Tampa.
Photo by Jane Godfrey

An interview with the Annual Conference Office

What excites you about Tampa?

Chris Douglas: It’s one of the most beautiful places we’ve had Annual Conference because it’s surrounded by palm trees and water.

Jon Kobel: It’s a great vacation spot. People can bring their families and enjoy fishing excursions or riding paddle boats or E-boats.

Debbie Noffsinger: We should have sunshine and warmth for at least part of Annual Conference. Also, dolphins have been spotted right outside the convention center.

Is there anything special about the hotels or conference center?

Chris: The convention center is smaller than in past years, so we’ll fill the whole building and it will be an intimate gathering. It will also be easier to get around the convention center.

Jon: For hotels, these are the lowest rates we’ve had in nine years, and they are available up to three days after Conference.

What are the must-see sights and attractions in Tampa?

Chris: My favorite is the Henry B. Plant Museum that was built in 1890 and has been beautifully restored. It’s gorgeous and you can learn a lot about the culture of that time.

Jon: We’re selling tickets fordolphin tours, which are really neat. You can also enjoy a stroll on the river walk or ride a street car (for half price with your Conference badge) to the historic Ybor City.

Debbie: There’s also the aquarium, children’s museum, and the history center close to the convention center. We highlighted other options in our recent e-mail blast too.

What restaurants would you recommend?

Jon: You can’t talk about Tampa without mentioning the Columbia Restaurant. It has wonderful, authentic Cuban food, and traditional flamenco dancing may be seen in the evening. I also recommend the Oxford Exchange. It’s the coolest eclectic restaurant with interesting food, a tea emporium, and a coffee center.

Chris: There’s also a place called Channelside (just a five-minute walk away) that has several restaurants. There’s Mexican food, Thai food, and my favorite pizza place.

Is anything unique about this year’s gathering?

Chris: Sunday evening will feature biblical storytelling and music by Ken Medema and Ted & Co.

Jon: The Sunday insight sessions will specifically focus on equipping people with tools to enrich their own lives and serve their churches.

Online registration for Annual Conference closes June 10. Learn more or register today at www.brethren.org/ac .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

New steps in the new year

Where will God lead you in 2015? Photo by Glenn Riegel

Where will God lead you in 2015?
Photo by Glenn Riegel

By Matt DeBall, coordinator of Donor Communications

January can be a great time for setting goals and reflecting; a time to observe our steps from last year and chart a new path for this year. We might make personal challenges related to fitness, nutrition, recreation, relationships, or finances, but sometimes we also receive challenges from God.

God has surely given great challenges to others in the past. For Abraham, God called him to leave his family and explore a foreign land filled with unfamiliar people. For Esther, God led her to a new role and called her to take a great risk to save her people. For both, the choice was available to reject God’s call, but by trusting in God and summoning a great amount of courage, they stepped forward and accepted God’s challenge.

In 2015, there are many events and opportunities to partake in ministry through the Church of the Brethren. Perhaps God is calling you to participate in one or more of the following ways:

Pray for our international partners by receiving the weekly Global Mission Prayer Guide.

Grow by attending a transformative conference like the Intercultural Gathering, Young Adult Conference, National Junior High Conference, Annual Conference, and National Older Adult Conference.

Serve through Brethren Volunteer Service for a year-long project, attend a summer workcamp of the Workcamp Ministry, or spend a week at a disaster project of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Give to support the continued work of the many life-changing ministries of the Church of the Brethren.

Like Abraham and Esther, we have the choice to remain where we are or to follow where God is leading. While it would be easier to carry on in 2015 just as we did in 2014, God may be challenging us to do something new. May we listen to the Spirit of God, step forward in faith, and trust God to guide our steps in the coming year.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Holy Ground

Photos by Glenn Riegel and Jenna Stacy

Photos by Glenn Riegel and Jenna Stacy

By Stanley J Noffsinger, general secretary

This summer I enjoyed hosting Ministry Summer Service interns for barbecue, traveling to visit your congregations, and attending Annual Conference and National Youth Conference. In these places and others, I have found myself standing on holy ground. You and I are blessed to serve a God who uses ordinary people like us in extraordinary ways: in our congregations, communities, country, and world.

When I hear about congregations fundraising to send youth to National Youth Conference, I am filled with hope for the future of our church. When Brethren gather to study scripture in intentional community on the Vital Ministry Journey, I give thanks for our foundation in God’s word, and for the way we value each other.

When another Brethren Volunteer Service unit completes orientation, and when workcampers travel to Haiti, Pennsylvania, or Washington, I am blessed by the ways Brethren show God’s love by being the hands and feet of Jesus. When I talk with partners in South Sudan, North Korea, Haiti, or Nigeria, I am humbled by the far reaches of our ministries and moved to prayer for sisters and brothers around the world.

We are truly a blessed people. We have a voice that the world needs to hear and a light the world needs to see.

Our sisters and brothers in the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria also carry that light, even as they face incredible trials and violence. They follow Jesus, enduring in faith, remaining dedicated to peace and showing love to everyone—even those seen as enemies.

Whether in Nigeria, Columbus, Fort Collins, or our own hearts, the journey of receiving the reconciling grace of Jesus is not easy. We discover that discipleship is often difficult, and we experience chaos because we are God’s people. Yet in the wild and crazy times of life, we may discover that we are standing on holy ground, standing in the presence of the Holy Spirit, God’s shalom, and Christ’s peace.

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

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Y-P-double-T hits the big city

Youth Peace Travel Team at Annual Conference

Youth Peace Travel Team at Annual Conference 2014 in Columbus, Ohio. Photo by Regina Holmes.

Y-P-double-T hits the big city! No, not Elgin or McPherson, but the bustling metropolis of Columbus, Ohio, to attend Annual Conference. AC was a whole new animal for us – not only was the spacious conference center and comfortable hotel room a bit of a shock after 3 weeks of camp life, but the vast variety of ages and ideas gathered at conference challenged us as inclusive teachers of peace. While we typically give a team report of our week, conference proved to be a widely different experience for each of us. So, I will tell you of our tasks followed by my opinions of AC 2014, and then allow my teammates to contribute their own unique thoughts.

As is typical of a peace teamer’s summer, our tasks throughout the week varied greatly. We were able to express our gratitude and give updates to each of our mentors and sponsoring organizations. My favorite meal was the Outdoor Ministries Association lunch, as I felt at home among camp folk who sang proudly and had great things to say about each of the camps and staffs that we are visiting this summer.

Peace doodles

Peace doodles: destroying injustice (Annual Conference 2014)

Hanging out with the youth for a day allowed us to introduce ourselves and teach some of our favorite aspects of just peace. A huge highlight came for me when a student, who was initially reluctant to discuss social justice issues because they are “important but boring,” ended up enjoying our discussion and doodled symbols of the destruction of injustice, like wrecking balls against poverty and activist stick-people. Later that night, we got to lead songs at the youth’s “campfire”, which was difficult in the basement of a conference center. Although the fire was dead, the spirit of joyful singing was alive! We were lucky enough to spend an hour with our junior high friends, who brought refreshing energy to our Care for Creation activity. It was inspirational to share conversations with representatives from organizations such as On Earth Peace and Womaen’s Caucus. These moments allowed us to recharge our peacemaking batteries in the presence of those who are radical and affirming in their work and in their lives. Above all, I particularly enjoyed getting to meet and know the families of my fellow teammates, along with reconnecting with beloved members of my home church and beyond.

-Chris

This, believe it or not, was my very first Annual Conference, which gave me a unique and slightly critical perspective of the entire experience. Unfortunately, I was rather ill throughout the week, which meant that I was bed ridden more often than I was listening in on business sessions or hanging out in the exhibit hall. But of the events I was able to attend, I was mostly pleased. As a peacemaker, I was encouraged by those people and groups that called us to engage in conversation with those of different opinion than ourselves. For example, Bill Scheurer of On Earth Peace challenged us to record short conversations of our visions of peace with people that we may not normally approach. I was encouraged by the active listening that occurred during business sessions, interlaced with sporadic hymn-sings and blessings of those whose work we benefit from and deeply appreciate. This is not to say that there weren’t any frustrating aspects of the conference process and this conference in particular. Like many, I was disappointed by the outcome of the vote on the climate change paper. I recently finished reading Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw’s book “Jesus for President,” which has ignited a radical reformist spark inside of me that did not seem to be satisfied by conference. But, as Chris’s sister Elizabeth said, we are called to grow where we are planted, so I challenged myself to do just that. Overall, the immense support that was expressed to our team was overwhelming and humbling. So, thanks to our sponsors and our many supporters for a great conference, but mostly for sending us off on a wonderful journey and checking in with us along the way!

-Shelley

Annual Conference was a wonderful experience this year as a member of the peace team. I was struck by the enormous quantity of people who showed up at conference that we had already met throughout this summer. It was an utter joy to see how many people we’ve already connected with—and we’re only halfway done! One of the biggest highlights for me came in the form of an insight session that my Granddad Crouse and I were asked to lead by On Earth Peace. We were to converse about his dreams and my visions of peace in this world. He shared stories upon stories such as defending his peace stance in Turkey and Ecuador as well as sharing his dreams for the multi-ethnic church he is helping plant in Florida. I spoke about being challenged by classmates in debate class about my peace stance, holding a peace event in the military community that I live in, and describing some peacemaking role models that I appreciate.

The culmination of this experience for me happened more inside of myself rather than out loud. The last question on the list my Granddad and I created was, “How do you see your vision of peace coming to fruition in the world?” We didn’t get to this question because we had limited time, but my Granddad’s ending thoughts connected perfectly to my planned out answer. Before the session, I had reflected on this and came up with two words: awareness and intentionality. Awareness of the needs, feelings, and culture of those around us is vital to peace between individuals. Furthermore, using peaceful practices like I-statements and avoiding gossip takes intentionality and is not necessarily our instinct, but makes a huge difference in constructing positive relationships.

So, at the end of the session, my Granddad spoke about the crisis with the kidnapped Nigerian girls and how he has been struggling with how he can act in response to the situation. He stated that after much thought, he had developed a plan for himself. This plan contained an extensive title and nine bullet points of action including 1. Taking at least five minutes per day to pray for the girls, their families, and the kidnappers. 2. Fast from (insert specific foods and such here) for a certain amount of time. The list went on. The last bullet, number nine, said Granddad was going to seek out Muslims in his community and develop friendships with them. This is when I began to cry. My Granddad, in number nine, expressed the desire to show acute awareness of the culture of those around him. His plan, nine specific actions, is literally the definition of intentionality. Basically, my Granddad was fulfilling my vision of peace right before my eyes. And he didn’t even know it.

-Christy

While this wasn’t my first Annual Conference, I only really have memories of one other. That one other conference was the 300th Anniversary conference in Richmond. For me the most impactful moments of my week came not from anything at conference itself, but from the people I had conversations with outside of sessions and the gym I had at my disposal in the hotel. Many of the people I talked with were old friends, some of which I hadn’t seen in years. Be them people I had worked at Camp Bethel with or gone to Christian Citizenship Seminar with, the ability to rekindle relationships was great.

As silly as it sounds, the other aspect of our week at conference that really helped lift me up was having access to a gym. Be it this gym wasn’t exactly what I would pick (no squat rack equals a sad Jake) but it did give me an opportunity to finally lift semi-heavy things again. This was especially important for me on the Fourth of July. For those of you who don’t know, I am a Crossfitter. One aspect of Crossfit is the use of “Hero Workouts” to honor fallen police, firefighters, and military. Even as a pacifist this is an aspect of Crossfit that I have felt very passionate about the reason behind these workouts. These workouts are typically done on some sort of day of military recognition, such as Memorial Day or 9/11. The workouts done on these days are named after and done in honor of a particular person or persons that died in the line of duty. In the case of this Fourth of July I did the workout “Joshie” in honor of Army Staff Sergeant Joshua Whitaker, who was killed in Afghanistan on May 15th, 2007.

This workout stuck out to me for two reasons. One, I had the equipment available to do the workout. Two, my sister is the same age as Joshua was. The thought of losing my sister helped me empathize just a fraction of what Joshua’s family must have felt. While I did this workout I didn’t play any music, and I didn’t have a workout partner. I used this time as a reflective time for myself and my life. “Hero Workouts” are made to be longer, harder, and more painful than normal Crossfit workouts. But the mindset, at least for me, while I do them is that that pain which I feel now is nothing compared to the sacrifices that the person which I am honoring had to endure. I don’t agree with Joshua that the way to solve the conflicts in Afghanistan are through military action. But, I respect him for having the courage to stand up for what he believed in, even at the risk of losing his own life. I appreciate the freedom that I have and recognize that that freedom is what Joshua died for.

I think far too often in discussing peace or our opposition to war we fail to recognize the courage it takes to stand up for what you believe in. Yeah, it’s not necessarily the same things we believe in, I still think a certain level of respect and honor needs to be bestowed upon the members of our military. Service has many forms, just like peace and love do.

-Jake

Annual Conference was a struggle for me this year. I had experienced dissatisfaction at business before and I knew the worship messages were not what I was used to, but despite this knowledge it all managed to bother me again. It has been some time since I was at Annual Conference and I attempted to give more of myself in the process this time, to pay more attention to the goings on of the church and the message of each worship. But I still felt disappointed and disconnected. I wanted courageous leaders, people who weren’t afraid of the reaction of the denomination to their own personal beliefs, but need to share that real piece of them because that is what Jesus calls us to do. We need to be genuine and personable. We need to be open; peace and pacifism are not so limited in scope as to just being against war.

Where I spent my personal time was also a struggle. My family all traveled to Columbus, Ohio for Annual Conference. Some came for different reasons than others but we all congregated with our church for the first time in two years. I felt truly blessed to have this opportunity to be doing work that I loved and also be able to visit with my family. I talked extensively with my brother, sisters, grandmother and mother. The Youth Peace Travel Team also got to meet my family and learn about the people that are the main players in my stories. I love the Youth Peace Travel Team, but it was a struggle balancing time with them, Annual Conference activities, and my family. Instead I just combined two of my favorite activities and asked the Peace Team to hang out with me and my family. I enjoyed the experiences of Annual Conference and felt blessed to have the opportunity with my family.

-Chris

 

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 www.brethren.org/giveac2014 .
  • 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 www.brethren.org/acwebast . Webcasting is complimentary, but it is expensive, so please support our virtual community at www.brethren.org/giveac2014 .
  • 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 www.brethren.org/acwitnessto 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 www.brethren.org/give 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)

 

Columbus

Photo courtesy of the Greater Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau and by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Photo courtesy of the Greater Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau and by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

By Matt DeBall

The Annual Conference office is in the swing of preparations for the Church of the Brethren’s Annual Conference July 2-6 in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus is vibrant and boasts many activities and sight-seeing opportunities for people of all ages.

The official Conference hotel is the Hyatt, and is in the same building as the conference center. But the Crowne and Drury hotels are connected by skywalks. “To have 75 percent of our rooms adjacent to the convention center is amazing,” said Chris Douglas, director of the Annual Conference Office.

Restaurant and food options are also convenient, as well as numerous. “You can’t beat the food court next to the conference center,” shared Chris. And only a block away is the North Market, which features 35 merchants of different ethnic foods, fresh produce, flowers, spices, and other gifts. Across the street is Bareburger, a restaurant where you can build a burger from a variety of meats (grass-fed, organically raised animals) and ingredients. Jon Kobel, Annual Conference assistant, also recommended the Northstar Cafe, one of several great restaurants in the Short North District, less than a mile from the convention center.

Columbus promises many sights to see. One is German Village, an original settlement that has been restored to its old glory. “We’re offering a bus tour for non-delegates,” said Jon. “Tickets can still be purchased online.” The Columbus Zoo and Center of Science and Information (which features a Sherlock Holmes exhibit) are both top-rated attractions in the country.

“If you’re looking for beauty in creation,” said Chris, “Franklin Park, where the BBT Fitness Challenge 5k walk/run will be, is magnificent.” Within walking distance from the conference center, Brethren baseball fans can also see the Columbus Flyers AAA team, who will be in town the week of Conference. “On Saturday night we’re having an intergenerational gathering, co-sponsored by the Outdoor Ministries Association,” said Jon. “We will have a lot of fun and games, and concerts too.”

Annual Conference in Columbus promises to be a Spirit-led, fun-filled gathering. Online registration closes June 3, so be sure to visit www.brethren.org/ac soon!

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Sacred start

Photos by Wendy McFadden and Bethany Clark.

Photos by Wendy McFadden and Bethany Clark.

By Mandy Garcia

The doctors removed a small bone in the ball of my foot two weeks before Christmas. It was a scheduled, outpatient surgery, but knowing it was coming didn’t make the recovery any less frustrating. Being stuck at home for several weeks put an abrupt halt on my normal schedule and to-do list.

But a few days before the celebration of Christ’s birth, I finally realized that I had been given the Christmas gift I’ve always said I wanted: time to simply sit and savor the season.

It’s probably sad that I finally got my wish because I had no choice, but the fact remains that it was a very special time. I stayed still. I stared at the star on top of our tree and considered God’s leading. I wrapped myself in crocheted blankets and gave thanks for warmth. I watched my neighborhood get tucked in under a thick, white blanket, and praised God for forgiveness that covers sins with mercies white as snow. It was an “in between” time, a sacred space.

In a similar way, January can be an “in between” time for all of us—Church of the Brethren denominational ministries included. We wrap up the loose ends of the past year and get ready to dive into all the exciting things coming up in the new one. National Youth Conference coordinators and the workcamp team stay late at the office for their long awaited registration kick-offs. The Annual Conference office assembles necessities for their site visit in Columbus. And church planters (who seem to have a gift for “in-between” time) get their things in order before the Church Planting Conference in May.

This time before the gears get really moving can feel a little like being stuck at home with a broken foot. But if we frame it right, if we focus on the many wonderful things on the horizon, it takes on a feeling of holy preparation. Like the quiet calm of Christmas, this time can be a gift, sacred space, full of thanks and praise.

As we prepare to dive into this New Year, may we spend our “in between” time watching carefully for God’s leading, full of gratitude, and freely giving as God has so freely given to us.

For a list of ways that you can get involved in Church of the Brethren ministries in 2014, visitwww.brethren.org/events ,www.brethren.org/volunteer , andwww.brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)