Amazing

Mark Flory Steury at the Church of the Brethren General Offices. Photo by Dewayne Heck

Mark Flory Steury at the Church of the Brethren General Offices.
Photo by Dewayne Heck

By Mark Flory Steury, Donor Relations representative

“It’s amazing how much the Church of the Brethren is able to do.”

This is a comment I hear often as I talk with congregational leaders and pastors about the denominational work of the Church of the Brethren. It has been my joy to visit many congregations over the past five years, and to thank them for being so generous! For well over one hundred years, congregations have faithfully supported the work of the church through their offerings.

When I visit a congregation, we talk about the ways the Church of the Brethren is currently serving in ministry both domestically and abroad. Globally we have partners in Nigeria, India, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Haiti, Spain, South Sudan and many other places. We help people in times of need through Brethren Disaster Ministries, Children’s Disaster Services, and the Global Food Initiative. Volunteers serve as the hands and feet of Jesus through Brethren Volunteer Service and Workcamps. These are some of the ways that we extend the love of God to others.

We also provide resources for churches and individuals across the country. We support the work of new churches through the Church Planting Conference. We equip church leaders and members through the work of Congregational Life Ministries, the Ministry Office, and Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leaderships, and through materials like Vital Ministry Journey, the Anabaptist Worship Exchange, the Shine curriculum, and webinars. Faith-forming, community-fostering conferences and programs are provided throughout the year like National Junior High Conference, Christian Citizenship Seminar, Ministry Summer Service, National Young Adult Conference, and National Older Adult Conference. Conversation and information are shared through Newsline and Messenger magazine. We also have wonderful historical resources preserved through the Brethren Historical Library and Archives. This is just a brief overview of the many ministries we do together!

Amazing! How is the Church of the Brethren able to do all of this? It’s only with the support of congregations and individuals who are willing to work together for a common mission and ministry.

It is remarkable how much the Church of the Brethren is able to do. Thank you so much for your awesome support. We can do this work only because of your partnership. May God bless us as we continue in our work together.

Learn more about the ministries of the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org or support them today at www.brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Encounters with God

Learn more about the ministries of the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org. Photos by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, Don Knieriem, and Jean Bednar

Learn more about the ministries of the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org.
Photos by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, Don Knieriem, and Jean Bednar

A reflection by Stanley Noffsinger

When I graduated from Manchester University, my eyes were set on the future. I was filled with anticipation, hope, relief, and a modicum of anxiety. Little did I know that the path ahead would take unusual and unexpected twists and turns beyond my wildest imagination.

I am reminded of the story of Moses—a trusted and experienced shepherd—who was asked by his father-in-law, Jethro, to lead a flock through the wilderness. Moses set out with his faith and experience to get the flock moving, feed them, protect them, and return them home.

But Moses’ serenity was interrupted in an unexpected way—by an angel of the Lord through the burning bush. The last thing Moses expected was to be in the presence of the Divine, but as Moses heard God through a burning bush, he entered into an unimagined reality. Moses knew he was in the presence of Yahweh, the Lord God.

Moses was prepared for the future just like each of us. And like Moses, we will encounter a day when unexpected events will alter our journey. These unplanned detours may not be as dramatic as a burning bush but, nonetheless will change the course of our lives.

I never thought I would become the first lay person to hold the office of general secretary for the Church of the Brethren. Nor could I have imagined this position would allow me the privilege to have audience with Pope Benedict at the Vatican, with the former president of Iran, or the President of United States. All of these events and opportunities to interact with people from all over the world were moments when I experienced God’s presence.

During my time of service to the Church of the Brethren, we have seen spiritual growth with congregations the United States and around the world. We have witnessed lives changed and faith strengthened at conferences like National Youth ConferenceNational Older Adult ConferenceNational Junior High Conference, and WorkChristian Citizenship Seminar. We have responded to extreme national and international disasters, walking alongside leaders as they served their communities in a manner consistent with their context of living. We have persevered in a tradition of service through ministries like Brethren Volunteer Service and workcamps. We have spoken to the world and its leaders on important issues, hopeful that we might find alternative paths to resolving conflicts. In all of these things, we have truly witnessed God in our midst.

Looking to the future, we will be heading forward with great expectation, even though the paths we will take are truly unknown. While we still have much to learn about showing love to one another, I have the utmost confidence and trust that our faith and experience will serve us well. Inspired by our appointment with the Divine, we will persevere in our pursuit of life, relationships, and Christian service.

Learn more about the ministries of the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org or support them today at www.brethren.org/give.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Being an Offering

Lauren Seganos preaching at National Junior High Conference in July. Photo by Glenn Riegel

Lauren Seganos preaching at National Junior High Conference in July.
Photo by Glenn Riegel

A sermon by Lauren Seganos for the National Jr. High Conference 2015

“Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life—and place it before God as an offering” (Romans 12:1-2, The Message).

What comes to mind when you hear the word “offering”? I think of the offering plates we pass during worship. Children drop in pennies or quarters. Adults write checks to their congregation. And these offerings are collected to pay the pastor’s salary, the church air conditioning bill, or for a rented van so the youth can go to National Junior High Conference.

Now imagine what it would look like if, instead of dropping money into the offering plate, you hopped into the plate yourself? Imagine sitting in the plate, your knees bent to your chest, and grabbing the sides of the plate with each hand. People pass you along, probably giving you strange looks, and the experience reminds you of crowd surfing.

What a ridiculous thing to imagine, being in the offering plate with envelopes and cash. But what might it look like to be an offering to God? How might that work?

Growing up, I loved to sing, and from what I could tell, the people around me enjoyed it too. I grabbed every opportunity to do it—in school and community choirs, in school musicals, at school basketball games, and at church. Singing was something that brought me joy.

But in junior high and high school, a friend always sang better, getting the part whenever we auditioned for musicals or solos in concerts. No matter how hard I tried, she always performed better than me. Once, I was asked to sing at a coffee house, but out of spite or pride, I refused. “I’m not as good as her, so why sing at all?” I thought. I wasn’t special or unique, just an ordinary, average singer.

After college, I realized that even though I won’t sing for a career or be the best, it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t sing at all. Today, you’ll find me singing while I’m doing everything, especially while driving my car or cleaning my apartment. I know now that singing is one of the best ways to nourish my soul and praise God by using my gift.

Maybe you can relate. Is there something that nourishes you and gives you deep joy? Maybe you do it every day: like kicking around a soccer ball, writing stories, or drawing. Maybe you make people laugh, or help others feel included and loved. These are gifts God has given you. And it’s not about being the best. It’s about using those talents every day, in ordinary ways, to bring joy to yourself, to others, and to God. This is what it looks like to be an offering to God.

Lauren Seganos is a licensed minister at Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon, Pa.. To hear the full version of this sermon visit www.brethren.org/podcasts  . Learn more about National Junior High Conference and Youth and Young Adult ministries at www.brethren.org/yya or support them today at www.brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

 

Youth Peace Travel Team 2015 – National Junior High Conference

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Hey all you awesome people! YPTT here again! This time to tell you about the wonderful weekend we just had at National Junior High Conference! We had the opportunity to help lead some workshops and some recreation activities and of course hang out with the awesome junior high youth that attended! Here are some thoughts!

We spent June 19 – 21 at National Junior High Conference at Elizabethtown College! It was so fun to be able to hang out with the youth and leadership there! One of my highlights from the weekend was leading Ultimate Frisbee during recreation time. Being able to just go out and have fun with a bunch of youth from all over the place while playing a game that I love is definitely one of my absolute favorite things to do! Another excellent experience that I had this weekend was all of the wonderful worships that we all had together. In my opinion, there are very few things cooler than singing and worshiping together with a massive group of people! We also got to lead a YPTT booth at the carnival we had together, and we led the youth in Peace Hopscotch!! This was my first NJHC and it most certainly did not disappoint! The leadership did an amazing job of planning, and the youth all seemed genuinely happy to be there together! What a great weekend!!

-Kerrick

If I wasn’t annoying everyone with my knowledge of Elizabethtown College by day one, then surely it was obvious by the last day that I’m a student at E-town and I was excited to visit. As if I needed the extra excitement-National Junior High Conference was a blat. I saw many familiar faces, and met a bunch of new people. There was so much energy during worship and I loved the music. The worship services were so easy to relate to, even if I was a few years older than the target demographic, and I absolutely loved seeing Alexander Mack and Walt Wiltschek as Peter on stage in a skit together. The weekend brought back memories of when I attended NJHC and NYC, and I was reminded of why I loved those events so much.

-Brean

This past weekend was my very first National Junior High Conference. It was so cool to be with so many Church of the Brethren youth in one place at the same time. I helped lead peace games, and really enjoyed doing activities with a peace purpose. We played step tag to represent different ways to handle conflict. Additionally we played giant Jenga. As the youth took down each block they said a way they could peacefully begin to resolve conflicts. As the structure came down, each person wrote their thoughts on the blocks and we rebuilt a peaceful structure. I loved seeing the awesome and insightful ideas the junior high youth had. Eventually the original structure fell and a new peaceful structure was created.

-Annika

P.S. We also got to ride to NJHC with a super awesome group of youth from Virginia! We got the chance to get to know them a little bit and road trip together! We also got the opportunity to stop at Hershey Chocolate World with them, which is always a super amazing experience!! So a huge thank you to the two youth groups who allowed us to tag along with them to conference!

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)