Inspiration 2017

By Debbie Eisenbise, director of Intergenerational Ministries

There should be an adage, “to live is to age.” We don’t often consider that God’s plan for humanity, for all of creation, includes aging. As time passes, we experience change and loss. We grow out of certain pastimes and activities. We slow down a bit, priorities shift, our bodies change, and new roles and relationships emerge in our families, at work, and at church.

With our children grown up and our years of child-bearing and rearing behind us, we enter into the second half of life and explore questions about meaning, purpose, and legacy. We need time and space, not only on our own but with others, to reflect, converse, share, laugh, sing, and pray. Every other year for the past 25 years, our denomination has provided a week to do just this for those age 50 and older.

The first National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) took place in 1992 in North Carolina at the Lake Junaluska Conference Center (a spot that was familiar to those who had attended the 1958 National Youth Conference). Called “Say ‘Yes’ to Years,” the gathering was to “celebrate relationships, stimulate personal growth, and affirm [older adults’] place in church and society.” By 1996, participation reached 1,000, and in 2015, 19 participants had attended all of the conferences ever held.

The reason and energy for establishing this conference came from the 1985 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference Statement on Aging that affirms: “All life is a gift from God. Aging, the living out of that gift, is a life-long experience. Aging is an interrelated process involving social, spiritual, psychological and biological dimensions. The Church of the Brethren … envisions the church as a nurturing, supportive community which regards older persons as growing, learning, and contributing members of family, church, and society.”

Throughout the last quarter-century, the conference has evolved into an intergenerational event. Those older than 50 years old now represent four distinct generations: Generation X (those in their 50s and born after 1964), the Baby Boomer generation (born 1946-1964), the Silent generation (born 1927-1945), and the Greatest generation (born prior to 1927). Regardless of which generation a person is part of, this year’s conference theme, “Generations,” explores God’s call to us: “One generation shall laud God’s works to another and shall declare God’s mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4).

All who are 50+ are invited to join in this “Spirit-filled gathering of adults who love learning and discerning together, exploring God’s call for their lives and living out that call by sharing their energy, insight, and legacy with their families, communities, and the world.” We hope you will join us to celebrate God’s gift of life.

Learn more about the upcoming National Older Adult Conference, “Inspiration 2017” at www.brethren.org/NOAC or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cobnoac . Ask questions by calling 1-800-323-8039 x. 361 or e-mailing Inspiration2017@brethren.org.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Being the church

David Steele speaking with the group at the Atlantic Northeast District Listening Session. Photo by Glenn Riegel

David Steele speaking with the group at the
Atlantic Northeast District Listening Session.
Photo by Glenn Riegel

By David Steele, general secretary

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope”(Romans 15:13).

My first 100 days as general secretary have come and gone. These first weeks have been exhilarating, challenging, and joy-filled. Assessment, questions, review of past board and committee minutes, and many meetings have filled my days. What has been and will continue to be central in my work and ministry has been listening—listening to staff and you, the church. From the hallways and meeting rooms of the General Offices and Brethren Service Center to the listening sessions being held across the denomination, I am learning much. I count it a privilege to meet with you to hear your hopes, passions, and concerns, and I look forward to many more listening opportunities as I continue to schedule listening sessions in other districts.

What am I learning from your sharing? We are passionate about the Church of the Brethren and our common ministries of service, mission, discipleship, and evangelism. Yet, we are also distracted by dwindling numbers and whether we will split over our diverging or opposite views related to human sexuality and same-gender marriage. Many of your hopes have been centered in a desire for unity, reconciliation, and focusing on what unites us. Much of your sharing can be taken at face value; however, for some our desire for unity and staying together are tied to certain outcomes.

The issues we face as a church will not go away. Let’s not kid ourselves. Given our diversity, there is no decision that we can make about a social issue that will satisfy all of us. And when we do make a decision about a social issue, it will likely be replaced by another, and another, and another.

Being the church is messy. It always has been. I have always appreciated the diversity of the church and the opportunities and challenges such diversity offers. In 1 Corinthians 12:12 we read, “The body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body.” Each part of the body is essential and cannot be denied its place in the body. “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose” (12:18).

I believe we must work together as one body—the body of Christ—to attend to the issues before us and those that we will face in the future. Our rich diversity provides us the ability to speak to a very complex and diverse world and model another way of living—the way of Jesus. Our working together, despite our differences, is not a denial of our convictions, but an acknowledgment of our conviction that Jesus is central in our lives and that we are part of one body in Christ. Sure, it is easier to seek out and gather with those who think and believe like us, but where would be our sense of smell, sight, ability to walk, to touch? As one dear brother said in one of the listening sessions, “I need those of you calling me to purity equally as much as I need those calling me to grace and compassion.”

As we step into this new year, I am committed to our common struggle together as the body of Christ. In the midst of distractions, it has been most exhilarating in my first 100 days to experience firsthand the tireless efforts of staff and leaders to be the church. Mission work around the globe, disaster response ministries, workcamps for youth, discipleship ministries and working with congregations in efforts of vitality and evangelism, intercultural ministries, church planting coaching and support, and planning for Christian Citizenship Seminar, Young Adult Conference, and Inspiration 2017 (National Older Adult Conference)and the list could go on.

We are called to another way of living, a way that looks much different from the world around us. I invite you to support and join in our mission and ministry—to be the church. Being the church is where our body finds its unity and strength through Jesus.

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

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

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)

Sharing great love

Debbie Eisenbise with Sherri Arrington, principal of Junaluska Elementary School. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Debbie Eisenbise with Sherri Arrington, principal of Junaluska Elementary School.
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

By Debbie Eisenbise, director of Intergenerational Ministries

“Don’t look for big things; just do small things with great love.”—Mother Theresa

Sometimes all it takes is a simple request. The theme of National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) last September “Then Jesus Told Them a Story” inspired such a request. The goal: collect enough new picture books to give one to each of the 450 students at Junaluska Elementary School. This challenge was met with great generosity! It was a blessing to see the story unfold.

Jim and Libby Kinsey of Hope Church of the Brethren in Freeport, Mich., participated in the service project, making their donation and witnessing the presentation of those 450 books to Principal Sherri Arrington. Before going home, they volunteered to deliver two additional donations to Junaluska Elementary. Libby shared that the building was beautiful and relatively new, but state budget cuts severely impacted school programming.

Libby and Jim had the opportunity to meet with the Principal Arrington, who was delighted with the gift of books from NOAC. “I feel so blessed,” said Principal Arrington. “I have told the story over and over of this remarkable event that occurred in the life of my school. When things have been incredibly tough—budget cuts, a charter school opening in town, and other struggles—your group [showed up]. In my 37 years of public education, I have never experienced such generosity and kindness.”

Jim and Libby’s experience, which began at NOAC, inspired them to more service. Libby shares, “Our picture book donation was priceless, but I kept thinking about how strapped their budget had become, and how classroom libraries had been hit so hard…. Since little is nearer and dearer to our hearts than boosting literacy, Jim and I discussed our commitment on our way home: to get 200 new books into each third through fifth grade classroom by NOAC 2017.”

Since her retirement from 38 years of teaching, Libby regularly volunteers at the Scholastic Books warehouse, and is “paid” with boxes of new books. These books are now sent to children at Junaluska Elementary School. To increase their donation, Libby and Jim involved family, asking for additional donations to be made in lieu of adults exchanging gifts at Christmastime.

New books and the stories they tell lift children’s spirits, help them make sense of this challenging world, and encourage them to read. What began at NOAC 2015, a simple act of sharing something small, will make a positive impact on the givers and receivers for years to come. It is in this way that a small request produces a great outpouring of God’s love.

National Older Adult Conference is one of several conferences hosted by Congregational Life Ministries, a Core Ministry of the Church of the Brethren. Learn more about National Older Adult Conference 2015 at www.brethren.org/noac or support it and other life-changing ministries of your church 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)

Stories of NOAC 2015

The beautiful Lake Junaluska at NOAC 2015. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

The beautiful Lake Junaluska at NOAC 2015.
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

By Kim Ebersole, former director of National Older Adult Conference (NOAC)

The creative energy was flowing as the 2015 NOAC planning team gathered for its initial meeting in May 2014. The primary concern of every NOAC planning committee is to create an experience that inspires, nurtures, challenges, and renews those who attend.

Again and again, the 2015 team remembered what was shared by 2013 keynote presenter Phyllis Tickle about the importance of telling our faith stories to our children, grandchildren, and others we encounter. With this inspiration, we created the 2015 theme, “Then Jesus Told Them a Story,” related to Matthew 13:34-35.

The 2015 event lived up to its storytelling theme as preachers, keynote speakers, workshop leaders, musicians, and performers explored the stories of Jesus, and encouraged us to share our own stories through conversation, writing, art, drama, music, and service to others far and near.

One of the greatest joys of NOAC over the years is hearing how the gathering has positively impacted the lives of those who participate. Attending NOAC can be a transformative experience, as these quotes from 2015 attendees attest:

“It feels good to have Brethren living together with love, laughter, and great hospitality to one another. It’s like fresh air coming down out of the mountains that causes us to look up and smile.”

“I walk beside the still waters of the lake, smell the roses, and my soul feels restored, healed from the daily grind back home.”

“I feel so alive, so refreshed, renewed, challenged to reinvent myself into a better vessel for service and ministry.”

“My life’s story has not been fully written. Gaining inspiration from NOAC speakers, the next chapter has the potential to be the best one.”

“No one told me about the power of NOAC. I’m going home and getting a group of my friends ready for the next one.”

We hope you will attend the next NOAC in 2017 (September 4-8) at Lake Junaluska,N.C., and experience the power of NOAC for yourself. How beautiful it is to fellowship together and feel the creative energy of God move on that sacred ground.

Kim Ebersole recently completed nine years of service to the Church of the Brethren. Learn more about the 2015 National Older Adult Conference at www.brethren.org/noac . Support this and other ministries of the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Time of your life

Kim Ebersole, NOAC coordinator, with the 2015 National Older Adult Conference planning team. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Kim Ebersole, NOAC coordinator, with the 2015
National Older Adult Conference planning team.
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

By Kim Ebersole, NOAC coordinator

What is it about a conference for older adults—those age 50 and older—that makes young adults wish they were old enough to attend? If you have attended the Church of the Brethren’s National Older Adult Conference(NOAC), you know all that this biennial gathering has to offer. If you haven’t attended NOAC, here are highlights of this September’s conference, featuring the theme “Then Jesus Told Them a Story” (Matthew 13:34-35):

  • Renowned speakers Deanna Brown, Ken Medema, Brian McLaren, and Alexander Gee will enlighten and challenge participants about a wide-range of relevant topics.
  • Bible study leader Bob Bowman will invite participants to explore scripture and apply its message to their own lives and communities.
  • Worship experiences will feature preachers Robert Neff, Chris Smith, and LaDonna Nkosi, voices raised in harmonious song, and quiet times of prayer and contemplation.
  • Performances will be given by musicians Terra Voce, comedian Bob Stromberg, storyteller Gary Carden, and folk dancing troupe J. Creek Cloggers.
  • We will laugh at the zany antics of the NOAC News Team
  • We will reach out to others through service projects such as Church World Service Kits for Kids, the fund-raising walk for the Nigeria Crisis Fund, and sharing stories through giving books to local elementary students.
  • We will enjoy laughter, conversations with friend old and new, eating together, recreation, creative arts, workshops, and relaxing by (or jogging around!) beautiful Lake Junaluska.

    Through ministries of the Church of the Brethren, age-specific conferences including NOAC, are provided as opportunities for faith formation, spiritual growth, learning, and service. NOAC is a Spirit-filled gathering of adults (age 50 and older) who love learning and discerning together, exploring God’s call for their lives, and living out that call by sharing their energy, insight, and legacy with their families, communities, and the world. Like youth who attend National Youth Conference, many NOAC participants have a “mountain top experience” that continues to nurture and inform their lives long after they return to their homes and local faith communities.

    What about young adults who yearn to be part of NOAC? Several have discovered the joy of attending NOAC as volunteers to share energy, experience, expertise, and enthusiasm to help make NOAC happen. So whether you are young or old(er), consider coming to NOAC for the time of your life.

    National Older Adult Conference 2015 will be held September 7-11 at Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center in western North Carolina. Register or learn more at www.brethren.org/NOAC or call 847-429-4305.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

 

Growing together

Debbie Eisenbise, director of Intergenerational Ministries Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Debbie Eisenbise, director of Intergenerational Ministries
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

An interview with Debbie Eisenbise

What excites you about your new role?

What excites me most is working with groups of people. I like bringing people together to learn and connect. Part of my job is helping lead National Older Adult Conference, and it’s like throwing a great party and bringing a whole bunch of people together to learn and worship.

I am also excited about raising awareness and advocating for vulnerable peoples. There are a variety of folks who have experienced or are experiencing issues, because of age or circumstance, that make them vulnerable. As the church gathers together, we can find ways to address their needs, but also integrate them into our communities, learn from them, and allow them to give too.

Why are intergenerational ministries important?

There can be tensions in our churches between age groups, and it really has to do with life perceptions. Each group has very different views of giving, church, life goals, and work. By becoming more cognizant of these differences and engaging together in intentional intergenerational conversation, we can inform each other and grow together in faith.

How can we become more involved in intergenerational ministries?

One way that people can get involved is by asking questions in their own context and congregations and seek to understand how they perceive people of different generations. Be willing to share your experiences and also listen to the stories of others.

Another way is by praying that the Spirit might open us up to each other in new ways. Pray for openness and the ability to grow beyond our own comfort zones and move into new life.

Debbie Eisenbise grew up in Wilmington, Del., and attended Davidson College, Pacific School of Religion, and Bethany Theological Seminary. She started as director of Intergenerational Ministries Jan. 15, but also served the Church of the Brethren in the 1990s as Brethren Volunteer Service coordinator of Recruitment and Orientation.

Learn more about Older Adult, Family, and Disabilities Ministries of the Church of the Brethren by e-mailing Debbie at deisenbise@brethren.org . Support these and other life-changing ministries at www.brethren.org/give .

(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)