Seeing God at work

MSS volunteer Ruth Ritchie-Moore reading to students at Buffalo Valley Church of the Brethren. Photos by Donita Keister

MSS volunteer Ruth Ritchie-Moore reading
to students at Buffalo Valley Church of the Brethren.
Photos by Donita Keister

By Donita Keister, associate pastor for Children and Pastoral Care at Buffalo Valley (Pa.) Church of the Brethren and Mission and Ministry Board member.

Days are refreshingly cooler now that Fall has finally arrived. This summer in central Pennsylvania was particularly warm, and had a unique sense of warmth for me that went beyond the sun’s intense rays. Each summer at Buffalo Valley Church of the Brethren, I supervise a summer full of programming for children in our community that includes a Wednesday day camp along with other ministry activities. Last fall our Children’s Ministry Team became aware of Ministry Summer Service, a leadership development program during which college students in the Church of the Brethren spend nine weeks in a church-related setting. As we applied to become a site for an MSS volunteer, we looked forward to the extra set of hands and feet that would lighten the heavy load of summer ministry.

We were excited to learn that our application was accepted and we would welcome Ruth Ritchie-Moore into our lives and ministry. As we prepared for her work among us, I slowly gained a deeper understanding of what MSS was all about. Yes, Ruth would be among us as “hands and feet,” but the relationship would go well beyond that to a place of heartfelt ministry on a number of different levels. I learned that I would have the responsibility to mentor Ruth, who had entrusted her summer to my care. Her experience with our congregation would help form her view of her own ministry and call in her chosen vocation.

Ruth and I were partners as we planned our times of ministry with the children. I challenged her to confidently grow in her obvious ability to articulate her particularly deep insights and to share her heart. She challenged me to be organized and prepared for my day (although I’m pretty sure she was not aware of that… I have a tendency to “fly by the seat of my pants” more often than I should). I challenged her to be open to God’s calling in surprising and unexpected places. Her quiet and reflective presence challenged me to “be still and know” daily with more intentionality and presence in order to see God’s hand at work. These lessons and others brought the unique sense of warmth and friendship into our mentor/mentee relationship.

As our time together drew to a close I discovered new things about Ruth that I wished I had seen earlier. I wished for more time at a slower pace, not only so I could mentor her longer, but in order that she could continue to “mentee” me.

Ministry Summer Service is a shared ministry of Youth and Young Adult Ministries and the Office of Ministry. Your gift to the Church of the Brethren supports faith and leadership formation programs like this. Learn more about Ministry Summer Service at www.brethren.org/mss or give now at www.brethren.org/give.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Following the path

Tyler leading chapel at the General Offices. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Tyler leading chapel at the General Offices.
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

By Tyler Roebuck, 2016 Ministry Summer Service intern

This summer, I worked at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill., as a Ministry Summer Service intern with the communications and Messenger staff. A writer by trade and Brethren by choice, I found it to be a fulfilling internship in many measures.

I began the summer not knowing how to cook or budget, or how to occupy my free time. Through dedication and practice, I resolved these things and have gained much confidence in myself. I even started to understand flavor pairings with foods and what works well together. I know in restaurants what works, but when doing it for myself on a budget, I had to be creative.

Independence has never been my strongest trait, and I was genuinely worried at the beginning of the summer about how I would function on my own in an unfamiliar city. Not having a car was a major concern. I’m from rural northern Indiana, where it is absolutely necessary to have a reliable car. When everything, from the grocery store to the bowling alley, is at least a 20- minute drive away, you become quite accustomed to driving everywhere. This is why I had initial anxieties about living without my car. I had a bicycle, which helped with these anxieties. Through the summer, I did quite well, and even became more confident in my abilities and in pursuing my goals free from the expectations of others. Not only did I do well on my own, I enjoyed it.

My work this summer pointed me in a good direction professionally. Being part of the news team at Annual Conference showed me that not only am I capable of working with high-pressure deadlines regularly, but I love it. I had the thrill of working during Conference, writing a story every night, and meeting and interviewing people. It was very vocationally fulfilling.

Perhaps the most valuable growth in me this summer was in self confidence. I put on a good face when necessary, but often I am cripplingly shy and full of self doubt. Or at least I was before this summer. Having to function on my own and discovering that I excel at it was a tremendous boost for my self confidence, and successfully completing quality work under pressure assured me that I am following the path I am intended to.

Tyler Roebuck was one of 10 young adults who served across the denomination this summer through Ministry Summer Service. Learn more about this ministry of the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org/mss or support it today at www.brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Proclaiming freedom

CCS leaders: from the left, Becky Ullom Naugle, Richard Newton, Jesse Winter, and Nate Hosler. Photo by Kendra Harbeck

CCS leaders: from the left, Becky Ullom Naugle,
Richard Newton, Jesse Winter, and Nate Hosler.
Photo by Kendra Harbeck

 A reflection from the 2016 Christian Citizenship Seminar

On April 23rd, Church of the Brethren youth from around the country met in New York City to learn about mass incarceration at Christian Citizenship Seminar (CCS). After hearing from Dr. Richard Newton, a professor at Elizabethtown College, and Ashley Ellis, an advocate for persons reentering society, the youth began to see the connection between mass incarceration and racism in the United States. The youth traveled to Washington, D.C. to continue learning about the issue and to prepare for legislative visits with their senators and representatives. During their visits to Capitol Hill, the youth asked their legislators to support sentencing reform legislation and bills that aided with prison reentry programs. Melen Ghebrai from Olympic View Church of the Brethren (Seattle, Wash.) offered the following reflection about her time at CCS.
—Jesse Winter, 
Brethren Volunteer Service worker serving with the Office of Public Witness 

CCS was an incredible life- changing experience. We began the week instantly exposed to the injustices of the criminal justice system and the immediate urge of reconstruction rather than reform. Each day we had new speakers explain what was happening and why it was important. I recognized the injustice but was confused about what we could do about it. As a high school student and person of color, all throughout my life I have been given the impression that my opinions on certain social and political issues do not matter. CCS, however, changed my doubt and gave me the voice I longed for. Throughout the week each powerful speaker built my passion, interests, and my desire to advocate for a renewed system in society that provides redemption and mercy for its citizens.

At CCS, I met several students from around the U.S and even overseas who share the same faith as me and belong to the Church of the Brethren, and this created a sense of community. We learned beside each other and asked questions, which fueled our interest and passion. As the week came to an end, we divided into groups for our lobby visits. I was accompanied by a volunteer from BVS, but did the visits mostly on my own. The experience was rewarding and very powerful.

Just a week prior I was sitting in a classroom advocating for students pushed from the school to the prison pipeline. It was nice walking through Capitol Hill and meeting with senators and representatives who are pushing for an end to this destructive system. CCS is something I would be very happy to attend next year. It was an opportunity that opened new doors and enlightened youth about the importance of remaining socially aware on the issues and solutions that shape our country.

Christian Citizenship Seminar is organized by the Office of Public Witness and Youth and Young Adult Ministries of the Church of the Brethren. Learn more about CCS at www.brethren.org/ccs, or support this ministry today at www.brethren.org/give.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Move mountains

As we seek to raise valleys and lower mountains  to make way for our God, your help is essential. Photo by Glenn Riegel

As we seek to raise valleys and lower mountains
to make way for our God, your help is essential.
Photo by Glenn Riegel

By Matt DeBall, coordinator of Donor Communications

January. A new beginning. A fresh start. In these first few weeks of the year, we have the perfect opportunity to take stock of lifestyle habits, try new patterns, set goals, or even chart a new course altogether. For Christ-followers, it only seems natural to also consider how to love God and neighbor in new ways.

In seeking to respond anew to the movement of God, I can’t help but think of our recent celebration of Christmas. The prophet Isaiah shares, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low…. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed” (Isaiah 4:3-5).

While this scripture is traditionally used in beautiful Advent liturgies and alludes to the coming of the Christ-child, it is also a call to continually make way for the Kingdom of God in our world. Our God is coming, and we need to move mountains to make the road ready. This challenge from the prophet also reveals the way in which God, as our sovereign Lord, desires for us to be prepared for the Holy Spirit to make bold moves in us and through us every day.

Changing geological features as Isaiah describes certainly seems like a daunting task, but as Jesus shared with his disciples, faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains (Matthew 17:20). By trusting in our Savior, we have enough faith to raise any valley and flatten every mountain. With Jesus, every roadblock to God’s Kingdom is removed.

As we begin this year, your Church of the Brethren staff are planning for numerous opportunities to make way for our God and share love with one another. Brethren Volunteer Service is getting ready to recruit, train, and place volunteers in the US and around the world. Congregational Life Ministries is preparing to grow faith and train leaders at events like the Church Planting Conference and National Young Adult Conference, and partner with the Office of Public Witness to facilitate discussions about “Proclaiming Freedom: The Racial Injustice of Mass Incarceration.” The Workcamp Office is gearing up for a summer of “Blazing with Holiness” at more than 20 workcamps in the US, Puerto Rico, and Northern Ireland. Youth and Young Adult Ministries and the Office of Ministry are preparing for Ministry Summer Service interns and mentors. Global Mission and Service continues to walk with international partners and sense new places where God may be leading.

In preparing for God’s favor and a fruitful year of ministry, we recognize that we can’t do this alone. As the saying goes, “many hands make light work.” Now and throughout this year, we need your prayerful and financial support. As we seek to raise valleys and lower mountains to make way for our God, your help is essential. We pray that you will join us as we love God and neighbor in the year ahead.

(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)

 

Christian Citizenship Seminar 2015

Participants at Christian Citizenship Seminar in 2013. Photo by Rachel Witkovsky

Participants at Christian Citizenship Seminar in 2013.
Photo by Rachel Witkovsky

By Kristen Hoffman, BVS volunteer with Youth and Young Adult Ministry

Christian Citizenship Seminar happens each year and is a powerful experience for all who attend. CCS brings together youth who are passionate, discerning, and concerned about justice and the well-being of our denomination, our communities, and our nation. Participants of past years have shared that their week at CCS was filled with experiences they remember for the rest of their lives.

The 2015 Christian Citizenship Seminar, held April 18 – 23 in New York City and Washington D.C., will focus on the complexities of US immigration policy, suggested reforms, and the consequences of both on immigrant communities. At CCS, high school aged youth and their advisors will explore the issue of immigration and the ways in which faith helps understand and form beliefs about it. This experience will help equip them to understand immigration and to educate their own communities about issues related to immigration.

During this week-long event, participants will explore the ways in which their lives intersect with the lives of immigrants through hearing personal stories from immigrants in the U.S., people who work with immigrants, individuals who are connected with both theology and immigration, and those who work in advocacy and policy-making. Participants will gather new cultural insights in New York City through attending multicultural church services and the United Nations, and in Washington, D.C. they will visit Capitol Hill and meet their representatives and senators to discuss the topic of immigration. Throughout the week, there are important times to get to know other participants, worship together, and reflect upon the day’s events.

Through this conference, students are empowered to take home what they have learned, stay informed about the issue of immigration, and to share about their learning experiences to teach others.

Thank you for supporting great learning opportunities like these that build community and train leaders to address the needs of today.

Learn more about Christian Citizenship Seminar at www.brethren.org/ccs or call Kristen Hoffman at 847-429-4389 or email her at khoffman@brethren.org. Support this and many other life-changing conferences 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)

New adventures

Ministry Summer Service interns preparing for their summer adventures at orientation in May. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Ministry Summer Service interns preparing for their
summer adventures at orientation in May.
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

By Lauren Seganos, Ministry Summer Service intern

“I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

It is both exciting and challenging to begin a new adventure: move to a new place, start a new job, meet new people. But as people of faith we trust that, wherever we go, God will be there. This summer I, along with several other young adults, had the opportunity to put our faith into action through Ministry Summer Service (MSS) of the Youth and Young Adult and Ministry Offices of the Church of the Brethren.

MSS provides young adults with summer ministry experiences in congregations, camps, district offices, and national programs. I participated in MSS as a seminary student seeking leadership development in a Brethren congregation, and I was blessed to serve at the Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren in Elizabethtown, Pa.

One of the most important lessons I learned this summer was finding confidence and trusting in my authority as a young, female minister. This was something that my MSS mentor, Pastor Pam Reist, and I discussed at the beginning of the summer, and it was a repeated theme throughout my experience. My 10 weeks at ECOB was an affirming exercise in finding my confidence as a minister and learning to trust in that authority more each day.

During my time at E-town, I also learned that pastoral ministry—being invited into people’s most special and vulnerable times—is truly a privilege. This summer I was present for and participated in anointings, funeral services, post-surgery prayers, end-of-life blessings, communion, and many other moments of vulnerability, connection, and community. I learned that pastors have a unique role in the Christian community, and to serve as a pastor of a Brethren congregation is a challenging and rewarding call.

God was surely at work this summer—in the ministry of MSS, in the congregations, camps, and offices who welcomed interns, and in the lives of those young adults who took on a new adventure to serve the church. I am thankful for Ministry Summer Service and the gift it offers young, emerging leaders in the Church of the Brethren.

Learn more about MSS at brethren.org/mss or by emailing bullomnaugle@brethren.org . Support this important ministry at brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Punks

Jarrod McKenna blesses Dunker Punks at National Youth Conference. Photo by Nevin Dulabaum

Jarrod McKenna blesses Dunker Punks at National Youth Conference.
Photo by Nevin Dulabaum

By Maddie Dulabaum

Sitting on the stadium floor next to my friend Aaron before worship on Wednesday night, I was afraid that National Youth Conference might pass me by with only a gigantic pillow to show for it. I’d always heard that NYC was a life-changing experience, but so far I hadn’t really felt changed.

Enter: Worship on Wednesday night.

I had enjoyed Jarrod McKenna’s workshop about causing Christ-like trouble the day before, so I was excited about the word he would bring that night. I was not disappointed. As he introduced the concept of the “Dunker Punk,” my fear of leaving NYC unchanged dissipated. Jarrod reminded us that only eight brave people started our Brethren Dunker Punk movement more than 300 years ago, that they began a “Mustard Seed Revolution.” Then he called for eight more brave brothers and sisters to continue this radical love, and I was changed. For the first time all week I felt an overwhelming sense of call.

When Jarrod asked for at least eight people to come and stand with him, to dedicate themselves to being Dunker Punks, I didn’t hesitate. In the mass of people flooding the stage, Aaron and I were side by side.

After the service, we sat outside the arena while people bustled around us, getting psyched for the concert that was about to follow worship. “Do you think tomorrow all these people will remember that they stood?” Aaron asked.

That question has consumed me ever since. Watching everyone laugh and scream as they made their way back into the arena for the concert, it was easy to think that maybe we wouldn’t remember. Maybe we would forget that we aligned ourselves to the renewal of our heritage of Christ-like love. Maybe we would get back home and everything would return to how it was before NYC. Maybe all of this would just be a great memory.

But that hasn’t happened. With a Facebook page, Twitter handle, and website devoted to the Dunker Punk movement, our little Mustard Seed Revolution has already spread beyond Fort Collins and NYC. With those two tiny words we claimed a name and started something with big potential. With our lives that often feel small, we came together and realized our strength. It seems incredible to think about but, then again, we Brethren have always been called from small beginnings.

Maddie Dulabaum was a youth participant and member of the news team at NYC this summer, and will begin college this fall. To read coverage from the conference, visit brethren.org/nyc . To support the Youth and Young Adult Ministries that are dedicated to creating experiences like NYC for Brethren young people, visit brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Blessings

Photos by Kendra Johnson, Katie Cummings, and Ron Lubungo.

Photos by Kendra Johnson, Katie Cummings, and Ron Lubungo.

An excerpt from a sermon by Christy Waltersdorff, based on Matthew 5:1-12.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God.”

Somewhere along the way I started signing letters with the word, “Blessings.” It is a meaningful word that wishes all good things to whomever I am writing. It has the fragrance of grace—that promise of a gift undeserved.

In Matthew’s Gospel we find a list of blessings in the Sermon on the Mount. But more than that, we find a call for action, a teaching that is counter-intuitive, counter-cultural, radical, subversive—just like Jesus, himself. It is not concerned with what is practical or possible, but calls us to turn the values of the world upside down.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you areno more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”

Matthew helps us to see that we can believe these impossible things because of what we know about Jesus and the God who sent him. God blesses us and asks us to bless others.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.”

One of my Sunday school teachers used to say that the best way to think of the Beatitudes is as “be-attitudes.” They are ways of being—nine blessings that speak the language of grace, proclaiming truth that is the opposite of truth as the world knows it.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family” (The Message).

In his hilltop sermon Jesus addressed those who were, right then, dealing with difficult and painful realities. “Blessed are you who are poor in spirit, at this very moment, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.” Not after you die, not two hundred years from now, but right now.

That promise remains true today. God is with you no matter what happens. You are blessed right now, and you are never alone. God is a God who cares about the meek, the mourners, the peacemakers, those who suffer.

And even as they assure us, the Beatitudes call us to live as the people God created us to be, right here and right now. They encourage us to bless each other as we have been blessed by God, as an act of grace. A blessing is a prayer. It is a gift from God. Blessed are you… Amen.

Christy Waltersdorff is pastor of the York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill., and a worship coordinator for National Youth Conference. For suggestions of ways to bless others, visit www.brethren.org/volunteer, www.brethren.org/pray , and www.brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)