Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Christian Citizenship Seminar 2015 takes on the topic of immigration

Some notes taken during the 2015 Christian Citizenship Seminar on the topic of immigration
Photo by Kristen Hoffman

Some notes taken during the 2015 Christian Citizenship Seminar on the topic of immigration

Two of the senior high youth who participated in this year’s Christian Citizenship Seminar report on the event and its impact:

Youth discuss connections between immigration and faith

By Jenna Walmer

On April 18, Church of the Brethren youth gathered in New York City at the start of Christian Citizenship Seminar (CCS), a conference that allows youth to explore the connections between a specific topic and our faith. This year the topic was immigration.

The seminar culminates with congressional visits in Washington, D.C. Throughout the seminar, we discussed the importance of our faith’s connection with citizenship and how immigration impacts our lives. It is a busy week filled with learning, fun, and spiritual growth. Following is an abridged version of what goes down at CCS.

Walking through New York’s Times Square with luggage in tow is definitely an adventure. We admired the sites of the city, but we walked many blocks to find our hotel. After we recuperated from the long walk and went to dinner, we had our first session led by Nate Hosler and Bryan Hanger of the Office of Public Witness. Nate discussed the connections of immigration to the Bible. Then, Bryan introduced talking points for our congressional visits.

The next day, we split up and went to churches around the city. I went to Judson Memorial, a church that is affiliated with the Baptists and United Church of Christ. This church was very different and not what I expected, but I could definitely see myself attending. The preacher was pretty socialist, and the whole congregation was accepting of everyone: people with AIDS, homosexuals, immigrants. They also promoted being politically and socially active.

What interested me was that the preacher was arrested with Dorothy Day and Cesar Chavez. Later in the evening, the speaker was actually the preacher we listened to that morning at Judson. She told story after story about immigrants she has helped. This developed an emotional connection to the facts we already started to learn. Putting a story to the facts is important to connect with congressional visits.

Rev. Michael Livingston of Riverside Church in New York speaks with the CCS group
Photo by Kristen Hoffman

Rev. Michael Livingston of Riverside Church in New York speaks with the CCS group

On Monday, we started off the day with the pastor from Riverside Church, who discussed the systematic problems of immigration and the general process. After this session, many headed to the United Nations for a tour and another educational experience. At the UN, the group learned about human rights. I would recommend that everyone visits the United Nations at least once because it opens your eyes to what the world as a whole is working towards.

Finally, the day of travel! The bus trip is one of the first times you get to interact with a larger group of people. Then, we arrived in Washington, D.C. We had a meeting with Julie Chavez Rodriguez, deputy director of the White House’s Office of Public Engagement. We had the opportunity to be on the White House campus! We were sniffed by a drug dog. I even saw the fountain that you always see on TV, and I have pictures of the outside of the West Wing and all the Secret Service Cars. Julie Chavez Rodriguez gave us insight on President Obama’s agenda on immigration. She also told us about the internship program at the White House.

After dinner, Jerry O’Donnell gave us our first full lesson on how to talk to our representatives. He told us to use personal experiences, and acknowledge the conditions of the government currently. Also, he reminded us that we are speaking for those who do not have a voice, the immigrants.

Wednesday we had another legislative training session in the morning. This session gave us examples in the form of a pretend meeting of what to do and what not to do while in an office. We also discussed our main points once again, so they were fresh in our memory. The speaker told us to lead with a story of how immigration has impacted our lives. She also told us that congressmen don’t demilitarize the border because they are afraid. They don’t act on immigration reform and give immigrants rights because they are afraid. These points stuck with me as we moved into our own groups and preparation for our Hill visits.

My group went to Senator Bob Casey’s office. We asked him about demilitarization of the border. Casey is a Democrat. He votes to keep military at the border because it is one thing that the Republicans want to keep in immigration reform. The aide explained that this is “give and take,” what Casey “gives” to the Republicans so he can receive something else in return. In the evening, we reflected with the larger group on our visits.

Our final session reflected on the week, and how we’ve grown mentally and spiritually. After the session, we took many pictures, exchanged hugs, and said our goodbyes. Our pastor arrived with our van and we were off, ready to be disciples of Christ, now able to spread the word about immigration to our communities to make a difference in the world.

As we become active in politics and discern what issues are near and dear to our hearts, remember to keep a connection to faith in mind. Remember to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. Finally, remember to act without fear.

-- Jenna Walmer is a high school senior from Palmyra (Pa.) Church of the Brethren who also blogs for the Dunker Punks blogsite.

Source: 5/13/2015 Newsline

Christian Citizenship Seminar reflections

By Corrie Osborne

Youth group trips are a special thing in themselves, but Christian Citizenship Seminar (CCS) is even more unique in the fact that its attendees get to learn and take political action about a certain topic. At this year's Christian Citizenship Seminar, a few main points have continued to be ingrained in our minds. We learned that as Christians it is important to care for people whether they are documented or not, that immigrants are helping our economy rather than hurting it, and that there is no justified reason to keep immigrants out.

A sermon was about caring for the flock without being particular about who you are  helping--this includes immigrants. One of our speakers, a pastor from Judson Memorial Church and long time political activist, told us the story of around 30 female police officers throughout New York City who have volunteered to answer calls of help from undocumented immigrants who are being abused. In order to keep them from being deported, the officers have to keep the visits off the books. In other words, the officers choose what they believe is morally right to take precedence over the steps that the broken immigration system calls them to take.

Staff take a break during the 2015 CCS: (from left) Office of Public Witness director Nate Hosler and advocacy associate Bryan Hanger, and Youth and Young Adult Ministry director Becky Ullom Naugle.
Photo by Kristen Hoffman
Staff take a break during the 2015 CCS: (from left)
Office of Public Witness director Nate Hosler and
advocacy associate Bryan Hanger, and Youth and
Young Adult Ministry director Becky Ullom Naugle.
We learned that it is important to be educated about a subject, but also to take action in ways that apply to you. Sometimes it is better to lean toward mercy and hospitality as opposed to the letter of the law.

While it may seem inconsequential to deport undocumented immigrants, an estimated 11 million are already living in the United States. Their jobs mainly involve manual labor, agriculture, the restaurant business, and domestic help. One frequent argument used against immigrants living in the US is that they are taking available jobs away from “born and bred” Americans. To the contrary, approximately $6 billion to $7 billion worth of Social Security tax is paid by undocumented workers each year. This statistic does not include the millions of dollars of wages that are paid under the table.

The truth is that documented and undocumented workers alike do the jobs that not many American citizens would care to do themselves. In addition, Social Security taxes from undocumented workers will never come to fruition for themselves; the money goes into a large pool doled out among legal citizens. In essence, those undocumented immigrants are paying for the rest of us to retire.
To better understand the issue, we met with someone who has first-hand experience working with the personal and political aspects of the immigration issue--Julia Chavez Rodriguez, the daughter of Cesar Chavez. We witnessed how she connects with groups across the country and gathers stories in order to put a human face on President Obama's policies. A main point of hers was that there aren't any quality arguments to justify keeping immigrants out.

The two issues that bring the most contention are not having a personal connection to an immigrant family and being uneducated about the matter. As in many other cases, misinformation leads to fear. Some say that the immigration system is “broken,” but several prominent figures suspect that the complicated governmental pyramid is forming immigration policies to be purposefully vague in order to create a stalemate. That fragile political environment makes it easy to score political points as a politician. A politician's stance on immigration can affect their whole platform and change the outcome of a race.

The group of senior high youth and adult advisors at Christian Citizenship Seminar 2015
Photo by Kristen Hoffman
The group of senior high youth and adult advisors at Christian Citizenship Seminar 2015
In summation, we learned that the key component to the immigration issue is lack of compassion and the dehumanization of immigrants. It is important for us as a church to be open and welcoming because that is what we are called to do. However, we observed that the politicians we spoke with didn't directly answer the questions we asked--in part because they might not have been completely familiar with the topic at hand, but also because the nature of their job requires that they don't give away too much. Sadly, it's too dangerous to become a partisan even within one's political group.

Most importantly, we understood that the best thing we can do for this issue is to take what we have learned with us, in order to use it later in life when the opportunity arises.

-- Corrie Osborne is a senior high youth at Manchester Church of the Brethren in North Manchester, Ind.

Source: 5/13/2015 Newsline

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Young Adult Conference 2015

May 22 - 24, 2015

Where: Camp Swatara in Bethel, PA
When: May 22-24, 2015
Who: All young adults are welcome (Ages 18-35)
Cost: $125 ($150 after April 30)

Go to: to register or for more information.

National Junior High Conference 2015

National Junior High Conference 2015
Elizabethtown College
Elizabethtown, PA
June 19 – 21, 2015

Living the Change:
Our Offering to God

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
—Romans 12:1 – 2 (The Message)

Come join us for a weekend packed with powerful worship, fun workshops, music, and recreation!

For Junior High Youth (those who have completed grades 6 – 8) and their advisors.

Early bird registration, from January 9 – March 31, is $160 per person
(participants and advisors).

Regular registration, on and after April 1, is $185 per person.

A non-refundable deposit of $80 is required within two weeks of submitting your online registration to hold your spot.
Travel scholarships are available to those who live west of the Mississippi River. Download the form and check registration deadlines on the NJHC website.

Registration begins online January 9, 2015 at 12 noon central time.

Check the website for frequent updates!

Contact Kristen Hoffman, NJHC Coordinator,
by phone at 847-429-4389 or
by email at

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

May 3 is National Youth Sunday

May 3 is National Youth Sunday in the Church of the Brethren, on the theme, “Always Loved, Never Alone” (Romans 8:28-39). Worship planning resources will be posted April 1 at

Source: 3/31/2015 Newsline

Summer workcamp to be at new Brethren Disaster Ministries project site in Colorado

Brethren Disaster Ministries is opening a new disaster recovery project in Greeley, Colo., in May. Several days of heavy rain in the fall of 2013 turned five rivers into raging torrents through the hills and canyons north of Denver. The flooding destroyed 1,882 homes and left 5,566 others with major damage.

Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteers will work on various types of home repair for flood survivors. Volunteer housing is being provided by a Lutheran church in Greeley.

This new disaster rebuilding site also will be a Church of the Brethren workcamp site this summer, reports Theresa Ford of the Workcamp Ministry. The workcamp is for senior high youth in grades 9 through age 19, and adult advisors. Minimum age for this workcamp is 15, but 14-year-olds may participate if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian as an advisor.

Dates of the workcamp are June 14-20. Cost is $285. A $150 non-refundable deposit is due seven days after online registration confirmation, and the full balance of the registration fee is due by April 1. Registration is open online until April 1, go to

Source: 3/31/2015 Newsline

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Peace First Prize Fellowship program for young people age 8 to 22

Applications for the Peace First Prize Fellowship program for young people age 8 to 22 are due by March 30 at 5 p.m. (eastern time). The prize celebrates the contributions of youth peacemakers by recognizing five young people for their compassion, courage, and ability to create collaborative change. “Through a two-year $25,000 Peace First Fellowship, we will invest in their leadership as peacemakers and share their stories with the nation,” said an announcement of the program. For US-based peacemakers only, the program is a two-year investment in young people with a track record of making change in their communities in the United States. Go to for more information.

Source: 3/18/2015 Newsline

Camp Bethel’s Sounds of the Mountains Festival of Music and Storytelling - April 17-18

Camp Bethel’s annual Sounds of the Mountains Festival of Music and Storytelling is April 17-18. It will be the 14th festival hosted by the camp located near Fincastle, Va. This year’s event features nationally known tellers Donald Davis, Dolores Hydock, Patrick Ball, and Baba Jamal Koram, as well as performances by After Jack and the Back Porch Studio Cloggers. Tickets and information are available at

Source: 3/18/2015 Newsline

Shepherd’s Spring Birdwatcher Retreat - May 1-3

Shepherd’s Spring, a camp and outdoor ministry center in Mid-Atlantic District, is holding a Birdwatcher Retreat on May 1-3. The event is for beginner to intermediate birders and is “a great family opportunity,” said an announcement. “It will include some basic bird watching techniques, bird games, migration information, planting and feeding suggestions for your backyard, and time to listen to the sounds of the birds in the area.” The retreat is led by professional ornithologist and executive director of the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory Chris Eberly, and University of Maryland- Eastern Shore biology professor Doug Ruby. Cost for the full retreat package including two night’s lodging and four meals is $125. A reduced price is available for those who do not wish to stay overnight. Bring your own binoculars and field guides. Call 301-223-8193.

Source: 3/18/2015 Newsline

Camp Mt. Hermon “On the Edge” Survival Camp - Aug. 2-7

This year the Outdoor Ministries Team of Western Plains District offers a new experience for campers: “On the Edge” Survival Camp held Aug. 2-7 at Camp Mt. Hermon in Kansas. The camp is limited to 12 campers (half girls, half boys) who have completed grades 7 to 10. Leaders/co-directors will be Randall Westfall and Jan Hurst. Cheryl Mishler will be the spiritual adviser and nurse. Learn more at

Source: 3/18/2015 Newsline

Reflection On A Visit to the Office of Public Witness

A guest post by Church of the Brethren young adult Jenna Walmer has been shared on the Office of Public Witness blog. Walmer, who will attend Bridgewater (Va.) College in the fall, writes about her work to discern a calling in life, and how it relates to a “job shadowing” visit she made to the Office of Public Witness. She had been preparing to become a physical therapist, but “being raised in the Church of the Brethren provided me with a passion for peace, and as I grow up that passion burns brighter,” she wrote. “Fast forward to this past summer in Colorado, I had a change of heart. I spent a few days with seminary professors before National Youth Conference exploring my call. During Exploring Your Call, we explored ways we know it is God’s will for what we are pursuing. One that especially applies to me is the compelling of the Holy Spirit, or nudges from God.  Over the past few years, the word “peace” has been etched in my heart, and during that week I recognized that this is where I was being ‘nudged.’” Read her full blogpost at

Source: 3/18/2015 Newsline

Bethany Theological Seminary’s Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults

Bethany Theological Seminary’s Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults has issued a reminder that registration is still open for “Anabaptism, the Next Generation,” an event held at the seminary in Richmond, Ind., on April 17-19. The event is for those in ministry with young adults and welcomes all who want to explore the growing edges of Anabaptism. Go to for more information and to register.

Source: 3/18/2015 Newsline

Young Adult Conference is planned for Pennsylvania in May

By Laura Whitman

The 2015 Young Adult Conference will be held at Camp Swatara near Bethel, Pa., from May 22-24. The conference for those that are age 18-35, sponsored by the Church of the Brethren Youth and Young Adult Ministry. The theme for the conference, that will shape worship and workshops is: “You Shall Go Out With Joy: Transforming the World’s Thorns with Joyful Action” based on Isaiah 55:12-13.

Young Adult Conference logo 2015
Featured speakers are Andy Murray, Samuel Sarpiya, Karen Duhai, and Joanna Johnson. Andy Murray is the moderator-elect of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. Samuel Sarpiya is a Church of the Brethren pastor and church planter in Rockford, Ill. Karen Duhai, originally from Bedford, Pa., is currently in seminary at Bethany, in Richmond, Ind. Joanna Johnson grew up in the Methodist Church and is attending Tulane University in New Orleans, La.

The worship coordinators are Rachel Witkovsky of Palmyra (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, and Kelsey Murray of Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. Musical leadership is by Rachel Bucher Swank of Annville, Pa.

There will be plenty of time for fellowship, games, and singing around the campfire. Registration is now open and scholarship requests will be accepted until April 17. Cost is $125 or $150 after April 30. Register now at Please contact Laura Whitman with any further questions at or 847-429-4323.

-- Laura Whitman is a Brethren Volunteer Service worker and is helping to coordinate Young Adult Conference and National Older Adult Conference.

Source: 3/18/2015 Newsline

‘Early bird’ registration for National Junior High Conference ends soon

Home page image for National Junior High Conference logo for 2015
By Kristen Hoffman

Thinking about attending National Junior High Conference 2015? Online registration is open! We encourage you to register soon to take advantage of special early bird rates. Through March 31, the cost is $160 per person. After March 31, the cost for regular registration is $185 per person. Travel scholarships are available to those who live west of the Mississippi River. For more information and to register, visit or call 847-429-4389.

National Junior High Conference is sponsored by the Church of the Brethren Youth and Young Adult Ministry, which is a part of Congregational Life Ministries. The conference will be held on June 19-21 on the campus of Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. Junior high youth and their adult advisors will be invited to consider Romans 12:1-2 and the theme, “Living the Change: Our Offering to God.”

The theme asks participants to consider taking their everyday, ordinary life--our sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life--and place it before God as an offering. As junior high youth encounter a number of changes in their lives, NJHC 2015 will encourage them to live the changes in ways pleasing to God.

The event will be enriched by worship speakers Lauren Seganos, Steve Schweitzer, Amy Gall-Ritchie, and Eric Bishop. Seth Hendricks will be coordinating music, and worship will be coordinated by Rebekah Houff and Trent Smith. In addition to four celebrations of worship, there will be time for learning in workshops and for play during recreation.

We are excited to announce that our special evening activities include a performance by Chris Ivey, an interactive juggler, and an evening carnival complete with fun games, snacks, and music. We look forward to meeting and worshipping with you in Elizabethtown!

-- Kristen Hoffman is a Brethren Volunteer Service worker and coordinator of this year’s Christian Citizenship Seminar and National Junior High Conference.

Source: 3/18/2015 Newsline

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Bridgewater Roundtable RYC - March 20-22

The Roundtable regional youth conference is held at Bridgewater (Va.) College on March 20-22, on the theme “Follower and Friend: Our Relationship with God” (John 15:12-17). Leadership is provided by Carol Elmore, music and youth minister at Oak Grove Church of the Brethren. The event includes worship, small groups, workshops, a variety show, singing, vespers, recreation, and more. Participants stay on the college campus for the weekend and eat meals in the college dining hall. “Brethren from different districts come together to reconnect with NYC friends, or to make new friends,” said an announcement from Virlina District. Estimated cost is $50 per participant. Roundtable is open to senior high youth in grades 9-12. Pre-registration is recommended. For more information, go to or contact

Source: 3/10/2015 Newsline

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Mutual Kumquat at Hollidaysburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren - 4/18

Mutual Kumquat, a popular Brethren band, will be in concert at Hollidaysburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren on Saturday, April 18, at 7 p.m., sponsored by Camp Blue Diamond in Middle Pennsylvania District. Pre-concert music begins at 6 p.m. “Mutual Kumquat shares an eclectic sound and positive message through their unique combination of danceable rhythms, stick-in-your-head melodies, rich harmonies, and uplifting, fun-filled lyrics,” said an invitation to the event. Mutual Kumquat has performed at National Youth Conference, Annual Conference, National Older Adult Conference, Song and Story Fest, and other venues. Cost is $5, plus either a jar of peanut butter, jelly, or spaghetti sauce to donate to the American Rescue Workers of Hollidaysburg. For more information visit . For questions call 814-667-2355.

Source: 3/4/2015 Newsline

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Youth ministry webinar series continues with focus on ‘Life and Time’

The third webinar in a series on Christian practices for teens, offered for adult leaders of youth, will be on the topic “Life and Time.” Emily Tyler, coordinator of workcamps and volunteer recruitment for the Church of the Brethren, will be leading the webinar which takes place the evening of Tuesday, March 3, at 8 p.m. (eastern time).

This is one in a series of webinars offered jointly by staff of the Church of the Brethren, Bethany Theological Seminary, and On Earth Peace. These staff are teaming up to provide informational and educational webinars geared to pastors, parents, and anyone who works with youth, primarily within the Church of the Brethren.

This series takes the form of a book study of “Way to Live: Christian Practices for Teens” edited by Dorothy C. Bass and Don C. Richter, and will offer reflections on a few selected chapters of the book. While having a copy of the book is helpful, it is not required. The book may be purchased through Brethren Press at or by calling 800-441-3712.

Both a telephone and a computer are required to join the webinar. To join the video portion, go to and enter the phone number and access code given below (the technology used for this webinar works best with non-mobile devices). After joining the video portion, participants will need to join the audio portion by dialing 877-204-3718 or 303-223-9908. The access code is 8946766.

For those of you who wish to view the web portion via an iPad, download the link from the iTunes store (Level 3), and have the conference telephone number and access code available to enter. You will still need to join the audio portion with the Audio Login credentials. The name of the app is Level 3.

The final webinar in the series is planned for May 5, at 8 p.m. (eastern), on the topic “Forgiveness and Justice” led by Marie Benner-Rhoades of the On Earth Peace staff.

Ordained ministers may earn .1 continuing education credit for participating in the real-time event. To request continuing education credit, prior to the webinar contact Bekah Houff, coordinator of Outreach Programs at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., at

Source: 2/25/2015 Newsline