Monday, February 28, 2005

Regional Conference Season Ready to Begin

Spring marks the time for Regional Youth Conferences to be held around the denomination. The following conferences are scheduled for senior high youth in the coming months (Western Regional Youth Conference is held only once every four years; it is next scheduled for 2008):
  • McPherson College Regional Youth Conference: March 4-6, McPherson, Kan., for youth in the Plains districts and Missouri/Arkansas.
  • Eastern Regional Youth Conference: March 11-13, Juniata College, Huntingdon, Pa., for youth in the four Pennsylvania/Northern districts.
  • Roundtable Regional Youth Conference: April 8-10, Bridgewater (Va.) College, for youth in the Mid-Atlantic region and Southeast.
  • Manchester College Regional Youth Conference: April 16-17, North Manchester, Ind., for youth in the Midwest.
Source: March Messenger

Saturday, February 26, 2005

JR HI Help Needed

Your help is needed. There is a need for leadership to plan for the Junior High District Conference Retreat. The last several years there has been a retreat for Junior High age young people during District Conference. However, as of yet, no one has stepped forward and accepted the call to be in that role for this year. If you do not feel called to lead a retreat, perhaps you would be willing to plan activities for this age group during business sessions on Saturday. If you feel called to a leadership position for these young people for either a retreat setting or for the business session times or have questions concerning this, please contact Pat Rittle, District Moderator, at Thank you for your prayerful consideration on behalf of the Junior High age young people in our District. Help these young people to have the opportunity to share together at District Conference under your willing and able leadership. Without you, the Junior High young people may have NO activity at District Conference. HELP!!

Source: IL/WS District Newsletter
Young Adult Stewards See God's Presence in Ecumenism
By Walt Wiltschek

In an age when many studies suggest younger generations are showing less interest in denominational affiliations and church institutions, a group of 27 young adults spent more than two weeks immersed in the work of one of the world's largest ecumenical bodies, the World Council of Churches (WCC).

They came to Geneva to serve as stewards for the WCC central committee meeting after being selected through an application process. The stewards engaged in a week of training and group-building, then assisted with a variety of meeting duties: delivering messages, monitoring the meeting room, running a video camera, and much, much more.

Why? The reasons vary. This was a diverse group, hailing from 20 countries in literally every part of the globe. The one thing they share is an interest in Christ at work in the church - the whole church. Each has a story that brought them to this place; here are four of them:

Sarah Kwon, South Korea

Sarah was drawn to Geneva by the same concept that draws many young people to do any number of things: it was an opportunity to do something new.

She is majoring in industrial design at a Korean university, and her father - a minister - suggested she do something special during the vacation between terms at the school. He surfed the Internet and found on the WCC website a call for stewards at an upcoming meeting.

"He thought, 'Why not sign up for that?,' and I thought it was a good idea," Sarah says.

She says not many people from her part of the world are selected, because good skills in English (the main working language of the WCC meeting) are required. That wasn't a problem for Sarah, though, because she had studied the language in the United States and spoke fluently.

So, the application went in.

"My personality is open to new environments and new people," Sarah says. "I wanted to get to know other people as well as to volunteer at such a great place and well known event. It was an opportunity to actually get to know something from experience rather than reading about it from an article. I wanted to give it a try."

She paid all her own expenses to come, and says it proved worthwhile.

The pre-meeting week of training with the other stewards was "something you would never get to experience anywhere else," she says. "Everyone, though from different denominations, had the same idea for coming here - it was to serve God. That was the main point that kept us together, no matter what tradition or denomination we came from."

Her hope now is that other Asians will learn about the stewards programme and will apply and be selected. She expects they would enjoy doing something completely new, too.

Antti Siukonen, Finland

Antti lives and breathes ecumenism.

He is a fifth-year student at the state university in Helsinki, studying theology and focusing on ecumenical studies. He has participated in an ecumenical training programme organized by the Ecumenical Council of Finland. And he works at the Helsinki Cathedral of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, with plans to be ordained in a few years.

Two years ago, he attended a New Year's gathering sponsored by the Taizé community in France, with about 60,000 young adults attending. Antti says that that event had a powerful effect on him.

"I know people from many churches, and I notice we're not that different even though we have many ways of expressing our faith," he says. "Ecumenism is a natural response. As Christians, how can we be convincing in front of people of our own church and people who are not Christians if we are not all one, or at least striving to be one?"

He received information on the WCC stewards programme through a mailing list, and he didn't have to think twice about applying. He contacted his church's head office, got a recommendation letter from his bishop, and soon was making plans to go to Geneva.

After arriving, it was everything he had hoped. He says he enjoyed the training week before the central committee meeting, when stewards learned to know each other better and studied key issues before the WCC.

"We had a miniature ecumenical setting, reflecting the same traits as the WCC," he says. "We have experienced many differences in life, different traditions, different expressions. We noticed that we may not agree on all things, but we can still be together and try to understand each other."

He was encouraged by WCC general secretary Samuel Kobia's address to central committee, when Kobia said that young people are not just the church's future, but the present. "We need youth participating in decision-making," Antti says.

The stewards underscored that point in their sharing with central committee, a message Antti helped to craft. Saying, "God, in your grace, LET YOUTH transform the world" - a play on next year's WCC assembly theme - many of the stewards shared a few sentences of their vision for the WCC.

"We came together with our opinions and found a common statement," Antti says. "It was a great opportunity to learn how to respect one another and tolerate our differences."

Becky Machnee, Canada

Why? It's a question Becky regularly likes to ask.

"I'm a very curious person," Becky says. "I like to understand people and why they think differently than I do."

She has had ample opportunity to explore, as she herself has a diverse background: her father was a Baptist minister, but her family later joined the Evangelical Orthodox Church, then converted to the Orthodox Church in America when she was 9. She went to a Pentecostal school, a Catholic high school, and attended a Protestant youth group. She says faith and church were always very important to her family.

Now, when not busy completing a business degree in Edmonton, Becky has become heavily involved in her church's youth work. She serves as Canadian representative to the youth desk at the Orthodox Church of America's headquarters in New York, and is working with the Canadian Council of Churches to plan a 2006 ecumenical youth festival in Toronto.

She has a long-standing interest in foreign affairs as well, and thought she might one day work in that area for the Canadian government. "I was unaware the church had similar (global) organizations," she says. But when a staff member from the Orthodox Church told her about ecumenical organizations beyond North America, her interest grew.

Two days before the WCC stewards programme application was due, that staff member sent an e-mail encouraging her to apply. After a "flurry of activity," her application was sent.

"I'm amazed sometimes how opportunities arise," she says. "I feel a calling, though sometimes the goal of the calling isn't very clear. I think if I were allowed, I'd become a priest. But doors keep opening, so I figure I'm going on the right way. It's leading somewhere."

Once at the meeting, Becky says her biggest surprise was the attention the WCC gives to social justice issues rather than a sole focus on theology.

"I somehow never connected the two," she says. "All of a sudden there's this whole other area that's very important."

She hopes to carry that message back with her to Canada. Each steward is to do a project related to ecumenism when he or she returns home, and Becky says she would like to implement a "Changemakers" programme she learned about through the Church of Norway. That programme seeks to address inequalities between the global North and South, issues she says many Canadians don't fully understand.

She's glad to leave Geneva with new areas of curiosity.

"Overall, it's been fantastic," she says. "It's been a real learning experience."

Penias Mulauzi, Zambia

Life has not always been easy for Penias, but it’s a journey he has travelled with faith.

Both of his parents died while he was growing up, but in those times when he felt alone, “I found God," he says. Through several years of struggles and raising funds, Penias was able to complete school through grade 12 and was head boy there his final year. Still, he is currently unemployed, like many other youth in his nation.

He finds opportunities, though, to volunteer for the Council of Churches in Zambia, helping however he can. It's part of a passion he has "for working for the expansion of God's kingdom".

Through that work, he became aware of the WCC, and on the WCC website he saw an ad seeking stewards. He applied for both the central committee meeting and the Conference on World Mission and Evangelism, and was selected for the former.

"I know I have a lot of potential," he says, "but I need a bit of exposure to get myself involved."

In Geneva, he found an abundance of opportunities. Penias, a Presbyterian, was among those who shared during the stewards' presentation to central committee, and he says he received much affirmation for his presentation. He has learned more about the global context of some issues affecting his country and continent, like HIV/AIDS - issues that the church often struggles to know how to respond to.

He has made friends from all over the world, too. And he says it has been valuable "to see all the churches working as one" in this setting.

Those experiences have inspired him to make a difference when he returns to Zambia. He says he wants to help some of those unemployed young people by organizing ecumenical training programmes to teach them skills in project management and other areas. That, he hopes, would give them a healthy alternative to some of the destructive activities, like alcohol and drugs, to which they otherwise often turn.

"This whole experience has brought out in me a part I did not know I possessed," he says of his time in Geneva. "My prayer is that one day God will answer my call to involve me in more than the stewards' programme."

"It's been a life-changing experience," he adds. "It's just been good." [1753 words]

Walt Wiltschek is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren (USA) and editor of the churches' monthly magazine "Messenger".

Additional information on the WCC youth programme at
CCS: CO Topic Comes to the Fore

Christian Citizenship Seminar (CCS), sponsored by the Youth/Young Adult office and the Brethren Witness/Washington office, will be held April 23 - 28.

Focusing on conscientious objection as a theme, participants will spend time in both New York City and Washington D.C. The conference is open to high school youth and advisors.

Conscientious objection is an integral part of the heritage of the Church of the Brethren, and this event will enable another generation of young people to examine the implications for their lives today. As many are aware, the issue of serving in the military is no longer something that directly affects only males. CCS strives to help participants explore ways to make choices rooted in rich biblical and faith tradition.

Shortly after CCS, General Board staff will participate in another gathering to explore what future drafts might mean to the Church of the Brethren and other historic peace churches. Representatives from Quaker, Mennonite, Church of the Brethren, and other faith groups will gather at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill., March 4-5, for a Consultation on Alternative Service.

Below are the basic questions a person would need to answer to be classified as a conscientious objector in the event of a military draft.
  • Describe the beliefs that are the basis for your claim as a conscientious objector, and whether those beliefs would permit you to serve in a noncombatant position in the armed forces.
  • Describe how you acquired these beliefs.
  • Describe how your beliefs affect the way you live, and the type of work you do or plan to do.
    (taken from the Brethren Witness/Washington Office worksheet titled “What do I believe about war?”)
Info about Christian Citizenship Seminar (CCS):

Info about the Consultation on Alternative Service:

Conscientious objection resources from the Brethren Witness/Washington Office:

Source: Tapestry – April 2005

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Young Adult Conference - May 27-29, 2005

On-line registration is now available at:

for the May 27-29, 2005 Young Adult Conference at Woodland Altars in Southern Ohio District. The theme for this conference is "Provoking Love and Good Deeds" from Hebrews 10:24, "And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds." Shawn Kirchner and Joseph Helfrich are leading music all weekend! Walt Wiltscheck and Becky Ullom are planning worship!

The weekend will be filled with meeting other young adults, singing, worship, coffeehouse, small groups, recreation, padares (workshops) and hanging out... all for just $80. And if you request it, we'll send a letter to your home congregation asking them to provide a $50 scholarship--so its just $30. Plan to join us!

If you have any questions, call Chris Douglas at 800-323-8039, ext. 297 or e-mail:

Source: COB-YYA Listserv

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Youth and young adults sought for mission conference.

A special effort is being made to include youth and young adults in the Mission Alive 2005 event on April 1-3 in Goshen, Ind. Evening reflection times for youth and young adults will be led by Chris Douglas, the General Board's director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. The reflection time on Saturday evening during the conference also will feature time with general secretary Stan Noffsinger and Merv Keeney, executive director of Global Mission Partnerships.

Mission Alive 2005 is planned as a missions challenge for the Church of the Brethren, sponsored by the General Board. Keynote topics include biblical guidance for mission, learnings from mission experience, emerging models of mission, and accepting the call to mission. Other features of the conference include global worship services, workshops, missionary reunions, and ice cream socials.

Planners also hope to draw pastors, board members, Sunday school teachers, prospective missionaries, and mission supporters. This week, all pastors and Witness chairs of Church of the Brethren congregations will receive brochures for the gathering. Each congregation is invited to send a representative and a special offering for new mission, to be received at the Sunday morning service.

Continuing education units are available to attendees (.75 for the entire conference) and can be arranged through the registration process. Registration is $50 before March 15, $60 after. To register online see For questions or brochures call Global Mission Partnerships at 800-323-8039 ext. 227.

Source: 2/16/2005 Newsline

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Committee on Interchurch Relations calls for nominations.

The Committee on Interchurch Relations (CIR) is calling for nominations for the 2005 Ecumenical Citation. In keeping with the goals of the Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV), the search is on for a Church of the Brethren youth or young adult age 14-35 who is involved in ecumenical, interfaith, or community peace-building.

"The committee felt that many young people are involved in meaningful witness to Christ outside of the church and seldom have the opportunity to come into the church's view," said Belita Mitchell, pastor of Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren, who is serving her sixth year as a member of CIR. "We want to provide a way for them to add their voice and affirm their testimony."

In 2004 CIR presented the citation to 20-year-old Kira Anne Marriner of the Live Oak congregation in California. "Her work in raising awareness about domestic violence is an example and model for other young people in the church," said Mitchell, who was committee chair at the time. Marriner's efforts included developing and performing skits in her community, making kits for a women's shelter, and teaching nonviolence workshops to children.

CIR is hopeful that youth leaders, pastors, or others will know of someone in their own congregation or district and make the effort to nominate them this year. "No story is too small," said Mitchell. "What may not seem significant to someone can actually be a blessing to others."

The citation is awarded at CIR's Ecumenical Luncheon at Annual Conference. The luncheon this year will feature a message from Becky Ullom, director of Identity and Relations for the General Board, who attended the National Council of Churches General Assembly as a young adult observer this past November. Tickets for the luncheon on Tuesday, July 5, in Peoria, Ill., will be available when Conference registration opens, or onsite.

Nominations can be made at CIR's website The deadline is March 15. For more information call the General Secretary's Office at 800-323-8039 ext. 202.

Source: 2/2/2005 Newsline
Cabinet begins planning for National Youth Conference 2006.

The Church of the Brethren National Youth Cabinet convened Jan. 14-17 in Elgin, Ill., to begin planning for the 2006 National Youth Conference (NYC). Scheduled for July 22-27, 2006, at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, NYC is an opportunity for over 4,000 Brethren youth to spend a week in the Rocky Mountains focusing on their faith, exploring their role in the church, and getting to know other youth from around the country.

The theme for the conference will be "Come and See" based on John 1:39, a passage in which Jesus asks John's disciples what they are looking for, and then invites them to "come and see," "not to come and hear about Jesus' ministry, but to come and see for themselves what Jesus was doing," reported the coordinators. "NYC is an invitation for all youth to come and see who God is and who God is calling us to become--as individuals, as the Church of the Brethren, as people of God living in a broken world."

The cabinet met with Chris Douglas, the General Board's director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, and NYC coordinators Cindy Laprade, Beth Rhodes, and Emily Tyler, and discussed potential speakers and coordinators. The group will continue work to plan and promote the conference. As more information becomes available, details will be posted on the website The next cabinet meeting is scheduled for August in Fort Collins.

Source: 2/2/2005 Newsline

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

What's Up in 2005

Winter 2005

The Illinois/Wisconsin District Youth Cabinet is a group of youth from all over the district who get together and plan activities for other senior high youth in the district. This year, we have decided to make it a priority to keep people more informed about our activities. We have many upcoming events that we would like you to know about.

There are many opportunities for you to participate in and meet youth from other parts of our district, as well as from across the United States and the world. The schedule for this year includes our spring retreat April 1-3. When we planned this retreat, we wanted to involve more of our fellow Brethren in Wisconsin, so it will take place at our congregation in Stanley, Wis. The cabinet has taken the distance into consideration and is planning transportation so that more people will be able to attend and not worry about traveling that far. We will have transportation meeting points in Elgin and Rockford. Watch for further details. (Dates are set for the fall retreat, too: It will be Nov. 4-6 in Springfield, Ill.)

Also going on in April is Regional Youth Conference (RYC), which will take place at our closest Brethren college, Manchester in Indiana. This is always a good time where you can not only see other people from our district, but also from surrounding states. RYC takes place April 16-17. Everyone who has attended RYC says that it is a great time and always looks forward to the next year to pick up where they left off.

Taking place this summer in our district are two excellent youth camps. These are at Camp Emmaus, located in Mount Morris, Ill., July 24-30 and Camp Emmanuel, located in Astoria, Ill., June 5-11. The cabinet as a whole would recommend that any and all youth attend either camp; we know that once you go, you will want to keep coming back.

Many more opportunities exist in other parts of the United States. The first is Christian Citizenship Seminar, April 23-28 this year, which allows Brethren youth from all parts of the US to go to New York City and Washington, D.C. It helps you learn what you can do to help make the world a better place. Annual Conference is close by this year, July 2-6 in Peoria, and will feature a variety of daily youth activities along with inspiring all-Conference worship services. Another big event will not take place until next year, but you need to start raising funds and preparing to attend National Youth Conference in Colorado in July 2006. Everyone who has attended came back changed, so prepare yourself for a life-altering event.

Finally, we're always looking for new cabinet members to help us, and we want people from all across the district to apply for 2005-06. If you think you'd enjoy helping to plan these and other events, you can download a form here (at You can also find more details on all these events here, and there's a link to contact us if you have more questions.

Thanks for your time! In Christ,

The Illinois/Wisconsin District Youth Cabinet