Tuesday, November 21, 2006


On Nov. 17-18, more than 100 youth gathered for an event, “Packing the Peace of Christ,” organized by Anabaptist pastors and youth leaders to “sound the call to Jesus’ disciples to work for peace in Philadelphia.”

Anabaptist pastors and youth leaders organized the workshop in response to the city’s increase in gun violence, with a grant from Mennonite Central Committee, Philadelphia. As of this workshop, 359 homicides have occurred, mostly committed with hand guns. The workshop posed the question, “In this context how can we bear witness to Christ, the Prince of Peace?”

Participating denominations included Church of the Brethren, Mennonite, and Brethren in Christ. About half of the 28 urban Anabaptist congregations and ministries in the greater Philadelphia region took active part in planning and participating in the workshop, including Germantown Church of the Brethren and its pastor, Richard Kyerematen. The workshop was held at Philadelphia Mennonite High School.

A Friday evening coffee shop began with uplifting worship music by the (Indonesian) Philadelphia Praise Center. Then Christian rap artist Cruz Cordero and Yvonne Platts of Philadelphia Ministry Partnership emceed a youth competition for creative alternatives to violence through the arts--essays, visual arts, and rap or spoken word. Conrad Moore, a Philly son and Damascus Road Anti-Racism trainer, led a participative teaching activity called “Forum Theater” to practice peacemaking skills.

Saturday was like boot camp for peace soldiers of Christ. Participants chose two of five peacemaking workshops: “Akido,” self-defense without doing harm; “The Big Bang,” the two sides of the heated debate on hand gun laws in Pennsylvania led by Sarah Thompson of Mennonite Central Committee, D.C., and Pennsylvania State Representative John Myers; “Conflict Resolution in a Christian Perspective,” led by Barbara Moses, principal of the high school, who helped participants identify their personal “anger triggers”; “The Hip-Hop Generation--What’s beef” (i.e., “What’s the conflict”), led by Cruz Cordero, who analyzed secular rap messages about dealing with conflict; “Violence: an American Problem,” led by Conrad Moore who analyzed the violent history of the United States and concluded, “Violence is not a problem limited to urban youth--it is a national problem.”

Arbutus Sider prepared a letter for participants to sign, addressed to rural and suburban Anabaptist congregations in Southeast Pennsylvania asking for support in pressing for more effective hand gun legislation.

For the grand finale, four local Christian rap artists treated participants to a showcase of their amazing gift of language to call people to walk in the light of Christ.

So ended “Packing the Peace of Christ,” sounding the call to Jesus’ disciples to work for peace in Philadelphia. The call has been sounded. Pray that the call may bear fruit in the lives of those who heard it.

--This article was contributed by Kingdom Builders Anabaptist Network of Greater Philadelphia, and written by Shannon Burgess, a senior at Philadelphia’s Central High School and a member of Second Mennonite Church.

Monday, November 20, 2006

“Small Things, Great Love” is Theme for 2007 Workcamps

Mother Teresa’s words, “We can do no great things; only small things with great love,” echoed at National Youth Conference and have been chosen to provide the inspiration for next summer’s Church of the Brethren workcamps.

Workcamps offer week-long service opportunities across the US and Central America for junior high youth, senior high youth, and young adults. Held in the months of June, July, and August, the workcamp program of the Church of the Brethren General Board provides experiences that unite service, spiritual growth, and Brethren heritage.

The theme for 2007 draws on the scripture passage, “For God is the one who gives seed to the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will give you many opportunities to do good, and he will produce a great harvest of generosity in you” (2 Corinthians 9:10). Workcamps will be offered in 35 new and revisited locations such as new sites in Kansas City, Kan., Camp Wilbur Stover in New Meadows, Idaho, and Reynosa, Mexico, and past favorites such as St. Croix, Virgin Islands, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. Six junior high workcamps, 20 senior high workcamps, one combined junior and senior high workcamp, three intergenerational workcamps, two young adult workcamps, and two combined senior high and adult workcamps will be offered.

The program hopes to draw on the excitement generated at National Youth Conference said Amy Rhodes, an assistant workcamp coordinator and Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) worker. “I think of it as an opportunity for the youth to find out what ‘Come and see’ (the NYC theme) is all about,” she said. At NYC the youth of the denomination “were told, ‘We are the people we’ve been waiting for,’” she said, “and workcamps are opportunities to prove that.”

“Workcamps bring youth together to give a week of service, to go outside of their own hometown and into another community to follow Jesus’ teaching of ‘go and serve,’” said Travis Beam, also an assistant workcamp coordinator through BVS.

The workcamp program organized by the board’s Youth and Young Adult Ministries began in 1988. The number of participants has grown from 46 in 1988 to 622 in 2005. Recognizing this growing interest, the General Board has responded with plans for expansion. Primary changes in the workcamp program are the addition of positions in the office including a fulltime staff member working as coordinator and additional BVS positions. Steve Van Houten is serving as coordinator, and Beam, Rhodes, and Rachel McFadden are assistant coordinators for the year. The new positions support the growth of the program and the greater number of workcamps that are being offered.

The General Board also has outlined several ways of broadening the workcamp program in the coming years, such as offering workcamps during spring break and January term for young adults, in conjunction with the Brethren colleges; providing workcamp opportunities for adults in Sunday school classes and other groups, especially during non-summer seasons; and creating intergenerational workcamps and family workcamps.

Van Houten emphasized that workcampers must anticipate learning as much as they commit to serving. “We learn as much from the people at these places as we share with them,” he said. “We’re joining together and walking alongside the people in the communities.”

Online registration begins Jan. 3, 2007, go to www.brethren.org/genbd/yya/workcamps/index.html. For a brochure listing sites and dates of workcamps or for more information contact Amy Rhodes, Rachel McFadden, Travis Beam, or Steve Van Houten at 800-323-8039 or cobworkcamps_gb@brethren.org.

Monday, November 06, 2006


"NYAC is coming!!! NYAC is coming!!!" said an announcement of the Church of the Brethren's next National Young Adult Conference, planned for Aug. 11-15, 2008. Young adults from Church of the Brethren congregations across the country will meet at the Estes Park YMCA camp in Colorado, just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Smaller young adult gatherings will continue to be held annually. The 2007 gathering is planned for May 25-27.

The 2008 event is the second larger "national" conference for young adults, sponsored by the Youth and Young Adult Ministries of the General Board. The first was held at Snow Mountain Ranch YMCA in Colorado in 2004, and featured worship, workshops, fellowship, singing, and meeting new people. The 255 young adults who attended called for another such conference, said the announcement from Youth and Young Adult Ministries director Chris Douglas.

"Plan now to gather with other young adults for this exciting event!" Douglas said. "We hope that over 500 young adults will come and help shape this important opportunity in our denomination."

A Brethren Volunteer Service position of coordinating NYAC will be available in June of 2007. This fulltime volunteer will work for a year in the Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office in Elgin, Ill. To express interest in the position of NYAC coordinator, request an application from Chris Douglas at cdouglas_gb@brethren.org.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Senior High Fall Retreat -- November 3-5, 2006

"Be still: and be mindful"

Click for more pictures.