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N YA C S P E A K E R I N T E R V I E W S Amber Harris WHAT IS YOUR HISTORY IN THE CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN? My journey with the Church of the Brethren began through close friendships. Growing up in Floyd,Virginia, I was surrounded by friends participating in CoB youth activities and being invited along. As an undergraduate Philosophy and Religion major at Bridgewater College I became immersed in Brethren theology through academia, chapel experiences, and in close friendships again. It wasn’t until I was a graduate student at Wake Forest University School of Divinity and for the first time “distant” from the Church of the Brethren that I felt called, drawn, challenged and at peace with embracing Brethren theology as my own and the Church of the Brethren would become home.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TRADITION OF YOUR CONGREGATION OR OF THE DENOMINATION AS A WHOLE? Hands down, love feast and feet washing! As a third year student in divinity school I led a feet washing and love feast experience during chapel with my peers and professors. It was a first for the divinity school! It was an incredible opportunity and dear memory to have introduced Wake Div School to a Brethren tradition.
WHAT IS ONE PART OF SCRIPTURE THAT MOST INSPIRES YOU TO KEEP WORKING FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD? Matthew 25 and James 3 most inspire me. Both speak of wisdom and the journey toward it by seeing and walking beside our neighbors. The wisdom expressed through scripture isn’t about intellect, it’s about embracing and using the Christ light in 2
ourselves to listen to our neighbors, to see other’s Christ light and serve one another with love and kindness. The kingdom of God radiates wisdom with love for neighbor.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS YOUR ROLE IN THE DENOMINATION AND THE CHURCH AS A WHOLE? WHAT DO YOU ASPIRE TO? I am called to “out of the box” ministry. As a nonprofit ministry founder and leader, I feel my role is to bring awareness to community causes through serving others. SPARK (Share Peace and Rekindle Kindness) designs and manages cause-driven service experiences for groups. As a minister in the Church of the Brethren I focus on simplicity, peace and community through all of my service designs. I work diligently to make all experiences equitable for those being served and for those serving. The Church of the Brethren empowers me to have a voice that speaks for justice while I listen first and then do. Bringing groups to projects helps bring greater awareness to a cause and then the invitation to advocacy naturally occurs. SPARK works to see the light in all, but it’s not just about the light, it’s about fanning the flame for others. My role in my community is only strengthened through the Church of the Brethren’s affirmation of my call to this ministry.
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE MOST MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCES YOU HAVE HAD AS A YOUNG ADULT IN GROWING YOUR FAITH? The experiences where my faith has been both affirmed and challenged are the most meaningful. The challenging moments that cause me to wait for peace to conquer my mind and the celebratory moments where I feel my feet are planted solid on truth.Young adulthood often presents change and constant newness. Having a foundation of forgiveness and grace through Christ helps me question and embrace the newness as opportunities for my faith to grow.
Audri Svay WHAT IS YOUR HISTORY IN THE CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN? I have a long family history with the Church of the Brethren. My mother, Susan Finney, grandmother, Harriet Finney, and grandfather, Ron Finney, in addition to some of my extended family members, all worked for the Church of the Brethren, as pastors, district executives, youth coordinators, or teachers, going back several generations. My grandmother was moderator for the denomination in 2003. As a result, I grew up in the Church of the Brethren, attended Annual Conferences as a child, and participated in denominational events like National Youth Conference, Christian Citizenship Seminar, and going to Camp Mack, our regional church camp in the summers.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TRADITION OF YOUR CONGREGATION OR OF THE DENOMINATION AS A WHOLE? One tradition my congregation participates in is the sharing of joys and concerns during the worship service. Since we are not a large congregation, there is enough time for anyone who wishes to come to a microphone and tell others in the congregation the difficult moments, illnesses, or struggles they or others they care about are experiencing, along with any moments of praise or faith stories from that week. Then we are able to join in a time of prayer together about the concerns and joys shared that morning. It is a touching time of community and recognition of the value inherent in each person’s life experience.
WHAT IS ONE PART OF SCRIPTURE THAT MOST INSPIRES YOU TO KEEP WORKING FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD? Jeremiah 18:1-6 has been a meaningful scripture text for me for many years. I find inspiration in the thought that we are all like clay: able to change, transform, and become better based on a plan far beyond what we can imagine.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS YOUR ROLE IN THE DENOMINATION AND THE CHURCH AS A WHOLE? WHAT DO YOU ASPIRE TO? Currently, I see my role as being a representative for the younger generation in the church. I aspire to help the church become a place where everyone can feel accepted and know the love of God. I am still discerning my calling within the church, but I have no doubt that no matter what position I end up in, God will find a way to work through me.
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE MOST MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCES YOU HAVE HAD AS A YOUNG ADULT IN GROWING YOUR FAITH? One pivotal experience for me as a young adult was when I was 18 years old and was asked to give the sermon for Youth Sunday at our church. That was the first time I was able to prepare and preach a sermon, and I felt so much support and encouragement from my congregation in that area. It inspired me to continue preaching quarterly on a volunteer basis at our local retirement home all through my college years. That experience gave me the courage to offer to preach on Sundays when the Eel River Community Church of the Brethren was between pastors, which resulted in them asking me to interview for the pastoral position which I serve in now. It helped me to realize that God has even bigger plans for me than I can ever know. Another meaningful experience I have had as a young adult is attending classes online through Bethany Seminary. I have taken many wonderful and inspiring classes, including a poetry writing workshop, a science fiction and theology course, and classes on Theopoetics: finding meaning in mystery and metaphor. The experience has helped me to discover more about my own faith and beliefs, as well as meet a lot of people who share a lot in common with me, while also challenging me through our differences. I am working toward my Masters degree, but it is possible for anyone to audit classes or just take a few each semester that interest them. I would strongly recommend it.
Rafael Aranda WHAT IS YOUR HISTORY IN THE CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN? I became a member of COB in 2014 when I married my wife Estefany who’s parents are pastor Richard and Becky Zapata at Principe De Paz Santa Ana Ca. I didn’t really have much background regarding Church of the Brethren, but it had been an amazing experience ever since.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TRADITION OF YOUR CONGREGATION OR OF THE DENOMINATION AS A WHOLE? Favorite tradition out of my congregation would be our Christmas and new year celebrations! I mean who doesn’t love those holidays? Haha The blessing behind both is that we don’t only just celebrate the holidays themselves but the meaning and purpose behind them and how to interpret them into our lives.
WHAT IS ONE PART OF SCRIPTURE THAT MOST INSPIRES YOU TO KEEP WORKING FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD? Psalms 100:5 “ For the Lord is good and his Love endures forever. His faithfulness through all generations”
God is always good, I think he is way too good! Even when we aren’t good to him his love always wins! The beauty of it is that his faithfulness isn’t only for us, but for our future generations as well. My children will be able to experience this and their children and so on.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS YOUR ROLE IN THE DENOMINATION AND THE CHURCH AS A WHOLE? WHAT DO YOU ASPIRE TO? Currently I am the Pacific Southwest District Youth Advisor with COB. I am also my congregations youth advisor as well. This calling of helping and guiding youth has been a huge passion for me in the last years. I aspire to work with the District in the future to become a licensed pastor by the blessing of god and when the his time it correct.
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE MOST MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCES YOU HAVE HAD AS A YOUNG ADULT IN GROWING YOUR FAITH? My most meaningful experience as a young adult and youth advisor has been understanding that you are not perfect and accepting the failures you have in your ministry. It has taught me to be persistent and faithful in every area where the enemy like stop creep into. It has also reminded me to keep going even when it seems like their is no progress. The pandemic has been a difficult one to maneuver but gods hand, faithfulness and his love endures forever!
Zech Houser WHAT IS YOUR HISTORY IN THE CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN? I have actually only been a part of the COB for about five years! When I was in seminary, my spouse and I found Peace Covenant Church of the Brethren in Durham, NC and started attending there pretty regularly. We became members in May 2018 and were licensed in February 2020. My spouse and I then served as pastors for a year in Northern Indiana before taking our current positions in the COB offices.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TRADITION OF YOUR CONGREGATION OR OF THE DENOMINATION AS A WHOLE? One of my favorite traditions in the Church of the Brethren is the Love Feast. I think there is something so important to a faith shown through action, and Love Feast is a beautiful means of expressing our faith in our uniquely Brethren way.
WHAT IS ONE PART OF SCRIPTURE THAT MOST INSPIRES YOU TO KEEP WORKING FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD? I have so many scriptures that come to mind, but Luke 10 holds a special place in my heart. I love
how Jesus tells the disciples to go serve the physical needs of the community first, and then share about God afterwards. It serves as a constant reminder that our calling as Christians is to help those around us, no matter what.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS YOUR ROLE IN THE DENOMINATION AND THE CHURCH AS A WHOLE? WHAT DO YOU ASPIRE TO? That’s such a hard question! I feel like I am still discerning what my role is within the denomination and the Church. Since I first felt a calling towards ministry, it has been a constant journey of further discerning and refining. As for aspirations, I think my biggest aspiration is to just be the best version of myself that I can be – in whatever ministry and role God places me in.
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE MOST MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCES YOU HAVE HAD AS A YOUNG ADULT IN GROWING YOUR FAITH? In broad terms, I think that going to seminary was incredibly helpful for me. It gave me the chance to deeply explore my personal calling and faith in a way that was well suited to my own personality. Specifically in the Brethren world, I really love attending YAC and connecting with others my age. Seeing the passion that other people our age have for the Church gives me a lot of hope for our future.
Lexi Aligarbes WHAT IS YOUR HISTORY IN THE CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN? Whenever I answer this question, my initial response is to claim that I have been “Brethren adjacent” for most of my life. I come from a family of Church of the Brethren members. My mother was a BVSer and I have other relatives who have accepted the call to ordination within the Church of the Brethren. However, where I grew up in New Mexico, there wasn’t a local CoB congregation to join. As a result, my faith journey has been ecumenical to say the least.Yet, it is clear that a significant portion of my spiritual life has been shaped by the CoB. After completing my first year of college, I had the opportunity to attend a Senior High work camp in Los Angeles, CA and the following year was able to attend the Young Adult work camp in Nepal. I saw the tenants of the CoB in practice and started to meet others within the denomination through these experiences. While attending Earlham College, I took my first ever seminary class, an introduction to the New Testament, at Bethany Theological Seminary. This experience informed my theological background in Anabaptist traditions as I completed my M’Div. Now I rejoice that I have a chance to make myself at home within the denomination after having accepted my first call as Co-Pastor of Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TRADITION OF YOUR CONGREGATION OR OF THE DENOMINATION AS A WHOLE? When I look back at the history of the Church of the Brethren, there are many traditions that I find unique, challenging, and life-giving. My current favorite tradition within the denomination is the practice of LoveFeast. The intimacy of footwashing and the physical act of caring for another reminds me of the kind of ministry I hope to be a part of and the kind of life I want to live. Also, having grown up in a Lutheran Church, there is a part of me that feels renewed each time I partake of the elements of Christ’s table. These practiced liturgical expressions found within the Church of the Brethren are why I enjoy being a part of the denomination. 6
WHAT IS ONE PART OF SCRIPTURE THAT MOST INSPIRES YOU TO KEEP WORKING FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD? The story of Jesus’ anointing at Bethany has been a source of encouragement for my ongoing participation in God’s ministry. The layers of the story; the sacrificial offering of the woman, the confusion of the disciples, the unusual response of Jesus, it’s all so mystical and reminds me of what being a part of God’s ministry is like. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense. Sometimes there are arguments. Sometimes God’s response isn’t what we are expecting or even hoping for. In the story, Mary, the sister of Martha, takes an expensive jar of perfume and anoints Jesus with the fragrant offering. Looking at the text in John 12, the disciples ask Jesus in verse 5,“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” The disciples think they understand all the teachings Jesus has tried to impart onto them and they in turn use this knowledge to look down on Mary’s actions.Yet, in verses 7-8 Jesus responds with “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” How challenging it must have been to hear Jesus respond this way and yet how challenging these words remain for us today. However, this scripture humbles me and reminds me to look in the forgotten spaces and the marginalized corners, because even amongst the things I don’t understand God is still present and inviting me to participate in God’s continuing story of reconciliation and transformation.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS YOUR ROLE IN THE DENOMINATION AND THE CHURCH AS A WHOLE? WHAT DO YOU ASPIRE TO? I believe it is not an accident that my first call, fresh out of seminary, brought me to a Church of the Brethren congregation. Although I may not have been raised in a Brethren church, my spiritual journey along with my vocational calling remains grounded in Anabaptist theology and traditions. As I learn more about this heritage and get to experience first-hand the joys and challenges of ministry, I am even more convinced that the tenants of our denomination can be used to build coalitions and communities that seek to do the hard and faithful work of anti-oppression social justice. And I know that this is a possibility because, by the grace of God, if I can learn to make a home for myself within the
denomination, then I believe that more people like me, who may also have some of the same intersecting identities that I have, will also feel welcomed into this messy and Beloved community.
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE MOST MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCES YOU HAVE HAD AS A YOUNG ADULT IN GROWING YOUR FAITH? Being a young adult, so much of this time of my life has been spent on figuring out who I am and who I want to become. Navigating my twenties has meant wrestling with questions of purpose and identity. Yet, whenever these questions may arise and I am tempted to feel overwhelmed by existential dread, leaning into my faith means that whatever growth I may experience, I am grounded by the Belovedness that God already calls me God’s child. My faith in God, my relationship with Jesus, my openness to the Spirit, allows me to grow and change and still find purpose and love in the One who created me. And as I continue on in this journey, growing in my faith has also given me a faith community to lean into and be supported by. I am reminded of the importance of this community when I think back to one of my favorite bell hooks quotes. She wrote in her book, "all about love," that “communities sustain life- not nuclear families, or the ‘couple’ and certainly not the rugged individualist. There is no better place to learn the art of loving than in community.” So even when I may be facing challenges as a young adult, my faith has given me community and this community in Christ is what sustains my life. 7
Patrick Starkey WHAT IS YOUR HISTORY IN THE CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN? I have been richly blessed by the people and the parts of the church that have helped shape my faith and guide my life. The Williamson Road Church of the Brethren (Virlina District) nurtured me in young life and nurtured me into baptism at age 16. In young adulthood, Summerdean Church of the Brethren gave opportunities for me to discover and share my gifts and aided my prayerful and lengthy discernment of a call to ministry. All along the way, encounters at Camp Bethel with our Creator, with creation, and with the community of Christ, first as a camper and later in various volunteer camp leadership roles, provided undying inspiration and essential Christian formation. Bethany Theological Seminary further trained me in careful scripture study and congregational ministry skills, including through a meaningful student placement with Happy Corner Church of the Brethren in Southern Ohio District. Since graduating from Bethany, I have pastored two Virlina District congregations, Ninth Street (20002010) and Cloverdale (2011-present) and served as moderator of a third church. Other involvements during this time have included service in the district on Outdoor Ministries Committee and District Board and as District Conference Moderator, and in the denomination on the Mission and Ministry Board, as well as through participation in work camps, the Brethren Disaster Response rebuilding program, National Youth Conference, and Annual Conference. In each of these, God has crossed my path with dedicated people and led me into circumstances that have heightened my hopes for the possibilities of the church and deepened my desire to draw ever-closer to Jesus. Lastly, I will highlight that my wife Susan and I together discerned a shared call into Brethren Volunteer Service (Unit #289) that led to our placement with Casa de Esperanza (“House of Hope”) in Houston, Texas as foster parents from 2020-2011. This experience continues to bless our family life and to help fuel our faith. Thanks be to God.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TRADITION OF YOUR CONGREGATION OR OF THE DENOMINATION AS A WHOLE? Well, there’s the ice cream social… Other, more serious contenders in the congregation would be our tradition of collecting an offering at Thanksgiving that is entirely for outreach above and beyond what’s given from our budget, as well as Cloverdale’s 50+ years of housing and supporting a wonderful preschool program. The most cherished of church practices for me though, alongside Love Feast, is our three-fold immersion baptism, communicating both the continuing outpouring of God’s grace and the believers’ ongoing renewal and thorough commitment to follow Jesus.
WHAT IS ONE PART OF SCRIPTURE THAT MOST INSPIRES YOU TO KEEP WORKING FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD? To me, there is an invigorating through-line in scripture that is about gift and response, about grace-enabled service that is humble and obedient. This encompasses both what God in Christ lovingly does for us that we cannot do for ourselves, including forgiveness of sin, and our doing in response all that we can to love God, each other, and neighbor. It runs through the passage that I often cite as my favorite: … Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:3-11 (NRSV) It runs through another personal favorite: So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has
become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us… 2 Corinthians 5:17-20a (NRSV) It's about the posture and the daily discipleship connecting us with God’s determined work in the world, culminating in creation healed, relationship restored, and our humanity fully realized in the enduring presence of our loving God.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS YOUR ROLE IN THE DENOMINATION AND THE CHURCH AS A WHOLE? WHAT DO YOU ASPIRE TO? Having recently completed ten years of denominational service on the Mission and Ministry Board, my full vocational attention presently is on pastoring and congregational life. This includes working with others in my district to put together a learning and training opportunity about imagining and engaging congregational life and witness beyond pandemic and partisanship. Also, motivated in part by being in a multi-racial family, I continue to reflect prayerfully on how the vision of Revelation 7:9-10 is both an ultimate gift and a present and pressing goal for the family of faith: After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (NRSV)
(See, I snuck in another favorite passage!) With this vision coming to clear up my own faulty sight bit by bit, I aspire to faithfulness in being a part of the racial healing which God means to bring and, I believe, intends the church to lead. For we are Christ’s ambassadors, and in Christ we are one.
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE MOST MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCES YOU HAVE HAD AS A YOUNG ADULT IN GROWING YOUR FAITH? It was during young adulthood that I experienced the call to pastoral ministry. While my own young adult days are a mile or two in the rear-view, I still treasure the times in my twenties when I served as a youth advisor, youth Sunday school teacher, and youth camp leader, gaining great inspiration from working with young people who radiated sincere, growing faith and displayed what my pastor at the time described as a “high spiritual quotient.” There was a generous spirit that surrounded our exploring with them what it means to seek first what God wants. This contrasted starkly with the “us versus them/winners and losers” nature of my working life at the time as a young attorney doing insurance defense litigation. There’s a longer version of the story that I would be glad to share with any who would want to hear it. For now, suffice it to say that God provided the gift of a community, the Church of the Brethren, which nudged and nudged me into genuine trust that, rather than merely trying to get away from something unfulfilling, I was called to something life-giving. I would encourage the church and young adults in the church to collaborate on identifying opportunities for young adults to discover and contribute their gifts in church leadership. It may or may not lead to a call to pastoral ministry. By grace, it will open the way to something that is God-honoring and mutually life-giving for young adults and the church.
Unity in Action
BY BETHANY HOFFER, ASSOCIATE PASTOR OF THE PALMYRA CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN IN PENNSYLVANIA
Last Spring, after spending a year of mostly virtual worship and fellowship, we were really itching to be together and to do something purposeful and meaningful. Ordinarily, as youth pastor, I would have been working to prepare our youth for summer workcamp experiences at that time. We originally had intentions of joining forces with FaithX to provide opportunities for youth and other members of our church community to serve for the summer, but the more that we thought about it, the more inspired we were to make service opportunities available church wide. So we came up with “Unity in Action:” a church wide service experience that would span 4 days, culminating in Sunday morning worship together and a fellowship breakfast. Our hope was to provide a chance to serve to as many people as possible. We had a variety of projects scheduled each morning and afternoon, and then gathered in the evening for dinner, devotions, and a more family friendly service project. Our hope was that no matter the schedule, skill set, age, or ability, everyone would be able to find some way to participate. Projects ranged from weeding and harvesting in the community garden and at homes of church and community members, to holding a free car wash in front of the church, to mulching the playgrounds at our own Camp Pine Woods, to power washing and staining. We had indoor projects for those who needed to avoid the heat or were unable to do much physical labor, including re-organizing church mail slots and filing documents, hosting a school supply market, and creating and delivering “kindness bags” for shut ins. In the evenings, we would gather for dinner, devotions, and a family friendly project like painting flower pots to deliver to those who needed a pick-me-up, assembling “manna bags” for folks to give out to those they see in need, and assembling hygiene kits for Church World Service. From the very first morning, we felt excitement and new life! People across generations were working together. New friendships were being made. Great conversations were being had while working and while resting over lunch and snack breaks. After so much time apart from each other, it was so good to have a reason to be together! But more than that, our time together during Unity in Action created momentum. Since that week, we have had more energy around ideas of service and outreach than we have had in a long time. People are coming forward with new ideas and interests. We have assembled an Outreach Partner Team whose purpose is to identify needs in our community and find ways to address them. Service is a part of who we are as Brethren. It’s deeply embedded in our theology. It’s the best way we know how to live out our faith.
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Bad Week, Quarter-Life Crisis, or Something Else? BY MYCAL GRESH, PASTOR OF THE LONG GREEN VALLEY CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN IN MARYLAND
During the past two years, many of us have been realizing how important mental health is to leading a happy and productive life. There has been an overwhelming increase in the stress that many of us are feeling, with COVID-19 protocols, safety advice, and laws changing constantly. We are seeing less of our friends and families, and our churches may be operating differently than we are used to. This sense of disconnection has forced many people to admit that they are no longer functioning the way that they used to. Part of this disconnect between the way that we are feeling and the way that we respond is the idea that mental illness is a concern that should be addressed by prayer, and that mental health treatment is not necessary. This is a long-held belief in some communities, and it is a dangerous one. There have been many ministers and theologians who express that the demons referenced in the Bible are what we would call mental illness today. Without going into too much detail, mental illness is a physical problem. While most people have experienced sadness or anxiety, when a situation becomes chronic or persistent, usually more than a month, it is time to seek professional help. There is a lot of bad advice on this subject, and I would like to make some recommendations regarding what course of action you should take if you are suffering. First, if you have been feeling symptoms for a full week, make an appointment to see a professional now. It can take weeks or months to become established with a licensed mental health professional, and it will become increasingly difficult to make arrangements the longer you wait. While I believe that pastors and deacons play a valuable role in our church communities, unless the person you are speaking to is a licensed therapist or counselor, you should consider that conversation in the same category that you would consider speaking to a parent or friend. Pastoral care is not a substitute for professional health care, and pastors and other ministers are directed to refer you to a trusted professional in these cases. Spiritual direction is a wonderful practice, but it is also not recommended for treatment of mental illness. Second, if your symptoms are sporadic and link to stressors in your life, finding someone outside of your 12
social circle that can be a sounding board for your feelings can be extremely useful. Reaching out anonymously can be an extreme relief, and I will include resources below on the topic. Finally, if you are feeling shame over your mental health, know that you are not alone. Most people will suffer from a mental health disorder at some point in their life. Young adults are particularly vulnerable, as many of us will suffer from what is referred to as the quarter-life crisis. In young adulthood, it is normal to become disillusioned with the world around us, but that does not mean that your problems deserve to be ignored. I pray that if any of you are experiencing a difficult period in your life, that you will reach out for help. No person deserves to suffer, and (unless you are a computer program with artificial intelligence) that includes you.
RESOURCES FOR FURTHER INFORMATION OR SUPPORT • 7 Cups of Tea is an online platform that allows for individuals to gain support at different levels depending on your personal needs. It is not a crisis line and can be accessed as an app on smartphones or via computer at https://www.7cups.com/. • If you feel you would benefit from a sense of community, there are many different types of support groups, ranging from general mental health, to addiction, to grief. There are directories available for each state, but Mental Health America (https://www.mhanational. org/find-support-groups) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (https://www.nami.org/SupportEducation/Support-Groups) are both good starting places to look for local resources as well as online support groups that meet your needs. • For more information on the quarter-life crisis phenomenon, I recommend “Quarterlife Crisis” by Abby Wilner and Alexandria Robbins (the first book on the subject, and still an excellent starting point.) • If you are experiencing thoughts of harming yourself, please contact a crisis line. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has both phone and chat options, and operates 24/7. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Stretching Both Ways:
Bringing Together Different Generations BY THOMAS MCMULLIN, PASTOR OF THE FAIRVIEW CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN IN IOWA
Do you ever have those moments, experiences, and/or situations in your life that help you realize who you are and what you are called to do and be? I certainly have had those moments in my life! As someone who grew up close with my grandparents, especially my Nana Barb (Barbara Wise-Lewczak), I spent a lot of time going with her to various places to visit people. One of those places we often frequented were care facilities, especially Spurgeon Manor in Dallas Center, Iowa. My earliest memory there, was playing chair beach volleyball around the age of seven or eight with the residents in the memory care unit. From that point on, as long as I was with my Nana Barb, and even by myself as I got older, I would be a frequent visitor to care facilities and in homes as well. As a young person, I found a lot of joy in being amongst people much older than me. Interestingly, however, I always liked spending time with children as well. Once I was in high school, I volunteered in the elementary school with the Big Brothers and Sisters program. The first year possible, I was a counselor in training at Camp Pine Lake and have helped there ever since. I also helped out with Vacation Bible School. This all led me to pursue a degree in elementary education in college.
While in college, I began to articulate that I liked being with, and could relate to both the younger and the older generations. Maybe that was more of my calling than working with a specific age group? I just had to find that something where I
could do both. Could I do both in ministry? Along came a visit to Bethany Theological Seminary in April of 2016 and a year later a decision to attend there. I graduated from Bethany in May of 2020 and later that year was called to pastor a small, rural congregation, the Fairview Church of the Brethren, in Southern Iowa.
Fairview, a thriving congregation in a rural, and economically depressed part of Iowa (which rivals the Appalachian region of the US), continues to serve the community it calls home. During my time here at Fairview, I have been able to build and develop relationships with all of those in the congregation and many in the surrounding community. These relationships, with young and not so young, are an essential part of my work as a pastor. Fairview is a church where many generations are involved in its ministry through the various activities and functions. “If churches and faith communities want to thrive, they must have significant communication between generations,” comment authors Holly Catterton Allen and Christine Lawton Ross of Intergenerational Christian Formation: Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community, and Worship. In my experience, this is absolutely true. We are well on our way of doing that here at Fairview, and I am blessed to be a smart part of it!
Interview with Erika Clary: The 2022 NYC Coordinator BY JENNA WALMER (AND ERIKA CLARY OF COURSE)
Erika Clary started her tenure as the 2022 NYC Coordinator in the early summer of 2021. Knowing Erika since she was a freshman at Bridgewater College, I saw her passion for the Church of the Brethren and eagerness to be involved at the local, regional, and national level. Since taking on this leadership position, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to explore Erika’s journey to this position.
WHERE ARE YOU FROM? WHEN DID YOU BECOME ACTIVE IN THE CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN? WHAT CHURCH/DISTRICT DO YOU ATTEND? I am from Brunswick, Maryland, and my home church is Brownsville in the Mid-Atlantic district. I grew up in the Church of the Brethren, but my first involvement in the greater denomination was National Junior High Conference in 2011, when I had just completed sixth grade. Since then, I have been involved in the denomination as much as I can. Since I’m in Elgin, IL for Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS), I have been attending the Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in the Illinois/Wisconsin district.
WHAT WAS YOUR MOST INFLUENTIAL ACTIVITY AS A YOUTH IN THE CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN? National Youth Conference (NYC) was probably the most influential to me as a youth, but since I’ll be talking about that a lot, I will talk about some other events. It is difficult to pinpoint which events were most impactful other than NYC, because they all feel like they are on the same level. I was heavily involved in Mid-Atlantic district events while in high school. I served on the MidAtlantic District Cabinet, so I helped plan those events. Roundtable, a regional youth conference I attended each year of high school, was also impactful. At both types of events, I was amazed at the community of people who share similar values. My love language is quality time, so spending time in fellowship has always contributed to my growth with other people and in my faith. I always feel God’s presence while with other people. I was also happy to be challenged by speakers at NYC, Mid-Atlantic events, and Roundtable.
WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE A BVSER? My interest in being the NYC Coordinator and serving in BVS were synonymous since NYC Coordinator is a BVS position, so at NYC 2014!
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY TO BECOMING THE NYC COORDINATOR? WERE THERE ANY "GOD MOMENTS" WHERE YOU KNEW THIS IS WHAT YOU WANTED TO DO? I attended NYC for the first time as a youth in 2014. Until that point, I went to National Junior High Conference, district events, and Roundtable, but I never experienced anything quite like NYC. NYC 2014 was a mountaintop experience for me, both physically and spiritually. I remember thinking about how cool it would be to be an NYC Coordinator and plan something that influential. I was a member of the 2017-2018 National Youth Cabinet, so I got to help plan NYC 2018. There have only been a few times in my life when I feel like I truly thrived somewhere, and NYC 2018 was one of those times. It was so rewarding to pick the theme and watch it come to life in 2018. When I was a student at Bridgewater College, I served on the Interdistrict Youth Cabinet, which plans Roundtable. In 2020, I served as the Roundtable Coordinator. Roundtable is like a mini-NYC, and I loved coordinating that conference, so I knew I would love coordinating NYC just as much, if not more. As much as I knew I wanted to apply to be NYC Coordinator for 2022, I still had some reservations - like living so far from home. That is where my major “God moment” comes into play. I have always loved the “for such a time as this” scripture from the book of Esther. In the fall of last year, someone sent me the theme song from NYC 2002, when the theme literally was “For Such a Time as This.” I really thought about the words in that scripture
and in the theme song and realized that I could let my fears overcome me and not apply to be Coordinator, because someone else could do it. But if I didn’t even try, I would never forgive myself for not applying for something I was (and still am) so passionate about. After that moment and realization, I began to realize that Esther 4:14 was following me everywhere. I would see it/hear it at the most random times and I just knew that was God’s nudge to me to apply. Thankfully, I took what I like to call my “Esther moment.”
WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR PEOPLE THINKING ABOUT BEING A BVSER? BVS has truly changed my life! It provides so many valuable life experiences. I barely knew how to cook anything before BVS, but since I live in a community house and cook for myself and my housemates, I have learned how to make so many dishes. BVS, but specifically orientation, has made me realize so many things about myself and about my faith that could have taken me much longer to realize otherwise. This is the first time in my life when I’m not a student, so I am truly learning who I am outside of academics, which has been quite beautiful. If you are thinking about serving in BVS, do it. I could talk about my experience for days! It will change your life for the better.
BVS ORIENTATION | UNIT 329
ANY FINAL WORDS, ADVICE, WISDOM TO SHARE WITH FELLOW YOUNG ADULTS ON SPIRITUAL GUIDANCE, FOLLOWING THE CALL, OR BEING IN MINISTRY OR SERVICE? I think my best advice is to do things in your own time. If you feel like the time is right to serve, whether through BVS or in ministry, try it! If you want to wait and try that later, then do that. I think we are conditioned to think that we must work on everyone else’s schedules and that we must know exactly what is going to happen next, but neither of those things are true. When you are called to do something, I think you will know the right time to take the leap of faith. When you are following God’s plans for your life, timing and perfection really don’t matter all that much. Following God’s plan is messy and doesn’t always feel perfect, but that’s okay. Do what you need to do for you and your relationship with God.
NATIONAL YOUTH CABINET COLORADO ONSITE VISIT
---Erika’s story beautifully demonstrates this transitional time in our lives that is “messy.” She reminds us that we do not need to follow the typical timelines society imposes on us. Instead, we should follow God’s timeline and calling. What resonated with me the most was her “Esther moment.” What themes, topics, or words are following you everywhere? Consider how these phrases may be God leading you toward your calling.
Book Review: “Dear White Peacemakers” BY JENNA WALMER
"Dear White Peacemakers" was a book I did not realize I needed in my life. As a graduate student, I have little time to read books for pleasure, but when I heard of this one, I immediately ordered it and prioritized it as a winter break reading. Little did I know that this book would be another important step in my antiracist journey. Osheta Moore welcomes you to the table, where she wishes these conversations between herself and the reader would occur with a cup of tea or around a meal of gumbo. Although she recognizes that we will all be reading this book in the comfort of our own homes, she emphasizes the personal nature of this reading and the communal nature of conversations surrounding antiracism and white supremacy. If you are looking for a book that gives you lists or step-by-step instructions of what you can do to become more antiracist, this is not the book for you. To be honest, I started reading the book with the hopes of reading something that would make it “easy” for me, a White person, to become more antiracist. After reading the introduction, I even thought about skipping to the section that Moore describes as “the most practical part of the book” - but I chose not to. I knew I would be writing this review and that the information in the rest of the book was important to help understand what White supremacy is, how I as a White person unknowingly contribute to White supremacist society, and how White supremacy culture impacts people of color on a daily basis. As I read the book, I kept this yearning for simplicity in mind and grappled with why I had it. The book helped me understand that antiracist work will never be easy, and Black writers should never be compelled to “boil down” the antiracist work to make it easier for White folk to act. After reading "Dear White Peacemakers", I understand now more than ever that antiracism work is not just a checklist of words or phrases to stop using, Instagrams to follow, books to read, or protests to attend. It is about doing the hard work of looking inward at how our actions and thought processes contribute to a White supremacist culture and how we can actively dismantle this.
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Moore’s writing and usage of scripture is fairly accessible and super relevant to the Church of the Brethren teachings. At times, my previous interpretations of texts were challenged, but in a good way. But the scripture she does use is familiar and welcoming to Church of the Brethren folk. Her references to other theologians may even be familiar to others in our Brethren community, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Walter Wink, to name a few. Her spirituality and usage of breath prayers may resonate with you. I don’t feel like I have to “convince” you to read the book, but I do want to highlight that Osheta Moore helped me feel welcome in this space because of the connections I felt with her Biblical, theological, and spiritual examples.
Order a copy today at
So, “Come to this table of the Beloved Community, White Peacemakers. Come because you are Beloved and there’s a place setting with your name written on it. … Come not because you have something to offer but because you have a great responsibility. Come because he loved us first and come because his kindness is the fire that keeps the candelabras burning” (p. 103). Wherever you are in your antiracist journey, consider "Dear White Peacemakers" as either your first step or another opportunity to continue the work of Jesus, peacefully, simply, and together - with grit and grace. “So I have one question for you, White Peacemaker: Will you take on the yoke of anti-racism peacemaking?” (p. 183).
RAFAEL ARANDA AMBER HARRIS
PATRICK STARKEY LEXI ALIGARBES
AUDRI SVAY ZECH HOUSER
Registration open online at www.brethren.org/yac
NATIONAL YOUNG ADULT CONFERENCE 2022
MAY 27-30, 2022
Montreat Conference Center (Montreat, North Carolina) 18
National Young Adult Conference (NYAC) is an energizing long weekend full of moments to connect with new friends, reconnect with old friends, enjoy nature, and worship! Add your voice to the music we’ll make and your perspectives to our Bible studies and small groups. Attend workshops and enjoy over 2000 acres of the pristine Montreat Wilderness!
I Am Because We Are:
National Young Adult Conference Focuses on the Life-Giving Quality of Community “…so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.” Romans 12:5, NRSV After so much pandemic living and the isolation it’s caused, the centrality of community in this scripture compelled the Young Adult Steering Committee (YASC) to choose Romans 12:5 as the theme for NYAC 2022. Christians spend significant time focusing on the verses before and after this one - reminding ourselves that there are “many gifts but the same Spirit.” The reality of variety in giftedness certainly deserves attention and study; it is occasionally challenging to recognize identify God’s presence in another. However, as the world has learned so painfully over the last two years in our isolation, God built us to need each other. Even if we chafe at standards and boundaries placed to enable peaceful, healthy living, humans have a deep and strong desire to be with others. We are undeniably affected by the relationships we create. Simply, we are affected by our community. Often the implications of this reality are seen as a
liability. However, National Young Adult Conference participants will focus on the ways this reality is an asset. How are we as individuals enriched by being part of a community? How is life better when we are together, rather than apart? If we felt empathy for others due to such a deep connection through our baptism into the family of Jesus and call to live as one of his disciples, what would our lives look like? It is precisely such deep connection to a group allows an aspen tree to live. From above ground, where we spend most of our time, we see distinct trees. If we are paying enough attention, we might note that aspen trees tend to grow in groups. But did you know that the “distinct” aspen trees are actually part of the same organism? They share a root system and resources (like water and nutrients).1 Aspens are a living expression of Romans 12:5; the “individual” thrives due to their deep connection to the larger body. After so much time away from the larger body, the Young Adult Steering Committee is eager for young adults to remember and strengthen connection to each other.
Cover Photo by Landon Parenteau on Unsplash