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District News & Announcements

July 2019

"District News and Announcements” is a monthly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Church of the Brethren in the Northern Plains District.  District Leaders, Commissions, Committees, and those doing special ministries share information on programs and activities.  Local churches share news and invitations.  Send submissions by July 25th for inclusion in next month’s newsletter to Hannah Button-Harrison, Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

Get a printable version of the newsletter here.

In this issue

  1. District Conference Updates
  2. Camp Pine Lake Updates
  3. Looking for Stories and Pictures of Camp Pine Lake
  4. 2019 NOAC Scholarship
  5. Upcoming Online Brethren Academy Courses
  6. Holiness in our Midst
  7. Barbara Wise Lewczak to Retire from Camp Ministry
  8. Ministerial Changes
  9. Leadership Development Musings
  10. Fairview Church Assembles Clean-up Buckets
  11. Congregational Newsletters
Quick info
Calendar of Events | District Staff & Leadership Contacts | Documents & Resources

Banner photo: Campers canoe on a peaceful Pine Lake during Primary Overnight Camp.  Photo by Barbara Wise Lewczak. Send in your photos for future newsletters! Email communications@nplains.org.

1. District Conference Updates & Announcements

Ida Van Westen, District Conference Support

Conference is almost a month away!

Remember: Print and send in your registration or register online by July 17th.

The Conference Booklet is now available online!  All delegates will receive a printed copy.

Don't forget to book a hotel and prepare for one or more of the District Conference service opportunities:

1. Food Pantry donations (cash or non-perishables)
2. Cash for the Family Promise Program
3. Diapers for Haiti
4. Assemble Cleaning Buckets

***More information about hotels, witness projects and registration can be found on our our website - nplains.org/dc2019***


Saturday, August 3, 2019
Church on Northland, Cedar Rapids, IA

This year we are going with a new format. It will be a noisy, boisterous, energetic, SILENT AUCTION!

Bring your usual items AND the “not so usual” items.

Themed baskets would be welcomed, such as gardening, Tupperware, teatime, grandma’s kitchen, sports activity, movie night, reading in bed, etc.

If you have questions, contact
Alta Gahm, a_gahm@yahoo.com;
Terri Hansen, tah7100@hotmail.com or
Lois Grove, grove19@msn.com.

We look forward to a great auction again this year.  
The money raised supports the
Northern Plains District.

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2. Camp Pine Lake Updates

Abbey Beck Brunk, Camp Pine Lake Director

We are off to a great start for our summer with Primary Overnight well on its way and not long until the rest are here. Please have your kids registered as soon as possible so we can plan accordingly. You can get scholarship codes from your pastor or the camp director. If you have any questions regarding the online registration, please contact Abbey at camppinelakedirector@gmail.com. 

Outdoor Movie at CPL provided by Steven Brunk and Issac Beck Brunk on August 9th starting at 8:30pm (weather pending). This will be a free will donation event with snacks and a family friendly showing. Please put us on your calendar and join in on the fun! 

Exciting news coming for All Ages Camp, Labor Day weekend! Be on the look out for more information on our Facebook page and from your pastors in the near future. We will have a local artist performing Saturday night following the fundraiser meal. 

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3. Looking for Stories and Pictures of Camp Pine Lake

Sophia Gingrich, Camp Pine Lake Staff

Camp Pine Lake has been an inspiring place for many of us where we make many special memories, and draw closer to God and one another. For my summer project at Camp Pine Lake, I am putting together a book with a collection of pictures and stories to share some of the history of the camp. I have a number of pictures already, but would like some more, as well as any stories you would like to share about your experiences at camp as a camper, counselor, volunteer, or any member of the camp community. If you have a picture to send in, it would be wonderful to know a little about the photo or a story to go with it. If you would like to contribute a picture and/or story to the project or have any questions, please email me. Thank you!

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4. 2019 NOAC Scholarship

Dave Kerkove, Nurture Commission

Dear Friends in Christ,


At the April 27, 2019 Northern Plains District Board meeting, the Nurture Commission recommended that scholarships be offered by the Northern Plains District in the amount of $195 (the cost of registration) to help members of Northern Plains District congregations attend the Church of the Brethren National Older Adult Conference (NOAC), September 2-6 at the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center if financial assistance is needed in order to attend.  The recommendation was unanimously approved. 

Registration for NOAC opened on May 1.  Information, including a link to register, may be found at: http://www.brethren.org/noac/.  Please contact me at 515.313.3705 or davekerkove@gmail.com BEFORE you pay your registration fee if you need financial assistance from the Northern Plains District in order to attend NOAC.  If you would like to know more about NOAC by speaking to someone who has previously attended NOAC, please contact me and I will arrange a conversation.  The registration fee increases from $195 to $225 after July 15, 2019. The registration fee does not include housing and meals.Finally, will you join me in sharing this information with Church of the Brethren members in the Northern Plains District who are 50 years of age or older?  Perhaps multiple invitations will help convince some of our seasoned citizens that God is calling them to spend a week exercising their faith and building relationships in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina in early September!☺

Serving Christ and neighbor with you,
Dave Kerkove, Northern Plains District Nurture Commission Chair

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5. Upcoming Online Brethren Academy Courses

Fran Massy, Brethren Academy

Death and Dying - Debbie Eisenbise
September 4th - October 29th, 2019
Registration Deadline - July 13th

Interim/Transitional Ministry: More than Mere Maintenance - Tara Hornbacker
September 25th - November 19th
Registration Deadline - August 21st

Intro to the New Testament - Matt Boersma
October 16 - December 3rd
Registration Deadline - September 11th

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6. Holiness in our Midst - On Bridge-Builders

Janis Pyle


Story Circle Prompt: Who do you see being a bridge-builder in action? Between what groups? How is this person inspiring you to action?

One of my current inspirations is the Rev. April G. Johnson, Executive Director of Disciples Ministry of Reconciliation from Indianapolis. Rev. Johnson facilitates the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) process of awareness, analysis and action toward healing the fractures in the body of Christ that are caused by systemic racism. While publicizing an upcoming visit, I have been introduced to her experiences and insights. In my own life, she reignited a personal call to tackle social justice and personal issues, when she said: “God doesn’t ask us to agree to disagree. God asks us to love one another. We know that it is hard, which might be why we avoid the work of relationship with people who are not like us. God keeps calling us into opportunities to birth new relationships and new perspectives.”

Rev. Johnson’s career, building bridges between racial and other differences, is connected to her background. She said, “I grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago. My parents moved there on my first birthday. Folding under the pressure of tuition of parochial school for my two oldest siblings, they anticipated a better public-school education for their children in the suburbs. Our subdivision was entirely populated by Black residents. Seeing the disparities in my own education as well as the lack of businesses owned by people who looked like me, propelled my nascent passion to right-align opportunities for all people. I was no young version of Angela Davis in my formative years by far, but the differences simply did not make sense to me and kept me exploring new ways to understand and change a system that excluded and withheld opportunity for ‘some’ people.

I am energized by her willingness to work toward social change. How do you keep from being overwhelmed by current political/racial divides? I asked. Her reply to this question moved me. She said, “Our choices today regarding the divisive rhetoric and tribalism in our current national and global dialogue for me are clear. It is our imperative to affirm each other’s humanity. We have made “othering” an art form. Sadly, when we legislate making people ‘other’ while affording a dominant group access to more resources and a better quality of life than those excluded or impacted by such legislation, we justify racism and other oppressions. I simply find no justification for dehumanization. So, I am not overwhelmed by the ministry and work of changing our churchwide and national narrative of division and devaluing people as a standard. Where I do get overwhelmed, or more accurately exasperated, is by the fear that is generated that halts dialogue that keeps ‘good people’ silent and inactive toward promoting inclusion and human dignity for all. As Christians, God reconciled us to all be in God’s beloved “in” group.  We are all “A-listers,” as annoying as that can be.”

Her vision stretches me to think bigger and bolder. She said, “It is my desire that as a communion we embody this work by turning our outrage into action on behalf of those whose lives and stories are dismissed, distorted and diminished by a narrative of exclusion and American exceptionalism. For those of us who are new to being outraged by racism and oppression, I hope that we can support and mutually develop new ways to be in dialogue and relationship with one another that transforms the way we worship and the way we vote. It is my hope that we become leaders in thought and deed that transform our world into one where exclusion is the exception instead of not the norm.”

At this moment, I anticipate the changes I will make in response to this bridge-building leader.

(Note: The General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada will hold its biennial gathering in Des Moines, July 20 - 24, 2019. Ames First Christian Church will be a host site for worship for General Assembly attendees on Sunday, July 21, where Rev. Johnson will speak.) 


1.  Read the above reflection. In your journal, write about a person you know who models bridge-building between groups or ideologies. How does he/she do this? 


1.   Read aloud Session LXXXXII. 

2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt. 

Note: Holiness in Our Midst: Sharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.

[View on our website]

[Past Sessions]

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7. Barbara Wise Lewczak to Retire from Camp Ministry


Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Northern Plains District,

 Our long-time Camp Program Director and Camp Minister, Barbara Wise Lewczak, has announced her retirement, effective the end of the 2019 camping season. Barbara has faithfully served in this position for over a decade.

It is with reluctance that we accept this resignation, due to Barbara’s wise and care-filled guidance of our campers over these many years. As the Camp Committee, we have been among the many beneficiaries of her strong leadership. Barbara’s absence from the camping program leaves a large gap to be filled.

At this summer’s camps and at District Conference in August there will be opportunities to recognize and thank Barbara for her many contributions and devoted service to Camp Pine Lake.

The Joint Committee is now beginning a search to fill this position. Please keep the camp in your prayers as we embark on this task.

In Christ’s service,

Kim Camarata, Kerrie Michael, Doug Gumm, Paul NeherSusan Haran, Dan Kuecker (Treasurer), Gordon Hoffert (Chair), Dave Kerkove (Nurture Commission Liaison), Tammy Kerkove, Ron Flory (Stewards Commission Liaison)

8. Ministerial Changes

Tim Button-Harrison, District Executive

Jerry Bertleson has accepted a call to serve a church in Canistota, South Dakota to be closer to family.  Since 2014, Jerry has served The Church on Northland, a federated Church of the Brethren /American Baptist congregation.  His last Sunday in Cedar Rapids will be July 28. Farewell notes may be sent to him at jerry.bertleson@gmail.com.

Laura Leighton-Harris was called by the Dallas Center Church of the Brethren on June 2 to become their next pastor, staring September 1.  Laura is a graduate of the Training in Ministry (TRIM) program has served as pastor of the Peace Church of the Brethren in Council Bluffs since 2009.  She and her husband, Earl, came to Northern Plains District in 2002 when Earl was called as pastor of Peace Church.  

Mark Godfrey was officially installed as pastor of Panther Creek Church of the Brethren on June 16.  He was called by Panther Creek last January and moved from the Lanark Church of the Brethren in Illinois where he served as pastor since 2014.  Mark grew up in McPherson, KS and went to McPherson College before going to Bethany Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Kara, have two children, Callum (8) and Avalyn (4).  

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9. Leadership Development Musings

Barbara Wise Lewczak, Minister of Leadership Development
bwlewczak@minburncomm.net | 515-240-0060
Laura Leighton-Harris, Minister of Leadership Development
ontheshortside@hotmail.com | 712-322-1872

As with any organization, a change in leadership is bound to happen at some point in time. We see changes in leadership in the Bible as well, i.e. Moses to Joshua/Saul to David for example. While this is often a difficult time of transition, it can be good as well as new ideas arise, people step up into roles they may not have thought of before and new growth can arise out of the transition and new leadership.

I share the above as both Barbara and I are making changes in a leadership role we have been in for some time. As Camp Pine Lake Program Director and Camp Minister, Barbara is retiring at the end of this camp season after faithfully serving in these capacities for over a decade. I as pastor at Peace Church of the Brethren since September of 2009 have submitted my resignation with Sunday August 25th as my last Sunday there and beginning at Dallas Center Church of the Brethren September 1st.

We invite your prayers for the camp and for Peace as they discern their next steps and make a transition into new leadership.

We also want to highlight a couple insight sessions at Annual Conference relating to leadership development: Effectively Board Thursday 12:30-1:30 and Deacons and the Gifts for Ministry Friday 12:30-1:30 to name a few that caught my (Laura) eye.

As noted in last month’s newsletter, we will have an insight session at District Conference and we invite you to think about our 3 discussion points: Calling out and implementing an individual’s gifts for ministry
The impact on leadership through the discerning of one’s gifts
How we can use these gifts together as disciples “chosen and appointed to bear fruit” John 15: 16  to “Love one Another’ John 15:12

Blessings on your ministry and those in leadership in your ministry context
Barbara & Laura

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10. Fairview Church Assembles Clean-up Buckets

Diane Mason, Fairview COB

Fairview church assembled 76 disaster clean up buckets.  Funds to supply the buckets were gathered with a special offering and matched by the church treasury.  In addition, the local school had a bake-sale to augment the collection.  Supplies were purchased and our children assembled the buckets.

The Witness Commission will be collecting cleaning buckets for a service project at District Conference in August 2019.  These will be processed through Church World Service.  See list below:

1 five gallon bucket with resealable lid
4 scouring pads
7 sponges, including 1 large
1 scrub brush
18 reusable cleaning towels (e.g. Easy Wipes)
One 50 oz or two 25 oz bottles of liquid laundry detergent
One 16-28 oz bottle of liquid disinfectant dish soap
One 12-16 oz bottle of house hold cleaner that can be mixed with water (no spray bottles)
One pkg of 48-50 clothespins
Clothesline, two 50 ft or one 100 ft
Five dust masks
Two pairs heavy-duty, waterproof dishwashing gloves (latex- free, non-surgical)
One pair work gloves, cotton with leather palm or all leather
24-28 heavy duty 30-45 gallon trash bags on a roll and removed from carton
One 6-9 oz bottle of non-aerosol insect repellent
All items must be new.  Place all items in bucket, snap the lid on tight and seal with packing tape.
Processing fee--$3.00 per bucket
Shipping costs also needed

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11. Congregational Newsletters

In addition to the monthly District Newsletter, some of our churches have their own newsletters!  Check out what these congregations are up to this month:

English River Church of the Brethren
Fairview Church of the Brethren
Ivester Church of the Brethren
Panther Creek Church of the Brethren
Prairie City Church of the Brethren
South Waterloo Church of the Brethren

If your church has a newsletter that's not listed here, make sure to forward it to communications@nplains.org.

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Calendar of Events


  • July 3-7 – Annual Conference, Greensboro, NC
  • July 15-20 – Senior Youth Camp, Camp Pine Lake
  • July 22-27 – Junior Youth Camp, Camp Pine Lake
  • July 26-27 - Growing Hope Globally Annual Meeting, Conrad, IA
  • July 28-August 1 – Middler Camp, Camp Pine Lake
  • August 2-4 – Northern Plains District Conference, Cedar Rapids Baptist/Brethren
    • Registration, conference booklet, and more info on our website.
  • August 5-12 – District Executive on vacation
  • August 9 - Movie Night at Camp Pine Lake, 8:30pm
  • August 30 - Sept 2 - All Ages Camp, Camp Pine Lake
  • September 2-6National Older Adult Conference, Lake Junaluska, NC
  • September 7-8 – Panther Creek COB 150th Celebration
  • September 15 – Open Circle COB 25th Anniversary Celebration Kickoff
  • September 17 – Church Development and Renewal Committee, 7 pm
  • September 19-20 – Ministers Retreat, Camp Pine Lake, 9am - 4pm
  • September 21 – Ministerial Ethics Training, Camp Pine Lake
  • September 22-25 – Spiritual Renewal Circuit Ride, 6 pm supper, 7 pm worship
    - Sept. 22 at Prairie City COB
    - Sept. 23 at English River COB
    - Sept. 24 at Ottumwa Brethren/Baptist
    - Sept. 25 at Fairview COB
  • October 13-17 – Western District Executives Annual Retreat
  • November 1 – District Executive Committee, location tbd
  • November 2 – District Board, location tbd
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District Staff & Leadership

Tim Button-Harrison, District Executive
1211 Clark Ave, Ames, IA 50010
(641) 485-5604 | de@nplains.org

Hannah Button-Harrison, Director of Communications
(515) 460-5365communications@nplains.org

Ida Van Westen, District Conference Support
(507) 478-4552dc-support@nplains.org

Laura Leighton-Harris
TRIM Coordinator
Co-Minister of Leadership Development
(402) 595-0716ontheshortside@hotmail.com

Barbara Lewczak
Camp Pine Lake Program Director/Pastor
Co-Minister of Leadership Development
(515) 240-0060bwlewczak@minburncomm.net
Daniel Butler, Moderator, 2019 District Conference
(319) 939-1526 | bagona@yahoo.com

Lucinda Douglas, Moderator Elect, 2019 District Conference
(712) 204-8950nightowl21@q.com

Beth Cage, District Board President
(507) 932-5598 | marble@hbcsc.net

Gordon Hoffert, Chair of Camp Pine Lake Joint Committee
(507) 454-1503 | ghoffert@hbci.com
Rhonda Bingman, Financial Secretary
820 Raven Lane Madrid, IA 50156
(515) 480-7017 | jbingman@mchsi.com 

Matthew Kuecker, Camp Pine Lake Property Manager
(641) 640-1931 | matthewkuecker@yahoo.com 

Abbey Beck Brunk, Camp Pine Lake Director
(641) 939-5334 | camppinelakedirector@gmail.com

Aaron Beck Brunk, Camp Pine Lake Chef 
(641) 858-6950 | aarono_bb@hotmail.com

Cluster Ministers:

Diane Mason
(641) 895-7661 | rdmason@netins.net

Tim Peter
(515) 577-3926 | peter.timothy@gmail.com 
(currently discerning new cluster ministers)
Rhonda Pittman Gingrich
(612) 926-9460 | rpgingrich@yahoo.com

Roger Peckover
(507) 458-2517 | peckover@luminet.net


Barbara Wise Lewczak
(515) 240-0060 | bwlewczak@minburncomm.net
Lucinda Douglas
(712) 204-8950 | nightowl21@q.com

Ida Van Westen
(507) 478-4552 | sivanwesten@gmail.com

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Documents and Resources

Recent Newsletters


District Membership Task Force Resources

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