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District News & Announcements

February 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 February 22nd 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. 2019 District Directory
  2. Sr. High Youth Events
  3. Jr. High Youth Events
  4. Camp Pine Lake Updates
  5. Continuing Education Courses
  6. Spring Women's Retreat
  7. Holiness in our Midst
  8. Leadership Development Musings
  9. Peace Church: Bags to Benches
  10. Panther Creek Calls New Pastor: Mark Godfrey
  11. Congregational Newsletters
Quick info
Calendar of Events | District Staff & Leadership Contacts | Documents & Resources

Banner photo: South Waterloo Youth auction off  homemade baked goods and treats for their fundraiser.  Photo by Diane Sittig. Send in your photos for future newsletters! Email communications@nplains.org.

1. 2019 District Directory

Hannah Button-Harrison, Director of Communications

Our district directory has been updated for 2019!  Paper copies for pastors and congregational leaders will arrive soon at each church.  Everyone else can access the directory by clicking here or by visiting the resources page on the district website (nplains.org/resources).  For privacy reasons, this version does not include the individual contact index.  If you would like the full version, please contact Tim Button-Harrison (de@nplains.org)

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2. Senior High Youth - Upcoming Events & Opportunities

Dave Kerkove, South Waterloo COB 

Regional Youth Conference at McPherson CollegeImage result for mcpherson college

  • Regional Youth Conference (RYC) is a Church of the Brethren conference for high school youth, youth advisors, and college students from Northern Plains, Southern Plains, Western Plains and Missouri/Arkansas Districts.  RYC – held on the McPherson College campus – will begin on Friday evening, February 22 and conclude on Sunday morning, February 24.

  • This year’s musical guest is Sadie Gustafson-Zook, an up-and-coming folk jazz singer based out of Boston.  An Anabaptist Mennonite Christians, Sadie is an experienced worship leader – including camps and youth conferences.  This year’s speaker is Asia Frye, the new Coordinator for Spiritual Life at McPherson College. Asia is a popular camp and retreat speaker.  

  • The registration fee for high school youth is $40 (before February 14 – $50 after February 14).  The registration fee for adult youth advisors is $75. All registration fees include an RYC t-shirt.  Please bring the following to RYC: bedding (you will be sleeping on the floor, so feel free to bring an air mattress!), toiletries, towel, clothes, tennis shoes if you plan to play Ultimate or other various games, jacket and gloves as it tends to still be chilly at night, instrument if you’d like to join in, Bible.

  • Northern Plains District Sr. High Youth Advisors, Natalie and Krystal Bellis, have agreed to serve as adult advisors for RYC.  Please contact Natalie Bellis (dn-bellis11@hotmail.com), Krystal Bellis (Krystal.bellis16@gmail.com), or Asia Frye (fryea@mcpherson.edu) if you have interest or questions.  Please go to https://www.mcpherson.edu/ryc/ to register or learn more about RYC.


Church of the Brethren Summer Workcamps: Grow (2 Peter 1:5-8)2019 Workcamps logo

  • Ten different opportunities to serve are being offered for Church of the Brethren Youth who have completed 9th grade – age 19:

    • June 8-14, New Meadows, Idaho (Camp Wilbur Stover) – $335

    • June 16-22, Miami, Florida – $400

    • June 23-29, Lybrook, New Mexico – $400

    • July 7-13, Knoxville, Tennessee – FULL

    • July 14-20, Boston, Massachusetts – $425

    • July 22-28, Waco, Texas – $370

    • July 28-August 3, Perry, Arkansas – FULL

    • July 29-August 4, Portland, Oregon – $400

    • August 4-10, Cañon City, Colorado – $365 (Brethren Revival Fellowship leadership)

    • August 5-11, Washington, D.C. – $335

  • Please contact Natalie Bellis (dn-bellis@hotmail.com), Krystal Bellis (Krystal.bellis16@gmail.com) or District Nurture Commission Chair, Dave Kerkove (davekerkove@gmail.com), if you have interest or questions.  Please go to http://www.brethren.org/workcamps/schedule/ to learn more about these opportunities to serve Christ and neighbor.


Senior Youth Camp at Camp Pine Lake: Peace WorksImage result for Camp Pine Lake

  • Senior Youth Camp for those who have completed grades 9-12 has been scheduled for Monday, July 15 – Saturday, July 20.  This year’s camp curriculum is: “Peace Works.” Need-based partial or full scholarships are available. Please contact Camp Pine Lake at  (641) 939-5334 or camppinelakecob@gmail.com to apply.  Please contact Camp Pine Lake Director, Abbey Beck Brunk (camppinelakedirector@gmail.com), or Camp Pine Lake Program Director, Barbara Wise Lewczak (bwlewczak@minburncomm.net), if you have questions or would like more information.

Additional adult advisors are needed to accompany youth to Regional Youth Conference and, possibly, a Church of the Brethren workcamp.  Please contact Natalie Bellis (dn-belis@hotmail.com), Krystal Bellis (Krystal.bellis16@gmail.com) or Dave Kerkove (davekerkove@gmail.com) if you would like to volunteer or have questions.  Northern Plain’s Nurture Commission will discuss additional funding possibilities for Regional Youth Conference and Church of the Brethren summer workcamps at their February 2 meeting.  Please don’t let registration costs deter you from giving prayerful consideration to attending Regional Youth Conference, Church of the Brethren summer workcamps, and/or Senior Youth Camp at Camp Pine Lake this summer!

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3. Junior High Youth - Upcoming Events & Opportunities

Tammy Kerkove, South Waterloo COB

Are you in Grades 6-8 (or know someone in Grades 6-8), love God and neighbor, and are connected to a congregation within the Northern Plains District of the Church of the Brethren?  Some exciting opportunities wait for Junior Youth in 2019!

National Junior High Conference: Strong and Courageous (Joshua 1:9)http://www.brethren.org/yya/njhc/images/2019/2019-njhc-logo.jpg

  • National Junior High Conference will be June 14-16, 2019 at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.  National Junior High Conference is for youth who have completed grades 6-8 and their advisors. The early-bird registration fee is $180 per person.  Starting April 1, registration increases to $210 per person. A travel scholarship is available to those who live west of the Mississippi River. Please click here to download a scholarship request form.  Tammy Kerkove has volunteered to serve as an advisor.  One more advisor (preferably male) is needed. Please contact Northern Plains District Junior Youth Advisors, Krystal Bellis (Krystal.bellis16@gmail.com) or Tammy Kerkove (tammykerkove@gmail.com) if you have interest or questions.  Please go to http://www.brethren.org/yya/njhc/ to learn more about National Junior High Conference.


Church of the Brethren Summer Workcamps: Grow (2 Peter 1:5-8)2019 Workcamps logo

  • Six different opportunities to serve are being offered for Church of the Brethren Junior Youth who have completed grades 6-8:

    • June 9-13 – Rodney, Michigan (Camp Brethren Heights)

    • June 17-21 – Harrisonburg, Virginia

    • June 26-30 – South Bend, Indiana

    • July 17-21 – Roanoke, Virginia;

    • July 21-25 – Petersburg, Pennsylvania

           (Camp Blue Diamond); FULL


Junior Youth Camp at Camp Pine Lake: Peace WorksImage result for Camp Pine Lake

  • Junior Youth Camp for those who have completed grades 6-8 has been scheduled for Monday, July 22 – Saturday, July 27.  This year’s camp curriculum is: “Peace Works.” Need-based partial or full scholarships are available. Please contact Camp Pine Lake at  (641) 939-5334 or camppinelakecob@gmail.com to apply.  Please contact Camp Pine Lake Director, Abbey Beck Brunk (camppinelakedirector@gmail.com), or Camp Pine Lake Program Director, Barbara Wise Lewczak (bwlewczak@minburncomm.net), if you have questions or would like more information.

Northern Plain’s Nurture Commission will discuss additional funding possibilities for National Junior High Conference and Church of the Brethren summer workcamps at their February 2 meeting.  Please don’t let registration costs deter you from giving prayerful consideration to attending National Junior High Conference, Church of the Brethren summer workcamps, and/or Junior Youth Camp at Camp Pine Lake this summer!

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4. Camp Pine Lake Updates

Abbey Beck Brunk, Camp Director

We are so excited to be planning for this summer. Our theme is Peace Works and there are so many wonderful messages we can’t wait to share with you all!
 As we prepare for registrations to start coming in we want to make the transition to online registrations as smooth as possible. 
Here are steps for how to register online, no paper registrations will be used this year. If you have questions please contact the director at camppinelakedirector@gmail.com or 319-464-6105.

1.Go to www.camppinelake.org 
2.Click on Camps and Events
3. Click Church of the Brethren Camps
4. Find the camp you wish to register 
5. Click on About/Register
6. Fill out the registration form. 

Congratulations! You're registered for camp!

Registrations open February 1st. If your camper will be supported by their churches scholarship please contact Barbara Wise Lewczak or Abbey Beck Brunk for the code.

As always, we would also encourage everyone to keep CPL in your prayers specifically for our upcoming season, our campers, our volunteers and our staff. 

Thank you!
Abbey Beck Brunk

5. Continuing Education Courses


Brethren Academy:
There are several Brethren Academy courses being led in the beginning of 2019.  These courses are open to:

• TRIM/EFSM students- fulfills M/MS unit and BCE experiences
• Those seeking Continuing Education Units (2.0 CEU)
• Anyone seeking personal and spiritual enrichment

Essentially, these courses are open to ALL!
Course fee $295.00

How to Think Theologically with Nathanael Inglis
8-week Online Course
March 13 - May 7, 2019 | Registration Deadline February 6th

Church of the Brethren Polity with Torin Eikler
8-week Online Course
April 3 - May 28, 2019 | Registration Deadline February 27th

Ventures Online Course to Focus on an Inclusive Multicultural Church

The March offering from the “Ventures in Christian Discipleship” program at McPherson (Kan.) College will focus on “Growing an Inclusive Multicultural Church.” As the world becomes more diverse, church leaders and lay people will need an understanding of what is inclusivity/multiculturalism. Instruction includes a non-threatening approach to invite and help bring more people, especially People of Color, into the churches or agencies of the Church of the Brethren.  Learning new information can help change the trajectory of people, whereby they see with new lenses of compassion and inclusivity. Plus participants can learn tips about how current church members can be more welcoming and inclusive.

The class will be held online Saturday, March 2 at 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. CST and taught by Barbara Avent. Barbara is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren living in Littleton, Colo. She graduated from Iliff School of Theology earning a Master of Divinity with an emphasis in Justice and Peace. She is co-coordinator of high school trainings about peacemaking, reconciliation and bullying prevention through Agape Satyagraha, a program of On Earth Peace.

All classes are donation-based and continuing education credit is available for $10 per course. To learn more about Ventures and to register for courses, visit www.mcpherson.edu/ventures.

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6. Spring Women's Retreat

LaDonna Brunk, Ivester COB


The spring 2019 women's retreat will be held at the Ivester Church of the Brethren May 2-4. Local housing arrangements will be available.  Meals will be $7 each and donations will be accepted for use of the church and housing.  Please send food concerns and questions to LaDonna Brunk when you register at labrunk@heartofiowa.net.  It would be appreciated if you would let us know of your interest by April 15 even if you might not be ready to make a firm commitment at that time.  Participants will be invited to bring snacks and or fruit to share.  More information will be coming.

7. Holiness in our Midst - On Love Stories

Janis Pyle


Share a love story. (It’s okay if you’re a part of it!)

February, the month in which we celebrate love, invites the telling of love stories. Miles and Gwen Albright, both gone now from this life, come to mind as an example of a quiet one. (Miles was a nephew to my grandfather, Joe Albright of State Center, IA.) They were a fun-loving couple devoted to their church, First United Methodist Church in Ames; their daughter Vicki’s family in Houston; and their sizeable social circle. What set them apart was their kindness to one another and an extraordinary awareness of each other’s needs, sensitivities and moods. They exuded “togetherness” when they related to each other.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on what elevated them among the many very close couples I’ve been privileged to know. I got a clue one day when I was with them in their car on the way to eat at our favorite Chinese restaurant. Miles told a story about being approached by several couples at church. They were planning a ceremony to renew their wedding vows. Would they, Miles and Gwen, like to do the same? Miles replied: “No thank you, we don’t need to. We renew ours every morning.” That was it! The intentionality to keep their promises to one another each day was their secret.

Story Circle Prompt: Share a love story.


1.  Read the above reflection. Write in your journal about your own love story or one you have witnessed. What keeps/kept the relationship together over time?


1.   Read aloud Session LXXVII.

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 Entire Article]

[Past Sessions]

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8. 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

Dana Cassell a CoB pastor from North Carolina posted these videos on her Facebook page this week and they can also be found on the Church of the Brethren web site.  Laura and I think that these stories and the following expert form the CoB web site speak to what we have been writing about during our time as Ministers of Leadership Development.  We pray that these sorties will inspire you to call out the gifts of leadership in you midst.

“If you have been sensing a call to set-apart ministry, a good first step would be to ask for prayer and conversation with your pastor, church leadership, or trusted friends. If you are sensing that someone you know might be called into set-apart ministry, don't be afraid to tell them!”

(shared with permission)


See also the post form Laurem Seganos Cohen below that speaks to her calling story;

Lauren Seganos Cohen

My call to ministry has been one of the biggest blessings (and challenges) of my life, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I was honored to be asked to contribute to this collection of call stories in the Church of the Brethren and love hearing how God has called others to this work. Thank you Dana Cassell for gathering these stories!

Please “Step out in Faith” to call others to Leadership and share your stories with us!

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9. Peace Church: Bags to Benches

Laura Leighton-Harrison, Peace COB

At our August Leadership Team Meeting, Lois shared with us a project called Bags to Benches, which is a community recycling program run by Trex. Organizations collect 500 pounds of plastics in a 6 month time frame and then a composite bench is donated to your organization. Trex provides the promotional materials and the recycling bins, a volunteer or volunteers are needed to weigh and record the collected amount of plastics then drop the materials off at participating locations. Our Leadership Team decided they would like to do this project and the idea was pitched to and warmly accepted by the congregation.

We received our list of acceptable plastics and began collecting in September. Members, family of members, groups using Peace Church for their worship and events, as well as local businesses have all contributed to this project.

Bill and Lois are our volunteers in picking up the plastics, weighing and recording the amounts, and taking them to Hy-Vee.

The attached pictures are the recycling boxes and the most recent pick up of plastics on Monday January 21st totaling 62 pounds. Our grand total is now 420 pounds, leaving us 80 to go through February.

This bench will be set and dedicated along with our Little Free Library on the east side of the church this Spring for our neighborhood kids and folks passing by.

If your church or organization would like to participate in this, go to www.trex.com for more information. On behalf of the folks here at Peace COB, we have found it to be fun and rewarding and know our neighborhood will enjoy the bench and library.

10. Panther Creek Calls New Pastor: Mark Godfrey

Tim Button-Harrison, District Executive

On January 6th the Panther Creek Church of the Brethren voted to call Mark Godfrey as their new pastor, beginning June 1, 2019.   Mark follows Dave Kerkove who served the Panther Creek congregation from January 2007 thru September 2018 at which time he left to serve the South Waterloo congregation.  In a letter introducing Mark, the Pastoral Search Committee shared this with the congregation: 

 “Originally from the McPherson, Mark is a graduate of McPherson College and then went to Bethany Theological Seminary. He has 14 years of ministry experience between Nokesville Church of the Brethren in Virginia and Lanark Church of the Brethren in Illinois.  He currently is the pastor at Lanark.  Mark entered college with the intention of preparing for a career in the medical field.  However, through the philosophy and religion courses he enjoyed, he eventually realized the gifts others had been telling him he was blessed with, and became an ordained pastor.  While pastoring in Virginia, Mark met his wife Kara. Their first child Callum (7 years) was born there.  Avalyn (3 yrs.) was born in Illinois where the family is currently residing.”

Please be in prayer for the Panther Creek congregation as they prepare for their new pastor and his family, for the Lanark congregation as they say goodbye to Mark, Kara, Callum and Avalyn, and for Mark and his family as they prepare for a new chapter in their life and ministry.

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
Ivester 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


  • February 1 – District Executive Committee, 6-9 pm, South Waterloo COB
  • February 2 – District Board, 9 am – 4 pm, South Waterloo COB
  • February 10 – MN Compelling Vision Gathering (snow date)
  • February 12 – West-Central IA Pastors, 10 am, Panora COB
  • February 14 – Waterloo Area Pastors, noon, Golden China
  • February 16 - Church Development and Renewal Comm., Ivester COB, 10-3
  • February 18 – District Conference Planning Committee, 7 pm
  • February 22-24 – Regional Youth Conference, McPherson College
  • March 12 – West-Central IA Pastors, 10 am, Panther Creek
  • March 17 – Thomas McMullin Licensing Service, Ankeny-Stover, 10:30 am
  • April 9 – West-Central IA Pastors, Peace COB, 10 am
  • April 18 – Maundy Thursday Love Feasts
  • April 21 – Easter
  • April 26 - District Executive Committee, 6-9 pm, Fairview COB
  • April 27 – District Board, 9 am – 4 pm, Fairview COB
  • April 28 – Stover/Ankeny Music Festival at the Ankeny Church, 4 pm
  • April 27-May 2 – Christian Citizenship Seminar, New York City & Washington, DC
  • May 2-4 - Spring District Women's Retreat, Ivester COB
  • May 5 – National Youth Sunday
  • May 19-27 - District Executive on vacation
  • May 24-26, Brethren Young Adult Conference, Camp Blue Diamond
  • June 14-16 – National Junior High Conference, Elizabethtown, PA
  • June 15 – All Camp Staff Training, Camp Pine Lake, 9:30 am – 5:00 pm
  • June 17-21 – Day Camp, location tbd
  • June 28 – Primary Overnight Camp, Camp Pine Lake
  • June 30-July 3 – Council of District Executives Summer Meeting
  • 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
  • September 2-6National Older Adult Conference, Lake Junaluska, NC
  • 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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