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District News & Announcements

November 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 November 24th 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.

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In this issue

  1. Gordon and Betty Oliver's 60th Anniversary: Nov. 7th
  2. Ivester Lasagna Supper: Nov. 10
  3. Upcoming Continuing Education Courses
  4. Message from the Moderator
  5. Holiness in our Midst
  6. Leadership Development Musings
  7. Congregation Updates
  8. Global Women's Project Advent Calendar
  9. Message from Discipleship Ministries: Xenos Project
  10. Congregational Newsletters
Quick info
Calendar of Events | District Staff & Leadership Contacts | Documents & Resources

Banner photo: Fall decorations at Dallas Center Church of the Brethren, arranged by Ella Moss.  Photo by Laura Leighton-Harris. Send in your photos for future newsletters! Email communications@nplains.org.

1. Gordon and Betty Oliver's 60th Anniversary: Nov. 7th

David Oliver, Libertyville COB

Gordon and Betty Oliver, of the Libertyville congregation, will be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary on November 7th .  The family would like to have a card shower for them.  Cards can be sent to them at 13729 120th ST Douds, IA 52551.

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2. Ivester Lasagna Supper: Nov. 10

Christine Sheller, Ivester COB

The people of Ivester Church of the Brethren invite you to their 4th annual Lasagna Supper, Sunday, Nov. 10, from 5-7 pm  We will also serve French bread, salad bar, pie, ice cream, and drinks.  Veggie and gluten-free lasagna will also be available.  Freewill donations will go to Sidney Haren, Ivester member and Camp Pine Lake alum, who is going to the Philippines to serve at an orphanage mid-November; and to Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Come!  Enjoy delicious food, see old friends and make new ones.

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3. Upcoming Continuing Education Courses

Tempered: How Leaders Develop Resilience Amidst The Crucible of Change
Featuring: Todd Bolsinger
November 13-14
Vermeer Global Pavilion
2110 Vermeer Rd. E, Pella, IA
Click here to view and print the informational brochure.

The November course from the “Ventures in Christian Discipleship” program at McPherson (Kan.) College is a partnership with On Earth Peace and entitled “We’d Prefer to Avoid That: Conflict in the congregation.” All of us, both individuals and communities of faith, face challenges that can lead to conflict. Too often the choice is made to try and avoid the conflict rather than address the issues in ways that can help resolve and transform the situation. This course will introduce the idea of choosing new responses to conflict in our lives, including both the difficulties and the life-giving benefits. It will provide skills for analyzing and dealing with conflict in healthy ways. The course will also help enhance the participants’ communication in order to better equip them to prevent or minimize future conflicts in their congregations and personal lives. Furthermore, participants will explore the relevance of Matthew 18 in transforming conflict in interpersonal and congregational settings.

The class will be held online Saturday, November 9 at 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. CST and taught by Melanee Hamilton and Rick Polhamus of On Earth Peace.

Melanee Hamilton completed her Master of Divinity degree from Boston University School of Theology in 2018. While in school, Melanee’s focus was on religion and conflict transformation and how faith communities can be places of healing and reconciliation. Because of this interest, she was led to intern with On Earth Peace, where she revised the Matthew 18 Workshop on congregation conflict and reconciliation. Melanee recently concluded an interim associate pastor position at Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren as well as an interim program assistant position at Brethren Community Ministries in Pennsylvania. 

Rick Polhamus is a member of the Pleasant Hill (Ohio) Church of the Brethren where he has served as church board chair, deacon, and youth leader. He works for the Church of the Brethren through On Earth Peace (OEP) where he has witnessed for peace, led Ministry of Reconciliation conflict transformation trainings, and led retreats and workshops as part of OEP’s Youth Peace Retreat Leadership Team. He has lead Shalom Team trainings in at least 10 districts. Rick also works for Christian Peacemaker Teams and has worked extensively in the Middle East over the past 18 years.

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.

The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership is offering Nurturing Vital Spirituality in a Changing World January 22-March 17, 2020 with Rhonda Pittman Gingrich as the instructor. TRIM/EFSM students will receive one credit in Ministry Skills upon completion.  Continuing Education students will receive 2.0 CEUs.  This course is also available for laypersons for their own personal enrichment (PF). (See details below for CEU or PR.)

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4. Message from the Moderator

Lucinda Douglas, 2020 District Conference Moderator

This past weekend, I attended a retreat for my Spiritual Direction class. The theme for the retreat was Coming to the Well. We were treated to a lesson from John 4 where Jesus talks with a Samaritan woman at the well. Our leader, Christina O’Hara suggested that the well was like the "water cooler", a place where people connected with each other. Perhaps the original "hook-up" place! She invited us in the lectio divina practice to meditate on this passage as she read it three times and name what stood out to us. For me, it was listening, drawing (as in drawing out water), and proclaiming. She mentioned that this unnamed woman has no voice, no standing, no husband, yet brings her whole village out to hear Jesus. This woman who is not named....how did she share this news with her whole village? It would seem as if her village may have already judged her, so that could be one reason she went to the well in the middle of the day. Christina shared that possibly this  unnamed woman was barren and that could have been why she had been married five times. And, it could have been why the man she was living with now would not commit to her in marriage. But, we don’t know and this is pure speculation.

God has a place for each of us. And, it seems that Jesus especially sought out those who were on the margins of life. Salvation is about being made whole. Meeting at the well was a place to draw out water. Water which gives and sustains life. Jesus promised water where one would never thirst again. Vs.14b "Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The unnamed woman wanted this water and who wouldn’t? Jesus told her that a time is coming that you will worship God the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. And, Jesus mentioned that the Samaritans worship what they don’t know, and the Jews worship what
they do know, but a time is coming where one will worship in the Spirit and the truth. Even this unnamed Samaritan woman knew about the Messiah! Perhaps she was so excited that the Messiah she knew was coming was actually talking to her that she left her water jug and ran back to her village to tell them the news and that’s how she got her whole village to come out to hear Jesus.

Just some questions to think about: How do we reach out to those who are on the margins in our communities? Are they important to us? Where’s our excitement? What are the things you are grateful for and excited about that you want to tell others about your news?

-Sister Moderator Lucinda Douglas 

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5. Holiness in our Midst - On Show and Tell

Janis Pyle


Story Circle Prompt: What would you bring to “Show and Tell” today? 
Sydni, the activities director at the assisted living center where I work, recently revived a kindergarten staple. She added “Show and Tell” to her schedule of events, much to the delight of the residents. Among the items shown, she said, were a 15-foot snakeskin; a birdhouse made of wood from an old building; an alligator head; a pin from Ireland; and a digital photo frame. Things created by the residents included a poem, painted home-grown gourds; and a rosemaling board. 
The excitement of the residents sharing their special items prompts me to consider what I would “Show and Tell” today. The item that comes to mind is a lapel pin given to me by my friend Tammy. It is about 1-1/2 inches square. The word hope is written in script on a sky-blue background; a pink butterfly rests on top of the word. I wore the pin the last two years during cancer treatments. Hope---in the form of friends and family; gifts large and small; and advanced medical science---saw me through 15 invasive diagnostic tests, 12 weeks of chemo, a major surgery, three outpatient procedures, 25 days straight days of radiation, two hospitalizations for side effects from chemo, and one hospitalization for radiation burns. And, did I mention, four blood transfusions? Thanks to that hope, I am currently diagnosed as N.E.D. (No Evidence of Disease.) I still wear my “hope pin” whenever I am facing an unresolved issue or unanswered question. Wearing it serves as a reminder that hope can win the day, no matter how dark the future looms.

1.  Read the above reflection. In your journal, answer the question: What would you share at “Show and Tell” today? What is the story behind your offering?

1.   Read aloud Session LXXXVI.
2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt.

[View on our website]

[Past Sessions]

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6. 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

Barbara attended the Bible studies during NOAC led by Paula Bowser.  The Ankeny/Stover congregations are using the DVD from the studies to do our Bible Studies.  Paula mentioned and it occurred to me and Paula referenced as well that this study focus’ on Leadership. 
The Scriptures Paula referenced are as follows;
Romans 15: 7-13
Philippians 3: 13-14
Genesis 3: 8-21 & Genesis 4: 8-16

Paula asked use to discuss the following in light of this statement and the passages above particularly those from Genesis:
Discuss a Moment in time when you are positive that God Reached out to you.
Difficult conversations are not always pretty, but they matter.  When did you have a really difficult conversation and now, looking back, you are really glad you had it?  
Where are we in the statements below regarding our lives together as the people of God in these difficult conversations?

I’m well prepared and I’ve worked on being open to those who are different from me and with whom I’ve experienced conflict. I’m eager for God to show me next steps, Eager to leap over barriers and hone my skills in conflict resolution and peace making.

I’m interested in the race but sometimes see the other teams as “the enemy” some of my joy has been displaced by anger and frustration. Honestly even my own teammates are second to my personal goals of “being right”.  I need a heart to heart talk with the “Coach”.

My heart is in the right place. I want to run the race, but I’m scared! I’m out of shape when it comes to engaging with others. It’s difficult for me to reach across boundaries or run over obstacles.  What I need is opportunities and training in how to have healthy conversations.

Is there an event here today? I’m on the field but I don’t know where I’m supposed to be or who my teammates are.  Am I supposed to be engaged in some kind of race?  Where is the baton?  What’s the baton?  I really just want to be a spectator and hang out with like-minded friends or I might just go home.  Its either to hot or too cold. If only I’d brought more snacks.

None of the above apply to me. NOT a fan of the invitation OR the way it’s been framed.  But I have something to say.  Here’s where I’m at in terms of the theme and what I want to share.
Some in attendance suggested that there should be an option to say “all of the above” at one time or another.

Barbara purchased the DVD’s from the Bible Studies and would be willing to share them with others in the District.  Each DVD is about 60 minutes.  Barbara will discuss the next study in our January musings based on the book of Jonah.   
In closing we ask you all to consider Paula’s closing thought for this study.
Paula encouraged us to:
Be at peace with one another as much as is possible
Press on toward that high calling of God in Christ Jesus! 
Please share your thoughts as you read and contemplate these passages, questions, and musings.

Barbara Wise Lewczak | blwlewczak@minburncomm.net | 515-240-0060 
Laura Leighton Harris | ontheshortside@hotmail.com | 402-595-0716 

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7. Congregation Updates


The Ivester Congregation has begun a new way to do Wednesday night "Bible study!" Rev Paul is calling it "Real-Time Theology" or RTT for short! Instead of rummaging through the Scriptures line by line in an attempt to dissect the content based on cultural context and the whole nine yards, we are now attempting to take issues of the world and/or community and applying them to how we can live out our lives in the same manner that Christ taught us. Basically, this is discipleship!

To accomplish this, we are diving into a new podcast each week and discussing that content based on how we can/would respond to it as a community of believers. In doing so, we are putting our beliefs and Scriptural understanding into practice! Podcasts vary in content, depth, and length which makes this a difficult task to undertake, but the benefits much outweigh the time spent trudging through the millions of podcasts available. We have used our very own Dunker Punk podcast to The Holy Post podcast (which is hosted by the creator of Veggie Tales) to Irenicast. Our topics have been from Identity, in the context of being Brethren, to how secularism is good news for the church and its mission to does the New Testament predict the future. All have spurned good discussions on how we can live for Christ in our communities and in our context. We encourage you to give it a try!

Peace Church of the Brethren in Council Bluffs is emphasizing the theme of gratitude in November, incorporating it in worship and music.  There will also be an opportunity for congregants to fill a gratitude jar to overflowing during the course of the month. Written expressions of blessings  we experience can be placed in the jar as a visual reminder of how God is so good to us.
Photo --Kathy Rowe, board chair


Here are some pictures of the South Waterloo Truck or Treat held October 27.    We had 17 vehicles decorated.  We estimate we had over 200 children come.


8. Global Women's Project Advent Calendar

Anna Lisa Gross, Global Women's Project

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because God has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, proclaim deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18) Advent is when we wait, most poignantly, for Jesus to break into our world, God-in-flesh, liberator, teacher, healer.

Too easily, December is full of shopping lists, baking cookies, going to pageants, hosting parties, and feeling that sense of MORE - get more stuff, do more things, eat more sweets...all the opposite of what Jesus is about. Like a season of greed for MORE gifts, rather than gratitude for the greatest gift already given.

Global Women’s Project offers the Advent Calendar to nurture gratitude (rather than greed) within the midst of Advent. This calendar is filled with scripture, prayer prompts, activities and taxes, along with a color-by-day Christmas image. More information, including a Sunday school lesson plan to introduce the calendar, available at Global Women's Project website: https://globalwomensproject.wordpress.com/advent-calendar/

Print and share the calendar here.

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9. Message from Discipleship Ministries: Xenos Project

Mary Ann Grossnickle, Xenos Project Coordinator 

While the laws and policies towards immigration, refugees, and asylum continuously change, there remains a great need to help and support these individuals within our country.  The Xenos project wants to connect Church of the Brethren congregations wherever they now are on these important topics, ranging from those currently involved with immigration, to those discerning how to become actively involved, to those that want to learn more about these issues. So, with the Xenos Project, that could be as little as gaining a deeper understanding of immigration and learning what other churches in the denomination are doing.

When Christ reached out to the woman at the well, he went beyond cultural boundaries to embrace all of God's children.  We teach our children to sing:  "Jesus loves the little children / All the children of the world / Red, brown, yellow, black and white / They are precious in His sight / Jesus loves the little children of the world."  So, should not we reach out to all of God's Children?

It's in our hearts, as Brethren, as followers of Jesus, to serve and help those in need. We have the opportunity to step up in this way to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  Let us reach out to our brothers and sisters - red, brown, yellow, black, white - there should be no difference in our sight. One thing I have always loved about the COB is putting our faith into action.

The Xenos Project is about networking churches and to create conversation space on the issues of immigration, refugees, and asylum. Please visit the website - www.brethren.org/xenos - and take the Survey. Also, urge your congregation to send us their stories/experiences with immigrants/refugees/asylum seekers. We appreciate suggestions on how to strengthen the Xenos Project.  If you have any questions, please contact Discipleship Ministries of the Church of the Brethren, DiscipleshipMinistries@brethren.org, 847-429-4303.

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10. 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:

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


  • November 1 – District Executive Committee, Camp Pine Lake, 5-9pm
  • November 2 – District Board, Camp Pine Lake, 8am-4pm
  • November 3 – Junior High Sunday·        
  • November 3 – Panther Creek Soup Luncheon and Craft and Bake Sale, 11:45am-2:00pm
  • November 5 – Church Development and Renewal Committee, 7 pm
  • November 4-11 – District Executive on Vacation
  • November 10 – Ivester CoB Lasagna Supper, 5-7 pm (fundraiser for Sidney Haren’s trip to serve at an orphanage in the Philippines)
  • November 13 – West Central IA Pastors, Panora COB, 9 am
  • November 14 – Waterloo Area Pastors, Golden China, noon
  • November 18-19 – Iowa Ecumenical Leaders Retreat
  • December 10 – West-Central Iowa Pastors, Panther Creek COB, 10 am
  • December 10 – District Conference Planning Committee, 8:15 pm

  • January 23-30 – Council of District Executives Winter Meeting
  • February 7 – District Executive Committee, Dallas Center COB, 5-9 pm
  • February 8 – District Board, Dallas Center COB, 8am-4 pm
  • April 12 – EASTER SUNDAY
  • April 25-30 – Christian Citizenship Seminar
  • May 1 – District Executive Committee, Camp Pine Lake, 5-9 pm
  • May 2 – District Board, Camp Pine Lake, 8am-4pm
  • May 3 – National Youth Sunday
  • May 13-15 – Church Planting Conference
  • May 22-25 – Young Adult Conference
  • June 28-July 1 – Council of District Executives Summer Meeting
  • July 1-5 – Annual Conference, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • July 31-August 2 – District Conference, The Church on Northland, Cedar Rapids
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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
Lucinda Douglas, Moderator, 2020 District Conference
(712) 204-8950nightowl21@q.com

Paul Shaver, Moderator-Elect, 2020 District Conference
319-423-9034 | revpaul.ivestercob@gmail.com

Dave Kerkove, District Board President
515-313-3705 | davekerkove@gmail.com 

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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