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District News & Announcements

October 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 October 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.

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In this issue

  1. Tree-o Concert at Camp Pine Lake: Oct. 12
  2. Fall Women's Retreat: Oct. 18 & 19
  3. Trunk or Treat at Ankeny COB: Oct. 29
  4. Upcoming Continuing Ed. Courses
  5. Message from the Moderator
  6. Holiness in our Midst
  7. Leadership Development Musings
  8. District Seeking New Treasurer
  9. Milestones in Ministry and Congregational Life
  10. SE Iowa Spiritual Renewal Circuit Ride
  11. Gordon Oliver Retires as Libertyville's Pastor
  12. Save the Date! - Trip to Heifer International headquarters in 2020
  13. Congregational Newsletters
Quick info
Calendar of Events | District Staff & Leadership Contacts | Documents & Resources

Banner photo: Special guest Michaela Alphonse leads an insight session at The Church on Northland during District Conference in August.  Photo by Hannah Button-Harrison. Send in your photos for future newsletters! Email communications@nplains.org.

1. Tree-o Concert at Camp Pine Lake: Oct. 12

Abbey Beck Brunk, Camp Pine Lake Director

Thank you to everyone who attended All Ages camp and a special thank you to those who helped us fundraise. Your support is everything to us!

We would like to invite you to another special concert provided by one of camps neighbors Bruce Reiks. Tree-O will be performing Saturday October 12th at 7pm. This is a freewill donation event. Donations will go towards cost of band and fundraising for camp. There will be a time for fellowship following the concert, we hope to see you there! 

Click on the image to view and print flyer

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2. Fall Women's Retreat: Oct. 18 & 19

LaDonna Brunk, Ivester COB

Fall women's retreat for N Plains District Church of the Brethren
Dates: 10:00 am Friday October 18 to Saturday October 19 - 2:00 pm.
Location:  Ivester Church Fellowship Hall
Theme: Hope for Troubled Times
Guest speakers: JC and Melanie Castro --"While walking across America on Trail Life", for the purpose of making disciples.  Friday evening Oct 18 at 7:30.  Donations will be accepted. Anyone interested is welcome.
Meals: $7 each
Housing: Overnight housing is available near Pine Lake.  Contact LaDonna Brunk at 319 382 6063
Group meditation/sharing: Friday after lunch and Saturday after breakfast. Led by Janis Pyle from her work in progress:  "Note to God: Thank you for the Cancer, Gifts from the Journey to Recovery."
Please preregister by October 4: to labrunk@heartofiowa.net and indicate meals you plan to be present for. 
(Fri noon, Fri eve, Sat morn, Sat  noon)

Note: You are welcome to all or part of this retreat. 
We do need to know ahead regarding meals and overnight lodging.  Thanks. If you have a last minute change of plans or availability, please call ahead. 

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3. Trunk or Treat at Ankeny Stover COB: Oct. 29

Barbara Wise Lewczak, Ankeny Stover COB

Come celebrate Halloween with Ankeny Stover Church of the Brethren! The event is at 6pm on Tuesday, October 29th. There will be lots of different activities. Enjoy a hot chocolate bar, face painting, balloon animals, games, and more! No cost for attendance. Bring your best costume and prepare for lots of fun!

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4. Upcoming Continuing Education Courses

New Ventures in Christian Discipleship season to begin September 28

The Ventures in Christian Discipleship program at McPherson (Kan.) College is moving into its eighth year of providing useful, affordable education to small church congregations. The first two online courses of the year will focus on Creation Care. All classes are donation-based and continuing education credit is available for $10 per course.

On October 26 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. CST, Sharon Yohn will present the course “Faith Through Action: Effective approaches to solving the climate challenge.” God calls on us to act when our brothers and sisters are in need. The destabilization of our climate is already causing immense human suffering, leaving us with a clear call to action. But how? When faced with a problem this large and complicated, it is hard to feel like our actions are meaningful. In this course we will explore three types of meaningful action you can take and the resources available to support those actions.

Dr. Sharon Yohn is an active member of the Stone Church of the Brethren in central Pennsylvania, as well as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Juniata College. She earned her B.S. in Environmental Science at Juniata College, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Geosciences from Michigan State University. Called to action by both her scientific understanding and her faith, Sharon has been acting as an advocate for climate action for several years. Sharon co-wrote a series of articles on faith and climate change for the Church of the Brethren magazine, The Messenger, and served on a denominational Creation Care Committee. She is the group leader for the Juniata Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a non-partisan organization building political will for a livable future.  

To learn more about Ventures in Christian Discipleship and to register for courses, visit www.mcpherson.edu/ventures

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5. Message from the Moderator

Lucinda Douglas, 2020 District Conference Moderator

Hello friends across the Northern Plains District:
This last weekend I met with other Pastors across the Northern Plains District for an Ethics training. We looked at various passages of scripture that gave different scenarios of ethical problems. Ethical dilemmas aren’t new to us in this day and age. In fact we may face even more different kinds of problems relating to social media and so forth. But, doing the right thing, saying the right thing, making good choices are not new and are what we need to be doing. One thing that is very important is to remember is that we are not alone. We live and work in community and in communication with others. This helps inform our ethical choices and helps to keep us on the right path. Being able to talk through an issue with a colleague is important and being in relationship with others gives us another perspective. The ethics training was a good review and it was also good to be with other Pastors across the District.

We talked about the Priesthood of all believers and how we all are called to make good ethical choices. Yet, the set apart ministry is a little different in that those that are called into set apart ministry must be the role models and if we don’t adhere to good ethical choices we can cause even more harm. So, as we are in community with one another, we support one another, hold each other accountable and lend strength to one another and therefore our communities.

We learned about the Greek word phronesis. This is the "practical wisdom, a matter of knowing what to do, how to do it and when to do it in concrete situation." This is a skill that can be learned is what Pastor David Kerkove assured us. Our ethics guide written by James Benedict says that "One way to gain this practical wisdom more quickly is to seek out others who can share their experiences and reflect together". He goes on to suggest that "Mentors, spiritual directors, peer groups and one-on-one friendships with colleagues are all able to assist in the development of phronesis". This was written in the context of set apart ministry. I think we are called to be honest and enter into relationships with integrity whether we are called to a set apart ministry or not, but it is especially true for those called into the set apart ministry.

I am especially thankful for my minister colleagues who will listen and share with me their experiences. I hope that I can come and visit with you in your church communities. I hope we can share together what is exciting and what are those things that are concerning for you in your areas. I am especially interested in the ways in which you have been reaching out to others in your communities. I am eager to know how this has strengthened you and to hear about what has challenged you. I’d like to hear what kinds of things you are passionate about and what you are doing about your passions.

I would like to come and visit in your church during this year that I am Moderator. Here are some dates I am available:
October 6th
November 17th
December 1, 8 (If you’d like for me to come during Advent)
My schedule is pretty open during January, February, March, April

You can email me at nightowl21@q.com or call me at (712) 204-8950 to schedule a time for me to come and speak at your church. I am open to other times, also, if you’d like to have two or more churches meet together for discussion and fellowship. I look forward to hearing from you and sharing together.

-Sister Moderator Lucinda Douglas 

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6. Holiness in our Midst - On (Holy) Goose Bumps

Janis Pyle


Story Circle Prompt: When was the last time you got goose bumps from being awe-inspired?

At the Iowa State Fair in August 2019, I got multiple cases of the kind of goose bumps that don’t originate from the cold. (My friend Heather, like many others, calls them “God Bumps”!) I was with my friend Alice. As we viewed exhibits—fabric arts, oil paintings, water colors, preserves and canned goods, and photographs —she asked which entries I liked best in each category. I used the “goose bumps” test to gauge my answers. (My choices didn’t always align with the entries sporting blue ribbons.) When we participated in the hymn sing at the church on the fairgrounds, I got goosebumps when a woman sang descant on “Amazing Grace!”
To me, getting all prickly, is a signal that God is near and guiding me to the idiosyncratic experiences, people and things meant for me. I take notice! 

1.  Read the above reflection. In your journal, answer the question: What gives me “God Bumps”?
1.   Read aloud Session LXXXV.
2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt. 

[View on our website]

[Past Sessions]

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7. 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

I was watching Good Morning America this past Monday and Robin Roberts was interviewing Bob Iger, CEO of Disney about his new book and his top 7 Leadership Qualities. As I listened to him sharing these, I thought how much these qualities are needed in ministry as well, especially numbers 6 and 7.

Passion for innovation. Innovation leaders not only have to appreciate the benefits of innovation, they need a deep passion for innovations that benefit customers. Leaders must make innovation an essential part of the company’s culture and growth strategy.

A long-term perspective. Major innovations can change entire markets as the iPod and iTunes did, but they take time to perfect products and gain adoption by mainstream users. By changing the metrics of success, Page and co-founder Sergey Brin are able to balance fiscal discipline with the need to give innovation leaders a safe space to incubate new ideas.

The courage to fail and learn from failure. The risks of innovation are well known, but many leaders aren’t willing to be associated with its failures. However, there is a great deal to be learned from why an innovation has failed, as this enhanced understanding can lead to the greatest breakthroughs. 

Deep engagement with the innovators. Innovation leaders must be highly engaged with their teams, asking questions, probing for potential problems, and looking for ways to accelerate projects and broaden their impact. That’s what HP’s founders Bill Hewlett and David Packard did by wandering around HP’s labs and challenging innovators. My HBS colleague Amy Edmondson says groups where members can air wild ideas are “psychologically safe.” In such settings, participants feel respected even when their ideas are rejected, and they don’t fear airing opposing views. The more failed ideas that come up, the more likely the group will land on a successful one.

Willingness to tolerate mavericks and protect them from middle management. The best innovators are rule-breakers who don’t fit the corporate mold. These people are often threatening to middle managers, many of whom adhere to standard practices. That’s why innovation leaders must protect their mavericks’ projects, budgets, and careers rather than forcing them into traditional management positions.

Opening up time for creativity and brainstorming. Innovation leaders understand how to give their people the time to think—the difference between “maker time” and “manager time.” As Paul Graham wrote, managers break up their time into 30- to 60-minute chunks, feeling satisfied with tight schedules of meetings throughout the day. For makers, this is disruptive, because it is impossible to generate the time and freedom to be creative. Innovative thinkers need a few consecutive hours to enter “flow” – a mental state in which people are fully immersed in the creative process. Innovation leaders fit meetings around the needs of their creative teams. For instance, Steve Jobs held three-hour meetings on marketing – an unusual amount of time in a CEO’s schedule.

Being self-aware and mindful. The best innovation leaders understand the importance of self-awareness. Without knowing their limitations, they’ll be unable to bring out the strengths of those around them. Honest feedback is often hard to get because many people tell leaders what they want to hear rather than the unvarnished truth. For this reason, many leaders use 360-feedback from their peers and subordinates.

Mindful practices such as daily meditation, prayer, journaling, or jogging also helps leaders to be more creative and open to new ideas. For Iger, this means waking up every morning at 4:30 a.m. to be alone. For Jobs, this meant Zen Buddhist meditation. As I have learned from my personal practice of meditation, mindfulness helps me reflect on myself and my ability to lead others. Many of my strongest ideas have come from meditation.

Innovation leaders don’t create innovations themselves, but they are effective at leading creative people. While many companies claim they are innovative, few successfully develop leaders who understand how to lead creative teams. Many large companies often stifle innovation leaders. Short-term pressures, zero-sum success, and an unhealthy focus on the status quo all prevent innovation leaders from emerging.

Iger calls creativity “the heart and soul of Disney,” but, in truth, innovation leaders are at the core of every creative company. Without their leadership, companies begin to manage for short-term results and eventually decline. To stay ahead of their competitors, companies must have innovation leaders who inspire the creativity of others.

Which of these qualities resonate with you?
Which of these qualities resonate with your ministry context?
 If one of these qualities is lacking in your ministry context, what could be done to address that?
Why is the courage to fail and learn from failure oftentimes difficult to have as a leadership quality?
Let us know your thoughts on this article and the questions as we enjoy hearing from you as we grow in ministry together and call out leaders.

We are also available to come visit and discuss leadership development.

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

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8. District Seeking New Treasurer

Tim Button-Harrison, District Executive

Northern Plains District is looking for a new Treasurer to replace Diane Mason who will conclude her service the end of this year.  The Treasurer is appointed by the Stewards Commission to disperse District funds and maintain a system of accounting.  The system developed by Diane uses Excel spreadsheets and she will be available to train her successor.  The position includes a small stipend and reimbursement for expenses.   Please consider persons in your congregation or the district who could serve well in this position and then share their name with Ron Flory, Stewards Commission Chair, rondflory@cfu.net, 319-239-5945.  Also contact Ron for further details or any questions about the Treasurer position.

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9. Milestones in Ministry and Congregational Life

Tim Button-Harrison, District Executive

At the 2019 Northern Plains District Conference, ten ministers were recognized for reaching a five-year milestone since their ordination.  We also celebrated one fellowship and six congregations for reaching five year milestones in their history. Click here to read short biographical sketches of the honored ministers and congregations.

If you missed the recap video of conference, you can view it here.

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10. SE Iowa Spiritual Renewal Circuit Ride

Diane Mason, Fairview COB


 (photo of pot thrown at Prairie City CoB by speaker Paul Liepelt)

SE Iowa Spiritual Renewal Circuit Ride with Brother Paul Liepelt of Annville, PA focused around the theme of the Potter.  Each evening September 22 – 25 began with a fellowship meal provided by the host church followed by worship and teaching.  As he threw a pot on Sunday night at Prairie City we learned how clay needs to be prepared to be used by a potter and whatever shape we are in, we are IN the Potter’s house and God is preparing us to be shaped for His use.  Monday night at English River, Brother Paul explained that the kiln molecularly alters clay into something that is permanently hardened just as fiery trials in our lives can be times God is strengthening us for His use.  In Ottumwa on Tuesday, we saw how the Kintsugi process reassembles broken pots in such a way that beautifully accentuates the cracks, thus we should be willing to admit our brokenness and show others how God has mended us into a beautiful work.  The circuit ride culminated Wednesday evening at Fairview when we were reminded that God has made us both wonderfully and fearfully.  One of the fears of our making is our free will.  How will we respond to God our Wonderful Creator?

In the “upside down” kingdom of Jesus where the first shall be last, Diane Mason, pastor of Fairview is “baptized” with a bucket of water by Tim Peter, pastor of Prairie City.  Fairview assembled 76 disaster buckets to win the challenge among the congregations of southeast Iowa.  The recognition occurred as the SE Iowa Spiritual Renewal Circuit Ride concluded Sept 25 at the FairvIiew church.


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11. Gordon Oliver Retires as Libertyville's Pastor

Tim Button-Harrison, District Executive

Last month, at Libertyville congregation’s 175th anniversary celebration, Pastor Gordon Oliver was recognized for his many years of pastoral service to the congregation.  Last spring, for health reasons, Gordon needed to step back from the pulpit, and he decided to conclude his ministry service with Libertyville.   In his place, the congregation recently invited Tom Grove to serve 
as their minister.  Tom is now taking steps to enter a ministry training program and become relicensed as a minister.

Gordon Oliver was raised in the Libertyville congregation where his father was a minister.  First in 1951 and then again in 1954-1955, Gordon was in Brethren Volunteer Service in Falfurrias, Texas, doing his alternative service as a conscientious objector.   Through a mutual friend, Gordon met Betty, who also served in BVS in Falfurrias, but at a different time, and they were married in 1959.  In 1986, Gordon followed in his dad’s footsteps as a farmer-minister.   That year he began the Education for Shared Ministry (EFSM) program of the Church of the Brethren and started serving as pastor of the Libertyville congregation.  In 1990, after completing EFSM, he was ordained.  Gordon and Betty have three sons, Timothy, Philip and David, and 5 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.  Notes and cards of appreciation for his years of ministry may sent to Gordon Oliver, 13729 120th St., Douds, IA 52551.

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12. Save the date! - Trip to Heifer International headquarters in 2020

Gordon Hoffert, Lewiston COB

A bus tour to Heifer International headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas is being planned for next year. Departure will be from Cedar Rapids following the conclusion of District Conference on Sunday, August 2nd. Return is tentatively planned for Thursday, August 6th or Friday, August 7th. A stop in Branson on the return is being considered. Details are still being ironed out. Plan to join this educational tour! For information, contact Gordon Hoffert, (507) 458-2291, ghoffert@hbci.com.

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13. 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:

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


  • October 1-2 – District Executive in Elgin, IL for Council of District Executives Mtg.
  • October 6 - West-Central Iowa Cluster Love Feast, Panther Creek COB, 4pm
  • October 8 - West-Central Iowa Pastors, Panther Creek COB 10am 
  • October 12 - Tree-o Concert at Camp Pine Lake, 7pm
  • October 13-17 – Western District Executives Annual Retreat
  • October 18-19 - District Women's Retreat, Ivester COB
  • October 22 – District Conference Planning Committee, 8:15 pm
  • October 30 - Trunk or Treat, Ankeny Stover Church, 6pm
  • November 1 – District Executive Committee, Camp Pine Lake, 5-9pm
  • November 2 – District Board, Camp Pine Lake, 8am-4pm
  • November 5 – Church Development and Renewal Committee, 7 pm
  • November 4-11 – District Executive on Vacation
  • 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

  • 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
  • May 1 – District Executive Committee, Camp Pine Lake, 5-9 pm
  • May 2 – District Board, Camp Pine Lake, 8am-4pm
  • 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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