300th Anniversary Update: Music and Worship Fill Sight and Sound Theater

Church of the Brethren Newsline
October 2, 2007

A 300th Anniversary inspirational worship service hosted by Atlantic Northeast District and Southern Pennsylvania District was held the afternoon of Sept. 23, at the Sight and Sound Millennium Theater a few miles east of Lancaster, Pa.

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To find a photo journal of the 300th anniversary event of the Atlantic Northeast and Southern Pennsylvania Districts, go to
www.brethren.org/pjournal/2007/AtlNE-SPa300th.
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It was a gathering of many Brethren dignitaries: Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren General Board, was the main speaker. Co-hosts for the celebration were Craig Smith and Joe Detrick, district executives of Atlantic Northeast District and Southern Pennsylvania District respectively. Assisting in leadership for the worship service were James Beckwith, the Annual Conference moderator for 2008, and Belita Mitchell, immediate past moderator. Ron Lutz, a longtime leader at the “mother church” of the Brethren–Germantown Church of the Brethren in Phildelphia–summarized key aspects of Brethren history. Glenn Eshelman, founder and producer of Sight and Sound events, described his beginnings in several Brethren congregations in Lancaster County, Pa.

This second major event, occurring only a week after the opening 300th Anniversary celebration for the denomination, was a splendid success. During the six months or more that the committee planned the event, there was no way of knowing how many people would come, since no tickets were sold. However, telephone calls and e-mails began coming in from churches wanting to make sure there would be room for a busload, two busloads, and even three busloads of members.

According to Eshelman, the auditorium seats 2,100 people. That number was exceeded by at least 400. The ushers did a fine job. A committee member counted empty seats–only 20 in the entire auditorium, with some people standing in the back.

On the huge Sight and Sound stage were a 60-piece orchestra, a choir of close to 300 voices, and the Brethren Heritage Singers. The latter is a group of 20 men and women from the local area who don 1900s-era garb and sing hymns from that period in both German and English. Their selections included the Lord’s Prayer in German. One of the selections sung by the chorus was an anthem composed especially for the event by Ralph Lehman, a well-known local musician and composer.

Both the orchestra and chorus were directed by David Diehl, director of music at York (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. Emery DeWitt, director of music at Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, coordinated the choral music and recruited the chorus, and also played oboe in the orchestra. Venona Detrick coordinated the orchestral music and recruited the orchestra, and also played violin.

Lebanon (Pa.) radio station WLBR 1270 AM recorded the program to broadcast it as part of the station’s Brethren Hour series on Oct. 7.

The offering, collected in the green bags borrowed from the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, amounted to $17,570.30. After expenses are paid, the balance will be donated to the districts’ Disaster Relief Auction.

The planning commitee consisted of Emery DeWitt, Bob Hess, Kenneth Kreider, Jobie Riley, Donna Steiner, and Guy Wampler from Atlantic Northeast District; Joe and Venona Detrick, Warren and Theresa Eshbach, David Diehl, and Georgia Markey from Southern Pennsylvania District.

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The Church of the Brethren Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board. Jobie Riley contributed this report. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To receive Newsline by e-mail go to http://listserver.emountain.net/mailman/listinfo/newsline. Submit news to the editor at cobnews@brethren.org. For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.