Rev. Tom Tarpley, Care Pastor at Fowlerville UB church (Fowlerville, Mich.), passed away August 15, 2021. He was 79 years old.

Visitation: 4-8 pm Thursday, August 19, 2021.
Visitation location: Hermann Funeral home, 1005 E Grand River, Fowlerville, MI 48836.
Funeral: 11 am Friday, August 20, with visitation one hour beforehand.
Funeral location: visitation and the funeral will be held at Fowlerville UB church, 9300 W Grand River Road, Fowlerville, MI 48836.

The funeral service will be livestreamed at 11am on on Facebook, Youtube, or at fowlervilleub.org.

Todd Fetters, re-elected as bishop for the next four years, preaches during the concluding service on July 17.

2021 US National Conference

Steve Dennie

The 2021 US National Conference was held July 14-17 at the Grand Wayne Center in downtown Fort Wayne, Ind. A quick summary before we get into details:

  • A total of 586 people registered for the conference. Of those, 88% attended in-person, and 12% attended online.
  • Todd Fetters, who has served as bishop since 2015, was elected to another four-year term.
  • The delegates elected four members of the Executive Leadership Team (three of them first-timers).
  • Our own denominational leaders were the keynote speakers: Bishop Todd Fetters, and directors Mike Dittman (National Ministries), Frank Yang (UB Global), and Sherilyn Emberton (Higher Education/Huntington University).
  • The conference theme was “Make Disciples.” The keynote messages, many of the workshops, and other elements of the conference all built on that theme.

Craig Mickey and Jennifer Bennett, from Emmanuel Community Church, served as our emcees/hosts for the services.

Deciding During the Heat of the Pandemic

Should we even consider doing an in-person National Conference in 2021? That decision had to be made during the summer of 2020—before the Second Wave of infections hit, before vaccinations became available. Contracts had to be signed with the convention center and hotels. The Grand Wayne Center kept us informed about the extensive measures they were putting in place to ensure that conferences would be safe, but nobody knew what things would look like a year down the road. So many uncertainties.

There came a point where Bishop Todd Fetters and the United Brethren National Office, which plans and administers the conference, had to make a decision. And so, nearly a year in advance, with the pandemic still raging, the decision was made and contracts were signed. We would hold an in-person conference, for however many people chose to attend. If things got bad, the state would no doubt step in and forbid in-person gatherings, thereby giving us an “out.”

But, even with vaccinations taking hold and the pandemic subsiding, would people be ready to once again gather in a large crowd? Would they feel safe? Planners knew numbers would be down considerably from previous highs of around 900. But how much of a hit would we take?

With this in mind, we enabled people to register as “virtual” attendees. This brought a variety of complications, added expenses, extra work, and opportunities for internet-related glitches. Would the majority of people attend virtually, and only a handful show up in person? When the contracts were signed, nobody could foretell. It was anyone’s guess.


The worship arts team from Emmanuel Community Church in Fort Wayne led in worship on Wednesday and Thursday nights, and on Saturday morning.

Receptions with food were held after each service.

People Want to Meet

Registration opened in February 2021. At that point, things were looking up, with millions of people getting vaccinated. Would 300 people come? Perhaps 400?

As registrations poured in, almost everyone was choosing to attend in-person. Clearly, people were eager to gather, face to face. And as the months passed and vaccinations pushed back infections and hospitalization rates, more and more people apparently decided they would feel safe attending. The numbers passed 300, then 400…and then 500. As best as can be determined, we had 586 total registrants. Of those, only 72 chose virtual registration. The vast majority of registrants came in person to Fort Wayne, Ind.

Turns out people were eager to get out among their fellow United Brethren, and felt safe doing so.


Business Meeting

The business meeting was held on Thursday morning, July 15, with about 150 clergy delegates and 72 lay delegates, plus another 45 advisory members. Arrangements were made for online delegates to vote and otherwise participate.

There was very little “business,” and that was intentional. Usually, delegates deal with various proposals, most of which involve revising the UB Discipline. But because of the unusual nature of this particular conference, with some delegates participating virtually, voting and discussion would be cumbersome.

Therefore, Bishop Todd Fetters decided to keep anything requiring voting and discussion to a bare minimum. Only two items were urgent, requiring action by the 2021 delegates: electing a bishop for the next four years, and electing4 four members of the Executive Leadership Team. Everything else could wait until 2023.

Election of the Bishop

We elect a bishop every four years, and 2021 was one of those years. The Nominating Committee, chaired by Pastor Tim Sherman of Bethel UB (Elmore, Ohio), submitted only one name for bishop: Todd Fetters. Their report stated:

“Eight pastors were nominated for the position of bishop, one being our current bishop. Seven of the nominees declined to have their name placed on the ballot. They all feel God is working greatly in our denomination to spread his Gospel, create Unity, and build the Mission among his church. Also, looking ahead, several of these men are willing to be considered to serve in the capacity of bishop in the future. As a nominating committee, we have been greatly encouraged by the unity displayed in these men and their dedication and support of our God, denomination, and Bishop Fetters. God is working mightily amongst us.”

Todd Fetters was re-elected as bishop by unanimous ballot. He had been serving as bishop since 2015. He initially served the remaining two years of Bishop Phil Whipple’s unexpired term, then was elected to his first four-year term in 2017. He now begins a second four-year term.

Executive Leadership Team

The Executive Leadership Team handles business between sessions of the National Conference. It consists of the bishop plus 12 persons (3 from each district), evenly divided between clergy and laypersons. Each National Conference elects four members of the Executive Leadership Team—one from each district. The following persons were elected this year to four-year terms:

  • East. Marc Stephenson, senior pastor of First UB church (New Castle, Pa.).
  • Central. Ruth Nietz, a layperson from Mainstreet Church (Walbridge, Ohio).
  • North. Matt McConnell, a layperson from Journey Church (Commerce, Mich.).
  • West. Brian Kramer, pastor of Middle School Ministries at Emmanuel Community Church (Fort Wayne, Ind.).

Matt McConnell has served on the ELT since 2017; the others are newcomers to the ELT. These four persons will join four persons elected in 2019 to four-year terms. Those eight persons will then select an additional four members, nominated by the bishop, for two-year terms.

In addition, two ministers elected in 2019 to four-year terms need to be replaced: Andy Sikora, who has been appointed to a part-time staff position at the UB National Office; and Mark Wilson, who accepted a pastorate in the Missionary Church. The Discipline gives this responsibility to the ELT Executive Committee.


Mike Dittman, director of National Ministries, spoke on Wednesday night.

Frank Yang, executive director of UB Global, spoke on Thursday night.

Sherilyn Emberton, President of Huntington University, spoke on Friday night.

Keynote Speakers

Each day included one main service. These were open to the public to attend (not just registrants), and were also livestreamed for anyone to watch. We know that many people across the denomination—in the United States, but also beyond—benefited by participating remotely in these services. (Thanks to the pandemic, we all have much practice with virtual participation.)

Mike Dittman, our director of National Ministries since 2016, got things started on Wednesday night with a message titled, “Discipleship as Apprenticeship.”

The next night, Frank Yang, who became executive director of UB Global at the beginning of 2021, spoke using the title, “The Disciple-Maker as a Foreigner in a Strange Land.”

The delegates spent Friday afternoon and evening at Huntington University. Sherilyn Emberton, President of HU since 2013, brought a message that night on “Generational Discipleship.”

Todd Fetters closed the conference on Saturday morning with a message on, “Our Divine Assignment is to Make Disciples.”

Links to videos of all of these keynote messages can be found here.


Andy Sikora led the prayer time for UB church planters.

The UB church planters.

Frank Yang (left) prays for Ruth Rivera and the McCammon family.

Commissioning Services

The closing service also included two commissioning services.

During the conference, Bishop Fetters announced that Andy Sikora, pastor of Renew Communities (Berea, Ohio), will begin a part-time position as associate director of Church Planting, while continuing as pastor of Renew. Andy led in prayer for several church planting couples in the United States.

Frank Yang then introduced Ruth Rivera and the John and Amber McCammon family, all of whom will soon depart for Sierra Leone to serve at Mattru Hospital. As a very nice touch, Bishop John Pessima of Sierra Leone Conference provided a videotaped prayer for the McCammon family; and Bishop Neptaly Ponce of Honduras Conference provided a videotaped prayer for Ruth Rivera, who comes from one of our Honduran churches.

Ordinations are always an important and meaningful part of the closing service. This year there was just one ordination: Wesley Skiles (above, with his wife Tracey), senior pastor of Olive Branch UB church (Lakeville, Ind.). Congratulations to Wesley for this important step in his journey as a person called by God.


Frank Yang, director of UB Global, presented a workshop on current trends in missions.

Some of the workshop presenters. Clockwise from top left: Dave Datema related the story of Joseph and Mary Gomer, African-American missionaries in Sierra Leone during the late 1800s. Bob Bruce told the history of our Confession of Faith. Roger Vezeau and Brian Biedenbach led a workshop on 3Story, building on the presentation they did as part of the business session. Denny Miller talked about the role of the Bible in making disciples. Bethany Daymut gave tools for discipling children, and Sara Ward did the same for discipling women and teen girls. Anthony Blair explained how the Pietists handled discipleship, and how it applies today. Chynna Presley, along with Arthur Wilson, told how Huntington University has been very intentional in creating a diverse campus.

Workshops

The third day of National Conference has always featured a variety of workshops. This year, there were 30 different workshops (some held multiple times), divided between three 45-minute time slots.

A number of the workshops dealt in some way with the “Make Disciples” theme—digital discipleship, church planting, evangelism, the role of the Bible, small groups, how the Pietists made disciples, and discipling children, teens, women, parents, and worship teams. Other workshops dealt with current trends in missions, court cases impacting religion, cyber security, racial reconciliation, the UB Confession of Faith, sending out missionaries, and other subjects.


Delegates hanging out in the newly-renovated HUB.

The Korean tacos food truck was popular.

Huntington University Day

A big plus for meeting in Fort Wayne is the proximity to Huntington University, our denominational college. The delegates spent Friday afternoon and evening on the HU campus. It was an intermittently rainy day, but HU moved everything indoors, and it worked out well.

Lots of people flocked to the renovated HUB, where the abundant seating provided places to just sit and chat (while sipping on Starbucks brew). The “new” HUB restores the sense of community, a central gathering place, a place to hang-out, which was intrinsic to the building when it was erected in 1968. Delegates who were students during those earlier years loved the new look of the HUB.

There were food trucks in the parking lot, bounce-houses in the Merillat gym, live music in the upper level of the HUB, tours of the campus, and much more.

At 6:30, everyone gathered in Zurcher Auditorium in the Merillat Centre for the Arts for the evening service. Joyful Noise, the student worship team, led in music. Then Dr. Sherilyn Emberton gave her message on “Generational Discipleship.”

In one superb illustration, she mentioned Dr. M. I. Burkholder, the longtime dean of the Huntington University seminary, and cited some of his students over the years: Bishops Weaver, Miller, Sites, Kopp, Seihamer, Hirschy, Ramsey; and such other UB leaders as Paul Fetters, Kent Maxwell, Kirby Keller, and more. She then asked that people stand if they had been influenced by one of those persons. Many people stood. Then she told those still seated, “Look around. If you’ve been influenced by one of the people standing, will you stand.” Almost everybody in the auditorium was standing. It was powerful.

The evening concluded with fireworks over Lake Sno-Tip. Thankfully, the rain held off just barely long enough.

Joyful Noise, the HU student worship team, led worship on Friday night.

Joyful Noise.


L-r: Jay LeBlanc, Sam Ward, and Jessi Hott, worship leaders at Emmanuel, opened the business session.

One of the Emmanuel technicians on duty.

Many Thanks to Emmanuel

Emmanuel Community Church in Fort Wayne did a great deal to make the conference a success.

Most significantly, Emmanuel’s worship arts team provided high-quality music during the services on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. They were led by worship leaders Sam Ward, Jay LeBlanc, and Jessi Hott. The team shot several videos which were part of the worship experience, and brought a team to manage the backstage aspects of the services (sound, lighting, slides, video screens, etc.).

But Emmanuel people served in other ways. They handled the entire registration process, from the online signups to registering people as they arrived in Fort Wayne. They stocked and staffed the Hospitality Room. They handled all set-up in the ballroom where the services were held—lighting, sound, stage, screens, etc. Jessi Hott, one of the worship leaders, designed the conference logo and other materials, and produced a video for the closing service which recapped the first few days.


David Kline, associate director of UB Global, was the tough-minded TSA agent.

Some of the groups that went through the UB Global escape room.

Escape Room

UB Global set up what became a very fun activity: an escape room with a TSA theme. It proved very popular, with upwards of 150 people going through it in small groups, usually spending 20 minutes. They had fun, and in the process learned more about United Brethren missions.


Videos from the Conference

Many videos from the conference have been posted at ub.org/nc21-videos. They include:

  • The four main services in their entirety (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday).
  • Just the message from the keynote speaker at each of the main services.
  • Videos of 12 of the workshops.
  • The “In Memoriam” tribute to 30 UB ministers and missionaries who passed away since the 2019 National Conference.
  • The 3Story training session from the business meeting.

Bishop Todd and Lisa Fetters concluded the conference with some personal remarks about their journey during the past year.

2023 National Conference

It’s always nice hearing compliments about yourself. The Grand Wayne Center sent this note to the UB National Office: “Your attendees were some of the most pleasurable people we have hosted in quite some time.”

The 2023 US National Conference will return to the Grand Wayne Center in Fort Wayne. Date: July 11-14, 2023. The schedule has been moved back a day, so that we begin on a Tuesday and end Friday morning. Plan now to attend!

Bishop Todd Fetters (middle) with Denny and Annette Sites.


Bishop Todd Fetters with Mrs Mossie Sites.


The Jerusalem Chapel sanctuary.

On July 25, Bishop Todd Fetters attended Jerusalem Chapel (Churchville, Va.) to honor Rev. Dennis Sites, who was retiring after 40 years in the United Brethren ministry–37 of those years at Jerusalem Chapel.

Denny and Annette, who met at Huntington University, were married in May 1981 and soon headed off to First UB church in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., where Denny spent the next two months completing his internship under the direction of Rev. Marvin Price. Then they were assigned to First UB church in Clarkston, Wash., where they served for the next two-and-a-half years. In March 1984, Denny was appointed senior pastor of Jerusalem Chapel…and there he remained for the next 37 years. The congregation has grown and thrived under his leadership, and many souls have been impacted for Jesus.

Denny is the son of Bishop Emeritus Wilber Sites, Jr. His father passed away in 2010, but his mother, Mossie, is still going strong at age 95. She lives in Chambersburg, Pa., but came to Churchville for this special service.

Rikkz Premnath was appointed senior pastor of First UB church (Findlay, Ohio), effective March 1, 2021. He is a 2011 graduate of Winebrenner Theological Seminary in Findlay.

Ricky Hull was appointed senior pastor of Sunfield UB church (Sunfield, Mich.), effective July 1, 2021. He previously served as senior pastor of Mt. Hermon UB church (Pomeroy, Ohio) 2012-2015, and as senior pastor of Crossroads UB (Charlotte, Mich.) since 2015. He was ordained in 2015. Hull is a 2014 graduate of Winebrenner Theological Seminary (Findlay, Ohio).

Mark Tinsley was appointed senior pastor of Jerusalem Chapel (Churchville, Va.), effective July 26, 2021. He follows Dennis Sites, who retired after serving 37 years as pastor of Jerusalem Chapel. Tinsley is a graduate of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served as a chaplain in the US Army Reserves, and most recently pastored a church in Madison Heights, Va. He and his wife, Beth, have five children ranging in age from 6-16.

Christopher Moore was appointed senior pastor of Salem UB church (Chambersburg, Pa.) effective October 1, 2021. He had previously served in ministry at Emmanuel UB church (Fort Wayne, Ind.), Good Shepherd UB (Huntington, Ind.), and Mt. Zion (Decatur, Ind.). He and his wife, Brenda, have most recently been endorsed UB missionaries, serving with Here’s Hope Ministries, an organization with ministry in Belize.

Greg Helman (second from right) with the umpiring crew.

Rev. Greg Helman, pastor of Blue Rock UB church (Waynesboro, Pa.), helped umpire the Pennsylvania State Champion softball game at Penn State University in June. He and his crew from Franklin County, Pa., were chose to umpire the AAA final at Beard Field. He was the second base umpire.

He writes: “One close play at second involved a runner returning to the base after the left fielder ran down a fly ball. She threw it to the shortstop, who hesitated and then threw it to second. My call was safe as the runner’s fingers touched the base as she slid head first before the ball was caught. This call was appealed and we gathered together to determine the situation. Ultimately, the call was safe. The fans for the defense weren’t happy. However, I later watched the play on my tv and the announcer stated, ‘Blue got it right!'”

Greg’s wife, Marty, and daughter Greta surprised him by attending the game, which was televised on the Pennsylvania Cable Network.

Access the livestream of the main services of the 2021 US National Conference at: nc.ub.org

Two services remain: 6:30pm on Friday night, July 16. The speaker is Dr. Sherilyn Emberton, president of Huntington University.

At 9am Saturday morning, July 17, Bishop Todd Fetters–newly re-elected to another four-year term–will speak to conclude the conference.

Friday afternoon and evening, beginning at 2:00 pm, will be held at Huntington University. Many activities are planned–all of which have been moved indoors, with rain in the forecast. Anyone can attend, whether or not they are registered for the conference. So if you’re in the neighborhood, come to the HU campus and enjoy the fun–tours, music, food, activities for kids, and much more.

The Saturday morning service is also open to anyone. We’d love to have people from the surrounding area attend. The service will begin at 9am at the Grand Wayne Center in downtown Fort Wayne.

On Friday, July 16, delegates to the US National Conference will gather at Huntington University for an afternoon and evening of tours, food, music, presentations, and other activities. It’s gonna be a great deal of fun. There will be an evening service at 6:30 in the Merillat Centre for the Arts, with President Sherilyn Emberton speaking.

This event is open to anyone. You don’t need to be registered for the US National Conference.

With rain in the forecast, all activities have been moved indoors…just in case. Below is the revised schedule.

You can also download the schedule in PDF, and view the HU campus map.

The 2021 US National Conference begins Wednesday, July 14, in Fort Wayne, Ind. The main services will all be livestreamed, so people can watch them online. Go to: http://nc.ub.org

This applies to four services:

  • 6:30 Wednesday, July 14. Speaker: Mike Dittman, UB Director of National Ministries. Topic: “The Disciple-Maker as an Apprentice of Jesus.”
  • 6:30 Thursday, July 15. Speaker: Frank Yang, executive director of UB Global. Topics: “The Disciple-Maker as a Foreigner in a Strange Land.”
  • 6:30 Friday, July 16. Speaker: Sherilyn Emberton, President of Huntington University.
  • 9:00 Saturday morning, July 17. Speaker: the bishop-elect (delegates will elect a bishop on Thursday morning, July 15).

Huntington University has an opening for a Campus Pastor. This is a fulltime position with benefits. The campus pastor is responsible for fostering the spiritual formation of students. Under the direction and leadership of the VP for Spiritual Formation, the campus pastor will oversee day-to-day ministry programs and outreach experiences including worship, student discipleship, chapel programming, and small groups.

Qualifications

  • Growing Christian with a track record of discipleship and accountability relationships.
  • A ministry/theological graduate degree or its equivalent.
  • Licensed or ordained UB minister. If not licensed/ordained through the UB denomination, willing to transfer license/ordination to the UBIC.
  • A minimum of three to five years of successful full-time pastoral leadership in a university ministry or church setting.
  • A deeply held sense of calling to ministry with college-age students in an intellectual community.
  • Gifted in spiritual counseling, preaching, creative worship, discipleship and small group ministries.
  • Understanding of and commitment to the goals and character of Huntington University.
  • Evangelical in theological orientation, in general accord with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ’s Confession of Faith and willing to become a member of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.

To apply, send cover letter, resume, and STAFF application to Human Resource Office, Huntington University, 2303 College Avenue, Huntington, IN 46750 or by email to employment@huntington.edu.

Staff application and job description may be found here. :

Huntington University is an equal opportunity employer.

As part of the 2021 US National Conference, a Golf Outing will be held on the opening day, July 14. However, you can participate whether or not you are registered for the conference.

Time: 12:30 am
Location: Chestnut Hills Golf Course, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Cost: $50 for 18 holes, with cart

As of June 24, ten teams (20 players) have signed up. There’s room for more. The registration deadline is July 1.

Go here for more information and to register.