It was an historic year in many ways. In the U.S. in 2020, there was a disputed national election and racial tensions, not to mention a world-wide pandemic which disrupted lives in many ways. But it was also a significant year in the Charis Fellowship, as evidenced by the top stories accessed on graceconnect.us, the only site devoted completely to news and information in the network of congregations in North America.
Stories in 2020 noted leadership changes in several Charis Fellowship organizations. It saw the closing of a Christian high school that had its roots in the Grace Brethren movement more than 70 years ago. It also witnessed the cancellation of national conference and the first ever digital gathering, possible the largest, of people in the Fellowship. It engaged people in praying for one another and coming alongside others in times of need.
In 2020, these were the top stories accessed on graceconnect.us. A number of stories from previous years appeared in this list. We are only including those stories that were posted in 2020, not including death notices.
- Ed Lewis to Retire From CE; Jeff Bogue Named to Leadership Role (January 18, 2020)
- Brad Deetscreek Named to Direct TNI (August 20, 2020)
- Dave Howe: Following a Passion While Serving (May 7, 2020)
- Grace Brethren Investment Foundation Announces New Chief Executive Officer (March 19, 2020)
- Executed Nigerian Pastor was Church of Brethren Minister (January 22, 2020)
- Grace College Names New VP of Financial Affairs and CFO (June 15, 2020)
- Prayer Requested for Steve Mitchell (September 22, 2020)
- Spiritual Gifts: Their Source and Purpose (April 1, 2020)
- Help Needed as Baers Face Mold Removal and Remediation (July 24, 2020)
- Baers Conclude Ministry in Kentucky (February 28, 2020)
- Grace College Communication Standout Awarded Doctoral Studies Scholarship (November 16, 2020)
- Istanbul Student Awarded Grace College Full-Tuition President’s Scholarship (February 27, 2020)
- Charis Fellowship Response to the Death of George Floyd (June 5, 2020)
- Central Focus Retreat Kicks Off in Ohio (October 5, 2020)
- Are You Making Communion Bread? (April 10, 2020)
- Grace College Celebrates Dr. Sauder’s 55 Years of Service (July 9, 2020)
- Unthinkable Loss, Unthinkable Grace, Unthinkable Plans (April 15, 2020)
- Brethren Christian High School Closes After 73 Years (July 8, 2020)
- Melissa Spoelstra: Helping Theology Meet Reality (March 6, 2020)
- Deer Provides a Whopper of a Story (December 7, 2020)
- Grace College Announces Affordability Measures, Fall Calendar Change (June 9, 2020)
- Wooler and Orme Tag-Team Across U.S. for Hand-in-Hand Schools (July 16, 2020)
- Living on Mission (July 27, 2020)
- Lititz Staff Members Introduced (June 10, 2020)
- Hodge Named Fellowship Coordinator; Announced at Business Meeting (July 29, 2020)
Among prominent deaths in 2020 were two influential faculty members at Grace College and Theological Seminary. Dr. Homer A. Kent, Jr., 94, died September 30, 2020, while Dr. John C. Whitcomb, former professor at Grace Theological Seminary and a BMH Books author, died in his sleep on February 5.
Larry A. DeArmey, who traversed the globe to teach others about Jesus, went to be with his heavenly father on July 1.
Several pastors and their families experienced the loss of sons during the year. Brian Winter, son of retired Charis Fellowship pastor, Chuck Winter, died January 25, in Yakima, Wash., where he had served as sheriff. He had been diagnosed with ALS. Andrew Shipley, 39, the son of retired Charis Fellowship pastor, Steve and Hallie Shipley, Fort Myers, Fla., died on July 2 from an undiagnosed illness. Ryan Serafino, 28, the son of Pastor Greg and Cari Serafino (Grace Church, Osceola, Ind.) died in a tragic incident on August 21. A little more than a month later, Cari Serafino’s parents, Tom and Connie Havens, who attended the Osceola church, died September 24 as the result of an automobile accident.
Charis Fellowship pastors, including retired or former pastors, who died in 2020 include: Richard Placeway (February 23), Roy Melvin Dice, Jr. (May 19), James Russel Smals (June 12), Marvin E. Lowery (August 4), Steve Mitchell (September 25), and Lester Kennedy, Jr. (November 17).
A number of individuals who served on the mission field were called home in 2020. They include William J. Samarin (January 16), Kathryn Ruth Hirschy Hoyt (March 16), Gail L. Jones (March 17), Jane Peters (June 2), Beverley Garber (July 15), Donald Bishop (June 17), Ralph Schwartz (July 25), Charlotte Austin (August 25), Stanley D. Nairn (September 3), Joene Cover (September 13), Amy Guerena (October 27), George Peters (December 5), and Evelyn Johnson (December 21).
Other notables in the Charis Fellowship who died this year include:
- Eileen Sellers, who with her husband, Donald, served as part of the Brethren Construction Crew (Jan. 26, 2020);
- Benjamin Franklin Lepore, an elder in the York (Pa.) Grace Brethren Church died Feb. 4 after a fall at his business;
- Ruth Ann Theobald, former missionary and teacher, died March 5. A few months later, her husband, Sterling Theobald, went to be with the Lord on September 24;
- Dr. Alberta (Bertie) M. Hanson, a life-long educator who once served on the staff of the North Long Beach (Calif.) Brethren Church, died on March 26;
- Lauretta “Letty” Mae Barnhill, who served with her pastor-husband, Charles, in a number of churches, died August 23;
- Phyllis Dunlap, the widow of Russ Dunlap, who helped many people plan their estates through the Brethren Stewardship Service, died September 17; and
- Dewey Melton, long-time development officer at Grace College, died October 18.
More than 76,000 page views were recorded at the site, up from 75,663 in 2019. Of that number, 64,257 were considered unique (the number of visits during which a specified page was viewed at least once).
Visitors came to the site from 148 countries. The top 20 locations were United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Nigeria, France, Philippines, South Africa, China, India, Australia, Hong Kong, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Kenya, Turkey, Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, and Singapore.
To review previous year-end stories, click the links below.
- The Life of God’s Family in the Charis Fellowship Reported in 2019
- God’s Work in Charis Fellowship Noted in 2018
- Family News Highlights 2017 Top Stories
- Family News is Most Accessed at GraceConnect in 2016
- Top Stories in 2015 Feature Lives of Service
- Concern for Others is Top 2014 Story on graceconnect.us
- Top Stories of 2013 on GraceConnect.us Listed
- Top Blog Posts for 2012
- Top Grace Brethren Stories of 2011