From the Manchester College Archives

News Release


Many with local Church of the Brethren

Manchester College ties to participate

in nationwide Christmas Eve special on CBS


A number of northeast Indiana residents and Manchester College alumni, students and employees are participants in a CBS Christmas Eve service provided this year by the Church of the Brethren. The nationally telecast one-hour program will air at 11:35 p.m. on WANE-TV Channel 15. The service, airing in the David Letterman slot, continues a CBS tradition of featuring different denominations on Christmas Eve.

Themed “Enter the Light of Life,” the Church of the Brethren service will focus on the story of Jesus’ birth told in Luke 2. The service was taped Nov. 23 at Bethany Theological Seminary, the Church of the Brethren graduate school in Richmond, Ind., and was produced by the church’s General Board.

Christopher D. Bowman, pastor of Oakton (Va.) Church of the Brethren and a 1984 graduate of Manchester College, will deliver the message. Bowman’s family traces its heritage in the Church of the Brethren through 10 generations. His father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather all served as ministers in the church. (His dad is Robert Bowman, associate professor of religion at Manchester.)

The service will extend a welcome from the 1,000 congregations of the Church of the Brethren, who are committed to “Continuing the work of Jesus. Peacefully. Simply. Together.”

The music is coordinated by Shawn Kirchner, minister of music at the La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren and a 1992 graduate of Manchester College, and features a children’s choir from four northern Indiana Church of the Brethren congregations led by Manchester College organist Marilyn Sexton Mason, who also is organist for the Christmas Eve service. The service also features 1994 music grad Kim Murray Simmons as soloist.

Indiana voices in the children’s choir are Erin Schwartz and Ben Schwartz of Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne; Deanna Beckner, Alaina Beckner and Tyler Johnson of the Columbia City Church of the Brethren; Rebekah Rich of the Eel River Community Church of the Brethren in Silver Lake; and soloist Derek Self, Tom Naragon, Kathryn McElwee, Claire Brumbaugh-Smith and Kristin Pittman of the Manchester Church of the Brethren in North Manchester.

Manchester College students participating are scripture reader Thomas Bimba of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria and litany reader Tobechukwu (Jenny) Ekwealor of the Richmond (Ind.) Church of the Brethren. Percussionist Ben Long is a 2003 Manchester graduate and setting the scene with decorations were Howard E. Royer ’52 of Elgin, Ill., and Rosanna Eller ’85 McFadden of Goshen, Ind. Another litany reader is the Rev. Michael Hodson, a 1962 grad and Church of the Brethren minister who has retired in Troy, Ohio.

Two Manchester grads are consultants to the service: Stanley J. Noffsinger ’76, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren General Board, and Del Keeney ’77, executive director of the board’s Congregational Life Ministries. Deanna Brown, pastor for worship at Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne and former Manchester College pastor and student, provides viola and sign movement. Bethany Theological Seminary officials handled local arrangements for the service, including Manchester alumni Eugene F. Roop ’64, president; Stephen b. Reid ’73, academic dean; Brenda J. Reish ’82, business manager and treasurer; and Delora Mishler ’64 Roop, administrative assistant.

The Church of the Brethren is a Christian denomination committed to continuing the work of Jesus peacefully and simply, and to living out its faith in community. The denomination celebrates its 300th anniversary in 2008 and has 130,000 members in the United States and Puerto Rico, with missions and sister churches in Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Nigeria. For details about the denomination, visit, which includes the program and photographs for the Christmas Eve service.

Manchester is a Church of the Brethren liberal arts college with 1,075 students from 23 states and 30 countries. About 11 percent of the students are members of the Church of the Brethren. For more about Manchester College, visit


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