Brethren bits

– Remembrance: Donna Forbes Steiner, 84, a former associate district executive in the Church of the Brethren, died on May 8 at her home at Brethren Village in Lititz, Pa. A remembrance from Illinois and Wisconsin District noted her service as a pastor in the district, where she was active in district ministries along with her husband, Paul, who survives her. She went on to serve pastorates in Maryland and Pennsylvania and then was associate district executive for Atlantic Northeast District from 1997 to 2002 and director of church relations for Elizabethtown (Pa.) College from 2008 to 2012. She was born in Pierson, Iowa, to the late Dewey W. and Veda Mae Vannorsdel Forbes. She held a bachelor of Music Education degree from Drake University and a master of Religious Education degree from Bethany Theological Seminary and was ordained to ministry in 1974. Prior to seminary, she spent two years in Nigeria as a Brethren Volunteer Service worker. In addition to pastoral ministry, she served on local, district, and denominational boards and committees as well as providing leadership for congregations, educational workshops and women’s retreats. She was a talented musician and played piano and organ. She is survived by her husband Paul; sons David Paul (Paula) of Vienna, Va., Jonathan L. (Ellen) of Raleigh, N.C., and Ethan Greg (Patricia) of Richfield, Ohio; and grandchildren. A service of remembrance will be held June 25 at 11 a.m. (Eastern time) at Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren, where she was a member. Memorial gifts are received to the scholarship fund established in her name at Bethany Theological Seminary. Find a full obituary at

President Joel S. Billi of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), was part of a delegation of Nigerian church leaders who took part in an ecumenical visit to Rome in late May. Salamatu Billi posted this photo of her husband shaking hands with the Pope on Facebook, celebrating “a great ecumenical experience.”

— Julie Watson, district administrative secretary for the Church of the Brethren’s Northern Ohio District, has resigned her position effective June 17. Health concerns have led her to this difficult decision, supported by her family and doctor. She has served the district for more than eight years “and has been such a blessing to so many,” said an announcement from district leadership. “We are so grateful for Julie’s ministry and pray for God’s blessings of healing and strength for her.”

Photo courtesy of ULV

— The University of La Verne, Calif., announced that a new mural, titled “Our Citrus Roots,” was completed on the side of Mainiero Hall on May 6. “The mural commemorates the citrus history in La Verne and features the letter ‘L’ that appears in the foothills above La Verne, blazed by students at what was then called La Verne College in 1919 or so,” said the release. “The mural was completed by southern California mural artist Art Mortimer and funded by the former president of the Citrus Roots Foundation, Richard Barker. Barker has also donated a sizable collection on citrus history in California to Wilson Library’s Archives and Special Collections.”

— “A Voice for Peace and a Plea for More Love and Acceptance” is the theme for the June episode of Brethren Voices, a community television show produced by Portland (Ore.) Church of the Brethren and producer Ed Groff. This month’s episode remembers the late Chuck Boyer, who served on the Church of the Brethren staff in the area of peace witness and was moderator of the Annual Conference, among other roles in denominational leadership. The episode is based on interviews with Boyer that were made in 2010, reported Groff, who placed Boyer in the long line of Brethren leaders who “have had the same devotion to living out their faith, peacefully, simply, and together.” Boyer passed away shortly after the interview, Groff noted. “His message of advocating peace and justice for all people is as prophetic today, as it was 12 years ago.” View Brethren Voices on YouTube at

— The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) has joined other ecumenical partner organizations–including Nigerian Christians–in prayer following the massacre at a Catholic church in Nigeria. Armed attackers killed some 50 or more people at St. Francis Catholic Church in Ondo State in southwest Nigeria on Sunday, June 5. Many fear this represents an extension of such violence into the southwest of the country. Violence has for many years marked the northeast area of the country where Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) congregations have suffered numerous attacks. Said Tammy Wiens, NCC director of Christian Education and Faith Formation, “Hearing that our brothers and sisters in Christ are victims of kidnappings, vandalism, and murder is even more heart-wrenching when you have a personal relationship with those who report living under a constant threat of violence. Our hearts are heavy with grief upon receiving word of this attack, and the call for prayer out of Nigeria is yet another reminder of the suffering that many in this world endure. Our hearts unite in prayer and wrap around our neighbors near and far.”

— Drew G. I. Hart of Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren, an assistant professor of theology at Messiah University who is well known across the denomination as a speaker on healing racism and for his books Trouble I’ve Seen and Who Will Be a Witness?, has begun a video blog on YouTube called “AnaBlacktivism with Drew Hart.” Current episodes are titled “Why Can’t We End Gun Violence?” and “3 Reasons People Are Walking Away from the Church.” Find the “AnaBlacktivism with Drew Hart” channel at

— A National Historic Landmark plaque will be dedicated at Tolson’s Chapel in Sharpsburg, Md., on June 11 at 1 p.m. (Eastern time). Church of the Brethren historian Jeff Bach has noted the building’s connection with Brethren history. Formerly enslaved Black people built the church in 1866, and one of the trustees–Hilary Watson–was enslaved by Brethren farmer John Otto until 1864. He and his wife, Christina, are buried in the cemetery. Nancy Campbell, who was formerly enslaved and a member of Manor Church of the Brethren, donated a pulpit Bible. The chapel was dedicated in 1867 as part of the Methodist denomination. The building began hosting a school for Black students in 1868, with help from the Freedmen’s Bureau. The chapel went on to serve the community for 132 years until it was closed in 1998. A local group called Friends of Tolson Chapel has worked since 2006 to restore the building and document its history. Find out more at


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