Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Former general secretary Judy Mills Reimer is remembered for her leadership to the Church of the Brethren
Judy Mills Reimer, 73, who filled a number of key leadership roles in the Church of the Brethren including service as a former general secretary and Annual Conference moderator, died the morning of Nov. 13 in a hospital in Charlottesville, Va. She had suffered a series of strokes over the past few weeks.
“Her death is a loss to the whole Church of the Brethren, to which she gave so much of her life, energy, commitment, and passion,” said a statement from Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger.
Reimer became executive director of the denomination in 1998 and served in the position until she retired in July 2003, with the job title changing to general secretary in 2001. She was moderator of the Annual Conference in 1995. She served on the denomination’s General Board (now the Mission and Ministry Board) from 1985-90, and was board chair from 1988-90.
She was born Sept. 5, 1940, the daughter of Gladys and Mike Mills, and was nurtured in the faith as a child by her parents and Hollins Road Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va. She felt a call to the ministry in the late 1950s, according to a remembrance from Virlina District, but it was not until 1991 that she was licensed to the ministry. She was ordained in 1994, following graduation from Bethany Theological Seminary where she earned a master of divinity degree.
Her ministry in Virlina District included at least 11 years as a member of the district board where she served as chair of the Nurture Commission and chair of Outdoor Ministry, co-chaired or was vice chair of two district financial campaigns, and chaired the Virlina District Restructuring Committees in the 1970s and 1980s, among other positions.
On the denominational level, she also was field staff for Passing on the Promise in Atlantic Northeast and Middle Pennsylvania Districts in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was chair elect of the Association of Brethren Caregivers and served on the ABC board in the 1990s, chaired the Health and Welfare Council and the denomination’s Deacon Cabinet in the early 1990s, chaired the Pension Board Restructuring Committee in 1986-87, was in a group studying South African Divestiture in 1985-86, was worship coordinator for the 1994 National Youth Conference as well as an advisor for the National Youth Cabinet, was a member of the Brethren Business Network, served a term as delegate to the National Council of Churches (NCC) and the World Council of Churches, and on behalf of the NCC was an official observer at the Nicaraguan election in 1990.
Earlier in life, she did a term of Brethren Volunteer Service at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., and at Hessish Lichtenau in Germany. After two years in BVS, she became an elementary school teacher in Canada and then in Roanoke, Va. Later, she and her husband, George, were the owners of Harris Office Furniture Co. Inc. in Roanoke.
Her life was “miraculous and exemplary,” said the Virlina District obituary, which noted that she suffered heart damage from an infection in 1967 “that would have diminished a lesser person. Judy chose to use every day as a gift from God.”
“I dream of the day when members of the Church of the Brethren are focused on the ‘bigger’ picture of Jesus Christ,” she wrote in a Messenger article in October 1994, during the year she served as moderator of Annual Conference, “seeking to discern through scripture, prayer, and community life how God would have us live our days as a denomination. Issues and questions will always be with us. Answers will come as we forthrightly communicate with each other in love and respect…. The joy of our faith is to shine through in all we do and say. To live each moment to the fullest. To live for God’s honor and glory.”
Judy Mills Reimer is survived by her husband of 49 years, George Reimer, and son Troy (Kristen), and two grandsons. She was predeceased by her parents and son Todd. Plans for a memorial service will be announced.