By: Amanda Yanchury
When Bishop Bruce R. Ough came to the new Dakotas-Minnesota Area last fall, another inspiring (lay) minister accompanied him: his spouse, Charlene (Char) Ough.
Char has facilitated retreats, led children’s ministries, participated in prison ministry, and taken mission trips around the world, among many other ministries. She has also accompanied Bishop Ough on many of his episcopal trips.
While in West Ohio, she completed the Upper Room’s Two-Year Academy for Spiritual Formation, “so I led a lot of retreats around spirituality for women as well as clergy-spouse retreats,” she says. Char also worked in prison ministry during this time. She did local mission projects as the opportunities arose.
“During travel to the Congo and Russia, and southeast Asia, and a few trips to Mexico, we did a lot of mission work in those places,” Char said. “I’m interested in going back to the Congo because I helped lay the cornerstone for an orphanage there.” She has since gone back to write the policy manual for the orphanage to guarantee its stable future.
She hopes to continue her retreat ministry in the new episcopal area. She and the bishop have a clergy retreat planned in the Dakotas early this spring, and she is exploring possibilities for mission work in Minnesota. She is hoping to discern whether there is interest in continuing to provide clergy-spouse retreats and women’s retreats, and if there is, she hopes to organize one in the coming months.
Additionally, she is looking to be involved in mission work around the Twin Cities—she looks forward to an upcoming tour of different local opportunities for mission in Minneapolis soon. Her interests include working with domestic violence survivors and with children and families, and helping those on the outskirts of society.
A life of caring
For Char, the assignment to the Dakotas and Minnesota seems a little like “coming home.” Both Oughs have lived in many parts of the Midwest and are grateful to move closer to family and old friends.
Char grew up United Methodist (Methodist, back then) in Donnybrook, N.D., where she was active in church youth groups. At college she earned a degree in secretarial science. From there, she met her first husband and went to work at North Dakota State University.
In 1974, Char found herself a widow overnight when her first husband tragically died in a canoe accident. Realizing she needed more education to support her two young sons (then 4 years old and 18 months old), she returned to NDSU to pursue a degree in child development and family relations.
The pastor at Faith United Methodist Church in Fargo introduced her to Bruce Ough, and two years later, they were married.
She began ministry with people who have been marginalized: those experiencing homelessness, residents of a halfway house for men recently released from prison, a detox center, and more. She also spent time working at Methodist Hospital in Mitchell, S.D.
The Oughs eventually moved to Iowa, where Bruce served as a church pastor. While Bruce was superintendent of the Cedar Rapids District, Char served a local church as children’s educator.
When Bruce was elected bishop in 2000, the couple relocated to West Ohio Conference. After long prayer and discussion, Char decided to not work outside the home during this time so she could travel with her husband. A bishop’s travel schedule is extensive and, she says, she and Bruce operate as a team.
Char is an extrovert and looks forward to getting acquainted with people around the episcopal area. She enjoys any mission activity in which she gets to interact with people.
Beyond work with the church, Char enjoys spending time with her three sons, Matthew, Lance, and Stuart, and four grandchildren—three grandsons and a baby granddaughter. She loves being a grandma and is happy for the flexibility to visit her grandchildren often.
Her heart remains warm, even in an upper Midwest winter.
“Everyone says it’s so cold here, but I love it,” Char says. “On a walk the other day, the snow was glistening and it was beautiful. We’re looking forward to our years of ministry here.”
Amanda Yanchury is communications assistant for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church