By: Christa Meland
“Friends, please meet Bishop David Alan Bard.”
As Bard can tell you, his life changed the moment those words were uttered Wednesday night.
Within minutes of being elected bishop, he was taken to a room to meet with a representative of the General Council on Finance and Administration and given a packet of materials and documents to sign.
While still a bishop-elect for one more day, Bard and the three other newly elected North Central Jurisdictional leaders will officially hold the title of “bishop” as of a consecration worship service Saturday morning—at which time they’ll learn where they will be assigned for the next four years and become official episcopal employees of The United Methodist Church.
But things are already different for the newly minted leader. The four new bishops immediately began sitting on stage along with the longer-tenured bishops, rather than on the plenary floor with the other delegates—and they are adjusting to being addressed in a whole new way.
“People joke with me, ‘you’ve lost your first name,’” said Bard. “Everybody’s calling you ‘Bishop.’”
As of Saturday, Bard will no longer be appointed to First United Methodist Church in Duluth, where he’s served for the past 11 years. But that doesn’t mean he won’t return to his congregation to tie up loose ends and say goodbye. Dakotas-Minnesota Area Bishop Bruce Ough has given permission for Bard to continue to work in the Minnesota Conference for several more weeks. Aug. 7 will be his last Sunday at First UMC.
The rest of August will be spent moving to his new conference, attending a new bishop training St. Simon’s Island in Georgia, and making connections with his new colleagues.
Bard will begin his new appointment Sept. 1, and he said his first 90 days will be spent building relationships, listening, and getting to know his new conference.
“I want to hear the story of the conference—what is going well, what initiatives people there want to make sure continue, where they would like some emphasis to strengthen some aspect of their ministry,” he said.
Bard knows there’s much work ahead of him, but he’s excited and prepared for what’s to come.
“I’m looking forward to the joy and challenge of helping the church navigate a difficult time in its life and, in the midst of that, helping churches be in ministry for Jesus Christ,” he said. “There are some daunting challenges, but there’s a sense of adventure about it too. I am hoping something new can be born out of the difficulty and chaos.”
A bittersweet farewell
Bard acknowledges that leaving Minnesota is bittersweet.
“Minnesota has been a wonderful and gracious conference to be a part of,” he said. “And while this has been such a whirlwind, there are times when I’m suddenly reminded that I’m no longer a member of the Minnesota Conference, and there’s some grief with that. It’s been my church home, my family, my friends for a number of years.”
Above all, Bard is deeply grateful to the people of Minnesota.
“Minnesota has been so supportive of me in this journey for many years,” he said. “I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Bard said he will miss the people of Minnesota, particularly his clergy colleagues and the people in his congregation. He also acknowledged that the more than three decades he’s spent in the Minnesota Conference will forever be part of him and his ministry.
“Our conference has a real deep sense of care and compassion about the world,” Bard said. “The people of Minnesota really want to help make the world a better place in the name and spirit of Jesus, whether that’s in mission or concern for justice. They see that as an important part of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. That’s part of me and will be a part of who I am as a bishop.”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church