By: Christa Meland
Sheilah Kyburz, who has supported four bishops over nearly three decades, announced plans to retire Aug. 1, 2020.
Kyburz began her position as administrative assistant to the bishop in 1991 after being hired by Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher, the Minnesota Conference’s first woman bishop. She continued in her role during the Minnesota tenures of Bishop John Hopkins and Bishop Sally Dyck—and has supported Bishop Bruce R. Ough since he became resident bishop of the Dakota-Minnesota Episcopal Area in 2012.
“My nearly 30 years in the Area office have filled me with a sense of purpose and joy, provided me with the opportunity to meet and work with so many wonderful and inspiring people, allowed me to share my time and God-given gifts in meaningful ways, expanded my horizons, and deepened my faith,” said Kyburz, a lifelong United Methodist.
Kyburz will retire the same month as Ough, who will soon reach the mandatory retirement age for episcopal leaders. Ough noted that Kyburz’s significant behind-the-scenes contributions have been instrumental in helping him to effectively lead the Dakotas and Minnesota Conferences. She played an especially critical role when Ough served as president of the Council of Bishops from 2016 to 2018.
“Sheilah embodies radical hospitality,” he said. “She is a true servant of the Lord, and I thank God for her commitment and her heart. Sheilah is efficient, kind, and cares for every detail of her work. She has been an immense blessing to Char and me. Anything we have accomplished for the kingdom over the past seven years wouldn’t have been possible without her.”
The Dakotas and Minnesota Episcopacy Committees will work with Bishop Ough to design a process and timeline for seeking Kyburz’s replacement.
It was an interesting journey that led Kyburz to the position that would ultimately define her career. After earning a degree in business education from Illinois State University, she spent three years as a high school business teacher before marrying her husband, Paul, and moving to Minnesota in the late 1970s. While a member of Normandale Hylands UMC in Bloomington, its pastor at the time, Rev. Norman Lidke, asked Kyburz to fill in for the church secretary. It went well, and Kyburz was asked to fill in again and again. When the church secretary retired in 1980, she applied and got the job.
After Lidke became Metro East District superintendent, Kyburz applied to be the district administrative assistant and again got the job. In 1991, she started filling in for Bishop Christopher’s administrative assistant on a regular basis and later that year moved into the role full-time when her predecessor retired.
Her involvement in the Professional Administrators of the United Methodist Connectional Structure (PAUMCS)—which provides professional development, continuing education, and spiritual enrichment for administrative support staff—has been a particularly meaningful part of her job.
In fact, after attending and being inspired at a national PAUMCS event in 1991, Kyburz felt God was calling her to begin a Minnesota chapter—so she and another church secretary did just that. To this day, the Minnesota chapter of PAUMCS plays a key role in supporting administrative professionals in United Methodist churches across the state and brings them together for two annual gatherings. Kyburz has continued to participate in the national PAUMCS as well, having served as its president from 2000 to 2003 and co-organized an advanced certification course in partnership with the General Council on Finance and Administration.
“One of the highlights of my career is the long-lasting friendships I have formed with people all over the world,” she said.
Although technology has changed by leaps and bounds over the past three decades (Kyburz recalls learning how to use both a fax machine and a computer as each one started to become commonplace in work environments), much has remained the same.
“The learning has been adapting to all these advances in technology and the world moving faster but staying grounded in the faith and remembering why we’re here,” she said. “Our mission to be the hands and feet of Christ and bring glory to God hasn’t changed.”
In her retirement, Kyburz and her husband—who retired four years ago—plan to spend more time with family and friends and do more traveling. She also looks forward to devoting additional time to community service and her hobbies: baking, playing the harp, weaving on one of several large looms, sewing, entertaining, refinishing antiques, and reading.
Kyburz said she has seen God at work and grown in her faith immeasurably throughout the past three decades, and she is both humbled and grateful to have had the privilege of serving in her role.
“So many times I find God has helped me find an answer or know where to look for an answer,” she said. “I have learned to be observant and give God credit, and I have seen signs that God is everywhere.”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church