By: Christa Meland
Administrative Assistant to the Bishop Sheilah Kyburz has postponed her planned retirement by eight months, and Janet Beard will succeed her on an interim basis beginning April 1, 2021. Both of these moves will provide consistency during a year of transition in the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area Office.
Since 2015, Beard has served as conference secretary for the Minnesota Conference, and more recently, she also became its Board of Ordained Ministry registrar.
“Janet is competent, detail-oriented, and has a servant heart and a spirit of hospitality,” said Bishop Bruce R. Ough. “She has served the Minnesota Conference well as its conference secretary and Board of Ordained Ministry registrar, and I am delighted that she is stepping into this new role on an interim basis. Janet will provide consistency to the Dakotas-Minnesota Area in this upcoming year of transition.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant shifts related to a long-planned episcopal transition: Bishop Bruce R. Ough initially planned to retire Aug. 31, after a new Dakotas-Minnesota Area bishop was elected at the North Central Jurisdictional Conference in July. But because the 2020 General and North Central Jurisdictional Conferences were both postponed until late next year, Ough will remain in his position until the end of 2020. Then Bishop David Bard, resident bishop in the Michigan Area, and Bishop Laurie Haller, resident bishop in the Iowa Area, will serve the Dakotas-Minnesota Area as a team on an interim basis in 2021, with Bard assuming primary responsibility for the Minnesota Conference.
Kyburz initially planned to retire Aug. 1 after supporting four bishops over nearly three decades. But through prayer, conversation with Bishop Ough, and support from family and friends, she said it felt like the right thing to do to extend her retirement until next spring in order to help provide consistent administrative support during a year of change.
“Given that COVID-19 has changed so many plans for 2021, I am grateful for Sheilah’s willingness to postpone her retirement until next April,” said Ough. “She will provide stability during our episcopal transition and her knowledge, efficiency, dedication, and kindness will continue to be a blessing to the Dakotas-Minnesota Area.”
Beard said one of the things she has most enjoyed over the past five years as conference secretary is working with the bishop, conference staff, and other Minnesota United Methodists. In her new interim role, which will likely last for about a year, she looks forward to continuing to work with the people of the Minnesota Conference and getting to know and serve the people of the Dakotas Conference.
“I’m honored and feel really blessed to be called to help in this interim time,” she said. “I am glad my service can be used and hopefully provide continuity to the Dakotas-Minnesota Area during this transition.”
Adaptability and knowledge are two things Beard would like to bring to her new role. She also hopes to offer the same spirit of hospitality and grace that people have come to appreciate so much from Kyburz over the years.
“I am delighted that Janet will become my successor on an interim basis and could not be more pleased that she feels called to fill this position,” said Kyburz. “I have worked closely with Janet through her role as conference secretary and registrar for the Board of Ordained Ministry, and we have collaborated on several projects. She is well organized, adaptive, detail-oriented, dependable, quick to learn, enjoyable to work with, has a servant heart, and is a team player who is well respected by her peers. Being familiar with current administrative systems and processes, having a good working relationship with conference staff, and knowing many of the clergy and laity of the Area are also pluses that should make the transition very smooth.”
Beard—whose husband, Rev. Jim Beard, serves Bethel UMC in Mound—has had an interesting career path. After earning a degree in elementary education, she spent two years at a Montessori school before having children and staying home with them for several years. When her youngest son went to kindergarten, she began doing administrative work for a horse feed manufacturer while Jim was in seminary. Later, when Jim was appointed to a church in Delano, she spent seven years as a Title 1 teacher there. Then in 2008, when Jim was appointed to a church plant in Big Lake, she worked alongside him, making connections and inviting people to join their worshipping community.
When Beard steps into her new interim role in the episcopal office, Walker Brault will take on the interim role of conference secretary in Minnesota. Brault joined the conference staff last August as administrative assistant for the Twin Cities District and finance department—and he will retain this role while serving as conference secretary. Brault has spent significant time working on a new centralized conference database, and as part of that function, he’s worked closely with Beard to create reports for the Conference Journal. Preparing the Conference Journal will become a major part of his new role and is one he is ready for.
“I am looking forward to seeing the annual conference in a new way,” said Brault, who serves on the 2020 delegation to General and Jurisdictional Conferences and as worship technology coordinator for Hamline UMC in St. Paul.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church