facebook script

Can't find something?

We're here to help.

Send us an email at:

[email protected]

and we'll get back with you as soon as possible.

A community of kindness

Dandelion spreading seed

Bishop David Alan Bard expresses gratitude for the Christlike kindness he and his family have received following his mother’s death.

Michigan Conference

Since my last blog, my family and I have experienced one of those significant events that stays with you forever: a parent’s death. As many of you are already aware, my mother died on July 19 after a long struggle with both cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Her death was both anticipated and unexpected. Given her condition, we knew her time was limited. Yet her end came quickly. She went into the emergency room on Saturday, was admitted to hospice on Sunday, and died Wednesday.

Julie, my family, and I are deeply grateful for all the expressions of sympathy, condolence, and kindness we have received from so many of you. Thank you for your gracious care. Such gracious care has led me to reflect again on kindness.

I am reminded of a couple of Scripture passages important to me. When Paul offers a list of the fruit of the Spirit—a list of qualities embodied in a Spirit-formed life—it begins with “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness” (Galatians 5:22, NRSVue). When he reflects on the meaning of love, Paul writes, “Love is patient; love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

I am reminded of the words of philosopher and theologian Robert Neville, words I know I have shared before:

“Christianity first and foremost is about being kind. Love is the more customary word than kindness, but love is too complicated in its symbols, too loaded with history, to be a plain introduction to Christianity. . . . Sometimes it is hard to tell in what kindness consists. . . . But some obvious and up-front meanings of kindness should be affirmed before stumbling on hard cases. These include being generous, sympathetic, willing to help those in immediate need, and ready to play roles for people on occasions of suffering, trouble, joy, and celebration that might more naturally be played by family or close friends who are absent” (Symbols of Jesus).

Kindness means being there for people on occasions of suffering, trouble, joy, and celebration, particularly when other family members or close friends are absent. We have had no lack of family support since the death of my mom. My sister, brother, and I have been there for each other. Though my parents divorced many years ago, my dad’s family has been wonderful throughout. My mom’s husband’s family and Julie’s extended family have given us a lot of care.

And we have been supported by our “extended family” in the church—the church I grew up in; First United Methodist Church of Duluth, where I was last pastor and where my mom was a member; people from the Minnesota Conference; bishops and their families from the Council of Bishops; and so many of you here in the Michigan Conference. Words are inadequate to express our deep appreciation for your love, care, and kindness.

I love the promise the church makes to those being baptized and their families. We promise to surround them with “a community of love and forgiveness.” In other words, we will surround people with a community of kindness.

The church is about Jesus Christ, about God’s love and forgiveness as known in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It is about orienting our lives to that love and being formed in that love. And the church is also about how God’s love in Jesus Christ meets our deepest human needs, including our need for community and kindness. At its best, the church is a community of deep kindness where we are there for each other in times of suffering, trouble, joy, and celebration.

If we are honest with ourselves, the church has not always been successful in being a community of kindness in the name and Spirit of Jesus. The church can be cliquish. The church can be narrow-minded. The church can be judgmental. Yet I am convinced that the church can be a genuine community of kindness and that we can live more fully into our calling in Jesus. It is something for which I strive in my ministry. It is something our world desperately needs.

And today, I am profoundly grateful for all the ways, as we grieve my mother’s death and celebrate her life, that the church has surrounded us as a community of kindness.

Last Updated on August 9, 2023

The Michigan Conference