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Bishop Bard on the road again

Bishop Board on the road from Michigan to Minnesota

Because of the pandemic, the North Central Jurisdictional Conference was not held in July 2020. An interim plan for episcopal leadership was created. Bishop Bard will now serve in both Michigan and Minnesota.


Michigan Area

Black soul singer Sam Cooke was known for upbeat dance songs (“Twistin’ the Night Away”) and touching love songs (“Wonderful World,” “You Send Me”). In late 1963, following being refused a room at a Holiday Inn in Louisiana, Cooke wrote a powerful song that became a civil rights anthem, “A Change is Gonna Come.”

Right now, we all hope a change is gonna come. We want to see an end to this pandemic and are grateful that vaccines are coming soon. Even as we continue to do those challenging things needed to help us and our neighbors remain healthy, the end is in sight. We long for life that is more normal. Yet when the pandemic is over, we need to understand that there were some things about the old normal that need to continue to change.

In the midst of the pandemic, we have again confronted the long-standing need for greater racial justice and equity in our country. The indignities Sam Cooke experienced have not gone away. Some blatant forms of racism have disappeared, but racism has not. Our work for racial justice is an integral part of our journey with Jesus, a long work that continues post-pandemic.

Other changes have needed to be made with the pandemic, including a change directly affecting you and me. The meeting of the North Central Jurisdictional Conference (NCJ) was postponed, and no election of new bishops took place. Two NCJ bishops have retired. So, our jurisdiction has needed to make changes in providing episcopal leadership to the conferences in the NCJ. By now, you know that beginning January 1, 2021, I will be the interim bishop of the Minnesota Conference while continuing my responsibilities as the resident bishop of the Michigan Conference. A change is gonna come, and soon.

What might this mean? I will be working with the appointive cabinet of the Minnesota Conference to make clergy appointments. I will be working with the leadership of that conference to help the conference continue to live into its vision while also addressing the realities of a pandemic and post-pandemic world. Most of my meetings with Minnesota will be virtual, just as most of my Michigan meetings are currently virtual. As travel opens up during the year, I will travel to Minnesota some to do work there. My work here will continue, working with the Michigan appointive cabinet to make clergy appointments and working with our leadership to continue to live into our vision while addressing the realities of a pandemic and post-pandemic world.

These changes mean I will be working harder (or maybe better, longer), and I plan also to work “smarter.” I consistently work to return messages promptly and know that the definition of “prompt” may change. It may take longer to schedule an appointment with me, and I may have to say “no” to some things I previously might have been able to accommodate. I may not be able to preach as often and sometimes may need to send a video greeting rather than share a celebration with your congregation in person. I ask for your patience and prayers. I am surrounded by wonderful leaders here in Michigan who will help us make this new arrangement work. We will all make this work together.

In my first sermon as your bishop, I ended by citing the words of “Michigan theologian,” Bob Seger. Here I am, on the road again. Here I am up on the stage. Here we are playing our song again. Here we go, here we go, turn the page. Well, friends, here I am, on the road again. A page is turning. A change is gonna come. And in that sermon, I said, “As we turn the page of the next chapter of our road story together and together with God, may our pages be marked with joy, wisdom, love, and hope.”  That remains my deep desire.         

I am with you on this Joyful Journey that includes detours.

The Michigan Conference