The Rev. Dr. Brian R. Bodt, pastor of Mary Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church, has announced he will be retiring at the end of June.
Bodt has been a local leader here during tumultuous times in the country, and his church, as well as others here, has been a leader in trying to bring the community together in times of crisis and mourning.
In June 2016, more than 50 people gathered at Mary Taylor Church to offer prayers for the families and victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla.
In December 2016, with election issues and election results dividing people around the country, local clergy got together at Mary Taylor Church to talk about loving one another.
His community work, as well as his work within his church, has made him an integral part of Milford over the past years.
Bodt announced his retirement at the end of worship on Dec. 31, and church members said they are sad to see him leaving.
But Bodt says the time has come.
“I’ll have been ordained and in pastoral ministry 40 years as of May 31, plus two years as an unordained student minister before that,” Bodt said. “It’s time.”
He was appointed pastor of Mary Taylor Church in 2012, returning to parish ministry after six years as chief executive officer of the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport.
While the Council of Churches was a wonderful mission, he said, he missed the parish and heard the “still, small voice” of God described in scripture beckoning him to return to parish life.
And the people at Mary Taylor are happy he did.
Parishioner Sue O’Shea said Bodt is one of the most caring, conscientious, genuine individuals she has ever met, “a breath of fresh air,” and a natural teacher.
Barbara Ann Welker Griggs, a retired chaplain from Yale New Haven Hospital and a member of Mary Taylor Church, said Bodt is the finest minister she has ever met.
“Of all my years involved in church life, especially in the last 50 years, I have found Pastor Brian to be the best pastor I have ever worked with and met and been pastored to,” she said.
When Bodt talks, he is talking to you and his whole attention is on you, she added.
Her husband, Tom Griggs, said Bodt is friendly, smart, caring, and willing to share and teach others.
“He’s admired by everyone who has had the privilege of spending time with him,” Tom Griggs said.
People “like” him, Tom added. “You know within minutes of meeting him that he cares for you.”
Much took place during the six years that Bodt was at the Milford church.
During Bodt’s time, the parishioners completed a major renovation project at the Wesley Center, the building next to the church, including an elevator and accessible restroom, among other improvements. Also, a part of the church history, the Myrtle Beach Community Church bell, was acquired and now stands in front of the church.
And last year, a stained glass window restoration project was completed.
Rachel Merva, former chair of the Board of Trustees, worked with Bodt on the capital campaign for the addition.
“Brian’s leadership was invaluable and the project, our church’s biggest undertaking in several decades, received tremendous support from the church and broader community,” Merva said.
“Brian has many gifts that he has shared with our congregation over the years,” she added. “Brian is a social activist, attending marches and vigils locally and further from home. He is passionate about music. He plays multiple instruments and sings in the choir.”
“Brian has been a true shepherd to his flock at Mary Taylor,” said Marcia Winter, another parishioner. “He’s a man of systems — he’s set up a strong foundation for the church from a spiritual role to the administrative functions necessary to keep all his sheep together. But his deep faith has been what has inspired his parishioners the most. He hasn’t shied away from wearing his heart on his sleeve and showing us all how it is important to show our true selves to others. He’ll be a tough act to follow, and we’ll really miss him and his terrific wife, but we’re in a great place for the next pastor, whoever he or she may be.”
Pastor Chris Files from Trinity Lutheran Church said Bodt has been an immense gift to the city of Milford, joining with other clergy to help make Milford a better place.
“He has been incredibly supportive of the cooperative work that has developed over the past 10 years among the leaders of Milford’s various faith communities, coming together not only for times of worship such as the community Thanksgiving service and the community Good Friday service — the latter of which Brian initiated — but also for the common work of ministry in working together with the various service agencies throughout the city to meet the needs of Milford’s residents, especially those who find themselves struggling for one reason or another.”
Files said Bodt’s sense of the work to which ministers are called has shown forth in his collegiality and attentive care for the community.
“His ministry here has made a difference, and he will be missed,” Files said.