Former church council CEO prepares for retirement

The Rev. Brian Bodt at Mary Taylor United Methodist Church in Milford.

The Rev. Brian Bodt at Mary Taylor United Methodist Church in Milford.

The Rev. Brian Bodt, one of the most influential religious figures in the greater Bridgeport region, retired on June 24.

He was the CEO of the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport between 2006 and 2012. He was also pastor of the Golden Hill United Methodist Church before he took over the council, and, in recent years, has been pastor of the Mary Taylor United Methodist Church in downtown Milford.

About 60 congregations in Bridgeport and the surrounding towns belong to the council, most of them belong to mainline Protestant denominations, although there are a few Roman Catholic parishes, too.

It’s “a faith-based, non-sectarian social services agency dedicated to meeting the needs of people at risk and breaking the cycle of poverty and crisis,” according to its website.

The council also, from time to time, serves as a moral compass. For example, while Bodt was at the helm, it sent a sharply worded note to former Bridgeport Mayor John Fabrizi in 2006 saying it would demand his resignation if he did not quickly spell out a “clear plan to regain the public trust.”

This was in reference to Fabrizi’s admission of cocaine and alcohol abuse. Fabrizi told the religious leaders that he had made “a terrible mistake in the past and that I faced that adversity head on” by asking for professional help.

The former mayor was never arrested for drug use; Fabrizi was mayor from 2003 to 2007.

Bodt married Carol Galloway of Woodbridge in 2012, his second wife. During his first marriage his name was Schofield-Bodt.

He was born on May 1, 1954, in Havre de Grace, Md., where he spent his childhood years. He graduated from McDaniel College — then called Western Maryland College — and went on to Drew University for his theological education, graduating in 1979; he was ordained as a deacon just prior to that.

“I had ties to Drew, my uncle was a member of the United Methodist clergy and went there, too.”

Bodt’s first assignment was at the Asbury United Methodist Church in Yonkers, N.Y. His next was at Glendale UMC in Queens, N.Y., where he served until 1987.

“Glendale was interesting — they had some upheaval before I came,” he said. “The good news was that there was an interim pastor who did a lot of healing.”

By this time the couple’s first child, Daniel, came along, in 1985.

“We didn’t really want to raise our child in the city, so I asked for a suburban assignment,” Bodt said. “So I was sent to the Huntington United Methodist Church (in Shelton) in 1987.”

He said that he’s served 31 of his 40 years as a pastor in Connecticut, all in the greater Bridgeport region.

“That’s a little unusual — usually you’re sent 50 miles away or more.”

A second son arrived during the Huntington assignment. In 1995, Bodt became pastor of the Golden Hill United Methodist Church.

“I wasn’t looking to move — the leadership was expecting a lot of retirements,” he said.

There’s one facet of the Methodist faith that Bodt doesn’t see eye to eye with, and that is its posture toward the LGBTQ community. Its rulebook states that gays, while they can be members, can’t serve in the clergy. They also can’t be married by the UMC clergy.

“It’s something that we’ve struggled with for more than 40 years, and that struggle is still going on,” Bodt said. “While I was at Golden Hill, we became an ‘open and affirming church,’ welcoming people regardless of their sexual orientation. And I’ve been part of the push-back for a very long time.”

By 2011, Bodt said he wanted to return to the pulpit. At the time he was told by the Rev. Jerry Streets — professor of theology at Yale University — “You are suffering from undelivered sermons.”

So, in July 2012, he began his last assignment, at Mary Taylor. That was also the year he was married to Galloway.

As for retirement, Bodt says he’ll pursue his pastime — building up his model railroad layout.

“I recently changed gauges,” he said, “from N scale to HO.”

That was a major decision for him. In the model railroad community, switching to a different scale is a little like switching from Protestant to Catholic.

There will be a meet-and-greet at Mary Taylor UMC, 168-176 S Broad St, Milford, on June 24 from 2 to 4:30. That’s also the date of Bodt’s last sermon there.

“They’re calling this retirement event my “Train-sition,’ ” he said.