The Revd Canon Chris Bard

by David Driscoll

from Signs of the Times, No. 27 - Oct 2007

Chris was a leap year baby, born on 29 February 1952. He grew up in Fareham, Hampshire and studied at King's College London where he met Mary, his wife. After ordination he served curacies at Billingham and Eaglescliffe, combining the latter with the post of chaplain to Arts and Recreation in York Diocese. Later he moved to Chelmsford Diocese, combining the post of Diocesan Communications Officer with the parish of Epping Upland where he was priest-in-charge.

It was at this time that the Movement for the Ordination of Women got off the ground. Chris became a member of the branch in Chelmsford where I first met him. He also got involved in the (London) Metropolitan branch and was a founder member of Priests for Women's Ordination at the end of 1983.

His communication skills together with his wonderful gift of lateral thinking and at times quite surrealistic sense of humour were duly recognized in the campaign for women priests and greatly appreciated. He eventually did a spell as press and communications officer for MOW and was also his valued assistance as a fellow national co-ordinator for PWO.

PWO was helped by a generous gift from MCU, and it was at this time we both joined. Chris later assisted the Union as press officer and was an invaluable member of the MCU development group which met over a period of three years in the late 90s. He was wonderful to have around if you required any brainstorming!

His interest in local radio grew when he became BBC Essex Religious Producer in 1989. He became almost full time in 1991 when he stood down as Diocesan Communications Officer. He even had a studio in his, admittedly sizeable, vicarage. His title became BBC Essex Faith and Ethics Presenter. He produced a weekly three hour programme on Sundays which had very good audience ratings. For a large part of that time his wife Mary was the presenter while he did the producing. Chris was also very interested in satellite broadcasting and a member of a European group connected with it as well as an adviser to the bishop of Chelmsford. He was one of the first clergy to possess a computer and an early member of the Church Computer Users Group.

As Mary was a Roman Catholic Chris was also deeply involved in ecumenical affairs. He and Mary were founder members of the Association of Interchurch Families, an organization which meant a great deal to them both. The association provided, amongst other things, a support group for families where members were from different denominations.

Mention must be made of Chris's great love for gardening, as was evident from his beautiful garden at the vicarage. Round about 2001 he became chaplain to Capel Manor College in Enfield, which has gained the reputation for being a centre of vocational excellence for horticulture, landscaping and garden design. He encouraged the college to sponsor a multi-faith garden at the 2007 Chelsea Flower Show to 'inspire people to consider the unifying effect of an interest in plants', pointing out the many references to gardens in the Bible, but also seeing plants and gardens as a fruitful means of dialogue between the different faith traditions. The title of the garden was 'Growing Together in Faith', and it succeeded in winning an award at the Show.

Chris was on a BBC assignment in Dublin on Sunday 2 September when he had a fatal heart attack at Dublin Airport. He had a wide circle of friends and will be sorely missed by many, including those who tuned into his weekly programme. Our thoughts and prayers will be with Mary and their two daughters Ellen and Sarah.