Rev. Dr. Richard “Dick” Harding

June 16, 1926 – May 16, 2020

The world lost a giant of a man on May 16th in the passing of Rev. Dr. Richard "Dick" Harding. Even though he was nearly 94 years old, there is a sense of disbelief at the news of his death. “It hardly seems possible to envision the world without him in it,” said one of those whose life he influenced.

Originally from East Boston, Dick was a United Methodist minister, a humanitarian, and an activist. An active member and supporter of MFSA for decades at both the national and Annual Conference levels, Dick was passionate about human rights and community. He was active in the Civil Rights and anti-war movements as well as the supporting LGBTQIA justice. Dick was one of the founders of the Reconciling Retired Clergy of the New England Conference.

I first met Dick when I was a teenager and he was part of a team of people traveling throughout our Annual Conference conducting “Consultations on Racism.” From that point on, Dick became a role model and mentor for me. It turns out he was a role model and mentor to countless others as well. 

Personal testimonies abound:

  • “I first met Dick when I was an atheist selling books at a church event. He came to me amid quiet, and gave me a book of Walter G. Mueller's writings. I treasure it; the book rests next to my Discipline and hymnal. But his smile, intentionality, and presumption that I had something to offer (what?!?) were an even more powerful gift. I've never been the same.”
  • “I learned again and again and again from him, even in his retirement, that if you're not raising up the next generation, you're not fully following Christ. It was enough to make me run headlong into the arms of the church. In a very real way, he was my first mentor in the faith.”
  • “Not only was he kind and fierce, but he also was a great mentor to younger church leaders.”
  • “A true giant and an inspiration to so many of us. What a legacy he leaves. May we who continue to serve grab ahold of that baton and run, run, run!”
  • “I was one of the scores of Dick's mentees. I will always remember his granting of space to folks to express themselves and grow.” 
  • “…. he had a way of interacting that made me feel like I had a special place in his heart. If only I can live like he did, and make those who come after feel as honored and valued. Encourager and mentor for so many of us.” 
  • “My most vivid memories of Dick are from after he retired when he would stand up at Annual Conference with that fierce smile and a chuckle in his voice, to remind us where justice was calling us to be accountable.”

With a passion for inclusion and justice, Dick was always showing up on the side of the angels, which is exactly where he probably is right now, sitting at some angel bar, cracking jokes and making sure there's room for everyone at the table. 


- Kathryn

Rev. Kathryn Johnson, former executive director of MFSA and clergy member of the New England Annual Conference