Bishop Bud Cederholm: Remembering the life and ministry of a beloved servant leader

Bishop Bud Cederholm with guitar Diocese of Massachusetts File Photo: Jack Foley Bishop Bud Cederholm celebrates with Fall River Episcopalians at the former Church of the Ascension in 2008 as that parish merged with St. Mark's Church and St. John's-St. Stephen's Partnership to form the Church of the Holy Spirit.

The Rt. Rev. Roy F. "Bud" Cederholm Jr., Bishop Suffragan in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts from 2001 until his retirement in 2011, died on Aug. 27 at Benchmark Senior Living at Forge Hill in Franklin, where he had resided since 2021 with Ruth Ann, his wife of 57 years. Cederholm was 79.

In an Aug. 28 announcement, the Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates, Bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts, noted that Cederholm was "beloved throughout our diocese and beyond."  

"His deep pastoral heart and devotion to congregational life, honed over decades of ministry as a parish priest, continued to characterize his ministry as bishop. Whether supporting clergy and lay leaders, advocating passionately for environmental stewardship or teaching children a new camp song--in countless ways Bishop Bud was a manifestation of the church’s care for God’s people and the world in which we dwell," Gates said.

Bishop Bud Cederholm blessing solar panels at St. Andrew's Church, Framingham Courtesy photo Bishop Bud Cederholm blessing new rooftop solar panels at St. Andrew's Church in Framingham in 2013.

Cederholm was at heart a teacher and a storytelling kind of preacher. A typical Cederholm Sunday sermon opened with a back-pew-rousing "Good morning, Church!" He brought his guitar along to church gatherings of every kind and loved sharing his love of Jesus through a repertoire of folksy tunes. He was fun-loving and enthusiastic in his enthusiasms; it was not unusual to find him in a t-shirt and shorts leading kids in a line dance during a summer camp session, or fully vested in cope and mitre and being raised in a lift-truck's bucket in order to bless newly installed solar panels on a church roof.

In electing Cederholm as its bishop suffragan on Nov. 4, 2000, the Diocese of Massachusetts chose a native son, a seasoned priest, well-known and respected throughout New England, a leader and servant of the church who knew the diocese well, having spent, at the time of his election, more than half of his ordained ministry in Massachusetts.

"I am humbled and honored that you would let me be your servant. I hope I have the grace to let you be my servant, too," Cederholm told the clergy and lay delegates gathered for the electing Diocesan Convention at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston. "I love you all, and I'm ready."

His parting message to the diocese as he prepared to retire in 2011 sounded the same theme: "These past 10 years as bishop have deepened my relationship with Christ and Christ in you. I am humbled by the honor and privilege you have given me in allowing me to be your servant. I have loved being a part of your lives, congregations and spiritual journeys, sharing your joys, sorrows and challenges in serving God's mission to all people and God's creation."

Born in Brockton on July 1, 1944, to the late Roy F. and Roberta (Lucas) Cederholm, Bud Cederholm was a lifelong and avid fan of Boston sports teams, but did not himself play organized sports while attending high school in Randolph, where he grew up, opting instead for the trombone, choir and acting in plays.

In a 2001 interview with the Massachusetts diocesan newspaper, The Episcopal Times, Cederholm recounted a circuitous journey toward ordained ministry that grew out of a desire to serve others, was encouraged by his parish priest at Trinity Church in Randolph (and later father-in-law), the Rev. Walter Lyon, and one which took him out to sea and back before landing him in seminary. He had set out to have a career in the U.S. Navy.

"I don't know what drew me to the Navy," he said. "It was partly my love of the sea. I was looking for a way to serve the country."

His parents, he said he later realized, "had instilled a great open-mindedness and gentleness in me toward other people. Church was a place for prayer and helping others."  

He went off to college at the University of Minnesota for three years on an ROTC scholarship, but lost it after he developed an ulcer and was discharged.

"I remember seeking God's direction on a destroyer on the Atlantic Ocean during a beautiful sunset, and really wrestling with the news and asking:  Is this what I really want?  So, when I got out of the Navy and came back to school, I talked to Ruth Ann's father, and asked him about becoming a priest.  And he said, 'If you can't do anything else, you might consider it!'"  

Bishop Bud Cederholm at his 2001 consecration Diocese of Massachusetts Photo: Jonathan Beller Bishop Cederholm at his 2001 consecration at Trinity Church in Boston.

Cederholm graduated from Boston University in 1966 with a degree in math and taught school for a couple of years, all the while continuing "to have this yearning," he said. "My spirituality didn't have a lot of depth to it. I just wanted to help others." Eventually, he was accepted as a postulant for ordination and attended Bexley Hall Seminary in Rochester, N.Y., "where my eyes were opened to issues of racism and crisis in our cities" and where he became active in peace and justice work.

Ordained to the diaconate in 1971 and to the priesthood in 1972 by the late Rt. Rev. John M. Burgess in the Diocese of Massachusetts, Cederholm served as associate rector of St. Stephen's Church in Cohasset until 1976 and then as the rector of St. Paul's Church in White River Junction, Vt., from 1976 to 1989. He was among an ecumenical group that in 1980 co-founded The Haven, an emergency shelter in White River Junction that has grown into a nonprofit that today provides food and shelter services, children's programs and community outreach to the Upper Valley area.  

In 1989 he was called as rector of Christ Church in Needham and served there until after his 2000 election as bishop suffragan. He was ordained and consecrated bishop on March 24, 2001, at Trinity Church in Boston.

During his active episcopal ministry, Cederholm served alongside the diocesan bishop, the late Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE, and two bishops suffragan, the late Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris and her successor, the Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, joining them in making public witnesses on numerous social justice issues, including advocacy for the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the life of the church, marriage equality, criminal justice reform, and peace in the Middle East.

Cederholm was a voice for unity and reconciliation, even in times of churchwide tension and disagreement. He was among the bishops of New England dioceses who hosted receptions during the course of the 2008 Lambeth Conference so that other Anglican Communion bishops could have a chance to meet New Hampshire's bishop, the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, who since his 2003 consecration had been a focus of controversy in the communion because he was openly gay. For that reason, Robinson had not been invited to participate in the decennial gathering at Lambeth.  

Episcopal bishops Bud Cederholm, Tom Shaw, SSJE and Barbara C. Harris at Iraq War Vivil 2002 Diocese of Massachusetts Photo: Tracy J. Sukraw Diocese of Massachusetts bishops Bud Cederholm, M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE and Barbara C. Harris, leading an Oct. 17, 2002, prayer vigil at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston in witness against war in Iraq. 

Cederholm said in an Episcopal Times interview upon his return that the story he tried to help tell at Lambeth was that LGBTQ+ people "in our diocese bring many gifts for ministry, are faithful Christians desiring to live in faithful, monogamous relationships, and that the blessing of their marriages is an affirmation of the family values we all share."

He said that his Lambeth experience was a reminder "that being a bishop isn't just about oversight. It's also about insight, listening to others and to God so that you may speak God's word and not your own."

There is "no such thing as a single Christian," Cederholm said. "We all need each other to be community and in communion."

Over the course of his episcopate, Cederholm became increasingly aware of and concerned about the perils of climate change and was known around the diocese and beyond as "The Green Bishop" for his passionate preaching and tireless efforts to engage people in advocacy and partnerships devoted to environmental stewardship. In 2010 he launched an ambitious Green Grants Initiative to encourage, challenge and fund diocesan congregations in energy conservation and creation care practices. 

Bishop Bud and Ruth Ann Cederholm on a Hurricane Katrina Relief mission in New Orleans Diocese of Massachusetts Photo: Maria Plati Bishop Bud and Ruth Ann Cederholm in New Orleans, on one of many relief mission trips he led in Louisiana and Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Cederholm's leadership for a sustained commitment to relief and development work in the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 included his own participation in numerous mission work trips to Mississippi and Louisiana; his example inspired parish and student groups to similar service. His 2006 holiday radio campaign appealing for volunteers and donations to help hurricane-affected families was recognized by the national Religion Communicators Council with a DeRose-Hinkhouse Award.

Bexley Hall awarded him an honorary doctoral degree in 2003.

Cederholm's diocesan portfolio included ecumenical work, congregational development, clergy deployment and ministry with clergy families.    

In 2004 he helped gather a team of business professionals from around the diocese to serve as congregational coaches fostering sound business practices in congregations. Since then, the ongoing program has provided church leaders with countless hours of guidance on everything from annual budgeting and audits to property matters and financial planning. 

Bishop Bud Cederholm leads a line dance at the Barbara C. Harris Center summer camp Diocese of Massachusetts File Photo Bishop Bud Cederholm spent at least a week each summer at the Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center in Greenfield, N.H.  His t-shirt reads: "God is Awesome."

Cederholm's wholehearted participation in a summer Family Camp made it one of the diocese's most popular annual events at the Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center in Greenfield, N.H. The "Cederholm Cottage" was built there on the shore of Otter Lake in his honor as a retreat house for clergy and lay ministers in need of respite from the demands of their vocation.  

For the Cederholm family, Green Turtle Cay, a barrier island off Great Abaco, The Bahamas, was a treasured respite destination, and their extended visits there over many years led to rich and longlasting relationships in the community and with the people of St. Peter's Anglican Church.

In retirement, Cederholm served as acting executive director of Episcopal City Mission, was a Thrift Shop volunteer at Christ Church in Plymouth and enjoyed being called upon to assist with Confirmation services and preach in parishes. 

Among Cederholm's abiding loves were the ocean and its creatures--particularly whales--and the time he spent in his backyard garden and bird sanctuary. He was faithful to the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots to the end.

In addition to his wife, Ruth Ann (Lyon), he is survived by his sons, Matthew Cederholm and his wife Tara of Franklin and Daniel Cederholm and his partner Melissa Allegrini of Salem; his sister, Wendy Watt, of Raynham; and his grandchildren, Noah, Shane, Lauren, Jack and Tenley.

A funeral service will be held on Friday, Sept. 8 at 11 a.m. at Christ Church, 1132 Highland Avenue, in Needham.  Clergy are invited to vest (white stoles).  

Christ Church plans to livestream the service (details will be available via 

In lieu of flowers donations may be made in Bishop Cederholm's memory to:  Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts Green Grants and Loan Funds (online via or by check to Episcopal Diocese of MA Green Grants and Loan Funds, 138 Tremont Street, Boston MA 02111). 

--Tracy J. Sukraw

Bishop Bud Cederholm on the big screen at Fenway Park at 2011 retirement celebration. Diocese of Massachusetts Photo: Katie Ernst Bishop Bud Cederholm on the big screen at Fenway Park at his retirement celebration there in 2011.  This t-shirt reads:  "Fenway is where I pray."