Williamsburg-area pastor ready to take service to others to a new level – Daily Press
Reverend Dr. Bill Harmon’s life suddenly changed during a ninth-grade chapel service. Then a shy teenager at a Christian school in his hometown of Baltimore, he was moved to tears by the singing of a guest preacher.
When Harmon ran from the room to hide his emotion, his religion teacher followed him and asked him why he was crying.
“I didn’t understand why,” Harmon recalled. “He said to me, ‘Well, that’s the spirit of God.'”
Now 24 years into his career as an ordained minister — the last 14 as executive director and senior pastor of King of Glory Lutheran Church in James City County — Harmon is poised to play a role prominent for the national denomination in August.
Last month, Harmon was elected president, or bishop, of the Southeast District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS). With nearly two million baptized members, LCMS is the second largest Lutheran church in North America.
The Southeast District, based in Arlington, Va., includes approximately 215 congregations and 80 school ministries in Virginia, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina and Washington, D.C., as well as much of the Maryland and parts of Pennsylvania.
“I feel the weight of that responsibility,” Harmon said. “At the same time, I’m excited because I will have a larger platform to be a catalyst for God to do infinitely more in people’s lives.”
Harmon, 50, will step down from the King of Glory, which has 900 members, at the end of June. He and his wife Gayle — his college sweetheart and first-grade elementary school teacher Clara Byrd Baker — will remain residents of the Williamsburg area.
In his new role, Harmon will focus on finding new ways to engage communities and celebrate and recruit church workers in times of declining membership and staff shortages. As it has done locally, it will emphasize outreach, community service and programs such as King of Glory mentorships for students interested in church careers.
“I only got into this because people said to me, ‘You should consider doing this,'” he said. “It’s not even something that’s on a lot of people’s minds as a possibility.”
The King of Glory members weren’t surprised to see their pastor tipped for a bigger job in the church. Harmon is an engaging speaker who has inspired congregants to spread the love of Jesus to their neighborhoods, said Ross Fuller, whose family of five joined the church in 2007.
“Like any good leader, he inspires the people around him to be better,” Fuller said. “He meets people wherever they are in their lives, in order to help as many people as possible.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Harmon developed virtual tools such as new members’ Zoom meetings that kept the church strong when others faltered, Fuller added, “He’s always ready to go out. off the beaten track”.
Growing up, Harmon and his sister didn’t go to church every weekend, although his family always opened meals with a prayer. When he was in college, his parents chose a private Lutheran program for its educational benefits. Although Harmon didn’t initially want to go, he quickly embraced church life and eventually attracted his family as well.
During his senior year of high school, Harmon preached in school chapel services across Baltimore. He studied Judeo-Christian heritage at Concordia College in Bronxville, New York, before earning a master’s degree in theology from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.
Ordained to the ministry in June 1998, Harmon went on to earn a doctorate in ministry from Regent University in Virginia Beach. He worked for congregations and religious programs in Michigan and New York before settling in the Williamsburg area.
As a preacher, Harmon aims to make each of his sermons applicable to everyday life. He often wonders if his late parents, both blue-collar workers, could have used any of the lessons.
“As I write, I wonder, ‘Would Dad, the forklift operator, who works overtime to support his children, care?'” he declares. “Would mom be the administrative assistant?” Preaching should be practical, I think.
Outside of church, Harmon is the father of three sons, all in their 20s, and enjoys reading historical fiction, hiking and walking with his dog Guy, a black Golden Retriever mix. The spirit of God, however, never leaves his mind.
“Church is a place where people come for nourishment, so they can go out and be the community church every day,” he said. “Be patient, be kind, be in control of yourself and serve others. Worship should never end on Sunday.
Alison Johnson, [email protected]