New Pastor: Daniel Harrison
Church of the Covenant Welcomes the Rev. Daniel Harrison and Family
It is with great joy that the Church of the Covenant in Lynchburg, Virginia has called the Reverend Daniel S. Harrison to be its new pastor. Dan is a United Church of Christ minister of broad experience who comes to us as his first full-time pastorate. Born in Oklahoma, his journey has led him through Mexico, Kuwait, and Colorado before coming to Galax, Virginia in 2014 to be with his father, who died in late 2016. In the Galax area, he revived one inactive UCC church, and founded another bilingual church while completing his credentials as an ordained UCC minister. His search and our search, we believe, have been guided by the Holy Spirit. We look forward to the arrival of Daniel and his family in August. He and his wife Ruth, sons Daniel Jeremiah, Elijah, and Isaiah, and young daughter Daniela Carolina (Mumu) will reside at Pantops, the church’s parsonage.
Dan Harrison’s Biographical Statement
I have had a unique journey over the years (haven’t we all?) I spent most of my childhood in Oklahoma, growing up Southern Baptist and a proud member of the Choctaw Nation. I was a missionary to Mexico at age 19, and a Church Planter by 20 and was married just shy of my 21st birthday to a wonderful Mexican-American woman (Ruth) who showed me how to see the world through another person’s eyes. We met at Howard Payne University’s El Paso, Texas campus, where I later graduated with a B.A. in Theological Studies while serving as Pastor of Missions at Pueblo Nuevo Community Church (I was ordained by the Southern Baptists in 1996.) We then moved to California for more theological studies at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. While there, we started a house church, and again continued our ever-changing theological journey.
In 2000, while pregnant with our third son, Ruth and I decided to both continue our studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, where I finished my M.A. in Applied Linguistics and completed my doctoral program (all except the dissertation, that is) while on faculty in the English department. Also, while there I served as Elder at Risen King Community Church, leading church life and growth through small groups. This, again, was a wonderful time of discovery and exploration of our faith. However, it wasn’t until our move to the Middle East, where I served on faculty at Kuwait University from 2003-2010, that Ruth and I truly found ourselves transforming the most ever in our faith, to finally absorb the varied beliefs of Christians throughout the world, and accept how one does not necessarily need to be “just like me” in order to be close to God. We also met many people from other faiths, or variations of our own faith, who demonstrated a Christ-likeness that truly can only come from God. If you hang out with me for any length of time, you’ll probably hear me say at some point, “The greatest ‘Christians’ I’ve ever met weren’t even Christians”. It was also along this journey that we realized how much God was still speaking to people today—that He wasn’t limited to the Bible as we have often been taught, but His Word (that is, Jesus) is actively speaking to us to this very day, in fact to this very moment. He’s all around us!
In 2009, while in Kuwait, God gave us a daughter (a surprise child!) And sharing Christ’s love in both traditional and nontraditional ministries and working to see ecumenical faiths come together to share in that love has become Ruth’s and my passion—and a legacy that we want our children to see and experience as well. As a part of this, we have traveled throughout the world in hopes of showing our kids how diverse God’s children are—and they are everywhere! Later, we joined the UCC upon our return to the US in 2010. Leaving academia, I took a job in the corporate world, moving to Littleton, Colorado where my two older sons attended Columbine High School. Then, in the summer of 2014, we moved to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia to be closer to family, and there we restarted the wonderful UCC ministry at Elk Spur Church in Fancy Gap, Virginia and planted Hearts United Community Church in Galax, Virginia. I was officially ordained by the UCC in 2016. During our time in the area, I also co-founded the Hearts United for Peace movement and the Center for Diversity and Common Ground, as well as served on the board of the Carroll County Ministerial Association.
I love reading, writing, learning, and teaching. I also love to sing and write songs on my guitar. Of course I absolutely cherish every moment I have with my precious family; two of our kids are in college now (Daniel is at Radford and Elijah will be at CVCC), one is in high school (Isaiah), and Ruth is busily (passionately!) focused on homeschooling our 3rd grader, Daniela Carolina (nicknamed “Mumu”.) I often call Mumu Ruth’s mini-me (two peas in a pod.)
When it’s a God thing, it’s a good thing. I am so glad I listened to God’s leading when I first felt drawn to explore your wonderful faith community. Once I visited the grounds and met with Dolly Cardwell, I knew this place was special, and I had a hard time putting it out of my mind. After much prayer (my wife joining in) and further conversations with Dolly and Will, I knew that God was doing something divinely epic, and I wanted desperately to be a part of it. After my family and I visited with members and leaders at the church, I knew this was God’s call for me (and my family agreed!) I could vividly see how both Bev Cosby and David Edwards had done such tremendous work bringing the Church of the Covenant to this incredible juncture (spiritual maturity, spiritual appetite, missional direction), and I could see how naturally we fit on that continuum. Imagine the possibilities of what we can do together!