By Jocelyn Pedersen
The Norman Transcript
MOORE — Rob Harris, pastor at Moore First United Methodist Church, 201 W. Main St. in Moore, said he’s only been on the job under six months, but his calling has put him in the right place to combine his pastoring skills with 20 years’ experience in residential remodeling.
“I loved where I was,” Harris said about living in Pryor for eight years before coming to Moore. “We live in a sent ministry, and they send us where they feel God needs us the most, where our gifts and graces can be used the most.
“I wondered why I was being sent to Moore until May 20 when the tornado hit, and I knew exactly why I had been sent here: my history in restoration and carpentry — to do care ministry in the midst of that. I have been blessed beyond measure. I really have.”
For Harris, sometimes it just all comes together, like the way he describes his original call to ministry.
“In the middle of a Bible study, I just felt the Lord call me out of the flock to be the shepherd. That was my call,” Harris said. “I was a carpenter for 20 years. I’ve gone from restoring homes to restoring lives — I still restore homes.”
After a pause, he said, “I look at the potential, help people find the possibilities and help them live to the potential God created them to be.”
Not only is Harris helping restore homes pastorally through relationships, he and his congregation were immediately, and still are, involved in restoring homes and the families affected by May tornadoes. Tornado recovery for the United Methodist Church is housed at Harris’ church.
“We send out six to eight teams every single day, and on Saturday we send 10 to 12 teams. We still are, and we will for at least three years,” Harris said. “We’re committed to doing at least three years of intense mission.”
Harris said teams are made up of between six to 14 people.
At first, Harris said teams were involved in debris cleanup, then moved on to destruction and removal — a model they followed for a few months before moving on to sending in teams to help rebuild.
Harris said during the ’99 tornadoes, the UMC helped for three-and-a-half years, and “we’re committed to the same three-and-a-half years. Whatever it takes.”
“Every church has its place,” Harris said. “Some churches are immediate response churches. We couldn’t do it without the Baptists and their chainsaws and other feeling people.
“We’re not geared to be immediate response teams. We allow those who do that well to do their ministry. Once that’s done, we bring in the machine and we’re here for the long haul. It’s the Mennonites and the Methodists here. Everybody’s got their place in ministry.”
As for his ministry, Associate Pastor Adam Shahan said Harris is settling in well.
“He’s a great fit for this congregation,” Shahan said. “He’s a great pastoral presence as the church continues to rebound from the tornadoes. He’s a good visionary and has some great ideas that this church is going to be implementing. He has a very realistic and approachable leadership style.”
Harris is married to Trish Harris, who also is a pastor in the United Methodist Church with a congregation in Noble.
“We do tag team ministry,” Harris said. “If she (Trish) has someone in the hospital, I’ll go see them, and if I have one, she’ll go see them. It’s kind of like having two teachers in the same household. It works for us.”
Harris attended Oklahoma City University, where he earned his Bachelor of Art in religion in 1993. He went on to earn his Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology in 1997.
He started pastoring in 1992 when he lived in Chickasha during his last year at OCU. For four years, he served the towns of Washington and Franklin at the same time. While in graduate school at SMU in Dallas, he quipped, “I slept on I-35.”
He also served in Cheyenne, of which he said, “there’s no stop light in Roger Mills County. I loved it out there. Good, warm, rich people.”
He also served in Watonga for five years and then Pryor for eight years.
Now he’s in Moore, where he describes his congregation as being “outstanding, warm, relational mission-minded” people.
“They do outstanding mission work here,” he said. “They’re kind of hidden in the midst of downtown. We’re working on that.”
“I think he (Harris) is a warm presence in this community. He’s helping the church heal from the May tornadoes, and he’s helping the future of ministry of this church,” Shahan said. “I hope that Rob has a long tenure at this church.”
“He’s wonderful,” said Amy Graves, director of christian education. “He was thrown in here at a chaotic time. He’s been a calm presence for the congregation and community.”
Moore UMC offers three worship services on Sundays. The Heritage service is at 8:15 a.m. with traditional organ music.
At 10:45 a.m., there are two simultaneous services, with another Heritage service in the sanctuary with organ, piano and choir. The Moment service is in the Christian Life Center with a full praise band set up as a contemporary worship service.
Sunday school with classes for all ages is at 9:30 a.m. For more information, visit firstchurchmoore.com or the church’s Facebook page.