Pastor Randy Morris is seeing big changes at his church. For the past three years, he has served as senior pastor at Harvest Temple on Vonn Road in Largo.
On Jan. 10, the Church of God minister led the congregation through a celebratory service marking the official name change. The church, more than 45 years old, will now be known as Gulf Coast Church of Largo.
Morris' roots in Largo are deep. His great-grandfather, Richard M. Meares, founded Indian Rocks Nursery, and Meares' daughters donated the land on Vonn Road to start Harvest Temple in 1964. Morris' uncle, Harold L. Chesser, was the first pastor, and Morris' father was the first choir director.
Before joining the church started by his family, he first served as pastor at Woodlawn Church of God in Clearwater. Morris took the helm of the Largo church in December 2006, when Woodlawn and Harvest Temple merged congregations.
The day before we sat down with Morris to talk about goings-on at his church, he celebrated the birth of his first grandson, Caden Wesley Morris. He was born Jan. 20. The little tyke, whose father, Randal "Wes" Morris, is Morris' son and youth pastor at Gulf Coast Church, is a seventh-generation Largo resident for the family.
1 What was the motivation in changing the name of your church? To simply make the church as appealing as possible to the community around us. There's no secret insight with it. I can't speak negative of the original name. My uncle, Harold Chesser , started here, and the Lord guided him when his congregation named it Harvest Temple. They were endeavoring to reach people then like we are trying to reach people now. We're just updating.
2 In 2006, what was the biggest challenge of merging two congregations? Blending the established relationships between two sets of people.
3 How long did it take until you felt this was accomplished? Probably not until last year, 2009. But I don't know if you'll ever see a meshing of circles completely. We are talking about lifelong friendships that existed in the two separate congregations.
4 Was there ever a time when you had to say, "Okay, guys, you are going to have to work together"? Without mentioning names, I can. In recent months, someone came to me, and they said they were having difficulty getting a congregant to connect with a ministry. I just said, "Get over it. Don't hold up the train." The individual listened to me, and it worked out.
5 With the birth of Caden, you're seeing another generation in your family starting in Largo. What do you hope Largo gives him? I don't expect Largo to give him anything but an opportunity. Between God and godly parents, he has everything that he needs.