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Hyde Park United Methodist bids farewell to senior pastor

Sarah Whitman is the new editorial assistant for the Brandon bureau.

Sarah Whitman is the new editorial assistant for the Brandon bureau.

After 22 years of service as senior pastor at Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa, the Rev. James Harnish will preach his final sermon June 8, retiring from full-time ministry to spend more time with his family.

Harnish, a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, began his career at Trinity United Methodist Church in DeLand in 1972. He then led churches in Crescent City and Orlando before coming to Hyde Park, transforming it into one of the most influential churches in the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Hyde Park will honor Harnish at an event beginning at 4 p.m. June 8, with a reception to follow. The pastor will also speak at 8:30, 9:30 and 11 a.m. services. For the coming months, donations are requested to help establish a new scholarship in Harnish's honor at the Divinity School at Duke University, where he facilitates a continuing education program. Donation forms are available at harnish-scholarship-at-duke.

The Rev. Roger Scholtz, an ordained elder in the Methodist Church of South Africa, will serve as interim pastor at Hyde Park beginning Sept. 1. A new senior pastor will be named in June 2015. For more information, visit

Here's what Harnish, 67, said about his plans for the future.

What made you decide to take the leap into retirement?

Well, it's required by the church that we retire at 70 but I never planned on going that long. I felt a sense of leading from God these last couple years that it was time. After speaking with the Florida Conference and the church, we all agreed it seemed like the right decision.

What comes next?

I'm going to spend a lot of time being a husband, father and grandfather. I'll also be doing some writing. I currently help facilitate a continuity education program through Duke Divinity School. I'm going to continue doing that as my way of helping people in ministry.

What will you miss most about full-time ministry?

The people. I love the relationships that we share. I will miss the friendships that we built here. Of course the friendships will continue in a different way and there will be new friendships on the horizon. I will miss the amazing staff at Hyde Park. I have really enjoyed working with each of them.

Will the day of your retirement celebration be an emotional day?

Of course. Hyde Park is a place where people are free to express how they feel. I'm sure we will laugh together and have a cry together. I know I will experience emotions of joy and thanks.

Sarah Whitman can be reached at


Chonda Pierce Girl Talk: Christian comedian Chonda Pierce will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 31, at Countryside Christian Center, 1850 N McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. Doors open at 6. To purchase tickets, visit

Musical kids: The children's choir at Bell Shoals Baptist Church, 2102 Bell Shoals Road, will present a musical at 6 p.m. Sunday, June 1. For more information, call (813) 689-4229.

Hyde Park United Methodist bids farewell to senior pastor 05/28/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 7:53pm]
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