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After over a year of searching church finally finds new pastor

Pastor Derek Harman and his wife Dawn. Reminder Publications submitted photo
By Katelyn Gendron-List

Staff Writer

WEST SPRINGFIELD After a year of having an interim pastor and diminishing weekly attendance at Sunday services, the Grace Lutheran Church finally has a new permanent pastor to help them rebuild their presence within the community.

Derek Harman accepted the call to become the new pastor of Grace Lutheran Church and began his ministry earlier this month.

"I'm glad to be in the northeast because I'm always up for a new adventure," Harman said, about moving across the country with his wife to accept this call. "I think that this is a vibrant place where people are alive and enjoying life. This is a very welcoming community full of possibilities."

Harman, who comes from a missionary family because of his father Reverend Bill Harman, stated that he avoided becoming a pastor for as long as he could but later realized that this was what he was meant to do with his life.

"Some are very clear on being called to the ministry, and the call is something that was very clear to me but I tried as hard as I could to ignore it," Harman said. "Eventually I gave into it and that's when everything clicked."

The road to becoming a pastor has been a long one for Harman. He stated that he attended California Lutheran University, where he received a Bachelor's Degree in sociology. Harman then spent 12 years working as a social worker in Seattle, where he worked with developmentally disabled adults. Harman later went on to receive a Masters of Divinity Degree from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in January 2007.

Having grown up in a missionary family Harman lived in Trinidad, the West Indies and Switzerland, and has since adapted a global perspective on the ministry.

"My interests are in internationally-minded-ministry, which is a focus on a global perspective and interest in mutual ministry," Harman said. "The idea is that this is not a ministry that the pastor does alone, this is a ministry that the congregation does with the minister."

He was ordained on June 8, in Worcester, at the Trinity Lutheran Church during the New England Synod Assembly, Joyce Jutkus, vice president of the Grace Lutheran Church Council said.

"It's absolutely wonderful that we have a new pastor," Jutkus said. "Even though he has not had a parish before we are excited about the fact that he's young and we expect that he will be involved with every avenue of the church."

According to Scott Kent, president of the Grace Lutheran Church Council, the past year has been difficult because they had an interim pastor who could not be there for the day-to-day needs of the congregation.

"Our interim pastor [Robert Vallini] is an amazing person and he gives great sermons but he's 72 years old and you could see the strain on him," Kent said. "We were hiring him just to do the worship service, but a pastor is more than preaching on Sundays and we didn't have someone during the week and that makes the biggest difference."

Kent went on to state that he knows that people might not have wanted to get involved with the congregation because there was no permanent pastor but he believes in Harman's ideals about the global mission of the church.

"Our church does not think of itself as having four walls, we believe in a global mission," Kent said. "There is so much that our church can do for the world and Pastor Harman has worked with charities extensively. He understands that the church cannot be four walls. It must strive for something greater to make a difference in the community and the world."

According to Jutkus and Kent, Harman has had a strong following and relationship with the youth of a German congregation during his internship in that country. They are hoping that he will be able to continue that kind of ministry with the youth at their church.

"When he was doing his internship in Germany he and his wife went out there without knowing the language and he didn't think that he was strong enough with the youth," Kent said. "But after they left the youth of the congregation raised money so that both of them could fly back to see them get confirmed."

Dawn, Harman's wife of three years, stated that she was very excited to join this new community as she too is living in the northeast for the first time.

"Being a social worker he dealt with a lot of different people and he's very open to different cultures, religions and people of different backgrounds," Dawn Harman said. "He's very kind and approachable and really easy to talk to. He's really excited and I hope that the people of the congregation will take his excitement and become excited about coming to church."

Summer services at Grace Lutheran Church will be on Saturdays at 6 p.m., Sundays at 9:30 a.m.

For more information call the church at 734-9268.