It was his birthday and he was preaching at Chapel in the Pines.
“It was neat to be out there and meet the people and experience it for the first time,” the Rev. Arthur Harrison, new associate pastor at Pell City First United Methodist Church, said of the communitywide, multi-denominational service held on Logan Martin Lake each summer.
Harrison said moving to Pell City with his wife, Julia, and their 7-month-old daughter, Lavender, is like coming home.
“My dad was in the Army and we moved around a lot before settling in the Huntsville area when I was in high school and college,” he said. “My family still lives in Huntsville.”
Harrison said he left Huntsville and was living in Shenandoah Valley, Va., where his wife’s family was from, while attending Wesley Theological Seminary, where he graduated with a masters in divinity.
“It’s been a very busy time,” he said. “Our daughter was born in December. I found out in March that I was appointed to Pell City First United Methodist Church as associate pastor. I graduated from the seminary in May. For the past two years, I was a chaplain candidate in the Army Reserves and I got selected as a full chaplain in June.”
Harrison said moving to Pell City allows them to visit his family more frequently.
“It’s nice to go from being 12 hours away to an hour and 45 minutes away,” he said. “My entire family got together the weekend of my birthday for the first time in seven or eight years. It was great because the cousins all got to see each other and some hadn’t met Lavender yet. It was fun to get together and have a barbecue.”
Harrison said they have lived in Pell City for about a month.
“Everyone has been very welcoming so far,” he said. “And Pell City is kind of interesting. It’s close to Birmingham, Atlanta, Huntsville, Chattanooga, Montgomery. You can go anywhere for a day trip. We usually take Fridays and take a day trip.”
Harrison said his wife is a licensed horseback riding instructor, and writes fantasy novels.
“She has finished two novels so far, and we are trying to find an editor and publisher for them,” he said.
Harrison said reading is his favorite hobby.
“I always have a book going on my Kindle Fire,” he said.
Harrison conducts the Wide Open Worship service at the church and oversees Student Ministries, which encompasses youth and future college ministries.
“I was a part of college ministries when I was in college, and I see the need for it here,” he said. “A lot of students go off to college but need something when they come home for spring break or the summer. And we want to support them while they are in school, too, and keep them connected to the church family.”
Harrison said he feels that no matter what denomination, age 18-30 is a hard fit.
“People in that age range are not youth, but may not have a family yet,” he said. “I came up in Youth Ministry. When I graduated high school I started serving as a youth pastor. I went from being in the youth group to leading it. It is something important to me.”
Harrison said it is sometimes a difficult time, with youth trying to find their identity and feel plugged in to the church community, feeling like they belong somewhere.
“I feel my true calling is military chaplaincy and pastoral ministry — teaching, preaching, counseling,” he said.