In the early 1960s, the original church, St Paul Methodist Church underwent some societal and ethnic changes of the community being served. With the exodus of the members from the area and the church, it was apparent that the church’s leadership and name had to be changed to better address this movement.
In 1964 plans got underway to organize and charter the church that became known as Harris Chapel United Methodist Church. The Reverend Alexander L. Pierce was appointed pastor in 1965. He and the District Superintendent, E. J. Sheppard and James R. Jackson met at the home of Mary L. Carlson to plan the signing of the charter. At the close of service, the following Sunday, James R. Jackson called the following members to the altar: Joseph Baxter, Mary Carlson, Anita Carlson, Leila Carns, Viola C.
Jackson, Mittie Lightsey and Sarah Mc White. They along with James R. Jackson are the recorded names as charter members. The original church building is now known as the Fellowship Hall. The first charge conference was held on December 19, 1965.At that conference, the following persons were elected officers of the church: Carver Bryant, Treasurer; Thomacita Bryant, Secretary; Clarence Hansberry, Chairman, Trustee Board; James R. Jackson, Superintendent of Sunday School. Reverend Pierce remained pastor for an additional three years, 1964-1967. By this time, the membership had grown from a very few to 33 members.
After Reverend Pierce’s tenure ended in 1967, The Reverend Eugene Sheppard served as pastor for one year, 1967-1968. The church continued its early mission of service with two other pastors who served short terms, The Reverend William Clark, 1968-1969 and The Rev. Leroy Dell, 1969-1971. Rev. Dell had the challenge of building the membership and stabilizing the congregation. Carla Louise Bryant has the distinction of being the first infant baptized in the newly organized church.
In June 1971, the Rev. Horace W. Lewis was appointed pastor, who served in this capacity for eighteen (18) years, until his retirement in 1989. Under Rev. Lewis’ dynamic leadership, and nurturing spirit, the membership began to increase as members began to assume leadership roles. Eula Schley was elected Lay Leader, Superintendent of the Sunday School, President of the United Methodist Women unit and annual conference delegate. Mrs. Schley served as the lay leader and the conference delegate for fifteen years. Thomacita Bryant served as secretary and Carver Bryant served as treasurer throughout Rev. Lewis tenure. The original worship center was converted to the education/fellowship hall. Rev. Lewis encouraged a strong and active youth ministry. Rev. Lewis established a relationship with Christ Church and First United Methodist. Under Rev. Lewis’ strong leadership, three persons acknowledged their call to the ministry: Eddie L. Murphy, Jr., Pierre Zamor, and Ernestine Henry. The first male Sunday School class and the men’s prayer breakfast were developed by Rev. Eddie Murphy who assisted Rev. Lewis in worship and preached as needed. Rev. Ernestine Henry taught Sunday School, and chaired the first church-wide prayer breakfast. The United Methodist Men presented the first Holiday Musical Extravaganza on November 20, 1988. Under Rev. Lewis’ tutelage the membership grew from 25 to 200 members. This increase in membership resulted in the need for a new sanctuary which was built in 1988.
A consecration/dedication ceremony for the church was held on April 1, 1988. The cornerstone ceremony was delayed until May 1988 due to inclement weather. Rev. Lewis retired from his pastorate in June 1989. A grand retirement celebration was held under the direction of the Pastor Parish Relations, with Karla Gary as the Chairperson. Millicent Bryant, Chairperson of Work Area on Education initiated The Horace W. Lewis Scholarship Fund to be established and named in Rev. Lewis’ honor. The fund is designed to assist high school graduating seniors who are members of Harris Chapel. Rev. Lewis will long be remembered for his humility, dedication, commitment and love of people.
In 1989, the conference appointed The Reverend Harold Frierson, another of Rev. Lewis’ protégés from Simpson Memorial United Methodist Church to serve Harris Chapel from 1989-1991. He continued the existing programs and supported new ones. During his tenure, Mrs. Lizzie Johnson initiated the first Holy Thursday service and Agape Feast in April 1989. Mrs. Johnson, the church historian, planned and coordinated the first heritage workshop. Under the leadership of Mrs. Evelyn Lewis, Lay Leader, in consultation with the district superintendent, the church was provided a parsonage. Rev. Frierson’s tenure ended in 1991, preventing him from moving into the parsonage The District Board of Missions paid off the parsonage mortgage in 1996.
The Rev. Eddie L. Murphy, Jr was appointed Pastor to Harris Chapel in June 1991-2002.Under his capable leadership, the congregation continued to grow and make strides continuing a strong legacy. Rev. Murphy introduced the first Christmas Candlelight Service in December,1991. A 7:30 a.m. worship service was added to the existing service in 1995. The first Christmas concert was produced and directed by Anthony J. Robinson, the Choir Director, December 1997. The first Horace W. Lewis Day was held in 1993. Johnyta Roundtree and Millicent Bryant Thorpe spearheaded the first program to raise funds for the scholarship fund. The church became a SHARE (Self Help and Resource Exchange) site as part of its outreach program, coordinated by Marie Heastie and Thomacita Bryant. Brenda Edwards, chairperson of Education developed the first After School Tutorial program. Under the leadership of Mrs. Allegra Murphy, Chairperson of the local unit of the United Methodist Women and several members of the unit attended the 1998 United Methodist Women’s Assembly. The first women’s overnight retreat sponsored by the local unit was held in 1996 in the Life Enrichment Center. The church installed and consecrated a marque in 1992. The land adjacent to the church was purchased with the assistance of the Hansberger Family Foundation in 1994. The network and supportive relationship established with Christ Church provided an opportunity for the Hansberger Family Foundation to gift the Life Enrichment Center to Harris Chapel in 1994. Mr. Thomas Hansberger is responsible for this donation as his intention was to provide a haven for the children, youth and families in our community. The Center is an incorporated, ax free entity of the church. Groundbreaking for the center was held May 7, 1994. The facility was dedicated on May 19,1996.
The church had its first pictorial directory and brochure published in 1995 sponsored by a group called the Willing Workers, a group of retirees recruited by Rubye H. Howell. The mortgage burning of the church, and the land adjacent to the church was celebrated on September 13, 1998. Rev. Murphy served the congregation with faith, dedication and distinction until his retirement in 2002.
The first female pastor, The Reverend D’Mitri Cato-Watson was appointed in 2002. She served in this capacity until 2005.Under her leadership, the church continued to make a positive impact on the membership of the church. The church presented several fundraising events to supplement the church’s income, including a Women’s Day program, baby contest, Men’s Day, Family and Friends Day, a King and Queen Pageant and the Women in White. In addition, a Plan of Work was developed to create a job description for all church employees. The first Christian Youth Fellowship Chairperson was selected. A Youth Protection Screening workshop was held for members in 2004.A week- end of services were provided for homeless families in the Life Enrichment Center. To ensure that the parsonage was properly furnished members donated furniture to the cause. Rev. Cato-Watson served the church with fervor and enthusiasm.
The Rev. Dr. Jimmie L. Brown was appointed pastor to Harris Chapel from 2005-20ll. His energetic leadership is marked by many firsts. Dr. Brown was the recipient of the 2007 Florida Conference Grindheim-Sims Evangelism Award. This award is given to pastors of small membership churches who distinguishes him/herself through evangelism and church growth. Dr. Brown brought many new programs and initiatives to the church to motivate and inspire the membership. He instituted honor roll to recognize students who achieve well in school; established a Black History Essay Contest for students in elementary –college, created the God’s Little Angels choir for young children and instituted the adult liturgical dance group. He established a partnership with the City of Oakland Park which helped to staff the open gym night in the Life Enrichment Center and provided books to be placed in the Fellowship Hall. Other partnerships were formed, which include, the South Florida Urban Ministries, the Westside Gazette and a working relationship with the Broward Sheriff’s Office. Computers were placed in the Life Enrichment Center. Walter Orange, a church member, generously upgraded the church’s sound system. The One-call telephone system was activated for emergency contact to all members which includes notification of events, deaths, etc. The first ever website was installed and financed by Dr. Brown. During his tenure, several Community Health fairs were held that included free blood pressure and diabetes screening, HIV-AIDS testing, nutritional cooking exhibition, etc. Dr. Brown is responsible for several workshops and seminars being presented to the membership. Namely, Goal Setting, Getting Out of Debt, Financial Planning Smart Discipline, and Married for Life. The Bethune -Cookman University Concert Chorale was presented in concert for the first time at the church. In 2009, members were given an opportunity for their pictures to be included in the church directory. Dr. Brown served as the weekly Bible Study Leader using power point for presentations. Strategic Planning sessions were conducted for the church and Life Enrichment Center. Two successful galas were held to benefit the Life Enrichment Center. Dr. Brown served with dedication and commitment to the life of the church, until his retirement in 2011.
The Rev. Juana Jordan was appointed in 2011, after being appointed, Reverend Jordan was a trailblazing and innovative leader who strived to move the congregation to grow deeper, wider and stronger roots in Christ (based on Colossians 2:7 scripture). Her accomplishments include re-establishing a visible and open relationship with the conference, connected Harris Chapel to the Oceanside Emmaus Community whereby more than 31 members have participated on the Emmaus Walk to date. Our food bank, Bountiful Blessings expanded to serve over 70 families. Pastor Jordan redesigned the church’s website and established both a youth and church Face Book page. She along with several members established the PUSH telephone prayer line in December of 2014, aided in expanding the Arts ministry, and started the WOW (weekend of worship) and youth summit for young adults and youth. She was committed to continuing the mission of the church. Because of her passion for youth and children, she and other HC members became Reading Pals to elementary school age children co-hosted the innovation zone literacy fair, has partnered with Africa University and attended with one of our young adults the cultural immersion trip to Zimbabwe. Several members have engaged in small group studies, leadership and discipleship trainings and received scholarships and travel opportunities under her leadership. Reverend Jordan initiated a partnership with Hope South Florida, outreach ministry which serves meals to homeless in our community. She implemented the Blue Christmas holiday service which provides support for grieving families and established a Christmas Eve service. Rev. Jordan also led the charge to partner with BRANCHES to serve as a host site for feeding over350 families for Thanksgiving and initiated an opportunity for members alongside the Miami Dolphin team and staff, to package one million meals for senior adults in Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. She continued to build upon the rich history and heritage of Harris Chapel and was committed to continuing the mission of the church.
Under the current leadership of Rev. Stanley Melek, we continue to grow deeper roots in Christ in our quest to fulfill the mission of the United Methodist Church which is to make disciples. Rev. Melek and his family are from Kenya and bring to us many years in ministry internationally. They successfully planted several churches in their home country and have a passion for community ministry. Under his leadership we have seen continued growth of Bountiful Blessings food bank ministry, and the PUSH prayer line, as well as, our Wednesday afternoon bible study. We have also been very blessed to see the vision of several of our former pastors and current members come to pass in this season. God’s Little Lambs nursery school ministry is now a thriving part of Harris Chapel United Methodist Church and resides in our Life Enrichment Center. Pastor Melek leads the children in their Children’s Church every Wednesday and is loved by the staff and the children of God’s Little Lambs. Under