Senior Pastor of Hyde Park United Methodist Church retires, we share his "10 questions" again

TAMPA, Fla - Are you ever curious about the real lives of politicians, celebrities, local newsmakers and athletes?
Each week,  ABC Action News asks 10 questions of a Bay area leader, politician or even national celebrity.

We go beyond the questions that are news of the day. After all sometimes, we want know more about them. What's their favorite music? Greatest success? And who do they look up to?

This week, we want to profile again a religious leader we featured this past Holiday season.

We share again the answers from Jim Harnish, the Senior Pastor of Hyde Park United Methodist Church.

This week. after more than four decades of service, Pastor Harnish retired. He has served this community with his heat and soul and has changed so many lives for the better.

During one of his last sermons, Mayor Bob Buckhorn also addressed the packed congregation, thanking Harnish for helping to spiritually lead thousands in our community.

This year marked his 21st year of year of leadership at Hyde Park, a church that has been around for more than 110 years!

Years ago, Methodist families who lived near what is now Kennedy Boulevard, stretching out to South Tampa and the Ballast Point area traveled by horse to get to their church. The church was on the east side of the Hillsborough River and at that time, their horses and buggy's would have to cross what was described as undependable drawbridge.

Some families thought, why not start holding Sunday school meetings closer to home.

So, on March of 1899, a group of 30 people gathered for the first meeting in a two-room schoolhouse on the corner of Magnolia and Platt Streets.

Now, a century later, the church sits on that same corner, but it has grown significantly. Thousands come to worship at the church.

The Reverend Dr. Jim Harnish is proud to call Tampa home. But he is a Pennsylvania native.

It was awhile before he got to Florida. He studied speech and drama at Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky. It was also in Kentucky he received his Master's of Divinity degree at the Asbury Theological Seminary.

He also went to on do numerous theological studies at a variety of schools including receiving honorary doctoral degrees from Bethune-Cookman University and Asbury Theological Seminary in Orlando.

His first pastoral appointment came in 1972, where he served as an Associate Pastor at the Trinity United Methodist Church in DeLand, Florida.

He also served as Pastor at Howe Memorial United Methodist Church in Crescent City, Florida

He was then the Organizing Pastor at St. Luke's United Methodist Church at Windermere in Orlando, before coming to Hyde Park United Methodist Church as it's senior Pastor.

The pastor is a true leader, serving as delegate numerous times. That along with his mission work has taken him all over the world including to Kenya, South Africa and London.

The pastor has also authored dozens of books and articles.

His sermons are full of wisdom but he also often brings humor. Perhaps, it's some of his drama background that adds his wonderful ways of connecting with his congregation. You'll learn about the drama element in his answers!

He is not only committed to his church in Tampa. Pastor Harnish jokes he is "married into" Florida. That's because his wife Marsha is a native of St. Petersburg.
And now, he is an avid fan of the University of Florida Gator football team.

The couple has two married daughters and they are the proud grandparents of three grandchildren.

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1. What is your all time favorite movie or song?

Without question, my favorite movie is "To Kill a Mockingbird." It just keeps getting better. The scene when Atticus leaves the courtroom and the Black folks in the balcony stand up for him never ceases move me. My favorite music is more complicated because music is such a big part of my life. At the top of the list would be Charles Wesley's hymn, "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling." That would be followed by just about anything from the Rogers and Hammerstein musicals, my favorite being "South Pacific." As an unrepentant Baby Boomer, I'm not sure there has been any great music since Peter, Paul and Mary.

2. Do you have a Smartphone? If so, what's your favorite app?

I can't get along without my iPhone but I don't have a favorite app. The one I use the most is Google maps. My grandchildren have put more apps on my phone than I have.

3. Who do you count as your mentor(s)?

I've been surrounded by amazing people, most of whom are not famous. They are ordinary people who have been extraordinary examples of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. I get by with a lot of help from my friends.

4. What was your very first job?

I delivered "The Pittsburgh Press" on my bicycle and in the snow in Clarion, Pennsylvania. Maybe that's why I still read the newspaper. I also swept floors and unloaded supplies in my father's auto parts store.

5. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?

The psalm says, "The

lines have fallen for me in pleasant places." There's really not much I would change.

6. What do you consider your greatest success?

Professionally, I have helped every congregation I have served become a stronger, healthier, more joyful place where people can search, question and grow in their faith and become more energetic agents of God's love in the community. Personally, I had the good sense to marry the right woman and together we have a wonderful family.

7. Tell us something about you most people don't know?

My twin brother and I had the lead roles in our senior class play in high school. It was a cheesy little comedy with no dramatic value, but it awakened a love for the stage in both of us. We were drama majors in college and traveled across the country with a religious drama group. He continued being involved in community theater while some would say that there's more than enough drama in my preaching.

8. If you could have dinner with any three people, living or dead, who would they be?

Desmond Tutu, Thomas Jefferson and the uncle whose plane was shot down over Holland in WWII whom I never knew but for whom I am named.

9. What is in your fridge right now?

There is always milk to go with the Oreos. It's an addiction.

10. If you could have a different career, other then what you're doing now, what would it be?

If I had not gone to seminary, I would have been a high school drama teacher. Now, I think I might have been a lawyer. I don't tell mother-in-law jokes because I had such a great one and I don't tell lawyer jokes because I respect so many good ones. About the only people I can make fun of are preachers. But I wouldn't trade what I get to do for any other job on the planet!

10 questions is an on line feature I started doing more than three years ago. Many of the people I profile are based on your suggestions.

If there is someone you would like to see featured, please e-mail me or "like" me on Facebook. To do that just head to      and find me under the favorites tab and click the "like" button.

If you also have a suggestion for a question please let me know. I always look forward to hearing from you!

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