MIDWAY–Douglas Harris is counting his blessings these days as the pastor of a small church in Midway, a town located just northeast of Tallahassee.
The church, Midway Unity Fellowship, is meeting in a newly constructed building that was completed last fall and celebrated with a month of building dedication worship services with area pastors in October. The 6,000-square-foot facility includes the sanctuary, two offices, two meeting rooms and the youth room. As Harris describes the church, the enthusiasm in his voice is unmistakable.
‘I am encouraged by God’s hand being on us and blessing us.’
Construction of the church took two-and-a-half years to complete, which was longer than expected, but the pandemic slowed the construction schedule. Still, Harris considers it a blessing to be holding services in a new church building.
“I am encouraged by God’s hand being on us and blessing us,” he said. “A lot of churches closed down and have not opened back up. We were allowed to build a church during this time.”
Youth are ‘life of church’
Church attendance and involvement are not the same as they were prior to COVID, but things are slowly starting to pick up, he said. While average attendance is about 35 to 40 each week, the church’s recent youth Sunday service attracted about 70 people. The service included guest speaker Nay’Ron Jenkins, a linebacker for Florida A&M University, and a performance by young motivational rapper Zariah Tucker.
Harris said youth Sunday occurs the third Sunday of each month and showcases young people who are confessing Christians and who serve as good role models to today’s teens.
“The youth really are the life of the church,” he said. “We are going to keep pushing it and keep them motivated the right way.”
As the church seeks to grow, it has been met with resistance from some who are still concerned about COVID and those who say they now prefer online services. Harris lets them know that the church has a temperature checker and masks available for those who want to wear one.
He also reminds them about the importance of gathering together in corporate worship and encouraging one another. The pastor often quotes Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching.”
“You’ve got to come together with other people,” he said. “We are missing some things when we don’t gather as a body of believers.”
Sometimes such resistance can be a bit discouraging for a pastor, but he said his wife Patricia and other family and friends encourage him.
“My wife, our family and friends, and our church family have been my greatest supporters,” he said.
Harris started the church 15 years ago as a church plant from nearby Beulah Hill Missionary Baptist Church. The church plant first met at the Midway Fire Station where Harris served as fire chaplain. Each week he’d haul the piano and speakers and other materials and equipment there for their Sunday service. The church met there three years before outgrowing the space and moving to property owned by the Gadsden County School Board and renting a modular building for church space.
Soon the young church purchased 10 acres with dreams of building its own facility one day. That day came during the pandemic. The church had moved from its modular building to the city’s recreation center to reduce costs and save money for construction, but when the pandemic began, the church stopped meeting there due to health concerns and started holding online services. That’s when construction started for the new church building.
Harris said he’s thankful for those who contributed to the building campaign, including members of the church, those from the community and the Florida Baptist Convention. In addition to worship services and activities, the church has also opened its doors to community events. The church hosts a free clothes closet every other Saturday, where local residents can come and receive clothing that has been donated to the church.
Next, he’s hoping to start community walks in the neighborhood and invite more people to attend. He also wants to start a ministerial alliance for local churches that would enable all the pastors to work together, share ideas and attend educational classes to help them in their work. Such an alliance would not only benefit the pastors and their churches, but also the community, he said.
“I’m making it my business to connect to other churches and we will be working together. The church still has a presence in the community, and we can’t allow our presence to be diminished.”