published Saturday, June 8th, 2013

Cooper: 'Little Pastor' has big heart, big memories

It was at a Valentine's Day fundraiser for the Wesley Center in the early 1990s when I first met him.

David Harr was serving a North Georgia church, and he had his funny, pixie-ish wife, Annabell, with him. My wife and I were charmed by this couple we had the pleasure of being seated with.

Five years later, he replaced the minister of congregational care -- and our beloved neighbor Jack Carter -- at our church.

Now, 17 years hence -- an eon for United Methodist ministers and having served with five senior pastors -- Harr is retiring. But fortunately for our church, he'll continue to serve on the staff in a retired status, in a slightly different capacity, after taking a short and well-deserved hiatus.

In his tenure at First-Centenary Church, he has visited with, prayed with and given comfort to thousands of people at hospital bedsides, on the living-room couches of elderly members, in funeral homes and at gravesides.

Harr's quiet voice, calm assurance and caring manner have eased grief and allowed a catch-up breath to be taken by family members in the midst of illness and death.

To my family, this second-generation pastor has been even more.

Not only has he been one of our pastors, but during our now-19-year-old son Patrick's childhood, we spent a few hours at the Harr home a few nights before Christmas each year, talking and laughing.

It was on one of those occasions that our then-young son, intending to jump and scare his pastor, became distracted when he got his first up-close view of the man's bald head.

On another occasion, David and Annabell stood in for grandparents who couldn't attend at a restaurant birthday party for our son.

Annabell has scrapbooked in our home and attended various direct-sales parties my wife has hosted. David has been a source of faith stories for me and a practitioner of sermons with endearing illustrations about an afternoon in Wrigley Field or a morning walk through a cemetery.

We have hugged them, and them us, over deaths of parents. We have rejoiced with him over earning a doctorate and her over various teaching positions.

Last year, we were delighted to help them move out of their East Ridge home and into one on scenic Mission Ridge Drive that they had occupied as a parsonage from 1982 to 1989, when he served Simpson Memorial United Methodist Church in Rossville.

What a treat it was to hear, as we downloaded an attic full of memories, when this item was used, at what church they served when they acquired this one, or from which family member they received this thing.

Late last year, we delighted with the Harrs over the Christmas Day birth of their first grandchild, Oliver Michael, and know they'll be burning up the road between Rossville and Memphis over the next few months to see him.

I don't know if David will have an office at the church in his new position, but wherever his office is, I hope he'll still prominently hang the sign that once hung on his door at the church.

Emblazoned on it were the words "Little Pastor," emblematic of his stature. But even that wasn't quite right -- or better yet, incomplete. It should have read "Little Pastor With Big Heart."

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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