For Andrew Harris, God's work began in Andover.
The new Congregational minister who grew up in Andover and has gone to South Church his whole life not surprisingly chose his hometown church for his recent ordination ceremony.
Harris, 29, fondly calls the church his "home away from home" because he was very involved there while growing up.
"Once I reached middle school I joined the youth group and it had a profound impact on my spiritual growth and development,'' Harris said. "Through South Church's Summer of Service camps, I had the opportunity to participate in all sorts of community service projects in Andover, Lawrence and the surrounding communities, which opened my eyes to the profound need that exists.''
A 2008 graduate of Andover High School, Harris and his three siblings grew up on Summer Street. He was ordained earlier this month as his parents — Kerianne and Ted Harris — beamed with pride alongside the Rev. Alex Shea Will, pastor of South Church.
"Ordination into Christian ministry is such a special occurrence,'' Shea Will said. "In the United Church of Christ (UCC) — our Protestant Christian denomination — ordination is an intense and introspective journey. A lot is, rightfully, being written about the decline of the Christian Church in America, but Andrew's ordination should be a symbol of hope. Our world is desperately in need of faith leaders." It's been 15 years since South Church held an ordination. The Rev. Harris is now the Acton Congregational Church pastor in Acton. He was acting associate minister there since last July. Reflecting on his hometown church, Harris stressed that the variety of church youth groups was a key to why he was called to ministry while being a youth coordinator at South Church. "In high school I participated in several service trips to South Carolina, Vermont and West Virginia during school vacations,'' he said. "After graduating college, I started volunteering with the youth group at South Church, eventually stepping in as their youth coordinator. It was during this time that I realized I was called to ministry.'' Harris faced a heavy workload in his effort to become a minister. "Along the way, Andrew had to obtain a master's degree, complete thousands of hours of internships in hospitals and churches, present numerous times before various committees, pass an extensive background check and psychological evaluation, and ultimately appear before a gathering of local UCC churches so that they might vote on whether they believe he is called to ordained ministry," Shea Will said. "Andrew's ordination is not only a culmination of a lifetime of spiritual growth and maturity, it is also the culmination of lots of hard work. As a congregation, we are thrilled that God has called Andrew into ordained ministry."