By Gaëtan Soulier, contributing writer
Photos by Gaëtan Soulier
Caring, loving, energetic, kind, and a lover of McKendree are the best words to describe Reverend Tim Harrison. Tim is the son of a pastor who grew up in Southwest Kansas. Tim graduated from a Kansas college, majoring in elementary education and special education because he wanted to be able to help and work with kids. You could say he was destined to help people.
While in college, Tim suffered the terrible loss of his father. Though he was a very influential person in Tim’s life, Tim found himself a new mentor during that time. A pastor of the United Methodist Church helped him get back on his feet. Although Tim did not say much about him, you could hear in his voice how important this guy was for him. When he was still in college Tim joined the United Methodist Church.
Right after graduation, Tim got a job in Alaska for a little bit until he moved to Georgia to be a middle school teacher. It was in Georgia that Tim attended a seminary to become qualified to be a pastor and a chaplain of the United Methodist Church. He thought that the skills he acquired as a teacher would help him while in the ministry.
I asked what Tim’s drive was, why he is doing what he is doing.
“I understand God’s character to be a God who is involved and concerned with God’s creation,” Harrison said. “I was blessed to be loved and cared for by my family as a kid and greatly benefited from it. So, I want to pass this on to others.”
Tim has been a member of the McKendree community for 23 years now. He is our chaplain and director of church relations. He has taught here, worked with students through religion, and has counseled students. Whether it be about homesickness, tragedies, or general encouragement, Tim would be more than happy to hear you and help you as much as he can. Although he does that, he asked me to specify that he counsels students in a pastoral way, not a clinical one, and encourages everybody who is going through a tough time to go to counseling!
Regarding his chaplain activities, Tim officiates weddings, funerals, and typical sacraments. He tries as much as he can to connect with the local community through interfaith events, inviting Catholic priests to come to the Church on campus or to the Bearcat pantry located at three sites: McKendree West Clubhouse, 24/7 Pantry at the back of 305 Stanton St., and the Chapel pantry.
As much as Tim gives back to the local community, he gave so much to McKendree. He started faith-oriented trips at McKendree; although they are faith-related, everybody is welcomed. One example he cited was his last trip to Israel before COVID-19. He went there with some students and McKendree faculty and staff. They got to see Jerusalem and understand more about the complexity in between the Palestinians and the State of Israel. He wanted me to say that even though it costs money, if someone is really willing to go on one of those trips, he and the people organizing the trips will do everything they can so that money is not a problem for the people in need.
Towards the end of the interview, I asked Tim what his crowning achievements would be, as well as a word of advice. He said that what he considers to be his biggest achievements are his three children, who he is very proud of because of the difference they all strive to be in the world. I think that his crowning achievement is to be such a caring person for everyone around him, since he brings the best out of everybody around him.
Regarding his advice, Tim told me that he strived to be an ally to the ones in need, especially regarding social injustice, to which he said: “We are born into community and meant to be in relationships with God and one another working for peace, love, and hope, and by doing so, overcome any problem we face.”