Earthquake caused crisis, brought resolution for Orthodox pastor
By ORIANO PAGNUCCI, Correspondent
Source: Southtown Star April 23rd, 2010
The Rev. Andrew Harrison sits in St. Luke Orthodox Church in Palos Hills, where he has been rector, or pastor, since 1995.
(Joseph P. Meier/SouthtownStar)
What does he do?
In 1992, Andrew Harrison was working as a chaplain at a California veterans hospital and pastoring a small mission in Oxnard.
That year an earthquake hit the area, wrecked the hospital where Harrison was working and caused him to lose his position there. Needing direction, he said God answered his prayers and called him to serve as rector, or pastor, of St. Luke the Evangelist Orthodox Church in Palos Hills, where he has served since December 1995.
How did he get into his job?
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Harrison said he was raised generally Protestant and went with his family to church.
"But like so many teens, I didn't have much involvement in church," he said.
"But when I was in my late teens or early 20s, I hit a crossroad in my life. One thing led to another, and I got more involved in church."
At that time Harrison's mother was Russian Orthodox, and his father converted from the Lutheran faith to the Eastern Orthodox one.
"And because of my father's conversion, I started going" to an Orthodox church, Harrison said.
He also ended up attending New York University, where he earned a bachelor's in education in 1965. Later he earned his master of divinity from St. Vladimir's Seminary in Crestwood, N.Y., in 1968.
Then in 1969, Harrison was ordained in New York City and ended up with his first assignment at a parish in Canada. Subsequently, he served at parishes in Pennsylvania, Colorado and Los Angeles before his current assignment at St. Luke.
Harrison said that the 1995 earthquake caused a crisis in his priesthood.
"I needed direction. I believe that God called me to St. Luke as an answer to our mutual prayers. It has been a blessing for me to be the rector of a parish that has commitment to evangelism."
What's the best part of the job?
"I enjoy doing the weekly services of preaching and being involved with people, especially those in need, and trying to minister to them in a practical way.
"I have a lot of flexibility, which gives me the freedom to organize my day. I don't have office hours, but my office is always open.
"As pastor, I see my role as that of a teacher, teaching about the Bible and life of Christ, to bring pastoral care and the presence of Jesus Christ" into the lives of parishioners, to guide and teach them so they can be the hands of Christ in the community.
What's the worst part of the job?
"The worst part is having to deal with funerals. You get to know everybody (in the church), and they become like family. So you deal with their grief and your own grief. It weighs on you. And dealing with people with extreme personal problems also weighs on you."
What does he do for fun?
"When I need to get away, I go fishing. I also collect model trains. I also like to travel. I've been to Australia, New Zealand and China."
Harrison and his wife, Patricia, live in Lemont and have two adult sons.