Sunday, Jun 25, 2017

Minister looks to make impact

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Eric Blachford is the new pastor at the First United Methodist Church, Harvard.

A new minister has joined Harvard’s First United Methodist Church. Eric Blachford, 32, became pastor of the congregation at the beginning of July – a congregation that has doubled in size since he took over its leadership.

Originally hailing from Belvidere, Blachford also has lived in Rockford. He previously worked at a church in the city for nine years before making the switch to Harvard over the summer.

Blachford said that as a pastor in the Methodist Church, “You never quite know where you will end up,” since pastors on average spend about five years in a church and then are assigned somewhere else.

He said he hopes to make the house of worship one of the best churches in the community and is excited about the opportunity to work in Harvard.

“It also kept us near to Belvidere,” he added, referring to his wife, Rebecca, a math teacher at Belvidere High School, and his two sons. “Harvard kind of reminds me of what Belvidere was like when I was growing up. It’s a feel-good, small town.”

There are a number of plans Blachford has in store for First United Methodist Church. One of the first things he would like to do in the coming year is to take the congregation through the entire Bible in chronological order, using a book called “The Story.”

“It will help the congregation become more comfortable with the Bible,” Blachford said. “Only half of Americans who own a Bible have even cracked it open and attempted to read it. This book will help make the Bible more ‘user-friendly.’”

Blachford also hopes to create events that will bless Harvard. He has met with a number of people throughout the area in order to find out what the most pressing needs of the community are – one need being to organize fun and inexpensive events for the whole family. Another important goal for Blachford is to show that it is not just about what happens inside the church but outside, too.

“We have been welcomed incredibly well,” he said of his time at First United Methodist. “There’s an excitement here; it’s palpable. There’s a sense of joy with people on Sunday morning. I walk in the building and smile because people are smiling. I am really looking to making a difference in Harvard, and [people in the congregation] know they now have a pastor who cares passionately. It’s not just about meeting every Sunday morning but about making a difference every day of the week.” One of the things Blachford enjoys most about being a minister is the opportunity to be an integral part of people’s lives.

“I don’t think there’s any other job where you get to be with people in the best moments of their lives, as well as some of the most challenging,” he said. “There are weddings, and there are new babies. I get to be one of the first people to meet a little baby and celebrate [that joy]. I’m also there in the middle of divorces or when a family member dies. I have a chance to offer hope and encouragement – to give people hope that there is more to life when we die. It is such a privilege to be with people during those times.”

For information and service times, visit firstumcharvard.org.