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South Tampa News

Seminole Heights pastor starts by calling each church member

BY LENORA LAKE
Special Correspondent

Published:   |   Updated: September 5, 2013 at 08:28 AM

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The Rev. Matt Horan is calling his flock in Seminole Heights.

The recently assigned pastor of Seminole Heights United Methodist Church has taken on the job of personally calling each member of the church. He just wants to introduce himself and see what they say.

“I had a friend who did that and he had told me what a great experience it was to talk one-on-one,” said Horan, 39, who became the church’s pastor on July 1.

He previously served as an assistant pastor at Hyde Park United Methodist, where Jim Harnish is senior pastor.

The unexpected outcome of the phone calls was that he learned the databases were outdated as some members had moved or died.

“I did learn that some were shut-ins — and scheduled visits with them,” said the married father of two girls. “It was a way to remind them we care about them.”

Horan, originally from Philadelphia, moved to Palm Bay at age 12. He attended Florida State University and considered the ministry. However, he said he didn’t feel that was the right thing for him at that point. He became an English teacher, while also earning a master’s degree in education leadership.

A chance to become a youth minister changed his direction in life.

“Then I felt the call to go to seminary,” he said. He attended seminary from 2004 to 2007, with his first appointment at the Hyde Park church.

“I can’t imagine a better way to start than with the incredible leaders there,” he said.

While settling into Seminole Heights, he and church leaders are deciding a direction for the church.

“I want to help people understand God has big plans for this place,” he said. “I want it to be a gift to this neighborhood and people to experience this congregation as good neighbors.”

In an effort to meet more people, he has been walking the area and met with the principals of local schools.

Raised Catholic, Horan began attending a Methodist church when he met his wife of 14 years, Susan, who is a social worker at Lockhart Elementary School in Tampa.

Their two daughters are Jenna, 12, who attends Orange Grove Middle Magnet School, and Ashley, 9, who attends Seminole Elementary.

“The people here have truly welcomed us. As soon as they knew we were coming, they began sending notes to our daughters,” Horan said.

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