By Fred Koenig
Linda Harris’s father and grandfather were United Methodist ministers. So it stands to reason, when she was in college at Dakota Wesleyan University, majoring in social work and psychology, that she was headed that same direction.
“Actually, being a pastor was the furthest thing from my mind then,” she said.
She not only became a pastor, she will also be the newest member of the Missouri Conference Cabinet. Harris will become the next Gateway Regional District Superintendent when appointments are made at Annual Conference Session this June. On December 8, Gateway Regional District Superintendent Ann Rathert was involved in a serious car accident. Since then Harris has been serving as Assistant to the District Superintendent.
“I’m thankful I’ve been able to work alongside of Ann and support her in her ministry at this time,” she said. “She’s been an invaluable mentor in introducing me to this work”. Prior to the accident, Rathert had already announced at charge conferences her intention to retire in June.
Harris started out her professional life in a different kind of ministry. Following college she left her life-long home of North Dakota to work for Church World Service in New York City. During her tenure there she worked as the Director of Resettlement with Cuban refugees who were arriving in the United States.
Church World Service then sent her to Malaysia, where she served as deputy director, working with Vietnamese refugees. It was her first international experience.
“It was an exciting time, and it opened my eyes to a bigger world, and the work and ministry of the church in new ways,” she said.
It was during her time with Church World Service that she heard the call to ministry. After five years with CWS, she left to attend seminary at Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City. Following seminary she returned home to North Dakota, where she served Beulah and Larimore. She also served as Conference Secretary for the Dakotas Conference.
It was her husband, Bill, who was from St. Louis, that precipitated the move to the St. Louis area. Harris served as associate pastor of First UMC in St. Charles, Senior Pastor at University UMC, and has recently been serving part-time as pastor of St. Clair UMC while she also served as executive director of the Gateway Mission Board of Growth.
Harris has served on the Missouri Conference Board of Trustees, the Mozambique Initiative, the District Committee on Ordained Ministry, and has chaired the District Committee on Superintendency.
Harris and her husband have two daughters, Sarita, who is a school teacher in Wentzville, and Kate, who is a high school freshman.