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Hancock Church of God pastor retires

Eugene Harne has seen church grow for past 33 years

Eugene Harne has seen church grow for past 33 years

January 03, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

HANCOCK ? When Eugene Harne first took the pulpit at the Hancock Church of God more than 30 years ago, he looked down to see his new congregation ? two older women and his family of six.

"One woman sat on one side of the church and the other sat on the opposite side," Harne said of that Sunday in 1974 at the church's former location at 163 N. Main St.

In those early days, Harne, his wife, Bonnie, and their five children drove 42 miles one way from their home in Foxville. The did so for about 10 years.

"I wore out several vehicles," he said.

The church bought a parsonage in 1985, Harne said, ending the long travel time.

His thoughts were full of his wife, who died in 2003, last Sunday when his congregation honored him at a dinner as he ended his tenure at the only church he ever served.

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"I couldn't have done it without Bonnie," he said from his new home in Halfway. "She sacrificed a lot. Pastoring is very much teamwork."

Four of the couple's five children are living, and they range in age from their late 30s to early 40s.

"All my children were in attendance last Sunday," Harne, 69, said with a big smile. There was a dinner and a lot of fond memories shared between Harne and his congregants.

More than 18 years ago, the church held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Hancock Church of God at the current site on Millstone Road off Md. 615.

That church can seat 364, Harne said. The 90 foot-by-105 foot church is nearly three times larger than the previous one downtown, which is now an office building, residence and used car lot.

The first congregation showed 12 members on the books, but weekly attendance was quite another matter. "People heard there was a new pastor so they came," Harne said. "Some stayed."

A church in name only in those early years, the Hancock Church of God soon had a Sunday school, activities and steady growth.

The congregation now has about 100 members.

In 1999, the growth spurred the need for a new building.

"I grew up wanting to be a police officer," Harne said, despite his self-avowed shy ways. Accepted by the Washington, D.C., police, Harne had a choice to make and he decided to take a job at a Hagerstown industry instead.

"I was raised in the church and I saw what pastors had to endure," Harne said, noting that wasn't his first choice of career. But over the years, he agreed to teach Sunday school, then Wednesday night classes and later filled the pulpit at Mount Pleasant Church of God in Foxville and other churches.

When he accepted the call to Hancock, Harne said he wondered what he was doing. But over the years, the answer became clear ? serving God.

He completed four years of study with the Bible Institute in Baltimore, putting more miles on the family car.

Harne said he might do some traveling, and he is convinced he will be filling pulpits when churches have a need.

Tempted to end his pastoring days when his wife died, Harne said he decided to stay on.

"Helping others helped me heal," he said.

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