Bradenton's new church to call Manatee YMCA home beginning March 23

vmannix@bradenton.comMarch 1, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Pastor Geoff Henderson's new flock at Harbor Community Church has been nomadic of late.

The very first services were held on the patio of a congregant's home on Warners Bayou.

The second was at Palma Sola Park.

The next one is scheduled 10:30 a.m., March 9 for the Palma Sola Botanical Gardens, 9800 17th Ave. NW.

"It's been different," Henderson said.

Which is what the 36-year-old first-time pastor anticipated and has embraced as a plant pastor, someone starting a church from scratch.

"It's the best way to reach people who don't have a church," Henderson said. "There's that missionary spirit, too. Being able to start a church with a specific vision rather than to go into an existing place and change its direction. I'd rather do that."

The Southwest Florida Presbytery and Florida Church Planting Network thought so, too, specifically for a new church in West Bradenton.

"It takes a lot of work," said Steve Cobb, a member of Harbor's core group. "He has to be a pretty good administrator as well as a preacher and worship leader. We knew Geoff from before. He's grace-centered, a good teacher and a great guy to be around. We thought he would be a great fit."

Henderson spent four years as an associate pastor at Hope Presbyterian Church in Bradenton overseeing youth, outreach and community groups.

Then the Tampa native and his family moved to Hurricane, W.Va., where he was an assistant pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Pastor Barrett Jordan had started it from scratch.

"That pastor mentored me and I was like a sponge, listening and watching," Henderson said. "He was preparing me the whole time to do this."

Coincidentally, Hope Presbyterian closed and the property was sold. During that period congregants from Cornerstone Church in Lakewood Ranch and others sought a church planter for West Bradenton.

"To be a church plant pastor is different than taking over an existing church," said Adam Buskirk, another member of Harbor's core group. "It takes the ability to walk into a room where you might not know anyone and start developing relationships. Geoff's got that skill."

So after 3 1/2 years in West Virginia, Henderson, his wife, Amy, and their children, boys Connar and Cade, and infant daughter, Charis, are back in West Bradenton.

"We really like this community," he said. "We just felt like this was home."

Speaking of finding a home, Harmony Community Church will take up semi-permanently at the Manatee County YMCA beginning March 23 and meet there every other weekend.

Henderson speaks and networks at area Presbyterian churches during his open weekends.

"My main goal is to get the church up and running and self-sustaining so we don't need outside support, then get involved in starting other churches," Henderson said. "One day we would love to have our own home, but when? I don't know. God's given me enough information for the next step."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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