Matt Harlow was formally installed Sunday as new rector of Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church located on U.S. 41 between Warner Robins and Perry.
Harlow replaced retired former rector, the Rev. Paul Gerlock, in March as the priest serving the church.
The Sunday service was led by the Most Rev. Walter H. Grundorf, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Province of America.
Father Matt, as he’s called at Christ the Redeemer, began serving the church by commuting from his home in Norcross, where he served as curate at St. Barnabas Anglican Church in Dunwoody.
He and his wife, Sarah, and their three children moved to Bonaire in June. Sarah Harlow began the new school year teaching art at Veteran’s High School.
“I was called here full time but still had to commute until our family could move at the end of the last school year,” Harlow said. “It’s not so far but that drive through Atlanta can be nerve wracking. God opened so many doors for us here it’s really remarkable. Everyone has been so warm and welcoming, so gracious and loving, we know we’re really blessed. Or as my grandmother said when she came to visit, ‘You all really lucked out.’”
Harlow, 37, came to the Anglican priesthood following a stint in the Air Force and a career in information technology.
“It’s neat to have my Air Force background then be here near Robins Air Force Base,” he said. “We have service members who attend and I pray the Lord can use my background to help better minster to the military community and the IT community as well. I know what their life is like.”
Harlow confirmed Christ the Redeemer’s worship is liturgical, formal worship using the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. Christ the Redeemer is part of the Anglican Province of America and descended from, but not connected to, the Church of England. The church serves the wider Middle Georgia community, including Warner Robins, Perry, Fort Valley, Kathleen and Bonaire.
“The gospel of our Lord is timeless and just as applicable today as to our forefathers,” he said. “I find great comfort in the gospel and in church liturgy during these times of rapid change.”
Harlow said a sense of awe toward God in liturgical worship drew him to the Anglican Church and eventually the priesthood.
The son of a Methodist minister, he said his family joined Wycliffe Bible Translators and moved to Papua New Guinea when he was 12, where he attended boarding school. His family returned to the U.S. where he graduated high school in the Charlotte area. He joined the Air Force right after.
“I wasn’t necessarily practicing Christianity at the time,” he said. “I was an 18-year-old boy wanting to get out of the home and into the world.”
He said he had little interest in church, but that changed.
“In 1999, I was on a temporary duty tour in Turkey,” he said. “Operation Desert Fox had just finished and we were enforcing the Northern Watch no fly zone. One day air raid alarms went off and we knew Saddam (Hussein) had launched Scud (missiles). We had minutes to get on our chemical weapons suits -- but because I had been there only days and there’d been a mix-up, I hadn’t been issued one. Everyone was pulling on their chem suits and I sat there. I thought, ‘I wish I had done more for the Lord; I haven’t been living to glorify God.’ I didn’t make any big promises to God, I just felt a regret that if this were my time to go, I hadn’t lived for him.”
Obviously, the Scuds didn’t reach Harlow.
But, he said, “That afternoon I got my very own chem gear.”
Harlow’s new commitment didn’t cause big life plan changes, he said it just brought a confidence God would guide him. After leaving the service, he began studies at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky, then combined studies with a family and career back in Charlotte. He said thigs changed after attending an Anglican worship service.
“They had the Eucharist and I was blown away by the beauty of the experience,” he said. “I couldn’t wait to return Sunday, I had to go to the Wednesday service, too.”
Harlow said he became involved with the church eventually leading to studies and ordination.
He said his experience made him want to institute Wednesday services at Christ the Redeemer. He also began a Sunday School program. He said despite having other church roles, coming to Christ the Redeemer made him “the pastor, the rector” for the first time.
“I’ve been the assistant this or that, but this is the first time the buck stopped with me,” he said. “Seminarians like to think about theology and how they’ll preach. I’m having to get used to questions like where do you want us to put the potted plants. You get more of those questions than you’d think. But coming here has been one of the easiest transitions I could imagine, especially on the heels of a beloved priest like Father Paul. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Contact Michael W. Pannell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church
Address: 2815 U.S. 41 North, Fort Valley
Leadership: Rev. Matt Harlow, rector
Worship: Sunday school 9:15 a.m., Holy Eucharist service 10:30 a.m.