Harry Sullivan pastors three GCI churches in the United Kingdom. He says that, growing up, he often learned the hard way: “An early photograph shows me with a bandaged hand. My grandmother had a cooker in her farmhouse. Apparently, it was explained to me that I shouldn’t touch it. But I have to prove things for myself and so I put my hand on it. The predictable result was a painful burn. I’m more careful with hot things now, but I still have to prove lots of things for myself.”
Harry grew up outside Belfast, Northern Ireland where he developed a love of nature. At age 15, he started listening to the radio. “I used to listen to pop music on Radio Luxembourg, often in bed under the blankets when I should have been asleep. The World Tomorrow came on at 11:30 pm on Mondays and Tuesdays. I started reading The PlainTruth and various booklets and began the Bible Correspondence Course. All these made sense to me. They appealed to my rather argumentative nature, overturning the teaching of main-stream churches. A lot of things I did as a result were essentially negative: not eating unclean meat, not celebrating birthdays and Christmas. This was not well received by my parents and they were opposed when in 1963, at age 18, I began attending Radio Church of God services in Belfast.”
Harry then determined to attend Ambassador College. “Despite going to a good school, I disliked the petty (in my view) discipline. I made a lot of serious mistakes in my teenage years and knew I needed to make wide-reaching changes in my life. Unhappy at home, I decided to go to Ambassador. My parents were totally opposed, but I applied and was accepted. I began college in Bricket Wood in October 1963.”
Harry says college turned his life around. “Bricket Wood had students from many different parts of the world and one learned a lot from interacting with them. Many of the friendships made then still continue. Ambassador shaped me and my thinking. I came to repentance in April 1964 and was baptized a week later. I graduated in 1967.”
After graduation, Harry started working full time for the college. “I started in Buildings and Grounds—the campus was still being developed at this time and I was involved with many different departments helping in the building process. Later I worked in the Purchasing Department until Bricket Wood closed in 1974. Then I found a job in purchasing in Watford, England where I became a director of the company.”
In 1971, Harry married Tina Knudsen, and they are in their 43rd year of marriage. “God gave me a Proverbs 31 wife, supporting me throughout my time in ministry. She often visits with me and provides insight in many counselling situations. She leads worship and runs ‘Open the Book,’ telling and performing Bible stories in the local primary school.”
Harry and Tina have two daughters. Shevonne (born in 1973) is married to Gerald McLarnon. They have two sons, Charles (5) and James (4). Meaveen (born in 1975) lives in Australia.
Harry was ordained an elder in 1983. “I was still working in business and my church duties fitted in on weekends speaking in various congregations and doing some visiting.” In 1981, the family moved to their present home in Bedfordshire adjacent to the farm where Tina grew up. Harry was hired into full time ministry in 1987 and was laid off in 2006 due to UK financial difficulties. “The salary stopped, but the pastoring didn’t. I continue to pastor Luton, Cambridge and Peterborough to this day.” In 1999, Harry had began working as a bereavement counselor. Then in 2007, after being laid off from employment with the church, he went to work as a relationship counselor with Relate Bedfordshire (formerly the Marriage Guidance Council).
Harry’s favorite part of being a pastor is “being able to play a part in people’s lives at significant times. Such times include baptism, marriage and blessing of a child, but most often it is a time of crisis like bereavement. Although one cannot take away their pain, one can walk beside them as they go through it, seeking to put a spiritual perspective on it all.”
Speaking about GCI, Harry appreciates, “our commitment to recognize where and when we are wrong and our preparedness to change. I like the opportunities to come to a deeper understanding of God and the Bible with our emphasis on on-going repentance and change. My spiritual journey with GCI has been a positive one, out of exclusivity to understanding God’s transforming grace. I am also thankful for the friends around the world—some made many decades ago.”
When asked about his passion, Harry said, “I dabble in lots of things. But a consistent hobby begun in college is enjoying good wine (at least as good as we can afford!). I used to buy wine for the college in my purchasing department days. I like trying different grapes, vintages and styles—a small part of God’s amazing creation (Psalm 104:15).”
Harry says performing his daughter’s wedding ceremony would stand out as his most memorable moment as a pastor. This is followed by, “blessing both grandsons at ‘Naming Ceremonies’ (a combination of our church blessing ceremony and a children’s party).”
Like many others, Harry said he feels closest to God “in the beauty of the creation, particularly when it is quiet and one only hears birdsong and insects. We have that blessing around us where we live.” Harry also feels close to God during counselling. “Sometimes I am able to convey a spiritual principle to a person. Afterwards, I reflect on what I said, how I said it and think ‘that wasn’t me’ and realize it came from the Holy Spirit, reminding me that we don’t ‘use the Holy Spirit’ he uses us, as we let him.”