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Susan Sullivan & Bill Harman
The Coast News columnist Susan Sullivan speaks with Bill Harman via Zoom. Courtesy photo
Columns Soul on Fire

Soul on Fire: Harman is community’s spiritual ambassador

EDITOR’S NOTE: Watch the entire Zoom interview with Bill Harmon here.

On the Spiritual Path, one can sometimes meet angels walking among us — celestial benevolent intermediaries between God and humanity.

When interviewing Bill Harman for this column, with his celestial background on Zoom, it became apparent that this is a man of great compassion and kindness, an earth angel—what started as a column on some of his work’s spiritual aspects turned into a column about him.

Who is Bill Harman? After living and teaching in Geneva as well as Trinidad, Tanzania and other far-off regions of the developing world, Bill landed in Encinitas. He was the pastor of the Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Encinitas from 1982 to 2006. Many a pastor could be skipped over in our region’s spiritual history, but not Pastor Harman. He remains the community’s spiritual ambassador. And let me tell you why.

Humbly in service but vastly impactful in his inclusionary philosophies, the awareness this man has brought to Encinitas is impressive and noteworthy. Bill spearheaded the San Dieguito Interfaith Ministerial Association (SDIMA).

What’s that you ask? SDIMA was initially developed so that local area ministers could share concerns and issues and make sure religious communities were acknowledged as the surrounding cities grew. SDIMA is now integral in deepening spirituality, cultivating harmony among spiritual leaders and the cities in which they practice, and fostering congregation engagement with the world and in the local communities.

Acceptance and love through an understanding of others’ religious beliefs and philosophies can go a long way in creating peace on Earth. If you think that most wars and disputes are mainly religious in nature, apply the simple principle of the “Golden Rule” — or treating others as you would want to be treated. Indeed, this is understood as a maxim of so many religions and cultures on the planet.

It is a general truth or rule of conduct that most of us can agree upon. It’s this core ethic of reciprocity that Harman espouses in all his dealings. The Golden Rule is more than a philosophy for Harman; it’s a way of life that has spread through our region and spills out into the world, making it a better place because of his efforts and consciousness.

This spiritual thread of the Golden Rule is instilled in young minds of future leaders and thinkers at the Grauer School in Encinitas, where Harman teaches World Religion and Peace Studies.

Because Grauer School is experiential and expeditionary, students visit such places as Jerusalem, South America, Tanzania and Mexico, learning about peace, love and understanding. They also take field trips to mosques, synagogues, temples, the Self-Realization Center, even Seaside Center for Spiritual Living.

Students come away with a broader and deeper appreciation of religion and religious experience throughout the world currently and historically. This can create a better understanding of themselves and their own beliefs.

Harman brings in guest speakers with differing backgrounds and viewpoints to converse with the kids. Building peace in our children’s hearts grows into our communities, and thereby the world. That is just some of what Harman has been doing since 2001 at Grauer.

Being an advocate for peace, equality and inclusion for most of his life, it’s no surprise when I learned that Bill had marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma. He’s currently the pastor at Scripps Encinitas and a self-dubbed Spiritual Care Volunteer. Pivotal work was also done in the late ’80s and early ’90s, helping migrants find jobs by creating a hiring center and lobbying for housing as a big part of his Migrant Ministries.

He’s an advocate and co-creator at Community Resource Center, which started with a few dozen holiday baskets and has turned into thousands. Bringing needed items and food to families throughout our region is just one of Harman’s ongoing passions. The annual multicultural Thanksgiving Eve celebration at Bethlehem Lutheran Church each year can be attributed to this Earth Angel among us.

Encinitas is currently the host to the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast each year again because of Harman’s efforts. He is also responsible for bringing in the Peace Pole found at Cottonwood Park. A Peace Pole is a monument that displays the message “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in the country’s language where it has been placed, and usually up to 13 additional translations.

The message is often referred to as a peace prayer. Retirement for Bill means more work in The Parliament of the World’s Religions that brings people of faith together to work for a more just, peaceful and sustainable world.

And you ask if one person can make a difference in this world? It seems like we should erect a monument to Pastor Bill Harman.

1 comment

Andy Sweet July 31, 2020 at 10:31 am

Bill Harman is indeed a thoughtful and generous man, and he provides wonderful spiritual and emotional support to the patients at Scripps Encinitas Hospital. He is actually not a Spiritual Care Volunteer here, but the Palliative Care Chaplain, a staff position devoted to serving many of the sickest and most needy patients and their families.
Thank you for this article highlighting this excellent religious and spiritual leader!

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