Ormond Beach minister and Boston Marathon runner shares message of love

Headline Surfer multimedia video produced by Sera King / The Rev. James Harris, a runner in the fateful Boston Marathon, saw firsthand the love and compassion of first responders and others who tended to the victims of the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. He shared his thoughts Sunday -- personal and biblical -- in worship with his St. James Episcopal Church parishioners.
 
By HENRY FREDERICK
Headline Surfer

ORMOND BEACH, Fla. -- One of the things that struck Father James Harris, a runner in the fateful Boston Marathon, was how the large crowd reacted to the two explosions at the finish line.

"People were either running to help or were running away," he told his parishioners during the Sunday morning service at St. James Episcopal Church. But not the Chechen brothers.

"How (the authorities) finally focused in on the two individuals was they were not running to or from, but they were in a very normal walk and that's what set them apart," Harris said, recounting the horror at hand.

Calling his sermon, "My Boston Marathon experience, from the personal to the theological," Harris put a recording on the church's website.

Harris said he had already finished the race 30 minutes earlier and had taken a shower and was about to take a nap in his 15th floor hotel room when he heard, "Boom! and Boom! and you hear the sirens."

He said his first instinct was to turn the TV on, but there was no news when he did, at least for a minute or so, and, "then instantly, almost, it ran on every channel."

When he did see the initial reports of the first responders and others rushing to the aid of the fallen, his first thoughts were not of the horror, but "humanity unified in love."

Before getting into the spiritual side of things, the 50-year-old brought his parishioners back to the start of his Marathon run, awakened by the 5:45 a.m. alarm.

"It was a beautiful day," Harris stressed, pointing out it was 38 degrees, perfect weather for a marathon. At 6:10 a.m. he said goodbye to his wife and joined some 27,000 fellow runners boarding buses art the Boston Commons.

For the first 6 minutes of his 18-minute sermon, Harris stressed the positives. He didn't labor on the gruesome details, reminding his parishioners they already knew the story of the ensuing carnage.

Then as any human being, even being a man of God, later heard a radio sermon from a local clergy on the reason for such evil, asking in part, "If God is for us, who is against us," then came the answer that God's own son was not spared death, but had risen to sit at his right.

Then Father Harris said that in his taxi ride, he heard a reference the minister speak to Paul's Letter to the Romans, which he recited for his parishioners on Sunday: "Will hardship or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword, as it is written for your sake, we are being killed all day long? We are being counted as sheep to be slaughtered. Know in all things we are more than conquerors through Him, who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life nor nor angels nor rulers nor things present nor things to come; nor powers nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ, Jesus our God."

Harris said it was at that moment he understood the good that came from evil. People coming together amid the bloodshed at the finish line to help one another.

"It was that unity that shown a beacon on that thing that was not love," he said of the murderous acts. "Did you hear that? It was that unity of humanity  -- all working together for a common good that took a spotlight that stood against love.

Harris explained he left left Boston that Thursday after that taxi ride "feeling pretty good," thinking that "we, all of us, we so outnumber those things that stand against us. That at times like this, it becomes so obvious that God is working through us and we are loving our neighbors as we are loving ourselves."

Harris explained he left left Boston that Thursday after that taxi ride "feeling pretty good," thinking that "we, all of us, we so outnumber those things that stand against us. That at times like this, it becomes so obvious that God is working through us and we are loving our neighbors as we are loving ourselves."

Harris said he was overwhelmed by the love and dedication of people using there own shirts as tourniquets to stop the bleeding of the severely wounded while police were trying to keep order in a grisly situation, but even in that environment, there was a sense or order he described as "systematic" as to what needed to be done.

As to whether he'll return for next year's running of the Boston Marathon, Father Harris assured his parishioners, "I guarantee we are going back."

Editor's Note:
In 2005, Harris and his wife, Laurel, were in London the same day bomb explosions in the Underground Tube rocked the city with a much larger death toll than was experienced in Boston: 52 people were killed and scores more injured.
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Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com since 2008. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed close to a hundred award-winning byline stories nearly evenly split in print and digital platforms. Frederick earned his Master of Arts in New Media Journalism with academic honors from Full Sail University in Winter Park in February 2019. He was a metro reporter with the Daytona Beach News-Journal for nearly a decade and then served as a city editor for the Taunton Daily Gazette in Taunton, Mass, while maintaining a residence in Central Florida. Prior to moving to Florida, Frederick was a metro reporter for the Rockland Journal-News in West Nyack, NY, for seven years. Headline Surfer was named the Sunshine State's top internet news site by the Florida Press Club in 2018.