TROY — A local city worker has retired his duties after 18 years of service to the community to fulfill an entirely different form of service — a full-time pastor.
Matt Harbour, a Troy native, was officially installed full-time at Cornerstone Baptist Church of Troy on Friday, March 1, having served as a bi-vocational pastor with the congregation since 2003.
After graduating Troy High School in 1990, Harbour joined the United States Marine Corps. It was during his four years of service that he developed his faith.
“I was an unlikely pastor,” Harbour said. “I didn’t become a Christian until I was in the Marine Corps. When I came back, a lot of folks who knew me when I was younger were surprised. Being a pastor, I’ve actually been able to minister to many people I went to school with.”
Harbour worked for the city of Troy from 2001-19 as a light equipment operator for the Street Department, fulfilling such tasks as plowing snow, operating a backhoe to pick up brush, and various asphalt operations.
“The street department in Troy also works with the waste department,” Harbour said. “When we used to do special trash once a month, that was the street department’s job. The street department’s kind of like a catch-all department here in the city.”
Harbour described his position with the city of Troy as “enjoyable,” citing his fellow workers and convenient hours as positive attributes.
“I enjoyed the people I worked with,” Harbour said. “It was a good crew. I also enjoyed serving Troy. It’s a great community to work in. When I started working for the city in 2001, we had re-located to this area, and were looking to start a church somewhere in the area. My hours with the city of Troy were great — they left my weekends and evenings free, which actually allowed me to be a minister.”
After serving as assistant pastor at Charity Baptist Church in Tipp City from 2001-03, an opening at Cornerstone Baptist beckoned Harbour toward a new position of spiritual leadership.
“In 2003, the pastor of Cornerstone died in an automobile accident,” Harbour said. “They had just purchased a building on Garfield Street, and it looked almost like a house. I contacted one of the deacons, I interviewed, and I spoke on a couple different Sundays. July of 2003 was when I officially began.”
Harbour and his wife, Liza, were able to build the attendance at Cornerstone by ministering to the young adult demographic in the area.
“The first week we started, my wife printed off 15 bulletins, and I think we had five left,” Harbour said. “It was such a tiny building. The nursery was smaller than the platform, and within a couple of months, there was no one to work with the youth.
“My wife would make crockpot pizza, and we had somebody with a guitar, and we would go out to the park after our evening services, and we’d just play basketball and invite people. Within a year, we had about 45 17-25-year-olds. It almost became like a young singles’ church. It was them, it was us in our early 30’s, and everyone else was well over 40.
“I did so many weddings for these young people that met and married at our church. One year, it felt like there was a new couple every week.”
As the congregation grew, Cornerstone began to hold services in other venues, before finding its current location at 1879 Old Staunton Road.
“God really opened the door for us to get this building at a wonderful price,” Harbour said. “We’ve been out here about eight years.”
Congregations at Cornerstone now run approximately 100-120 during regular services, and 160-170 on special occasions such as Easter.
According to Harbour, leaving his job at the city of Troy was difficult, due to the tremendous relationships he’s procured across 18 years.
“It was hard, because I did enjoy my job,” Harbour said. “I had so many good friends there who still text me. The church had just grown to the point where I could no longer give the attention to the people here that they needed sufficiently, and also feel like I was present at my city job.
“I can remember times plowing 16 hours, getting off from plowing before church, and telling my wife, ‘Bring a dress shirt for me.’ Then I’d get up and speak.”
Since his installment as full-time pastor, Harbour has begun to outline goals for the future of Cornerstone’s congregation, as well as its presence in the community.
“I’d like to see the church grow,” Harbour said. “I want to work at being a more effective shepherd of people. When I was at the city, and someone was having a surgery, they’d text me, and I’d pull over in the backhoe to say a quick prayer for him. Now I can be present with them. I really hope to do more outreach in the community, and we want to see our church really be a light and offer hope in a world that often seems hopeless.
“I’d love to have an addictions ministry. I’m a veteran, and I’d love to work with fellow veterans who may have PTSD or other issues. I want to expand our ministry for the folks who come here, but also provide something for the community as well.”
Harbour feels that it’s an honor not only to finally fulfill his role as pastor on a full-time basis, but also do so in the town he grew up in.
“I just consider it such a privilege to pastor in my hometown,” Harbour said. “I never dreamed I’d be back here doing this, and always thought I’d be somewhere else. To be able to pursue my passion in ministry is something I always prayed about, but never thought would be possible. God made it possible, and I’m thrilled.”
Harbour resides in Miami County with his wife and their four children.