Pastor Tom’s Retirement
The Rev. Tom McCloskey, senior pastor of First United Methodist Church of Orlando, has announced his retirement, effective Aug. 5. The church will mark the occasion with one combined service at 10:30 am in the sanctuary, followed by a churchwide luncheon and program in the gathering area. All are invited to attend.
McCloskey has served as senior pastor since July 2011. Under his leadership, the church has expanded its outreach programs, started a new Sunday evening service, streamlined some administrative functions, redefined its vision and core values and made them central to the day-to-day decision-making process of ministerial priorities both in terms of service and in building its annual ministry budget.
When refugees were being assimilated into American culture, McCloskey challenged the congregation to add a refugee resettlement ministry to its outreach ministries which already included such programs as Feed the Need, End Childhood Hunger, Family Promise, I-Dignity, Open Table, Christian Service Center and Coalition for the Homeless. McCloskey also introduced a new Community Connection ministry in which lay volunteers meet with community members in crisis and try to link them with community resources that can help them overcome issues of poverty, homelessness, and other needs.
Under his leadership, the church responded to the Pulse tragedy of June 12, 2016, by offering itself as a sanctuary to families and a grieving community. The church hosted a community-wide Interfaith Service honoring the victims and their families and offered its facilities as a site for funerals and memorial services. McCloskey was interviewed by network news affiliates for stories on how the Orlando community was coping with the tragedy.
On the first anniversary of the Pulse tragedy, McCloskey presided over the dedication of a “Peace Pole” on the church campus, symbolizing the congregation’s commitment to work for and pray for world peace. The church has established an anniversary tradition of hosting the families of Pulse victims for the tolling of “49 Bells” in remembrance of those who died.
McCloskey graduated magna cum laude with a B. S. degree in mathematics from Florida Southern College. He attended Candler School of Theology at Emory University while also serving as minister to children and youth in an inner-city program at Trinity United Methodist Church in Atlanta.
As a member of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church for more than 40 years, McCloskey has served pastoral appointments at churches in St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Bradenton, and Orlando. In addition, he has lead conference-wide programs as Director of Youth Ministries and later, Director of Camps for the Florida Annual Conference.
During his tenure in Orlando, McCloskey served on several Boards of Directors, including IDignity, the Youth Ministry Institute and the Board of Ordained Ministry for the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, where he dedicated his time and talent to helping young adults discern their call to full-time Christian ministry.
Upon McCloskey’s retirement, First UMC Orlando will welcome the Rev. Dr. Jim Harnish as interim pastor. Harnish is the former senior pastor of Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa and was founding pastor of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Southwest Orlando. Harnish will assume his duties as interim pastor on September 1.
According to the Rev. Bob Bushong, District Superintendent of the East Central District of the Florida United Methodist Conference, a full-time senior pastor will be appointed by Florida Area Bishop Kenneth Carter and his cabinet. That announcement is expected to be made before the end of the year, Bushong said.
First United Methodist Church has served the Orlando community for more than 130 years and has been instrumental, in cooperation with other downtown churches, in founding such ministries as The Christian Service Center, Coalition for the Homeless and IDignity.