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About Portland observer. (Portland, Or.) 1970-current | View Entire Issue (Feb. 25, 2015)
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‘City of Roses’
Wednesday • February 25, 2015
Established in 1970
Committed to Cultural Diversity
Praying for a Miracle
Dynamic church leader
faces terminal diagnosis
BY L ARRY J OHNSON
S PECIAL TO THE P ORTLAND O BSERVER
It’s Communion Sunday at the Highland Christian Center
in northeast Portland. The November service is coming to a
close. The two rows of church workers holding silver trays
for communion stand stunned and silent. Tears stream down
some of their faces. Their beloved pastor has just announced
to the congregation that doctors have found a cancerous
growth in his kidney and have recommended that it be
Recollecting this moment, Dr. W. G. Hardy Jr. explains,
“It’s really tough when you’re in the public’s eye, what parts
you want to reveal and what should remain confidential. And
speaking to Highland—Highland being a family church—I
felt impressed by the Lord to let them know so that they would
be very clear on what to pray for and also be very aware of
when the miracle had happened.”
Months later, surrounded by his family, Hardy again made
a shocking announcement. Despite the removal of a kidney
and five weeks of recovery, his doctors have told him he’s
nearing the end of his life. The aggressive, clear cell cancer
has spread throughout his body and he is in continual pain.
His weakened condition is a dramatic contrast to a person
the community knows as a dynamic, activist and athletic
preacher of lightening intelligence, sometimes known for
doing the splits and even stage dives off the podium.
“I hope you brought your scuba gear, because we’re
going deep!” Hardy was known quip, as he simultaneously
challenged and encouraged, taught and inspired his congre-
“His ministry is about building lives,” says former Oregon
Senator and Highland member Avel Gordly. “Pastor Hardy
is a true servant leader and he has a gift – a way of being
authentic and transparent about his own life and experiences
and using language in a way that everyone can hear it.”
After 19 years as senior pastor at Highland, Hardy has
exceeded the church’s expectations, establishing the con-
gregation as a leading force for making a difference in the
lives of people in the Pacific Northwest.
When Hardy took over Highland United Church of Christ
it was housed in a little Tudor style church on Northeast
Ninth Avenue and Going Street.
“They were dwindling in finances and membership and
were in the process of closing the doors,” Hardy recalled.
Over the next several years, Highland’s attendance grew
from about 30 to over 1,800 on Easter Sunday. Moving its
location several times to accommodate new members, High-
land Christian Center is now situated on a $6 million campus
at Northeast 76th Avenue and Glisan Street.
“Now we have plenty of room for the children, marriages,
home-going celebrations, and good works are spilling out all
25 doors of Highland,” Hardy says.
Service to the community is the forefront of Highland’s
Pastor W.G. Hardy Jr. has exceeded expectations as the dynamic and activist pastor of the Highland Christian
Center in northeast Portland. Now facing cancer and a terminal illness, the congregation is reaching out to
show their appreciation.
mission. Hardy likes to say the church is “not judged by our Multnomah County, the state of Oregon through its REACH
seating capacity, but our sending capacity.”
program, and the Highland African American Youth Coali-
Under Hardy’s leadership, Highland has initiated home- tion, just to name a few.
less feeding programs and shelters, prison programs. The
on page 5
church established partnerships with Albina Head Start,