The History of Abundant Life Christian Center: 1954-2017
Our 60th Church Diamond Anniversary
"A Sparkling Celebration of Memories, Milestones & Miracles"
The beginning of Abundant Life Christian Center of Lorain County dates back to December of 1953, when three couples met in the home of Mr. And Mrs. Arthur Brown, Sr. for prayer and Bible study in Elyria. The small group soon began to hold Sunday services in the Junior Chamber of Commerce Hall on Harwood Street. The name of the church was chosen to be the First United Pentecostal Church. This continued until the latter part of 1954 when the group rented a building at 1995 Lake Avenue, which was formerly a barbershop. The first pastor was Reverend James and Helen Shriver who served the church until 1960. Attendance was increasing, and the assembly decided to purchase property at 306 Morgan Avenue to build a sanctuary. It was at this time that the name of the church was changed to Grace Apostolic Church and incorporated with the State of Ohio. Groundbreaking services were held in April of 1957 with completion of the new sanctuary in November of the same year.
In 1961, the Reverend Paul and Mrs. Margery Kearney began pastoring the assembly after serving as an Elder for several years. They were the first baptized members of the assembly in 1954. They have four children; Megan, Michael, Benjamin and Melissa. Under his capable leadership and teaching, the church began to grow numerically and spiritually. A large bus ministry was started at this time, which picked up hundreds of children and brought them to church each week. The first educational wing was built and was followed quickly by a second addition for offices and more classrooms in 1965. A large Fellowship Hall was also completed in 1971. It became evident due to continued growth, that a new and larger sanctuary would be needed. Adjacent property was purchased, and in May of 1976 the new sanctuary with a capacity seating of 550 was completed and dedicated to the glory of God. It was at this time that the name of the assembly became Abundant Life Apostolic Church, Inc.
Over the next few years, the ministries to the community expanded to include a Preschool & Children’s Center (1977), and established a Christian School (K-8) in 1980 known as Regent Academy and Preschool. The dynamic drama, Jesus of Nazareth, “The Passion Play” was performed from 1978 until 1989 and had received wide acclaim touching tens of thousands of people who came to see this from many surrounding states. In May of 1989, Pastor Paul Kearney became Pastor Emeritus after serving the congregation for more than 28 years as Pastor. He continued to teach the Adult Bible class on Sundays as well as speak occasionally to the church. Pastor Kearney went home to be with his Lord in May27, 2008 at the age of 84.
In 1985, the Reverend Dr. Jerry and Megan Harper came to Abundant Life as the Co-Pastor and then elected as Senior Pastor in May of 1989. They have two children; Anne and Jared and three grandchildren, Xavier, Isabelle, and Olivia. Pastor Harper first came to Elyria as an Evangelist in 1973 and preached several revivals until 1976. From 1978-79, Jerry and Megan Harper served Abundant Life as Associate Pastor, and established the Abundant Life Institute, which continued for two years training developing members and ministries.
Under Pastor Harper’s capable leadership, teaching and direction, the Preschool and Christian School was chartered with the State of Ohio in 1985 and expanded to include grades 9-12. With the continued expansion of the schools and church, a new addition was built to the Fellowship Hall, remodeling to the foyer and auditorium was finished and a new Family Life Center and Gym was completed in the spring of 1990. The parking lot was paved in the fall of that same year. Small home groups were established which has been a part of the church since 1994.
The church acquired 30 vacant lots over the next few years, 17 of those lots which were adjacent to the present church property. Abundant Life partnered with National City Bank of Cleveland in 1997 to build affordable housing on church owned lots in order for first time homebuyers to purchase their own homes. The Housing Project was called The Morgan Manor Housing Development, which included the complete block across the street from the main church facility. Additional lots were purchased and seventeen new homes were built on this street and received recognition from the city of Elyria and Lorain County.
In July of 1996, the church purchased a 20-acre site near Midway Mall, which included the former Maplewood Elementary School and Administration Building located at 2206 West River Road North, Elyria. At this location, the church and schools expanded significantly with a high enrollment of 250 students with Megan serving as Principal. The official name of the assembly was expanded to represent all the ministries and activities of the church to Abundant Life Christian Center of Lorain County. Due to circumstances beyond the church’s control, the church in 2002 needed to relocate and was not able to secure another site for the K-12th grade Regent Academy. After more than 20 years, Regent Academy closed and the preschool was relocated to the Family Life Center on Morgan Avenue. For the next two years the church held services at the Lorain County Community College Stocker Center.
In March of 1999, Abundant Life sponsored the opening of The Lorain County Mission at its’ Morgan Avenue facility. The programs and ministries are aimed at assisting families and individuals who are in transition. These include long-term housing, drug and alcohol programs, Biblical training and spiritual renewal, and community service programs. Through the efforts and generosity of Abundant Life, this ministry was established and as a result a new church, the Rock Center, was birthed. These entities decided to relocate and continue its’ ministries to another site in November of 2005. Hundreds of lives have been affected and changed by the sacrificial support of this assembly made on behalf of the Lorain County Mission and the Rock Center. Pastor Harper served as President of LCM from 2002-2004. It was also in 1999 that the church name became Abundant Life Christian Center of Lorain County.
In December of 2004, Abundant Life decided to move back to the 306 Morgan Avenue Church facilities shared with LCM and the Rock Center for the next year. Since the re-location of these ministries, the church began a complete remodeling project with new carpet in all classrooms, offices and fellowship hall. The church has been completely repainted and a new metal roof was installed in 2008. In addition, all new landscaping was completed along with other improvements. The attitude of the church family is positive and we are experiencing solid growth.
This year the church celebrates its’ 60th Church Anniversary and Pastor Jerry & Megan Harper’s 30 years of service and 45 years of ministry. Pastor Jerry & Megan Harper are the longest serving pastors in the History of Abundant Life. Over 1500 people have been water baptized in the Saving Name of Jesus over the history of the church with thousands more having received the Holy Ghost Baptism as well as thousands who have recieved the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
Over the years, ministers and ministries have been mentored by Abundant Life which has enabled churches to be started, others assisted and all move forward and grow. Our vision is to impact our circle of influence at home and abroad by the grace and gifts that God gives to this assembly. We recognized that all that we are and hope to become is by the goodness of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Head of the Church. To Him be all the glory forever and ever. AMEN!
Personal History of Pastor Jerry & Megan Harper
Pastor Jerry L. Harper was born, along with his twin brother Terry, in Malvern, Arkansas on October 17, 1951. With his father being in the U.S. Navy, Pastor Harper lived in several states including South Carolina, California, Washington, and when his father retired his family moved back to Arkansas at the age of 12. He graduated from Ouachita High School in 1969 and attended Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia for one year. Jerry and his brother Terry graduated from Gateway College of Evangelism located in Florissant, Missouri in 1972 and served as an Evangelist until 1977, preaching revivals all across the United States and overseas. During this time, Pastor Harper served the United Pentecostal Church, International as Ephphatha Deaf Ministries National Representative (1972-1975), and then as the National Director from 1976 to 1981. He established over 50 deaf and hearing-impaired ministries in churches across the U.S.
Megan was born in Elyria, Ohio on July 23, 1952 and has been a charter member of Abundant Life since the church’s beginning in 1954. With her father, Paul Kearney as the pastor, she was involved in many ministries of the church and served as musician, Sunday School teacher, and holds the record of number of children brought through the bus ministry on a single Sunday. She graduated from Elyria High School and graduated from the St. Joseph Hospital as a Lab Technician in 1971.
Pastor Jerry married Megan in October 1976 and served Pastor James Roam and the New Life Church in Lancaster, Ohio as Associate/Youth Pastor and Music Director until 1978. At this time they came to Abundant Life and served Pastor Paul Kearney as an Associate Pastor for the next year. In the fall of that year, Jerry and Megan were blessed with the birth of their first child and daughter, Anne Elizabeth. During the time, Pastor Harper established the Abundant Life Institute, which was a two-year program for developing ministries in the church. The Home Bible Studies program was also implemented along with a tract ministry in hundreds of stations around Lorain County and the church witnessed significant growth.
In 1979, they were called to serve as Associate Pastor of First Pentecost Church in DeRidder, Louisiana where George Glass, Sr. and George Glass, Jr. were Pastors until 1981. While in DeRidder the Harpers were blessed again with the birth of a son, Jared Paul. They were then called to the pastorate of Christian Life Center in Wheelersburg, Ohio and served this church until 1985. During this time, Jerry and Megan established the Early Learning Center and School and Megan was elected President of Women’s Aglow for Scioto County. It was at this time that Pastor Harper graduated with a B.S. in Education from Ohio University and recieved his K-8 teaching Certification from the State of Ohio.
In June of 1985, Pastor Jerry and Megan Harper came to Abundant Life Church as Co-Pastor with Pastor Paul Kearney. Both graduated from International Seminary located in Florida with a Theology Masters and an B.A. in Religious Education respectively and received a permanent non-tax Teaching Certification from the State of Ohio in 1986. Both Jerry and Megan also attended the master’s program at Liberty University with Pastor Harper graduating in 1988 with a Master’s degree in Counseling. Following a three-year supervised internship, he passed the national exam and became a Licensed Professional Counselor in 1992 and also earned his Ph.D. in Clinical Counseling from Carolina University of Theology in Shelbyville, North Carolina that same year. In 1991, Pastor Harper was elected Presbyter of Section One of the Ohio District and served for 12 years and Megan served as Section One Ladies Director for six years.
As of 2017, Pastor Jerry & Megan Harper have faithfully served Abundant Life a total of 33 years.