Harry Friess, OM, Retired April 2021
Harry was ordained in 1978 by the Evangelical Church of Canada and began pastoral ministry that same year at the Evangelical Church in Rosthern, Saskatchewan. From there, in 1983 he served a Baptist Church in Golden Prairie until 1986 and then on to a congregation in Lethbridge from 1986-89. From 1989-1994 he served at Forest Lawn, an independent church in Calgary. This was the last time he served as a church pastor and these were discouraging and dark years for him, full of turmoil. When he left this church he went back to university. In 1996 he graduated with a degree in Social Work from the University of Calgary.
He learned that the Salvation Army Community Services Calgary was starting a program to help homeless people. They wanted a chaplain. He applied, was accepted and thus began twenty years of fulfilling Christian ministry serving hurting people. “I was there to be the presence of the Lord and to explore the spirituality of the person, and to be available to help them through times of spiritual or faith crises.” On any given day he could be called upon to answer questions about meaning and purpose, and to deal with people struggling with a plethora of personal problems. He listened to the stories of those feeling bad, guilty, unlovely, abandoned. “My main mandate was to address their immediate felt need. Only after this might it be possible to share Jesus. I got to plant seeds in people.”
He served for a time as Chaplain with The Salvation Army Community Centre of Hope, a facility where 300 homeless men slept each night.
“I connected with them when they came in and built relationships. It was my goal to listen to their needs and connect them with Jesus. I hosted a weekly Bible study for those interested.”
Harry later became director of chaplaincy at Centre of Hope where they served upwards of 400 people, including a daily soup line that fed 200 people.
Seeing the aftermath of wrong choices repeated is challenging and heart-wrenching. Of his work Harry says, “On the one hand I’d experience tremendous hope and thankfulness; on the other hand there was also great sorrow. Inwardly I’d grieve and pray, and I’d tell them God loves them and, ‘you have a choice today. You have options.’”
Harry’s biggest joy was when someone who was in the shelter system left, established life in the community, and then came back to see him and shared how they had grown spiritually.
Now retired, Harry and Patty continue to live in Calgary and attend Centre Street Church. They are empty-nesters and enjoy the time they spend with their two adult children and grandchild. They like cooking together, being with friends, and occasional travel. Harry also relishes the additional time he now has to spend in the Word, listening to the Lord. He leads a men’s bible study group, connects with a few men who were living in the shelter system and are now in the community, and is also involved discipling others.
Questions for Harry
1. What leadership or ministry lesson was hard but important to learn?
Dealing with controversy. When working with people who have strong views of how something should be done, it is important to learn how to incorporate their ideas without letting them overwhelm you. Find a way to make it a team effort.
2. What would you say to today’s young pastors?
We all started with faith in Jesus. Maintain it at all costs. Rejoice in the ministry God has given you.