Pastor Darell L. Harrington and his wife, Shayda Harrington, with their children (l-r) Essence, Jazmine and Justin. (Courtesy photo)

Pastor Darell L. Harrington describes himself as “just a boy from Jackson, Miss., that nobody knows here in Memphis.”

“I came up here to Memphis because I was running from a call to preach,” said Rev. Harrington, pastor of New Sardis Baptist Church in southeast Shelby County. “I left Jackson trying to escape God’s purpose for my life. But after a while, it got to be too much for me.

“ I believe that had I continued down that road, my life would have been cut short. I started seeing myself in a fatal car accident. I was tormented with the images. And then, one day I witnessed a crash where I saw a lady fly out of her car and land on her neck and back. She perished in that accident.

“The very next day, I ran to Pastor (L. LaSimba M.) Gray (Jr.) for comfort and assurance. I was tired of running, and I finally acknowledged my call to preach. That was back in 2007, and my life has never been the same since that day.”

Harrington had relocated to Memphis to start training in the regional managers program with Wells Fargo.

“I moved into the community near the church. One day when I brought my children to a nearby park to play, I met Dr. Gray, and he invited us to church. We loved it, and we made it our church home.”

After acknowledging his “call” to preach, Harrington shadowed Gray, now pastor emeritus of New Sardis, who had a history of involving the church in social activism.

“Here was this towering figure of a pastor who had done all these things, and then you have me,” Harrington said. “I just walked in his shadow four or five years. Whatever he needed me to do, I would do. … It was my training in learning to serve and work with humility.”

Harrington was educated in the Jackson, Miss., public school system and graduated in 1999 from Stillman College with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. He was first employed as a loan office and branch manager at Wells Fargo Financial.

Later, he joined Hope Credit Union, serving as a regional program officer assigned to strengthen the institution’s relationship and service to members of underserved communities.

“I was receiving a salary, and commission on my work,” he said. “So we were doing pretty good. The Lord was blessing me to make a wonderful living for my family.

“And then, it was 2012 when Dr. Gray appointed me as youth pastor. Because our pastor is a civil rights activist, it was important for our youth and young people to know our history and understand our heritage, the places where we came from.

“So, we took them to sites in Mississippi and Alabama – the Pettus Bridge, where Bloody Sunday occurred. We called these trips Freedom’s Journey. Our children must know their history so they can understand and appreciate how far God has brought us.”

Gray said, “I told the church back in 2007 that the Holy Spirit had shown me my successor, and that there would be no need to do a search. I didn’t give a name at that time, but over the years, I have received confirmations about God’s choice for pastor when the time came for me to step down.”

Harrington said he grows in his own personal journey as a Christian and as a minister. He finds that his connection with young people as a mentor and guide is effective and genuine. He sees the “fruit of his labor” as New Sardis’ youth grow physically and spiritually.

“And then, things got real funny,” Harrington said. “Dr. Gray called me into his office one day and said, ‘Well, Pastor Harrington, the Lord has released me.’ And I said, ‘Released you from what?’ And that’s when I found out I was to be pastor in his place.

“ I went home and told my wife I was going into full-time ministry. And she was looking at me sideways. But I told her that if God is taking us in this direction, that’s what it’s going to be. He will take care of us. And from that time, the Lord has been faithful in providing for our family. We are grateful.”

Pastor Harrington presently studies at Memphis Theological Seminary.

“I understand that my life’s mission is to help improve humankind through the love of Christ, and as God helps me, that is what I will do.”