Rev. Michael Clayton Harris was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania. At the age of 2, his family moved to New York and lived in Roosevelt, Long Island. It was at Centennial Elementary School that he began to develop a comfort level of being in front of public audiences through participation in plays, choirs, and playing in the band. He is a proud alumnus of Morehouse College, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Health and Physical Education in 1999. He is also a graduate of Candler School of Theology (Emory University), earning a Master’s of Divinity. In the near future he plans on earning a Doctorate of Ministry by completing extensive research on faith and fitness within the religious community.
A true love for God through great works and deeds is what led Rev. Harris on his journey in ministry. His ministry began in January 2002, where he preached his initial sermon at the historic Wheat Street Baptist Church, where his father, Dr. Michael Neely Harris, is pastor. Rev. Harris served as the Youth & Young Adult Minister at Wheat Street Baptist Church for 14 months before being called to become pastor of Higher Piney Grove Baptist Church from 2003 to 2007. For over 7 years, Rev. Harris organized and became pastor of yet another house of praise, Acts of Faith Baptist Church, where he currently serves.
In 2012, another phase of Rev. Harris’s ministry began, when he starting teaching Aqua Fit for LA Fitness. The opportunity was presented to him since he had a physical education background. In this new role, he assisted other Aqua Fit instructors with their classes. In June 2012, Rev. Harris taught 4 classes per week seeing 60 to 70 people. By the beginning of 2013, he taught 7 sessions where he would see over 200 people per week. Due to the rapid growth of his classes, one of his students labeled Rev. Harris, as the “The Aqua Pastor”. In 2014, he officially called himself, “The Aqua Pastor” starting a Facebook page and blog where he invites people to attend Aqua Fit classes as well as provides inspirational messages, health tips, and faith related content.
The conception and eventual birth of his daughter, Michelle Angelique Harris was a life-changing experience for Rev. Harris. While a student at Morehouse College during his sophomore year, he knew God called him to ministry. However, at this time in his life, he knew he was not ready to accept such a calling because his lifestyle did not match the way of life that a preacher should seek to live. Therefore, he chose his love for women over accepting his calling to preach. When Rev. Harris learned of his daughter’s conception in January of 1997, he became suicidal because he felt that he let down his family, friends, and church members. He felt his actions also opened the door for his parents to be unfairly criticized for his personal indiscretion. By the grace of God, the night he thought about taking his life, his late sister, Crystal Michele Harris, ultimately saved him by explaining that in spite of his transgression, God still loves him and forgives him, and still wants to use him as a positive fatherly influence for his daughter.
Rev. Harris’ separation and later divorce was also a life-changing event. In 2002, he divorced his daughter’s mother after being married for 4 years. He felt she was a nice person and a very good mother, but in his heart he did not marry her because of agape love but rather because she was the mother of his child. Rev. Harris’ decision to divorce his wife placed a wedge between him and his family as it was during this time, he didn’t have much interaction with his relatives, only seeing them at church, which is how his relationship with God grew closer. Rev. Harris had to lean solely on God’s word and direction to guide him through this rough season in his life.
Rev. Harris is blessed with many mentors including his parents, Dr. and Mrs. Michael Neely Harris. They are examples on what it is to be a Christian, loving family member and to have life balance. His father in particular has been his example on what it is for a minister to have integrity, character and a genuine heart for the people of God. Dr. Henry Wise Jones, pastor of 2nd Mt. Zion Baptist Church, taught Rev. Harris to “Never give your enemies primetime from the pulpit.” His late uncle, Dr. William Augustus Jones Jr. advised to “major in preaching and love the people.” Dr. Robert Michael Franklin former president of Morehouse College and former professor at Candler School of Theology as well as many others have also touched and guided Rev. Harris through his journey in ministry.
Ultimately, Rev. Harris plans to add an extension to his church where he bridges faith and fitness together. His vision is to have a church inclusive of a multi-purpose facility used for spiritual growth such as worship services, Bible study and healthy living fitness classes as well as nutritional education. In addition, Rev. Harris plans to organize a unique basketball camp for urban youth that will also include Bible study and Black History. Having been a former collegiate basketball player at Morehouse College (95-99) and having the opportunity to play basketball overseas, he understands the importance of young people being spiritually grounded and instilling a sense of self so they are equipped to deal with the ups and downs of life. Rev. Harris knows his God given purpose and gifts are to help others through preaching, teaching, and speaking. His motto for living is, “Blessed to be a blessing!”
Atlanta Free Speech salutes Rev. Michael Clayton Harris.
To learn more about Rev. Harris, click here.