Hyde Park North: Church's ministry of song will lose leader
Jazz vocalist Belinda Womack is leaving Hyde Park United Methodist Church after eight years.
By DENISE WATSON BATTS
Published February 27, 2004
Belinda Womack has resigned from Hyde Park United Methodist Church, eight years after building its successful contemporary music ministry.
The popular jazz vocalist is talking to officials at Palm Harbor United Methodist Church about accepting a music position there. She plans to stay at Hyde Park until May.
"I'm going to miss being here," Womack said. "God's really been good, and he's worked through me in this church. ... I just feel that God is needing to open up this position for the next level to happen, and I don't feel that I am the person to do that."
The Rev. Jim Harnish, senior pastor at Hyde Park, said the church spent two years preparing its contemporary music program before it hired Womack in 1995. Womack, who's been in the music business for 40 years, is known for her jazz and gospel music and has performed around the world, singing with jazz legend Lou Rawls and opening for B.B. King and Al Jarreau.
Three hundred people showed up for Womack's first contemporary music service at Hyde Park. Since then, her program has grown to two services on Sunday mornings, averaging a total of 600 people. The church has 1,900 members and services Friday evenings and Sundays.
Harnish said they will miss Womack's spirituality and passion for her work but have known for some time that God was calling her elsewhere.
"I said to Belinda that the only thing I want more than her being here is for her to be where she believes God wants her to be," Harnish said.
Harnish is looking nationwide for a replacement and will fill the position "as soon as we find the right person."
Womack, who lives in Town 'N Country, will remain active in the downtown community, she said. Among other things, she volunteers teaching music at Academy Prep Center of Tampa in V.M. Ybor.
Palm Harbor United Methodist last year completed a new $5-million, 29,000-square-foot sanctuary. The church's membership is about 2,600.