John Dotson / Mike Stanziola / Dan Burris / Larry Griffin / Carol Weiss
Took A Spiritual Journey To Find His
"I Love to tell the Story" . . . Larry Griffin
claims this old Katherine Hankey hymn as his
life's theme and he
has dedicated his
life to telling the story of Jesus.
"I'll be done by noon, and that's a promise more or less," said Griffin
congregation on Sunday morning as he
began the message at First Baptist Church of Sunbury.He has been the pastor there for the past 13 1/2 years.Griffin
has a story of his
own to tell.
"I've always known that my mom was my mom, my father was my father, and that God was my God," said Griffin
.A career military man, Griffin's father was Lutheran, his
mother from the Philippine Islands was Roman Catholic.The family attended services on the base each Sunday.
"Church was never an option, but it was never forced on us either, I can never remember a time when I didn't want to go (to church)," said Griffin
At the early age of 13, when many teens are searching for something to rebel against, Griffin
made the decision to serve God in some way.It wasn't until he
was 18 that he
knew it would be as a preacher.His
journey to the Baptist Church, however, was not to begin for several years.After earning his bachelor's degree at the University of Maine, Griffin prepared to enter the seminary.
As a military family the Griffins attended protestant services, leaving Larry
without a denomination to call his
"My best friend's dad happened to be a Methodist preacher.He
was 6'3" and a football player and I guess I admired him in his
black robe," admitted Griffin.Not knowing much of anything about the Methodist denomination, but armed with a desire to serve the Lord, he
jumped into seminary as a Methodist.He
choose the Methodist Theology School
At 23, before beginning his
first year, he
was asked by his
own preacher to pastor a small church in Monticello, Maine.He
declined the offer feeling he
wasn't ready for the job.However, two months later he
was asked again and this time accepted the position.He was now the pastor of Monticello United Methodist Church.
"I was very scared, we really didn't even speak the same language &emdash; I was a 23-year-old military kid who had traveled extensively, they were 17 retired potato farmers from Maine," said Griffin
With the universal language of God's word speaking for him, he
connected with the small congregation and they asked him not to leave at the end of his
seven month stint.Feeling that God wanted him to be properly prepared and schooled, he
declined and traveled to Delaware to begin school as planned.
After a short period, a failed marriage forced him to leave the ministry for one year."If you change anything about your past you won't be who you are," said Griffin
of the experience.While the Methodist church
no longer requires this year of absence, Griffin
, believes it's necessary for the sake of the person and the church.Griffing said it's hard to receive healing when you're in a leadership position in a church.
Back in seminary, while playing the lead in the musical, "Tiger in the Moonbeam" written by Richard Baumgartner and Paul Nicely, head of the Andrew's House in Delaware, Griffin
met his wife Mary Jane.
played my wife but was only in act one, scene one then she
died," laughed Griffin
Mary Jane was pursuing a career in opera singing and was under contract at the United Methodist Church
.They married in December of 1977.A year later Griffin graduated with his master's of divinity.A year after that he left the Methodist church.
Something was missing, he
said, and he
embarked on a personal journey of spiritual searching."I had a hunger, a yearning for something more personal," Griffin
said, adding that his
search was hard to explain.
This gave Mary Jane the opportunity to follow her
dream of singing opera.Priorities changed, however, and Mary Jane's own mother became ill and her
desire to have children began to outweigh her
career goals.With Larry out of the ministry and working as an insurance salesman and Mary Jane's contract with the Broadstreet United Methodist church expired, they were now, for the first time, free to attend the church of their choice.
"We talked to our friends and business associates, the ones with a strong faith &emdash; one that spilled out into all aspects of their lives.The majority of these people were Baptist," said Griffin
They began attending services at First Baptist Church of Columbus.One month later they had fallen in love with the denomination.By the fall of 1984 Larry was pastor of Duncan Falls Baptist church.
"I knew this is where I belonged," he
"Baptists place a greater emphasis on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ."
In March of 1986, he
was called to preach at First Baptist Church of Sunbury.When talking about his
congregation, a certain sense of awe is apparent."God has worked in the lives of the people in this church in tremendous ways.I've seen Him literally provide emotionally and spiritually for people in absolute distress," explained Griffin
feels it is an honor that those in his
church allow him to take such an important role in their lives.And, for whatever reason, God too has afforded him this opportunity.
The Griffins have four children, the oldest, Lilia, is now a senior at Judson College
, majoring in elementary education and music.Leslie is a junior at Delaware Christian, Caleb is a seventh grader and Arvin is in second grade.
Arvin joined the family just a few years ago when the Griffins adopted him from the Philippine Islands.
...As a pastor, Griffin feels the need to continually study and grow in his profession.
"I live daily with the fact that I will fail people and God," he
thinks one of his
personal weaknesses is that he
may appear arrogant to some."I get excited about what I do, but I try to never forget that, like Balaam's donkey, God can use anyone and anything."
Yet another milestone in Griffin's spiritual life is about to be reached.
After 160 years on the corner of Cherry Street, First Baptist held its last service there this past Sunday and will begin the move to Old 3C North."I am extremely excited about the move, yet I know we will experience some grief," said Griffin
.Each member was given a fork during the last service to symbolize that, like dessert, something better is coming.
"We looked at our goals for the future and knew that we couldn't fulfill them here (at the old building), Griffin
explained."At our best we (the church) are a place where broken people can begin to find wholeness and where whole people can become involved in bringing wholeness to others.At our best we understand something about Jesus Christ."
As for his
role in the church, Griffin
is to be a reminder of God's great love for the congregation and His
desire that it should be a light in the darkness.
In keeping with his
style and sense of humor, Griffin
added, "When I get to heaven I just want to hear God say, in the immortal words of Farmer Hoggett, from the movie "Babe," 'That'll do pig.' Then I'll know I've done my best."
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Minister Was 'Fascinated' By Faith