New Seabold pastor: Messages people relate to

One of the most challenging things about Pastor Susan Griggs’ job is coming up with a message for the Sunday service that will be meaningful.

“It’s not as easy as just finding some scripture,” Griggs said. “It’s got to be something that the people will benefit from hearing and that they can relate to.”

Griggs was recently appointed to lead Seabold United Methodist Church. Griggs comes to Bainbridge Island from Tracyton, where she served for two years. Prior to that she served in Winlock, Wenatchee and also in Connecticut. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Brown and a master’s degree in child development specialist from Vanderbilt.

Although Griggs heard the calling to be a pastor in her 30s, she wasn’t in a place where she could go to seminary until she retired from being a school psychologist.

“I had two young children at home and going to seminary wasn’t possible. So, I raised my children and worked to pay off my house mortgage, and then I retired and became a pastor. I had found out that I could become a local pastor by taking classes in the summer, and so did that when I could live on a pastor’s salary.”

In 2012 she moved to Washington state to be closer to her son and daughter and five grandchildren. It was then that she was assigned to First Wenatchee United Methodist Church to start a church for the Latino community. Griggs is fluent in Spanish and grew up in Puerto Rico.

“I really enjoyed that assignment,” Griggs said. “There is so much energy in the Hispanic culture and faith in the Hispanic community.”

At Seabold, Griggs plans to focus on serving the congregants and ministering to the community who are in need including the homeless, immigrants and those with food insecurity.

“We have excellent people here, (at Seabold) who do so much for the church and are willing to sing an anthem for Thanksgiving, even without a formal choir. There’s always room for more.”

Seabold will continue to be a reconciling church, Griggs said, and the door is open to anyone who wants to explore God’s word. Whenever she mentions Seabold Church, people will comment ‘oh, the church with the Pride flag.’

“I believe that people on Bainbridge Island are very interested in social justice and doing what’s right for all people,” Griggs said. “Displaying the Pride flag is a stand we take, and it is a value that we hold, and we will continue to insist that God loves all the people he has created.”

Traditional churches have lost members as religion seems to be less important to the masses, surveys show. Griggs’ take on that is that many people don’t see what the church can do for them.

“It can help them when going through tough times. It’s not about going to a church one time. It’s believing that God is with you and can make a difference in your life, and that this relationship is of value to you.”

Addressing military conflicts and mass shootings, Griggs thinks the word of God is the answer.

“If we focus on the guidelines we are given in our faith, we will have less turmoil and will have better strategies for solving problems,” she said.

Future plans for Seabold include having prayer and healing services which include testimonies, singing, and praying with healing hands over people looking for healing. Planning is underway to have one Dec. 21, the day with the shortest amount of light.

“It’s the longest night, and for those people with Seasonal Affective Disorder, it can trigger real depression. It is near the holidays when those who aren’t with their loved ones often feel lonely and sad. They may benefit from prayer.”