BOTKINS — For the Rev. Charla Grieves, the new minister St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botkins, the phrase “Be kind, for everyone you meet is engaged in a great battle” best describes not only her style of faith but also as the spirit of her new church congregation.
“Everyone here is so kind, so loving, so supportive, so open-minded,” she said, in describing her admiration of her new flock as she becomes part of the church and surrounding community.
Since arriving on June 4, she says her main charge right now is to visit and get to know everyone. However, she also is preparing for the church’s next event, the confirmation of three eighth-graders on July 17.
Originally from Sidney, Ohio, Grieves’s last ministry was in Jasper, Indiana, which had a slightly larger congregation than St. Paul.
“The Indiana church was a little too big for one pastor but not quite large enough to call two,” she said.
She feels she will be able to offer more individual attention to the St. Paul congregation of 345 souls.
Grieves’s humor is evident. Her last sermon, “Don’t be A Pew Potato” dealt with the need to go out and spread the word about the good news in the bible. The next Sunday the title was “Over My Dead Body,” a reflection on the lessons of the Good Samaritan. She laughed and said, “My titles keep the custodian who puts the sermon titles on the church sign guessing all week about what I’m up to.”
She said it was interesting that almost all the churches in town follow the same course of scriptures as St. Paul lectionary, and she smiled as she said, “I sometimes wonder if the various denominational members see each other at lunch after services and ask each other their ministers’s take on the sermon.”
Celebrating her 20th anniversary as a minister this year, she came to the ministry later in life, working at Copeland’s in Sidney for 14 years, first on the assembly line and finally as machine shop supervisor.She said she had to prove herself a competent leader to the 40 men and women she supervised.
Her first call in Pennsylvania cited this outside world experience as a good reason to have her as a pastor. She served there for 11 ½ years. Her last move to St. Paul also allows her to be closer to her parents and siblings, all of whom still live in Sidney.
That she is a woman pastor is also not seen as an impediment to her effectiveness. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America began ordaining women in 1970 and Grieves estimates approximately half the ministers are female.
“My bishop as well as the presiding bishop are women,” she said.
She said her challenge now is to be in tune with the concerns of the church and surrounding community. She said that in Jasper, where the avian flu hit the turkey farmers there so hard, her ministry reflected at times the terrible trials of that region.
Grieves said involvment in the community includes participating in the interdenominational Christian Music Festival on Sept. 18. She plans to play Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desire by Bach, allowing her to demonstrate her piano skills.
“I started learning at 20, kind of a late bloomer,” she said.
She said becoming the pastor at St. Paul has had no surprises for her but many appreciated plusses. For the first time, she is residing in a church’s rectory. “At my last two calls, I had to buy a house. The one in Jasper just closed last week … thank the Lord,” she added with a smile.
Her greatest challenges was in the red tape of moving.
“I had an Indiana car with no front plate bracket! They install it next week and then I will be a true Buckeye again!”
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.