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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

'Retired' Clergy Still Active in Ministry

These pioneers have no plans to slow down

By John W. Kennedy
May 30, 2010

Hilton Griswold retired from pastoring 12 years ago.

Now he works six days a week.

Griswold, at 88, teaches Sunday School to 30 senior adults every Sunday morning; plays the piano and sings for half an hour each week on television, radio and the Internet; and drives himself to 16 live monthly performance programs at Springfield, Mo., nursing homes and assisted living communities. That doesn’t include the invitations he receives from various congregations in the city.

Griswold is one of dozens of “retired” Assemblies of God pastors who provide living proof that ministry doesn’t end at 65 — or 75 or even 85, for that matter. Griswold pastored seven churches in Iowa, Missouri and Illinois in 42 years. He also has been a traveling evangelist, and he received his 50-year ordination recognition from the Fellowship in 2000. During the 1940s he began his ministry career as pianist for the Blackwood Brothers Quartet. Today he is busier than ever.

Most Mondays through Saturdays, Griswold is in his unadorned office in Springfield for his Inspiration Time broadcasts. He has been a widower since 2001 when his wife, Marie, died unexpectedly of a heart attack after 61 years of marriage. Griswold still wears a suit, tie and dress shoes to the office, which is stacked with papers, letters and tape duplicating equipment.

On a recent Tuesday morning, he is busy mailing the week’s Sunday School lesson to those who missed the class two days earlier at Park Crest Calvary Temple. Griswold uses an electric typewriter to address envelopes to the absentees, as well as to pound out the lessons themselves. He says he wouldn’t have a clue how to even switch on a computer.

Griswold also has a mailing list of 26,500 people who have written to him for cassettes since he started his TV music ministry in 1985. The names are compiled by his daughter Barbara Chapman, who does operate a computer. Griswold duplicates CDs and DVDs himself from masters to be mailed to TV and radio stations for airing.

Although some listeners send funds, Griswold doesn’t ask for any money on his programs. He invested his life savings of $25,000 when he started the TV music ministry a quarter-century ago. He has $15,000 left, as he pays for CDs, DVDs, cassettes, music box covers, labels and envelopes himself.

Many of the requests come from elderly shut-ins. Some come from prisoners, who write that they have accepted Jesus as their Savior when listening to his program. But Griswold enjoys singing and playing most for those whose faulty memories come alive because of the music.

“The thrill of my life is going to the Alzheimer’s wing at Maranatha Village,” Griswold says. “People who don’t know how to get back to their rooms can sing every word of every song.”

In the earlier radio ministry days, Griswold sang with Barbara, who works in the Pastor Care office at Assemblies of God headquarters, and his son, Larry, who now is AG district superintendent in Illinois. These days it’s primarily a solo act.

Griswold loves to tell inspiring stories, play the piano with alacrity and alternate through all four parts of a well-known quartet number during a concert.

“The Lord has been tremendous,” says Griswold, who takes no medications beyond a daily aspirin. “I don’t intend to ever stop, as long as I’m physically able to keep going.”

Nursing home servant
Anyone who talks to Donald J. Anderson of Galena, Kan., early in the morning is likely to interrupt his prayer time, which involves poring over a five-page list of requests. He prays on the phone with friends on the list, conducts services three times a week at the community’s two nursing homes, visits ill friends in the hospital and, on Saturdays, goes evangelizing door to door in the town of 4,500 people.

At 87, the good-natured Anderson says he is too old to pastor, but not too out of it to still help people.

He spent 49 years pastoring 11 churches in Kansas, Missouri, Indiana and California. He served as a full-time senior pastor until 2004, stepping down to associate pastor because of the cancer diagnosis of his wife, Violet. He has been a widower since 2008, when he officially retired.

After his wife’s death, Anderson says he sought the Lord’s direction for his future and he heard the message to keep preaching the Word.

A year ago, Anderson had a friend move into a nursing center in Galena. Anderson asked the activities director if the center needed a chaplain to conduct church services. She eagerly asked him to visit on Tuesday afternoons. Three weeks later, the activities director asked Anderson if he could come every Wednesday afternoon as well. Since then he has added Sunday morning services at the other nursing home in town. He takes his acoustic guitar, leads hymn singing, brings a message and prays for the residents.

“I encourage them to be active in ministry if they can,” says Anderson, who has led a couple of elderly residents to salvation decisions. “I read the Bible to those whose eyesight is not good enough and who want to hear it. I try to encourage them that life is not over yet. I try to get them to laugh and to smile. Anytime I can share a little bit of hope, it’s a good thing.”

Anderson spent his early adult life as a wholesale auto parts salesman before entering the ministry. He had been active in lay ministry as a deacon, youth leader, song leader and church bus driver. But a heart attack at 37 changed him forever.

He says he had an out-of-body experience in which he heard a voice asking by what right he should enter heaven. Anderson answered, “Because I’ve been washed in the blood of Jesus!” Then, he says, the Lord gave him the choice to enter heaven or return to earth. Anderson, who had two young children at the time, opted to stay on terra firma.

Anderson conferred with his pastor about the experience, and the pastor concurred that the former Navy diesel engine instructor had been called to preach. Opportunities began to arise. The first church that hired him as a pastor paid only $30 a week. Some later congregations didn’t pay much better, and one didn’t pay anything. But Anderson never wavered in his decision to be a full-time minister. He survives on monthly checks from Social Security and AG Aged Ministers Assistance.

“The AMA check is a blessing for sure,” Anderson says. “The Lord blesses my life in so many ways.”


Traveling preacher
Ora Mae Goleman assisted her AG pastor husband, Webb, for 45 years in ministry in Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. When Webb died two years ago, Goleman didn’t believe God wanted her to retire.

So after consulting with her pastor in Grayson, La., and Louisiana District Superintendent Douglas Fulenwider, the 73-year-old Goleman volunteered to serve without pay as pastor of the AG church in Oak Grove, La. The tiny struggling congregation had been without a pastor for months and faced closure. Webb had been pastor there two decades earlier. These days, on a good Sunday, 10 people show up.

“They can’t afford to pay a pastor who has a family and bills,” Goleman says.

Typically, Goleman makes the 100-mile drive alone on two-lane roads on Saturday, and the 100-mile return trip on Monday. She stays in the furnished parsonage those weekend nights. The congregation supplies her meals and pays her gas money for making the journey.

“My husband always had in his heart that the little churches need the Word as much as the big ones,” Goleman says. “I’m doing what I feel the Lord wants me to do to help keep the doors of the church open.”

Webb pastored mostly smaller churches, some of them under 50 attendees. Ora Mae is grateful to receive a monthly AMA stipend to supplement her Social Security check. She suspects that she might be preaching for a long time.

“I come from a long line of women who live to between 90 and 100,” Goleman says.

JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Editor’s note: For more information on Aged Ministers Assistance, call (417) 862-2781, ext. 2184; e-mail; or write to AMA, 1445 N. Boonville Ave., Springfield, MO 65802.

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