New Chardon Pastor a Pilgrim at Heart
June 20, 2019 by Staff Report

The Pilgrim Christian Church in Chardon may have found its perfect match in the well-traveled, culturally aware and humble Sam Greening.

The Pilgrim Christian Church in Chardon may have found its perfect match in the well-traveled, culturally aware and humble Sam Greening.

Greening, born in Ashland, Ky., joined Pilgrim Christian Church in March and has been faithful to the ministry for over 30 years. In addition to international preaching, Greening, overall, has preached in the states of Kentucky, Maryland, California, Alabama, Delaware and now Ohio.

A modest man, Greening doesn’t think about his great achievements in life. Yet, he does recognize that international preaching is a difficult field and considers his experience abroad a unique accomplishment.

Greening said during a recent interview he loves the small-town feel of Chardon and enjoys walking, as he lives close enough to the church to walk there every day.

He said living in Chardon makes a difference in the integration of its community and the church community, which he described as a small group of people from different backgrounds who love each other.

“We share a strong commitment to unity,” Greening said. “All churches have something that binds them together. In our church, it’s the idea of Christian unity. We are a church that signifies that unity.”

Greening began his nomadic journey at the University of Louisville, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in German. A foreign language major, Greening spent the summer between his sophomore and junior year in Germany, he said.

After that, he went to Drew University in New Jersey for his seminary and put his foreign language skills to good use being one of a few students who could read the German texts that dominated the library, he said.

Ten years after he started serving churches, Greening went overseas to internationally preach. He applied for a job in Paris, France.

However, Greening said he soon realized he was not experienced enough for the job after his application was turned down. So, he applied for a pastor position in Bogota, Columbia, where he was welcomed with open arms. He said he spent two years serving and acclimating to the culture and language there.

“I’m very glad I did it. Part of my heart is still in Columbia,” Greening said. “I survived my two years there, I loved it.”

He also served in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and lived in Germany for a time. Greening said he preached abroad for no specific purpose, he just felt drawn to those areas.

“It’s hard to say why you do anything in life when you’re sort of lead by a spirit higher than yourself, or an authority higher than yourself,” he said. “You’re led in a variety of directions and so you sort of have to test the spirits and discern what’s right.”

He eventually decided to come back to the U.S. and served in the city of La Jolla, Calif., for 12 years. However, being far from family meant it was very difficult for Greening to travel home, he said.

So eventually, he moved east and served two years as a temporary pastor in Huntsville, Ala. But Greening said he grew tired of the short-term position and sought permanence.

He entered “search and call” mode, which is when a pastor is looking for a church and vice versa. The Pilgrim Christian Church in Chardon was the best match for him, as it was closer to home, he said.

Greening said during all of his travels, he realized each state had its own unique quality.

His hometown is on the border of Ohio and Kentucky, and if he met anybody out-of-state, they were usually from Ohio, he said.

Greening said the differences between Ohio and Kentucky are major.

Citizens of Kentucky can immediately tell if people are from Ohio because of their accent and, oddly, how they take their coffee, he said, adding it is considered a southern tradition to drink coffee plain and a northern tradition to add cream and sugar.

Greening said he considers being a southerner in a midwestern state a touchstone, or fundamental feature, to how he lives life in a new community.