A New Face At the Pulpit
by Tiffney Quin Mortensen
This article was first printed in the Crescenta Valley Sun, 12/27/2002
The First Baptist Church of Montrose will welcome a new leader with the new year, and Pastor Bryan Griem (M.Div., 1997) is ready for the challenge. Born in Visalia, California, Griem has traveled wide and far, finding himself at last in Montrose, California
"My father became a federal postal inspector when I was about 9, and the government job made our family a bit nomadic, moving us to the East Coast and causing us to live in various cities and states for another nine years until I graduated high school in 1979 in Virginia," says Griem. Surprisingly, he did not come from a religious family.
"My family was not especially Christian," he explained. "Mom was not very zealous in her faith, and Dad was not a believer at all. Back in Visalia I had attended a Presbyterian church mostly with my Granny -- thank God for grandmas! -- but when I moved, my connection with church community greatly diminished. Eventually, by junior high, my mother had begun taking me back to church, but by high school I began asking questions that weren't being sufficiently answered for me, and so I became agnostic."
When Griem left home for college, he discovered what he felt was his life's calling -- acting.
"With enough performance kudos to swell my head, and a talent agent prodding me on to Hollywood, I found my way to Los Angeles with little more than a car and a very small fist full of dollars," he said.
But like many young actors who travel from all corners of the globe to live their dreams in Hollywood, fame and fortune was farther out of reach than he expected. Griem said that he hadn't been in Tinseltown long before he was more concerned with having food and roof over his head than an audition callback.
"Eventually I was in an apartment, had a menial job, and began contemplating my future and the meaning of life," he remembered. Through the hard times, Griem returned to the faith of his youth, answering the spiritual objections he had one by one. He returned to college, received a degree in drama from Santa Monica College and began his first ministry at a church in Westwood.
"After coming to faith, the idea of being a movie star began to lose its appeal. Fame and fortune were not as motivating to me as being an ambassador for God," said Griem.
There he met his wife, and the pair were married on their mutual birthday in 1988. Griem later earned a B.A. in biblical studies from Biola University, then continued at the same institution to earn an M.A. in philosophy of religion and ethics.
Griem and his wife traveled to Israel and spent a semester studying at Jerusalem University College before earning a M.Div. from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1997. He is considering pursuing a doctorate after he has served the congregation in Montrose.
As if education were not enough, Griem continued to serve various congregations in Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley with his musical, theatrical, and theological talents.
Though he had previously served several other churches, taking the post at Montrose has required a unique process.
"Montrose is a dually aligned congregation, that is, they belong to both the American Baptist Church, USA (formerly the Northern Baptist Convention), and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), so upon unanimous decision by the congregation to call me as their pastor, the church council immediately ordained me to the SBC so that I too could be dually aligned and fully represent the church. The joke going around is that it took me four degrees, three ordinations, and two seminaries to pastor The First Baptist Church," joked Griem.
His wife, Gina, was raised a Roman Catholic but made the transition to Protestantism, an act that severely strained relations between the Griems and Gina's mother, who became a Carmelite nun and now lives in Fatima, Portugal.
"Since the children were born," said Griem, "we have all been on better terms."
The Griems have two children, 7-year-old Christian, and Asia, who was born on Sept. 11, 2001.
"THE 9-11!" said Griem. "She was born, and I went home from the hospital to take a nap. I was awakened by a phone call from a friend urging me to turn on the TV and see the Trade Tower devastation. What a tragic day, yet at the same time, a blessed day for us."
The Griems also have two cats, Angel and Waifer, who are adopted strays. The family recently lost their dog, Mosey, to a heart attack, but hope to get another dog when the family moves to Montrose sometime in 2003.
Griem doesn't have much time for hobbies, but says his wife would say that trading on e-Bay was his hobby. He also has a collection of over 4,000 books, which he sees as "less a hobby, and more a necessity, in my thinking."
Griem plans to apply his artistic background to his new ministry.
"My brain is already churning about what sort of float our church might muster for next year's Montrose Christmas parade," he said. "The hopes I have for the church are the same that I believe the congregation envisions for itself. There is no greater task for us than to be Christ's representatives, proclaiming the good news of his grace, and changing people's lives forever."
Tiffney Quin Mortensen is editor of the Crescenta Valley Sun.