Dr. Rev. Glenn Ethridge has been my church pastor for almost half of my life. He recently went on medical leave from our church as he is battling pancreatic cancer. On the 7th anniversary of my family joining Oak Grove UMC, I wanted to share how much Glenn has meant to me over a significant part of my life.
On a personal level…
Glenn and his family came to serve as Senior Pastor at my childhood church, Wesley UMC, in Evans, GA when I was in high school. Although I was involved in youth group at another church, I always enjoyed hearing Glenn’s sermons.
Fast forward to 2011… My husband and I started visiting Oak Grove UMC, where Glenn has served as Senior Pastor for the last 12 years.
In September of 2012, he and Cathy hosted a low country boil at their home in hopes of getting a new Sunday School class off the ground. I will never forget meeting Emory (their GIANT dog) at the party and watching Glenn dump a low country boil down the middle of the serving table. Fast forward to now, and we have been active members of that Sunday School class for over seven years and it all started for us in Glenn and Cathy’s garage.
On January 27, 2013, he baptized my sweet baby boy. As Glenn marched JB around the church sanctuary, I beamed with pride that JB neither screamed nor spit up on Glenn. I am betting Glenn was pretty thrilled too.
Throughout 2013, we attended the same Weight Watcher meetings on Friday mornings. At each weekly meeting, there was one man (Glenn) surrounded by a gaggle of women from OGUMC. He helped cheer me on to losing 25 lbs after I had JB and I helped cheer him on to looking and feeling his best on Andrew and Kristin’s wedding day.
For a short semester (although Glenn would probably call it long), he was JB’s kindergarten choir teacher. He had been encouraging others to step out in faith and do something outside their comfort zone throughout his sermons. He decided to practice what he preaches (pun intended). As a result, Glenn committed to leading about two dozen five year olds each week in their choir rehearsals. My own heart smiled a little each week when I would come to pick JB up from the choir room and Glenn was slightly frazzled and drenched in sweat.
In June of 2018, I served my first year as Director of Vacation Bible School. Glenn was very supportive wearing his pink VBS t-shirt and was a present and active part of the week. He recognizes that solid leadership starts at the top and works it’s way down. A good pastor is one who knows and loves the littlest to the eldest in their church community. I appreciated his support of our efforts and interaction with the children each day.
He has affected my faith life in a mighty way…
Glenn has a signature benediction that I have had the privilege of hearing throughout high school and for the last 8 years. When my grandmother passed away in May of 2014, my mom asked if we had any special requests for the funeral service. My request was for Numbers 6:24-26 to be read at the time of the benediction. Thanks to Glenn’s consistent use of this verse throughout my life, it has become a source of encouragement and strength in difficult and good times.
I have always envied Glenn’s spiritual gift of administration. He has this strong ability to see where something BIG is missing and work tirelessly for a long period of time to fill that void. This is demonstrated by the numerous Sunday school classes that started during his tenureship at OGUMC and are still going strong. It can also be seen by the new building and upgrades to the “old” building that have happened over the last several years. MANY people helped to make these things happen through their dollars, time, skills and resources. But, I am not sure any of it would have been set in motion if it weren’t for Glenn’s leadership and skills. He has left a massive fingerprint on the physical footprint of our church.
He uses the pulpit to speak out against injustice and for the inclusion of everyone- like Jesus did. One memorable sermon included these words:
“We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirty poor, yo no habla Ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds. We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our pastor who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, more Protestant than Luther, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s Baptism. We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too. If you blew all your offering money at the dog track, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church. We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts … and you!” -Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church
Things to Know about Glenn…
- He has a knack for dressing up. From dressing as the Morton Salt man or wearing a mullet wig to decades night, Glenn always brings his A game.
- Glenn has a wicked sense of humor. His sermons are full of real life humorous situations. One of my favorites is when he talks about life being fair: Kid says, “That’s not fair.”Parent: “The fair comes once a year, usually in the fall.”
- If you look up the word transparent in the dictionary, you will find Glenn’s photo next to that word. He shares what is on his mind and heart with great honesty. His vulnerability draws people to him and encourages them to be open about their own lives too. Brene Brown should put him on her podcast as he has been a model example of vulnerability throughout Andrew’s health battle, death and now his own medical challenges.
- He is an excellent writer. He has a knack for laying out his thoughts in a clear, understandable manner which allows for clear communication for so many readers.
- Everyone loves him. In fact, it is a challenge for him to visit Oak Grove Market or Taqueria El Vecino without being bombarded by people saying hello (this is true pre and post diagnosis). I think he learned a while ago that if he is in a hurry, get the food to go!
Glenn, as your surgery day is quickly approaching, we are praying mightily for you and your family. Thank you for being an inspiration to so many with your leadership, honesty and humor through it all. I am grateful for the significant impact that you have had on my life and look forward to learning more from you in the coming years.
May the Lord bless you and keep you; May he make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; May He lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. This day and forevermore.