EDMONDS — The Rev. Hallack Greider has shepherded many churches through transitions, as an interim pastor in Silverdale, Kirkland, Mill Creek, Oak Harbor and Edmonds.
“Some churches I’ve gone into have been troubled, where there was a conflict or something,” he said. “So it’s my job to kind of go in and triage the situation, and kind of get (the church) to a settled place. And I actually kind of like that.”
Some were grieving the loss of their longtime beloved leader. Greider would parachute in to unfamiliar ground to deliver a sermon, searching for the right tone. He would fill in for months or even a couple of years, to prepare things for the next long-term pastor.
He would keep in mind: “If I were stepping into this new job, what would I want the interim pastor to have done?” More than two years into his stint at Maplewood Presbyterian in Edmonds, in fall he found out who the successor would be. Himself.
Greider, a native of Seattle, took the long road to the church of about 100 people, 11 miles north of his old high school. A business degree at the University of Washington. Seminary in Pasadena. Church work with his wife, Heidi, in Alaska in the ’90s. He has lost count of how many ministries he and Heidi, a chaplain based at Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in Bothell, have served in over the years.
Greider comes from a family of Northwest berry pioneers based on Vashon Island. His great-grandfather patented and cultivated the rare, regal, wine-colored Olympic berry, a cross between a raspberry-blackberry hybrid and a black raspberry. It grew well on island soil, and was famous in pies and crumbles. At one time Greider thought about buying the farm, and continuing the family business, but he felt other callings.
Greider still grows vines in his yard. The Olympic berry had been a sensation in the 1930s, when The Seattle Times labeled it “the most outstanding berry of the Northwest.” The berry does not spread underground, like most blackberries, Greider explained. They put tips in the ground and grow roots, and start a new plant, and then you clip off the old vine.
Is there a metaphor in there, somewhere?
“I guess there is,” he said. “I guess from time to time I’ve thought how pastoring a church is like tending a garden. Or about the spiritual connotations of vines and branches and fruit.”
The Bible itself is loaded with references to fruit and vines.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower,” Jesus says in John 15:1. “He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.”
Greider grew up in what some Christians call the “godless Northwest.” His family did not go to church, but he always had a sense that there was something bigger, he said. He came to the Presbyterian church through friends in high school.
Since then his church has seen changes with the social climate. Gay marriage, for example, was approved in 2015 by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which claims 1.4 million members. The Edmonds church hosts meals for the homeless each month, and Greider hopes to find more ways to open up doors of the church to non-Presbyterians.
Outside of the church, Greider does not see a world in decline.
“I want to affirm some of those things, and say God is in those things, too. Just because someone doesn’t set their foot in the doors of a church doesn’t mean they don’t have a faith of some kind. I mean, I would like to communicate the good news that I know about,” he said. “But I think God is bigger than the four walls of a church.”
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.