- Faith & Family
Reverend Bernard M. Griffith, the rector of Christ Episcopal Church, knows that saying goodbye is never easy. Yet the 69-year-old knows that it’s time to retire.
“You get to a point in your ministry when you know it’s time to go,” he said, whose last official day as rector will be September 30.
“It’s just a feeling you get where you know that you have done enough where you are.”
During his 16-year tenure, Griffith has championed several changes, from increasing the size of the scholarships awarded to high school graduates to reviving relationships between Christ Episcopal and St. Stephen’s Church.
Among some of his proudest accomplishments was the creation of an endowment fund.
“One of the things that I wanted to do was make sure that the church could survive,” he explained.
The interest accrued from the endowment fund, which Griffith estimates currently holds $125,000, is meant to support the church in such endeavors as making repairs to the sanctuary or funding various ministries. Griffith also worked to beautify the current structure. The sanctuary’s stained glass windows feature people of importance to the local community including: civil rights activists, the Church’s first rector, Father Theodore Gibson, members of the Underground Railroad and the Church’s founders.
The stained glass windows have “really been an improvement to the church,” said life-long member, Thelma Gibson.
Reverend Kenneth Major, the retired pastor of the Church of the Incarnation, said, “[Griffith’s] a bridge builder that has lived by example that race, creed, color, or sexual orientation are not important.”
Worship in Song
Born in Barbados, Griffith worked in a number of professions from public school teacher to corrections officer. In his free time, he pursued his musical talents. He is a self-taught organist, pianist, bass and rhythm guitarist as well as a highly-trained violinist who once played in a symphony orchestra. He became an ordained minister in 1976 and served as a rector of St. Barnabas Church in St. Michael, Barbados for a number of years. In 1994, he was chosen to become the third rector of the now 110-year-old church in Coconut Grove.
Griffith remembers when he first came to Christ Episcopal Church.
“Basically they were what they said they were, which was a singing church,” he recalled.
“I found here a place where I could be personally be fulfilled.”
Over the next 16 years, Griffith would work closely with the choir and even serve as the organist. Some members say they appreciated his musical abilities but others admit they will miss his wisdom the most.
Fredericka Brown, 80, is the church’s Sunday School superintendent and member of the Monday evening Bible study group that the pastor leads.
“I will really miss how he opened up a lot of avenues and a lot of teachings that I was not aware of,” she said.
After his October 1st retirement, Griffith and his wife of 45 years, Nadine, will travel for a few months. Then he says he will decide on his next move.
Wherever he decides to go, Griffith said, “It has to have good music — I have to worship in a church where music is used as a tool of worship.”