Hilton Griswold retired from pastoring 12 years ago.
Now he works six days a week.
Griswold, at 88, teaches Sunday School to 30 senior adults every Sunday morning; plays the piano and sings for half an hour each week on television, radio and the Internet; and drives himself to 16 live monthly performance programs at Springfield, Missouri, nursing homes and assisted living communities. That doesn't include the invitations he receives from various congregations in the city.
Griswold is one of dozens of "retired" Assemblies of God pastors who provide living proof that ministry doesn't end at 65 — or 75 or even 85, for that matter. Griswold pastored seven churches in Iowa, Missouri and Illinois in 42 years. He also has been a traveling evangelist, and he received his 50-year ordination recognition from the Fellowship in 2000. During the 1940s, he began his ministry career as pianist for the Blackwood Brothers Quartet. Today he is busier than ever.
Most Mondays through Saturdays, Griswold is in his unadorned office in Springfield for his Inspiration Time broadcasts. He has been a widower since 2001 when his wife, Marie, died unexpectedly of a heart attack after 61 years of marriage. Griswold still wears a suit, tie and dress shoes to the office, which is stacked with papers, letters and tape duplicating equipment.
On a recent Tuesday morning, he is busy mailing the week's Sunday School lesson to those who missed the class two days earlier at Park Crest Calvary Temple. Griswold uses an electric typewriter to address envelopes to the absentees, as well as to pound out the lessons themselves. He says he wouldn't have a clue how to even switch on a computer.
Griswold also has a mailing list of 26,500 people who have written to him for cassettes since he started his TV music ministry in 1985. The names are compiled by his daughter Barbara Chapman, who does operate a computer. Griswold duplicates CDs and DVDs himself from masters to be mailed to TV and radio stations for airing.
Although some listeners send funds, Griswold doesn't ask for any money on his programs. He invested his life savings of $25,000 when he started the TV music ministry a quarter-century ago. He has $15,000 left, as he pays for CDs, DVDs, cassettes, music box covers, labels and envelopes himself.
Many of the requests come from elderly shut-ins. Some come from prisoners, who write that they have accepted Jesus as their Savior when listening to his program. But Griswold enjoys singing and playing most for those whose faulty memories come alive because of the music.
"The thrill of my life is going to the Alzheimer's wing at Maranatha Village," Griswold says. "People who don't know how to get back to their rooms can sing every word of every song."
In the earlier radio ministry days, Griswold sang with Barbara, who works in the Pastor Care office at Assemblies of God headquarters, and his son, Larry, who now is AG district superintendent in Illinois. These days it's primarily a solo act.
Griswold loves to tell inspiring stories, play the piano with alacrity and alternate through all four parts of a well-known quartet number during a concert.
"The Lord has been tremendous," says Griswold, who takes no medications beyond a daily aspirin. "I don't intend to ever stop, as long as I'm physically able to keep going."
Author: John W. Kennedy, Pentecostal Evangel