WEST LIBERTY – West Liberty native Grayson Atha didn’t think he wanted to be a pastor, but a local pastor pointed him in that direction.
“The preacher said I was going to be a minister. I wasn’t planning to be one. He wanted everybody to pray for me,” Atha said. “I thought, everybody here thinks I’m going to be a minister, so why not?”
Atha decided to follow that path and became a Methodist minister. He went wherever he was needed, and his appointments brought him in contact with a variety of people.
One of his first memorable appointments was at a church in a largely African American community in the 1970s. A nearby neighborhood was mostly white and residents there advised him to avoid the African American community if he could. A few years later, he was appointed to the church there.
“We lived there, and had a really wonderful, meaningful experience,” he said. “So I started a conversation in the community about it.”
Atha said members of the white community thought his efforts to promote understanding across racial lines would backfire, but they didn’t.
He was later appointed to a Columbus church in the 1990s. At the time, he said, individuals who were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender were not “out,” but some wanted to see if they would be accepted in the local church. Atha began promoting tolerance and acceptance of all. Some members left the church over it, but new LGBT members came in, and now the church is thriving.
“I was comfortable with wherever I was appointed. I worked with what I got dealt with,” he said.
Atha is now retired, but still serves as pastor at a United Methodist Church in Columbus.
His goal of ministering to all shaped his life. At age 81, Atha decided it was time to put it all down in a book, “The Clergy Dance,” available for $9.99 on Amazon.com.
Atha will hold book signing events 5:30-7 p.m. July 3 and July 10 at the Gathering Place, 111 N. Detroit St., West Liberty.
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.