Teachers influence for a lifetime. Christian teachers influence for eternity.
The Wesleyan Church family celebrated the rich life and ministry of the Rev. Henrietta Mae Griffith this past year. Born in Stockton, New Jersey, on November 30, 1923, Rev. Griffith died on September 24, 2021. She was a teacher and preacher who spent more than 60 years influencing students training for ministry at Kentucky Mountain Bible College (KMBC), Jackson, Kentucky.
Born into a fairly affluent family, Rev. Griffith was saved at age 14. She soon felt called to be a missionary to Eastern Kentucky. Many family and friends told her that “coming to Kentucky was wasting her life. She would be a nobody — lost and forgotten. This city girl came anyway, without support. This hardship didn't break her, it only made her tougher and more resolute!” stated KMBC staff.
After graduating high school, she earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy and religion from Asbury College in 1945. She worked long hours to earn money while taking a full academic load. She also earned a theological diploma from Kentucky Mountain Bible Institute and, in 1950, a master’s degree in Christian education from Asbury Theological Seminary. She was ordained in 1951.
A well-rounded teacher throughout her tenure, “Miss Griff” taught students ranging from first grade to college, in equally diverse fields of study, from geometry to Bible theology.
Wisdom and wit, combined with fervency and drive, fostered in Rev. Griffith a love for teaching, her students, the people of Eastern Kentucky and local high school sports. A well-rounded teacher throughout her tenure, “Miss Griff” taught students ranging from first grade to college, in equally diverse fields of study, from geometry to Bible theology. She exemplified a zeal for the Bible and holiness theology.
Former student, Rev. John Walton (KMBC ‘86), said of her, “I always looked forward to her classes. She was passionate about scripture. She loved on us as students — straightforward and strict but you knew that she cared for you.” He also recalled that Rev. Griffith prayed before every class. “She was a Godly example.”
She often preached to small local congregations through pulpit supply and revival services, always giving an altar call. Many people professed faith and sanctification through her preaching. Rev. Griffith traveled to India to preach and led group trips to Israel and 10 European countries.
College professors often have unique opportunities to step into the roles of pastor and counselor or of surrogate parent for students.
College professors often have unique opportunities to step into the roles of pastor and counselor or of surrogate parent for students. At her funeral, it was noted that Rev. Griffith was a spiritual mother to hundreds of students. She excelled in this multifaceted role as a mentor and “example of what holiness looks like in everyday work clothes.”*
Students and area residents loved Rev. Griffith and her pioneer spirit. Her passion and influence reached far beyond the classroom and the pulpit, endearing her to many while also creating opportunities for Christ to be preached in everyday situations. She and her best friend, Mary Ellen Mowery, were avid fans of the local Breathitt County High School sports teams.
In her last years, Rev. Griffith and Ms. Mowery lived in a house built for them on the KMBC campus, allowing Rev. Griffith to continue influencing students and local people as her physical health permitted.
In her book, “Out with Joy,” Rev. Griffith sums up her earthly journey with these final words of testimony:
“God has led. He has given me ‘righteousness, joy, and peace in the Holy Ghost.’ I wish that I could have done it all better, but to Him be all the praise and glory.”
The Wesleyan Church celebrates Rev. Griffith, a woman of faith, courage and humble influence. Her life and years of ministry epitomize one person living as a Kingdom Force Unleashed in “everyday work clothes.”
*Information on Rev. Griffith’s life was gleaned from Facebook posts of her students, KMBC newsletter and https://www.kmbc.edu/aboutus/our-history/henrietta-griffith.