Rev. Sam Greening, pastor at Congregational Church of La Jolla, finds joy in service to God and community

Rev. Sam Greening
Rev. Sam Greening

Rev. Sam Greening, pastor of the Congregational Church of La Jolla, is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. Originally from Ashland, Kentucky, he received his undergraduate degree in German from the University of Louisville, and his Master of Divinity from Drew University in New Jersey.

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Rev. Sam Greening

Rev. Greening has been a pastor for more than 25 years, with eight of those years spent abroad — five as a pastor in Latin America (Bogotá, Colombia and San Juan, Puerto Rico), and three coordinating international ministries in Europe, based in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

In La Jolla since 2005, Rev. Greening is a past president of the La Jolla Kiwanis Club and is currently on the board of the University Community Planning Group. He also chairs his denomination’s Church & Ministry Committee and will be a delegate to its General Synod.

What brought you to La Jolla?

When I returned to the United States after several years abroad, I had my pastoral profile sent everywhere in the country. Because my church is strongest in New England and the Midwest, I wasn't expecting that San Diego would be where I ended up. But fortunately, the La Jolla congregation and I were a match, and so when they issued what's termed a "pastoral call" to me, I was very happy to accept. I've been here for seven years now.

What might you add, subtract or improve in the area?

There's not much to improve about our community. But if I could change one thing, it would be involvement. La Jolla is not exactly losing population, but it seems that fewer and fewer people are becoming part of the fabric of our neighborhood. Whether it's a service club or a faith community, there are many ways to get involved here. La Jolla has beautiful scenery and great restaurants and stores, but I wish more people would participate in the community this place has to offer as well. It's very much like a small town once you get to know it.

Who or what inspires you?

I think my most important inspiration in life came from Cosby Hatfield, my maternal grandmother back in Eastern Kentucky. She would've turned 100 this year, and I preached a sermon about her in July.

Though I thought I knew what a great influence she had on me, in talking to my family about her and then putting my thoughts into words, I gained a new appreciation for my roots. Most people think of Southern Appalachia as a backward place, but that wasn't my experience of it.  My childhood gave me a thirst for knowledge and a desire to experience diversity that many urban and suburban kids don't receive. I attribute a lot of that to my grandmother.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

In alphabetical order: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, John Calvin, Hillary Clinton, Toyohiko Kagawa, Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Sojourner Truth.

What are you reading?

I usually read several books at once. Right now I'm reading “Songs of the Nativity,” John Calvin's sermons on the first two chapters of Luke, to keep me grounded and “The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America,” by Edward Blum, to broaden my horizons.

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