The Reverend Doctor Gregg Strawbridge died on January 26th, 2022 from a sudden heart attack. His death was entirely unexpected and has occasioned an outpouring of love and admiration from those who knew him and benefitted from his ministry. An accomplished writer and public speaker, a frequent participant in formal theological debate, a lifelong learner, a faithful pastor, a beloved husband and father, Gregg was only 57.

Gregg was not quite famous, not in the strict sense. Many readers will not have heard of him. But he was a man of leadership and influence in Reformed and Evangelical churches and the broader Classical Christian School Movement. He edited The Case for Covenant Baptism, which is perhaps his most widely-distributed work, a book that has proven to be instrumental in explaining and defending the practice of infant baptism. He also founded and ran the website WordMp3.com which continues to distribute sermons and academic theology to an international audience.

Born in New Albany, Mississippi in 1965, Gregg went on to obtain an MA from Columbia Biblical Seminary in Columbia, SC and a Ph.D in Education from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, MS. Pastor Strawbridge served churches in Laurel, MS and Fort Myers, FL before settling in Lancaster, PA where he faithfully led the congregation of All Saint’s Church for 21 years. He also distinguished himself by serving on various occasions as the presiding minister of his presbytery and the General Council of his denomination, the Communion of Reformed and Evangelical Churches.

There was much more to Gregg than the resume. I had the privilege of counting him a personal friend. We had both lived in Laurel, MS in the 1990s. I even took guitar lessons from him for a short time, when I was around 10 and he 30. Years later, we would meet as ecclesiastical associates, but this background was always there, preserving a bond of kinship between the two of us. When I was first ordained, Gregg inserted himself onto my examination committee with the primary intention, I am convinced, of giving me a good-natured ritual hazing. One of the questions he asked me has now become something of ecclesiastical lore in my old communion. “How important would you say the Psalms are to the life of the Christian?” Gregg asked. I immediately began extolling the Book of Psalms as the prayerbook of the church, a model for both personal devotion and public worship, even a divine hymnal of sorts. I spoke of its role in spiritual warfare and how it prophesied the messiah. All very high and pious-sounding stuff. “Ok, great answer,” Gregg said. “Now I wonder if you could just work through each of the psalms, giving us a one or two sentence summary of what they say.” I laughed, wondering if the question was serious or not. But here we all were, on the floor of my ordination exam. This was on the record. “They don’t have to be exact quotes,” he smilingly reassured me. So, I tried to get started and made it to about Psalm 3 before sputtering out. “Oh that’s ok. You know, for some people it helps to jog their memory if they work backwards. Maybe you could try starting with Psalm 150.” On this second try, I made it through Psalm 148.

There was a sort of playfulness to this, for sure. But Pastor Strawbridge also wanted to make a point. It’s all well and good to have strong theology and good ideas about the Scriptures. It’s another thing entirely to know the Scriptures. Gregg recommended that I spend time in Scripture memory and regularly engage in the singing of Psalms in public worship. It is a practice that I have tried my best to continue ever since.

Pastor Strawbridge’s playful spirit also served him well in the more challenging aspects of pastoral ministry and leadership. He was no stranger to conflict and controversy. On both the congregational and denominational levels, he had to mediate difficult situations. At least one such occasion involved a famous minister with a devoted following, strong personality, and, as it turned out, an acid tongue. Strawbridge took the difficult stand of deciding against this minister both because of the merits of the case and the spiritual fruit (or lack thereof) which he believed was evident. This took courage, and many people opposed Gregg at the time. History, however, vindicated his decision. He was also a man who was able to repent and seek reconciliation when needed. I say this not as an obligatory nod to human fallibility but rather as a further compliment, to show that he was a real person engaging in difficult and often unclear circumstances. He was both a strong leader and a humble Christian. Even if he erred in an “ordinary” way, he was exemplary in how he later responded.

Through all of this, Gregg was not known to be a fractious man. No one would ever call him bitter. To the contrary, he always had a smile and a song. He continued to pursue theological education, presenting papers at the Evangelical Theological Society and sponsoring conferences at his church in Lancaster. In addition to academic work, Gregg also took an interest in cooking. In the past few years, he developed a fascination with perfecting homemade sauerkraut. He was also a skilled mentor. Perhaps his greatest legacy will be the dozens of young men he encouraged to pursue pastoral ministry and helped pair up with congregations where they are now serving. Their work is a testament to Gregg’s.

More than one minister has referred to Gregg Strawbridge as a “pastor’s pastor.” He was a man who cared about them and their ministries and in whom they sought counsel. Though a convinced Presbyterian, in this sense Gregg could be called a bishop. Many ministers and many churches are now celebrating his grace. I speak for many when I say that we are grateful to God for Gregg’s life and service to our Lord and His broader kingdom.

Pastor Gregg Strawbridge is survived by his wife, Sharon, and their three daughters, Joy, Jenna, and Julie. His family made music together, and their songs can be found here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Posted by Steven Wedgeworth

The Rev. Steven Wedgeworth is the rector of Christ Church Anglican in South Bend, IN. He has been a pastor in several churches since 2008. He has taught humanities at Christian high schools, and he occasionally writes on theology, church history, and philosophy. Steven is married to Anna, and they have three children.

3 Comments

  1. Beautiful tribute. It’s wonderful and comforting to see how loved and treasured he was even beyond our church family.

    As Gregg’s secretary and the wife of one of his mentees, even I have heard legends of your ordination exam. But by the time they reached my ears it was more of a tale of how you could just rattle off every Psalm, and of course you could, because you are Steve Wedgeworth. It’s a great story, and I like your version even better.

    Reply

  2. Angie Armour Bullen April 8, 2022 at 2:06 pm

    Thsnk you, Steven, for taking the time to share this. I only just heard of Gregg’s passing and your tribute was the first item to appear when I googled. “Dr. Gregg,” as we knew him at ADBC, was one of the most influential people in my childhood and teens. When I was 11 years old, he invited me to play piano preludes each Sunday, and at 13 he gave me the responsibility of being full-time pianist. He spent a great deal of time teaching me how to accompany and improve my skills as a pianist in general. My brothers also took trumpet lessons from him. He was extremely patient and kind. I also witnessed first-hand how graciously he handled controversial matters, some of which involved my parents, and his humility won their favor though they disagreed with him. His moving away was a huge loss to our church and community. I can think of a number of men in full-time ministry or pastoring as a direct result of his mentoring, and I’m sure there were many more. I’m so sad to know he is gone, but incredibly blessed to have known him, a man who loved God and His Word, and poured his life into the Church. Love and prayers for Sharon and girls in this difficult time.

    Reply

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.