There is much to celebrate at San Marino Community Church this year. Not only is the church itself commemorating its 75th anniversary, but its pastor, Rev. Jeff O’Grady is marking his 10th anniversary there.
He calls the occurrence “a happy coincidence.”
SMCC recently hosted a dual celebration for its 75th anniversary and O’Grady’s 10th anniversary. Numerous parishioners spoke about O’Grady either in person or via a special video.
“The past 10 years have been nothing but the best for the church and for Gwen and me,” parishioner Guil Babock said, adding how O’Grady is one of the best listeners he’s ever known.
Parishioner Greg Forgatch provided a long list of traits that a great church leader possesses and said O’Grady has them all.
He said, “He listens. He’s really open-minded. He’s adaptable—one of the best traits anyone can be. He’s patient. He’s focused. He remains accountable. He’s incredibly caring and has solid integrity.”
Prior to accepting the offer to become pastor at San Marino Community Church, O’Grady was the dean of student life at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, NJ. He grew up in Minneapolis and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in business and sociology. O’Grady obtained his master’s degree in youth ministry from Luther Seminary and then his Master of Divinity at Princeton Seminary. He was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1988. O’Grady also served on the staff of Christ Presbyterian Church in Minnesota and Point Loma Presbyterian Church in San Diego.
O’Grady and the Rev. James Baird, who is the SMCC associate pastor for Contemporary Worship and Community Outreach, met years ago when Baird’s brother was attending Princeton Seminary and O’Grady was the dean there. Baird said when he and his brother didn’t have enough money to fly back to California for Thanksgiving, O’Grady and his wife Lynn invited them to their home to celebrate with them.
“When Jeff left Princeton Seminary to become the pastor of San Marino Community Church, it didn’t take long for the Princeton Seminary to put Jeff on the Board of Trustees which he has served faithfully for many years now,” Baird said. “As part of the Board of Trustees of Princeton, he has helped oversee the creation of the world’s largest digitized online library and has developed a national reputation as one of the most respected leaders in the Presbyterian Church.”
When Baird himself was a new seminary graduate—20 years after their original meeting—O’Grady invited him to be part of the staff at SMCC.
“He is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with,” Baird said. “Working for him is like working for one of the legendary coaches of the college teams. He allows every single person on the team to contribute in their own way and confidently leads the team. He always welcomes creativity and new ideas and passionately believes that all people deserve a seat at the table.”
The Rev. Becca Bateman, who is associate pastor for Family Ministries, said one of the main reasons that she was interested in working at SMCC is because of O’Grady, whom she’s known for 10 years.
“Jeff, as we call him, trusts and believes the team will show up and do great work,” she said. “That kind of confidence really lets me soar and he has had his share of opportunities to shape me as a minister. I count Jeff more than simply a coworker or a partner in ministry but a cherished friend who deeply cares for so many whom God has placed in his flock.”
Bateman praised O’Grady’s storytelling ability stating that he uses “real-life events that will speak to an 8-year-old or an 80-year-old.”
The Rev. Jan Cook started her position as senior associate pastor at SMCC last November.
“One of the most profound blessings in becoming a part of the team here is the spirit of collegiality, cooperation and care that characterizes our leadership team as a whole,” she said. “It is such a pleasure to serve with people you admire, respect and truly like. Under O’Grady’s leadership, the church launched a five-year capital campaign in 2010 to update the church facilities.
“We were able to renovate the facilities and it became a catalyst for growth for the church,” O’Grady said, noting that more staff was added in 2012.
He also led church parishioners to the Holy Land in 2014 and 2016.
“There are so many things that the church is doing in ministry that are noteworthy,” he said. “One of the continuing ministries that has had impact is that conversational English class. Over the last 20 years, it has reached out to new immigrants who are not native English speakers.”
O’Grady married his wife Lynn after graduating college in Minnesota. Lynn is the director of college counseling at Westridge School. They have three adult children: Molly McCallum, Meghan Williams and Ryan O’Grady and four grandchildren: Nolan and Madison McCallum, and Elliott and Avery O’Grady.
“There are two institutions that my wife and I have been committed to throughout our adult lives,” O’Grady said. “One is education and the other is the church. Those two institutions carry forward the values that we think are important for society. We’ve given ourselves to those two institutions in hope of strengthening them as they carry forward values from one generation to another.”
“Jeff and his wife Lynn are warm and hospitable and care deeply for one another and for their entire family,” Cook said. “I know this inspires the congregation and they value the role model the O’Grady family is able to provide.”
O’Grady is an avid sports fan and listed handball and golf as his current favorites. He also enjoys riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle.