Harold William Griffis – His Sermons

Sermon File of Harold Griffis

Harold William Griffis’ long career as a pastor, minister and preacher resulted in an accumulation of an extensive catalog of sermons over 36 years. Unfortunately only a small number of his sermons remain from his library. Most of his sermons were given to a young preacher who was starting his career when Harold passed away on June 30, 1961, the day after his 58th birthday. Evelyn Griffis, Harold’s wife, graciously allowed the young man to comb through his sermons and choose those he wished to keep. The remnants of his sermon files contain 45 sermons. [1]

Sermon Files of Harold Griffis
Sermon Files of Harold Griffis. Click for enlarged view.

What is immediately apparent when looking at his sermon files is their twin nature as visual objects and as written documents and notes. Viewing these files as visual objects while at the same time reading his sermon notes for sound and sense, one needs to seize upon the twin beauty of their form and substance. They are points of contact by touch, sight, and thought. [2]

Sermon Notes as Visual Objects

As visual objects they provide a glimpse of how Harold Griffis compiled and managed his sermons on a wide array of paper, different formats and print. They also unintentionally provide an artistic side of his ritual of composing this thoughts on various different paper and through different means of putting ink to paper. His sermons attest to the considerable care he gave to the ritual of composing sermons. Similar to Emily Dickinson’s envelope writings, I think Harold’s sermons should be understood as visual productions. [3]

Each sermon is contained in an eight by eleven envelope. The sermons are handwritten or typewritten. They appear on different types of paper:

  • Different colored 8 inch by 11 inch paper;
  • 6 3/4 inch by 3 3/4 inch 6 hole punched notebook paper;
  • 8 1/2 inch by 5 1/2 inch 3 hole punch notebook paper; and
  • index cards.

Occasionally the files also contain copies of newspaper or magazine clippings that originally inspired a sermon. Some of the notes in the files are written in shorthand, a nearly extinct method of writing by means of abbreviations and symbols that were used especially for taking dictation. The hand written notes provide a glimpse of his handwriting and penmanship. The typewritten notes and outlines are especially interesting to view. There were no corrective ribbons on the typewriters that Harold used for typing his sermons. His focus on typing single spaced notes on paper as small as 6 3/4 by 3 3/4 note paper is noteworthy, an art form of its own kind..

Harold’s Portable Typewriter Enlarged view

One of his most common approaches to organizing his thoughts and subject matter for sermons, talks, and speeches was the use of his portable typewriter. Many of his notes are single spaced, type-written epistles on various sizes of notepaper. 

One of the typewriters that Harold used was the portable 1948 Royal Quiet DeLux. It is the last known typewriter that he had in his possession.  It is still in fairly good condition and is housed in a traveling case.

This 1948 Royal Quiet DeLuxe is sometimes referred to has a Dreyfuss machine. Henry Dreyfuss was one of the first “industrial designers,” artist/engineers who specialized in improving the looks and workability of everyday products. Dreyfuss was asked to improve the Royal QDL portable and, after some intensive research, came up with this design. In this highly informative video, Alton Gansky talks about the typewriter and the man behind the design.

As Written documents: the Active Process of Formulating Modern Day Parables

As written documents, the sermon files illustrate how his sermons evolved as creative contemporary parables: based on scripture, contemporary news stories, or personal observations of human nature. Many of the files contain two or three sets or iterations of a sermon. These various versions of sermons are hand written, typewritten and in outline form. They were always a work in process. He may also have replicated the outlines of a sermon in appreviated format, perhaps as refresher notes when he gave a sermon.

Each sermon file is contained in an 8 inch by 11 inch envelope. A sermon file number is marked on the upper right hand corner of the envelope. The logic of the numbering system is not known. It appears that the sermons are numbered in a chronological order based on their creation.

Sermon File: The Ship that Never Sailed
An example of the Sermon Envelope: The Ship that Never Sailed. Click for larger view.

A title of the sermon appears to the left of the file number at the top of the envelope. Underneath the title of the sermon is a list of the places and dates that the particular sermon was given.

Sermon File: The Bag with Holes
An example of the Sermon Envelope: The Bag with Holes. Click for larger view.

The first sermon file is number 0008. It was first delivered at the Freemont Church in August 1922 when Harold was still in college. The last file is number 1242. This sermon was given three months before his death on March 5, 1961 at Trinity Church in Albany, New York.

Newspaper Articles Documenting His Sermons

Harold Griffis kept a scrapbook of local newspaper articles that documented community and church activities. Some of the newspaper articles not only documented his activities but also the subject of his sermons and talks.

For example, below is a newspaper article on his sermon ‘Slaves on Horseback‘ (sermon file 0171 below) which was given at the Williamstown High School Baccalaureate service for graduates on June 16, 1929.

Harold Griffis Newspaper Article Sermon - Slaves on Horseback
Newspaper article on sermon provided for the Williamstown High School Baccalaureate service, from a scrapbook of Harold Griffis. Click for larger view.
Harold Griffis Newspaper Article Sermon - Slaves on Horseback
Newspaper article on sermon provided for the Williamstown High School Baccalaureate service, from a scrapbook of Harold Griffis. Click for larger view.

Another high school graduation address was given to graduates of a technical high school.

Technical High Grads Hear Rev Griffis
Graduation address given my Harold Griffis,, from a scrapbook of Harold Griffis Click for larger view.

An undated newspaper article describes Harold’s sermon on the meaning of Thanksgiving:

Minister Explains Real Meaning of Thanksgiving
The Real Meaning of Thanksgiving, from a scrapbook of Harold Griffis. Click for larger view.

Another address, given at a Parent’s Teacher Association meeting in Amsterdam on November 23, 1940, was on the subject of Tolerance.

Tolerance, from a scrapbook of Harold Griffis. Click for larger view.

“We Face Our Social Concerns” a speech provided to the Glens Falls Council of Churches.

Click here to read the newspaper article.

– The Glens Falls times May 29 1959 Page 6

In an eulogy for Harold Griffis, it was noted that:

“Many remember his unusual skill in teaching the Bible and personal prayer; but the most thoughtful preparation to which Harold Griffis gave himself was in the field of corporate prayer. This is where so many of his parishioners will remember him at his best”. [4]

The following is an example of Harold’s gift at a Rotary Club meeting during the Christmas holiday season.

Presentation at Rotary Club, Amsterdam, NY, from personal scrapbook of Harold W. Griffis. Click for larger view.

Another reference to Harold’s ability to weave “spiritual truths in the cloak of humor”:

The Glens Falls times January 12 1955 Page 14

A List of the Existing Sermon Files and Their Contents

The following is a list of the remaining sermons of Harold Griffis. Each title is linked to a PDF version of the original material associated with each sermon. The PDF versions are extracts from a book originally published on the life of Harold Griffis as a Methodist minister [5].

Depending on how the PDF files are viewed (on a phone or tablet versus a computer), it may be easier to read certain sermons by saving and downloading a specific PDF file. You can then increase the view of a given PDF page for reading.

File NumberTitle of Sermon (click on link to view sermon file)Placed Sermon was Given
0008Galilee and the Dead SeaFremont,NY 08/1922
South Farms, CT 10/1922
Northville, NY 02/1923
Jonesville, NY 10/18/1925
Trinity, Troy, NY 1938
Amsterdam, NY 07/23/1939
0010The Orchestra of Life or How to be HappyFreemont, NY 08/1922
Plainsville, CT 05/31/1925
Jonesville, NY 07/19/1925
Grooms, NY 07/17/1925
Trinity, Troy, NY 08/22/1957
Amsterdam, NY 10/09/1938
0059Goats, Guns, and GabrielJonesville, NY 05/30/1926
Williamstown, MA 05/24/1926
Trinity, Troy, NY 07/02/1933
0077The House of Obed-EdomJonesville, NY 10/17/1926
Grooms, NY 10/17/1926
Williamstown, MA ?
Trinity, Troy, NY 12/10/1933
East Main St, Amsterdam, NY 09/22/40
Amsterdam, NY
0090The Bag with HolesJonesville, NY 01/20/1927
Grooms, NY 01/30/1927
Caroga Lake, NY 07/17/1927
Round Lake, NY
Grace, Albany, NY 09/28/1927
Albany /Schenectady
Stephentown Hancock SS Association 06/08/1928
Williamstown, MA
Trinity, Troy, NY 02/01/31
Revised – Amsterdam, NY 01/09/1944
0171Slaves on HorsebackWilliamstown, MA 06/16/1929
Johnstown, NY 08/20/1929
Trinity, Troy, NY 06/01/1929
First Presp. Lansingburg, NY 03/26/1938
Amsterdam High School, NY 06/26/1938
0186Open WindowsWilliamstown, NY 1929
Trinity(PM) 07/16/1930
Amsterdam, NY 05/22/1938
Springfield, VT 09/1947
0194The Ship that Never SailedWilliamstown, MA 12/15/1929
Trinity, Troy, NY 07/20/1930
Amsterdam, NY 07/17/1938
Temple Israel, Amsterdam, NY 01/02/1942
0241Beauty for Ashes Isiah 61:3Trinity, Troy, NY 09/20/1931
Emma Willard, Troy, NY 06/02/1935
Amsterdam C.E Service Bean Hill 07/10/1938
Gloversville YMCA Service Freemont 01/1940
Amsterdam, NY 05/19/1940
Troy WTRY with” When Goodness Turns Sour”
0334Our Monuments: What Mean These Stones?Trinity, Troy, NY 05/28/1933
Amsterdam, NY 05/29/1938
East Main, Amsterdam, NY 05/26/1940
Johnstown 05/28/1944
5th Ave State St, Albany, NY 05/28/1950
Cobbleskill, NY 10/24/1954
Albany, NY Rotary Club 1955
Trinity, Albany, NY
0337 Children’s Sermons and StoriesWilliamstown, MA
Rajah of the Kingdom of Truth & Two Springs at Troy Orphanage 07/09/1933
and others all used in Amsterdam, NY
0427Slave Captured on State StreetTrinity, Troy, NY
Hoosic Falls, NY Kiwanis
Men’s Club – First Gloversville
YMCA Schenectady
YMCA Troy
Kiwanis Club Amsterdam
Amsterdam Progressive Class
St Luke 1940
Rotary Club, Albany, NY
0446New Temples What’s New?Trinity, Tory, NY 1935
Calvary Albany – Lent 1935
9th Presby, Troy, NY
Amsterdam, NY 06/12/1938
Stillwater, NY 04/18/1948 Installation service for PB Showers
5th Ave State St, Albany, NY 10/09/1949
1st Presby, Troy, NY 06/26/1955
0448New CrossesTrinity, Troy, NY 1935
9th Presby, Troy, NY 03/25/1937
Hagaman 06/08/1939
Frankfurt, NY 04/13/1941
0475Alumni Banquet Gloversville High SchoolGloversville, NY 06/1935
0498Fathers and SonsTroy Jewish Comm Center 1937
Pawling Ave ME Church 11/20/1937
BroadwaySchool, 06/21/1942
Amsterdam Woodrow Wilson PTA 11/20/1945
0499Neighbors Who InspireTrinity, Troy, NY 1936
Grace Troy Conference 06/1936
PTA McLeary, Amsterdam, NY 1938
Amsterdam, NY07/30/1944
First Cohoes, NY 08/1953
0915Weeds Among Wheat
Matt 13;24-30
5th Ave State St, Albany, NY 08/08/1948
Albany District, NY 1955
East Greenbush, NY 01/1/1958
Fremont, NY Gloversville NY 01/26/1958
Emma Willard, Troy, NY 01/25/1959
Cleverdale, NY 08/23/1959
1st Presby Union Service, NY 08/14/1960
0921You are Missing Something
Luke 14;15-24
5th Ave State St, Albany, NY 11/14/1948
Hudson Falls, NY 01/04/1949
Broadcast WTRY 01/20/1952
Quacker St, NY 11/14/1954
Trinity, Albany, NY 11/30/1958
0964Big Ideas Thinking Abundantly5th Ave State St, Albany, NY 12/31/50
Canajaharie, NY 10/23/1955
Clarksville, NY 09/15/1957
0976Make Up Your Mind5th Ave State St, Albany, NY 12/31/1950
Hudson Falls Family Night, NY 01/26/51
Troy, NY YMCA N.E. Assoc. of Secty’s Devotional Address 03/27/1951
Waterford, NY LIon’s Club, NY 01/13/1953
Powers PTA 01.27.1953
Armenian Student’s, Troy, NY 10/08/1953
Middleburg, NY
Troy HS Rensselaer County School Board, NY 12/14/1955
Albany, NY Rotary Club 10/10/1958
1103A New Greeting
Eph 1:2
5th Ave State St, Albany, NY 12/27/1953
North chatham, NY 07/11/1954
Newtownville, NY 12/30/1956
Forest Ave, Amsterdam, NY 12/29/1957
Trinity, Albany, NY 12/28/1958
1130A New Look at Hawthorne
1131Towers in the DesertRPI 06/1955
Batavia, NY 1958
1153God and Our Work1st Reformed, Albany, NY 09/1957
Westminster Albany Union Service, NY 09/04/1960
1156Mountain ShadowsCleverdale, NY 08/25/1957
1167The House of the LordTrinity, Albany, NY 09/21/1958
1173Our Response to God’s Revelation
Luke 20:11
Trinity, Albany, NY 12/07/1958
1174Let Your Life Show the LightTrinity, Albany, NY
1175Heavens and Earth!Trinity, Albany, NY 12/21/1958
1176Religion and BusinessAlbany Business School, NY 1958
1177Standing at the Threshold
John 1:9
Communion Meditation
Trinity, Albany, NY
1179Rubbish
Nehemiah 4:10 #see 843
Trinity, Albany, NY 02/01/1959
1182Walk the Light
John 8:12 see #1050
Trinity, Albany, NY 02/221959
1183No Man Walks Alone
John 15:1-5
Trinity, Albany, NY
1185Funeral MeditationsOakley Kennedy 1959
1186When It HappenedTrinity, Albany, NY 03/29/1959
1187The Christian Sacrament of Joy
John 15:11
Trinity, Albany, NY
1188The Fellowship of the Agitated Web 10:24Trinity, Albany, NY 04/12/1959
1191The Wrong Way to Do RightTrinity, Albany, NY 04/12/1959
1221What is a Saint?
All Saints Reformation day
Romans 1:7
Trinity, Troy, NY 05/24/1959
Trinity, Albany 11/20/60
Sermon of the Month
1226Now Thank We all Our God or Thanksgiving on a Dark DayTrinity, Albany, NY 11/27/1960
1228The Incarnation on Lark Street
John 3:17 John 12:47
Trinity, Albany, NY 11/27/1960
1234God in the Shadow: A Study of Hosea
Hosea 2:15 13:7
Trinity, Albany, NY 01/15/1961
1242Enduring the Intolerable
John 16:33
Trinity, Albany 03/05/1961

Sources

[1] The original sermons are part of a Family Archive

[2] The featured image at top of story illustrates the contents of the Harold’s sermon files. The image reflects the file contents of sermon 0976: “Make Up Your Mind“.

[3] Werner, Mark and Jen Bervin, Emily Dickinson: The Gorgeous Nothings, New York: New Directions, 2013, Page 10

[4] Memorial Brochure: Trinity Methodist Church Memorial Service for Harold William Griffis November 26, 1961:

[5] see James F. Griffis (Ed.), Sermons, Notes and Letters of Harold William Griffis, Self published, Blurb: Oct, 2018