By Marissa Maier
Since moving to the East End 25 years ago, Pastor Bill Grimbol has created a reputation for himself. Although Grimbol’s sermons are soul searching and he is involved in various community projects, he is most famous for his work with local adolescents. Generations of East End teenagers and adults refer to Grimbol simply as “Pastor Bill.” People on the streets of Shelter Island, where he is currently pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, and Sag Harbor, where he and his late wife, the Rev. Christine Rannie Grimbol lived for many years when she led the congregation of the Old Whalers’ Church, may recognize Grimbol as the man who supported them through a teenage depression or helped a son or daughter overcome substance addiction.
Throughout his career, Grimbol has worn many hats, including that of youth counselor, well-seasoned preacher, and writer of fiction and spiritual studies. On February 2, however, Grimbol will don the role of parent guidance counselor in a class titled “Being The Adult Your Teen Needs You To Be.” The class is part of a two-part session “Good Enough Parent,” the first program series to be held at the Chris Grimbol Center for East End Adolescents, in the Old Whalers’ Church.
“Whenever you bring up the issue of adolescence, parents always ask ‘what can we do about this?’ But I have come to realize that it is not so much what parents can do about a problem, but what they can be about a problem,” said Grimbol.
By nurturing their own emotional and mental health, Grimbol believes parents will be better equipped to parent their children. Grimbol hopes to teach parents certain strategies to facilitate a healthier and stronger relationship between them and their child.
The class will consist of a 30 minute presentation and discussion session. The presentation, which will be delivered by Grimbol, will focus on being honest and open with your child, and also rekindling your enjoyment of being a parent.
“We still have this kind of approach to parenting as if you have to be perfect, and that effort takes all the fun and all the love out of it,” said Grimbol.
The program and the Chris Grimbol Center for East End Adolescents is a tribute to Grimbol’s late wife, who also ministered to local youth and was a champion of their interests.
“I waited for eight years before I did something I thought Chris would be proud of,” said Grimbol, whose wife passed away in 2000.
Grimbol recalls his wife as a legendary confidant for local adolescents. When they first moved to Sag Harbor, he fondly remembers Chris walking up to teenagers at their local hangouts in front of the fire department or the Harbor Deli where the Golden Pear stands now.
“She would go up to the kids and say ‘I am Chris Grimbol and you are coming to my youth group,’” said Grimbol who added that his wife fostered strong bonds with her youth group members and often guided them through troubled times.
One year, a group member became severely depressed over the suicide of a friend, who had been the Pierson valedictorian. Chris wasted no time in showing up at his house where she found the young man in bed, where he had been for days. Chris promptly hopped onto the bed and told him he had to talk with her. After some bickering, Chris soon had the young man laughing over her persistency in helping him. When dealing with teenagers, notes Grimbol, Chris was often fearless and honest.
“She would talk to them about what everyone else avoided talking about,” remarked Grimbol. “Being married to Christine taught me everything that I am talking about with these kids.”
From Chris, Grimbol also developed a somewhat unorthodox stance on religion and approach towards spiritual counseling. An avid writer, Grimbol is currently working on a book titled “I Am Not Very Religious, But I Am Spiritual: Finding the faith you can live with.” The title was lifted from the answer Grimbol constantly heard parishioners, people at funerals, and weddings utter when he asked them if they were religious.
The upcoming series at the Old Whalers’ Church, Grimbol feels, is a fitting tribute to Chris Grimbol, who devoted much of her life to helping kids.
“Being the Adult Your Teen Needs You to Be” will be held at the Old Whalers Church, 44 Union Street, Sag Harbor on February 2 at 7 p.m. No reservations are required.