Michael Groh

by Phil Johnson

Michael Groh, as his daughter, Alicia, said, “…was all about making a positive difference in the world. He had a very strong sense of social justice. He was a ’60s activist who continued to be an activist his whole life.” By consulting with non-profit organizations whose goals he shared, he carved an independent way vocationally.

Mike came to United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities (UTS) in 1965 with strong social gospel convictions. During those years a significant coterie of like-minded students with similar interests arrived at the new seminary, the first created out of the merger of the Congregational Church and the Evangelical and Reformed. UTS took these students and their passion seriously. Justice, love, and peace were heart-felt experiences and commitments. Mike was a leader without trying to be. He was a leader as a student and he was a leader his entire life.

Mike and I played basketball with and against each other for 40 years. We played together on teams and we played with our sons, Aaron and Eric, in a regular Saturday morning pick-up game at the People’s Center in Minneapolis.

In the Fall of 1967, the Stillwater Prison Colts football team, challenged United Seminary to a game. Five seminarians had played football in college and there were seven other students with touch football experience who wanted in. Dr. Don White, Theology Professor and Process Theologian, took up coaching duty. Our squad of 12 entered the prison with Coach White. The huge steel doors locked behind us with an unmistakably firm sound.

Ted Meads recalls that “Shortly after we began warm-ups, we heard the thunder of cleats as the 40-man prison squad came down the concrete ramp leading to the field. Like the pro teams, the Prison Colts had their own nicknames: “Steamboat Fulton” (defensive end); Boom-boom Brown (fullback—taking his moniker from the Bill Brown of Vikings’ fame) and others. It was an intimating group, particularly to those preachers whose experience extended to touch or flag intramural games. Fortunately, we had a few people like Mike and Phil who knew what they were doing in full pads!” UTS played the Colts three times and came away with two victories.

“It was a brief, shining moment in time for UTS students arriving within a year or two of these games, dispelling much of the conventional wisdom around preachers being wimps,” reflects Ted.

To the regret of all his friends, the superb Mike Groh has left us. Michael’s friends are all over the world. He was recruited by the George Soros foundation to help folks in the Balkan countries in their efforts to create civil societies in the aftermath of state initiated and controlled societies.

Mike had the ability to meet people and to gather friendships around the world. He went places most people don’t go to or care about in this sometimes darkened world in which he was always a light. He was ever ready to get in there and do something to help people, not just talk about it. In a way you could say he lived around the world.

Michael’s contributions to Pietisten include “God’s Pocket and the Woolly Mammoth,” in Volume VIII, Number 2, Summer, 1993.