CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- He sees it as the ultimate defining moment, an unusual circumstance of birth that sealed his fate.
As a newborn, he wasn't expected to survive. He believes that the conditions surrounding his emergency baptism in a hospital room determined his destiny as a Methodist bishop focused on ecumenical relations.
That story explains his life, he said.
Convinced that spirituality transcends any single church or religion, Bishop William Boyd Grove, 83, spent most of his career furthering interdenominational causes and programs, a fulfillment of the future God planned for him.
A Pennsylvania native, he was consecrated as a Methodist bishop in 1980 and served in West Virginia until 1992. After a four-year assignment in Albany, N.Y., he retired here, his adopted state. He serves now as bishop-in-residence at Christ Church United Methodist.
A poet and hymn writer, he penned a hymn that appears in the United Methodist Hymnal. Over the years, he wrote dozens of inspirational Christmas poems.
Nothing lifts his spirits like Christmas. In this Christmas Eve edition of Innerviews, he talks about the hope and optimism that Christmas brings to us every year.
"A big part of my personal story relating to my being in the ministry goes back to my baptism. I was born in Johnstown, Pa., April 24, 1929.
"On the fifth day of my life in a Roman Catholic hospital -- we were Methodists -- the doctor told my mother I would not live through the night.
"The nun in charge of that floor told my mother she should have me baptized. So our pastor came by in the middle of the night, and in the presence of this nun and my parents, he baptized me. I believe that through my baptism, I was healed and called to the ministry. Very early in my life I wanted to be a minister.
"That pastor who baptized me was my hero. He paid a lot of attention to me. I wanted to be like him. Our grandmother would sit on a couch, and I would sit on a stool in front of her and preach to her and take an offering.
"There's a lot of ecumenical stuff in my bio, associations with other churches. I think the presence of that nun represented the church that is bigger than Methodism.
"I had a very happy childhood with two younger brothers. Christmas was a big deal. My mother had one sister and three brothers. We often had Christmas with her sister's family. Her sister had two girls, and we had three boys, and we were like brothers and sisters.
"We had a tradition that we still do. On Christmas morning, before you could go downstairs, you had to sit on the steps and drink a glass of orange juice and eat a piece of toast before you could look at your presents. It's like a ceremony, a ritual. Our kids are adults now. They say, 'Why are we doing this?' It's because we always have.
"Because she had three boys and thought we would figure out what we were getting, my mother would put numbers on our packages instead of names, and every year she would forget which numbers she gave us. Somebody would open something, and she would say, 'Oh, no, that's not yours. It's his.' It's still a joke in our family.
"I went to Bethany and majored in English. My wife, Mary Lou, went to Bethany, too. She grew up with me in the same church from the cradle roll on up. We've been married 61 years.
"I went to Drew Theological School in Madison, N.J., then came back to the Pittsburgh Conference, now the Western Pennsylvania Conference, and served as pastor of four churches over 26 years. In 1980, I was consecrated a bishop and assigned to West Virginia.
"By the time I was in the ministry in the 1950s, we had started having Christmas Eve services. I always preached on Christmas Eve, and in more recent years, we always had Holy Communion.
"I was here 12 years. I have loved being a bishop and loved being a bishop in West Virginia. Bishops in our church are elected and assigned regionally. We are in the northeast jurisdiction, which goes from West Virginia to Maine.
"The assigning committee asked if I had a preference for an assignment. I said we would love to go to West Virginia. Within a year here, we decided that this was where we were going to retire.