Stephens ordained as chaplain of Trinity Episcopal Day School

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 5, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; In the &uot;culmination of a beginning,&uot; Paul J. Stephens was ordained in an evening mass Sunday at Trinity Episcopal Church.

The Rev. Zabron &uot;Chip&uot; Davis, rector at Trinity, said it was fitting the ordination came on Epiphany eve.

&uot;Tonight is the culmination of a beginning,&uot; Davis said, speaking in the church lit with candles and still decorated for Christmas. &uot;We read lessons tonight of a journey, of a preparation for a lifetime of ministry.&uot;

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But the ministry is not something Stephens undertakes alone, Davis said, noting that his family and congregation will help him.

&uot;Our part in all of that is to pray, to support him because it is a role he cannot perform alone,&uot; Davis said.

Stephens, who is also chaplain of Trinity Episcopal Day School, was presented as a candidate for ordination at the beginning of the mass, by a group of friends and church members. Later, as part of the ceremony, the congregation pledged its support of the new priest.

His family &045; wife Martha and children Nason and Lucy &045; took part in the mass by presenting the oblation &045; the bread and wine &045; before communion.

&uot;As a priest, it will be your task to proclaim by word and deed the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to fashion your life in accordance with its precepts,&uot; Bishop Coadjutor Duncan M. Gray of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi said in the examination, during which Stephens declared to the bishop and the church his acceptance of leadership.

&uot;You are to love and serve the people among whom your work, caring alike for young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor.&uot;

Perhaps the most stirring moment of the mass, though, was the consecration. Gray, along with other priests on hand for the ceremony, lay their hands on Stephens’ head, an apostolic tradition that confers leadership.

For Stephens, this was a culmination of a long journey, one that began nearly 10 years ago when he and his wife, Martha, took a youth group on a mission trip to Honduras. There he began to feel the call to the priesthood. It was a call he did not formally begin to prepare for until 1997.

After the mass, Stephens could not contain his smile.

&uot;It’s exhilarating,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s a wonderful feeling in so many ways. The next stage of the journey has begun.&uot;