New priest in town

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 19, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; In a service both solemn and celebratory, John Gordon Benbrook was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church on Saturday.

A dozen priests from the surrounding region and the Right Rev. D. Bruce MacPherson, bishop of the Diocese of Western Louisiana, took part in the ordination service, along with an overflow crowd at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Vidalia.

Benbrook acknowledged the many people he knew in the congregation, some he has held in his heart for a long time, he said. &8220;I am so blessed that it is so crowded in my heart.&8221;

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Having served Good Shepherd as a deacon, Benbrook now will serve with the full authority of a priest. That indeed made the ordination a special occasion for them, members of the church said.

Dr. Robert Barnes, one of the founding members of the church, said Good Shepherd started with about 14 people 10 to 12 years ago.

&8220;We wanted to create a mission-oriented church, an outreach church,&8221; he said. &8220;Now we&8217;re up to 50 members.&8221;

As prospective members saw the mission programs Good Shepherd members organized, &8220;we began to attract people who wanted to do the same,&8221; Barnes said. &8220;We originally started the church for people who needed help.&8221;

The Rev. Canon Walter Friese presented the homily, challenging the new priest to three things.

&8220;First, do not be afraid,&8221; Friese said, quoting from the Gospel reading, Luke 12: 4-12.

&8220;Be fearless in your faith,&8221; he said. &8220;Struggles and oppositions will come, but it&8217;s important to face them fearlessly.&8221;

Struggles should be expected and embraced and they should be empowered &8220;with the truth of the Gospel. And on that, never compromise,&8221; Friese said.

The second challenge: &8220;Be discerning in your values. Know what is of eternal value,&8221; Friese told the new priest.

&8220;The Gospel you are about to preach has eternal consequences,&8221; he said. &8220;Live in a manner to protect the Gospel you&8217;re called to preach.&8221;

Third, the homilist challenged Benbrook to be spirit-led in his walk with God.

&8220;And if you are, the Holy Spirit will teach you what to say &8230; and guide you on the road you must travel. Be a priest who will go wherever the Lord leads.&8221;

Friese reminded Benbrook that &8220;weaknesses can become strengths through the work of the Holy Spirit&8221; and that &8220;God will take you places you could never have imagined.&8221;

The bishop presented Benbrook with a Bible, a gift signifying the authority of the priesthood &8220;to preach the Word of God and to administer his holy Sacraments.&8221;

He then anointed Benbrook&8217;s hands, saying, &8220;May these hands which are blessed, bless.&8221;

Bettina Barnes, a founding member of the church, said, &8220;It&8217;s a joyful day.&8221;