Christ Episcopal has new rector ‘Ministry begins at the altar but doesn’t end at the back door of the church’

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 9, 2011

Vicksburg’s oldest church, Christ Episcopal, has a new rector.

The Rev. Sam Godfrey, a native of Natchez, recently took over duties as priest at the church at Main and Locust streets. Founded in 1839, it’s the oldest continually inhabited church and also the oldest public meeting place in the city.

Godfrey said he is happy to be serving t here.

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“We are really enjoying Vicksburg and finding our way around,” said Godfrey, 55, who moved from Como to the River City with his wife Patty, 56, a lawyer and teacher.

Godfrey also is an attorney, and for 11 years was in practice in Natchez with his wife, a Memphis native. The couple met while they were both in law school at Ole Miss, he said.

Feeling led by God to do more for the church than simply attend and worship, Godfrey entered The School of Theology at the University of the South in Sewanee in 1994.

“Part of the equation was that I really started to pray,” he said. “A lot of prayer went into it.”

Godfrey was assisted by the thorough discernment counsel he received from the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, but also got a sense of confirmation from people around him who felt he was meant for the priesthood.

“Other people saw it in me before I made the decision to go,” he said.

Godfrey was ordained in 1997, and for 14 years was vicar at Holy Innocents Episcopal Church in Como and also St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in nearby Batesville.

“Ministry begins at the altar but doesn’t end at the back door of the church,” he said. “I love celebrating the Eucharist. I enjoy preaching, and I enjoy being with people. It all goes together.”

Episcopal baptisms were recorded in Vicksburg as early as 1829. The cornerstone of Christ Church was placed in 1839 and church history dates from there.

The original rectory next door was destroyed during the Civil War and in 1873 rebuilt on the same site, where Sam and Patty Godfrey now make their home. Their son, Russell, 20, is a junior at Louisiana State University.