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Rev. Doris Nathaniel Benford Sr.. Photo: courtesy.

World’s longest-serving pastor dies at 94 in Texas

The Rev. Doris Nathaniel Benford Sr., who set a Guinness world record by pastoring a Texas church for 72 years, has met his reward.

“It is with saddened hearts that we announce the homegoing of our beloved pastor, father, grandfather and so many other wonderful things to us,” Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church in Texas City, Texas, posted on Facebook. “He has fought a long, hard fight for the Lord, and he has called him home to be with him!”

The Guinness Book of World Records in October 2022 recognized Benford for “Longest tenure as pastor of the same church.” When the record was verified, Benford had held the position for 72 years and 61 days. He began preaching at his church at age 20 in 1950 and never left the pulpit for over 70 years. Benford, who died at the age of 94, began his preaching journey at 14, delivering his first sermon on Dec. 25, 1944.

“In 1947, Rev. D.N. Benford was visiting a friend in Texas City, Texas, by the name of Rev. FM Johnson. Rev. Johnson was scheduled to preach at Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church (as a guest pastor) but he was sick,” the Guinness entry said. “Rev. Johnson asked Rev. Benford if he would preach in his place. After Rev. Benford preached, Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church was pleased and told Rev. Benford that if they were ever in need of a pastor, they would contact him, because they were impressed by his teaching/preaching.

“By 1950, Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church was in search of a pastor for their church. They searched for Rev. Benford Sr,. and when they found him, they asked if he would come and preach for Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church again, and he did that on the third Sunday in June of 1950. On August 27, 1950, they reached out to Rev. Benford again and this time the membership voted him as the new pastor of Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church of Texas City, Texas.”

“I came from a very devout religious home. Religion has often been called an opiate, a painkiller for the poor. My mom and grandmother, they had nobody but God. They pushed us and told us that our only hope to make it and survive the world we live in was to put our entire faith in God’s hands,” Benford told Houston’s ABC13 in February 24. “Every day I’m here is history, and that’s wonderful. Words can’t express my gratitude for the crowds that started way back yonder to help keep this church going,” he said.

During his extensive ministry, Benford made a significant impact on the community. He is known for his outreach efforts and his work with the church’s youth. Benford often drove the church bus to take families and children on field trips and vacations. With the church, his family traveled as far as Detroit and California on these trips.

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice

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