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Pastor foresees bonnie future

Scot by birth and American by choice, the Rev. George McBurney Gray has big plans for his newest ministry stop at Beacon Baptist Church.

Published October 25, 2003

HUDSON - Only a trace of Scottish brogue still lingers in the Rev. George McBurney Gray's voice.

Twenty-three years of ministering in America have nearly taken the Scotland out of the man.

But Gray is nothing but grateful.

As the new pastor of Beacon Baptist Church, a small Southern Baptist congregation on Fivay Road, Gray, 61, is eager to continue the ministry that has taken him from Glasgow, Scotland, to Maine, New York, Ohio, and now to Florida.

"It's amazing how everything worked out," said Gray, who was originally supposed to work in the United States for only three years.

But Gray and his wife, Christine, fell in love with this side of the Atlantic, despite the 220 inches of snow that fell during their first winter in the tiny village of Milo, Maine. Their two young children knew only the American way of life, and their church members had grown to depend on them.

"They took ownership of us," Gray said of his church. "We had no family, and suddenly they were our family."

The same thing happened at his next stop - Fulton County, New York. And 17 years after leaving Britain, Gray and his family became U.S. citizens.

At Beacon Baptist, a congregation of about 100 mostly elderly members, Gray plans to focus on the needs of young people and families and bringing them into the church.

One structural change he envisions is broadening the role of the church's six deacons. Gray says they can learn discipleship and crisis intervention so people get more individual attention.

Gray is at home in Southern Baptist churches because they're similar to the route he started out on, in the Scottish Baptist denomination.

"The Southern Baptists always try to help smaller groups," he said. "The Scottish Baptists are a very small group."

Indeed, they claim only 25,000 members in a nation dominated by the Presbyterian Church. Gray was brought up Presbyterian but was an atheist during most of his early years.

But at age 19, he said he had an epiphany after a friend's wedding. Standing in the pews, unable to sing along to the words of Psalm 23, he felt empty.

"About 2 in the morning, I was ashamed that I didn't know that Psalm, that I didn't live the life. Then (I had) this sense that "you need to get right with Jesus,"' he said.

"I just had a whole different world view from then on....There was a purpose driving (my) soul, and that was to help people."

Gray knows he has his work cut out for him. Ministry, he said, has become more difficult since he began nearly 40 years ago.

"People have a lot more to cope with today than they ever had," he said. "It seems like there are a lot more people today that are really broken."

Now they have someone in Hudson ready to fix them.

[Last modified October 25, 2003, 01:49:17]

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