TEXAS CITY — Many decades ago, on a bus journeying from Brownwood to Bryan, the self-described “leader of the gang,” then known as Goober, had a Damascus Road-style experience. The impact of a heavenly voice on the young D.N. Benford Sr. has continued through his 69 years of subsequent ministry. Sixty-four of those years have been as the leader of Texas City’s 100-year-old Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church, 302 N. Oak St.

“I was 12 years old on that big old Continental bus, and it was noisy and kids were hanging out the windows, and I got this eerie, eerie feeling in my head,” he said. “At first it troubled me; I didn’t know what it was. All the fun I was having just couldn’t override it, so I finally went to the very back of the bus and wrestled with it — I was about to go berserk. Then I heard a voice saying, ‘I want you to preach.’

“I heard it several times, but I couldn’t nail it down. After seven or eight times, I knew I’d been called to preach.”

Rising Star and its longest-serving pastor have been all but inseparable since he arrived as a young man. Neither of them seems to have any intention of cutting back or slowing down. Today at 84, Benford remains an irrepressible, spiritual force, focused on the church’s youth and the needy, equipped with an impressive drive that many a much-younger clergy might well envy.

As for Rising Star, well, just about any church rounding the century mark in Texas City has had to face explosions, floods and storms. It comes with this geography. But the biggest test for Rising Star happened just two years after Benford arrived and took up his prophetic role here. The defining event is recorded in its official history:

“In 1952 the church experienced tragedy when a fire burned the sanctuary and its adjoining buildings to the ground. But God, by his grace, saw fit to strengthen the congregation and favored the flock to erect a building campus, which today consists of a sanctuary for worship, a fellowship hall and two annexes on the very spot the ashes lay.”

Livenia Washington remembers that historic turning point. Her family goes back some four generations here to the 1930s.

The 76-year-old UTMB retiree was only 12 when that fire struck.

“We were like cattle losing their barn,” she said. “Some may have strayed, but they all came back. We built it all back ourselves.”

Quitting, it seems, just isn’t an acceptable plan at Rising Star, regardless of one’s age.

“Pastor has told us that he has the only job you can’t retire from,” Washington said. “He’s a God-sent man. You’re going up the wrong side of the mountain if you try to talk him out of it. His mold was broken, and there won’t be another like him.”

The Rev. James E. Daniels is on the pastoral staff there with Benford.

“It would take volumes to really talk about the accomplishments of Pastor Benford and Rising Star,” he said. “One of our greatest assets is our family atmosphere. The bedrock of our church is the scripture that talks about training up children.”

Venolia Cobbs-Hackley is another lifelong fan of both the church and its pastor, whom she describes as “well seasoned.”

“This world is in dire need of the good news, and Rising Star does her best to fulfill that obligation,” she said. “We hope you will help us celebrate this first 100 years.”

At a glance

WHAT: Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church’s 100th year celebration parade

WHEN: 10 a.m. today

ROUTE: The parade will travel west down Magnolia Street, turn right on Bayou Road, left on Cedar Drive toward Westward Street and will end at Carver Park.

INFO: Call 409-978-2210, 832-657-9385 or 409-336-1812.

WHAT: Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church’s 100th anniversary service

WHEN: 11 a.m. Sunday

WHERE: Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church, 302 N. Oak St., in Texas City

Rick Cousins can be reached at rick.cousins@galvnews.com.

(2) comments

Rufus Crowder

This is the church that I grew up in. My parents (Billy and Mary Lois Crowder) made me go to church every Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon, and Sunday night!!! There was no such thing as you did not have anything to wear. As a young kid, I wore these shiny suits that changed colors in the sunlight! I am so thankful that my parents made me go to church. It helped mold me into the person that I am today.

As for Reverend Benford, he is one-of-a-kind. Still driving...still visiting the sick and shut-ins as we called them...Always giving hand-outs and hand-ups to those in need. He was then and still is now from the old school when every parent knew each others children and helped to keep them all out of trouble. Thank you Reverend Benford for being steadfast and helping to shape a community of believers within the 100 year history of Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church. May God continue to bless you and bless all of us with your guidance! And those suits...hmmm...that is entirely a different story!

Tamala Robinson

My brothers and I grew up from babies until adulthood in Rising Start Church. My paternal and maternal grandmothers were some of the original members of the church. I am so grateful for Rev. Benford because there are not many Pastors and teachers of the word like him anymore. He tells you exactly like it is whether you like it or not. He expounds on the word and does not try to sugar coat it for anyone to like or dislike. Right is right and wrong is wrong according to the bible with him. I am so grateful for vacation bible school as a kid, because that is when we learned so much about the books of the bible and the beatitudes that we had to learn by the end of vacation bible school. We were taught the bible and biblical songs through his teachings. He loved and still loves the kids. He took us to Astroworld, vacation bible school picnics in League City, Tx and so much more. He would pick you up for Sunday School and Church. Rev. Benford is a rare breed in today's society and I thank God for him because from age 5 to 47 I still remember so much from Rising Star MIssionary Baptist Church and carry those life lessons with me throughout my adult life as well as have passed those lessons on to my children. Rev. Benford baptised me and my 2 brothers and I was married in the church. Yes indeed, Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church is a part of me and I a part of it. I have nothing but fond memoris of the church and the Pastor. I still go back from time to time and visit with my mother because my family is still a part of the church.

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