Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Father Woody celebrates 40 years as a priest

From Albuquerque-

For more than four decades now, Father Merrill Woodrow "Woody" Peabody has been touching peoples' lives and lifting their spirits.

Earlier this month, 30 members of Socorro's Epiphany Episcopal Church gathered to pay tribute to the man who has led their congregation for the past eight years.

For the better part of the past several weeks, the church's faithful were busy making arrangements for the surprise celebration. On Saturday, Sept. 12, the preparations paid off as a very surprised vicar walked through the door and found himself the guest of honor.

But rather than simply sitting down and enjoying the homage, Father Woody began circling the room to make sure everyone was well and enjoying themselves.

For the majority of parishioners, it's these little acts of selflessness that sets Woody apart and makes their church such a special place.

Although the priesthood was not necessarily part of young Woody's future plans, he was introduced to the Episcopal church at a very, very young age.

"My grandmother always wanted me to be a priest," he mused. "In fact, I like to say that I've been going to Episcopal Church since nine months before I was born."

Well before Father Woody answered the church's call, he plied his trade as a school teacher and a newspaperman. It didn't take long, however, for Woody to trade in his ruler and pica pole for priestly robes and the pulpit.

By the late 1960s, Peabody had enrolled in the Episcopal seminary at Berkeley. It was shortly thereafter that Woody was "called" to the church — literally.

"There wasn't a big moment — that defining moment or incident that propelled me to join the church," he said. "It was literally a phone call from my priest, who knew I was about to graduate, and he asked if I would consider becoming a priest."

That was all the prompting he needed.

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