Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Monday

January 27, 2014

Anne Hébert and Beulah's church on the hill

BEULAH — St. Andrews Presbyterian Church stands like a Celtic sentinel, swathed in whirling veils of lake-effect snow, high on a hill just west of Beulah.

The usual stunning view north off U.S. 31 to Sleeping Bear Dunes and Lake Michigan is invisible. It’s one of those stay-at-home-if-you-can whiteout days in Benzie County.

Even so, 10 cars are parked one recent morning in the church parking lot. Inside the massive stone and glass structure, the Rev. Anne Hébert and several members of the weekly Disciple Bible Study class sat around a table, big Bibles opened to the short books of Esther or Jonah near the end of the Old Testament.

“You Michiganders keep showing up for everything,” Hébert said, a quick weather joke before she returned to Esther and Jonah. “What does this story tell us about the transition period between the Old and New Testaments?”

A Texan by birth, Hébert completed her first year as St. Andrews pastor in November. St. Andrews is Benzie County’s first Presbyterian Church.

The congregation was founded in 1995 and chartered with 63 members who meet in the home of Ned and Bobbie Edwards. Ned, a retired Presbyterian minister, conducted services until 2002 at St. Phillips Episcopal Church, not far down U.S. 31 from the 19 acres where St. Andrews stands today. The first service was held in the new building on June 18, 2002.

The membership today totals about 100 to 150 in the winter and doubles in the summer as Benzie area retirees return from warmer places.

Hébert worked in churches in New York, Oklahoma and Texas over her 26 years as an ordained Presbyterian minister. Her last church was a 350-member Presbyterian Church in Garland, Texas, near Dallas.

She said she never dreamed of becoming a minister as she grew up in Texas because she never had seen a woman minister. In fact, she didn’t know women could become ministers until her junior year at Stephen F. Austin State University, where she earned a bachelor of business administration degree in finance in 1983.

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