On December 1, 1959 the Rev. W. Lee Benson was installed as pastor of Calvary Presbyterian Church of Amwell, in Ringoes, N.J., where he had been stated supply for the previous seven years. By his retirement in 1979 he had served that one congregation for twenty-seven years.
Lee became an Orthodox Presbyterian pastor by a circuitous route. Born in Baltimore, Maryland he was raised in the Methodist Church. After high school he worked in a grocery store while attending art school. Having become convinced, after a time of considering atheism, that people needed God, he attended Dickinson College to prepare for the ministry. Shortly after his marriage to Mildred, he studied at Boston University School of Theology and was ordained in the Methodist Church. With multi-church circuits he eventually served a total of nine congregations. During this time his daughter, Barbara (Cottenden) was born, to be followed ten years later by a son, Bob.
While studying the Bible for sermon preparation Lee began to realize that what he had been taught in seminary was not the gospel. Much to the joy of his believing wife, he came to a conviction of the truth of Scripture and of its message about Christ and his work. This led him to withdraw from the Methodist ministry in 1949.
A providential meeting with OP minister Ed Kellogg led to an invitation to teach in Camden County (NJ) Christian School where he became better acquainted with the Reformed faith. Among his students there were Lois (Parker) Wilbraham and Gwen (Kellogg) Urban.
After three years, though, the call to the pastorate weighed heavily on him and he sought to become a minister in the OPC. Lacking knowledge of Hebrew along with some other requirements, he was appointed stated supply of the Ringoes congregation until he could fulfill those requirements. This took seven years, including a stint of studying Hebrew by correspondence with Meredith Kline.
In addition to his pastoral work, Lee was a frequent speaker at the Boardwalk Chapel in Wildwood, NJ where he used his art training to present the gospel through “chalk talks.” He retired in 1979 and went home to be with his Savior in 1996.
Note: George Cottenden is today's guest writer.
Picture: Lee and Milred Benson in 1989.