God's repairman farewelled
IT will be a long time before members of Kingscliff's Saint James By the Sea Anglican church forget Father Gary Priest.
In his 10 years at the church, he repaired not only the physical building, but also the congregation.
Although Father Gary left Kingscliff for Byron Bay five years ago, when his former congregation heard of his retirement, they decided to put on a farewell lunch at Cudgen.
Compassionate, amazing, great - they were all words used to describe Father Gary at his farewell yesterday.
“There will never be another man like him,” Stephen “Huck” Elworthy said.
“The church was in a run-down state when he arrived and so was the congregation in a lot of ways, but now they are in a much better state.”
“The other thing is that he is dynamic; he is able to empower other people to find that calling, and through that the diocese has got a couple more younger priests coming out.
“The congregation and ministry is a lot more effective now than before he arrived.”
Father Gary will retire with his wife Robyn to Blackwood in South Australia after 40 years of being a priest.
He said it was a privilege to be a part of people's lives in their community and church.
“I had five parishes, and every one has given me something dif- ferent. I liken it to having five children; you love each one of them,” Father Gary said.
Father Gary had stints at Bal- ranald, Broken Hill, Bunbury in Western Australia, Kingscliff and finally Byron Bay.
Among his other achievements on the Tweed were renovating churches at Pottsville and Burringbar.
He also started a “pub church” at the old Cabarita Beach hotel, which grew into a “footy church” at the Tweed Coast Raiders grounds.
At the football church, hymns like Dropkick me Jesus, through the goal posts of life, were popular.
Huck said before Father Gary, the Kingscliff church had trouble attracting a priest
Even though Father Gary is retiring, Huck says there is no doubt he will have some type of ministry down in South Australia.
“He lives in that relationship of love of God all the time.”