Mother Joy Celebrates Ordination

Mother Joy Celebrates Ordination

February 10, 2023

Dear St. Marks,

On Tuesday, I was ordained into the Priesthood. It was a fantastic night full of celebration, tears, laughs, friends, family, and guides from various times in my life. Jordan and the choir made beautiful music, and the Daughters of the King hosted a rockin’ reception with incredible flowers from Valentinos, complete with excellent food. I am beyond thankful for your support and prayers – my beloved St. Mark’s community. No matter if you were there in person, online, in prayer, or if this is the first you are hearing about it, I’m grateful for you.

Transformation is a funny thing. It happens very slowly and also all at once. Something changed in this service on Tuesday night. At the same time, something has been changing for months. Something has been changing in my heart in every service since I began to serve with and among and alongside you all in July. In fact, I would say, it has been changing in my heart since I was made a Postulant in 2019. Indeed, God has caused a stirring in my heart long before that.

As my beloved friend, mentor, and now sister in the Priesthood whispered to me as she vested me in the chasable, ‘may the external transformation match the internal one.” As a side note, that is the same chasable Father James wore when he was ordained to the Priesthood. It is hand-made from former altar hangings – there are many gifts and connections.

Like many transformations, this is one that I will spend the rest of my life living into. I am at once fully transformed and, at the same time, I will grow evermore into this identity. Think of it like becoming a Christian or getting married. In one moment, things are shifted, and yet, the relationship is just starting. We continue to learn and love for the rest of our lives. This will, of course, be filled with mistakes, but those will be made tolerable by the balm of community and the gift of God’s grace.

What transformations are you undergoing? What work is God doing in your heart? The Holy Spirit can be sneakily doing work so quietly that you barely notice until you look up and your whole life is different. On the other hand, the transformation might be world-shifting from the very start. The life change could be somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Pay attention, my friends! The moments of transformation come fast and slow. But no matter what, know that God is with you.

Yours faithfully,
Mother Joy

Mother Joy Celebrates Ordination

Celebrating Father Dean Calcote

January 27, 2023

Dear St. Mark’s Family,

I became a resident clergy in the Diocese of Texas in October 2013. From afar, in the last ten years I have learned about and heard of many parishes. This includes St. Mark’s, Beaumont. I learned of the longstanding connection between St. Mark’s and chili! I have been amazed at the number of clergy and family who have had some type of connection to St. Mark’s, or Beaumont, or Southeast Texas. I learned about St. Mark’s deep community involvement through outreach. These are all things I knew about St. Mark’s from afar and I am so grateful to be experiencing them up close and personally!

Another part of St. Mark’s story I learned about, from clergy gatherings and Episcopal school events, is a person—Fr. Dean Calcote. Many ordinands visited with Fr. Dean through his muti-year service on the diocesan board of examining chaplains. In my own priestly experience with two previous Episcopal schools, I learned of Fr. Dean’s influence and impact in Episcopal education and the Southwestern Association of Episcopal Schools (SAES). Upon receiving the call to come to St. Mark’s, I have received the incredible gift of grace of working personally with Fr. Dean. I have learned so much about his faithful service to All Saints School and St. Mark’s. Since his arrival in 1974, he has worked with many rectors and clergy. His stable and faithful clergy presence over the last several years has been a gift of incredible grace to St. Mark’s. Fr. Dean, through his own life, shared his witness of caring for Maree during her sickness, and beginning a new chapter in life after her death. Fr. Dean has been and remains an example of deep faithfulness.

With a heart full of deep gratitude, I want to share what Fr. Dean’s presence among us will look like as we move forward in 2023. While remaining a vital part of the worshipping community at St. Mark’s, Fr. Dean’s active participation in ministry and leadership at St. Mark’s will come to an end. He will lead the Friday morning service through the month of February, as this will allow time for him to fully transition into the worshipping community at St. Mark’s.

With Fr. Dean and his family, we are planning an event later in the Spring, where we will all have a chance to gather, honor his priestly ministry, and most importantly, give thanks for the numerous ways we have been touched by Fr. Dean’s faithfulness. Please be on the lookout for when the date and event is set.

During these days, and as Fr. Dean sits and worships among us, take time to say thank you. We are a more faithful community because Fr. Dean has served so well. I give God thanks for the wonderful community of St. Mark’s, and the gift of grace in Fr. Dean Calcote.

Fr. James

New Year: Resolutions and Renewal

New Year: Resolutions and Renewal

January 13, 2023 

Dear St. Mark’s, 

I went to the wedding of a beloved friend last weekend. She and her now husband are starting a new life together. It was lovely to witness them intentionally set forth on this journey. They were making promises about how they want to live together and the kind of life they want to have as they say, “I will.” 

The night before the wedding, a friend I went to Seminary with welcomed a long-awaited child into the world. This baby is a newborn; he is beginning his life. So, while my friend is in the middle of his life, he is at the onset of his life as a father. It’s a new start in many ways. 

Many of us make new year resolutions. We long for a new life. We tend to think, ‘this is the day the first of the year when things are going to be different.’ But, alas, many of us have messed up with these goals by this second week in January.  

But there is good news. God is always inviting us into renewal. We don’t have to wait for the New Year, or Monday, or even tomorrow morning. Nothing is standing in our way. Starting again can be as soon as this next breath.  

Ruach (pronounced roo-akh) is the English spelling of the Hebrew word meaning breath, wind, or spirit. This is the word used in Genesis 1:1 in the poetic description of the beginning of the world. It’s used several times in the Old Testament. Pneuma is a Greek word that means breath, spirit, and Holy Spirit. It is used frequently when the languages switch in the New Testament.  

So, you might feel called to start again this week and going forward. You might consider that your life is taking a new path. You might want to make a new promise to yourself or to someone you love. If and when that happens, I have some ideas to consider. 

1. Take a breath. 
2. Remember this beginning. 
3. Think of the Spirit that surrounds you. 
4. Go forth and begin (again). 

Yours faithfully,
Deacon Joy

Advent: In Anticipation

Advent: In Anticipation

December 2, 2022

Dear St. Mark’s family,

We’ve begun the season of Advent, waiting, anticipation of the birth of Jesus.
I attended an Advent service in my Mom’s (Methodist) church in 2018, not long after she died. The pastor, Rev. Dr. Cindy Ryan, was talking about how Mary may have experienced that period of waiting. It probably wasn’t entirely joyous anticipation, she said. I thought about Mary being sent away to her cousin Elizabeth’s house – to be hidden from judging eyes and gossip. I thought about her not knowing what Joseph’s response would be when he found out she was pregnant with someone else’s child – whether she might be rejected, or possibly stoned. Even if all those things turned out well enough that she’d be able to have the baby, birth itself was dangerous and had to be scary for a first-time mom.

Advent seems maybe parallel in some ways like waiting through the night for the sun to come up, literally or metaphorically. It’s not possible to force the sun to rise faster; we just have to wait. Whether the darkness we’re waiting through is painful or joyous – grief, confusion, uncertainty, or anticipation – there is a limit to our power to influence how long that waiting will be, and often we have no power to influence it at all.

I love something Barbara Brown Taylor wrote in her book Learning to Walk in the Dark: “Being in the dark is not the same as being in danger.” Being afraid of the dark relates to being afraid of anything we don’t yet know – like the future. Sometimes darkness correlates with danger, and sometimes it’s kind of the opposite – darkness can provide shelter for something to finish forming. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron says “creativity, like human life itself, begins in darkness.”

Another way of thinking about darkness and waiting in between momentous events, appears in the poem by T.S. Eliot, “The Four Quartets”:

“I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,
And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama
And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away—

If you are in the dark, see if you can slow down, even come to a stop, and let your eyes adjust as you wait. It could be that something new is forming in you, in us. Or maybe the set is being changed, so that when the lights come back up, a new scene begins.

Dcn. Tracie Middleton

Advent: In Anticipation

Be Our Guest

December 9, 2022

Dear St. Mark’s Family,

This past Tuesday, Deacon Joy offered the homily at Tuesday Healing Eucharist. Tuesday was the feast day of St. Nicholas and the gospel lesson used was:

Matthew 18:12-14

What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

I was very moved with how Deacon Joy spoke of the incredible charity for which Nicholas has always been known, and then how that kind of charity is seen in the love for the ninety-nine and the one that was lost. This point really resonated with me…it is both/and. It is the ninety-nine and the one that are loved by the shepherd.

We are still on our Advent journey and can begin seeing and feeling the coming celebration of Christ’s birth at Christmas. The deep love of Jesus, which Nicholas tried to faithfully practice, is at the core of our faith. This love is sheer gift, as it cannot be earned nor merited. We cannot make ourselves worthy to receive. I think this is part of why it is both so amazing and disconcerting to receive such grace and love. We might often feel like we must earn it (from the belief that nothing in this world is free), and when we fall short, we might also think that we are so unworthy that the gift should not be wasted on us. It can be so hard to rest on the belief that we are of value simply because God says we are.

I was visiting with a friend this week and they told me how messy their life is right now. There are family dynamics that are terribly complex, and it is hard to see how it can be and will be resolved. These friends are deeply faithful and bear witness to how this season of Advent waiting is incredibly messy. In our rush to Christmas, we so want things to be resolved so we can get on with the carols and festivities of the coming season.

Advent waiting might entail for you collapsing into the deep love of Jesus Christ. The mess in our lives will not be cleaned up quickly. There are not readily available answers to our troubling questions. It might be difficult to see how our own choices or of those we love can be redeemed. Yet, amid all of this, God loves, Period. God loves us. Perhaps a gift you can give yourself is to simply say, God loves me. If you are the lost one, God loves you. If you are in the ninety-nine, God loves you. Wherever you find yourself right now, trust you are beloved by God.

Fr. James