From the very last pew of the overflowing sanctuary, Dot Hill raised her hand softly when the question was asked if any congregants had been present the last time Apalachicola’s Trinity Episcopal Church ordained a priest.
That ordination, in the 1838 sanctuary of what is now the second oldest continuously serving church in Florida, had taken place about 60 years ago.
Behind Hill, in the furthest corner of the sanctuary, lay the infant Lucy Newman sound asleep in her father’s arms, his job to make sure she didn’t disturb this both solemn and joyous occasion of the ordination of her grandfather, Stephen Douglas Pecot as an Episcopal priest.
Lucy slept like an angel throughout, enveloped by the same bliss that infused the church on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 7.
The ministration of the liturgy for the occasion was led by the Right Reverend James Russell Kendrick, bishop of the diocese of the Gulf Coast, who stood before the entire congregation and asked of Pecot, “Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this church has received them?”
Pecot answered in response “I am ready and willing to do so.”
The bishop then asked of the congregation “Is it your will that Stephen be ordained a priest?”
The people responded “It is.”
“Will you uphold him in this ministry?” the bishop asked.
“We will,” the people responded, in unison.
Dressed in white garments, trimmed in red, the ministers of the liturgy filed in with Pecot together with the bishop. They included the deacon, The Rev. Deacon Bradford Leon Clark; readers Candace Springer, Dee Crusoe, and Rennie Edwards; litanist Susan Galloway; lay eucharist ministers Patti McCartney and Kirk Hadaway; acolyte Susan Farmer; banner bearer Jason Carter; oblation bearers Katherine and Andy Pitts; presenters The Rev. John Keith Talbert, Kay Kirn, Douglas Pecot, Pecot’s son, and Ruth Pietkiewicz; vesters Travis Pecot and Miranda Newman, Pecot’s wife and daughter; the Trinity Episcopal Choir directed by Randy Mims, together with organist Martha Watson; ushers Ralph Wagoner, Charles Galloway and Tom Edwards; and verger Brooks Jones.
The most vocal and expressive of these liturgists was no doubt the Rev. Dr. Mark Andrew Jefferson, an assistant professor of homiletics, which is the art of preaching and writing sermons, at Virginia Theological seminary, where Pecot received his theological training following a business career, in part in forestry.
Preaching in a style reminiscent of Black churches, Jefferson, who among his courses at the seminary has taught “Hip Hop and Homiletics,” drew on the reading in Ephesians, that “Each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christs’s gift… so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
Jefferson captivated the audience with both his message and meter, reminding them how “the winds of the Holy Spirit blow through this place, even this afternoon… speaking the truth in love.”
In conducting the ordination, the bishop laid hands on Pecot and later joined him in sharing communion with a lengthy queue of celebrants. While not fully ordained, Pecot joined the church earlier this year, and had conducted communion under a deacon status granted him by the church.
Pecot, who grew up Catholic in Louisiana in a family of eight, became an Eagle Scout and then, over the course of his career and spiritual journey, grew to become active in the Episcopal Church. His siblings were on hand for this ordination, and shared tears of joy at the moment.
He and his wife Travis are parents to Douglas, Miranda, Ruth and James, and their grandchild Lucy.
In his writing on the first page of the ordination program, Pecot shared details of the many moments that had formed him from the time he was baptized in Our Lady of Divine Providence Catholic Church in Kenner, Louisiana, through the many places where he had worshiped and learned.
“I thank you all for ushering in colors of life, I didn’t even know existed,” he wrote of his family. “In my life, I love you more.”
He closed his writing by expressing to all “May your life be a continuous and joyous journey with God through your holy moments.”