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Historic Church Celebrates Ordination

by Ruth Ann Ruiz
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By Ruth Ann Ruiz

The Post Newspaper Features Editor 

There is more than one way to become a leader of God’s people, and Dr. Eric Joseph Ellis found the path within his faith tradition that would take him as a man with a profession and a family and make him a leader of a spiritual family as the newly ordained priest/vicar at St Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church in Galveston.

Baptized and raised Episcopalian, Ellis had a life that was going along according to his personal plans. He had a wife and two children, whom he adores, and a dental practice in League City. 

Selecting his bride was something he took very seriously because he had been a child of a broken home. He explained he valued the vows of marriage and wanted to keep those vows. But the ability to keep his marriage healthy wasn’t in his hands alone.

It was in the time of marital discord that Eric Ellis, the dentist, and family man, drew closer to God’s guidance and comfort. 

“I was facing a reality that there was no way I could do on my own. I was entirely supported by God, and my deeper surrender to him made me want to make Christ a more focal point of my life,” Ellis shared. 

He shared that he feels that not putting Christ at the center of his marriage is why it failed, so he intends to counsel couples to put Christ at the center of their lives and their marriages. 

During his own spiritual awakening, he discovered another dimension for his life.

“My own priest at St Christopher Episcopal Church in League City suggested I consider attending seminary,” Ellis shared. 

His path to the priesthood began with attending seminary at Iona School for Ministry just Northwest of Houston. Iona is a part-time program designed for people who have jobs and family seeking to move into a role of leadership in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.

 “Iona is kind of like an executive MBA program,” explained the Rev. Francene Young who serves as Dean of Administration at the school.

Attending Iona meant Ellis would one day serve as a volunteer at a small church, and Reverend Francene Young noticed right away that Ellis had what it would take to be a priest within a small congregation.

“He was very creative, very upbeat and positive which are important qualities for a small church,” Young said. “He took on leadership tasks with his fellow students at Iona.” She explained his willingness to do so was another indicator he would one day be able to lead a church. 

But no matter how qualified, how dedicated, or how many classes he attended, it would take a church calling him to serve as their priest for Ellis to go from being a deacon to becoming a priest. 

The leadership team at St Augustine of Hippo was searching for a new priest after theirs was called to serve in Florida, and Ellis had the qualities they were seeking. 

“You know. You just know, and we prayed on it for a while, and we just knew. He was just the right light and vibe for our church,” said Sam Daniels, a senior leader at the church, as he radiated confidence and pride in their decision. 

Daniels has a special place in his own heart for the church. “I was born and raised right here,” Daniels said. 

With all his training behind him, and with the agreement of St Augustine of Hippo, along with the agreement of the Diocese of Texas and, most important of all, in cooperation with God’s will, it was time for Ellis to be ordained a priest.

His ordination went off without a glitch. It would seem God was sending His warmth and approval of the ordination. The gray clouds parted just in time for Mardi Gras parades to proceed without rain on the Saturday of the ordination. 

The departure of gray skies allowed not only for enjoyment of parades but also for the sun’s bright warmth to enter the sanctuary of St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church just a few blocks away from the entertaining, festive parades.

A small sanctuary built in the 1800s as the first African American Episcopal church in Texas, the room was filled, and overflow guests joined in the ordination via live streaming in the church’s fellowship hall. Some estimates were that more than 200 people came to witness the ordination. 

Piano playing by a petite woman whose face was barely visible above her music stand set the ordination’s tone with a welcoming, friendly, and lively vibe. Attendees participated in her music by singing, Lift Every Voice and Sing along with other spiritual songs throughout the service. 

There were moments of solemnity, as one would expect with an ordination of a priest, but those moments were quickly followed by a lighter, happier spirit that dominated the service.

Some new congregants at the church, Maddy and Zach who had been looking for a home church, explained that it is the lighthearted vibe of Ellis that drew them into the congregation. 

Ellis’ children, ages 16 and 21, participated in their father’s ordination service. His son shared a talent for playing the trumpet, and his daughter contributed her gifts to the choir. When the time came for Ellis to be draped with his inaugural red priest’s stole and Chasuble, they were by his side draping their earthly father’s shoulders with his stole and then his red priest chasuble.

 His ordination was a moment in time for him to cherish, but the work of being the Vicar at St Augustine is what he was called to do. That work began the very next Sunday with him celebrating the Holy Eucharist with the congregation as its priest. 

The friendly, joyous spirit of the previous day again dominated the gathering. The petite pianist again played, and those in attendance added their voices. 

Reverend Ellis came down from the platform and spoke in the main isle of the sanctuary with a voice of one who cares about his flock. His congregation welcomed him, and when he lost his place in his readings, he was given a smile and a gesture of guidance without any sense of criticism. 

A further honor was bestowed upon Father Ellis by his congregation, Michelle Allen and Sam Daniels came up the isle with a gift bag. Tucked inside the bag was a priest’s stole embossed with colors and symbols, which, according to Daniels, are significant for African Americans. 

Finally, after a whirlwind of prestigious moments, with the Rt. Rev. Hector F. Monterroso, Bishop Assistant of Texas leading the ordination that was celebrated by all present, either in person or through the help of technology, a relaxed and joyous smile broke out on the newly ordained priest who had just completed officiating his first full mass. 

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1 comment

Kevin February 12, 2024 - 3:44 am

Wonderful and well-written story!


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