Bishop Edgar Ordains Seven to Diaconate

Deacons gather following ordination, photo: Ginnie Raines

“From the moment I entered the cathedral, my heart soared with joy,” said the now-Rev. Scott Poelker, one of seven ordained to the diaconate at the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul on January 27. “It felt like I was carried aloft by the household of faith to the banquet of our Lord. I was fed spiritual energy for the task that lies ahead.”

Bishop Edgar spoke to them about the task ahead by reading from an 1860 advertisement for the Pony Express. “Wanted. Young, skinny, wiry fellows, not over 18. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.”

“Everything about it (the Pony Express)” said Edgar, “promised excitement, challenge, adventure, significance. Would you apply? If you knew that a course of action was inherently dangerous, would you sign on?” The Bishop tied the immediacy (and adventure) of the Pony Express job, to the word “immediately” used in the Gospel of Mark, but stressed the word didn’t mean what we usually associate it with. “Mark isn’t trying to tell us that Jesus was just flying around the Galilee, one thing to the next, fast as he could go…” Instead, he said, “Jesus was well-placed, doing exactly what the Father wanted him to do through the power of the Holy Spirit.” He stressed that this is what the deacons are called to as well.

“Today, deacons (almost!), you are here because, not just in your own hearts and minds, but immediately in line with the discerning work of the Church, which we trust is immediately in touch with the call of the Holy Spirit.”

Meet the Newly Ordained Deacons

Joel Billings

Joel Billings is a member of St. John’s Church in Florence and is currently employed with the Florence County Sheriff’s Office as the full-time Chaplain/Deputy. He has been married to his wife, Lindsey, for 30 years, and they have been blessed with three sons, Trenton, Grant and Blaine. He has been a past member of the parish choir and is a lay reader for Sunday services. Joel’s ministry in and outside the church has included vacation Bible school leader, assisting youth ministry, group Bible study leader, Young Life of Florence committee member and chairman, and serving full-time for seven years with an international missions agency, Operation Mobilization. (See story pg. 13)

Thad Bullock

Thad Bullock is a member of The Parish Church at Habersham, in Beaufort, one of the newest mission congregations in the Diocese. He was part of the original organizing team and now serves as the church’s Senior Warden. Prior to joining The Parish Church, he was a member of St. Helena’s in Beaufort, since 2002. He is currently in the Master of Divinity program at Columbia International University. Before answering the call to full-time ministry, he received his undergraduate degree in English from Catawba College, and he has had a 20-plus year career in the premium appliance industry. He and his wife, Minnie, have two married children Thaddeus and Seth. During his free time, Thad enjoys hiking, playing golf, and reading.

Chet Houston

Chet Houston is a member of the Parish Church of St. Helena in Beaufort. After a career of over 26 years, Chet retired from the United States Marine Corps in 2015 and began working with the Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Beaufort as the Executive Director, until he accepted a position aboard the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island in October of 2019. He graduated from the University of Maryland, University College with a Bachelor’s Degree in management studies, and also holds an MBA from Norwich University. He and his wife of 32 years, Marcy, live in Beaufort and have three grown children. As result of multiple military moves, Chet has been blessed to serve in multiple congregations and parishes in different states and one foreign country. Chet grew up in the Episcopal tradition as a torch bearer, acolyte, and youth group mentor. As an adult, he has served as a LEM, chalice bearer, usher, Alpha group host, cursillista, vestryman, and a member of various committees.

Scott Poelker

Scott Poelker has been a member of St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Summerville for 30 years, where he has served as Senior Warden (twice), adult education teacher, prayer minister, Stephen Minister, lay eucharistic minister, scoutmaster, and food ministry volunteer. He has also served in the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina as Trustee and assistant coordinator for the 2019 Behold the Man pilgrimage to Israel. Scott recently retired from a 44-year career, serving as the Senior Vice President for Business Affairs at Trident Technical College and as an officer in the Navy Civil Engineer Corps. His experience includes financial management, project management, and facilities design and construction. He has degrees in engineering from Duke and Georgia Tech and a graduate certificate in higher education leadership from the University of South Carolina. Scott was rescued from a path of self-destruction by the Lord Jesus and his wife Pam. Scott and Pam have been blessed with 43 years of marriage, two adult children, and three grandchildren.

Doug Ringer

Doug Ringer is a member of St. Philip’s Church, Charleston, where, along with his wife of 56 years, Scharlene, he has worshiped since moving into the area eight years ago. Doug has been active in the St. Philip’s healing prayer ministry as well as providing Eucharist to homebound church members. He leads a weekly combined Morning Prayer/Eucharist service at the Canterbury House in downtown Charleston and the Atria assisted living and memory care facility in Mt. Pleasant. Doug is presently engaged as the Bishop’s Chaplain, accompanying and assisting Bishop Edgar on his official visits to various locations within the Diocese. He is a B.S. graduate of the University of South Carolina and has an M.A. from Appalachian State University. Doug worked as a Special Agent with NCIS for several years before segueing into the CIA, where he was a case officer for 29 years before retirement. Doug and Scharlene have two daughters and four grandchildren.

Earl Sease

Earl Sease has been a member of Christ-St. Paul’s Church in Hollywood since 2012. He has served on the vestry as Junior Warden, is currently serving as a lay eucharistic minister, serves as a Reader and Chalice Bearer, ministers in two nursing homes weekly offering a service and communion for the sick, and is involved with Pastoral Care, visiting those in the parish who are unable to attend church. He has been active in helping those in the community in need, such as building wheelchair ramps and assisting in home repairs. Earl served in the Marine Corps, then graduated from The Citadel as a veteran student. He retired at age 57 from The Prudential Insurance Co. after working as a financial planner. Earl and his wife, Trudy, have been married for 35 years and have two children and four grandchildren. By the Grace of God, at the age of 80, he looks forward to this next chapter as a Deacon.

Heather Okuda

Heather Okuda is being ordained by Bishop Edgar on behalf of the Jurisdiction of the Armed Forces and Anglican Chaplains. Okuda, who serves as a full-time hospice chaplain at Capstone Hospice in the greater Atlanta area, received her MDiv with a concentration in Professional Chaplaincy from Liberty University in 2022. Prior to discerning her career as a chaplain, she worked as a publicist in the book division of a public relations firm in New York City. She has a Master of Public Administration degree with a concentration in Nonprofit Management from Seton Hall University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Multimedia Journalism with a minor in Studio Arts from CUNY. In her free time, Heather loves to write creatively while in nature, compete in trail running races, and listen to audiobooks. She is married to Hiroshi Okuda, and together they are raising Kai Noah and Ren Luka in addition to pet-parenting four rescued cats, a therapy dog, and a bearded dragon.

View a fuller photo album of the ordination at