Deacon Stella and Dave Clark

Deacon Stella and Dave Clark
By Julia Ariail
Posted October 29, 2013

In recognition of Deacon Stella Clark’s retirement from the active diaconate on October 30, 2013 and in thanksgiving for her many years of service, we are re-posting this article that originally appeared in the March 2009 Vineyard as a part of a series of articles on the clergy of Christ Episcopal Church.

An article about Deacon Clark’s pilgrimage on the Way of St. James in Spain in the summer of 2010, with a link to her photo album from this trip, is available here.

The text of a sermon by Deacon Clark from July 2013 is available here.

The Rev. Deacon Stella Clark

Stella Clark was born to George and Jo Mingea in Manchester, Georgia and moved when she was one month old to Boston, Massachusetts. Her father worked for U.S. Steel. The family moved to the interior of Venezuela where they lived in a camp owned by the steel company. She attended the fifth through the eleventh grades in a very small school. In fact, when she was in the eighth grade she recalls that there were only two students in her grade and 23 students in the whole school. Stella moved back to Manchester and lived with her grandparents to attend the twelfth grade and to graduate from Manchester High School. She won the Miss Flint River beauty pageant and participated in the Miss Georgia Pageant. That same year her parents moved to Liberia in Africa with Republic Steel.

Stella has fond memories of her life in Venezuela. Every two years in Orlando, Florida, she attends a reunion of approximately 150 people who lived in the two adjoining Venezuelan U.S. Steel camps.

“My experience in Venezuela gave me a love of learning, languages, and new experiences,” she said. “Of course I spoke Spanish well then, but since I don’t use it often, I have forgotten much of it.”

Stella began her nurse’s training at St Francis Hospital in Columbus, Georgia after high school. She worked as an apprentice mortician in Manchester during the weekends and holidays. She met her husband, Dave while working at Cox Funeral Home during Christmas break. He was a senior at Millsaps College, home for the holiday. He looked up, saw her, and said to himself, “I’m going to marry that girl.”

The Rev. Deacon Stella Clark.

They married in 1966. Dave and Stella moved to Atlanta, to Norfolk, Virginia and to Gulfport, Mississippi. First Danny, then Michael, then Jennifer were born, and Stella resumed her nurse’s training when the family moved to Valdosta attending and graduating from Valdosta Technical College as a licensed practical nurse. She was the Georgia Occupation Award of Leadership (GOAL) winner and outstanding student in 1985. Since then she has worked for a Valdosta pediatrician for 14 years and has been the school nurse at Lake Park Elementary for 9 years.

Dave, Stella and their children joined Christ Church in 1976, the year they moved to Valdosta.

“I think my call to work for the church came early in my life,” said Stella. “I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church and when the Bishop from Caracas came to our camp to confirm me, he slapped my cheek and called me a soldier for Christ. I have felt that very strongly ever since.”

Fr. Henry Louttit, the rector of Christ Church in 1988 and now Bishop of Georgia, worked to revive the diaconate. Fr. Peter Ingeman was the assistant at Christ Church at the time and preached about “Putting on the Armor of God” one Sunday.

“I told him I was ready to put that armor on,” she said. “Now what do I do?”

Jennifer Singleton with her father, Dave Clark. Photograph by David Singleton.

Fr. Peter responded that he would have the answer for her next Sunday. He recommended the diaconate. She began study in 1988 and was ordained at Christ Church in 1990 by Bishop Harry Shipps.

As a deacon Stella has had many ministries mostly dealing with health related issues. For several years she worked with the AIDS and HIV victims. She is currently working with the Partnership Health Center, a free medical clinic in Valdosta for low income working families. She also assists in raising funds for the group.

In the Diocese of Georgia, she serves on the Commission on Ministry to assist others who are seeking ordination in the Episcopal Church. She has led the project to collect pop tabs at Christ Church for the Ronald McDonald House in Atlanta where she and Dave stayed when their son Michael was in the hospital in Atlanta. Dave and Stella lost Michael in 1995 after a lifelong struggle with cystic fibrosis.

Deacon Stella at the children's service on Christmas Eve.

They have four grandchildren. Raini and Phoebe Singleton are Jennifer and David Singleton’s daughters. Mackenzie and Reagan are Danny and Kim Clark’s daughters.

Dave retired from Mackey Lumber Company this year after 33 years. He still maintains an office there and assists the owner with special projects. He has served on the Lowndes County Board of Education for 12 years. He and some friends own Bill’s Fish Camp on the Suwannee River where they often go for rest and relaxation. Dave likes to fish and frequently brings fish to cook with the Men In Blue, the men’s group at Christ Church which he founded. He also serves the diocese as a member of the Conference Center Commission.

Stella’s favorite hymn is “How Great Thou Art.” She is famous within our church for her Christmas Eve children’s service puppet sermons. Asked what program not currently offered at Christ Church she would like to see implemented, Stella suggested a young adult class to focus on how to love your spouse and raise children in a Christian environment.