The St. Luke’s congregation has opened its arms to a new rector – Father Stephen D. Hood, who comes to Bartlesville from suburban Birmingham, Alabama.
Fr. Hood, who also has served congregations in Baton Rouge and Thibodaux, Louisiana, is no stranger to Bartlesville. His maternal grandparents, Roy and Odelia Vinyard, lived here for many years and until recently his brother John was a local resident.
“I have many fond childhood memories of holidays and summer vacations at my grandparents’ home on Dewey Avenue,” Fr. Hood recalled. “Bartlesville has always seemed like a very welcoming community.”
The new rector, who took on his role in October, said that relocating to St. Luke’s was especially appealing to him because of the congregation’s caring spirit, which is exemplified in the church’s motto, “With Arms Wide Open.”
“It’s my intent to assist the congregation in making sure our church doors are open to all people,” he said, “We want the community to know that we are a safe place where people of different outlooks can explore and expand their faith in an non-judgmental atmosphere of love.”
The new rector characterized St. Luke’s as “a hidden jewel in the city – a place of reverence and a community of believers who are serious about their faith and demonstrate that every day through actions in the community.”
Fr. Hood, 49, and his wife, Tracy, have four school-age children through a blended marriage that occurred a little over a year ago. For the time being, Tracy is living in the Dallas area, where she is a third-grade public school teacher. The Hoods hope to live here altogether as a family during the coming year.
Born in Texas, Fr. Hood spent most of his childhood in Richardson, Texas. After graduation from high school there, he went on to get his undergraduate degree at Texas State University. With a strong interest in the outdoors and youth activities, he spent four summers working in various staff positions at Philmont, the internationally famous Boy Scout ranch in New Mexico.
His passion for Scouting continued into his first job after graduation when he was selected as field executive for the Istrouma Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He served a suburban and rural district north of New Orleans. His principal assignment there was to start new units and to recruit donors, volunteer leaders, scouts and chartering partners.
While working to organize a scout troop affiliated with a small African-American church in a rural, largely low-income area, Fr. Hood experienced an awakening to the call to become a pastor.
“In a meeting regularly with the clergy of this church, I was able to get a firsthand look at how pastors cared for their people, and how the congregation cared for each other, and how they all worked to improve their community,” he said.
Also during this transformational period, Fr. Hood went through the BSA’s Wood Badge training program, an advanced leadership course for Scouting volunteers and professionals. The course along with conversations with a seasoned Scout volunteer, deepened Fr. Hood’s appreciation of the importance of reverence in daily life.
“As much as I enjoyed the great job I had working with Scouting, I now felt that my real calling was in the ministry,” Fr. Hood explained.
He enrolled in the School of Theology at the University of the South, graduating with a Master of Divinity in 2002. A life-long Episcopalian, Fr. Hood first served as the rector for a small, but active congregation in Thibodaux, Louisiana. From 2005 to 2007, he worked as associate rector in a much larger church in Baton Rouge.
Most recently, he was rector for the last 10 years at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, near Birmingham. While in Alabama, he also served as Chair of the Department of Camp McDowell and on the board of the Greater Alabama Council of the Boy Scouts of America.