Fr. Mark McNary Returns to Lead St. Peter Church + Fort Worth, TX
AXIOS, he is worthy! With those words Deacon Mark McNary was ordained into the priesthood at St. Basil Orthodox Church in Metairie, Louisiana on December 15, 2013. He is now caring for the Holy Antimins on the altar of St. Peter Church in Fort Worth Texas—the very church where he attended his first Orthodox service in 2007.
On January 19, 2014, His Grace Bishop John, Auxiliary Bishop for Western Rite, officiated at the induction of Fr. Mark as the parish's third rector of the largest Western Rite parish in Texas. Kent Schmedel, senior warden of St. Peter's vestry, presented Fr. Mark with the keys to the sanctuary. Seven parishioners were also received into the Order of St. Ignatius. The parish then hosted a country western luncheon to welcome Bishop John and Fr. Mark to Fort Worth and presented each with his own special "Cowtown" hat.
Fr. Mark grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana and attended college in Nashville, Tennessee where he earned a Bachelor's degree in Music Business with a Business Administration Minor from Belmont University. From 2007 to 2010, he completed the St. Stephen's Course of Study. In 2011, he earned his Master's Degree in Applied Orthodox Theology from Balamand University.
After his early college work, he returned to New Orleans and his conservative Presbyterian Church there and said he "began to understand my pastoral calling." He then ventured to the Restoration Church as associate pastor in Huntsville, Alabama from 1999-2002. He was associate pastor and led worship through contemporary music and started a college/career ministry. Fr. Mark shares that it was during that time that he began to sense that "there has to be something more to the Lord's Church." He wondered if it was "a focus on evangelism that is missing" so, with another pastor, he started his next venture with a church in Belle Chasse, Louisiana.
He shared that he still had "this feeling there was something more to church." His mother gave him a 12-tape teaching series entitled "The Power of the Holy Spirit in the Liturgy" with the basic message on the teaching of the Early Church. He said he then realized that he needed to dedicate himself to begin studying when there was just one Church and not over 25,000 Christian denominations. So he began attending St. Michael's Seminary that was attached to the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church.
After that he started the Lamb of God Charismatic Episcopal Church in his home with wife Debbie. He remarked that God provided the congregation with a church building to share with another struggling congregation in May 2005. In August of that year, Hurricane Katrina decimated the area and destroyed the building in which his parish was meeting and caused the relocation of parishioners to other cities for their livelihood. The ICCEC sent funds so Fr. Mark could be out in the city to help others with their needs and also serve their pastoral needs, which he did for a year. In 2007, ICCEC began to have directional issues and broke off from the rest of the communion of churches. At that time he asked for and received permission from his bishop to explore the Orthodox Church. Fr. Mark then attended his first Orthodox Church service in 2007 at St. Peter's Orthodox Church in Fort Worth.
While he wanted to bring his extremely small parish in Louisiana into Orthodoxy in the Western Rite, it was deemed that the parish was too small at that time. Fr. Mark laid down his collar and followed the direction of the church and began the St. Stephen's Course of Study and started to assist the chanters at St. Basil Eastern Orthodox Church in Metairie, Louisiana. He said he had a growing appreciation for the Eastern rite but still wanted to either begin a Western Rite mission parish in New Orleans or to be assigned to a Western Rite parish. His journey has now led him to St. Peter's as our former pastor, the V. Rev. Fr. Anthony Miller, succumbed to cancer last June.
Fr. Mark and wife Debbie have been married 21 years and bring with them their three children. Jonathan, 14, enjoys playing sports, especially basketball and football. Jesse, 12, is the family's "great outdoorsman," and he and his dad have participated in Boy Scouts together and Jesse is determined to become an Eagle Scout. Daughter Elisabeth is 7 and enjoys art, music and reading.
Debbie has a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary education from Belmont University and completed her Master's in Marriage and Family Counseling from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary two weeks after their first child was born. The McNary children have been homeschooled since kindergarten. Debbie teaches all three of the children using the classical methodology in education. Since St. Peter's has its own classical school on campus, their adjustment should be relatively natural.
Fr. Robert Weber, who came to St. Peter's with the original founding group in 1992 as a parishioner, has been leading the parish after his ordination in June. He will continue as assistant pastor along with his supervisory position at Cook Children's Hospital in Fort Worth.
Fr. Robert and Kent Schmedel expressed tremendous appreciation to Rt. Rev. Daniel Keller, Western Rite dean of the Diocese of Wichita, and Scott Moore for their spiritual leadership during the parish's transitional period.