The Reverend Allen Doerksen is no stranger to the Diocese of New Westminster as he was appointed Rector of St. Matthew’s, Abbotsford and Missioner to the Valley (now Yale) Deanery in 2011 . Over the years his ministry evolved, the focus changed and about a year after the retirement of St. Thomas, Chilliwack’s longtime rector, the Reverend John Sovereign in the spring of 2017, Fr. Allen began his new ministry as interim priest-in-charge of the parish.
This arrangement has worked very well for both the parish and the priest and it seemed only fitting that Archbishop Skelton with the counsel of the parish leadership would work to create the opportunity where Fr. Allen could continue his ministry ½ time at St. Matthew’s and also take on the “without term” posting as half-time Vicar of St. Thomas. Although this shared ministry of priest and parish has been in process for some time now it was officially celebrated on November 12, 2019.
There was an excellent turnout for worship on the bright clear Tuesday night in the Fraser Valley. A good cohort of clergy from the region and beyond were also present to participate in a liturgy that included the Covenant in Ministry, the official recognition by the archbishop, the diocese and the parish that Fr. Allen is the ordained leader of their shared ministry.
As Archbishop Skelton was (and is) on study leave, the officiant was the executive archdeacon of the diocese, the Venerable Douglas Fenton and the preacher was the Venerable Allan Carson, Archdeacon of Lougheed and Rector of St. John the Baptist, Sardis, the Anglican parish located about 10 kilometres to the southeast of downtown Chilliwack which is where St. Thomas’ is located.
Archdeacon Carson took the Gospel, John 21: 15-17. In his sermon he focused on the concepts of friendship and community and Jesus’s command to Simon Peter to “Feed my lambs.” Toward the conclusion of the sermon he said:
“To change the world we have to be a true friend. To build an alternate community, a city on the hill, which is what the Church is called to do we have to be a true friend. To invite people to live in this new community, this new realm we have to be a true friend. When Jesus is on the beach and calling out to them as ones that he cares for he calls them friends… He (Jesus) is telling them what is on his heart and that he is going to lay his life down for them. A true friend always lets you in and never lets you down.
Are you open? Are you unconditionally there for others or do you use them? Is your friendship for what you can get out of them or for what you can impart to them? When we hear the word friend we automatically think of those whom we have let into our lives. Those who are already our friends. Those whom we have chosen to be friends with. Jesus tells Peter – “feed my lambs.” Feed. The relationship is not to get fed but to feed. Feed my lambs - the needy, I don’t know of anyone who has a lamb for a pet, lambs require a great deal of care. Feed my lambs. Feed the ones I send to you not just the ones you choose. We know how to make friends with people that we are attracted to and who are interested in the things we are interested in and who have relatively low levels of need. Jesus is saying to us ‘don’t only look at the people you have chosen but look at the ones chosen for you.’ The ones the Lord brings into your lives. Are you willing to welcome his lambs?”
After the sermon the Covenant in Ministry began with the new vicar reading and signing the Oaths and Subscriptions after they had been administered by the executive archdeacon as required by the Canons of the Ecclesiastical Province. The Archbishop’s License of Institution was also read aloud.
Next was the Presentation of the Symbols of Ministry. Near the beginning of this section (following the presentations of the Bible, prayer books, water for the font and Holy oils) of the liturgy a member of the congregation tripped and fell. There was a pause in the service as they were made comfortable by others, 911 was called, and emergency medical care providers dispatched. As Holy oils had just been presented to Fr. Allen by one of the deacons, the Reverend David Koe, Fr. Allen gathered the community in prayer and applied the oil to the head of the injured worshipper. When all were satisfied that the injured party was cared for, the liturgy continued and the EMT team arrived within minutes. The injured person was cared for by the EMT professionals and was taken to hospital. Although suffering a nasty cut to the face, the follow-up reports were all positive and the victim of the fall is doing well.
The Reverend Paul Bowie, Regional Dean of Yale and Rector of All Saints’, Mission welcomed Fr. Allen to the deanery. Of course Fr. Allen has been a clergy member of the deanery for more than 8 years so that irony was not ignored. Rev. Bowie did make an astute observation about this ministry post. He said that as interim priest-in-charge, Fr. Allen had had a role in discerning the parish’s future, its vision for ministry, and its plan for mission. But now that he is vicar he will have substantial responsibility for implementing those mission and ministry plans. This comment was met with smiles and laughter from the congregation and the new vicar.
Following the Prayers of the People, the Peace, and the central focus of our worship - the Eucharist, the liturgy concluded and the majority of those gathered reconvened in the parish hall for refreshments, a celebratory cake and to spend some time together.
Please keep the Parish of St. Thomas, Chilliwack and their vicar, the Reverend Fr. Allen Doerksen in your prayers as the embark together on this new ministry.
(An extended version of this article complete with an interview with Fr. Allen Doerksen will be published in the January 2020 issue of Topic, the publication of the Diocese of New Westminster)