On Saturday, January 18, an overflow crowd welcomed Rev. Craig and Holly Tanksley into the parish hall of St. Mark’s, Ocean Park for a farewell party and to wish them “Happy Retirement” before they begin the next transition of life with a couple of months vacation in Africa.
The MC for the afternoon was past People’s Warden Roger Hussen who did an outstanding job keeping the program flowing. Roger welcomed four members of Craig’s family from the Seattle-Tacoma area who drove north not only for the party but worshipped with the parish on Sunday morning. There was time for everyone to have a few minutes with the nearly-retired couple. Past Rector’s Warden Lynne Hurd, ODNW opened the festivities with prayer. A few brave people made their way to the microphone to share anecdotes, short stories about Craig and Holly’s ministry.
Early in December of 2019, four lists requesting volunteers to perform various duties were posted on prominently visible walls. Within a week, all 32 positions were filled, so there was lots of help to prepare the food, serve food, set-up/take down and dishwashing. This advance sign-up helped with the planning of the event, which was organized by a committee chaired by Rector’s Warden, Barb Walks. The finger food was delicious and included: rolled cold cuts, pickles, crackers, cheese, wraps, sausage rolls, cheese bread and platters of fresh fruit and vegetables. There was lots of food to go around.
Musical numbers were performed by The Marksmen with piano accompanist Kerry O’Donovan. The music chosen included two of Craig’s gospel favourites, “Just a Little Walk with Jesus” and “May the Lord Bless and Keep You.” Craig joined the Marksmen on stage part way through the first number to sing along. Holly joined them for the final gospel number. The St. Mark’s Choir led by Cecilia Wong sang two short parodies “I Will Survive” and “Jesus Loves Me.” Roger Hussen composed the lyrics, which included “Yes, Craig is retiring” instead of “Yes, Jesus loves me.”
A letter of congratulations was read by Barb Walks from Archbishop Melissa Skelton. This letter was also read at both of the Sunday services and the text appears later in this article. Other letters were read from Honorary Assistant Rev. Sue Foley-Currie and Past Assistant Rev. Jonathan Blanchard.
Craig and Holly were given an opportunity to respond and they did by giving thanks for everyone’s hard work in planning and putting on the farewell party. The Tanksley’s were overwhelmed with the response and the love shown to them. Roger thanked everyone for everyone’s help which made the party run very smoothly.
Michael Klaver led all of us in a final prayer before Craig asked all of us to join him and say “The Grace.”
On Sunday, January 19, the 10am Sung Holy Communion for the Second Sunday after Epiphany at St. Mark’s, Ocean Park would mark the final Sunday worship of Craig’s incumbency. Following a brief greeting offered by Craig and a request that the congregation prepare for worship the opening strains of the Processional Hymn, “Be Thou My Vision” were played on the organ by Cecilia Wong and the service began. At the conclusion of the hymn, Craig commented that “Be Thou My Vision” was a hymn sung at his wedding, his marriage to Holly.
Although the Eucharist is central to worship in the Anglican tradition everyone was poised to experience the sermon, billed in the pew bulletin as “MESSAGE.” Craig began his homily by asking the question, “Wasn’t that a great party last night?” And then he added “We should’ve just stayed here, made it a pajama party… a sleepover.”
He reflected on his experiences as the ordained leader of the parish for 12 years and how he and Holly have come to love the parish. He said a little bit about retirement and hoped that it wouldn’t be about an end or a slow down but more a change, an opportunity to refocus and recharge.
He directed his attention to the Epistle read that day, 1 Corinthians 1: 1-9 and the messages it contains that bring comfort to a community about to go into new territory. It affirms God’s faithfulness. He spoke about his days at VST and the change that came for him in how he approached ministry and faith emerging from an evangelical background and the Pentecostal denomination. He made a number of references to his ordination and advice that he’d received. Toward the end of his homily he said:
“Today at the end of my journey, I offer these words that were offered to me at the beginning of my journey, ‘Be the Church’. Be the Church – you are the Church. God has chosen you. God has given you many gifts. God has promised to care for you and walk with you to the very end… stand firm in your faith, Be the Church. Here is the promise that Paul concludes with in the passage in Verse 9 (1 Corinthians). He said ‘God is faithful and has called you into fellowship with Jesus.’ God cares for you.
I wanted this message to be about you this morning. Because we love you. And even though Holly and I are journeying on, we are going to be with you here, in spirit, we are going to be praying for you, we are going to be rooting for you… that cloud of witnesses (hopefully we’ll still be alive)… we will be rooting and praying for St. Mark’s, we love you… thank you, thank you so much. God bless you.”
The rest of the service included a lengthy sharing of the Peace of the Lord and a prayerful sung Celebration of the Eucharist. The choir sang an anthem, “Go Now in Peace” which was followed by the Announcements. The “announcement” this week was a letter to the Parish of St. Mark from Archbishop Skelton read by People’s Warden, Mari Anne Hussen. It is as follows:
Dear People of St. Mark’s, Ocean Park,
I write to join with you as you celebrate The Reverend Craig Tanksley and his ministry at St. Mark’s and as you express your thanks to both Craig and his wife Holly for their almost 12 years with you.
Craig is one-of-a-kind. Gentle, pastoral, present to others in all that he is and does, Craig brings the presence of Christ to those who are fortunate enough to find their way into his orbit. This quality has served Craig well both in the parish and in the broader diocese. This combined with his leadership ability has led to the vibrant and growing community of faith that St. Mark’s is.
But there is more. In a time of polarization, Craig has been someone who can both hold a firm position on an issue and, at the same time, warmly extend himself to others who may not agree with him. This rare quality has built up the Body of Christ in the Diocese of New Westminster.
Though I know that you are sad to say good-bye to Craig and Holly, I know that you will join with me in wishing them the very best as they approach this next stage of their life and ministry.
With love for you all.
The Most Reverend Melissa M. Skelton
Archbishop, Diocese of New Westminster
Metropolitan, Ecclesiastical Province of British Columbia and Yukon
There was applause and tears and smiles and voices raised, singing “Shine Jesus Shine” as worship concluded and the community processed from the sanctuary into the hall for cake and fond farewells.
For the next month St. Mark’s will be served by a number of priests who have a history with the parish and hopefully an interim priest in charge will be named soon to begin ministry March 1.
Please keep Craig and Holly and the Parish of St. Mark’s in your prayers as they experience this time oftransition.
Written by Brian Walks, ODNW and Randy Murray, Communications Officer
- Holly and Craig cut the cake at the post-worship reception on January 19
- Throngs of well wishers gathered in the hall decorated by travel backdrops, and slideshow featuring Medieval Craig & Holly.
- Some of the marvellous food!
- Craig joining the Marksmen chorus singing "Just a Little Walk With Jesus".
- The Women's Guild presenting Craig and Holly with the "Necessities of Retirement".
- Kathryn Smith presenting a gift on behalf of the ACW.
- Presentation of an embroidered picture from China, with sign for "Love", from Jonathan Yao on behalf of the ESL group.
- Craig's brother, Chris & wife, Sherry Tanksley from Mukilteo, Washington; Holly's parents Bob & Betty Bear; Holly & Craig; Craig's brother-in-law Jim Heugel and Craig's sister Cherie from Bothel, Washington.
- The choir and rector in place in the chancel during the Opening Hymn, “Be Thou My Vision.”
- Gathering prayers
- Intercessor and reader of the Epistle, 1 Corinthians 1: 1-9, Leslie Ann Hebb
- Craig preaching
- 'The Peace of the Lord be always with you'
- The Peace is shared in the nave Eucharistic Prayer
- Administering the Body of Christ
- Mari Anne Hussen reads the letter from Archbishop Skelton
- Conversations and goodbyes at the post-worship reception on Sunday.
Photos 2-8 Barb Walks
Photos 1, 9-17 Randy Murray