The Richmond parish of St. Alban’s has had some challenges in recent years, however the future looked much brighter on the evening of Thursday, November 24, 2022, when the Reverend Liz Ruder-Celiz was installed as vicar by the Archdeacon of Fraser, the Venerable Luisito Engnan as ordained leader of the parish’s shared ministry together and partner with Bishop John Stephens in the overall mission and ministry of the parish.
The classic wood frame Gothic Revival church was constructed in 1909, a few kilometres away from its current location and moved to this site in 1961. The last full-time rector was the Reverend Margaret Cornish who retired September 30, 2015. This incumbency was followed by two periods of interim ministry by the Reverend John Firmston and the Reverend Mary Rose Muldoon. By the spring of 2018, the parish in collaboration with the Executive Archdeacon, the Venerable Douglas Fenton and others requested the then-bishop, the Most Reverend Melissa Skelton appoint the Reverend Paula Porter Leggett as vicar. The installation took place on September 5, 2018. The Reverend Porter Leggett’s ministry concluded January 31, 2021, as she served the community well and helped to guide the parish through the bulk of the COVID-19 era. The next vicar appointed was the Reverend Armand Mercier who was also part of Christ Church Cathedral’s clergy team. The Rev. Mercier who came to the diocese of New Westminster from the diocese of Edmonton in 2021, resigned August 31, 2022, and returned to Alberta. It was time again to seek a new priest and the Reverend Elizabeth Ruder-Celiz former priest associate at St. John, Shaughnessy and interim priest-in-charge of that parish following the departure of now-bishop, the Right Reverend John Stephens in January 2022 and also in ministry as Associate Anglican Formation Director at Vancouver School of Theology (VST) was keen to resume her call to parish ministry.
Considering the difficulties faced by the parish with the many changes in ordained leadership over the past 7 years, St. Alban’s continues to be a place of outreach to the Richmond community. Its positioning in the older section of the more urban Brighouse district is an ideal location to offer compassionate service to those who are on the margins. St. Alban’s has always shown great generosity and kindness to its neighbours and has been a great example of how to enter partnerships with other entities for the greater good. The parish has supplied, meals, shelter, showers and more, and now Chinese language has been added with the arrival of the Reverend Bill Mok, former Rector of the now-closed Parish of St. Chad’s in the Arbutus Basin. The Reverend Mok has been welcomed by the parish with the initial plan to establish a presence and then move to offering Chinese language worship in the St. Alban’s sanctuary.
The preacher for the liturgy was the Reverend Ruder-Celiz’s recently arrived colleague, the Reverend Canon Dr. Rob James, who since July 1st, 2022, has been Associate Professor of Anglican Formation and Studies at Vancouver School of Theology. For those unfamiliar with Canon James here is an excerpt from his bio on the VST website:
Rob comes to VST from Wells Cathedral in Somerset, in the southwest of the UK, where he has been the Canon Chancellor since 2019. Before going to Wells, Rob was the vicar of a three-parish benefice in the Diocese of Gloucester. He was ordained deacon in 2005 and priest in 2006. As well as his Church of England career he spent some time working for the UK government on security matters, whilst undertaking unpaid duties for the Church. Alongside his work for Church and State, he has usually been involved in teaching theology to undergraduates and to those training for ordination.
Rob holds six degrees from five universities, including a PhD from the University of London on the use of Scripture in Anglicanism. Unusually for a priest, he also holds an MLitt in Terrorism Studies from St. Andrews. He has broad academic interests, having published on biblical interpretation in Anglicanism, biblical interpretation in African Christianity, Islamist terrorism and, most recently, New Testament studies. His book The Spiral Gospel: Intratextuality in the Gospel of Luke is to be published soon by James Clarke Publishers. He is currently working on another article on the Gospel of Luke and on an article on religious authority in the work of William Prynne, a seventeenth century Puritan.
In his homily, Canon James constructed his remarks using the readings for the liturgy: Jeremiah 1: 4-9; Psalm 119: 33-40; Romans 12: 1-18; Luke 10: 1-6, 17-20 but he also touched on the aforementioned challenges the parish has faced in recent years, but despite those challenges the mission and ministry of the parish continues, and continues to grow with the arrival of the Reverend Bill Mok and Chinese Language ministry.
The Celebration of New Ministry Eucharist followed the established pattern with The Covenant in Ministry taking place following the sermon, and its components: the description of the process of how the priest was chosen; the administration by the officiant, (in this case the Regional Archdeacon, the Venerable Luisito Engnan of the oaths and subscriptions; the signing of the oaths by the new vicar; the reading of the License of Institution by the archdeacon, the examination; the Presentation of the Symbols of Ministry of the Whole People of God; the presentation by the presider of the new vicar to the congregation, the welcome from the Regional Dean, the Reverend Paul Woehrle, Rector of St. Cuthbert, Delta; and the Prayers of the People led by long time St. Alban’s parishioner, Pamela Hiensch. Following the prayers, the new vicar shared the Peace and participated in the administration of the Eucharist.
There was a good turnout of clergy, mostly from the Richmond/Delta Deanery, including the Reverend Liz Ruder-Celiz’s husband, the Reverend Robin Celiz, who will finish his current incumbency at All Saints, Ladner early in 2023 and will begin a new ministry as Rector of the Parish of St. Helen, Surrey. Their daughter Amelia was also present and took some fine photographs. There were also some folks from St. John, Shaughnessy supporting Liz in her new ministry.
Please keep the Parish of St. Alban’s in your prayers as they move forward in their next phase of ministry.
IMAGES in the Body Copy
A beautiful photo taken by Amelia Ruder-Celiz of the bowl of candles situated at the front of the nave
The vested, unmasked archival photo, this one featuring the vicar’s daughter, Amelia
Photos: Randy Murray (except where noted)