Anne  Fletcher
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Christ Church Cathedral will have a relatively short stint with an interim rector, until a permanent successor to Dean Peter Elliott is actually in the office, most likely by May, 2020.

In a pastoral letter read to CCC’s three Sunday congregations on February 10 by the Archdeacon of Burrard, the Venerable Kevin Hunt, Archbishop Melissa Skelton laid out an October 1 start date for the interim, on a timeline that should end with the arrival of a new rector in just over a year’s time. 

Dean Elliott, who turns 65 this May, will retire September 30, rounding out his term at CCC to 25 years and two months, and encompassing General Synod, to be held in Vancouver in July.

His long tenure, and the active role in parish life taken by his husband, Thomas Roach, factored into the decision to appoint an interim, Archbishop Skelton said in her letter. They will both have to leave CCC, she said, and the parish needs to get used to the hole they’ll leave behind.

As laid out by the archbishop in her letter, the appointment of the new rector  and possible dean (whose appointment comes at the discretion of the archbishop) will be done with careful consultation – after a parish profile is put together and the job is advertised, a diocesan advisory committee (Bishops Advisory Committee on Appointments {BACA}) will be consulted and which will likely result in the recommendation of candidates to the archbishop and the canonical committee who will then confer and draw up a short list; CCC’s canonical committee will interview the candidates; and the canonical committee will then make a recommendation to the archbishop.

Archbishop Skelton said in an interview she will work with CCC’s canonical committee on the appointment of the interim rector.  “I have one person in mind and I think it’s somebody I hope they will be delighted with,” she said.

But, if the delight just isn’t there, she said she’ll look at other options, with no deadline for an appointment announcement.  “I want it to take whatever time it takes.”

Archbishop Skelton will also interview all the candidates for rector on the shortest short list – those who are invited to Vancouver for in-person interviews, after long-distance interviews.

While that doesn’t always happen with smaller parishes, she said, CCC “is arguably the worshipping congregation that has the greatest impact on the diocese.”

As well, she’ll be interviewing to appoint a new dean for the diocese. “I hope the rector will be the dean. That’s my intention.”

Asked if a bishop or archbishop would overrule a decision of a canonical committee, Archbishop Skelton said, simply, “It’s never happened, in my experience.”

When the question of an interim was put on the table last year, CCC’s leadership, and many parishioners were decidedly cool to the idea.  But trustee Ted Chiasson said a consultant’s recommendations, based on an analysis of parish surveys and subsequent workshops last year helped him shift his view.

“Peter is an incredibly significant force in the Cathedral as is Thomas, quite frankly,” Mr. Chiasson said. “I think (the consultant) saw a period of grief, a period of apprehension, and the need to build in a transition phase.”

Archbishop Skelton called the decision “data-driven”, and said she hopes CCC can pause and get used to Dean Elliott’s absence.  “It’s letting the Cathedral have a breather,” she said.

Long-time parishioners sounded philosophical about the future coming to meet them.

“My concern was that it would take 18 months or two years” with an interim, said Helen Williams, a CCC parishioner since 2000.  “With a long interim, the intensity of the community wanes.  But it’s only eight months.”  And eight months is “enough time for grieving.”

Asked if the talk of grief was perhaps being overdone, Mrs. Williams gave a firm no.

With 54 years as a clergy spouse behind her, she’s known those people in a congregation whose sense of their Christianity comes primarily through their pastor.

“When the pastor leaves, they fall apart,” she said, and Dean Elliott has been at CCC for an unusually long time. “How many congregations have a priest for 25 years these days?”

Bob Worcester, a former warden, has been a CCC parishioner since 1980, when the Reverend Canon Dr. Herbert O’Driscoll (“Herbie”) another much loved dean was nearing the end of his incumbency (Canon O’Driscoll was dean from 1968-1982). “I think the transition process is under control,” Mr. Worcester said.  But, after all, hiring a new priest is nothing new, he pointed out. “Anglicans have been doing this for a long time.”

He’s sanguine about the sense of looming loss. “That’s the problem with getting good people. They set a high bar or they leave big shoes to fill and I don’t know how to avoid that.”

“I think we all acknowledge Peter has made a marvelous contribution to the Cathedral but he’s also left it in a situation where we can look forward to the future. We’re strong”

And, as Mr. Worcester knows, Dean Elliott is not the first CCC dean to cut a wide swath. He looks to the past to foresee that future.  “If we could survive the loss of Herbie, we can survive the loss of Peter.”  

A PDF of Archbishops Skelton's February 10, 2019 pastoral letter is attached for downloading below.

IMAGE

  • The Very Reverend Peter Elliott at the ambo, November 2018

Photo: Randy Murray