Christ Church Cathedral's rector, Dean Peter Elliott, now 24 years on the job, has told parishioners he will retire in one year’s time, shortly after he attends his ninth General Synod, here in Vancouver next July.
And the chair of the Cathedral’s succession and transition committee says that, in the fastest-case scenario, the next rector could be on the job even before the old one is out the door on September 30, 2019.
Cathedral trustee, Ted Chiasson, said in an interview the results of a congregational survey last spring will be discussed in workshops at the Cathedral in October. A report will then go Archbishop Melissa Skelton, who is expected to make a decision by January, 2019 whether to appoint an interim rector or go straight to hiring a new rector.
Cathedral representatives have made it clear to Archbishop Skelton that, given the size and scope of the parish, they don’t want an interim, Mr. Chiasson said. “It’s a complex place . . . we don’t want it to languish.” A parish profile, completed two years ago for the hiring of a vicar to succeed Ellen Clark-King, would only need some tweaking to be ready to go, he said, and Dean Elliot is open to overlapping with his successor.
“There are examples of where that has occurred . . . and there are advantages to that,” Mr. Chiasson said.
Dean Elliott turns 65 in May, 2019, and preparation for his retirement has been underway for a couple of years. He formally told three Sunday congregations (8am, Holy Communion; 10:30am, Choral Eucharist; 5pm, St. Brigids) in April, just before leaving on a three-and-a-half-month sabbatical, that he wanted stay on through General Synod, scheduled for July 10-16, 2019 at the Sheraton Wall Centre, just down the street from the Cathedral.
The first General Synod to be held in Vancouver since 1965 will be the ninth General Synod for Dean Elliott. He has been a delegate to six synods, serving once as deputy prolocuter and once as prolocutor. This time around, he’s chairing the worship committee, with the opening and closing services, and the election and installation of a new Primate on the last day of synod, to be held at the Cathedral.
August 1, 2019, will mark 25 years at the Cathedral for Dean Elliott, and September 11, 2019 will be the silver anniversary of his installation, making him by far the longest-serving incumbent, surpassing Northcote Burke (1953-1968) by 10 years.
In an interview, Dean Elliott said he has no firm retirement plans. “I’m going to have a vacation for the last three months of 2019,” he said. “I’m open to possibilities starting January, 2020.”
He has already received some speaking invitations, he said, and, while he’s interested, he hasn’t accepted any, yet. But he is clear about one thing. “I’m not looking for another job.”
“I don’t want to work an 80-hour week anymore,” he said. “The thing about parish ministry is that it’s always with you.”
Only one of the Cathedral’s 28 full and part-time staff – director of music, Rupert Lang – predates Dean Elliott’s arrival in August, 1994. And, of the nearly 800 people on the parish list and the 500 or so people who turn out for the four Sunday services, probably the majority don’t remember life at the Cathedral without the thirteenth rector and eighth dean.
But Margery Kellett, 96, the most senior member of the parish, has clear memories of deans as far back as Herbert O’Driscoll in the late 1960s. When asked about Dean Elliott’s legacy, she didn’t talk about the $25 million multi-decade renovation of the Cathedral building or the congregational growth or the firm-footed finances or the long years of support before the blessing of same-sex unions was sanctioned or today’s energetic food program.
“He’s always been loving and caring,” Mrs. Kellett said. When she found her husband of 60 years dead in his bed at 5am one morning, she called her three children and she called her priest. They all came. “He’s a practical practitioner of his faith.”
As for the future at the Cathedral, “we’ll pull together and we’ll come together and pray together and hope together,” she said. There are people to be helped and a planet to care for. “We’ll get on with it.”
The Media Release distributed by diocesan communications on behalf of the Cathedral parishioners, wardens, trustees, clergy and staff at 6pm, September 9 is attached below.