Denise Hambidge, Archbishop Douglas Hambidge, David Retter, and Phyllis McMillan of Greenville, B.C., at Father Retter's retirement feast honouring 27 years of service to St. James.

On their patronal festival, July 25, over three hundred parishioners and friends of St. James’ said goodbye to their rector, the Ven. J. David Retter after twenty-seven years of ministry in the parish. Guests had travelled from the Nass Valley, from other parts of Canada, and from England and the United States to celebrate Fr. David’s long and faithful service to the parish.

It was a glorious day, beginning with a High Mass at 10:00 am. Brother John Blyth, of the Melanesian Brotherhood, preached the sermon. The St. James’ High Mass choir, led by Gerald Harder, provided glorious music for the occasion, accompanied by a chamber ensemble. At the conclusion of the Mass, Fr. David was presented with a farewell gift and a purse from the parish. The rector’s warden, Jerry Adams, read a letter from the former Primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, who was unable to attend the event, but sent his best wishes to Fr. David.

The event continued in the late afternoon at the Squamish Nation’s Recreation Centre in North Vancouver. The four hundred guests were welcomed outside the doors of the Centre by a group of Nisga’a drummers and dancers. When Fr. David arrived, he was ceremonially processed into the hall by the drummers, accompanied by hereditary Nisga’a chiefs, Nisga’a priests, and dignitaries from the Nisga’a government. Audrey and Cheryl Rivers formally welcomed the guests to the Squamish Nation’s territory.

A Nishga’a welcoming party at the site of the retirement feast, the Squamish Nation's Recreation Centre in North Vancouver (Photo by Ron Harrison).

The delicious dinner featured five hundred pounds of wild salmon brought down from the Nass as a gift to Fr. David. Reflecting the rich cultural diversity of the parish, guests were entertained by Malaysian and Chinese dancers. Perhaps the highlight of the evening, however, was during the performance by the Nisga’a dancers and drummers, when Fr. David was persuaded to join the dancers, and circled the floor to the delight of everyone present.

People’s Warden Robert Gauthier introduced the many honoured guests, including Archbishop David Somerville. Speakers included Dr. Joseph Gosnell, Hereditary Chief of the Eagle clan and President of the Nisga’a Lisims Government; Ed Wright, Councillor of the Nisga'a Lisims Government, who brought greetings from the government; the Rev. James Moore, who brought greetings from Fr. David’s adoptive family, which is part of the Wolf clan; Mr. Claude Morven and the Rev. Herb Morven, who brought greetings from Aiyansh; Sherry Small, who brought greetings from LaxGalts’ap (Greenville); Phyllis McMillan, Fr. David’s adoptive “soul mother,” who first met him when he was a curate in charge of Port Edward; Fred Jay of the Mission to Seafarers; Linda Adams, Associate Warden, and Archbishop Douglas Hambidge, who provided a humorous glimpse of Fr. David’s life on the Nass.

A younger David Retter serves as chaplain to then diocesan bishop Douglas Hambidge.

Throughout the evening, the impact of Fr. David’s ministry was highlighted as people spoke of his loving pastoral care to parishioners and visitors to Vancouver, his unwavering support for the Nisga’a people as they sought justice in land claims, and his modelling of a faithful life of prayer and worship. It was an evening that celebrated “Promises well kept,” and a fitting conclusion to Fr. David’s ministry at St. James’.