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The Rev. Dr. John Oakes returned to Holy Trinity Vancouver from a year of study at a American university only to be sent off—with the good wishes of the parish—for another year at another prestigious university in the US.

“I know I speak for every one when I say we love John and we are very grateful to him for his ten years of service,” said Rector’s Warden Margaret Blom at a reception after the Sunday service January 20. “So now he belongs to Harvard for a while and then, who knows.”

Oakes has been a Visiting Fellow at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has now awarded Oakes an unusual second postdoctoral fellowship to study and write during 2013.

Early in his term at Holy Trinity he guided the parish through difficult times during the controversy over same-sex blessings. Though opposed to the blessing, he remained loyal to Bishop Michael Ingham and the Diocese, as did many but not all of Holy Trinity’s parishioners at the time.

In a farewell sermon to the parish, Oakes was candid about what he and the parish had faced. “I wouldn’t be honest if I said that arriving here in 2002 in the midst of the worst political storm in diocesan history was either easy or initially very comfortable. But we worked through these problems and we ended up, I think, finding some pretty positive solutions.”

(Please click the link to access THE REVEREND DR. JOHN OAKES'S 01-20-2013 SERMON)

“We have seen seasons of growth and seasons of relative retrenchment. But throughout we have been deeply conscious of God’s faithfulness. We have been very thankful to the many people who have given so much in so many ways to the ministry of the parish.”

“The main message I want to leave you today is it is in Christ that we see the wondrous caring, the marvelous generosity, and the amazing capability and creativity in human form. It is in Christ and through his sacrifice on the cross that we can find the only true salvation.”

Preaching on St. John’s account of Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding at Cana when he turned water into wine, Oakes said the story gives a powerful demonstration of how God cares in every detail about his people throughout their lives.

Oakes mentioned that he was a teetotaler himself, but said that he could see and appreciate the story of how Jesus’ created from water gallons of wine–in metric, 690 litres or  860 bottles, he estimated–in order that the host not be ashamed that he provided too little for the wedding guests. The story illustrates the nature of God.

“This is a God of new life and abundance. May we never forget that this wonderful, awe-inspiring God is our God. This is our God in whom we live and move and have our being....With this God all things are possible. We can be absolutely confident that in all things God works for our good, and for God’s glory.”

At Harvard University, Oakes plans to do more research and writing about three 18th Century divines, including the Rev. Andrew Eliot (1718-1778). He was a Congregational minister in Boston, Massachusetts, during the widespread religious revival in Protestant Europe and especially the American colonies that subsequently labeled the First Great Awakening. Eliot was also involved in the early years of the Revolutionary War, as one of only a few ministers who remained in Boston when the British occupied the city.

While at Yale, Oakes had been on leave from Holy Trinity. He has resigned his position as rector, though he will remain a priest canonically resident within the Diocese of New Westminster. He and his wife Kirsten, who was also honored at the reception, intend to keep Vancouver as their home, and Kirsten Oakes plans to travel in order maintain her travel business in the city.

 The Rev. Arthur Nash, interim priest in charge of Holy Trinity, said that the parish is holding a special vestry meeting on January 27 in order to elect a new parish council. The council then will organize the canonical committee that under diocesan regulations composes a parish profile and is involved in the search for a new parish priest.

Images: Top and homepage, Priest-in-Charge, the Rev. Arthur Nash leads the prayers and laying on of hands, blessing John as he moves on in his ministry. Middle right, John preaching. Bottom left, Kirsten and John cut the celebratory cake at the luncheon and reception held after the worship.

PHOTOS: Wayne Chose