On Monday, January 10, 2022, the Right Reverend John Stephens inducted the Reverend Terry Shields Dirbas, Rector of the Parish of St. John’s, Shaughnessy (SJS). The ministry post had been vacant for about a year. One year previous, the then-incumbent, Coadjutor Bishop-elect, the Reverend John Stephens began his new ministry in the Diocese of New Westminster moving the 40 metres from SJS to the Synod office to prepare to become the 10th Bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster.
In the early fall of 2011, the church buildings and grounds of SJS were returned to the care of the bishop and Diocese of New Westminster. A year later, in September 2012, the first rector since the Supreme Court Decision of June 16, 2011, was inducted by then-bishop, the Right Reverend Michael Ingham. Fr. Michael Fuller who was at that time in his mid-60s had journeyed to Canada from his home in London, England to be pastor to the small but committed congregation. He was energetic, thoughtful, creative and a dedicated pastor, but after three years it was time for him to return to England. His final Eucharist as rector of SJS was celebrated, July 30, 2015.
In the fall of 2015, the Reverend Elizabeth Ruder-Celiz a priest “on loan” from the Diocese of Kootenay but with deep roots and many connections in the Diocese of New Westminster was appointed interim priest-in-charge. Mother Elizabeth (Liz) made a very positive connection with the parish and within two or three months the parish was unified, focused and ready to develop their profile document to begin the search for a new priest.
The posting and profile were circulated broadly, however, the parish chose someone they knew quite well, the Venerable John Stephens. Not only was Fr. John the archdeacon of the archdeaconry where SJS is located, he had also for 14 years been the rector at St. Philip, Dunbar, the neighbouring parish about 6 kilometres to the west. Relinquishing his role as regional archdeacon, the Reverend John Stephens served the Parish of St. John, Shaughnessy, contributing to the growth of the congregation as well as growth in the mission and ministry of the parish. October 3, 2020, the Reverend John Stephens was elected, Coadjutor Bishop of the diocese of New Westminster in line to succeed Archbishop Melissa Skelton upon her retirement, February 28, 2021.
In spring 2021, the SJS parish profile and the ministry position posting were circulated throughout the world-wide Anglican Communion. According to the Executive Archdeacon and Archdeacon of Vancouver, the Venerable Douglas Fenton, there were many applicants. The long list was pared down to the short list presented to the Bishops Advisory Committee on Appointments (BACA) and Mother Terry was one of the candidates recommended to the parish for interviews. The interviews were conducted by parish leaders with the SJS canonical committee submitting Mother Terry to Bishop John as their candidate for his consideration, the result being an appointment with a start date of December 1, 2021.
During the interregnum, the Reverend Liz Ruder-Celiz served as interim priest-in-charge, leading the parish through the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and keeping things running smoothly. On January 1, 2022, Mother Liz was appointed Assistant to the Rector at SJS for an initial period of one year.
The Reverend Shields Dirbas is the first woman to be rector of the parish, a parish with a long history of notable ordained leaders. Responding in the fall 2021, to a request for biographical material, Mother Terry sent the following information:
The Reverend Terry Shields Dirbas grew up in the southeastern United States. Mother Terry holds a BA in Religion from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina; an M.Div. from General Theological Seminary in New York City; and she is currently pursuing a Doctor of Ministry degree through Virginia Theological Seminary. Terry was ordained to the priesthood in San Diego, California, in 2010. Her first call was as Associate Rector and Chaplain to the Day School at Christ Church, Coronado, and later she served as Associate Rector at All Souls', Point Loma.
In addition to parish work, she has also served on the board of directors of the non-profit Episcopal Community Services and as the chair of the Commission on Ministry of the diocese of San Diego. She is married to the Reverend Joseph Dirbas, who is also an Episcopal priest, and together they have five young children: George, Jeannie, Chatham, James, and Mary.
The liturgy on January 10 was a Celebration of a New Ministry Eucharist on the Commemoration of William Laud. Approximately fifty people were present in the sanctuary onsite with many more participating online through the parish’s multiple livestreaming platforms.
The scheduled preacher for the Eucharist was the Reverend Lindsay Hills, rector of the nearby parish of St. Mary’s, Kerrisdale. Unfortunately, the Reverend Hills was not feeling well and unable to participate. The Venerable Stephanie Shepard, Archdeacon of Granville and Interim Priest-in-Charge of St. Francis, West Vancouver, already present in the sanctuary in her role as regional archdeacon gladly volunteered to preach. In her sermon, Archdeacon Shepard focussed on the concept of thoughtful innovation and the need “to rise to the challenge of collaborative and courageous action, following in Christ’s own way.” She communicated this theme in the context of: the Commemoration of Bishop William Laud being observed for the Eucharist, the Gospel for the day, Matthew 10: 34-39, and in a bit of a surprise, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”
Archdeacon Shepard concluded her sermon with the following words directed personally to the new rector which included a quote from the SJS parish profile:
Nurturing and growing healthy communities means finding ways to stay in dialogue even when diverse voices threaten to turn us against one another. A sword can be used to either sever ties or to cut through the mistrust and misinformation to get at the heart of the truth. St. John, Shaughnessy, in the parish profile shared with you, has been clear about intent:
“We welcome everyone and are enriched by the dynamic tension of differing
beliefs. We embrace doubt. Pray hopefully. And celebrate diversity. We practice our faith in our everyday lives. Are strongly committed to social justice. And believe in the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to transform lives.”
Terry, this community has invited you to be clergy leader among them. Tonight, they commit to work with you as disciples, as innovators, and as agents of gospel change. And we who are witnesses will do all in our power to support this parish in mission. We are all in. Progress for progress’s sake may well be discouraged, but progress for the sake of the gospel is worth the cost. As Jesus says, “those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” Hold each other to this in love and truth. Amen.
The laity of the parish was represented by wardens, Judith Downes, ODNW and Maggie Sanders and two dozen more, many participating in the liturgy as members of the sanctuary party, readers, choristers, greeters, livestream & tech and presenters of the symbols of ministry.
There were several clergy present including the Dean of the Diocese and Rector of Christ Church Cathedral, the Very Reverend Christopher A. Pappas.
In the absence of the regional dean, the Reverend Marion Wong, Deacon, the Reverend Christine Magrega of nearby St. Augustine, Marpole welcomed Mother Terry to the Oakridge Deanery. The preacher and regional archdeacon, the Venerable Stephanie Shepard welcomed Mother Terry to “the most creative and innovative archdeaconry in the diocese” the Archdeaconry of Granville by presenting her with a bouquet of appropriately shaped “Epiphany Star” style balloons
The sanctuary party included: Assistant to the Rector, the Reverend Elizabeth Ruder-Celiz; Deacon of the Word and Table, the Reverend Pitman Potter; Sacristan, Louise Hadley; Banner Bearer, Sam Dezell; Crucifer, Amelia Ruder-Celiz and Bishop’s Chaplain, Patrick Gregg.
Music in worship was led by organist, Michael Dirk and a mixed voice sextet.
Following the Dismissal by the Reverend Pitman Potter, long time parishioner and narrator of the Symbols of Ministry presentations, Dr. Robyn Woodward, ODNW presented custom made sugar cookies. Wrapped for safety in cellophane, they were delicious.
Please keep the Parish of St. John’s, Shaughnessy, the new rector and her family in your prayers as they continue forward in innovative, collaborative and meaningful ministry together.