On May 26, 2019, the Reverend Nick Parker celebrated his final Eucharist as Vicar of the Parish of St. John the Divine, Squamish, located in that mountain city’s Garibaldi Highlands neighbourhood. He exited in style and in the presence of both of his archbishops; the Most Reverend Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, a friend and colleague of Nick’s for many years was the preacher, and his diocesan and provincial archbishop, the Most Reverend Melissa Skelton was seated in the congregation with her husband the Reverend Eric Stroo.
Archbishop Hiltz had been in Vancouver for Day 2 of the 119th Synod of the Diocese of New Westminster held at the Italian Cultural Centre in East Vancouver. As it is his custom on his travels to go to church on Sunday, the archbishop was happy to accompany Archbishop Skelton (who was scheduled to attend the worship) to the service and also preach.
Rev. Parker has a long history in ordained leadership in the Anglican Church of Canada, most notably his involvement with Mission to Seafarers. He was also Dean of the former Diocese of Cariboo. His love of the ocean and of all things nautical was a predominant theme in this his retirement Sunday.
On the back cover of the pew bulletin, he had written a message to his parish. He positioned his message in the first paragraph explaining that as a child he had spent many summers in England on the Southeast coast and from that experience he had fallen in love with the sea and with ships. But more than that he realized that his life in ministry, his faith, his ministry style was formed by that experience and as he explained in the third paragraph:
“Those childhood days, now long past, set a pattern. I still spend much of my time in, around and under an upturned hull – the Nave – the body of the Church. It defines, in part, who I am, the things that I value and the nature of my work.” That which houses and nurtures me is a vessel shaped to harness the wind, to ride the waves and carry its crew in relative safety. Yet, to do so demands one fundamental task, that of turning the hull over. Such is not easy, nor is getting it to the surf, rigged and ready, with a crew that is prepared to voyage. It means getting drenched, risking a capsize or two in the face of overwhelming seas, of accepting a challenge with no guarantee of success, of removing the fear of a potentially mutinous crew. It is a journey, that speaks to a trust, a willingness, and a courage to go beyond the complacency of shore-bound living, of foregoing the comforts of a sedentary people.”
Sunday, May 26, the nave of St. John the Divine was filled with worshippers and the great turnout of St. John’s choristers and choristers from Squamish United, the church that shares the space also filled the north chancel alcove.
Reverend Parker began the liturgy welcoming the two archbishops and explaining the text of the Affirmation of Faith that would be part of that morning’s worship, a paraphrase of the Creeds written by Squamish resident and member of the parish, Dr. Roy Shephard, an internationally known physician recognized for a very long list of contributions to exercise science. Dr. Shephard was awarded the Order of Canada in 2014.
In his sermon Archbishop Hiltz devoted a good deal of time to a summary of Rev. Parker’s career and his connection to Nick. For the remainder of the homily he examined the Gospel for the day, John 14: 23-29. A video of the sermon is available here on the diocesan website.
Following the intercession led by Pam Tattersfield and the prayers of Confession and Assurance, the soon-to-be-retired Vicar, stood in place in front of the altar, smiled and said “Okay, go ahead” which the congregation knew meant that after he said the words “My sister and brothers, the peace of the Lord be always with you,” they would be permitted to take as long as they wished to exchange “the peace”.
The peace was followed by the Offertory and the Eucharist, but prior to the Dismissal, Rev. Parker said a few more words of thanks and farewell. He referred to that time when after repeated requests from Archbishop Skelton for him to return to parish ministry he had acquiesced and agreed to part time at St. John’s. He remembered that he had asked Archdeacon Fenton about the duration, the “term”, to which the archdeacon had replied, “indefinite” and “now it’s been five years”. (Reverend Parker was formally installed by Archbishop Skelton as vicar two years into his time at St. John’s, April 13, 2016.) He then said to his community,
“you’ve been compassionate, generous & giving and you have really set yourself up for the future. But… you are also lucky because you have an archbishop who is one thousand percent behind you, and believes in you.”
After worship the soon to be retired Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz and the now retired Vicar of St. John’s stood in the narthex and greeted the worshippers as they left the nave, many of them on the way to the parish hall for a potluck lunch, celebratory cake and some parting gifts.
The best words to end this coverage were written by Reverend Nick Parker, so here are the two paragraphs that concluded his bulletin message for May 26, 2019, the Sixth Sunday of Easter:
“As a grown man I now gaze from the shore to the open sea, knowing that it is out there that I will discover God above, God among and God within. I know from history and experience the awesome potential of - the Nave – God’s vessel, how it can harness the energies of the world, capture the spirited winds that blow, and convert them to forward motion. Indeed, much will be asked of the vessel and us. Numerous skills will be needed to re-build, maintain and utilize such a craft, but the rewards will be life-transforming.
I can also see that the winds and the surf are up and that a voyage is in the offing. Once again, as of old, the call is upon us. Provisioned and staffed we must flip the vessels over and go down to the sea. As we feel the winds of God caressing our souls, let us once again seek the unseen shore of our Promised Land and know that under Christ’s reign all things are possible.”
Video available below was forwarded by David Hildreth a spirited tribute song to the tune of "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore".