Sunday, February 27, 2022, the Right Reverend John Stephens visited his southernmost parish, the Parish of St. David, Delta, located in the sunny, southern Vancouver suburb of Tsawwassen. This was a particularly noteworthy visitation for several reasons. St. David’s had been the scene of the first Celebration of a New Ministry of Bishop Stephens’s episcopacy, the rector, the Reverend Simbarashe Basvi was inducted by the bishop on August 3, 2021, the first such liturgy of 12 that took place over the following 9 weeks. The bishop’s office had organized this run of liturgies to make up for time lost during Covidtide. The Eucharist celebrated at St. David’s on February 27 was the Eighth Sunday after Epiphany in memory of David, Bishop of Menevia, Wales. David is the patron saint of the parish. St. David’s Day is March 1, so the prayers and readings were transferred. This was also the one-year anniversary of Bishop Stephens’s installation as the 10th Bishop of the diocese of New Westminster. On Sunday, February 28, 2021, he was installed and seated in his cathedra at Christ Church Cathedral with approximately 12 people present. COVID-19 restrictions were firmly in place during that time. The official start date of Bishop Stephens’s episcopacy is March 1, 2021. During this visitation, Bishop Stephens blessed the congregation with asperges, the sprinkling of Holy Water from cedar branches for the first time as bishop, and following the liturgy, the first parish luncheon of Bishop Stephens’s episcopacy as days earlier parishes had been given permission to resume Coffee Hour and fellowship meals, still respecting several protocols, but certainly with much more freedom to gather than in the previous two years. The menu reflected the day with a generous supply of Leek and Potato soup and Welsh Cakes.
The service was not livestreamed nor was it available online through community gathering software i.e., Zoom. There was a very good-sized congregation present as the photos included with this article will show. Members of the choir under the leadership of the Director of Music Ministries, Sara Ciantar gathered early to rehearse repertoire with which they would lead the music in worship and as is common during an episcopal visit, members of the sanctuary party rehearsed components of the liturgy prior to the processional.
In his sermon, Bishop Stephens took the Epistle, 1 Thessalonians 2: 9-12; Gospel, Matthew 5: 13-16 and St David's Day as the underpinnings for the sermon.
Early in his sermon he shared some research he had done about the saint:
“It is said that David only lived on leeks and water. I am not sure if this is the diet that all of you continue to consume to this day, but it seems a little thin on variety. He is known to have performed several miracles. One of those took place when he was preaching. On that day, it is said, when some in the crowd complained they could not hear him, the ground on which he stood rose up to form a hill, and suddenly all could hear, or at least they could see him more easily.”
The foundation of the sermon was Bishop John's analysis and reflection on the Gospel passage. Please click this link to access the sermon on the diocesan website.
The Church of Wales has made large contributions to hymnity and that was celebrated through the hymn and anthem choices. Following the sermon, the choir moved to the front of the nave, the chancel entrance and sang the well-known hymn, Calon Lan which is Welsh for “A Pure Heart.” As Holy Communion concluded they choir sang Day is Done, but Love Unfailing, probably the best known of Welsh hymns.
Following the post-homily anthem, Bishop John led the congregation on the renewal of baptismal vows. The renewal of baptismal vows was followed by the Commissioning of Lay Ministries in the Church, the intercession led by Ngaire Meadows, the Peace, the Offertory (with a collection plate processed to the altar in advance of the Prayer Over the Gifts), the Eucharist, Closing Prayers, Closing Hymn and the Dismissal from Deacon of the Word and Table, the Reverend Brynn Craffey.
Suffice it to say, that most of the congregation stayed for the luncheon and they were very happy to spend some time together in community, it was almost like the old times of 2019.