The Induction of the Reverend Laurel Dahill as Vicar of St. John the Divine, Maple Ridge, Wednesday, July 11 - The Feast of St. Benedict
On Sunday, December 27, 2015, the Rev. Charles Balfour who had been rector of St. John the Divine, Maple Ridge for 20 years celebrated Eucharist in the oldest Anglican Church building in the diocese for the final time as incumbent. Since that day more than 30 months ago, the parish has gone through a great deal of self-study, meetings, consultations and a long but positive period of interim ministry under the ordained leadership of the Reverend Georgina Harris. During this time they carefully examined their mission and ministry and although they are an independent group of Christians they were happy to accept advice from diocesan lay and ordained leaders. Eventually they decided that they would like to move forward in their ministry and began the process of seeking a half-time permanent vicar to lead their ministry.
With the parish profile document completed and the ministry position posted the call went out around the Anglican Communion in October of 2017. A number of applications were received but ultimately the Reverend Laurel Dahill of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan was chosen by the canonical committee to be the candidate they would like then-Bishop, now Archbishop Skelton to appoint. And that is what she did.
Rev. Dahill and her spouse Lisann arrived in plenty of time for the scheduled July 1 start date. The St. John’s rectory had received a healthy renovation in time to welcome the new residents.
The church building constructed in 1859, was originally located in Derby, west of the present Fort Langley. Derby had been promoted as the capital of the new colony of BC but New Westminster was chosen and Derby and St. John's were abandoned. The church was dismantled and floated down and across the Fraser to near its current location in Maple Ridge in 1882. It stayed there until it needed a new foundation 100 years later and was moved back from the road at the corner of River Road and Laity Street where it is today, augmented by a newer construction that contains a bright spacious office, kitchen and parish hall. If you have not visited St. John the Divine, you should consider doing so as it is well worth the trip.
The Celebration of a New Ministry Eucharist began with the processing of the visiting clergy, wardens, vicar, archbishop, executive archdeacon, deacon and crucifer up the main aisle as the bright evening sunlight bathed the sanctuary.
It was a wonderful liturgy and the mood throughout was positive and joyful. Music was led by St. John’s musician, pianist/vocalist, Aimee Oliverio; Deacon of the Word and Table was the Reverend Melody Pearson of neighbouring, St. George’s, Maple Ridge; retired priest of the diocese and St. John’s parishioner, the Reverend Fred Tassinari was the intercessor; St. John’s lay leader, Joy Coghlan read the Epistle, wardens Rosemary Stasiuk and Anne Schaffar, ODNW presented the new vicar; the Reverend Paul Bowie, rector of All Saints’, Mission, and Regional Dean of Golden Ears welcomed Dahill to the deanery ; the Venerable Philippa Segrave-Pride, Archdeacon of Lougheed welcomed her to the archdeaconry; the Rev. Georgina Harris who served the parish for 2+ years as interim priest-in-charge was present. Although there was an excellent turnout of St. John’s parishioners, including the MP for Pitt Meadows/Maple Ridge, the Honourable Dan Ruimy and his spouse there were also a number of lay members of neighbouring churches in attendance including: Becki Kozol of St. George, Maple Ridge; Tom Kerr of Church of Holy Spirit, Whonnock; Phyllis and Bill Neufeld of St. Columba.
Archbishop Skelton was also the preacher for the liturgy and she very much enjoyed her subject that evening. Not only was she delighted to welcome a priest with the qualifications of Laurel Dahill, it was also an opportunity to preach about her favourite Saint, St. Benedict of Nursia whose Feast Day is celebrated on July 11. Archbishop Skelton began her sermon with these two paragraphs:
"What a fortunate parish you are! What a fortunate, fortunate parish you are! What a fortunate, fortunate, fortunate parish you are!
You may be asking yourself—why is the Archbishop saying these things? Why are we three times fortunate, three times blessed? Is it because we snagged an outstanding new clergy leader to be our vicar? Is it because we are St. John the Divine, Maple Ridge, a place with a unique history as one of the oldest churches on the British Columbia mainland? Or is it because we are a parish surrounded by opportunity—opportunity to connect to our neighbourhood and to serve Christ in new ways here in this place?"
These were valid reasons for blessings, but for Archbishop Skelton the real blessing (“thrice blessed”) was:
“that we are celebrating the beginning of this new partnership between Laurel and the people of St. John’s (and the entire diocese, because you are never alone…please remember that)… on the Feast of St. Benedict! As some of you may know , Benedict is my guy!”
The archbishop went on to describe the Benedictine way and how that path fits perfectly with the desired goals for the mission and ministry of the Parish of St. John the Divine as they begin this new phase of shared ministry with Rev. Dahill.
Rev. Dahill is from the Boston area and so is Reverend Fred Tassinari so there was considerable laughter when Rev. Tassinari began the intercession by saying, “you may notice that the new vicar and I talk the same way.” He also alluded to the fact that the lone piece of clothing hung in the narthex on that hot evening was a Boston Red Sox cap.
The liturgy and the reception that followed was indeed a fine beginning for this new opportunity, a beginning filled with anticipation and hope. Archbishop Skelton summed it up best at the conclusion of her sermon when she said, “Through the wisdom and experience of St. Benedict, you have a blueprint for how to stay on the path for drawing ever closer to the love of Christ that is forever making us and making all things new. Do not squander this opportunity…do not…instead, embrace it; instead, love it; instead, delight in it; for the moment is now…the moment is now.”