When we arrived at church this past Sunday, many of us were wondering, how will we get through this day?
Providentially, the Children’s Choir set an upbeat tone for the service, bringing many smiles by performing “Rise and Shine” as the Song of Praise. We were further musically blessed with the presence of both our Music Ministry leaders: Lloyd Bates on piano and David Rushton on organ. Vocalists, Ralph and Virginia Hooper, led the singing this week. Brian Doerksen’s stirring Offertory performance of We Cannot Measure How You Heal, brought special feeling to an already emotional service. Our thanks to Brian for being with us!
Fr. Allen’s sermon was good news after one of the more severe gospels (Matthew 5: 21-37), beginning with a golf story, leaving us with the lasting inspiration that we choose life when we choose God, and when we embrace harmony, choosing to be together as we journey through God’s beauty, truth, and goodness. You may experience the sermon from the St. Thomas Livestream.
After the service, we celebrated Fr. Allen’s ministry with a sumptuous lunch, coordinated by Rose Rourke with dishes lovingly prepared by many of our parishioners. We gathered in the sanctuary and shared thoughts, memories, and loving gratitude for all that Fr. Allen has given to St. Matthew.
Many, including Tyler, Trish, Linda, Virginia, Belinda, Dick, and Paul shared their words and gifts. Below is Paul Thiessen’s message to Father Allen, followed by the Bishop’s Letter. Rev. Art gave a Blessing, and Trish led a joyful hymn, The Trees of the Field, “You shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace…” Amen.
I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank you for all you have done for our parish and for me personally. I have known you since we were children and I have been part of this worshipping community since before you were first appointed as Missioner over eleven years ago to a very fragmented and struggling community trying to find its identity and way in the midst of a very divisive and acrimonious split. From the very beginning you have encouraged us to live fully and deeply into our baptismal covenant; to proclaim by word and deed the good news of God in Christ TODAY, to seek and serve Christ in ALL people including those who have hurt us and to strive for justice and peace in this place and at this time. I know at least in part some of the difficulties you have encountered in this parish and your example of dedication and grace in the face of adversity have always been a beacon for many of us.
I know I speak for many others and that my experiences are not unique. I have always felt encouraged by you to cultivate my giftings and develop my spiritual life in the face of whatever life offers while allowing me space to process my own journey in my own time and way. I will always remember the wonderful times we engaged each other theologically and you have helped me and so many others to embrace the depth and breadth of The Great Tradition with your example of humility, curiosity, grace and courage. As you have often reminded me, we really are part of something that is much bigger than us. Over the years you been an integral part of both our sorrow and our celebration communally and individually. In particular, you were an unfailing strength during my late wife Louella's illness and death, during my subsequent grief and then my rebirth to new life with my wife and partner Pat. During my journey with grief, you indeed called me to actively choose life in the face of death and encouraged me to believe in the possibility of new life, of resurrection. You were also a very important part of Pat’s spiritual journey both through her late husband Richard's death and then helping her find a new way forward in life. Neither of us were looking for a new partner yet somehow, we found each other. We cannot overstate our thanks for your support in our new life together especially as our retirement took us to the community of Hope.
As you and Denise enter a new and uncertain future, we wish both you and Denise all the best as you move onto new relationships, challenges, and opportunities. Our prayer for both of you is that with God's help you will both bless and be blessed in your new church families and in the broader community you live in and serve.
12 February 2023
Dear People of the Parishes of St. Matthew, Abbotsford and St. Thomas, Chilliwack,
I am writing to honour and give thanks for the ministry of the Reverend Allen Doerksen as he moves to be the Rector of St. Philip’s Church in Victoria. Allen has been at St. Matthew’s since 2011 and at St. Thomas since 2019. In all that time, and in both places, he has brought such wisdom, faith and kindness to his role as Priest-in-Charge and has enriched and enlivened both parishes in a variety of ways; he will be greatly missed.
Allen brings many gifts to ordained ministry, and I am well aware that all of you know this and appreciate this. He is a talented priest with experience in different parts of the Christian Church and in the Anglican Church of Canada. This wealth of experience has brought wisdom, clarity, trust, and dedication to his ministry. You will all know of Allen’s deep faith and his commitment to be a life-long learner. He is committed to building up the Church and inspiring others to follow in the ways of Christ. You will know that Allen understands the role of a priest to be a pastor, preacher, teacher and administrator.
Allen has been part of our Diocese for many years and is well known in the Diocese as a whole. He took on the difficult role of restarting the parish of St. Matthew’s when the building was returned to the Diocese and the Anglican Church of Canada. This was complicated and stressful work and was appreciated locally and across the country.
On this Sunday when you celebrate Father Allen’s ministry among you, may you acknowledge, too, Allen’s faith and trust in God. Allen is a wonderful example of a priest who has heard God’s call to him in a variety of times and places. He has responded with strength and courage when God has asked much of him. We are all very grateful for his example and dedication.
As you share in Communion this Sunday, may it be an ongoing sign of God’s continuing call to Allen but to all of you to be the Church of 2023. To live out the gospel in the place in which God has placed you. To be salt and light in this world as an ongoing sign of Christ’s presence in the world of our times.
Thank you to all of you of the parishes of St. Matthew’s and St. Thomas for the great support you have shown Allen. Your encouragement and hard work in both parishes has been a great gift to him. At the same time he has taught you much as well about what God now hopes of you. May God bless all of you, but in particular on this day, may God bless, hold and keep Allen as he begins a new chapter of ministry.
The Right Revd John R. Stephens, Bishop