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New Dean installed at warm, friendly service

By Stuart Mann

The Very Rev. Dr. Stephen Hance and his wife Jacqui didn’t have to wait long to get a taste of a Canadian winter.

As the couple landed at Pearson airport on Jan. 12 to begin their new ministry at St. James Cathedral, the Greater Toronto Area experienced its first cold snap.

But the freezing temperatures didn’t lower their spirits. “The weather has been cold but the welcome has been overwhelmingly warm,” said Dean Hance. “It’s been beautiful. We’ve been very deeply touched by how kind and warm people have been to us.”

The Very Rev. Dr. Stephen and Jacqui Hance are welcomed by the congregation at St. James Cathedral. Photos by Michael Hudson

Just 48 hours after they arrived from the UK, Dean Hance was installed as the new rector of St. James Cathedral and dean of Toronto. The Sunday afternoon service was full of warmth, joy and excitement as the cathedral began a new chapter in its life.

Dean Hance becomes the 14th rector of the cathedral and the ninth dean of Toronto, succeeding the Very Rev. Stephen Vail, who retired in 2022. The Very Rev. Peter Wall served as the interim rector and dean until Dean Hance’s installation.

In his address to the congregation, Dean Hance thanked Dean Wall, the Rev. Canon Dr. Stephen Fields, sub-dean and vicar, the Rev. Canon Beth Benson, interim associate priest, “and all those who have stewarded this place with joy, love, compassion and care over the months and years leading up to this point.”

Dean Hance shared his dreams for the cathedral. “I want people to say, if you want to see what the diocese’s vision looks like, look at the cathedral – they’re embodying it. I’d love us to be a cathedral that acts as a hub for the arts and culture in this great city, where there is so much to celebrate. The arts have been a pathway to God for me and I want it to be a pathway to God for others as well. I want it to be a cathedral that looks like the city we exist to serve, in all its beautiful diversity. Finally, I want us to be a cathedral that helps people discover and to grow in faith in Jesus – to know Jesus, held and loved by God who reveals himself to us most fully in Jesus Christ and invites each of us into a loving relationship with him for his glory.”

Sophia Jacob, helped by her mother Sarah Rodrigues, brings flowers to Jacqui Hance during the service.

Before coming to Toronto, Dean Hance was the Church of England’s national lead for evangelism and witness. Previous to that, he was the Dean of Derby. Earlier, he served as the director of mission and evangelism in the Diocese of Southwark and was the canon missioner of its cathedral. He has written or contributed to books on fresh expressions, mission action planning, evangelism, forgiveness, confirmation, parenting and preaching. Jacqui Hance was the evangelism and witness priority coordinator at Lambeth Palace. The couple have three adult children, Eliott, Simeon and Isaac.

Bishop Andrew Asbil said he was delighted with the new Dean’s appointment, describing him as “warm, smart, committed, faithful, playful – all of the attributes you’re looking for in a prophetic, mission-focused leader. As someone who has a really good handle on what it means to be missional, and who also understands discipleship and helping people claim their faith, Stephen is exactly the kind of leader we need. And as the Dean – the first amongst equals as clergy – he can model that for us.”

Bishop Andrew Asbil welcomes the new Dean.

In addition to his duties at the cathedral, Dean Hance said he was looking forward to meeting and working with the clergy and laity of the diocese. “I want them to know that this is their cathedral and I’m their dean, and if there are ways that I and we can support their ministries, their parishes, please pick up the phone or send an email. Whatever we can do to support and help, we will.”