Rt. Rev. John Thomas Tarrant, retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Dakota, passed away suddenly and peacefully on August 23, 2020, at his home in Dalton, Massachusetts.
John was born on February 17, 1952, to Robert Clair Newton Tarrant and Letitia Marie (Church) Tarrant in Kansas City, Missouri, and raised in Millington. He was a life-long Episcopalian, nurtured in the faith at St. John’s the Baptist Church in Otter Lake. He graduated from Michigan State University in 1974 with a Political Science degree. He received his Master of Divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1983, and ordained into the priesthood on February 11, 1984. John married Patricia (Donaldson) in 1990.
The Rt. Rev. John Thomas Tarrant was consecrated Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of South Dakota on October 31, 2009, in Sioux Falls, and consecrated 10th Bishop of South Dakota on February 2, 2010, retiring in 2019. As a priest, John served Episcopal congregations in Connecticut as Missioner, Greater Waterbury Episcopal Ministry, Middlebury, and in Western Massachusetts, St. Paul’s Gardner, St. Paul’s Holyoke, Church of the Atonement Westfield, St. Paul’s Stockbridge, and in Pierre, SD Trinity Church. At his time of death, John was serving St. Stephen’s Pittsfield as interim rector.
John frequently explained his positions and priorities in terms of “The Kingdom of God.” His statements were salted with that image; “The overriding challenge is to use Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom of God as the plumb line to measure all of our ministries,” or “We cannot fully live the Kingdom vision without each other.”
Throughout his ministry, John was willing to be present with people. He modeled respectful listening as part of reconciliation. His approach, without an agenda, was “listening, listening, and more listening…hearing people’s stories and telling our own, putting faces to the pain and the joy will go a long way toward understanding.” The fruit of that are people with real lives, real joys and real sorrows ministered through the Episcopal Church. His passion for justice motivated John’s witness at Standing Rock. His humble ministry among indigenous people made John a wonderful storyteller of God’s love for diversity.
John returned to western Massachusetts after his retirement. He continued to love his ministry that God had given him to undertake. Having served God in partnership with those he touched was a great blessing. John’s retirement goal was to serve God through his family; his “bucket list” was short, simply to be available to family and to get to better know his grandchildren.
Fight the good fight of faith that you may finish your course with JOY!
Bishop Tarrant is survived by his wife Patricia; son Jeremy; grandchildren: Hinto, Remington, Adeline of Jacksonville, North Carolina; siblings: Richard Tarrant, Robert (Karen) Tarrant, Pat (Jim) Saeger, Virginia (Chuck) Mannistow; eight stepchildren: Jessica Hansen, Mary (Alec) Gillman, Jon (Stephanie) Hansen, Anna Hansen, Neil Hansen, Eric (Alicia) Hansen, Holly (David) Fanion, Carl Hansen; 20 step-grandchildren; and 10 step-great-grandchildren. John was predeceased by two stepdaughters, Heidi Hannon and Amy Fanion.
A memorial service, celebration of life is to be held at St. Stephen’s Church, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, on Saturday, August 29, 2020, at 1 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, donations in John’s memory can go towards the ministry of Cathedral of the Beloved OR St. Stephen’s Table. Please make check payable to ‘St Stephen’s Church’ with donation intent in the memo, St. Stephen’s, 67 East St., Pittsfield, MA 01201.