Dean’s Annual Report to Vestry
26th March 2017
The Dean: The Very Rev’d Frank Nelson
A number of people have gone out of their way to comment on the little document “Between the Spires” which collects together this year’s annual reports. It is always encouraging to receive feedback, especially for those who write the reports and those who edit, collate and do the layout. It is a good document isn’t it – and says something about our vibrant Cathedral community. It’s a community of faith, hope and love – as it should be; one that shines as a light into the world, like the Cathedral spires that soar into the night sky of Adelaide, and so generously lit by the people of Adelaide through the City Council.
Some time ago a video was doing the rounds of churches. Produced by a Roman Catholic church somewhere in America it was an explanation and exposition of the Eucharist, known in Catholic circles of course as the Mass. It showed beautifully in film just how many people were involved in the preparation and running of a normal every day Sunday service. A quick glance through our own production “Between the Spires” gives a similar message – a message of involvement by many people offering their time, talents, skills and energy. In my first Dean’s Report to you in 2013 (this is my fifth) I commented on being impressed at the number of volunteers active in St Peter’s. That impression has not changed. If anything, it has grown. As Dean I am deeply grateful to all of you who give so much, who do so much, to make this sacred space something really beautiful for God.
But it is by no means everyone who worships here, and counts the Cathedral home, who is involved – nor is it possible for all. There is a call and a need for people, perhaps especially those who are relative newcomers, or who have never quite crossed that barrier from consumer to participant, to step up and get involved. A number of our very faithful and committed people, some who have been quietly doing their thing for many years – cleaning brass, welcoming visitors, arranging flowers, caring for the gardens – are reluctantly having to stop as ill-health and the steady progression of years take their toll. Please consider carefully and prayerfully where you might contribute to this rich and vibrant place we call home.
Each year I single out a few people to thank by name, not necessarily because they are more deserving than others, but because it is impossible to thank everyone publicly by name (I do try to say thank you regularly when I come across you at work). Stephen Matthew has been People’s Warden for the past four years. It is a big task and involves many conversations and careful listening, meeting regularly as part of the Cathedral Council, Executive, Finance Committee and a myriad of other meetings that are essential in the running of the Cathedral. Stephen is not simply going to spend all his time on the golf course or his yacht, but has offered himself to continue on Council as a member. Thank you Stephen for your personal support, and ready ear, to me.
Frank Hill started as a Welcomer way back in 1994 when he was a regular worshiper here. Some time ago he had to stop attending on Sundays but continued welcoming, in recent times catching the bus from his Kensington cottage. We shall miss his cheerful presence on Wednesday mornings. Sarah Stephens did a quite extraordinary job as Chair of the Cathedral Art Prize Committee in 2016. We wish Sarah and Keith God’s blessing as they relocate to Perth at the end of April. Lay Canon Rob Croser, a regular member of St Peter’s Glenelg, gave us something really special in the tribute to Shakespeare performed in the Empty Cathedral – good example of the way the Cathedral connects with, and offers something to, the wider community. I’d like to acknowledge the contribution of three people to St Peter’s Cathedral – all of whom have died within the last three months. I am thinking of course of Robert Beal, Heather Bonnin and Heather Dunn. To their families, and not forgetting the families of others who have died over the past year, may God stay close to you.
Let me end this section of my report with a short quote from St Paul. Writing about the church he says, “The gifts (Christ) gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.”[i] Thanks be to God for the generous giving and use of gifts by Cathedral people.
Writing in a book on reflective ministry, Johannes Van der Ven[ii] suggests we look at our lives using three different filters or levels. He suggests we live our lives on a micro, meso and macro level. These three could be quite useful when we look at the Cathedral – both to review the past year and to look to the future. In the pages of this year’s report, “Between the Spires”, there is much that is lived out on the micro level – the interaction of individual members of the Cathedral in home and study groups, as servers and members of the choir, in caring for, and teaching, children, in enjoying films, flowers, knitting, offering tea, coffee, pancakes and so on. On one level, the micro, these things go on shaping and weaving together the fabric that is the whole. The Cathedral is at the centre and our various ministries flow around it.
At the meso level the Cathedral has a ministry beyond itself and those who call themselves members of the congregation. Here I am thinking of our ministry as the Mother Church (and what a lovely synergy to be spending time thinking about the Mother Church on Mothering Sunday). Over the past year the Cathedral has been well used by the Diocese – think Chrism Eucharist, Mother’s Union and Anglican Schools’ annual and carol services, two Synod services, one ordination and the deeply moving liturgical farewell to Archbishop Jeffrey and Lindi Driver. Events like the Cathedral Art Prize, Adelaide as One, the beautiful service held each year by the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, the two very different exhibitions of art-work exhibited in recent months, all function on this meso level. As do the increasing number of tour groups welcomed into our sacred space, the myriad photos taken by visitors, both inside and outside, and the less tangibly measurable ‘presence’ of the twin spires of St Peter’s as a backdrop to news broadcasts, cricket and footy games and the biggest of them all, as far as international television coverage goes, the cycling Tour Down Under in January. It is surely for this reason that the Adelaide City Council is considering spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on upgrading the lighting of the exterior of the Cathedral. St Peter’s Cathedral has a presence far beyond that of the congregation who worship here week by week.
St Peter’s Cathedral also exists at the macro level. At its widest this includes recognising that we live in a world of Brexit, Trump and Syria. The Gospel we preach, and the baptised life we live, is in this world also – and we can’t avoid it or pretend it is not there. Just last week the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse wrapped up its work on the Anglican Church in Australia. Despite all that has been done to redress previous wrongs, there is plenty of hard work still to happen to make our churches, schools and communities those safe places envisioned by Isaiah when he wrote,
“The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.”[iii]
The Lent preaching sermon series we are currently embarked on speaks into this macro level as it considers one of the 21st century’s greatest challenges – how to use water equitably. Members of the Diocese of Adelaide are currently in Bor, South Sudan, trying to make a difference to at least some of the most deprived people in the world. Our own financial contribution to mission, which you will see reflected in the annual financial report, small as it is, will make a difference to the needy of Adelaide and bring fresh water to people in Vanuatu. Wednesday evening Evensongs with Prayers for Peace and candle lighting keep us in touch with this macro world – of conflict and pain and suffering, as well as great beauty and joy.
Later this morning we will be asked to vote on a measure that will ensure the full restoration of the Cathedral Organ. There will be a full presentation around the proposed measure and opportunity for questions to be asked and answered. We are fast approaching the culmination of a long-held dream and one which has seen literally thousands and thousands of hours expended on it by many people. I invite you to keep in mind the concept of micro, meso and macro as we consider this measure, and continue, with a new earnestness, the task of raising money. The Cathedral Organ brings beauty and joy into lives at all three levels and is, quite literally, at the heart of our ministry and mission as the Cathedral. Out today is a brand new Cathedral publication, “We’re ORGANised”. Primarily it is to say thank you to all who have already given to the Organ Appeal. I hope too, that it will encourage all of us, whether we have already given or not, to give generously to this project. Now is the time to make a difference.
We stand at the cusp of another Vestry year. Among other things it will bring a new Archbishop, disruption as the organ is dismantled and shipped away, and the ongoing need for volunteers in many different fields. Let me end in thanking my clergy, administration and music colleagues, all of whom serve you as paid members of the Cathedral staff. Thank you to the Cathedral Wardens and Council of 2016/17, to Joe Thorpe, Dean’s Warden for his willingness to continue in that roll, and to you, the people of God, for your love, support and encouragement to me as your Dean. Christine, Viva and I feel very much at home in this season of our lives.
And so to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be all glory, love and joy, for ever and ever. Amen.
[i] Ephesians 4: 11 – 14
[ii] Johannes Van der Ven, Education for Reflective Ministry
[iii] Isaiah 11: 6