A Sermon by The Very Rev’d Frank Nelson

Isaiah 75:1-7

Psalm 80:1-2,8-19

Hebrews 11:29-12:2

Luke 12:49-59

Today I want to talk about money – lots of it! And I begin by letting you know that at last we have the final figures on the Organ Restoration. Nearly four years ago we embarked on an ambitious project to raise an estimated $2.1 million to fully restore the organ. It was a daunting prospect and one undertaken in great faith and with not a little trepidation. Bear in mind that we also had to ensure the roof above the organ was fixed and leak proof. A week or so ago I clicked my computer mouse to release the final payment to Harrison & Harrison Organ Builders. The final cost of the complete restoration project: $1,496,751.46. (And please notice the 46c!) Of that we managed to raise $1,441,809.04 – a truly magnificent sum. The balance came from a pledge made by the Music Foundation a couple of years ago to contribute up to $200,000 from its capitol. In the end that contribution is $54,942.46.

But let me backtrack a bit. On several different occasions over the past seven years I have appealed to you and others for money for the Cathedral and its mission and ministry. In my first year as Dean Christine and I attended 18 different meetings hosted by Cathedral people and talked to about 170 people. At the time the Cathedral had been running a series of deficit budgets and, more seriously, ending each year with a deficit. My message to you was simple. Remember the generosity of generations past who bequeathed into our care this sacred space of St Peter’s Cathedral. It is our responsibility to ensure the present and future for our children’s children and their children. The result was a significant, nearly 40%, increase in Planned Giving that year. While there has not been such a big increase since then, our Planned Giving has continued to increase slightly each year- and that despite the fund-raising for the Organ Appeal. This means that the normal day to day running costs of providing Cathedral ministry – worship, hospitality, education and outreach – have been assured.

The next occasion was an appeal to the Music Foundation to make an annual grant to the Cathedral thus enabling our Director of Music to be paid a fairer wage and singing lessons to be offered to choir members, not least those whose voices are in transition. This grant is now mid-way through its second season of three years. I see no reason for that grant to be reduced and, on the strength of that, have been confident to go out and find a most worthy successor to Leonie Hempton after she retires at the end of the year.

Two years ago I and others stood up at Synod, the annual ‘parliament’ of the Diocese of Adelaide, and made an impassioned appeal to members to support the long-term conservation work so necessary to ensure that this magnificent Cathedral stands tall for another hundred and fifty years. As you know Synod agreed to an ongoing commitment to support this work and, together with a generous grant from the City of Adelaide, enabled us to complete the first stage of conservation work last year. Synod has made a further grant in the 2019/20 financial year which will mean we can put essential seismic bracing into the Lantern Tower. That will happen after Easter next year.

I have to say that when I arrived here in 2012 there was absolutely no way that we stood any chance of getting money from the Synod. But things change and the idea of this being My-Your-Our Cathedral took root and there is now a renewed sense of pride and ownership of Anglicans from other parishes and worship centres across the Diocese, and a preparedness to vote to spend money on our Cathedral. This at a time when many suburban parishes are struggling to make ends meet and often don’t know from one month to the next where the money to pay the bills will come from.

And so to 2019 and this latter half of our Festival 150 year, a year when we have remembered the past in spectacular fashion – who will forget that wonderful First Chords service on Advent Sunday last December, the fun we had dressing up to attend the Bishop’s Court garden party, the deeply thoughtful sermon offerings during Lent, the interesting display of historic and modern photographs telling the story of our Cathedral, the gathering of young people to sing Britten’s Saint Nicolas Cantata, and then the Patronal Festival weekend with live radio broadcasts, the hours of bell-ringing which accompanied the largest ever cleaning bee crew, and the very special services marking St Pater’s Day and the 150th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone.

Since then our thoughts have turned towards the future. Bishop Jeremy reminded us that focusing on the essentials, practicing the worship of God, is central to a lively vibrant Cathedral community. Archbishop Kay will, I am sure, have challenges and ideas aplenty to offer next week and the Creation Care Seminar on Saturday 21 September will take us deeply into the future of our planet. Before then of course, we have some spectacular music coming up and I hope you have all already got your tickets for the Premiere Organ Recital and the evening of beautiful music by Duruflé.

As you will be aware, the Cathedral congregations, especially the 10.30, are becoming increasingly cosmopolitan as people take seriously the idea of striving to be a Christ-centred, sacramental, inclusive, thinking, mission-oriented, faith community. There are increased opportunities to minister to the post-graduate international students who are flocking to our city; to be more intentional about gathering, encouraging and enabling those young professional people who are very much part of us; to continue to engage with and welcome the many people who come to the Cathedral for a variety of reasons – some not even knowing why they come but feeling they have to come. It has seemed to me for some time that we need to find a younger clergy person (all of the present team are well into their 6th and 7th decades) and perhaps someone of a non-Anglo background.

In a significant imagining of the future Archbishop Geoff has offered the Cathedral a two-year pledge of a quarter of the costs needed, that’s about $25,000 a year. The challenge to us today is to find the other quarter that will enable the Cathedral to afford a full time assistant curate. In a great act of faith and confidence the Cathedral Council has told the Archbishop we will do this and an offer was made three days ago to a potential clergy person. In making that offer there is a real sense of excitement and reaching beyond what we are already doing. I am always a little hesitant to suggest what God might have in mind for God’s people in a particular place, but I believe we have some unique opportunities in the years ahead.

Imagining the Future is always going to be about succession planning. In this year alone we are seeing some significant changes in leadership. Mahen Fernando is about to take over the reigns as Cathedral Treasurer, Jim Raw is picking up the management of the Cathedral Shop, and the appointment of Anthony Hunt as successor to our much loved Director of Music, Leonie Hempton, has been announced. Kevin Stracey and Pauline Brooks have worked tirelessly as Treasurer and Shop Manager for years, and I hope that, as they step down, you will make a point of thanking them for the vision, energy and competence that each has brought to their respective roles.

So – back to the future and our money needs. Each of you will have received a Planned Giving card as you arrived today. This gives each of us the opportunity to contribute to the future financial needs of the cathedral – your pledge, your planned giving, is like putting in place one of the building blocks for the future, it’s about making possibilities realities, it’s about trusting God to do something fresh, something new, something even greater with us than we have known before – and that we probably have not even imagined yet.

My plea to you is simple. Will you come and be part of the future?

  • To those who have supported the finances of the Cathedral in the past, some for decades, thank you. Please don’t stop. Please do complete the card thus signaling your intention to continue.
  • To those whose giving has been sporadic – please consider becoming a regular planned giver. Set up your electronic giving – pick up a card each time you come into the cathedral and place it in the offertory bags as a reminder to you of that giving.
  • To those who do not yet give money to the Cathedral, or give very little, please pray about how you might start to support this wave of generosity of God’s people which enables the vital mission and ministry of the Cathedral – encapsulated in worship, hospitality, education and outreach – to happen, to grow and to bear fruit.

The immediate need is to add another $25,000 to our income for the year. Surely together we can do this? It begins, as it has always done with God’s people, when we say thank you to God, recognizing that all things come from God and of God’s own do we give. It is not for me to say how much you should give – pray about that, do your sums, put things into perspective.

In the silence during the next few minutes I invite you to complete your Planned Giving card, place it in the envelope and seal it, ready to place in the offertory baskets. Don’t forget to complete the other slip of paper, the reminder to you of the Cathedral’s banking details and of your pledge made today.

Let us now enter into a sacred time of silence as we complete our Planned Giving cards, a sacrament of our daily living for God.

Festival 150 Prayer

God of all time: Alpha and Omega, beginning and end. We praise and thank you for what has been, what is and what is to be. In this year of celebration we give you thanks for those who have gone before us in faith, courage and generosity. Give us imagination, purpose and grace to step into the future with you, our Creator, Redeemer and Life-giver. Amen.