A sermon given on The Feast of St Peter, Apostle and Martyr (Patronal Festival) at the 8am BCP Eucharist and 10.30am Choral Eucharist, by The Rev’d Canon Sophie Relf-Christopher, Rector, St Jude’s, Brighton and Cathedral Canon


I am thrilled to be with you on your feast day St Peter’s.

An honour has been bestowed on me, and I will repay you by not preaching too long. That is our contract.

Allow me to admit at the outset that I speak to you today out of affection and admiration for this community, and with the earnest intention to encourage you to your pre-eminence in this diocese.

You see, I believe that a strong diocese requires a flourishing and resilient Cathedral. You are the home fire for Adelaide in the depths of winter, St Peter’s.

I want to tell you that I have a dream for you – of a glittering future, built on the rock of the present. A glittering future.

But let me “put a pin in that” as they say in the USA, and come back to the vitality and centrality of this place in a moment.

St Peter

First, I do need to talk a little about your patron saint today; that is in the contract too.

There are few who have shaped the Holy Church of God more than St Peter.

We know that Peter was the rock, the home fire for a fledging church.

Peter probably established both the churches in Rome and Antioch.

Peter was very likely the first bishop of Rome. The first pope, if you like.

You may have heard of the petrine primacy (from Petrus- the Latin for Peter), which refers to Peter’s place of pre-eminence even among the 12 apostles.

Anglicans do not find that theology sufficient enough to say that all Roman bishops are preeminent, but we do believe, with good reason, that Peter has a special place in the work of the Christ, and in the foundation of the Holy Church.

Peter is also Petra πέτρα in Greek, meaning ‘rock’ or ‘stone’. Of course, we know that Jesus said “and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

Peter was not only solid, occasionally flustered and repenting, but he was also gifted and daring – even raising Tabitha/Dorcas, from the dead (Acts 9:36-43).

When we remember St Peter, it is right that we call to mind his good works and dedication, his foundational dependability.

In fact, we wear red today because Peter was so dedicated that, according to church tradition, he was martyred under Nero. Again, let’s come back to the meaning we might derive from that, in a moment.

St Peter’s at the centre of Adelaide

I mentioned at the outset that St Peter’s is the community at the centre of the diocese, and allow me to expand a little on that again now.

Most importantly, I say to you all gathered this morning, do not let anyone talk you out of your place in the diocese of Adelaide.

Do not listen to any stories that diminish your mission in this place this year.

Stories of past glories that trample of your contemporary capacity.
Stories of limit, lack, or smallness of place.

The truth is that you are the loved servants of the most high God.

You are the inheritors of a faith that does not diminish you, or beg you stay quiet, pliant and in the background.

St Peter’s Cathedral community does no favour to itself by pretending it is less than it is, or by talking down the capacity here for genuine Christian leadership.

You are the people of St Peter’s Cathedral in Adelaide, and from you will come hope to keep the home fires of this diocese burning.

You may have heard that if you take a young elephant and tie a rope around its foot… and tie that rope to a peg in the ground, that baby elephant will learn it’s limits while it is young, and small, and may be contained. It can only go two metres from the peg – no more.

But when an elephant is great, when it is fully grown and weighs 6,000 kilograms or more, that same elephant will remember the constraints of the rope and the tiny peg in the ground and not move beyond its fictive boundaries.

Sometimes we have been asked to think small. Your capacity is this. Your trajectory is that. The energy of your people is this. Your diocese can do that, but no more.

This is the peg some may want you tethered to, St Peter’s.

Sometimes even the mighty cathedrals can begin to believe that their future will be contained. The congregation must be meek and not rock the boat. The community must be mindful of somebody else’s tiny peg in the ground.

It is clear to me, that what most often holds the church back from achieving all it might, is a poverty of imagination.

Not because we do not have capacity, ideas, or smart cookies among us. But because we choose to amplify stories and voices that tell us “that’s too big” or “it’s too late”.

Let no person limit what God might do here.

All the signs are very good. You have broken in your new Dean who is truly somebody who will empower you in your dreaming. Bishop Chris is trustworthy with your dreams. You have excellent clergy; Canon Jenny is the best Precentor going.

You boast resources most other parishes do not.  Look around you St Peter’s – this side of the eschaton we get no better starting place than this.


Finally, this morning, allow me now to return very briefly to the lessons of martyrdom and of the sacrifices of your patron, Peter.

In our context it seems unlikely that you or I might be martyred in the near term; sthere are nevertheless points on which we must be Petra. Things on which we must stand firm like rock and not be moved.

Friends, as much as we may admire them, we are not Lyons Club, or Probus, or even the Soroptimists. We are not a club of convenience.

We are part of the Holy Church of God. With that comes responsibility to stand firm and be the rock sometimes as the tides of intolerance rage around us.

Who really has the heft and the might to stand against the creeping gloom of complementarian theology, that provides a fig leaf for anti-women sentiments in vast swathes of the church?

Who will offer the welcome and friendship to members of the queer community (that seems to escape the will and the wit of so many)?

Who will properly, and loudly remember the poor, and all those who find themselves under the boot of post-modernity?

Where you lead St Peter’s, others will follow. God calls you to shine like a diamond.

You are the central parish of the Diocese of Adelaide. Your strength is vital to us all. Like many others, I will continue to do all in my power to support you inside, and outside, of this building.

We believe in you so much that we are sending Brighton’s own deacon Sally Sandford-Morgan to come and share with you for the next few weeks on secondment. You will warm to Sally quickly; I have no doubt.

In closing, allow me to echo the triumphal cry in 2 Timothy.

Let me charge you St Peter’s to continue to

fight the good fight,

to finish the race,

to keep the faith.

You are the home fire in the depths of winter for an indebted diocese.

Let nobody diminish what you might do this year for God.

The Lord be with you!