At the Licensing of Fr Mark Soady as Area Dean of Abergavenny the Bishop of Monmouth referred to the pastoral nature of the Area Dean’s role as well as some times having to say No.
During the service the Choir sung the Anthem “Trust in the Lord” , which was written by the Priory’s Director of Music for Fr Mark’s Collation as Vicar, Epiphany 2012. They sang the Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis to Stanford in B flat.
THE SERMON IN FULL – check against delivery
But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” Matthew 16:23
Sometimes we have to have awkward conversations when things have to be spelt out. It seems that is the work of an Archdeacon and occasionally the Area Dean.
Nobody – or at least most people- don’t want to argue. But sometimes clarity has to be sort that is not always palatable. Like telling a congregation that we cannot afford to give them a full time cleric. Sorry…
Hard conversations have their places in any organisation or community. But there is no point in dispelling hot air for the sake of it. We need to negotiate our positions and seek a commonality of purpose. The problem in church circles is that we are often supreme individuals. We have our own invention of faith and vision and to see a way forward is not easy.
Soon I will be publishing a simple guide to the strategy of the Diocese which will focus on Ministry Areas and the support of mission in our church and secular communities. The strategy will not be primarily about reforming the structure but about reforming the culture.
It is a perennial challenge that has faced the church as it moves towards and then sadly away from God and then hopefully back again.
The conversation between Peter and Jesus illustrates this tension. Get behind me Satan seems a bit harsh!
Yet for Christ much was at stake. Not just his own mission but the mission of humanity. Peter got it wrong. He was telling Jesus to look after himself. Not a good idea! Jesus wasn’t bothered about himself. His mission was to save the world and he needed to constantly align himself to God’s plan. ’Peter you need to set your mind on divine things’.
Well good folk, we need to do the same. Otherwise this lovely church is a carcass to a dead religion.
We need to discern divine things. The trouble is that we do not think much of divine things. It’s got to be contradictory to what’s best for us, surely. Secretly we agree with Peter and not with Jesus. Come on, relax, Jesus, life is for living, not for dying.
Well precisely, but Jesus is asking us to realise also that life is for living, but it requires us to die to the old self. Let go, but let God. I have learnt over the years that this is essential to find life, love and peace. Now, I know Jesus may seem extreme in his approach, but that was because he is the pioneer of God’s love. On our part we can live in his victory by the cross. But it does mean that we need to recognise the cultural shift away from self first, towards loving God and ourselves in God.
People are not going to be attracted to the church by us looking after our own needs first. The only way they will find completeness is in the life of the spirit of Christ. That is the fundamental truth about Christianity. And we allow ourselves to receive this gift so that others may share as well. And we do so in the atmosphere of welcome and hospitality. Come. I will show the divine way, of inclusiveness and openness, of charity and service.
Father Mark, lives by this purpose. Yes, he enjoys life, even having the occasional glass of champagne but He is always open to the mission of the church in community. He seeks the service of the church and his readiness and commitment to the new Benedictine way like the Holywell Community demonstrates his desire to follow the divine things. I know Mark will do his best to work in the same way as an Area Dean. At the heart of the role is to be a help to clergy and to offer a pastoral heart to the mission of the church. I am confident he will fulfil this duty and continue to be an example.
But Mark is only one leader amongst many. The question that The Lord asks us as he asked Peter is ’are we with him?’Are we ready for the divine things? Of course, for we have travelled this far and where else can we go.
So in the goodness of the spirit we go forward, rejoicing in the love of Christ.