Together, Prayer, Beauty, Space: Inaugural Sermon as Dean of Llandaff

Sermon  20 11 22 – Christ the King

Llandaff Cathedral – Evensong – Installation as Dean

Fr Richard Peers SMMS

Mother Jan, Canon Chancellor, Fr Richard, Dean, Fr Mark Preece, Canon Precentor (Sub Dean nominate)

Yn enw’r Tad,

a’r Mab,

a’r Ysbrd Glân.

Amen.

Together we tell a joyful story, grow the kingdom of God and build our capacity for good.”

(Diocese of Llandaff vision, words from te introduction to the installation)

It was late summer 1993. John Major was Prime Minister. I had been ordained deacon just a few weeks and was serving as a curate in Middlesbrough, about as far east as it’s possible to go in the north of England.

I can’t remember when I first heard it but some time that September the Pet Shop Boys released their single Go West.

Well, it has taken me nearly three decades but finally I have come west. And I am very glad to be here.

Go West is a happy song. It is just one word from it that I want to begin with today. If you remember, as well as the lyrics of the verses there is a refrain leading into each line, one simple but profound word: Together.

Pause

This is a sermon of four words and three songs. 

I’ve been a teacher all my life so I shall be testing you afterwards.

Together.

It is not good for us to be alone. Right at the beginning of the bible (hold up bible) in Genesis God makes this clear.

The Bible is the story of our not alone-ness. God wants us, you and me, every one of us here to belong

To be together.

Over the coming years you will hear me use two words a lot:

Your Cathedral.

And the most important word is Your.

Yours if you are a regular worshipper here. 

Yours if you are part of the diocese of Llandaff.  

Yours if you live in this city, this diocese.  

Yours if you live in Wales and this is your national cathedral.

Yours to the people who are, perhaps, mostly not here today. Our politicians and business leaders. Our artists and poets. Christians in other churches. Members of other faiths. People of no religious faith.

Together.

Together I hope for three things for Llandaff Cathedral.

First of all, and underlying everything we do is that this is a place of prayer.

On this site where prayer has been lived for almost 1500 years.

Prayer is my second word for us today.

This beautiful building is here for prayer.

Friends, in this diocese, we will pray for you. 

Yes, the cycle of prayer, but please tell us when you have something you want us to pray about. 

There is no amount of communication that is too much. Please keep in touch with us.

From Monday next week, the 28th November Fr Mark, Mother Jan and I will be celebrating Morning Prayer and Eucharist Monday to Saturday at 8am. We will be glad to see you. Pop in on your way into the city; make a commitment to come on a day each month or join us regularly as we pray for the city, the diocese, the nation.

A special word to my sister and brother priests in this diocese, there is a strange phrase that goes around about Deans as ‘Senior Priests’ of the diocese. 

Given today’s second reading that is not a phrase I am particularly fond of. But I think the role of a Dean is clear. It is my job to love you; 

not just my job 

but my joy. 

In our prayer here we are holding you up in your ministries, the ministry of all the baptised.

My favourite definition of love is Simone Weil’s:

to love is to pay attention to. 

Dear sisters and brothers I will pay attention to you. 

Come and join us at our prayers here, at your Cathedral, come and have a coffee with us afterwards. 

You have a home here.

Prayer is a churchy word for a simple thing, to be in relationship with Jesus. 

The first reading we have just heard is my favourite in the Bible. Isaac is walking in the cool of the evening, the RSV translation has it that he is meditating in the cool of the evening. He is praying.

This passage is the only place in the Bible where someone falls in love.

To pray is to be in love with Jesus.

To see him and know him.

To pray is not difficult or strange, it is normal life, it is all of the most intense moments of our life, to fall in love, to give birth, to make friends, to do anything that is more than we are.

To be bigger than ourselves.

To pray is to recognise that it is in all our loving, as husbands, wives, friends, parents, brothers, sisters, that God makes himself known to us.

My next word is beauty.

When I was a Head teacher in Lewisham we adapted words of St Augustine of Hippo as our school motto.

  – God is beauty. Deus Pulchritudinis

This is a beautiful building. The music is beautiful, the worship here is beautiful.  I watched every moment of the recent royal visit here. It was breathtaking and flawless.

When we see beauty we see God.

My hope, my prayer is that this cathedral will be a place where the visual arts will find a home. Not the art of the past, as important as that is, but the art of now. The ways in which we make sense of the present.

My final word for the ministry of this cathedral is space.

Life is busy. The world is busy. 

We need space, we need spaciousness.

A cathedral is not just a bigger church.

A cathedral is a public space. 

My ministry as Dean will be to create a space for all faiths, a space for politicians, a space where we meet, where we talk, where we listen.

This is not the first time I have spoken in this Cathedral. 

In 2019 I spoke here about the hymn we will sing in a few moments.

The hymn known as Gwahoddiad. The welcome. The invitation.

It is a wonderful hymn because it is Jesus-centred and utterly evangelical.

Yr Jesu, to Jesus, Jesus welcomes, Jesus invites.

Mi glywaf dyner lais,

Yn galw arnaf vi.

I love those lines. We are the ones who have heard the tender voice, calling us to baptism, to ordination, to christian living.

And we are called to enable others to hear that tender voice. They will do so when we talk about Jesus without embarrassment. 

When we model for all believers a natural, unforced evangelism to the 97% who don’t go to church, who have not heard that voice. 

Four words and three songs.

Together

Prayer

Beauty

Space

Go West

Gwahoddiad

My final song, the B side – do you remember those – of Go West.  A song called Shameless.

As your Dean, I will be shameless. 

May we all be shameless in talking about our friend Jesus, may we be shameless in gwahoddiad, inviting our sisters and brothers to a space where justice reigns, where we meet in peace, where we share in prayer, beauty and space.

Yr Iesu sy’n fy ngwadd,

I dderbyn gyda’i saint,

Ffydd, gobaith, cariad pur a hedd,

A phob rhyw nefol fraint.

It is Jesus who invites us

To receive with his saints

Faith, hope, pure love and peace

And every heavenly privilege.

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Singing Compline and the Lord’s Prayer yn Gymraeg

UPDATE 24 08 19Many thanks for comments on the pointing etc. Here are updated forms of Compline, a setting of the Lord’s Prayer to Rimsky-Korsakov (based on that in Emynau Catholig) and the Conclusion to the Office. All in PDF format.Cwmplin

Ein Tad … RK

Conclusion yn G

*** Spending my teenage years just outside of Reading my first experience of the Daily Office was sung Evensong at St Nicholas, Sulham and the sung Office of the monks at Douai Abbey. I was surprised to discover that the Office could be said. These days next to my prayer desk as well as the usual books I keep the music and texts for singing the Office in French and German (Chanter l’Office and Antiphonale zum Stundengebet). I have enough of both languages (and knowledge of the liturgy) to be able to use them now and again and there is something about praying in another language that keeps the attention at 100%. Last week I was in the Bangor diocese and glad to share in worship partly in Welsh. I am a failed Welsh-learner having made three or four attempts over the last twenty years or so, mainly in order to be able to read Welsh poetry, but latterly as more priests in Wales have joined the Sodality. (A personal hero, A.M. Allchin, is reputed to have learnt Welsh in a year …). I particularly enjoyed singing Tell Out My Soul in Welsh (O f’enaid, cân, mawrha yr Arglwydd Dduw) and last year I was at a beautiful dawn Vigil on Easter day and enjoyed singing Taizé chants in Welsh. Some of those chants are in the Welsh Methodist Hymnal Caneuon Ffydd which I have and is excellent. I’ve been searching for resources to sing the Office in Welsh so I can get it by heart and it seems that there are very few (I am happy to be corrected!). My friend and Associate of the Sodality, Fr Dylan Parry Jones, and I have exchanged messages about this and he tells me that Welsh is difficult to use with chant because of the nature of the stress patterns – mainly on the penultimate syllable of words. English too has complicated patterns for stress and many musical or chant purists object to the setting of English to Latin plainchant melodies. I agree that when this is done just by squeezing English words to fit the traditional melodies this can create some very peculiar effects. But in the last half century many musicians have worked to create authentically modal chants for use with English. So, Fr Dylan’s message came as something of a challenge. I thought I would start with Compline. The opening and concluding verses are set to a simple but memorable psalm tone:

The hymn to the traditional ferial tone for Te lucis:

I am pleased with the antiphon to the psalm (used for all three traditional Compline psalms). The tone and antiphon are in the 8th mode (traditional at Compline). The tone is very simple (from Stanbrook Abbey – apologies, I first claimed to have written it myself!) with just a change of note at the final stressed syllable (so it doesn’t matter whether that is the final or penultimate syllable). The Eastertime triple alleluia is given here as well:

The Responsory is set to the Latin melody and I think works.

The antiphon to the Nunc Dimittis has been much more difficult. The Welsh version in the Church in Wales’ liturgy has 32 words; the English has 25 words and fewer syllables, and the Latin only 15. I tried hard to fit the Welsh text to a repeated pattern of the Latin melody but it really felt very strained. So I have used an English setting by Dom Philip Gaisford at Worth Abbey, repeating sections of the melody and providing another very simple tone:

The text of the whole Office is available here: Cwmplin (PDF)Cwmplin MSW (The music will only appear if the Meinrad fonts are installed). I would be very grateful to have any improvements and corrections suggested or hear about other resources. I hope this will be helpful to my sisters and brothers in the Sodality in Wales (and beyond) and to others.