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Induction of the Revd Dr John Davis as Ninth Vicar of St Peter's Eastern Hill

October, 1998.
Bishop Andrew Curnow, Bishop of the Northern Region, Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, Australia.

Well isn't it great to be here at St Peter's this afternoon. After a long wait for a new Vicar we are all gathered here to celebrate the induction of Fr John Davis as the 9th Vicar of St Peter's Eastern Hill.

The process of calling John to this parish I can say now was a long and challenging one, but I would like to publicly acknowledge the commitment and dedication that Peter Bryce, Robin Briggs, John Liversidge - from the parish; Fr Ken Hewlett, Clerical Consultant; Veronica Clarke, Lay Consultant, and Archdeacon Peter Swane brought to the task.

In the diocese of Melbourne no other parish has created as much interest and speculation than I can recall in a long time, but at all times the Incumbency Committee kept its focus clearly on the outcome - to find the best person for this parish.

I thank them for their service. I would also like to thank the Locum Fr Albert McPherson for his ministry and service over the past nine months, the assistant clergy Fr Colin and Fr Philip, churchwardens, vestry, and all others involved in keeping the parish alive and well.

The role of the bishop in the process is somewhat akin to that of a matchmaker. It is my task to help the parish identify what sort of priest they want, and then to help priests approached to see whether this really is the place that they are called to be the priest of.

My role of matchmaker (I don't want to push the role too far) comes to a culmination in this service where we liturgically introduce the congregation and new priest to each other and pray for God's blessing upon them as this new relationship in ministry is set on its way.

So let me say a little about priest and parish and finish with a reflection on our readings. As I say, a little, because I believe it is important for priest and people to get to know each other. John Davis was a curate at St Peter's and left 15 years ago. Since then he has had a parish in the suburban south-eastern Melbourne, served as Stewart Lecturer in the Trinity College Theological School as well as Chaplain to the Canterbury Fellowship. For the past nine years John has been Rector of Albury and Archdeacon of Albury. He is widely known in the Australian Church as a distinguished historian, and his book on the Anglican Church of Australia and its Constitution is a landmark publication.

the best people to tell you about John Davis are the people here from St Matthew's in Albury. They have experienced his leadership, his ministry, teaching and pastoral care. They have seen first hand how out of the ashes of the disastrous fire that afflicted the church there has arisen a new and magnificent St Matthew's. Fr John Davis I believe comes at the right time in his ministry for leadership of this parish.

So, what do I say about St Peter's? In many ways the title of Fr Colin Holden's history says it all!

From Tories at Prayer to Socialists at High Mass

St Peter's is an amazing church, in a wonderful location and with 152 years of ministry and tradition behind it.

As Fr Colin writes:

St Peter's has always been an Anglican Church with a difference - promoting a highly traditional liturgy while, at times encouraging its congregation to a serious study of socialism and other political ideologies

At the same time it is important not to typecast any church too much into concrete and the wonderful quality about St Peter's is that it has a wonderful sense of tradition, but it welcomes all people. It is an inclusive church, with a rich and diverse congregation. It has been a centre for the Anglo-Catholic faith not only in this diocese but for the whole Australian church, may it long continue!

From our readings today there are many learnings for us all on this occasion - but to John and members of St Peter's I give you three:

  1. The old testament reading - The Prophet is sent to the poor - God looks for a just world. It's a good reading and to priest and people of St Peter's is saying loud and clearly make social justice part of your ministry. Your worship must be centred upon God, but let it lead your people in this place to fight injustice.
  2. The second reading from II Corinthians:
    It is aimed in a much more personal way at those who have responsibility for ministry. It recognises on the one hand our vulnerability, and on the other that God can work through us. Paul in a very realistic down to earth manner is telling us we can feel forsaken, and even driven to despair, but we will not be destroyed, just as Jesus was not finally overcome.

    It's a very inspirational message for both priest and people and attested to over the centuries by many saints and martyrs of the church, such as St Francis whose feast day we mark today. He knew full well what Paul was writing about as it is reflected in the words of his famous prayer:
    Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
    Where there is hatred, let me sow love
    Where there is injury, pardon
    Where there is doubt, faith,
    Where there is despair, hope,
    Where there is darkness, light,
    and where there is sadness, joy.
    O divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
    To be consoled, as to console,
    To be understood, as to understand,
    To be loved, as to love,
    For it is in giving that we receive;
    It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
    It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
    St Francis of Assisi, 1181 - 1226
  3. And then we come to the Gospel: From John 15: Famous words on the nature of service and the relationship that should be between priest and people:
    "I do not call you servants any longer... but I call you friends"

    Let me quote an example of this from our own time: Kenneth Leech, writing in 'The Eye of the Storm'

    It was the very ordinary life of this obscure London street which brought home to me the common-ness of grace, and the ordinariness of spirituality. It think that I went there believing that I was bringing love, bringing intellect, bringing care, possibly bringing Christ, to the deprived Cable Street community. I came to see that it was I who was deprived, that it was I who was in need of their love and care, that Christ was to be found there and did not need to be brought in from outside, and that until that fundamental truth of God's presence and activity in the midst of the oppressed and downtrodden is recognised, all pastoral ministry and all religious life will be unreal.

I hope John, that you will have a similar experience to Kenneth Leech. As you tread this precinct, and the surrounding streets and get to know the people, that you will know this is where truly Christ is to be found. That you will feel in the most profound and deepest sense that this is where God wants you to be!

May God bless St Peter's and all who gather here and John, may God richly bless your ministry in this church!


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