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New Dean of Llandaff appointed

20 September 2022

Canon Richard Peers has strong links with the Church in Wales

LLANDAFF DIOCESE

Canon Richard Peers at Oxford

Canon Richard Peers at Oxford

CANON Richard Peers, Sub-Dean and Residentiary Canon of Christ Church, Oxford, has been appointed Dean of Llandaff, the diocese announced on Tuesday. Canon Peers succeeds the Very Revd Gerwyn Capon, who resigned in May (News, 20 May).

Canon Peers has strong links with the Church in Wales, and with Llandaff Cathedral, which he describes as having held “an important place in my heart for many years”. He is an Honorary Canon of St Asaph Cathedral.

Canon Peers, who is 57 this year, trained and worked as a teacher before being ordained deacon in 1993. He was for eight years head teacher of Trinity C of E School, in Lewisham, south-east London, before becoming Liverpool’s Diocesan Director of Education, and chief executive of Liverpool Diocesan Schools Trust.

He has served in parishes in York, Portsmouth, and Southwark dioceses, and took up post at Christ Church in 2020. He was a founder and the first Superior of the Sodality of Mary, Mother of Priests, a dispersed community of Anglican priests; has practised meditation throughout his adult life; and, as an experienced spiritual director, leads retreats and pilgrimages, many of them in Wales.

With his partner, Jim, and dog, Teilo (named for the patron saint), he is credited with bringing the college, cathedral community, and wider city of Oxford closer together. He describes the Christ Church team as “resourceful and resilient . . . a wonderful and unique institution. . . It will be very much in my thoughts and prayers as it conducts the Governance Review and fulfils its vocation as a Joint Foundation in the university and in the diocese.”

He has chaired the Cathedral School, had oversight of the 80 livings, and has been a full member of the Governing Body. In a statement on Tuesday, Christ Church praised Canon Peers for having “worked tirelessly during a difficult time to maintain the life of the cathedral, encouraging a new, more diverse congregation and providing pastoral support to the students, academics and staff of the Joint Foundation.

“Richard has welcomed innumerable visitors and tourists to the cathedral, offering prayer, ministry and the opportunity of pilgrimage to all those who have crossed its threshold. His faithful witness to the good news of the gospel through his preaching and leading of intercessions has been an inspiration to all.”

Canon Peers said in a statement: “I look forward to living in joyful, confident abundance with the community at Llandaff and with the clergy and laity of the diocese. Jesus calls us his friends and friendship with Jesus is at the heart of who I am as a person. I will be glad to renew old friendships and make new friends across the diocese.”

The Bishop of Llandaff, the Rt Revd June Osborne, said: “With his immense experience as priest, spiritual adviser and Sub-Dean, Richard is ideally placed to further develop Llandaff Cathedral’s reputation as a place of excellent worship and thriving choral tradition. This is an exciting time in the life of the cathedral, and I am looking forward to welcoming him to the diocese.”

The appointment marks a new beginning at Llandaff. The former Dean, the Very Revd Gerwyn Capon, was on sick leave with work-related clinical depression for two years and had brought a case of bullying and harassment against Bishop Osborne, who was deemed to have a case to answer (News, 26 November 2021, 1 April 2022).

She had been due imminently to come before a Church in Wales disciplinary tribunal, but, when the Proctor appointed to represent the Dean deemed there was “insufficient evidence to satisfy the burden of proof”, the Dean withdrew his complaint and the case was technically dismissed (News, 20 May).

In letters to the Church Times, the culture at Llandaff Cathedral was described as one of “fear” by a Ministry Area Leader, the Revd Vicki Burrows, and by 23 signatories to an open letter as “a spiritual wasteland” (News, 7 January 2022).

Speaking to the Church Times on Tuesday, Canon Peers said that the move to Llandaff felt both natural and organic, given his 20-year relationship with the Church in Wales. “I love Llandaff, the cathedral, and the community here,” he said.

“There’s so much potential there. It’s in the capital city, it’s the national cathedral of Wales. There is everything to play for in the relationship with the Senate and the political life and the development of the cathedral as a tourist site. The desire and yearning for pilgrimage is so strong in our society, as we know at Oxford.

“The service with the King and the Queen Consort there last week was amazing. There’s everything to play for. I want to see it buzz.”

Canon Peers will be viewed as going from one troubled situation — the protracted dispute between the Dean, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, and the Governing Body of Christ Church, which has led to an independent review (News, 24 June) — to another.

He has a reputation for toughness. But asked how he will approach what has been a running sore at Llandaff for many years, he reflects, “I think resilience is based on routine and prayer, and doing the fundamental job of being a Christian, being a priest, keeping going, saying our prayers, the worship and life of the Church.

“But I also think it’s about growing congregations. When they do, it’s very hard to get stuck in the past because there are new people come who have not been involved in those situations, and they are there for something else: the Christian life, the community. One of the lovely things at Christ Church is to have new people coming to church.”

He speaks, too, of the “huge amounts of hospitality” that he and Jim (a former gardening columnist for the Church Times), love to offer. “I’m sure we will continue that level of hospitality in Llandaff,” he says. “Once you’re talking to each other and enjoying each other’s company it’s very hard to be in the bad stuff.

“The other thing is outward focus: that sense of not just looking inwards, working at the same stuff on yourself. We saw precisely that in the service for the Queen yesterday.”

He comes to the Church in Wales at a time of bold financial commitment to ongoing ministry and evangelism, and an emphasis on working in teams of clergy and lay people that is also going to help at Llandaff, he believes: “A cathedral is ideally placed to model being a team ministry in the wider sense of the word,” he says.

He will be installed on 20 November. He described himself as “hugely upbeat”, and has been working on his Welsh for some time. “I’m a great fan of Welsh poetry, and especially of a priest-poet from Bangor, called Euros Bowen, for finding the sacred in the ordinary stuff of life. That’s really what the Christian life is all about.”

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