CANON Richard Peers, sub-dean and resident canon at Christ Church, Oxford, has been appointed dean of Llandaff, the diocese announced on Tuesday. Canon Peers succeeds the Very Reverend Gerwyn Capon, who resigned in May (News, May 20).
He has close ties to the Church of Wales and to Llandaff Cathedral, which he describes as having “held a special place in my heart for many years”. He is an honorary canon of Saint-Asaph Cathedral.
Canon Peers, who turns 57 this year, trained and worked as a teacher before being ordained in 1993. He was headmaster of Trinity C of E School, Lewisham, London, for eight years before serve as Director of Education for the Diocese of Liverpool and CEO of Liverpool Diocesan Schools Trust.
He served in parishes in the dioceses of York, Portsmouth, Lichfield and Southwark, and went to Christ Church in 2020. He was one of the founders and first superior of the Sodality of Mary, Mother of Priests, a community dispersed of Anglican priests; has practiced meditation throughout his adult life; and, as an experienced spiritual director, leads retreats and pilgrimages, many of them to Wales.
Together with his partner, Jim, and his dog, Teilo (named after the patron saint), he is credited with bringing the college, the cathedral community and the wider city of Oxford together. He describes the Christ Church team as “resourceful and resilient. . . a wonderful and unique institution. . . This will be much in my thoughts and prayers as she leads the governance review and fulfills her purpose as a common foundation in the university and in the diocese.
He presided over the cathedral school, supervised the living 80 and was a full member of the Board of Trustees. In a statement on Tuesday, Christ Church commended Canon Peers for “working tirelessly during a difficult time to sustain the life of the cathedral, encourage a new and more diverse congregation and provide pastoral support to students, scholars and staff at the common foundation.
“Richard welcomed countless visitors and tourists to the cathedral, offering prayer, ministry and the opportunity for pilgrimage to all who crossed his threshold. His faithful witness to the good news of the gospel through his preaching and his leadership of intercessions was an inspiration to all.
Canon Peers said in a statement: “I look forward to living in joyful and trusting abundance with the community of 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 happy to renew old friendships and make new friends throughout the diocese.
The Bishop of Llandaff, the Most Reverend June Osborne, said: “With his immense experience as a Priest, Spiritual Advisor and Deputy Dean, Richard is ideally placed to further develop Llandaff Cathedral’s reputation as a place of excellent worship and a flourishing choral tradition. This is an exciting time in the life of the cathedral and I am delighted to welcome him to the diocese.
This appointment marks a new chapter at Llandaff. The former Dean, the Very Reverend Gerwyn Capon, had been on sick leave for work-related clinical depression for two years and had filed a bullying and harassment complaint against Bishop Osborne, who was believed to have a case to answer (News, Nov. 26 2021, April 1, 2022).
She was due to appear before a Church of Wales disciplinary tribunal shortly, but, when the overseer appointed to represent the Dean felt there was “insufficient evidence to satisfy the burden of proof the Dean withdrew his complaint and the case was technically dismissed. (News, May 20).
In letters to Church hoursthe culture at Llandaff Cathedral has been described as a culture of ‘fear’ by the Reverend Vicki Burrows, Ministerial Area Manager, and 23 signatories of an open letter as ‘a spiritual wasteland’ (News, 7 January 2022 ).
Addressing the Church hours On Tuesday, Canon Peers said the move to Llandaff felt both natural and organic, given its 20-year relationship with the Church in Wales. “I love Llandaff, the cathedral and the community here,” he said.
“There is so much potential there. It’s in the capital, it’s the National Cathedral of Wales. There is everything to play in relations with the Senate and 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 in Oxford.
“The service with the king and queen consort last week was amazing. There’s everything to play for. I want to see it buzz.
Canon Peers will be seen as moving from a troubled situation – the protracted dispute between the Dean, the Very Reverend Professor Martyn Percy and the Christ Church Board of Trustees, which led to an independent review (News, June 24) – to another one .
He has a reputation for being tough. But when asked how he will tackle what has been a recurring plague in Llandaff for many years, he reflects: ‘I think resilience is based on routine and prayer, and doing the fundamental work of being a Christian , to be a priest, to continue, to say our prayers, worship and the 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 who weren’t involved in those situations, and they’re there for something else: Christian life, community . One of the great things about Christ Church is having new people come to church.
He also speaks of the “enormous amounts of hospitality” that he and Jim (a former garden columnist for the Church hours), likes to give. “I’m sure we will continue that level of hospitality at Llandaff,” he said. “Once you talk to each other and enjoy each other’s company, it’s very hard to be into the wrong things.
“The other thing is the outward focus: that feeling of not just looking within, working on the same thing on yourself. We saw precisely that at the Queen’s service 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 laity which will also help Llandaff, he believes: “A cathedral is ideally placed to set an example of team ministry in the broadest sense of the word,” he says.
It will be installed on November 20. He has described himself as “extremely optimistic” and has been working on his Welsh for some time. “I’m a huge fan of Welsh poetry, and in particular of a priest-poet from Bangor called Euros Bowen, for finding the sacred in the ordinary things of life. That’s really what the Christian life is.