Benedict, Balance and the Deans: The Benedictine concept of balance offers a way for a dean to survive and thrive in an Anglican cathedral today.
Introduction : More than twenty years ago I was introduced to the Rule of Benedict by Esther de Waal. It was a revelation to me that centuries ago (Benedict’s dates are 480 – 547 AD) a man had the vision to set out a way of living a balanced life for God in the midst of apparent chaos. While the Rule remains the basic underlying rule for western monasticism I realized too that the Anglican Church owes an immense amount to Benedict. My experience as a priest suggests that Anglicans have drifted towards a management, and increasingly congregational, style of being church, with emphasis on numbers and personality of clergy. The Rule suggests we may have lost something worthwhile. There is something unexpectedly contemporary about the challenge of the three vows – obedience, stability and continual conversion – to today’s church, and especially today’s cathedrals. One English cathedral that I am aware of has specifically tied itself to Benedictine principles. While only one model of cathedral, this indicates that Benedict’s vision continues to be relevant today. As I thought about a topic to fulfill the requirements for the M Min research essay I found myself increasingly drawn to asking whether the Rule of Benedict might have some suggestions for a busy dean trying to cope with the many demands on his/her time. This thinking was further encouraged in the words of a university lecturer who, on introducing me to his class of business administration students, reminded them that business models are relatively recent, often built either on that of the church or the military. Drawing on my own experience in a number of cathedrals, and the reading and talking I have done (including meeting regularly with my New Zealand dean colleagues and a small group of international deans over the past few years), a thesis topic developed. The Benedictine concept of balance offers a way for a dean to survive and thrive in an Anglican cathedral today. This topic would give me the chance to • reflect on my own ministry as a priest over a period of more than thirty years (much of it in cathedrals) • delve deeply into the Rule of Benedict and some of today’s commentators on, and practitioners of, the Rule • look critically at the way in which the Rule has influenced some of the decisions and practices I have made as Dean of Wellington • through a process of interviews with deans and former deans in New Zealand, seek to discover whether my thesis has any validity and usefulness, both to deans and the wider church.
Advisor: Booth, Ken
Degree Name: Master of Ministry
Degree Discipline: Department of Theology and Religious Studies
Research Type: Dissertation