David de Verny

Rector of Cheriton with Newington

daviddevernyAs a Franciscan Tertiary I am not used to talk or write about myself but are more driven to point to Jesus. It is refreshing and reassuring to be part of the rich tapestry that is the wide Franciscan Movement: there is space for so many who would not find a place anywhere else, saints and sinners alike. Monasticism is one of my abiding interests. I spend my holidays exploring monastic ruins or visiting living communities, both in Europe and in the USA.

My European background helps me to connect to a history which is not dominated by the aftermaths of Tudor devastation. Visits to the USA usually have a rather invigorating effect on me, my faith and my thirst for social justice. Last year I got a grant to explore the American Churches’ response to issues of Immigration. That was terrifically uplifting and depressing at the same time. The exploitation of (mainly Latin American) workers is so much worse in the US than anything we have here in Europe – perhaps our capitalism is still not yet as naked as in the US? On the other hand I find the increasing racism and jingoism here hard to bear. What happens to Roma, immigrants and their children or people in houses in multiple occupation is nothing to be proud of. All churches in our country (and remember: WE are the church) need to be much more outspoken against injustice and discrimination. Where is the spirit of anti-slavery agitation now? Where are the Shaftsburys and Dearmers of the 21st century? The still on-going discrimination against women and gays and lesbians in our own church does not bode well. Perhaps kowtowing to people who are stuck in a different century and mind-set is not the right thing anymore and we need to let the living Spirit of the living God lead us onwards to the freedom of all children of God.

My passion for social and economic justice feeds my passion for silence and contemplation and vice versa. I try to meditate and pray every day for about an hour early in the morning, that sets me up and gives me the inner peace I need to work in a very busy and diverse parish. Having worked in the Fens of Lincolnshire I now relish being back in a (sub-)urban environment with a multitude of issues, from urban poverty to multi-faith challenges. Homelessness and youth unemployment are big here. The churches work hard and deliver virtually all the youth work in this area. I look forward to the Samuel Plimsoll celebrations in Cheriton next year. He was not only “the sailors’ friend” but generally a tireless promoter of social justice in Victorian England. A great man – and I am very proud to celebrate his achievements.

In my spare time I am planning a pilgrimage to Poitiers and Tours in France: St. Martin of Tours (Patron Saint of St. Martin’s in Horn Street, one of the four churches in our Benefice) is a fascinating role model, too: soldier turned pacifist, Christian in a pagan family, enemy of the death penalty, founder of monasteries…. He’s got it all.

You see: I rather write about him than me. The great women and men who witness(ed) in their own unique way to the truth and love of God need to be more loved and acknowledged by the churches, us, today. And we all need to focus more on the still heart at the centre of our being…