At the beginning of October the Vicar General of the Diocese of Johannesburg, acting on behalf of the Bishop, the Rt Revd Steve Moreo, informed St Francis of the appointment of Revd Paul Germond as Rector. Fr Paul assumes his appointment at the beginning of October, and his first service will be on the Sunday on which we celebrate the Feast of St Francis, our Patronal Sunday, 2 October at 9 a.m. THEO COGGIN interviewed him on his new appointment. In this article he spells out some of his vision.
Paul Germond, our new rector from the beginning of October, finds himself at present grappling with two challenges.
First, as the rector of St Augustine in Brixton, he is working hard to bring to fruition some of the processes that have flourished under his Ministry there, such as the training of eight new parish ministers and ensuring that he leaves the scholarships facilitated by the church on a sound footing. Second, he is hard at work in thinking through all the implications of his appointment to St Francis of Assisi.
This is not surprising coming from someone who says that from the outset it has always been clear “that being a Christian could not be an add-on to my life, but to be the core of my being”.
In an interview with Franciscan shortly after his appointment had been announced, Father Paul said that the many possibilities that exist in the parish excite him. It would be important, however, for him initially to learn about the parish’s life, to interact with those involved in various ministries, and to understand what has occurred since the retirement of Tim Gray.
“Over these past 10 months the parish would have learnt a lot about itself under the leadership of the wardens and council members, who would have borne the brunt of ensuring that the parish continued its lively ministry. It will be important to learn what has happened during that time and for me to begin a process of exploration”.
As an educationist, Paul says it is important for Christians to be theologically and biblically literate, both in their living and thinking. Undergirding this would be the need for coherence in the leadership and one of the things he will be seeking to do is to create this environment.
Part of this would involve ensuring that ministries and programmes occur in such a way that people could plan together to see what the parish could achieve in time frames of, say three to five years.
He is committed to a deep relational theology which ensures that relationships between people, who have to be encouraged to be involved in the life of the parish, can be lived out in practice in a cohesive manner. Lay ministers are part of this leadership group and he believes it is important for each parish minister to have an active ministry in the church.
An integrated approach to ministry is clearly key. This means that the importance of overarching themes must be understood so that, for example, components of a service like the sermon, liturgy and music are not seen as separate parts of it.
Parish life can often be atomised, with everyone doing their own thing. We have to ask how a sense of cohesion is created – a cohesion of thought and action. This might mean that opportunities are created for the kids and young people, parents and others to come together regularly in worship and in fellowship, such as over a lunch. It would be a little more structured than just drinking tea after the service.
In an active parish it is important to understand that very often things can happen in their own little corner and it is easy to let each have its own without there being a core sense of belonging that is beyond just a particular ministry. There must be a sense of getting to know one another as part of the body so that everyone understands what each part is doing and why it is happening.
Paul’s own experience as one of the driving forces behind the Diocesan Lenten course of a few years ago, called People of the Way, underlines the importance of integrating actions with learning and preaching.
Paul has been involved in many areas of ministry over the past 35 years, some of the most significant of which have been:
Social justice – St Paul’s statement that “if one part of the body suffers then the whole body suffers”, reflects a foundational part of his theological perspective.
Human sexuality – Because it is a deeply intimate and delicate part of people’s lives, this has the potential not only to be the source of joy and wonder, but also an arena of pain, guilt, confusion and dysfunction. Helping people live healthy and holy sexual lives presents an overwhelming pastoral and theological challenge to the church. Paul has been involved in seeking to develop coherent and effective responses to this challenge since the early 1980s in research and pastoral work, including being a member of the World Council of Churches commission on human sexuality for six years.
Gender – Paul says that a fundamental part of the struggle for social justice is against the patriarchal domination of women in society and the church, something that has shaped his life and ministry in significant ways.
Young people – Having worked in universities for some 35 years before going into parish ministry, Paul brings a sustained involvement and concern, and understanding and deep appreciation, of the lives of young people.
Teaching and preaching – As a priest who finds great joy in teaching, Paul comes alive and is energised when he is communicating with groups of people and finds it pleasing that many appreciate and affirm his contribution as a communicator, preacher and teacher.
Ever thoughtful, Paul says that at the heart of his theology is a deep experience of the unconditional love of God.
“I believe that this radical love calls us to nurture our congregations to be communities of radical inclusivity in which all people, regardless, can come to discover a deep belonging in God and in community.”
He was ordained as a deacon in 1989, and as a priest in 1993, by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, while on the staff of the Church of the Intercession in Harlem, New York. He lives in Melville, where he will continue to stay once he assumes his appointment (the St Francis Rectory has been let as a result). He has two daughters, Rachel (16) and Emily (13) who attend Roedean and who both went through Parkview Primary. Paul knows the Parkview area well, having lived on Westmeath and on the Parkview side of Westcliff Drive at various times.