The day I was installed as Parish Priest of St Cuthbert’s, the gospel recounted Christ’s injunction to James and John: “Anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all.” (Mark 10:43-44); in this way, one who is called to Christian leadership must imitate Christ the servant.
It is not for me to judge my service here in Durham; that I must leave to you and to the Lord. But I must thank all in Durham – in the parish, the diocese, the University and the city – for the warm welcome given to me and to my Dominican confrères over the past four years, and for the support you have given us as we have sought to serve you and Christ in this place. I hope that together we have been able to advance the mission of the Church in making the Kingdom present; and for our failures and shortcomings I ask your forgiveness.
Ultimately, however, we are called to be servants not merely of one community, but to be “slaves to all“. The Church calls us elsewhere, and we follow Christ’s call: “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also” (Luke 4:43).
In this Sunday’s second reading, St Paul reminds Philemon, on sending back his slave Onesimus, that the bond of Christian fraternity is much greater than that of slavery. The Dominican friars may no longer be serving you here in Durham, but we remain your brothers in the Lord. Please keep us in your prayers, as we will you, and may God continue to bless this community.
Your brother in Christ,
fr. Benjamin Earl OP