Thursday, 30 June 2011

Prayer, mission and building the kingdom: the work of USPG

Praying the kingdom ... we create a false dichotomy when we think of prayer and spirituality as something internal and think of mission in external ways, separating our spirituality from our active expressions of kingdom values (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

Opening Prayer:

O God,
the strength of all those who put their trust in you,
mercifully accept our prayers
and, because through the weakness of our mortal nature
we can do no good thing without you,
grant us the help of your grace,
that in the keeping of your commandments
we may please you both in will and deed;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(Collect, The First Sunday after Trinity, Common Worship)

Introduction:

A profound spiritual under-girding of mission is found in a statement of the Commission on Mission of the National Council of Churches in Australia that said: “Mission is the creating, reconciling and transforming action of God, flowing from the community of love found in the Trinity, made known to all humanity in the person of Jesus, and entrusted to the faithful action and witness of the people of God who, in the power of the Spirit, are a sign, foretaste and instrument of the reign of God.”

But I wonder how many of us notice a large gap between our prayer lives and spiritual lives, on the one hand, and our commitment to mission and building the Kingdom of God, on the other.

We often think of our life of prayer and spirituality as something internal: as something that I keep in here; something that is part of my prayers, my inner thoughts, my religious emotions; but not something to be expressed publicly – in some cases not even connected with how I pray in Church.

But then we think of mission in external ways: it is something that I engage with out there, something practical, something active, something that expresses my values and beliefs in an externalised way.

On the one hand, “spirituality” is part of my private life. On the other hand, mission is seen as “good works” – something I do in the world.

How often have you noticed this dichotomy, this dysfunctional aspect to your prayer life, or you have noticed it in others and wondered what to do about it?

That dichotomy, that dysfunctional relationship between prayer life and mission was recognised and addressed by Bishop Frank Weston, once a curate here in Saint Matthew’s, in his closing address at the 1923 Anglo-Catholic Congress, when he reminded those present that their spiritual life must coupled with a true devotion to Christ in the poor and downtrodden:

“Christ is found in and amid matter – Spirit through matter – God in flesh, God in the Sacrament. But I say to you, and I say it with all the earnestness that I have … you have got to come out from before your Tabernacle and walk, with Christ mystically present in you, out into the streets of this country, and find the same Jesus in the people of your cities and your villages.

“You cannot claim to worship Jesus in the Tabernacle, if you do not pity Jesus in the slums. … You have got your Mass, you have got your Altar, you have begun to get your Tabernacle. Now go out into the highways and hedges where not even the Bishops will try to hinder you. Go out and look for Jesus in the ragged, in the naked, in the oppressed and sweated, in those who have lost hope, in those who are struggling to make good. Look for Jesus. And when you see him, gird yourselves with his towel and try to wash their feet.”

Bishop Frank Weston ... “Go out and look for Jesus in the ragged, in the naked, in the oppressed and sweated, in those who have lost hope, in those who are struggling to make good.”

I want to steer us towards looking at this topic under these headings:

1, The Five Marks of Mission;
2, Intercessions and personal prayer;
3, Mission and the Eucharist;
4, Mission in the Offices of the Church;
5, Mission in context and learning from the Spirituality of Others.

1, The Five Marks of Mission

The Anglican Communion, at various stages, has defined and accepted the Five Marks of the Mission as:

1, To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
2, To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
3, To respond to human need by loving service
4, To seek to transform unjust structures of society
5, To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

To what degree is each of these five marks spiritual and a potentially integral part of spiritual life, an aid to spiritual growth or offers potential for prayer?

1, To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom

The first mark of mission is not simply personal evangelism. It cannot be reduced to that. Proclaiming the Good news of the Kingdom is more than one-to-one encounters. It can have no purpose unless we have an understanding of what Good news is and have a vision of what the Kingdom may be like.

What is good news depends on the places, times, cultures and needs we encounter and live in.

Proclamation comes in more than words. We all know the difference between the news as we listen to it on Radio or the BBC World Service, watch it on ITN or Sky, read it in the Guardian, the Sun, the Daily Telegraph or the Times. It is not only that the medium conveys the message, or – as Marshall McLuhan told us in the 1960s – that the medium is the message, but the medium defines our priorities in both proclaiming and receiving the news.

If the Church is to have an integrated approach to Proclamation, then it must be in both Word and Sacrament; it must provide example in Discipleship; it must seek not only to invite people to be Christians but to invite them into the Church too; and it must have a vision of the Church as a foretaste of the Kingdom.

And so at the heart of proclamation is not programme – programmes about publishing more leaflets, printing more Bibles, sending out more people, collecting more money. At the heart of proclamation are vision and invitation – vision of the kingdom, and invitation through the Church into that kingdom. And that vision and invitation require an integrated spirituality. Otherwise, we end up with relying on what I describe as “feel-good-factor mission”: mission that is judged successful because it answers the goals set by a programme, that counts its success by the “bums-on-pews” factor; and keeps those people in the pews not by challenging them with a vision of the kingdom but by making them feel happy with happy hymns, happy prayers, self-affirming sermons.

We share a common call to share in God’s healing and reconciling mission for our blessed but broken and hurting world.

The world has been graced by God and God’s work through Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is to seek to heal the hurts of the world and to reconcile its brokenness. As Christians we are called to share our relationships in the mission of God to the wider world, bearing witness to the kingdom of love, justice and joy that Jesus inaugurated.

2, To teach, baptise and nurture new believers

How do you learn? We are all different types of learners. When you buy a new DVD player or a new laptop, how do you learn to use it? How are you taught to use it?

Do you take the new instruction book out of its plastic wrapping? Perhaps, like me, you even need instructions on how to open the plastic wrapping.

Do you learn to use by reading the instructions or by following the diagrams?

Do you ask someone else to show you?

Do you rush in and do it yourself, prepared to learn by your own mistakes?

To teach new believers requires different teaching methods. It’s not enough to convert individuals merely to the point of making a personal declaration of faith. They are taught in different ways, including being taught by example.

Is your example in faith infectious?

Is your practice in prayer one that others can find nurturing?

Have you an inner life that embraces others to the point that they may make mistakes … not because they are different, but because they are learning for themselves?

3, To respond to human need by loving service

A major portion of USPG’s financial resources are devoted to health care and educational projects.

But this is not because we are a charitable giver in some way that makes us an Anglican Oxfam or an Affirming Catholicism version of Christian Aid. We give for two reasons:

(1), It is part of Christian responsibility to share our resources:

What resources we have are for sharing – not just money and people, but ideas, prayers, excitement, challenge, enthusiasm. It calls for a move to an equitable sharing of such resources particularly within the Church.

There is no point in giving to something if our giving does not reflect our prayers for what we are giving to. Why give to support a hospital if we never pray that malaria will be eliminated, or that women should never be deprived of resources so that they die in childbirth, or that an antidote will be soon found for HIV/AIDS?

But neither dismiss other people’s giving when they stop at giving and do not get involved. Their giving may be where they stop, but you cannot see where they started. It may be a continuation of their prayers, and may be the only way they can express their desire for sharing and justice. We must never disempower those who only appear to give.

For, as we were told in the Gospel reading last Sunday [26 June 2011, the First Sunday after Trinity]: “whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward” (Matthew 10: 42).

(2), It is an expression of the priorities of Christ and the priorities of the Church:

Jesus expends most of his compassion on behalf of women, children, slaves, the widowed, the orphaned, the financially marginalised and the ostracised. By giving first and foremost to healthcare and education, we are prioritising our mission according to the priorities of Christ himself. And that is getting our spiritual priorities in the right order. Do we reflect those priorities in our personal prayer?

We rejoice with people in their joys, and we mourn with people in their sorrows. The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us not only that we are made in the image and likeness of God individually but communally and collectively too as humanity.

We should be shocked to hear the children’s challenge in the Gospel reading next Sunday [3 July 2011, the Second Sunday after Trinity] being addressed to us:

“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn” (see Matthew 11: 16-19, 25-30).

4, To seek to transform unjust structures of society

I wonder how often in our parishes and in our dioceses do we affirm those who are seeking to transform the unjust structures of society as engaging in mission, as missionaries?

When I supported the Gaza Flotilla, and spoke at demonstrations in Dublin last year after the murder on the high seas of some of the crew members, I was criticised severely by another priest for engaging in politics. But I was seeking to transform the unjust structures of society, and I was supporting those who do so.

We cannot bewail the system in Zimbabwe that deprives hospitals, schools and churches of resources, without also praying to have that society transformed.

It is an Anglican tradition to pray in the versicles and responses and in the intercessions for our governments. Praying for them recognises that they always need to be prayed for, not always because we agree with them, and often because they need to change.

5, To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth:

God’s concern is for the whole of life – not just for people, but for the whole created order. And so we are called to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and to sustain and renew the life of the earth.

Your concern for the environment, your promotion of your parish as an EcoChurch, is not a political fad; it is an integral part of mission and its spiritual foundations are rooted in the promise of God’s reconciliation for ourselves and for the world.

The hope we have is for all the living, the hope of a reconciled universe, the hope for a new heaven and a new earth, in which God’s will is “done on earth as it is in heaven.”

2, Intercessions and personal prayer:

And the Lord’s Prayer brings us to personal prayer and intercessions.

There is a well-known saying that there are no atheists in foxholes.

But we all have our own inner foxholes. What do you pray for in the depths of your soul?

What do you pray for?

There is a very useful theological principle that says: Lex orandi, lex credenda. It means not just that our beliefs should shape how we pray, but when we pray truly we show what we believe truly.

What do you really pray for?

Think about it for a moment. Ask yourself not what prayers did you say ‘Amen’ to in Church last Sunday, but what do you really wish for, hope for, long for, want?

The Lord’s Prayer and the Intercessions on Sundays are two ways of encouraging us to pray in a way that shapes our discipleship and our priorities.

Which part of the Lord’s Prayer do you say Amen to? ‘Thy Kingdom come’? ‘Thy will be done on earth?’ ‘Give us … our daily bread?’ ‘Forgive us our trespasses?’ Teach us, liberate us, to forgive others? ‘Deliver us from evil?’

Do you truly pray for us to live in the kingdom? For us to have daily bread? For us to be forgiven and to forgive? For us to be saved from evil?

Have you noticed how this is a prayer written in the plural. I had a problem while celebrating the Eucharist last year in a parish where I was filling in on behalf of a priest colleague. Unexpectedly, the reader prompted everyone to kneel for the Lord’s Prayer, as if it were a moment of personal piety and spirituality before the fraction and reception. But the Lord’s Prayer is precisely not that. Our individual ‘Amen’ is part of the collective ‘Amen’ to the spirituality and the mission of the Church.

Individual prayer only has meaning within the totality of the spirituality and the mission of the whole Church.

And a similar problem arises with the intercessions at the Eucharist in most parishes.

Who frames and writes the intercessions in your parish?

How often are they written by the priest, even though they are supposed to be the prayers of the people?

How often are they simply a shopping list, simply telling God what we want, like a Miss World entrant saying she wants to travel the world and work with children?

How seldom is there any connectedness with each item in the intercessions?

For example, how seldom do we pray for the diocesan bishop, so that any connection with the Church and the Church Universal is disjointed?

How often are mission priorities just top of the list as priorities rather than a point of real prayer for parishioners?

How useful do you think this week’s prayer priorities in the USPG prayer diary were? (see handout 4).

How much effort is put into seeing that the intercessions reflect what people have been praying about in the previous week, and what they pray about in the coming week?

Empowerment, particularly spiritual empowerment, is an important constituent of both ministry and mission.

3, Mission and the Eucharist

The Eucharist ... our liturgical life is a vital dimension of our mission calling and undergirds the forms of public witness we engage in

The intercessions and the peace – and there is a connection between both – should form the bridge between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Sacrament.

An important feature of Anglicanism is our belief that worship is central to our common life. But worship is not just something we do alongside our witness to the good news: worship itself is a witness to the world. It is a sign that all of life is holy, that hope and meaning can be found in offering ourselves to God (cf. Romans 12: 1). And each time we celebrate the Eucharist, we proclaim Christ’s death until he comes (I Corinthians 11: 26).

In his prison cell in Johannesburg, even when he was in isolation and refused access to the elements of bread and wine, Dean Gonville ffrench-Beytagh, an Irish priest and a former curate of Saint Matthew’s, was aware of the mission dimension of the lonely “spiritual communion” he celebrated on his own in front of the cross-shape he picked out on the bars of his prison cell. He wrote:

“And you know, it was a reality. ‘Therefore, with angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven’ – I don’t think I have ever known the reality of the company of heaven as I did in that prison cell ... I’m no mystic. But I felt the presence of the Church, both in heaven and on earth.”

Our liturgical life is a vital dimension of our mission calling and undergirds the forms of public witness we engage in.

There was a short-lived Facebook group called “Comfortable Words,” formed by people who said they were keen on maintaining the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Its name was inspired by the Comfortable Words at the beginning of the Eucharist, which include those comfortable words in John 3: 16: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son …” (Οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν Υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν …)

The original Greek conveys better than the 1662 English that God bestowed on the world, God sent into the world, God gave as a present to the world … well, not actually, the world, but, as it says in the original Greek, the Cosmos. “God so loved the Cosmos that he sent …”

The Lambeth Conference in 1998, among other things, agreed: “Mission goes out from God. Mission is God’s way of loving and saving the world ... So mission is never our invention or choice” (Section II p. 121). The initiative in mission is God’s, not ours. We are called simply to serve God’s mission by living and proclaiming the good news.

This is reflected in the prayer often used in the USPG Prayer Diary: “Give thanks that God is in control and that mission is, ultimately, his work – not ours. We offer God our head, hands and heart – and he does the rest.”

But are these comfortable words for us? Or would we rather control, manage and assess and evaluate our mission programmes?

I’m not a Prayer Book conservative in cultural terms, but the beginning of the Holy Communion in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer reminds us that mission, God’s mission, and God’s love for the totality of creation, is at the heart of the call to worship.

At the beginning and the end, in the Gloria and in the Agnus Dei, we recall that in that in the Incarnation Christ, the Lamb of God, takes away the sin of the world. Incarnation is not to be reduced to personal faith and salvation, my spiritual priorities are not to enhance my feel-good factors.

The sin of the world – what alienates the world from God, what hinders creation from realising the potential of the incarnation – is at the very heart of the five points of mission, and at heart of what we pray about in the Eucharist.

So, it is for a very good reason that the intercessions come between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Sacrament. The world and its needs are a bridge between Word and Sacrament.

The Last Supper, an image from Bridgeman’s workshop in Quonian’s Lane, Lichfield ... Word and Sacrament are reduced to piety and pious devotion if they are not empowering us for mission (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Word and Sacrament are reduced to piety and pious devotion if they are not empowering us for mission. The prayers after communion include a fundamental commission of each and every one of us as missionaries, as Christ’s mission partners in the world: “Send us out in the power of your spirit to live to your praise and glory.”

Or: “May we who share Christ’s body live his risen life; we who drink his cup bring life to others; we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world.”

The dismissal: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,” calls for the response: “In the name of Christ. Amen.” We say ‘Amen’ to our missionary commission Sunday-after-Sunday. Mission is not separate from, or divorced from the spiritual priorities in celebrating the Eucharist.

And this is enhanced, built on, empowered by the different Eucharistic prayers found in the Church of England in Common Worship.

For example, Prayer D in Common Worship says: “To the darkness Jesus came as your light. With signs of faith and words of hope he touched untouchables with love and washed the guilty clean” (Common Worship, p. 194).

And: “Defying death he rose again and is alive with you to plead for us and all the world.” (Common Worship, p. 195).

In Prayer E, after the acclamations we find this mission challenge: “Lord of all life, help us to work together for that day when your kingdom comes and justice and mercy will be seen in all the earth” (Common Worship, p. 197).

Or in Prayer F, we say in our prayers leading up to the Sanctus that “as we watch for the signs of the kingdom on earth, we echo the song of the angels in heaven…” (Common Worship, p. 198).

4, Mission in the Offices of the Church

Candles light up the chapter and choir stalls in Lichfield Cathedral ... the offices of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are commissions to mission too (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

But it is not just in the Eucharistic rites that we are challenged to see mission as an integral part of our spirituality, prayer and worship, that we are commissioned to mission.

This has always been part of the tradition of Anglican worship, and is not more fully illustrated in Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer than by referring to the traditional canticles.

In the canticle Venite, we are told about God: “In his hands are all the corners of the earth.”

We pray this canticle most mornings in the chapel of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. And, as I hear and pray those words, I cannot help smiling as I recall those games at summer camps where we all stood around holding a blanket or a parachute, kept shaking it up higher and higher, and eventually hoping to hop in under it, like a tent.

When God holds all the corners of the earth in his hands, then praying for the earth, all who live in it, and for its sustainability, its resources and its environment, becomes a mission challenge that is part of our spirituality.

In the canticle Benedictus, we ask God:

“To give knowledge of salvation unto his people
for the remission of their sins …

“To give light to them that sit in darkness,
and in the shadow of death:
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Don’t tell me that there is no mission thrust in the traditional Anglican offices, that they do not call for and demand mission priorities and fresh expressions of church, that they are no longer relevant to the mission needs of the Church today.

Westminster Abbey ... can inspire a teenager with a sense of reverence and relevance

Some years ago, I spent a few days with my elder son in London. He was still in his late teens and wanted to see the Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum as part of his classical studies. But the highlight of our visit for him was not the marbles, nor the Tower of London, not the dome of Saint Paul’s, nor the Millennium Bridge, the Globe Theatre, Big Ben, the Changing of the Guard, No 10, Buckingham Palace , Madam Tussaud’s … The highlight for him was Choral Evensong in Westminster Abbey, where we sat in the choir stalls.

Don’t tell me Choral Evensong and Evening Prayer are no longer appealing to a younger generation. The sung offices continue to inspire a sense of reverence and relevance, and make the compelling demands for mission.

In Evening Prayer, for generations, we have reminded ourselves in the Canticle Magnificat:

“He hath put down the mighty from their seat
and hath exalted the humble and meek.

“He hath filled the hungry with good things:
And the rich he hath sent empty away.”

Now, in the simple spirituality of the Anglican offices, that’s what I call praying through the Five Points of Mission in the Anglican understanding of mission.

In Evensong, in the Canticle Nunc Dimittis, we are reminded that God’s salvation has “been prepared before the face of all people.” The Christ Child is “to be a light to lighten the Gentiles: and to be the glory of thy people Israel.” Here personal piety, Anglican spirituality, Gospel demands and mission priorities come into focus together.

I could take further examples, for instance, from the Litany, which we pray most Friday mornings in the chapel at the Church of Ireland theological Institute, in the way it prays for the needs of the Church, our communities and the world.

5, Mission in context and learning from the Spirituality of Others

All Saints’ Cathedral, Cairo ... I woke to the sound of the call to prayer from a storefront mosque

Our spirituality and our mission priorities must always take account of and learning from others in the context of mission. We cannot pray outside the incarnational contexts in which we find ourselves.

Some years ago, I stayed on a few occasions in the Deanery beside All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral in Cairo. I expected to be woken by the bells of the cathedral, but instead was woken each morning by the call to prayer by a muezzin using a large megaphone in a storefront mosque in the street below.

In a mission context, it was a reminder that others can remind us of how our day needs to be punctuated by rhythm of prayer, and how in our casual slumber we need to be reminded that prayer provides deeper rest than sleep.

As an example of cultural incarnation and contextual mission and spirituality, in Muslim countries I have found myself not merely adapting my prayer life but being challenged and transformed by Muslim attitudes to prayer and faith. The following are examples:

1, For Muslims, prayer is submission. This is implied in the name Islam and is made visible in the posture of prostration.

How much of our prayer is less what God demands of us and more about what we demand of God?

How willing are we to submit to God in prayer?

How often are we more likely to find in prayer that we are asking God to submit to us? This is often expressed physically. Most of us were probably taught to pray in the morning and at night, kneeling by our bedside.

How many of us find this too childish and too humiliating today?

2, For Muslims, prayer requires that coming properly prepared; hence the ritual of a Muslim washing face, ears, nose, mouth, hands and feet before prayer.

Do we prepare to pray, in the same way that we would prepare to eat, or prepare before wetting out in our cars on our journey?

If not, what does that say about the priority of prayer in our daily activities?

3, For a Muslim, prayer is individual. And so a Muslim takes off his or her shoes and enters and stands bare-footed before God. Do you expose yourself to God in prayer? Or do you protect yourself from God in prayer?

4, Paradoxically, for every Muslim, prayer is collective too. Muslims stand toe-to-toe with those beside them in public prayer. There is no escaping the other, and therefore no escaping the needs of the other. My needs are only worth considering when I consider the needs of the other.

5, Moving out, for Muslims, prayer is also universal. In prayer, all face towards Mecca, so that all are facing the same way, in concentric circles that are spreading out around the globe.

6, And prayer embraces the whole kosmos. Those circles can keep on spreading out, like the ripples in the pool. But within the circles, Muslims constantly turn to their left and right, to those things, seen and unseen, which are then incorporated into prayer.

How often do want to be left alone at prayers, at intercessions, at the peace, even at the reception during the Eucharist?

It is easy for Christians to see that Islam is a missionary religion. Do you think Muslims see Christianity as a missionary religion?

I could draw parallels with what I have said about prayer in Islam with the spiritual disciplines and expressions of faith in Islam. The “Five Pillars of Islam” are spiritual disciplines rather than doctrinal norms, and they are:

1, Shadah (Profession of Faith): This is a simple credal confession … how often do we know and concisely express what is at the heart of our beliefs? This simple creedal formula has a mission thrust for Muslims. Anyone who says it becomes a Muslim.

Where is mission at the heart of our Creeds?

2, Salat (Prayer): Muslims are expected to pray five times a day.

How often is the daily life of a Christian punctuated with the rhythm of prayer? Someone becomes a Muslim through a simple confession of faith. It is said one stops being a Muslim when one stops praying.

Do we consider that when we stop praying we stop being Christians?

Is your day punctuated with prayer?

3, Sawm (Fasting): For Muslims fasting is first and foremost a practice associated with Ramadan – which coincides with the month of August this year (2011) – but it is a spiritual discipline at other times too. Nor is it simply about abstaining from food during day-light hours – it includes fasting from smoking, from sex, and more especially from all expressions of anger. If fasting had the same central place in Christian spiritual discipline, imagine what we could do prayerfully during Lent and Advent.

Fasting is a spiritual discipline that teaches us, helps us to realise how, the whole body needs to be committed to prayer and not just, in the Anglican way, the brain and the intellect.

4, Zakat (giving of alms): this giving is a spiritual discipline that is a duty for Muslims. It is not charity – as one Muslim explained to me, charity is that giving that begins when duty ends. We still see giving as charity and not as a duty. Islamic attitudes to the spiritual discipline of giving would probably mean USPG and other mission agencies did not have to face up to our present financial problems.

5, Hajj (Pilgrimage): There is an old spiritual song that includes the lines: “This land is not my home, I’m only travelling through.” Muslims make pilgrimages not only to Mecca and Medina, but to Jerusalem, to Hebron, to the graves of prophets, saints and Sufi mystics and poets. Life is a pilgrimage. I have a pilgrimage at least once a year to Lichfield, where I had my first adult experience of faith, and my first call to ordained ministry. It is a way of saying thank you to God, a way of reminding myself of God’s blessing and call to me, a way of not becoming too fixed in my ways. Pilgrimage is a spiritual disciple that keeps us on the move, that keeps us ever-engaged in God’s mission.

What are your spiritual disciples, and how do they make bridges between these three:

● Your personal prayer life.
● Your engagement with the prayer life of the Church in Word and Sacrament?
● Your commitment to the mission of the Church and God’s mission?

Handout 1: The Five Marks of Mission:

1, To proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God;
2, To teach, baptise and nurture new believers;
3, To respond to human need by loving service;
4, To seek to transform unjust structures of society;
5, To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

Handout 2: The Five Pillars of Islam:

1, Shadah (Profession of Faith);
2, Salat (Prayer);
3, Sawm (Fasting);
4, Zakat (giving of alms);
5, Hajj (Pilgrimage).

Handout 3: Quotation from Bishop Frank Weston:

“Christ is found in and amid matter – Spirit through matter – God in flesh, God in the Sacrament. But I say to you, and I say it with all the earnestness that I have … you have got to come out from before your Tabernacle and walk, with Christ mystically present in you, out into the streets of this country, and find the same Jesus in the people of your cities and your villages.

“You cannot claim to worship Jesus in the Tabernacle, if you do not pity Jesus in the slums. … You have got your Mass, you have got your Altar, you have begun to get your Tabernacle. Now go out into the highways and hedges where not even the Bishops will try to hinder you. Go out and look for Jesus in the ragged, in the naked, in the oppressed and sweated, in those who have lost hope, in those who are struggling to make good. Look for Jesus. And when you see him, gird yourselves with his towel and try to wash their feet.”

Handout 4: This week’s prayers in the USPG Prayer Diary:

Sunday 26 June:

First Sunday after Trinity: This week we pray for churches in Britain and Ireland as they engage in mission, locally and globally. There are many types of branch on the vine: we pray for mutual understanding and for more opportunities to learn from each other.

Monday 27 June:

Give thanks for initiatives of the Diocese of Liverpool to explore the meaning of church growth, in terms of numbers, love for God and service to the community. Pray for church growth in all churches in Britain and Ireland.

Tuesday 28:

Pray that churches might be inspired to attempt new things in mission. Give thanks for the hard work of all world mission officers and mission departments in Britain and Ireland.

Wednesday 29:

Peter and Paul, Apostles: Give thanks for USPG and its support for global mission, especially for the work of churches overseas that are not part of a Diocesan Companion Link.

Thursday 30:

Give thanks for the hard work and dedication of all USPG volunteers, including Associate Mission Advisers (AMAs), Church Links, Speakers and others. Pray that more volunteers might step forward.

Friday 1 July:

Remember USPG staff as they seek to explain how mission agencies such as USPG are vital for supporting provinces and dioceses around the world.

Saturday 2 July:

Give thanks for financial support for USPG during a time of recession. Pray that sacrificial giving continues to help USPG in its work.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, a member of the Council of USPG, and a director of USPG Ireland. This paper was presented at ‘Thy Kingdom Come! Prayer and Mission in the building of The Kingdom,’ a conference organised by Affirming Catholicism in Saint Matthew’s, Westminster, on Thursday, 30 June, 2011. The other speakers are Bishop Musonda Trevor Mwamba of Botswana; the author Janet Morley; and Bishop William Mchombo of Eastern Zambia.

Prayer and mission in an inner-city church

Saint Matthew’s Church, Westminster … the venue for today’s conference organised by Affirming Catholicism

Patrick Comerford

I am in London this week to speak at a conference organised by Affirming Catholicism on the theme: ‘Thy Kingdom Come! Prayer and Mission in the building of The Kingdom.’ The other speakers include Bishop Musonda Trevor Mwamba of Botswana,who was also a speaker at last week’s USPG conference in High Leigh; the author Janet Morley; and Bishop William Mchombo of Eastern Zambia.

The opening speaker this morning, Bishop Musonda Trevor Mwamba of Botswana, is to speak on “Dancing in a rainbow of prayer: the magical journey to wholeness.” Bishop Trevor is the best-selling author of Dancing Sermons. He also appears as himself in a number of Alexander McCall Smith’s bestselling books, The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, as well as in the movie. He served in Notting Hill in London and in his native Zambia before moving to Botswana.

Later this morning, Janet Morley speaks on an interesting title: “‘It is dangerous to read newspapers’ (Margaret Atwood): risk, hope and the practice of praying the kingdom.” Janet Morley is the author of several books of prayers, including All Desires Known and Bread of Tomorrow – praying with the world’s poor. She is currently preparing for SPCK an anthology of poems, with reflective commentaries, for use in Lent and Eastertide.

There is a mid-day Eucharist, and after lunch I have been invited to speak on: “Prayer, mission and building the kingdom: the work of USPG.”

Later this afternoon, Bishop William Mchombo of Eastern Zambia is to speak on: “Proclaiming the Kingdom in the current situation of the Anglican Communion.” Bishop William Mchombo is Bishop of Eastern Zambia and Acting Provincial Secretary of the Church of the Province of Central Africa. He also serves on the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order. He has been closely involved in developing resources to help churches and communities respond to the challenges facing them, especially HIV-AIDS.

Today’s conference concludes with a discussion, an option for silent meditation, and Evening Prayer.

The conference is taking place in Saint Matthew’s Church, Westminster, which is in the heart of London, close to the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Church House.

Saint Matthew’s is a lively church with a varied programme of ministry. A new building opposite the church houses the Home Office and the number of people working in that one building far outnumbers the local residents in the whole parish. This gives Saint Matthew’s a unique mission in the heart of the city.

In the rush of daily life in Westminster, Saint Matthew’s offers a place of peace and quiet and is open all day for quiet and reflection by local workers, residents and visitors. The daily life of prayer in the church includes services every morning, at lunch time and in the evening.

The church was built between 1849 and 1851 to a design by Sir George Gilbert Scott, and the interior was greatly enriched by the addition of fittings and glass by Scott’s brother-in-law, CF Bodley, Charles Kempe, WE Tower, and Martin Travers.

The Lady Chapel by Sir Ninian Comper is the earliest example of his work in England and is regarded as one of his finest. Comper maintained that the ‘English altar,’ with its riddle posts, is the first of its type in England since the Reformation.

The church – apart from the Lady Chapel – was badly damaged by fire started by an arsonist in 1977 and was rebuilt according to a reduced plan and rededicated in November 1984. This is a much smaller version of the original church but retains much of its atmosphere as well as some of the original stone-work and many of the contents rescued from the fire.

The High Altar is said to contain a relic of Saint Matthew. Tower’s magnificent reredos depicts a variety of saints and angels surrounding the scene of the Nativity. The church also has a 15th century Spanish lectern, statues by Tower depicting Saint Edward the Confessor, Saint George (with dragon), Saint Michael and Saint Matthew.

The Lady Chapel has been completely renovated, and is used every day for Morning and Evening Prayer as well as for weekday masses. The chapel has a fine statue of Our Lady of Walsingham. Next to the Lady Chapel, the Reconciliation Room is used for hearing confessions and for private discussions.

Saint Michael’s Chapel houses a stone altar by Bodley, and is open every day for private prayer and reflection. Tonight I am staying in the Clergy House next to the church.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral Dublin

An afternoon with Pugin ... and friends ... in the Palace of Westminster

Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster ... a triumph of the Victorian Gothic revival in the summer sunshine (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

I spent Wednesday afternoon [29 June 2011] in the Palace of Westminster, where Caroline Babington and Gerard Linehan introduced me to what is known to most of us as the British Houses of Parliament. This is probably the best-know building in London, and no-one can but be excited by Big Ben and its neighbouring honey-coloured pinnacles, turrets and tracery.

Gerard is an old friend since my teens; Caroline, who is the Preventive Conservator at Palace of Westminster, is the expert in her field. She is the co-author, with Tracy Manning and Sophie Stewart of Our Painted Past: Wall Paintings of English Heritage (1999), and studied the Conservation of Wall Paintings at the Courtalud Institute of Art.

Pugin’s portrait in the Palace of Westminster

I was particularly interested in seeing the Palace of Westminster because of my current research on AWN Pugin and the Gothic Revival in architecture in Britain and Ireland. The Palace of Westminster as we know it today was designed by Sir Charles Barry and AWN Pugin after the great fire of 1834.

Barry won the competition for rebuilding because of the clarity of his plan and his exquisite and minute drawings. But the drawings were by Pugin, and his contribution was crucial from the very beginning. Pugin designed the woodwork for the entire interior detail, and this remained his chief preoccupation until his death in 1852.

During this time, Pugin poured out countless designs for the interior, and they still grace the rooms of the Palace of Westminster today. His designs for furniture in the House of Lords include octagonal tables, X-frame chairs, and – the most ornate of all – the throne.

In the late 1830s, Pugin enlisted the help of manufacturers and craftsmen to realise his creations. He coaxed and he encouraged them, and they interpreted his imagination and his vision.

Pugin designed wallpaper that is singled out by his Rose-and-Portcullis design that became an identifying mark throughout the Palace of Westminster

Pugin designed wallpaper that is singled out by his Rose-and-Portcullis design that became an identifying mark throughout the Palace. Pugin used this and the Tudor rose extensively in the decoration of the whole building.

Pugin-inspired ceramic tiles ... designed by Minton for the Palace of Westminster

He commissioned Minton to make ceramic tiles that are now well-worn underfoot, while Hardman of Birmingham produced metalwork and stained glass – both partnerships also worked on his churches throughout Ireland.

Pugin also used the firm of Crace for decorative painting and gilding. The Thames Bank workshops, under the direction of John Thomas, were employed for stone carvings on the outside of the building – including the lion and unicorn outside Saint Stephen’s Entrance.

But Pugin resented the fact that throughout the project Barry was the guiding spirit who conceived the building we know today. Perhaps the secret of the building’s success lies in the collaboration between these two different and often confrontational men, with its fusion of their two completely different views.

British politicians like to describe this as the “Mother of All Parliaments,” and until recently some even claimed that this was the world’s largest building. All agree that architecturally this is the greatest achievement of the Victorian Gothic Revival.

The Pugin rug ... designed in the early 1850s and now on display off the Main Committee Corridor

Caroline was especially interested in showing me a hand-knotted rug designed in the 1850s by AWN Pugin for the New Palace of Westminster, shortly before his death in 1852. Her work at the Curator’s Office involved researching original correspondence that has led her to see this rug as a significant contribution to understanding what is one of the most important schemes of interior design from the 19th century.

She showed me the rug which is now on display off the Main Committee Corridor of the Palace of Westminster – close to a bust of Charles Stewart Parnell. It was acquired five years ago in 2006 by the Advisory Committee on Works of Art and the Speaker’s Art Fund because of Pugin’s contribution to the original decorative schemes for the building.

But first we entered the Palace through the modern office block that is Portcullis House, and passed through New Palace Yard to Westminster Hall, which dates from 1099. With its massive scale – it measures 240 ft by 60 ft – and its oak hammer-beam roof dating from the late 14th century, this is one of the most magnificent buildings I have ever been in. It was saved from the fire in 1834 through the intervention of the Prime Minister of the day, Lord Melbourne; it is here Thomas More, Guy Fawkes and Charles I were placed on trial; it is here that monarchs and prime ministers lay in state before their funerals; and it was here that most recently President Barack Obama addressed both Houses of Parliament.

From Westminster Hall, we made our way through Saint Stephen’s Hall, designed by Barry, to the Central Lobby, which ;inks the House of Lords and the House of Commons. In the tiling of the lobby, Pugin inscribed a scriptural quote in Latin: “Except the Lord keep the house, they labour in vain that build it.”

The throne designed by Pugin in the House of Lords

We sat for a while in the Strangers’ Gallery in the House of Lord, peering at the throne designed by Pugin, looked in at the Commons, say Pugin’s portrait, looked over at the Victoria Tower and viewed the Thames from the members’ terrace as the sunny afternoon appeared to stretch on and on.

Throughout the visit, there were frescoes and paintings at every turn, wallpaper and fireplaces, carvings and sculptures, oak panelling and furniture, each with a hint of Pugin’s genius, and all the time celebrating in symbols of roses and shamrocks the cultural and political union of these islands.

My only regrets were not being able to take photographs and that I had not arranged to have more time for such a wonderful visit.