Saturday, 30 June 2012

Between a bar and a bank on the way to the beach

The long white sandy beach stretches for miles east of the Old Town of Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

I woke this morning to the sound of bird song, the peel of church bells, and a bright blue sky outside my window.

Bistro 22 on Tsouderon Street ... our rooms are above the bar (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Staying in Pepi Studios on Tsouderon Street, I have found I am between a bar and a bank.

Bistro 22 is both a café and a bar, and in the morning becomes the breakfast room for guests in Pepi. The entrance to the hotel is squeezed between the bar and an ATM for the National Bank of Greece, which is housed in an impressive neoclassical villa.

Despite the fears of many tourists that the ATMs would run dry in the middle of the Greek financial crisis, the ATM next door is busy, and is proving to be more effective than access to my Ulster Bank accounts back in Ireland.

The National Bank of Greece ... housed in an impressive neoclassical building next door to Pepi Studios on Tsouderon Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Not that I would wish a Greek financial crisis on any bank customers in Ireland, but it makes you wonder whether customer confidence is misplaced.

Why, just a block or two away there is even a shop called NAMA. It’s in the pleasant square surrounding Rethymnon’s Cathedral. The square has been repaved in the last two or three years and public works continue to enhance the town.

Nama ... with a lot for sale (Patrick Comerford, 2012)

However, there are signs everywhere of the crunch. Shops, supermarkets and hotels that were part of the book until a few years ago have closed. Wandering the back streets of Rethymnon near the cathedral, in a small narrow street away from the tourists, a young and humbled father sat begging with his two small children.

The local periptero or kiosk is an institution in Greece, serving as the local corner shop. But the local periptero on Tsouderon street is one of many in the streets of Rethymnon that have closed and pulled down the shutters.

With blue skies, temperatures in the high 20s, and just a little breeze, we headed down to the long expanse of white breach that stretches for miles to the east of the old town.

It is obvious tourist numbers are down in Crete this year, but many of the tourists in Rethymnon are Greek. Staycations seem to be one positive expression of Greek patriotism this summer.

A yacht in the clear blue waters in Rethymnon this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Friday, 29 June 2012

Back in the old Venetian town of Rethymnon

Pepi Studios ... in a charming old Venetian building in Tsouderon Street in Rethymnon

Patrick Comerford

I have arrived back in Rethymnon, and I am staying for a week in a small hotel in this charming old-world town on the north coast of Crete, which many regard as one of the best-preserved Renaissance cities in Greece.

I first stayed here almost a quarter of a century ago, and last visited Rethymnon two years ago. For the next week, I am staying in Pepi Studios in Tsouderon Street – a charming old Venetian building in a side street off Arkadiou Street, in the heart of Rethymnon’s Old Town.

The fortezza and the old Venetian harbour are nearby, and there are museums, galleries and old Venetian and Ottoman buildings around every corner, with tavernas, restaurants, cafés and bars on every street and corner. Rethymnon has numerous Byzantine churches and monasteries, enchanting Venetian monuments and palazzos, Ottoman mosques and balconies, and narrow alleyways, quiet squares and side streets that are oozing with charm and curiosity.

Pepi Studios are at No 22. No 12 has a beautiful door frame with Doric columns, and an arch and triangles with curved sides that is and richly ornamented with motifs from nature.

This house is only 300 metres away from both the old harbour and the town’s lengthy sandy beach, which stretches for miles to the east as far as they can see.

In all, Pepi Studios has 14 studios and four maisonettes, arranged around a charming garden and a small outdoor swimming pool. Each studio has a kitchen, free Wi-Fi internet and a flat screen TV with satellite channels.

Akri, one of my favourites restaurants, is a charming taverna in a quiet corner off Kornaru Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Perhaps I’ll head around the corner this evening for dinner in Akri, which has been one of my favourites restaurants since the 1980s. It is a charming taverna in a quiet corner off Kornaru Street, offering traditional, home-made Cretan dishes. The courtyard has patches of green everywhere with a refreshing scent of jasmine and with small tables under a wooden trellis.

And perhaps they are offering live music with traditional Cretan songs and dances this evening.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

On the ‘FitzWilliam Trail’ in Cambridge

Punts and Silver Street Bridge at the Anchor in Cambridge ... with Queens’ College and the Mathematical Bridge in the background (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

After the closing Eucharist at the USPG Conference in High Leigh, Hoddesdon, on Wednesday [28 June 2012], I caught the train from Broxbourne through Bishop’s Stortford and Audley End at Saffron Walden to Cambridge.

On the platform at Bishop’s Stortford, as I was changing trains, there was an interesting map inviting you to walk along the banks of the River Stort through the Stort Valley Way from Bishop’s Stortford to Roydon or Hoddesdon.

In Cambridge, I met an old school friend, Frank Domoney, at Pembroke College, and we had lunch at the Anchor at Silver Street Bridge. Silver Street is particularly popular with tourists at this time of the year and a lively area as they look for punts on the River Cam.

We found a table at the Laundress Lane side of the Anchor on the edge of the river, overlooking the Mill Pond. I had a Vitality Salad (Beetroot, sweet potato, endamame beans, mixed grains, and Sussex cider rapeseed oil dressing £7.45) and a glass of Pinot Grigio.

The Anchor dates back to at least 1864, but it may be much older. It is a good place to relax in the sunshine, watching the punts go by.

On the opposite side of the river stands Darwin College, once the home the home of Charles Darwin’s son, the astronomer and mathematician Sir George Darwin (1845-1912). He lived there for most of his life in what was then the old mill by the Mill Pond.

In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer begins ‘The Reeve’s Tale’ with these lines:

At Trumpyngtoun, nat fer fro Cantebrigge,
Ther gooth a brook, and over that a brigge,
Upon the whiche brook ther stant a melle;
And this is verray sooth that I yow telle:
A millere was ther dwellynge many a day.

Silver Street Bridge was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1932, replacing an earlier cast-iron bridge. Before the Fen Causeway was built, this was the only route over the River Cam for vehicles on this side of Cambridge.

On the far side of the bridge, we could see Queens’ College, with Cripps Court to the left, and through the arches of the bridge we had a glimpse of the Mathematical Bridge.

As we walked along Laundress Lane, the Mill Pond the river was busy with tourists and punts. Punts were introduced to Cambridge as pleasure craft over a century ago, and one of the pioneers of punt hire on the River Cam was F. Scudamore, who founded his business at this point on the river in 1910. Today, Scudamore’s owns the largest fleet of punts, with almost 150 craft available for hire along two routes.

‘The Search for Immortality’ ... the current exhibition at Fitzwilliam Museum (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

But the main purpose of my visit was to photograph some places associated with the Fitzwilliam name for an essay I want to write later this year. We started with:

● Fitzbillies in Trumpington Street, the famous Cambridge cake shop and bakery, best known for its Chelsea buns. The shop and restaurant were saved last summer by husband and wife Tim Hayward and Alison Wright after it unexpectedly ceased trading.
● The Fitzwilliam Museum, founded with a bequest from Richard FitzWilliam (1745-1816), 7th Viscount FitzWilliam, who had large estates in Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford, and built on lands acquired from Peterhouse.
● Fitzwilliam House, opposite the museum, between the Peterhouse Master’s Lodge and Fitzwilliam Street. This house was built in 1727, and became a lodging house for undergraduates in 1869. It later became Fitzwilliam Hall (1874) and then Fitzwilliam House (1922), taking its name from the museum. In 1960, the house moved to new premises in Huntingdon Road, and became Fitzwilliam College in 1966.
● The Fitzwilliam Pharmacy, next door, on the corner of Trumpington Street and Fitzwilliam Street. The sign over the door says “G. Peck & Son Dispensing Chemists Est. 1851,” but the listed Grade II* building is older, from the early 18th century.
● Fitzwilliam Street, which runs from the Fitzwilliam Museum to Darwin College. The street marks the northern boundary of the mediaeval Priory of the Gilbertine (or White Canons), established on the Trumpington Street site around 1307. Charles Darwin lived at No 22 in 1836 and 1837 after his return from the Beagle. Most of the houses on the street are now used for student accommodation.

A quiet corner in Trumpington Street, opposite the Fitzwilliam Museum

We then walked on through the streets of Cambridge, passing Peterhouse, Little Saint Mary’s Church, Pembroke College, Saint Botolph’s Church, Saint Catharine’s College, Corpus Christi College, with the Corpus Clock, Saint Bene’t’s Church and the Eagle, King’s College, Great Saint Mary’s, the Senate House, the Cambridge University Press Bookshop – the oldest bookshop in Britain, dating from 1581, Gonville and Gaius College, Michaelhouse, Trinity Lane and Trinity College, Saint John’s College, the Round Church and Saint Clement’s Church, shared by the Church of England and the Greek Orthodox Church.

Punts on the Granta at ‘Mag’s Bridge’, between Saint John’s College and Magdalene College (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

At Magdalene Bridge or “Mag’s Bridge,” we stopped briefly to look again at the punts on the Granta between Saint John’s and Magdalene College. Then we pressed on up Magdalene Street, Castle Street and Huntingdon Road, by Saint Giles’, Kettle’s Yard, the Castle Mound, the Shire Hall, Blackfriars and Murray Edwards College, formerly New Hall, to Fitzwilliam College.

This was the last stop on the Fitzwilliam Trail.

In 1960, Fitzwilliam House moved here to a 3 ha site on land that once belonged to the Darwin family. It is a stark modern building that has been compared to an opulent Middle Eastern palace and described as “a snail’s-shell pattern” and “a riot of sculptural invention.”

I caught a bus back as far as Jesus College, and then walked west along Jesus Lane, by All Saints’ Church, Westcott House and Wesley House, which also houses the Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies, and around the corner into Sidney Street, for a brief visit to Sidney Sussex College.

There was some pleasant but short time left for shopping in Waterstone’s in Sidney Street, spending a book token that came as a gift after preaching in the chapel of Sidney Sussex last February. Then it was back by Christ’s College, Emmanuel College and Darwin College to the train station just in time to get to Stansted Airport for the last flight to Dublin.

Bicycles at the Porters’ Lodge in Sidney Sussex College ... one my last stops on my afternoon walk through the streets of Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Typographical errors corrected 5 October 2012.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Join Us – and be part of the change’

The USPG conference comes to an end at lunchtime today (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

The annual conference of USPG, which has been taking place in the High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, comes to a close today [Wednesday 27 June 2012].

We began with Morning Prayer at 7.45, using a new office from the Scottish Episcopal Church.
Our final session this morning is “Join Us – and be part of the change.” We heard from three supporters of USPG of their involvement with the society over the decades, and the changes they have seen, and we heard of their experiences in Malawi, South Africa, Egypt and Hong Kong,

An episcopal reminder ... a window in the old house at the High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

This morning , we also received greetings and blessings from Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, who is the President of USPG, who was supportive of the rebranding of USPG as Us.

In the absence of the Right Revd Michael Burrows, Bishop of Cashel and Ossory, chair of USPG Ireland and a trustee of USPG, I have been asked to celebrate the Closing Eucharist at mid-day, using the rite in the Church of Ireland Book of Common Prayer.

Given the proposed rebranding of USPG, I suppose this may the last Eucharist at a USPG conference per se.

Next year’s conference will be for the newly-named and newly-branded “Us.”

The High Leigh Sunken Well and Donkey Track, dating from the mid 19th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

In an earlier posting this morning, I wrote about how there are at least three listed buildings along Lord Street, leading to the High Leigh Conference Centre. I described the Quaker Meeting House, at the east end of Lord Street, and the King William IV Public House at the end west end of Lord Street, but said I had failed to find the High Leigh Sunken Well and Donkey Track, which is a listed building.
But in an early morning walk down to the lake this morning, I found the sunken well and the donkey track in the grounds of High Leigh.

The High Leigh Sunken Well and Donkey Track date from the mid 19th century, includes a sunken circular pen for donkeys to draw water from well, approached by serpentine grotto passage, built of yellow stock brick and flint. The pen is about 6 metres in diameter and 2 metres deep. It has a low circular timber roof on later red brick supports. There is a tunnel on the west side. The grotto entrance on the south side has walls and an arch of imitation rock made of yellow stock brick and cement.

Before my flight back to Dublin, I plan to spend the afternoon in Cambridge, catching up with some old friends and visiting some places with the Fitzwilliam name – including “Fitzbillies” near Pembroke College, the Fitzwiliam Museum and Fitzwilliam College – for photographs and to think about some ideas I have for an essay on the Fitzwilliam family in Dublin and Co Wicklow, and these peculiar Irish links with Cambridge.

Meeting house and public house in a quiet street

The King William IV Public House at 197 Lord Street is a 17th century timber-frame building, with modern brick and roughcast walls, and an old tile roof (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

The High Leigh Conference Centre, which is the venue for the USPG conference this week, is at the western end of Lord Street in Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire. Along Lord Street, there are at least three listed buildings along Lord Street: the Friends Meeting House or Quaker Meeting House, which is at the east end of Lord Street; the King William IV Public House (No 197), at the end west end of Lord Street; and the High Leigh Sunken Well and Donkey Track.

I am told the sunken well and the donkey track are in the grounds of the High Leigh Conference Centre, although I have been unable to find them on each visit.

As I was walking back from the White Swan to High Leigh on Tuesday afternoon [26 June 2012], I stopped to look at the Quaker Meeting House, close to the High Street.

This meeting house was built in 1829. It is built of yellow and grey brick, with stucco dressings. It has a slate roof that is pedimented on the north side with large, stuccoed mouldings. The central, two-fold door has an oblong, crossed-glazing-bar fan, a broad architrave and cornice on large, leaf-ornamental consoles. There are flanking sash windows in moulded frames, single-storey side bays with recessed panels, and side elevations with 6/6-pane sashes. At the front door, there are cast iron foot-scrapers.

The Quaker Meeting House in Lord Street, Hoddesdon, is truly a Georgian architectural gem (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

The Quaker Meeting House is truly a Georgian gem, for it was built a year before the death of George IV in 1830.

At the other end of Lord Street, at No 197, is the King William IV. But, while William IV reigned from 1830 to 1837, the King William IV on Lord Street is a much earlier building, predating even William III.

Some of us ended us ended up there last night – including conference delegates form England, both parts of Ireland, and some with mission and church experience in places as far apart as India, Japan, Brazil, South Africa and Chile.

The pub is a 17th century timber-frame building, with modern brick and roughcast walls, and an old tile roof. It is a two-storey, four-bay building with a four-window range, and the windows have replacement sashes.

The earliest parts of the William IV have chamfered and stopped floor beams and a central chimney breast with wooden lintel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Despite the brick cladding and the carpets that cover the wooden floors, the earliest parts of the inn comprise the two west bays to the left of the first photograph at the top of this posting. These two bays have chamfered and stopped floor beams and a central chimney breast with wooden lintel.

The east bays, seen on the right-hand side of that top photograph, now house the pool room and the gents’ lavatories, but were once two separate cottages.

The two chimney stacks, on the east and the west, were remade in the 19th century of yellow stock brick, but the external east stack has a lower half in 17th century red brick. There are later lean-to additions to the rear and to the west of the pub.

And some of us even enjoyed the fact that this was almost a normal English summer’s evening, worth sitting outside to enjoy the balmy atmosphere of the end of the day.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Taking Us forward into the future with a rebranding

A walk in the woods at High Leigh today (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

At the end of USPG’s day conference in High Leigh, Hoddesdon, the Council of USPG met this evening to deal with the formal business of the oldest Anglican mission society, and to look forward to the future of the society.

Much of the focus was on the proposed rebranding of USPG and rhe new tagline:

every person
every community
a full life

The Church of Ireland has two representatives on the council – the Revd Lynne Gibson, curate of Dundela in Belfast, and myself.

The council reviewed the work of the society for the past year, receiving the reports of the trustees, and reports on the society’s activities and finances.

This was the last council meeting for Canon Linda Ali, the outgoing chair, although she hopes to remain a member of council .

The new chair of the trustees from next Sunday [1 July 2012] is the Revd Canon Christopher Chivers, Vicar of John Keble Church, Mill Hill, in the Diocese of London. He is a former Canon Precentor of both Saint George’s Cathedral, Cape Town, and Westminster Abbey, London, and a former Canon Chancellor of Blackburn Cathedral. He is a published composer whose choral works have been sung by the choirs of King’s College, Cambridge, Westminster Abbey, Blackburn, Bristol, Cape Town and Gloucester Cathedrals, as well as by the choirs of Gonville and Caius College and Queens’ College, Cambridge, and New College, Magdalen College, Lincoln College and Saint Peter’s College, Oxford.

As well as saying farewell to Linda Ali as chair of the trustees, we also said farewell to three trustees, Monica Bolley, Richard Barrett and the Revd Roger Antell, whose terms of office had come to an end, and we elected five new trustees:

● John Chilver, an accountant and former USPG mission companion in Tanzania and Belize
● The Revd Joabe Cavalcanti, Vicar of Saint Barnabas, Mitcham (Diocese of Southwark).and a former USPG staff member
● Simon Gill, who has worked for the Department for international Development, and who has worked in Tanzania, Lesotho, Laos and Kenya.
● Rosemary Kempsell, who has been worldwide president of the Mothers’ Union for the past five years
● Jacky Humphreys, a barrister working in family law and a member of the General Synod of the Church of England.

The council also elected two new Honorary Vice-Presidents: Bishop Michael Doe, who was General Secretary from 2004 to 2011, and Bishop Royden Screech, who was a trustee from 2005 to 2011.

The council members also debated the proposed rebranding of USPG, with concerns focussed on the perceived lack of an explicit Christian identity in the new name and tag line. A launch date is planned in November.

Dr Evie Vernon reminded us that we began as SPG, and pointed out that many may have had problems with an acronym like EEPS, which had been a major part of our discussions today. As she told us: “Change is difficult but change is inevitable”

Canon Brian Stevenson (Rochester Diocese) said we needed shock therapy and to revitalise the society. “And we should do it together as Us.”

Earlier in the meeting, the company secretary Michael Hart, reported the sale of the former College of the Ascension in Selly Oak, Birmingham, which has been a lengthy and complicated process over the past six weeks. The sale was completed eight weeks ago when the college was sold to al-Mahdi Institute.

‘Visually the most striking timber-framed inn in the district’

The White Swan on the High Street in Hoddesdon … rated by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as “visually the most striking timber-framed inn in the district” (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

I took a short break from the USPG Conference in High Leigh this afternoon, and went for a stroll in the surrounding countryside before walking down Lord Street into Hoddesdon, to buy the Guardian in a little newsagent shop on the High Street and to read the paper next door over a glass of wine in the White Swan.

At the end of the 16th century, Hoddesdon had at least 30 inns, apart from alehouses and taverns that did not provide accommodation. A document from the 1590s names five of those inns: the Lyon, the Bell, the Chequers, the George and the Swanne.

Of those five, the Bell, the Chequers and the George no longer exist, the Swanne is now the White Swan, and the Lyon is now the Salisbury Arms, three or four doors further along the High Street.

In 1977, the architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner described the White Swan as “visually the most striking timber-framed inn in the district.”

Most of the building dates from the late 16th century, although part of the rear wing was added in the 19th century.

The White Swan was originally owned by the Sharnbrooke family, who owned other properties in Hoddesdon and Hailey. In 1600, it passed by marriage to John Bayley, and it has had a continuous story ever since.

The name of the pub was changed to the White Swan in the 20th century – although its National Heritage entry as a listed building describes it as “The Swan Inn.”

The White Swan is a mainly 16th century timber-framed building of five to six bays. It is plastered on the ground floor, and has an exposed half-timbered and plastered upper floor. The roof is Welsh and Westmoreland slate at the front roof, mostly old tile at the rear. The building has an L-plan, with a two-block rear wing on the south side, which is 16th and 17th on the east side and 19th century, single storey, weather-boarded on the west side.

A view of the White Swan from the car park at the rear (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

The six-window front elevation has a central, canted window bay on two wooden Tuscan columns with six four-light casements and along sign beam.

The closely-studded upper floor has some diagonal braces, the south side is jettied on moulded bressumer, the north side on bull-nosed joists.

The first floor sash windows are late 19th century, and there is a multi-pane shop front on the north side.

Inside, the building has chamfered and stopped floor beams and joists, the second bay from south with V-profile moulded beams.

The White Swan is the only pub in Hoddesdon listed as a grade 2* building, and with its beautiful and elegant Tudor architecture it fully deserves this status.

‘Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with your God’

The stories of returned volunteers provided a iwndow in the world church at the USPG conference in High Leigh this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

Today’s programme at the USPG conference in High Leigh is organised as a stand-alone one-day conference focussing on the Experience Exchange Programme (EEPS).

We are gathered in the High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, this week and today we are taking a close look at USPG’s self-funding volunteer programme, which has provided opportunities for over 400 volunteers for over half a century.

The conference theme is “Face to Face” and once again we heard about “Face to Face” encounters that have been enriching for the whole church. Their stories this morning gave us a window into the world church. Perhaps some people today were surprised that not all of the “EEPs” (EEP volunteers) are young, nor are they all Anglicans.

USPG’s EEP co-ordinator, Canon Habib Nader, talked about “very exciting times.” The programme allows volunteers to experience being part of a bigger global family and to come back and share that story with meaning.

He told us there have been over 300 EEPs since 1988 – including 200 Anglicans, 90 Methodists and 22 “others.” He said 84 came from a vicarage or manse, 130 were gap year or pre-university students, 180 were post-university, experiencing a “mature gap year,” and there are 38 Greenbelt Festival recruits.

What happens when they return? Habib told us that 91 former EEPs are now full-time church workers, in ordained, in mission, in key NGO positions, and so on; 245 attended the ‘Reunion 2008’ – and 25 married fellow EEPs. He also thanked the wonderful hosts who have accepted EEPs over the year.

From the Church of South India, Sister Kasthuri Manickam spoke of her work at the Women’s Workers’ Training Centre in Nagalapuram, India, and the experience of EEP volunteers. From South Africa, Canon Rob Penrith of Saint John’s Church, Port Elizabeth, spoke of his experience of seven EEPs working in his parish since 1998, including musicians, looking after young people who need help with homework and extra care. He said it was about “Face-to-Face” encounters and transformation.

Helen Ledger spoke of her experience as an EEP volunteer for nine months – six in Nagalapuram and three in Sri Lanka – working on women’s issues and training development workers.

Catriona Macdonald, who had been a nurse and a music teacher, did a Celta course before going to India.

Hannah Silcock told how she first came across the EEPS programme at Greenbelt, when she was a16-year-old looking for a gap-year opportunity two years later. When she was 18, she spent six months in South Africa. She spoke of how throughout those years a guiding thought has been the prophetic question: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6: 8). She is now a student in Birmingham University, studying theology and philosophy.

Faye Woolard, who is now working with a mental health NGO, was an EEP volunteer in South Africa. She said the transition on her return to England was difficult, but she back with great hope, faith is a challenge, found the transition on her return to England.

Gerry Lynch from Saint George’s Church, Belfast, spoke from the floor about his experience as an EEP volunteer in South Africa.

‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again’

Christ with the Samaritan woman at the well … a window in Saint Mary’s Church, Saffron Walden (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford
The USPG conference in High Leigh opened this morning with the Eucharist according to the rite of the Church of the Province of the West Indies, celebrated at 7.30 by the Revd Dr Ian Rock, Principal of Codrington College, Barbados.

After breakfast, we had a Bible study with the Right Revd Jacob Ayeebo, Bishop of Tamale (Ghana), who introduced the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. This passage continued the “Face-to-Face” theme of the conference, but also led to some further conversations about the proposed new branding for USPG:
every person
every community
a full life

John 4: 1-30

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, ‘Jesus is making and baptising more disciples than John’ – although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptised – he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’

Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’ They left the city and were on their way to him.

“Where do you get that living water?” ... walking by the lake at High Leigh this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Questions to discuss

We were asked to discuss the following questions:

Why was it that Jesus had to pass through Samaria? What social boundaries and biases did Jesus overcome in his encounter – face to face with the woman?

Compare and contrast the type of water that the woman is thinking of (verses 11, 15) and the type of water that Jesus is talking about (verses 11-15)?

What does Jesus mean by living water?

How can Jesus’ “Living Water” satisfy our needs and why do some choose to drink from other wells?

If we ran into Jesus at the well, what would he confront us about?

How is Jesus’ statement in verse 16 a turning point in the conversation?

What did Jesus mean by the statement ‘You have had five husbands and he who is with you now is not your husband?

What does it mean that she recognised him as a prophet (verses 19-25)?

How does the text help and encourage us to pray?

What are the key lessons in this encounter?

In this face-to-face encounter, is there any promise for us to claim?

‘We have an amazing story to tell ... we are ready to do something big’

Telling the amazing story of USPG FOR Us (from left): Zoe Bunter, Mike Brooks and Leanne Werner (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

The USPG conference got underway on Monday afternoon [25 June 2012] in the High Leigh Conference Centre on the fringes of Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire.

After an early flight from Dublin, I had spent the morning in Saffron Walden in Essex. My initial plan was to photograph some of the wonderful 16th and 17th century timber framed shops, pubs and houses in this wonderful example of an English market town, and ended up being invited to take part in the Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Church, which is the largest church in Essex, celebrated by the Assistant Curate, the Revd Anne Howson.

I spent the rest of the morning strolling through the streets of Saffron Walden, and as the sun warmed and the temperatures rose, it was a beautiful day for architectural photography – the Old Sun Inn, the Eight Bells, the Cross Keys, the Market Place, the Castle Ruins, Castle Street, the Close, the Gardens, and the Rows.

But Saffron Walden is so charming and enchanting that the story is worth telling in full another day. From there, I caught the bus to Bishop’s Stortford, where I hopped on a train to Broxbourne, and after a shirt taxi journey was at High Leigh just in time for lunch.

Saint Mary’s Church, Saffron Walden ... but that’s another story for another day (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

A major consideration this afternoon was the rebranding of USPG. I have been a supporter of USPG for decades, but I am conscious that the full name, the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, is not only a mouthful for some and a tongue-twister for many, but it demands work in terms of bridging a credibility gap.

Canon Edgar Ruddock spoke in frank terms of the commercial value of Brand, and how there is a critically important interface between the world church and church on these islands. As a mission agency we must not to be seen as something we might have been – or were imagined as being – 50 or more years ago. We need to keep in step with a growing and changing church context in these islands.

The Revd Canon Christopher Chivers, the incoming chair of USPG’s trustees, said the present process is not about who we are, but about how we are and about how we relate: “We have an amazing story to tell.”

We need to communicate about our work, which is fantastic, but the name is part of whole brand. He asked how it can be captivating and exciting, and asked whether we are reaching a whole generation in the Church and beyond the Church.

There’s a vacuum in the Church that only USPG can fill (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

The CEO of USPG, Ms Janette O’Neill, spoke of a vacuum in the churches and the voluntary sector. Although there are plenty of places to give money, none of those agencies offer an opportunity for people to join in partnership and the engagement. “We are ready to do something big,” she said.

Zoe Bunter, Director for Donor Engagement, said any vision for the future is not just about looking at where we are today. Brand is part of any organisation and gives out messages about us and who we really are.

But she admitted our current brand is a barrier to many people. The onus is now on us to communicate effectively, it is not on people out there to get in touch with us. Speaking of the need to attract new supporters, she pointed out a survey shows 67 pc of current USPG supporters over age of 61.

Name is one of first messages people receive about us, she said. .For those who do not know about the work and history of USPG, the name is a barrier. Propagation of the Gospel sounds outdated, old-fashioned, colonial, insensitive and intolerant. Whether others are right or wrong, these are the perspectives, and by the time it comes to explaining work, we are on the back foot and defensive.

The change that name does not mean we devalue the past. But we can build on the rich history we have. However, the name USPG does it say who we are today and what we are doing.

We say a short film putting all that in context, pointing out that USPG, which was founded in 1702, is older than the UK, but throughout its history has been ahead of its time, fighting slavery and leprosy, supporting the role of women in the church and in mission, challenging racism, and working beyond colonies and empire.

But today we work differently.

The trustees are proposing a new name and a new tagline:

every person
every community
a full life

The panel discussion that followed included Bishop Andrew Proud, trustee Monica Bolley, Zoe Bunter, Janette O’Neill and Canon Edgar Ruddock.

There was an interesting debate, with questions about where Christ is in the name or strap-line, and one suggestion that it could be completed as: “a full life in Christ.”

Earlier in the afternoon, we were welcomed by Canon Linda Ali, the outgoing chair of the Council of USPG, who spoke of USPG as family that is a global family.

Three of the overseas trustees, Bishop Edward Malecdan from the Philippines, Bishop Jacob Ayeebo from Ghana, and the Revd Dr Ian Rock from Codrington College, Barbados, Caribbean, spoke of their formative links with USPG.

As Edgar Ruddock said at the opening of the conference, the sun is shining as usual at the start of Wimbledon week. I hope the sun keeps shining for the rest of this week in the Hertfordshire countryside.

Our other speakers today included the Revd Dr David Evans and Lisungo Nkhoma, national co-ordinator for the Hands on Health programme in Malawi. We heard reports from Bangladesh, Barbados, Ghana, Malawi, Myanmar, Pakistan, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and of course from Birmingham and from Ireland. And our day ended with worship led by the singer-songwriter Garth Hewitt, who spoke of his passion for justice in Palestine and Southern Africa.

The High Leigh Conference Centre on the fringes of Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, the venue for this year’s USPG conference (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Monday, 25 June 2012

‘Face to Face’ with USPG in High Leigh

The High Leigh Conference Centre near Hoddesdon … the venue for this year’s USPG conference, ‘Face to Face’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

I am back in England again for the Annual Conference of USPG, which begins this afternoon [25 June 2012], and which continues until lunchtime on Wednesday [27 June 2012].

‘Face to Face’ is the theme for this year’s USPG conference, which is taking place in the High Leigh Conference Centre near Hoddesdon in the Lea Valley, Hertfordshire, near Hertford (6.4 km), Bishop’s Stortford (18 km), Stansted Airport and Cambridge.
Throughout the week, the conference provides an opportunity to meet leaders and programme organisers from Anglican Churches around the world and to learn about new ways of engaging with mission that can be taken back to parishes and dioceses.

This afternoon, in two sessions, we have an opportunity to review the work of USPG since our conference in High Leigh last year, and to hear how USPG is reaching out to new friends. Later this evening we meet international guests and hear their stories.

The guests at this week’s conference include:

● Sister Kasthuri Manickam, the centre superintendent for the Women Workers’ Training Centre in Nagalapuram, South India;
● The Revd Canon Rob Penrith, the Rector of Saint John’s Church in Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Tomorrow morning [Tuesday] begins with the Eucharist celebrated according to the West Indies rite by the Revd Dr Ian Rock, Principal of Codrington College in Barbados. Later in the morning, there will be opportunities in the workshops to hear from Sister Kasthuri Manickam and Canon Rob Penrith about how people of all ages can benefit from USPG’s Experience Exchange Programme (EEP), which puts volunteers of all ages on placement with the world church.

The EEP volunteers who are going to share their experiences include Helen Ledger and Catriona Macdonald, who have been in South Africa, and Faye Woollard and Hannah Silcock, who have been in India.

For about 50 years, the EEP programme has given over 400 volunteers what is often a life-changing experience. Volunteers have taught in schools, worked on health projects, supported vocation training and agricultural initiatives, work on youth projects, and much more.

Other overseas visitors to the conference include Bishop Jacob Ayeebo from Ghana and Archbishop Edward Malecdan from the Philippines. The Bishop of Guyana and friends from Malawi and Zambia are also expected, along with students and staff from the Selly Oak Centre for Mission Studies in Birmingham.

Tomorrow’s [Tuesday’s] programme is also designed so that it can be enjoyed as a Special Day Conference. After the meeting of the Council of USPG and dinner, the evening programme will feature worship and celebration with the singer-songwriter and human rights activist Garth Hewitt, and what promises to be “a special evening of songs and thought-provoking chat.”

On Wednesday morning, we are due to discuss proposed changes in USPG. Janette O’Neill has been in office for just over a year as General Secretary, and is reporting on a more stable year in the life of USPG, explaining the development of the new programmes and letting us know about plans for future work.

Bishop Michael Burrows of Cashel and Ossory, who is a Trustee of USPG and chair of the boards of USPG Ireland and USPG Northern Ireland, is to preside at the closing Eucharist later on Wednesday morning, using the Eucharistic rite of the Church of Ireland.

During the conference, there shall be farewells too to Linda Ali, who steps down as chair of the Trustees of USPG, although she remains a member of council. The new chair is the Revd Canon Christopher Chivers, Vicar of John Keble Church, Mill Hill, in the Diocese of London. He is a former as Canon Precentor of both Saint George’s Cathedral, Cape Town, Precentor of Westminster Abbey, London, and Canon Chancellor of Blackburn Cathedral. He is a published composer whose choral works have been sung by the choirs of King’s College, Cambridge, Westminster Abbey, Blackburn, Bristol, Cape Town and Gloucester Cathedrals, as well as by the choirs of Gonville and Caius College and Queens’ College, Cambridge, and New College, Magdalen College, Lincoln College and Saint Peter’s College, Oxford.

And at some stage, I might get a chance for a walk in the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside, and drop in to see friends in Cambridge before my flight back to Dublin on Wednesday night.

Canon Patrick Comerford is a member of the council of USPG and a director of USPG Ireland and USPG Northern Ireland.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Only one pay cheque away from poverty

Who wrote this anyway? And how is charged with implementing it?

Patrick Comerford

It is often said that many people are only one pay cheque away from poverty. In Ireland, that could be a week’s wages, a week’s pension or a week’s social welfare payments.

Since last Wednesday, Ulster Bank has left many people without access to their meagre payments for almost a week.

Many of these people are on the margins, dependent on social welfare payments or pensions. But many more are hard working people, whose wages and salaries have gone out of their employers’ accounts but not into the workers’ accounts.

Ulster Bank says none of its customers is going to suffer financial loss or be penalised. But that’s not going to take away anxiety or relieve ulcers.

And it is no answer for many people who have their accounts with other banks, but whose employers have accounts with Ulster Bank. The employers have some hope of redress, perhaps, but not the workers.

Ulcer Bank is too kind a name for a bank where in recent months overpaid directors have nodded in acquiescence as their bank moves immediately against people who default on a single mortgage payment. Ulcer Bank? No thanks.

A BBC News report on Friday claimed: “The technical problem that has hit NatWest and Ulster Bank customers has been resolved, according to a bank source. However, the banks have big backlogs to clear and things will not be back to normal until Monday. The problem has seen payments disrupted into and out of accounts and that is expected to continue through today for some customers.”

Now it appears this was simply PR feed to the BBC, and things will not be back to normal even tomorrow.

There is an old legal maxim, attributed originally to William Ewart Gladstone, that says: “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

There ought to be a banking maxim that says: “Payment delayed is payment denied.”

This certainly works the other way around when it comes to people missing a single payment to the banks, when it comes to paying off mortgages, overdrafts and loans.

The banks are very nifty when it comes to making unilateral decisions about rates and charges. Now it’s time for the customers to turn the tables, and unilaterally charge Ulster Bank, NatWest and RBS for holding onto our money. And that should be a penalising charge, way above the overnight lending rate banks charge each other.

And if they don’t pay those rates and charges that have been imposed on them, perhaps their customers should consider class action and within seven days call in the receiver.

If Ulcer Bank can’t turn around payments immediately, then they are not providing the services they charge customers for.

If I behaved like this in a corner shop or small café, I would be accused of trading recklessly and trading under false pretences since last Wednesday ... and the bank would move in close me down and take possession of my presmises.

Ulster Bank opened some of its branches this morning. But this was no act of charity.

Ulster Bank has over 1.9 million customers, and a few short hours on a Sunday morning is no help to them at all. This is a problem that requires day and night attention right up to the very top of Ulster Bank.

What about the claim on the website that “we are working around the clock to resolve the problem fully”? Well, Ulster Bank has 236 branches, but despite the publicity the bank created for itself, it only opened the doors of twelve branches in the Republic for this morning – and then for only five hours until lunchtime. Surely that is not pouring in all the resources needed for a crisis that is hitting the pockets of ordinary people and causing heartbreak for many families.

I pity the frontline workers at the few bank branches that opened who were called in on a well-earned weekend off to listen to frustration and anger of customers without having the power to offer any remedies, while the directors were out on the golf course or in the yacht club instead of rolling up their sleeves and getting to work on this problem.

The home page of the Ulster Bank website says: “Our Customer Commitments are delivering easier, fairer and more local banking. Our customers told us what more helpful banking meant to them. We listened and reviewed our business to see what we could do to make this happen.”

And then they did this. It’s enough to make you laugh if you’re not already crying ... or seething with rage.

It would be more appropriate for people who write this sort of clichéd jargon to read and repeat Clause 40 of the Magna Carta, which declares: “To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.”

And when this crisis is over, it will be interesting to know how much Ulster Bank gives to charities dealing with poverty in Ireland, mopping up when the banks and the bankers walk away.

‘In a word, one pure love’

An icon of the Holy Trinity by Trinity, Eileen McGuckin

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Third Sunday after the Trinity and may also be marked as the Feastday of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist [Sunday 24 June 2012].

An appropriate prayer for these weeks in Ordinary Time immediately after Trinity Sunday comes from Saint John of Kronstadt: “As the Holy Trinity, our God is One Being, although Three Persons, so, likewise, we ourselves must be one. As our God is indivisible, we also must be indivisible, as though we were one man, one mind, one will, one heart, one goodness, without the smallest admixture of malice – in a word, one pure love, as God is Love. ‘That they may be one, even as We are One’ (John 17: 22).”

This morning, I am presiding at the Cathedral Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, at 11 a.m., when the preacher is the Revd Canon Roland Heaney, Rector of Dunganstown, Co Wicklow. The readings are: Job 38: 1-11; Psalm 107: 1-3, 23-32; II Corinthians 6: 1-13; Mark 4 35-41.

The Cathedral Eucharist this morning is sung by the cathedral choir, and the Eucharist Setting this morning Victoria’s Missa o quam gloriosum.

Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611) was the most famous composer in 16th century Spain, and he stands alongside Giovanni da Palestrina and Orlando di Lasso as one of the most important composers of the Counter-Reformation. He may have been taught by Palestrina and is sometimes called the “Spanish Palestrina.”

Victoria was born in Ávila in Spain, the seventh of nine children and was a choirboy in Ávila Cathedral, where he began studying the keyboard at an early age.

He went to Rome around 1565, and there he became cantor at the Collegium Germanicum, founded by Saint Ignatius Loyola. After Palestrina left the Roman Seminary, Victoria took over as maestro, and he was ordained priest in 1574. A year later, he became Maestro di Capella at S. Apollinare.

He returned to Spain in 1587 at the invitation of King Philip II, who made him chaplain to his sister, the Dowager Empress María. He was her chaplain for 17 years until she died in 1603, and his most famous work, and his masterpiece, was a Requiem Mass for the Empress Maria. After her death, he worked as a convent organist. However, he was in Rome in 1593, and again in 1594 for Palestrina’s funeral in 1594. He died in 1611 and was buried at the convent.

Victoria is the one of the greatest composers of sacred music in the late Renaissance, and his music expresses the passion of Spanish mysticism and religion. Many commentators hear in his music a mystical intensity and direct emotional appeal. He was a master at overlapping and dividing choirs with multiple parts with a gradual decreasing of rhythmic distance throughout. He incorporates intricate parts for the voices, and in many of his choral pieces he treats the organ almost as a soloist.

This morning’s hymns are:

Processional: ‘New every morning is the love’ (John Keble, 1792-1866);
Offertory: ‘I heard the voice of Jesus say’ (Horatius Bonar, 1889), sung to the tune ‘Kingsfold,’ adapted from an English folk tune by Ralph Vaughan Williams;
Communion: ‘All ye who seek a comfort sure’ (translated from an 18th century Latin hymn by Edward Carswell, 1814-1878);
Post-Communion: ‘Forth in thy name, O Lord, I go’ (Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).

The motet is Victoria’s O sacrum convivium.

Choral Evensong at 3.30 p.m. this afternoon is a bilingual service in English and Irish sung by the cathedral choir. The Psalm is Psalm 49 and the readings in Irish are Jeremiah 10: 1-16; Romans 11: 25-36.

The Preces and Responses are by Philip Radcliffe (1905-1986), and the canticles Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis are from the Evening Service in G by Herbert Howells (1892-1983).

The anthem is SS Wesley’s ‘Ascribe unto the Lord,’ based on Psalms 96 and 115, and there is a closing hymn in Irish, Hymn: Ag Críost an síol by Michael Sheehan and Seán Ó Ríada.


Almighty God,
you have broken the tyranny of sin
and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts
whereby we call you Father:
Give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service,
that we and all creation may be brought
to the glorious liberty of the children of God;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post Communion Prayer:

O God,
whose beauty is beyond our imagining
and whose power we cannot comprehend:
Give us a glimpse of your glory on earth
but shield us from knowing more than we can bear
until we may look upon you without fear;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

A grey day in Greystones and a cheeky bird

Children enjoying the rocks, the sand and the sea in Greystones this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

There’s a bright and cheerful wall painting on the beach at Greystones of children running down to the beach on a bright sunny day, with blue skies, blue sea and yellow sand.

A hopeful anticipation of summer weather in Grestones? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Reality was very different in Greystones, Co Wicklow, this afternoon.

Although this is mid-summer, it was a grey day in Greystones today, with grey skies, grey clouds, grey sea and a beach that seemed to be filled with grey pebbles.

But, having worked all morning, I was delighted to get out for a walk on the beach this afternoon. At a small cove below the car park at the back of Greystones Station, a handful of teenagers seemed to be oblivious to the unseasonable weather as they paddled and splashed and swam.

Few people were walking on the beach, and two of us had the pebbles and the sand and inflowing tide, with its ripples and swells all to ourselves.

Out at sea, we could see a dozen or more sails, and a lone pair of men rowing their own wooden craft.

A cheeky bird in Insomnia in Greystones this aftgernoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

We walked back under the railway line and up though the town before dropping into Insomnia for an Americano and a double espresso.

I’ve noticed him there before – a cheeky little wagtail who seems to make a living from the clientele in Insomnia. He bobs in through the open door and feeds on the crumbs from customers’ tables. First he bounces in the door, then onto the carpet, and then in and out of the chairs and tables, almost fearlessly.

As we walked back to the cliffs, it was interesting to see the hoardings have come down around the old La Touche Hotel. I hope someone has plans to refurbish it and to reopen it ... perhaps in time for summer – next year, if we get a summer next year.

A grey day in Greystones this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

2, An introduction to Church History: the Anglican Communion and Anglican identity

Lambeth Palace ... the London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury also gives its name to the Lambeth Conference (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

2, An introduction to Church History: the Anglican Communion and Anglican identity

Who we are – and how we got here

Patrick Comerford

The Church of Ireland Theological Institute,

11 a.m., 23 June 2012


Many of you may not be what is often called “cradle Anglicans.” But this is true too of many of the serving clergy in the Church of Ireland, and is true too for an ever higher proportion of people in the pews on any given Sunday in Church of Ireland parish churches throughout the island.

Rather than being an embarrassing point of difference, or a point that raises questions of loyalty, we should remember that in the Church of Ireland there should be no “insiders” and no “outsiders.”

Anyway, these are categories that begin to break down when we start to talk about, analyse and diagnose Church membership. There ws an interesting letter in The Church of Ireland Gazette late last year [16 September 2011] from the writer, poet and bookseller Louis Hemmings, who describes himself as “a recently-returned member of the Church of Ireland” who has “been outside the Anglican Communion, in house Churches and Christian fellowships.”

We can never assent to or acquiesce in a concept of two-tier Church membership, those who are born into the Church and those who are members of the Church by choice.

Nevertheless, for those who return to the Church of Ireland, those who become members of the Church of Ireland, and for many who grew up in the Church of Ireland but were often simply passive church-goers, there is often little awareness of wider Anglican identity beyond the Church of Ireland, of the wider Anglican Communion, and what it means to be an Anglican.

Louis Hemmings says: “It is a cultural shift coming back.”

What is the wider Anglican Communion?

And how do we define Anglicanism?

What does it mean to be an Anglican in the wider context?

And, can we speak about an Anglican culture?

The Church of Ireland as an Anglican Church

Who are we?

The West Door, Saint Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny … the Preamble and Declaration of 1870 says the Church of Ireland is “the Ancient Catholic and Apostolic Church of Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

The Preamble and Declaration adopted at Disestablishment by the General Convention of the Church of Ireland in 1870, offers us a four-point “solemn” definition of the Church of Ireland on behalf of “the archbishops and bishops of this the Ancient Catholic and Apostolic Church of Ireland, together with the representatives of the clergy and laity ...”

1, The first point says the Church of Ireland:

(1), accepts and believes all “the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, as given by inspiration of God, and containing all things necessary to salvation,” and continues to profess the faith of Christ as professed by the Primitive Church.

(2), continues “to minister the doctrine, and sacraments, and the discipline of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded; and will maintain inviolate the three orders of bishops, priests or presbyters, and deacons in the sacred ministry.”

(3), as a reformed and Protestant Church, reaffirms “its constant witness against all those innovations in doctrine and worship” that have “defaced or overlaid” the “Primitive Faith” and that were disowned and rejected at the Reformation this Church did disown and reject.

2, Secondly, the Church of Ireland receives and approves:

● The 39 Articles;
The Book of Common Prayer;
● The Ordinal.

3, Thirdly, the Church of Ireland is committed to maintaining communion with the Church of England, and with all other Christian Churches agreeing in the principles of the Declaration, and seeks “quietness, peace, and love,” among all Christians.

4, Fourthly, the General Synod, consisting of the archbishops and bishops, and of representatives of the clergy and the laity, is the chief legislative and administrative power in the Church of Ireland.

[See: The Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 776-777.]

Does that tell the casual reader of The Book of Common Prayer enough about the Church of Ireland and what it is to be an Anglican? Does it spell out what is Anglican identity?


There are other definitions of what it is to be an Anglican. And you shall encounter some of these later in the course on Anglicanism as we look at the wider Anglican Communion.

The Anglican Communion

The compass rose, the symbol of the Anglican Communion, signifying its worldwide membership and decentralised organisation. It is surmounted by a bishop’s mitre, in the centre is the cross of Saint George, and the Greek motto, Ἡ ἀλήθεια ἐλευθερώσει ὑμᾶς (“The truth will set you free”) is a quotation from John 8: 32.

The Anglican Communion is a communion of churches spread across all the inhabited continents, bound together through a number of instruments.

Traditionally there have been four instruments of unity, now known as the “Instruments of Communion,” that have held these churches together

● The Archbishop of Canterbury, who calls and convenes the Lambeth Conference and the Primates’ meetings, and who is often referred to as a “focus of unity.” He last visited Dublin earlier this year.
● The Lambeth Conference, first called in 1867 and now meeting every 10 years – the last meeting was in Canterbury in 2008.
● The Anglican Consultative Council, formed in 1968. Its last meeting, ACC-14, was in Kingston, Jamaica, in 2009, and the next meeting is in New Zealand later this year. The Church of Ireland members of the ACC are the Revd Dr Maurice Elliott (Director of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute) and Mr Wilfred Baker (Diocesan Secretary, Cork, Cloyne and Ross).
● The Primates’ Meetings, which take place every two or three years. The last four meetings were in Dromantine, near Newry (2006), Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (2007), Alexandria, Egypt (2009), and in Swords, Co Dublin (2011) – I was the chaplain at that last meeting.

In addition, there are roles in maintaining Anglican unity for:

● The Standing Committee of the ACC, increasingly being referred to as the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion. This is a 14-member group (15, if the Archbishop of Canterbury is present): seven elected by the ACC; five from the Primates’ Standing Committee; and the elected Chair and Vice-Chair of the ACC. It defines its function as assisting the Churches of the Anglican Communion in advancing the work of their mission worldwide.
● The secretary of the Anglican Communion Office, at present Canon Ken Kearon from the Church of Ireland.
● The Mothers’ Union.
● The mission agencies, although they have no instrument of unity that holds them together.

The debates within the Anglican Communion and on the proposed Anglican Covenant now include discussions about the instruments of unity and the discipline needed to hold together the Anglican Communion and to deal with any breaches of the Covenant if it is ratified. And there are questions about the continuing place within the Anglican Communion of those provinces or dioceses that fail to, or refuse to, sign up to the Covenant. – and to date these include the Church of England and, in a vote this month [June 2012], the Scottish Episcopal Church.

What is the Anglican Communion?

The Anglican Communion is made up of about 80 million Christians who are members of 44 different churches. It is the third largest communion or denomination of Christians, after Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The Anglican Communion is made up of 34 provinces, four United Churches, and six other churches across the globe.

These include four united churches in the Indian sub-continent (Bangladesh, North India, Pakistan and South India), four national churches (Spain, Portugal, Sri Lanka and Bermuda) that are so small that they, along with Anglicans on the Falkland Islands, accept the Archbishop of Canterbury as their Metropolitan.

Ten Anglican churches in the Caribbean, Central and Latin America have special links to the Episcopal Church in the US (TEC). For example, the Diocese of Haiti is the largest diocese, in terms of numbers, in TEC.

The newest Anglican province is the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, with three dioceses (Hong Kong Island, Eastern Kowloon, Western Kowloon) and one missionary area (Macao).

Saint George’s Anglican Church in a quiet corner of Salamanca in Madrid (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Many of the dioceses in these churches are small compared with those in the Church of Ireland. Others are vast: the Diocese in Europe alone, which is part of the Church of England, stretches from Morocco in North Africa to Vladivostok in Siberian East Asia. There have been Anglican churches on Continental Europe since the early 17th century, but the diocese dates from the establishment of the Diocese of Gibraltar in 1842, and its territorial embrace overlaps with a number of other Anglican churches and dioceses:

● The Convocation of American Churches in Europe, which is part of TEC and has its own bishop, a cathedral in Paris and churches and missions in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland;
● The Spanish Episcopal Reformed Church;
● The Lusitanian Church (Portugal).

The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East is spread across three continents, from Libya in North Africa, to Cyprus in the Mediterranean, to the Gulf States and Iran, to Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa.

As Mark Chapman says in The Anglican Covenant (p. 2):

“Anyone who travels across the world will soon realize that in some ways Anglicanism is a bit like Microsoft or any other global brand – in that it covers most of the inhabited world, and is the third largest Christian denomination after Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, with perhaps 80 million members. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, may not be quite as well known as Bill Gates, but I would guess that his beard and his eyebrows command a pretty high degree of international recognition.”

The Anglican Church in Bucharest ... a variety of languages reflecting the origins of the Anglican community in the Romanian capital (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

English is a minority language in the Anglican Communion. A variety of languages is in use throughout the Anglican Communion, both in the liturgy and in the common, spoken language of the people. In the Church of the Resurrection in Bucharest, I have heard prayers in English and Romanian, the walls of the church are decorated with icons with inscriptions in English, Greek, Romanian and Church Slavonic. The chaplain is the Revd Patrick Irwin, from a well-known Irish clerical missionary family.

The linguistic riches of the Anglican Communion include:

Portuguese in Portugal, Brazil, Mozambique and the new Diocese of Angola;
Spanish in Spain, Mexico, much of Central and Latin America, and also in the Philippines and in many parts of the US;
French in Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo;
● A mixture of Arabic and English in Sudan, Egypt and throughout the Middle East.
● A variety of languages in the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, including Greek, Turkish, French, Arabic, Ethiopic, and languages from the Indian sub-continent and the Philippines.
● There are Anglican dioceses where the first languages are Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Swahili, &c.

The origins of the Anglican Communion

Mark Chapman says that in the days of the British Empire there was an obvious connection between Anglicanism and England … But while many of the member churches in the Anglican Communion claim a direct link with the Church of England, and see this as an important element in what defines them as Anglican, it is not always so, and has not always been so.

Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh ... the Scottish Episcopal Church is one of four Anglican churches on these islands (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

There are four Anglican churches on these islands:

● The Church of England,
● The Church of Ireland,
● The Scottish Episcopal Church; and
● The Church in Wales.

These four churches have distinctively different origins. The Church of Ireland, the Church in Wales and the Scottish Episcopal Church can assert the origins of Christianity in their countries predate the mission in England of Saint Augustine of Canterbury, who was sent from Rome in the year 597.

The Church of Ireland claims to be the successor to the ancient Celtic and Anglo-Norman churches. In the late mediaeval period, the churches in the dioceses in the ancient Viking cities of Ireland, including Dublin, Waterford, Cork and Limerick, sometimes continued to look to Canterbury for their episcopal orders and succession.

The reformation in Scotland was followed by turmoil over whether the reformed church should be episcopal or Presbyterian in its style of church government. After the Episcopal Church was disestablished in 1689, it suffered under penal laws in force from 1746-1792. This church developed its own (high) liturgy; it had strong links with the dissenting, high church Nonjurors of the Church of England, and did not adopt the 39 Articles until the end of the 18th century.

Historically, there have been strong links not only between the Church of Ireland and the Church of England, but there have also been strong links between the Church of Ireland and the Scottish Episcopal Church.

At the restoration of Charles II, and the restoration of the episcopal model of church in the Church of Ireland in 1660, four of the eight remaining bishops of the Church of Ireland were of Scottish birth, or of immediate Scottish ancestry. Later, when it came to framing its own Ecclesiastical Canons, the Episcopal Church of Scotland looked not only to the 1603 Canons of the Church of England, and the 1636 Canons of the Church of Scotland, but also to the 1634 Canons of the Church of Ireland.

Just as it would be wrong to define the distinctive characteristics of the Church of Ireland or the Scottish Episcopal Church within the strictures of our links with the Church of England – in so far as it is missing a lot of the subtleties and salient facts – so too the Anglican Churches around the world cannot be defined as Anglican solely because of their links, directly or indirectly, to the Church of England.

Bishop George Berkeley … an early missionary from the Church of Ireland

Initially, it may be said, Anglicanism of the English variety followed not only the colonial flag, but also trade and commerce, and the penal system. But it soon started to spread too due to the endeavours of the missionary societies, including the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SPCK, 1698), the (United) Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG, 1701; now USPG – Anglicans in World Mission), and the Church Mission(ary) Society (CMS, 1799).

But some Anglican churches also trace their episcopal succession, their liturgies, their ways of doing theology and their stories, to the Episcopal Church of Scotland, including the Episcopal Church in the US (TEC), which in turn introduced Anglicanism to many parts of Latin America, to Korea, to Japan and to many parts of China.

In addition, some churches in the Anglican Communion are indigenous churches that grew up in special circumstances, and looked not to the Church of England, but to the US or even to Ireland for episcopal succession:

Mexico: The Anglican Church of Mexico originated indigenously in 1810, and sought orders from the Episcopal Church in the US.

Spain: The Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church arose through the work of a former Roman Catholic priest. At first it was under the pastoral care of the Bishop of Mexico, but it received its episcopal orders from the Bishop of Meath in 1894, and was not fully integrated into the Anglican Communion until 1980. Is it Anglican? Is it indigenous? Is it a daughter church of the Church of Ireland?

Portugal: the Lusitanian Church (the Portuguese Episcopal Church) was formed by dissident Roman Catholic priests who formed congregations and adapted the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

India: The Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar in India, although not a full member of the Anglican Communion, is in full communion with all the member churches, and sends its bishops to the Lambeth Conferences. Yet its origins are to be found in the Syrian Orthodox Church in India.

These churches in the Anglican Communion display diversity in language, culture, origins, and ethnicity. So to be Anglican is not to share a common English heritage, culture, or liturgy, nor is to look to the See of Canterbury as the source of Episcopal government.

So, it would be wrong to equate Anglican with some form of ecclesial “Englishness,” and it would be wrong to assume that the Anglican Communion finds its identity through links with the Church of England.

Some questions:

● What do we mean by Anglican?
● What do we mean by the Anglican Communion?
● Where did those terms “Anglican” and “Anglican Communion” originate?
● How did the first Anglican churches outside these islands spring up?

The term ‘Anglican’

If the English language or some links with British sovereignty do not define “Anglicanism,” then adherence to The Book of Common Prayer or the 39 Articles do not provide that definition either.

The Scottish liturgy, which was considerably “higher” than the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, influenced and shaped the liturgy of the Episcopal Church in the US (TEC); for a long time, the 39 Articles were not part of the tradition of the Scottish Episcopal Church until 1811, and when they were adopted by the Episcopal Church in the US, they were modified to delete all references to the English sovereign.

The terms Anglican and Anglicanism derive etymologically from the Latin anglicanus, meaning English. It is a term that predates the Reformation, that had medieval usage, and that can be found as early as the 13th century, when the Magna Carta in 1215 refers to Anglicana ecclesia, the English Church. The same phrase is used again at the time of the Reformation – in 1534 in the act confirming the royal supremacy, and in 1562 in John Jewel’s defence of the English Reformation, Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, however, the term “Anglican” begins to refer more specifically to a distinct theological position. The Dublin-born political philosopher Edmund Burke refers to “Catholicks, Anglicans or Calvinists,” and the historian Thomas Babbington Macaulay to Anglican doctrine. The French form anglicanisme occurs, it seems, for the first time in 1817, presumably by analogy with gallicanisme, and John Henry Newman uses the phrase “Anglicanism” from 1838 on.

Origins in disputes

A world map showing the Provinces of the Anglican Communion (blue), as well as the Churches in full communion with the Anglican Communion: the Nordic and Baltic Episcopal Lutheran Churches of the Porvoo Communion (green), and the Old Catholic Churches in the Utrecht Union (red)

The term “Anglican Communion” is only first used in 1851, and eventually is used as a defining term at the first Lambeth Conference in 1867.

The origins of that Anglican Communion as we have come to know it can be found in two legal battles and a doctrinal dispute that rocked the Anglican churches in the 1850s and 1860s. The first of these legal battles became known as the Eton College Case. In 1857, the courts ruled that the established Church of England could not exist in those colonies where there was a local legislature.

A year earlier, the Bishop of Cape Town, Robert Gray, called a diocesan synod in 1856 – a synod that preceded by 12 years the first diocesan synod in the Church of England, which was held in the Diocese of Lichfield in 1868.

Some years after his synod in Cape Town, Gray – by now accepted as Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan – attempted to depose the Bishop of Natal, John Colenso, for heresy in 1863. Colenso appealed to the Privy Council in London, which ruled in March 1865 that Gray and his synod could only exercise authority over those who voluntarily accepted it. It also held that the letters patent issued to the bishop were invalid because the Cape Colony had its own legislature.

By the time the judgment was issued, Gray had tried Colenso on the grounds that Colenso had sworn canonical obedience to him as metropolitan, thus voluntarily accepting his jurisdiction. The rulings from Gray and the Privy Council left a complete mess. The letters patent were invalid, bishops had been appointed by patents issued in London and yet there was no established church for them to serve in because the colony had its own legislature.

It was a difficult mess from which the churches in the colonies would find it even more difficult to disentangle themselves.

The crisis over the deposition of Colenso and the problems it left inspired the Irish-born Bishop of Ontario, 40-year-old John Travers Lewis (1825-1901), and the Provincial Synod of the Anglican Church in Canada in 1865 to issue a formal request to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Longley, asking him to call a General Council of the Anglican Communion “in every land.”

The invitations to that first Lambeth Conference went out to “the bishops in visible communion with the United Church of England and Ireland” to a meeting under the Presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Lambeth Palace. The invitations were sent to 150 bishops, and the first Lambeth Conference met in September 1867.

In their resolutions, the bishops described themselves as the “Bishops of Christ’s Holy Catholic Church in visible Communion with the United Church of England and Ireland.” And so, and the Anglican Communion was formally established because of a dispute involving a church that traces its origins to an Irish missionary, and because of the response to that dispute by an Irish-born bishop in Canada, John Travers Lewis.

Canterbury Cathedral .... the Lambeth Conferences are called by the Archbishop of Canterbury

Achievements and failures

The first Lambeth Conference failed to achieve any great accomplishments. Its significance is found not in the reports and resolutions but in the very fact that it met. The Anglican Communion, a concept only first articulated in 1851, was given visible unity in the forum of the Lambeth Conference. This unity would be maintained despite the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland.

A second Lambeth Conference met in 1878, and the conferences have met since then at roughly 10-year intervals. In all, there have been 14 Lambeth Conferences: the last one in Canterbury in July and August 2008. Will there be another one in 2018?

Whatever happens, the Lambeth Conference has developed into a deliberative body, convened solely at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It still has no canonical or constitutional status, although it has enhanced the archbishop’s primacy within the Anglican Communion.

Huntington’s proposals

William Reed Huntington (1838-1909) ... he inspired the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral

Before the next conference in 1878, two other important events in the life of the Anglican Communion took place: the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland; and, in 1870, the publication by an American Episcopal priest, the Revd William Reed Huntington (1838-1909), of his book, The Church Idea, An Essay toward Unity.

Huntington later became rector of Grace Church, an influential New York parish. Although never a bishop, he had more influence on the Episcopal Church – perhaps even on the Anglican Communion – than most bishops.

Huntington’s proposals in the Church Idea were aimed initially at moving towards union between Anglicans, Roman Catholics and the Orthodox Churches. But his proposals eventually helped the formulation of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, which summarised four elements that would help both define what an Anglican Church is and what Anglicans would accept as the basis for talks on Church unity.

Huntington was worried about what the word Anglicanism conveyed, and its nostalgic appeal. “The word brings up before the eyes of some a flutter of surplices, a vision of village spires and cathedral towers, a somewhat stiff and stately company of deans, prebendaries and choristers, and that is about all.” [The Church Idea, p. 124].

And he warned:

“If our whole ambition as Anglicans in America be to continue a small, but eminently respectable body of Christians, and to offer a refuge to people of refinement and sensibility, who are shocked by the irreverences they are apt to encounter elsewhere; in a word, if we are to be only a countercheck and not a force in society; then let us say as much in plain terms, and frankly renounce all claims to Catholicity. We have only, in such a case, to wrap the robe of our dignity about us, and walk quietly along in a seclusion no one will take much trouble to disturb. Thus may we be a Church in name, and a sect in deed.”

His vision of the Church was formed by a very deep theology. He wrote:

“But if we aim at something nobler than this, if we would have our Communion become national in very truth, – in other words, if we would bring the Church of Christ into the closest possible sympathy with the throbbing, sorrowing, sinning, repenting, aspiring heart of this great people, – then let us press our reasonable claims to be the reconciler of a divided household, not in a spirit of arrogance (which ill befits those whose best possessions have come to them by inheritance), but with affectionate earnestness and intelligent zeal.” [p. 159.]

And so, in pursuit of those claims, Huntington laid out four principles:

● The Holy Scriptures as the Word of God;
● The Primitive Creeds as the Rule of Faith;
● The two sacraments ordained by Christ himself (i.e., Baptism and Holy Communion); and
● The Episcopate as the keystone of Governmental Unity.

Huntington’s proposal stood for almost a century and a half as a cornerstone of Anglican ecclesiology and Anglican ecumenical endeavour. They were eventually adopted at the 1888 conference, and the formula has become known as the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral.

But before Huntington’s quadrilateral came before the worldwide Anglican Communion, the bishops met once again at the second Lambeth Conference in 1876.

There were few momentous decisions. But calling a second conference turned the Lambeth Conference from an occasion into an institution.

Meanwhile, Huntington’s ideas expressed in his quadrilateral were stirring responses in the US.

Dante described Peschiera as a fortress beautiful and strong ... it is one of the four Italian fortress cities inspired Huntington’s numbering of his principles (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Huntington’s numbering of his four principles was inspired, he said, by the four fortress cities in the Veneto and Lombardy – Mantua, Verona, Peschiera and Legnano – which had provided the Hapsburgs with the means of keeping control of northern Italy from 1815 to 1859.

But in essence the political climate that helped Huntington to develop his ideas was the new unity in America brought about by the end of the Civil War in 1865.

His Quadrilateral was adopted overwhelmingly by the American House of Bishops in Chicago in 1886. However, the Chicago resolution added the word “historic” to the fourth point about the “episcopate,” and from the US bishops those four points were passed on by to the third Lambeth Conference in 1888.

Lambeth 3 (1888):

At Lambeth 3 in 1888, Huntington’s quadrilateral was adopted and endorsed, as Resolution 1, with a number of other alterations in addition to those made at Chicago:

The Lambeth Quadrilateral (1888):

● The Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament and New Testaments, as “containing all things necessary to salvation,” and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.
● The Apostles’ Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith.
● The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself – Baptism and the Supper of the Lord – ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of institution, and the elements ordained by him.
● The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church

Point 1, on the Holy Scriptures, was embellished with material from Article 6 in the 39 Articles.

Point 2, on the Primitive Creeds, was embellished with material from Article 8.

Point 3, on the Sacraments, was rephrased with material from Article 25.

Interestingly, the Lambeth Conference did not change the wording of Point 4, leaving intact the term “historic episcopate,” even though it would have been possible to draw from Article 36.

When the American General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the US met in Chicago in 1895, it adopted the Lambeth revision of the quadrilateral, so that it has since become known as the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral.

What is the status of the Quadrilateral?

The resolutions of Lambeth Conferences are not binding. The only moral authority they have is that they may be considered as the mind and thinking of the majority of the bishops then attending a Lambeth conference. In that sense, the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral does not have a guaranteed place in fundamental Anglican canon law.

Nevertheless, in 1979, the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral was bound in with the American Book of Common Prayer as one of the “Historical Documents of the Church,” along with the Definition of Chalcedon, the Quicunque Vult (the Athanasian Creed), the Preface to the first Book of Common Prayer, and the Articles of Religion.

In the Anglican Church in Japan, the Quadrilateral is included in the “General Principles in common with the Holy Catholic Church throughout the world.”

In Canada, the Anglican Church of Canada has entrenched in its constitution what amounts to a fuller form of the Quadrilateral.

The English theologian Paul Avis and the American J. Robert Wright have described Huntington’s book and the way it helped to shape the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral as “probably the most significant Anglican work on ecclesiology.” According to Avis, the teachings of the Lambeth Conference merely “supplement the Quadrilateral.”

For over a century, therefore, Huntington’s Quadrilateral, as altered at Chicago and at Lambeth, has defined the distinctive characteristics of Anglican ecclesiology. It remains the Anglican basis for discussing unity with other Churches and remains the cornerstone and standard by which the Episcopal Church (TEC) and many other member Churches in the Anglican Communion approach questions of unity with other Churches.

Subsequent Lambeth Conferences

The “irregular” ordination of eleven women as priests in the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia in 1974

In all there have been 14 Lambeth Conferences between 1867 and 2008. A number of events between the Lambeth Conferences might have threatened Anglican unity, and political events interrupted calling Lambeth Conferences. But the conferences continued, and Anglican unity, though never anything but imperfect, has been maintained. These potentially disruptive events included:

● The disestablishment of the Church of Ireland (1869-1871).
● The decision by Archbishop Plunket of Dublin, Bishop Stack of Clogher and Bishop Welland of Down to consecrate a bishop for the Spanish Episcopal Reformed Church, despite strong opposition from the Church of England (1894).
● The Kikuyu Conference (1913).
● World War I (1914-1918).
● World War II (1939-1945).
● The formation of the Church of South India (1947).
● The ordination of women, first in ECUSA (now TEC) and then in other Anglican churches, and the subsequent formation of “continuing” churches.
● The consecration of the first women bishops.
● The consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire (2003).
● The approval of the blessing of same-gender unions in the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada.

Contraception and family planning

Today’s debates on human sexuality and homosexuality are posing the latest threat to Anglican unity. But how has difference been handled in the past?

In 1958, the Lambeth Conference gave guarded approval to family planning and contraception, declaring “self-discipline and restraint are essential conditions of the responsible freedom of marriage and family planning …”

Fifty years earlier, in 1908, the bishops expressed alarm at the increasing availability of the “artificial restriction of the family.” The 1920 Lambeth Conference expressed grave concern and issued an “emphatic warning” against contraception. There was noticeable shift in attitude in 1930. However, by today’s standards, the 1958 resolution must be regarded as ground-breaking, coming ten years before Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae.

The 1968 Lambeth Conference noted the publication of the encyclical and, while expressing its appreciation of the Pope’s deep concern for the institution of marriage and the integrity of married life, it disagreed with his views on contraception and affirmed the two relevant resolutions passed 10 years earlier.

These statements show how the Lambeth Conferences can move on moral issues from total opposition, to qualified acceptance, and then full acceptance. The change also reflects the changing of status of women in the world, and also within the Anglican churches.

In this change of opinion and teaching on contraception, we can see how the Anglican Churches rely on the experience of the faithful members in working out its moral judgments. According to a leading Anglican ethicist, Professor Gordon Dunstan, it “exemplifies an instance in which the magisterium of the Church formulated and ratified a moral judgement made by a sort of Consensus Fidelium, for which a good theological justification was worked out ex post facto.”

As the former Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, has pointed out, this is a crucial indication of the nature of Anglican moral judgments. They are not simply laid down from on high. The official pronouncements of the Church must reflect the tested experience of the wider Christian community, particularly the experience of lay people.

Shortly after the 1968 Lambeth Conference, the ordination of women threatened a major rift within the Anglican Communion. Women were ordained in Hong Kong in 1971, in Canada in 1976 and in the US (after several irregular ordinations starting in 1974) and in New Zealand in 1977.

The 1978 Lambeth Conference was unable to do more than accept that there was a variety of practice while affirming its commitment to the preservation of Anglican unity.
< br />Eucharistic hospitality

On the eve of the 1978 Lambeth Conference, Stephen Sykes published The Integrity of Anglicanism, a book that marks the beginning of the current preoccupation with Anglican identity.

In the practice of Eucharistic hospitality, Anglicans show that we believe that the common baptism we share calls for unity in the Eucharist – for that is where the Body of Christ, to which we already belong by baptism, is most fully known.

The Eucharist, or Holy Communion, is the paradigm of koinonia and this concept – so fruitful in current ecumenical work – is particularly congenial to Anglicans. Anglicans have contributed to the ecumenical theology of communion, and this theology is particularly reflected in the document of the 1988 Lambeth Conference, The Truth Shall Set You Free.

The growing strength and confidence of the Anglican provinces in the developing world has intensified the centrifugal forces within the Anglican Communion.

At the 1998 Lambeth Conference, the battle lines were drawn up between first and second world liberals and third world conservatives over human sexuality, and the chasm opened even wider two years ago at the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

Today’s agenda

Ridley Hall Cambridge ... the Ridley Cambridge Draft of the Anglican Covenant was finalised there in 2009 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The stresses within the Anglican Communion have been increased by the different speeds at which the Anglican provinces are ordaining women as deacons, priests and bishops.

The acceptance of the notion of “impaired communion” between provinces that no longer enjoy a full, mutual recognition of ministries, because of this issue, called into question the reality of a coherent and unified Anglican identity. The possibility then arose of a diversity of interpretations of Anglican identity emerging within the Anglican Communion.

In addition, there have been serious questions about the continuing value of the Lambeth Conferences as they have evolved: their expense; their practical ineffectiveness; the English or Anglo-Saxon domination in the proceedings; and their limitation to bishops only. But as the conference came into being through a desire for consultation on common problems, we have not yet seen another effective way in which mutual responsibility can be totally exercised by the bishops of the Anglican Communion.

But given the present difficulties, can Anglicanism persevere?

Indeed, we might ask, can it survive?

And what is holding Anglicanism together at this present moment?

Today question marks hang over the future of the Anglican Communion, and these include the following issues:

● Whether the Anglican Covenant, if it is ever adopted, is in danger of creating a two-tier Anglican Communion.
● Whether the Anglican Covenant is in danger of creating an Anglican ‘Curia’.
● The role of the Archbishop of Canterbury as the focus of unity for the Anglican Communion.
● The future of the Lambeth Conference as a purely Episcopal gathering.
● The status, role or authority of Lambeth Conference resolutions.
● The tension between maintaining theological diversity and unity in communion.
● The possibility of a future Anglican Congress that is representative of the laity.

The Church of England and the Episcopal Church in the United States (TEC) continue, in many ways, to dominate the agenda, the budgets and the ethos of the Anglican Communion. But Professor Alister McGrath pointed out at a conference in Oxford on the “Future of Anglicanism”: “On any given Sunday there are more Anglicans attending church in the west African state of Nigeria than in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia, taken together.”

Anglican Churches are thriving and growing in many parts of Africa and Asia. But Anglicans appear to be in decline, numerically, in the traditional Anglican heartlands such as England, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and in some of those heartlands, there are dioceses that are facing bankruptcy.

In America, the decline of Anglicanism or Episcopalianism is in sharp contrast to the rise in membership of pentecostal and evangelical churches. Alister McGrath claims: “The implications for the future direction of Anglicanism are momentous.”

Many other questions still remain about the future of the Anglican Communion:

Will any intervention by the Joint Standing Committee, now known as the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, help heal the divisions or simply delay them?

Is the Standing Committee likely to become a new ‘Instrument of Communion’ within the Anglican Communion?

Will we end up with a more-closely bound Anglican Communion or a looser Anglican Federation?

Or will we end up with a two-tier Anglican Communion with two categories of membership?

Current theological developments

If there is too much emphasis on law and legalism, perhaps we could take a more optimistic approach to the future by suggesting the future of Anglicanism rests not only on these debates, but on the vitality of its worship, spirituality and theology.

There have been exciting developments in Anglican theology recently.

Some important, relevant, recent publications contributing to exciting new developments in Anglican theology include:

Duncan Dormor, Jack McDonald and Jeremy Caddick (eds), Anglicanism the Answer to Modernity (London: Continuum 2003) (right). Duncan Dormor is Dean of Saint John’s College, Cambridge, and this collection of essays is an attempt by eight Cambridge college deans and chaplains to tackle the questions of religious identity that they believe are central to the way that the 21st century unfolds, and they regard their book as a bold attempt to address the future of Anglicanism in a confident way.

Robert Hannaford (editor), The Future of Anglicanism (Canterbury Press/Gracewing, 1996). This is another collection of essays looking at the future of Anglicanism and the serious challenges facing our communion.

Paul Avis, The Identity of Anglicanism: Essentials of Anglican Ecclesiology (London: T&T Clark/Continuum, 2007). This is the most comprehensive contemporary study of Anglicanism today that is both rigorous and provocative, exploring and explaining the identity of Anglicanism.

Mark D. Chapman (editor), The Anglican Covenant: Unity and Diversity in the Anglican Communion (London: Mowbray/Continuum, 2008). This is a collection of essays from a wide range of perspectives on the proposed Anglican Covenant, with a clear examination of the structures of authority within Anglicanism.

Philip Groves (editor), The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality (London: SPCK, 2008). Canon Groves is the Facilitator for the Listening Process at the Anglican Communion Office. He has been a CMS mission partner in Tanzania and is on the council of Saint John’s College, Nottingham. In this book, bishops, clergy and lay people with a diversity of views discuss the topic that has become the focus of divisions within Anglicanism. The book was sent to all bishops ahead of last year’s Lambeth Conference.

Jonathan Clark, The Republic of Heaven (London: SPCK, 2008) ... the chair of Affirming Catholicism makes an honest assessment of his own tradition and challenges that Catholic tradition within the Church of England and within Anglicanism to face the future.

Is there an Anglican culture?

Is there an Anglican culture? (Photomontage: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

If you talk about Woody Allen, Fiddler on the Roof, Karl Marx and Leonard Cohen, then it may be possible to talk about a distinctively Jewish culture.

Culture is the ways we transfer to others and through generations the shared values and memories of a particular group of people.

These vehicles include, for example, literary fiction, poetry, music, architecture, drama (stage, television and movies), and even comedy.

What role in preserving and handing-on Anglican identity has been played by each of these?

Fiction helps construct our view of reality, and popular fiction can convey the reality of present Anglican debates

For literary novels, think of Trollope’s Barchester Chronicles, Rose Macaulay’s The Towers of Trebizond, Susan Howatch’s serial trilogies, or the novels of Catherine Fox or Joanna Trollope.

For poetry, think of the poems of George Herbert, John Donne, or TS Eliot.

For music, think of our hymns, the settings for hymns by Vaughan Williams, the compositions of John Rutter … or think even of the place in our tradition of listening each Christmas Eve to the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols from the Chapel of King’s College, London.

For architecture, think of how a Gothic English cathedral frames and shapes our standards and expectations for church buildings to this day. Is your parish church Gothic, Classical, modern …? Have you noticed?

For drama, think of the role of the various vicars and how they are portrayed in EastEnders or Four Weddings and a Funeral, or the portrayal of the defrocked priest in Tennessee Williams’s play and movie The Night of the Iguana/

For comedy, think of the Vicar of Dibley or how we react to comedy scenes when Mr Bean goes to church.

Concluding Discussion

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This essay is based on notes prepared for a lecture on the Lay Readers’ Training Course in the Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough on Saturday 23 June 2012