27 November 2017

Finding a place to pray on
a winter morning in Lichfield

Welcome to Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, on a bright November morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

On each visit to Lichfield, I return to the chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, to take some quiet time to pray, to think, and to say thank you for the unconditional, over-flowing love of God that I have known ever since I first visited this chapel almost half a century ago in 1971.

Friday morning was a clean, crisp winter’s day, with clear blue skies and – despite the cold temperatures – strong, bright sunshine.

Between breakfast in St Johns House and catching a mid-morning train to Birmingham, I stopped into the chapel in Saint John’s. The place was busy, with two people checking the fire extinguishers, and two others busy cleaning the chapel with dusters and a vacuum cleaner.

But f we cannot find our own quiet moments with God in the middle of an ordinary busy working with God, we are not going to find those times anywhere else.

Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, facing onto Saint John Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

I sat and prayed, finding my own place of prayer and peace as others worked around me. It was proving to be a very demanding working week, and there was still more ahead, including a lengthy journey back to Askeaton later that evening.

I needed this time in this sacred place, even for a few, short minutes. The next few weeks promise to be even busier as we move into Advent and preparations for Christmas. We all need to know where we can find these spiritual oases as we journey through life.

From Saint John’s, I walked back along Saint John Street and Bird Street to Minster Pool and Lichfield Cathedral – the same route I had walked many decades ago on that memorable Thursday afternoon, and found myself thinking again about where, as a teenager, I had listened to the first promptings of ordained ministry had been heard.

Two 18th century shops with interesting street-facing gables on Saint John Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

On my back to St Johns House and Lichfield City Station, I stopped to photograph some shops with curious gables on the corner of Wade Street and Saint John Street.

These two shops were probably in the early 18th century. They are built of brick, partly roughcast, and with tile roofs. They are single-storey buildings with attics and two gables to the front facing onto Saint John Street.

This was one of my shortest return journeys to Lichfield in recent years, with no time for rummaging in the bookshops or relaxing in the coffee shops. But even a short walk like that on Friday morning was a reminder that there is more of architectural interest that I need to photograph in Lichfield.

I caught the weekend edition of the Lichfield Mercury before catching the train at Lichfield City Station, and once again took a deep breath as a I passed the memorial plaque at the end of the steps remembering Private WR Jones who 19 when he was murdered by the IRA on the platform in 1990.

I am due back in April at the invitation of the Lichfield Civic Society to give a lecture in Wade Street Church Community Hall, Frog Lane, on 24 April on ‘The Wyatt family of Weeford: a unique architectural dynasty.’

But, who knows, I may be back sooner.

A quiet, sun-filled corner at Saint John’s Hospital (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

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