Thursday, 23 November 2017

A short but very welcome
overnight visit to Lichfield

St John’s House tonight … an opportunity for a quick visit to Lichfield in between meetings (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

After today’s day-long meeting in Southwark of the trustees of the Anglican mission agency, United Society Partners in the Gospel (USPG), I am on my way to Lichfield, where I am staying overnight before attending a regional meeting of USPG volunteers in Birmingham tomorrow (Friday).

I am staying overnight in Lichfield at St John’s House, a 17th century Regency house with adjoining stables that has been lovingly restored and brought back to life by Dan and Eleanor Ralley and converted into a 12-bedroom Bed and Breakfast house.

It is seven or eight years since I last stayed in this house in March 2010, shortly after it had been restored lovingly by Sarah and Johann Popp, who had bought the house in July 2003. It now has a Library Bar and a Pavilion room, as well as a relaxing drawing room.

This Grade ll* Regency converted house is right beside Saint John’s Hospital, where the chapel has been like a spiritual home for me since it played an important part in the development of my adult faith at the age of 19. I am also just a short walk from Lichfield Cathedral, which played an early role in prompting my understanding of a call to ordained ministry.

My regular return visits to Lichfield are always a pilgrimage for me. Tomorrow morning, before catching the train from Lichfield to Birmingham, I plan to visit both the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital and Lichfield Cathedral.

Sadly, I am going to miss the cathedral exhibition on Elias Ashmole, which came to an end today. This exhibition has celebrated the birth of Elias Ashmole in Lichfield 400 years ago on 23 May 1617. But hopefully, during this quick visit, there will be opportunities to visit the Cathedral Shop, to browse in Lichfield’s bookshops, or even to have a quick coffee with some old friends.

A statue of Elias Ashmole on the south-east corner of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Two days in London
and Birmingham to talk
about the work of USPG

With the trustees of USPG earlier this year at the annual conference in High Leigh, Hertfordshire

Patrick Comerford

I am in London this morning to take part in an all-day meeting in Southwark of the Trustees of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), and then I travel back to Lichfield this evening, before attending a regional meeting of USPG volunteers in Birmingham tomorrow.

Sunday next [26 November 2017] is Mission Sunday but is also the Feast of Christ the King. As I take part in these two days with USPG and think about the sermons I am preaching next Sunday in Castletown and Rathkeale, I shall also be thinking about how USPG’s work in mission reflects the values of the Kingdom of God.

In recent days, USPG has been closely watching developments in Zimbabwe, where Anglican leaders have reported that the church and country are safe.

Bishop Chad Gandiya of Harare, a former USPG staff member, has described the ousting of President Mugabe as ‘one of the most peaceful takeovers anywhere in the world’ and added that ‘people are going about their daily work and chores as if nothing had happened.’

In recent weeks, USPG joined the Partnership for World Mission conference in standing in solidarity with the Churches in the Philippines and calling for the release of Bishop Carlos Morales.

Earlier this month, USPG supported the Asian Theological Academy, which met in Manila, with clergy and seminarians from the Episcopal Church of the Philippines, the Iglesia Filipino Independiente, and ecumenical partners addressing ‘Migrant Labour: A Theological and Pastoral Response.’

Representing USPG, the Director for Mission Engagement, Canon Richard Bartlett, said: ‘This is a crucial issue for the churches of the Philippines to continue to engage with.’ He said ‘6,000 Filipinos leave the country every day to work overseas. The Church’s ministry to them, their families, and its engagement as a prophetic voice in the many and complex social issues raised by this mass movement of people is vital. USPG is grateful to be challenged by, and to be supporting this important work.’

During that conference, Richard was also able to visit Bishop Carolos in prison.

USPG has also taken part in an interfaith meeting at Saint Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, discussing Faith Reflections on the Sustainable Development Goals, and has responded positively to the five bishops who have called on the Church of England to divest from Exxon Mobil. The effects of fossil fuel investment are having a negative impact on many of our partners around the world, and USPG stands in solidarity with them.

In Birmingham tomorrow, I am hoping to hear about USPG’s work on Climate Justice, a volunteer’s experience in Brazil, the work of Partners in Mission, and about Victoria Howard’s work during her placement in the Seychelles.

This is an exciting time to be involved in the work of USPG, one of the oldest mission agencies in the Anglican Communion, and I look forward to being inspired and stimulated during these two days.