Thursday, 18 October 2018

Saint Luke, physician,
icon writer, evangelist
and intrepid traveller

Saint Luke in a spandrel beneath the dome in Analipsi Church (Εκκλησία Ανάληψη) or the Church of the Ascension in Georgioupoli in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

In the Church Calendar, today [18 October] is the Feast of Saint Luke (Λουκάς) the Evangelist, traditionally remembered as the author of the Third Gospel and of the Acts of the Apostles.

I have never quite worked out why Saint Luke among the four evangelists is traditionally represented in Church art and architecture as a winged ox. But I find he is an interesting Biblical figure, not just as an evangelist, but as a writer who provided fascinating accounts of his travels – in all, he names 32 countries, 54 cities and nine islands – and as a key figure in the tradition of icons and iconography.

Although Saint Luke is not one of the Twelve, he figures throughout the New Testament. Apart from the Gospel he gives his name to and the Acts of the Apostles, he is also mentioned in the Epistle to Philemon (verse 24), Colossians (4: 14) and II Timothy (4: 11), which is part of the Epistle reading in the Lectionary readings for today.

Later traditions claim Saint Luke is one of the Seventy at the heart of the Gospel reading today, that he is one of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, or even that he is closely related to the Apostle Paul. But Saint Luke, in his own statement at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, tells us he was not an eyewitness to the events of the Gospel. On the other hand, he repeatedly uses the word ‘we’ as he describes Saint Paul’s missionary journeys in the Acts of the Apostles, indicating he was personally there so many times.

Yet, both the Gospel according to Saint Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are detailed in history, expression, and narrative that are held in regard by Biblical historians and archaeologists for their historical accuracy and trustworthiness.

Saint Luke is also known as the ‘glorious physician,’ and – especially in the Eastern Church – as an icon writer.

It is said that Saint Luke was born in Antioch in Syria (now in Turkey) to Greek-speaking parents. As a physician, he was said to have had a skill for healing, but that he left all this behind around the year 50 AD and joined Saint Paul after they met in Antioch.

He may have accompanied Saint Paul on his missionary journeys before staying on in Troas (Troy) after Saint Paul’s departure, although it is also possible that he was with Saint Paul in Rome until Saint Paul was martyred (see II Timothy 4: 11; Acts 28: 16). Tradition says Saint Luke died in Thebes, in central Greece, at the age of 84.

Saint Luke gives us the great poetry of the canticles Magnificat (Luke 1: 46-55), Benedictus (Luke 1: 68-79) and Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2: 29-32). Saint Luke alone gives us the Annunciation, the Visitation, the birth of Saint John the Baptist, and the Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple. Saint Luke introduces us to Elizabeth and Zechariah, the angels and the shepherds at the first Christmas, Simeon and Anna, the Christ Child lost in the Temple, the Good Samaritan, the unjust steward, the Prodigal Son, the healed Samaritan, Zacchaeus the tax-collector in Jericho, and the Disciples on the Road to Emmaus.

Saint Luke devotes significantly more attention to women. He presents Christ as the constant friend of the poor, the down-trodden, the marginalised, the side-lined, healing the sick, comforting even the despairing thief on the cross beside him.

As I arm challenged by the ways of the world, I sometimes wonder how – like Saint Luke the Gospel writer and Saint Luke the Iconographer – I can present the world with meaningful and accessible accounts and images of who Christ is.

As I remain committed to mission in the work of the Anglican mission agency USPG, I find inspiration in the commitment of Saint Luke the early missionary, with his accounts of the missionary work of the early Church.

Without Saint Luke, it wonder how we would have come to know about the earliest missionary endeavours of Saint Paul and the Apostolic Church.

Saint Luke remains an attractive and interesting Biblical figure ... as an evangelist, as someone who presents Christ in ways that can be understood in the language of the people, whether word or image, as someone who gives healing a proper place in ministry, as a friend of the poor and the sick, the marginalised and the stereotyped, as someone who, in all his travels and travails, remains faithful unto death to the ministry he is called to and is charged with.

‘Study for the Calf of Saint Luke’ by Graham Sutherland in the ‘Consequence of War’ exhibition in Lichfield Cathedral earlier this year (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Readings: Isaiah 35: 3-6 or Acts 16: 6-12a; Psalm 147: 1-7; II Timothy 4: 5-17; Luke 10: 1-9.


Almighty God,
you called Luke the physician,
whose praise is in the gospel,
to be an evangelist and physician of the soul:
By the grace of the Spirit
and through the wholesome medicine of the gospel,
give your Church the same love and power to heal;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post-Communion Prayer:

Living God,
may we who have shared these holy mysteries
enjoy health of body and mind
and witness faithfully to your gospel,
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Saint John the Divine and Saint Luke the Evangelist in a window in Saint John’s Church, Wall, near Lichfield, that may also be the work of Charles Eamer Kempe (1837-1907), the Victorian stained glass designer and manufacturer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

‘Beyond the sea, beyond the sea,
Are kindly hearts and social glee’

Sunset on the beach at Platanes in Rethymnon … one of the photographs selected by Sheba Sultan to illustrate her selections from writers and poets (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

It is always a delight for a writer to realise another writer appreciates your work. It may be a footnote or a reference, or acknowledging an insight or original idea, sometimes it may even be a kind reference in the acknowledgements, either at the end or the beginning of a book.

I hope I never became complacent or assumed it was mere good manners when students acknowledged me when their dissertations were published as books.

But sometimes I have come across a reference or a footnote to my work long after a book has been published, without realising the author was going to do this.

Sheba Sultan, who is a lecturer in the Institute of Business Management, lives in Karachi and is one of the great modern writers in Pakistan today. We met some years ago at High Leigh in Hertfordshire when she was one of the speakers at the annual conference of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), and we have kept in contact ever since. Earlier this summer, I chaired a session at this year’s USPG conference in High Leigh that was addressed by her father, the Revd Dr Pervaiz Sultan.

In recent weeks, I have been reading Sheba’s collection of short stories The Room in the Mausoleum, first published in Karachi in 2015 and which she sent to me earlier this year. She dedicates this book to her parents, and it also includes one short story by Rabiya Faridi.

Some of these are heart-breaking stories, but they describe the reality of life in Pakistan today. ‘These stories are based on my observations of life: on the way cruelty is so often inflicted, and the naïve are manipulated,’ she writes. ‘They are my offering in empathy for the times we live in, when life can go terribly wrong. But I hope these stories also show that it is possible to glimpse beauty and joy even in the harshest of circumstances – because there is always hope.’

But her acknowledgement of my creativity is not as a writer, but in a selection of my photographs that she has chosen to illustrate a series of quotations and reflections on her Facebook page for more than a year now, often drawing inspiration from the words of other writers.

These photographs, mainly by the sea, have been taken in Ireland, in Co Limerick, Co Kerry, Co Clare, Co Wexford, and Killiney, Co Dublin, near Lichfield in Staffordshire, in Athens, and in Crete, by the sea in Platanes in Rathymnon, and in Georgioupoli.

She has used one of my photographs of the English countryside in south Staffordshire, taken near Lichfield last year, to quote the Australian-born American writer Peter Drucker (1909-2005), ‘the founder of modern management,’ who wrote:

‘Even in the flattest landscape there are passes where the road first climbs to a peak and then descends into a new valley.’ She observes: ‘These lines by Drucker make me realize that we can find beautiful possibilities even in the flattest landscapes! So stay inspired by life and keep moving ahead.’

A photograph I took last year at sunset in Athens is overlaid with words by the American poet and essayist EE Cummings (1894-1962), who signed himself e e cummings superimposed: ‘You are my sun, moon and all of stars.’

She writes: ‘Nothing like soothing coffee and a nice book of poems. “You are my sun, moon and all of stars.” How sweetly, deeply romantic. Dedicate these timeless lines by e.e. cummings to someone special.’

And she adds, ‘Thanks Patrick for this lovely sunset shot!’

A glass of wine on a table in Limerick in fading sunshine is captioned ‘Unforgettable’ in a tribute to the Pakistani singer, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (1948-1997), celebrated as a singer of Qawwali, the devotional music of the Sufis. Jeff Buckley cited Khan as a major influence, saying, ‘He’s my Elvis,’ and performing the first few minutes of Khan’s Yeh Jo Halka Halka Suroor Hai, words Sheba has superimposed on this photograph.

A photograph of Killiney Bay, taken through the window of the Dart on the way to Bray one afternoon last year, is used to illustrate the concept of ‘Poetic Pleasure’ as she quotes the poem ‘Beyond the Sea’ by the English poet Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866):

Beyond the sea, beyond the sea,
My heart is gone, far, far from me;
And ever on its track will flee
My thoughts, my dreams, beyond the sea.

Beyond the sea, beyond the sea,
The swallow wanders fast and free:
Oh, happy bird! were I like thee,
I, too, would fly beyond the sea.

Beyond the sea, beyond the sea,
Are kindly hearts and social glee:
But here for me they may not be;
My heart is gone beyond the sea.

A photograph of sunset on the beach at Platanes, near Rethymnon is linked with a quotation from the American writer Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), ‘The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.’

This is a popularised version of a well-known quotation from Hemingway. But in a Farewell to Arms, he writes: ‘If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.’

‘Be Strong & Sieze the Day!’ she says in a caption to a photograph I took in Georgioupoli in Crete as I was walking out a narrow, rocky causeway to a small chapel on a tiny islet.

She wrote, ‘It’s Monday morning & time to start a new week with high energy like the waves unrelenting and the rocks notwithstanding.’

A photograph of the winter sky and bare trees at the Rectory in Askeaton, Co Limerick, accompanies part of the poem Christabel written in 1797 by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1722-1834):

Is the night chilly and dark?
The night is chilly, but not dark.
The thin gray cloud is spread on high,
It covers but not hides the sky.
The moon is behind, and at the full;
And yet she looks both small and dull.
The night is chill, the cloud is gray:
Tis a month before the month of May,
And the Spring comes slowly up this way.

A posting for Father’s Day is illustrated with a photograph of the cliffs and the waves I took during a walk on the beach one Sunday afternoon in Ballybunion, Co Kerry. Her words superimposed on the photograph say: ‘For a Father’s Love is as Deep as it is Strong.’

She describes Father’s Day as ‘a day for our pillars of strength, our fathers. Happy Father’s Day!’

Another photograph of cliffs and waves, taken at Kilkee, Co Clare, carries her words ‘These waves crashing against the shores of your soul, They do not know how strong you are.’

And Sheba adds ‘Be strong because you are strong!’

Finally, on a photograph taken at dusk one evening at the mouth of the River Slaney at Ferrycarrig, outside Wexford, she quotes ‘A Dream,’ a poem by Edgar Allen Poe:

In visions of the dark night
I have dreamed of joy departed–
But a waking dream of life and light
Hath left me broken-hearted.

The full poem reads:

In visions of the dark night
I have dreamed of joy departed –
But a waking dream of life and light
Hath left me broken-hearted.

Ah! what is not a dream by day
To him whose eyes are cast
On things around him with a ray
Turned back upon the past?

That holy dream – that holy dream,
While all the world were chiding,
Hath cheered me as a lovely beam
A lonely spirit guiding.

What though that light, thro’ storm and night,
So trembled from afar –
What could there be more purely bright
In Truth’s day-star?

Do my photograph illustrate Sheba’s thoughts, or do her thoughts bring new meaning to my photographs?

Certainly, her choice of photographs and poetic quotations indicate the sensitivity found in her short stories in The Room in the Mausoleum and her understanding of the beauty and the heartbreak in the world today.

An evening to talk about
Faith in a Changing Climate

Patrick Comerford

We had an interesting introduction to Christian concerns for the environment last night at an ecumenical meeting organised by the Limerick and Killaloe Diocesan Council for Mission.

The Revd Andrew Orr, who has recently moved to Youghal, Cork, from Tullow, Co Carlow, was speaking in the Woodlands Hotel, Adare. e identified the environmental issues facing us today, including air pollution, climate change, habitat loss, biodiversity loss, soil destruction and desertification.

He pointed out that one species of animal or plant disappears every day, and spoke of how the world’s wildlife population has declined by 52 per cent.

Climate change since industrial revolution has seen humans putting increasing amounts of greenhouse gases into the climate, especially carbon dioxide, and an increase in global temperatures. It has been hotter in the past, in the time of the dinosaurs, but, I thought, ‘Look at what happened to the dinosaurs.’

Today, tens of millions of people are threatened with death in what some scientists are already warning could be ‘climate genocide.’ The changing climate will create an increase in the numbers of refugees and migrants, and will mean people cannot produce enough food

In Ireland, we are already experiencing an increase in winter storms and changes in temperatures are increasing in frequency and becoming much more common.

The island nation of Tuvalu has nowhere that is more than 6 ft above water, and the whole country is in danger of disappearing.

He quoted the author Lynn White who blames many attitudes and much resistance today on a common Judaeo-Christian interpretation of Genesis 1: 38, which allows people to believe that nature and the environment are there to exploit rather than to care for. Christianity is often anthropocentric, putting humans above nature, with a hierarchical view of creation that we have inherited without thinking about critically.

But there is a better way of thinking Biblically, he told us. Psalm 148 says all creatures are called to praise God and Psalm 96 tells us the seas and the fields praise God.

Speaking of the need to re-examine past ways of thinking about that passage in Genesis, he argued that the concept of dominion is about looking after creation and not about doing what you want to, and to subdue is to enable productivity and not about abusing it.

He pointed out that the Covenant with Noah later in Genesis is a covenant with all living creatures. The Sabbath for the Land, the Jubilee Year, was an important ecological theme, with the land being left fallow for one year in seven.

In the New Testament, Saint Paul speaks of Christ as ‘the firstborn of all creation … by whom and through whom all things were created’ (Colossians 1), and says ‘all creation is groaning … in labour pains’ (Romans 8: 22-23).

In the Incarnation, God becomes part of creation, and in the Resurrection we see the transformation of all creation. The theologian Margaret Daly Denton speaks of how appropriate it is that Mary Magdalene mistakes the Risen Christ for the gardener, for he is the Master gardener of creation, the new Adam in the new Eden.

Care for creation not optional nor is it a hobby, Andrew said, but it is an integral part of the Gospel, and he developed a Trinitarian reflection of God the creator, Jesus the first-born of all creation and the Holy Spirit animating all creation.

We have a unique responsibility for the well-being of creation (Genesis 1: 26, 2: 15) that is not just about stewardship, but about interdependence. The Lord loves righteousness and justice (Psalm 33: 5), so this includes climate justice.

He quoted Pope Francis and Pope Bartholomew, who have said, ‘We often speak of an environmental crisis, but the crisis is not in the environment, the crisis is in the human heart.’

He also spoke of the work of Eco-Church congregations and what can be done in parishes.

We can celebrate environment at Harvest Festivals, in the church’s worship and prayer, in creative worship, the practicalities of the bread we use at the Eucharist, asking where the flowers come from, buying fair trade coffee and tea, selecting appropriate hymns and music, and celebrating Creation time (1 September to 4 October).

Practical things to do include insulation, reading metres regularly, monitoring energy use, timers and thermostats, using energy saving light bulbs, fixing water drips and leaks, installing water-saving devices, using appropriate cleaning materials and paints, recycled paper and envelopes, Fairtrade tea and coffee, supporting local suppliers, catering, crockery rather than disposable cups and plate, compostable materials. Local materials promote the local economy and reduce food miles.

Church land can be managed in wildlife friendly ways that include minimal use of weed-killers and insecticides, and that value old trees, hedges, walls and stones. Native plant species benefit wildlife, and he spoke of the value of bird-feeding stations, bird-nest boxes, bat boxes, and piles of leaves that benefit insects and hedgehogs.

He also spoke of Eco-Congregation Awards, and challenged us to consider where we invest money.

In the discussion afterwards, I pointed out that the Anglican Communion’s Fifth Mark of Mission reminds us that God longs for harmony in the whole of Creation, not just in the human family.

There was an opportunity too to talk about Faith in a Changing Climate and other valuable and useful environmental resource from the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), of which I am a trustee.

Climate change is a complex subject. For some, the issue seems so big it’s hard to imagine we can do anything to help. Others assume the issue is being dealt with already by the UN, governments and aid agencies.

This 32-page advocacy and church resources booklet offers an introductory guide to climate change, stories that show how the world church grapples with climate change, and church resources, including prayers and a Bible study.

You can read it here or order printed copies for you and your congregation.

Download Faith in a Changing Climate (PDF)

Rachel Parry, USPG Global Relations Director, says: ‘It seems the issue is so huge that many people choose to simply ignore the issues – but this path leads to a dying planet. We need to act now.’

‘To stop climate change, developed countries must be forced to burn less fuel. The solution is simple, but governments are reluctant to take action.’

Find out more and get involved.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Silence and prayer,
time and eternity, before
a little-known icon

Patrick Comerford

Monday [15 October 2018] was a demanding day’s work, with a two-part programme for priests and readers in the diocese on preparing and resourcing Remembrance Day [11 November 2018].

I spent much of this morning and afternoon preparing liturgical and preaching resources for Sunday week, the Fifth Sunday before Advent, which may also be observed as the Feast of Saint Simon and Saint Jude, and as Bible Sunday.

The lectionary readings for the Fifth Sunday before Advent offer an interesting contrast between silence and listening to God.

In his sufferings, Job has been silenced before God, and now realises his need to listen to God (see Job 42: 1-6, 10-17). The Psalmist wishes to praise God all the time so that ‘his praise shall ever be in my mouth’ (Psalm 34: 1). The response provided for this Psalm is: ‘I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me out of my terror’ (Psalm 34: 4).

In the Gospel reading (Mark 10: 46-52), when Bartimaeus the blind beggar realises he is in the presence of Christ outside the gates of Jericho, ‘many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly’ (verse 48).

There are moments to cry out loudly in the presence of God, and there are moments when silence is so appropriate. But there are times too when the seeming silence of God is more difficult to understand and to wrestle with than our own silence, as Job realised in the earlier readings from the Book of Job over recent weeks.

So, in my prayers and silent reflections today, my thoughts turned to the icon of Christ the Blessed Silence, an icon found in some traditions in the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches, but that is not so well known outside Orthodoxy.

In this icon, Christ is portrayed as a youthful figure looking like a winged angel, his hands crossed against his chest, sometimes wearing a bishop’s mitre and dressed in a sakkos (σάκκος), the vestment worn by Orthodox bishops. In most of these icons, Christ is shown with an eight-pointed, shining nimbus.

The icon of Christ the Blessed Silence represents his sacrifice, through his young face and crossed hands, and his ecclesiastic mission in his attire. His angel-like face and the wings point to his ministry. In some of these icons, Christ is bareheaded, in others he wears the crown of a bishop, to show that he is both the Great High Priest and the King of Kings. In some icons of Christ the Blessed Silence, Christ holds the cross, spear and sponge of the Crucifixion.

The tradition of icons of Christ the Blessed Silence developed in the 14th and 15th centuries on Mount Athos, in Greece and in the Balkans. In Greece it was associated in Greece with the tradition of Hesychia. This Blessed Silence of Christ associates this icon with the hesychasts in the Eastern Orthodox tradition – the Greek ἡσυχία (hesychia) is a word for silence or quiet.

This icon is known in Russian as Spas Blagoe Molchanie or the Saviour of the Blessed Silence, and even as the Angel of Great Counsel. The earliest icon in this tradition in mediaeval Rus dates from the late 15th century. Christ is portrayed on the iconostasis or icon screen in the Dormition Cathedral in the Kremlin in Moscow, above the entrance to the sanctuary and dates from about 1482 or perhaps later (1514-1515).

This image was widespread in the 17th century, and it found special reverence in the 18th and 19th centuries among the Old Believers in Russia. Many of these icons were confiscated from the Old Believers and kept in archives in St Petersburg.

The icon of Christ the Blessed Silence Saviour is one of the few types in which Christ is represented in the form of an angel. In these icons, Christ is young and without a beard, looking like an angel or messenger, the angel of the blessed silence. The word angel is derived from the Greek word αγγελος (angelos), meaning a messenger. Saint John the Baptist is often represented with the wings of an angel, because he is described in Saint Mark’s Gospel as an αγγελος (angelos) or messenger.

This icon is deeply mystical and symbolic. This is the Christ of the prologue in Saint John’s Gospel, the eternally existing Word.

Christ’s eight-pointed crown or nimbus is known in iconography as the star of the Ancient of Days This crown can be seen as two superimposed squares, one red denoting the Passion, and the other olive green denoting the spirituality of the Trinity. This eight-pointed or crown signifies the six days of Creation with the seventh day of rest and the eighth day, the Day of Eternity, that preceded the Creation and that follows it.

So, Christ as Angel is also the eternal Logos of God, who according to the Nicene Creed, was ‘eternally begotten of the Father.’

The seraphim often depicted hovering above the hands are symbols of the Nativity, but like many iconographic images, they link the birth and the death of Christ, as in the icon of the Crucified Seraph.

So, we have here a representation of the Christ who eternally proceeds from the Father in sacred Silence and the Christ who was born in time to be the Suffering Servant who died in Silence.

This icon is also a Passion-related image, and we can link this icon with the icon that shows the winged Christ as the Crucified Seraph. In the traditional interpretations of Isaiah, the Suffering Servant passages are associated with the crucifixion of Jesus:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
(Isaiah 53: 7 NRSV)

So, the suffering Christ was silent, and Christ the Angel of Great Counsel is the Son of God begotten in the Silence of Eternity.

Isaiah also says:

He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street (Isaiah 42: 2, NRSV).

These icons often also bear inscriptions from another passage in Isaiah:

The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
(Isaiah 11: 2)

Sometimes Christ holds in his hand a scroll that reads: ‘You are the God of Peace, Father of Mercies, the Angel of Great Counsel.’ These words are in Irmos 5 in the Liturgy of the Nativity:

O God of peace and Father of mercies
Thou has sent to us the Angel of Great Counsel who grants us peace.
So we are guided to the light of the knowledge of God.
Waking early from the night we praise Thee, O Lover of men

Traditionally, the words of Isaiah 9: 6 are associated with the birth of Christ and the Nativity narratives. They are best known in the English-speaking world because of their use in the libretto by Charles Jennens for Handel’s oratorio Messiah:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor,
The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Jenner was drawing on the text of the Authorised Version or King James Version of the Bible, which reflects the Hebrew text of the Bible as it was known in the 17th century. However, early Christians knew the Biblical texts not in Hebrew, but in the Greek of the Septuagint. In Greek, Isaiah 9: 6 reads somewhat differently:

For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us,
whose government is upon his shoulder,
and his name is called the Messenger of Great Counsel:
for I will bring peace upon the princes, and health to him.
His government shall be great, and of his peace there is no end.

The two texts differ substantially, and the Septuagint often has readings that are not found in translations from the Hebrew Masoretic text. The relevant interesting words here are: ‘his name is called the Messenger of Great Counsel.’

A variant reading of Isaiah 9: 6 found in some Septuagint manuscripts reads:

ὅτι παιδίον ἐγενήθη ἡμῖν, υἱὸς καὶ ἐδόθη ἡμῖν,
οὗ ἡ ἀρχὴ ἐγενήθη ἐπὶ τοῦ ὤμου αὐτοῦ,
καὶ καλεῖται τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ μεγάλης βουλῆς ἄγγελός,
θαυμαστὸς σύμβουλος, Θεὸς ἰσχυρός, ἐξουσιαστής,
ἄρχων εἰρήνης, πατὴρ τοῦ μέλλοντος αἰῶνος·
ἐγὼ γὰρ ἄξω εἰρήνην ἐπὶ τοὺς ἄρχοντας, εἰρήνην καὶ ὑγίειαν αὐτῷ.

For a child is born to us, and a son given to us,
whose government is upon his shoulder,
and his name is called Messenger (Angel) of Great Counsel,
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Potentate,
Prince of Peace, Father of the Age to Come.
For I will bring peace upon the princes and health to him.’

The ‘Messenger of Great Counsel’ (Ο Μεγάλης Βουλής Άγγελος) in the Septuagint may also be understood as the ‘Angel of Great Counsel.’ Greek versions of the icon of the Angel of Great Counsel sometimes include the inscription:

ἐγὼ γὰρ ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐξῆλθον καὶ ἥκω:
οὐδὲ γὰρ ἀπ’ ἐμαυτοῦ ἐλήλυθα, ἀλλ’ ἐκεῖνός με ἀπέστειλεν.

For I came from God and now I am here.
I did not come on my own, but he sent me
(John 8: 42).

When we think of the icon of Christ the Blessed Silence, we should think both of the Logos begotten from God in Eternity and of the birth of the Christ Child in time.

The word of God that speaks to Job who was forced to live outside the city in that Sunday reading is the same word of God that speaks to blind Bartimaeus outside the city gates of Jericho. He is the one who was, who is and who is to come, the one to cry out loud to and the one in whose presence we should be silent too.

I am reminded by Dave Evan’s hymn (No 325 in Church Hymnal:

Be still, for the presence of the Lord, the Holy One, is here.
Come, bow before him now, with reverence and fear.
In him no sin is found, we stand on holy ground.
Be still, for the presence of the Lord, the Holy One, is here.

Be still, for the glory of the Lord is shining all around;
he burns with holy fire, with splendor he is crowned.
How awesome is the sight, our radiant King of light!
Be still, for the glory of the Lord is shining all around.

Be still, for the power of the Lord is moving in this place,
he comes to cleanse and heal, to minister his grace.
No work too hard for him, in faith receive from him;
be still for the power of the Lord is moving in this place.

VHI brings new life to former
Scots Presbyterian Church
on Abbey Street, Dublin

VHI Healthcare has expanded its offices into the former Scots Presbyterian Church and its neighbouring hall on Abbey Street, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

As I stood at the bus-stop in Abbey Street, Dublin, at the weekend, waiting for a bus to Clontarf, I noticed the way the former Scots Presbyterian Church and its former church hall have been incorporated tastefully into the headquarters of VHI Healthcare.

I have memories of meetings of Christian CND and the Student Christian Movement (SCM) in the church hall in 1980s, but the church has been closed since 2003.

McCauley Daye O’Connell Architects were appointed to design the expansion of VHI’s offices on Abbey Street into the adjacent disused Presbyterian Scots Church which is a protected structure. The VHI wanted to stay in its current location but needed to adapt the former church and the adjacent church hall, which had fallen into disrepair and were suffering from vandalism.

The key concept and challenges of their dynamic design were to respect and preserve the cultural, religious, historical and architectural heritage of the church and its ancillary buildings while meeting the client’s needs for a new, innovative and sustainable office extension.

This extension needed to fully integrate with the existing office accommodation, giving VHI improved and sustainable office facilities. And so, the former church and church hall were completely refurbished and returned to full use.

The new design provides a public entrance foyer in the former church, making it the primary public zone and entrance area for the building. It also provides new office floors suspended above the original church hall, all contained within a contemporary triangular exo-skeleton lattice design that provides the external structure, creating a building that is light and transparent and contrasts and complements the original Gothic church design.

The design incorporates a mix of highly insulated opaque and glass façade panels, natural ventilation through the perforated façade panels, good natural lighting, fully integrated solar panels in the roof system and rainwater harvesting.

The United Presbyterian Church of Scotland began working in Ireland in the 1840s but met with little initial success. This mission was aimed mainly at the Scots living in Dublin, and the first congregation may have met first in Aungier Street and then in Whitefriar Street.

By 1863, the congregation was meeting in the Pillar Room of the Rotunda Hospital. A formal congregation was installed in 1866 and the Revd James Stevenson became the first minister. Mission work also began in the North Strand area aimed at the many Scots living in that area.

A site was bought in Abbey Street in 1866, the foundation stone of the new church was laid on 6 May 1868, and a new church was built in 1868-1869 at a cost of £6,000.

Abbey Street was originally known as Great and Little Mary Street, and took its name from Saint Mary’s Abbey, which in the Middle Ages had lands that across the north-east of the city. When this church was built, Abbey Street already had four churches, and this was the fifth place of worship in a street that the Irish Builder noted ‘is not one of any great length.’

This was a gable-fronted three-bay double-height Gothic-Revival church in a style that was described as ‘Geometric Gothic,’ and it was designed by the Limerick-born architect, William Fogerty (1833/1834-1878), who also worked in Dublin, London, and New York during a short but intensive and creative career.

William Fogerty was a born in 1833 or 1834 into a well-known Limerick family of architects. His father was the architect John Fogerty, and an elder brother was the architect Joseph Fogerty. He studied at Queen’s College, Cork (now UCC), before joining his father’s practice in Limerick with his father in the 1850s. He was working from 97 George’s Street, Limerick, in 1861-1863.

His work during his time in Limerick included the Protestant Orphan Society Hall (1855-1856), the addition of an apse in Holy Trinity Episcopal Church on Upper Catherine Street (1858-1859), new Church of Ireland parish churches in Athea (1858-1859) and Killeedy (1862-1863), the Goold Memorial Cross in Athea (1863), and a new courthouse in Adare commissioned by the Earl of Dunraven (1863).

He moved to Dublin in 1863, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (FRIAI, 1863) and a council member (1867-1868). A year after designing the Scots Church on Abbey Street, Dublin, he went on a tour of Italy in 1869 with Thomas Henry Longfield. He then moved to London, where his brother was already in practice as an architect, and practised from Westminster Chambers, Victoria, and 8 Buckingham Street.

From there he moved to New York, but he soon returned to Ireland and in 1875 he announced in the Irish Builder that he had resumed practice at 23 Harcourt Street, Dublin.

He continued to practise in Dublin until he died from smallpox at the age of 44 on 22 May 1878. He was buried in the churchyard at Saint Munchin’s Church, Limerick.

Fogerty’s church on Abbey Street was built by Crowe and Sons of Great Brunswick Street (now Pearse Street), Dublin, in granite, with dressing of limestone and freestone, at a cost of £6,000.

The church was designed with a nave measuring 70 ft by 28 ft in the clear, two side aisles, each 8 ft wide, separated from the nave by light columns and arches. The ground floor was to seat 450 persons, with another 70 in the gallery.

The main entrance was in the centre of the nave facing Lower Abbey Street, with a spacious porch and vestibule, with separate side entrances to the vestibule and school-room.

The original details include granite coping, a granite chimneystack, stepped lateral buttresses, gableted buttresses, pointed-arched windows, hood-mouldings, four-part geometric tracery windows, trefoil-headed windows, a pointed-arch compound moulded doorcase, wood-grained timber doors, colonettes with stiff-leaf capitals on octagonal plinths, and clerestoreys.

There was a lecture-room and a range of vestries at the rere, and a school-rook 45 ft by 22 ft at the side.

Fogerty’s originally designs for the church included a tower and spire, rising to 110 ft, at the north-west angle, but they were never built.

The church was formally opened in April 1869 by the Revd Professor John Eadie of Cambridge Street Church, Glasgow.

The Revd James Stevenson was succeeded by the Revd William Proctor in 1884. Six years later, the neighbouring single-storey church hall was built in 1890 in the Gothic Revival style to designs by the Belfeast-born architect Sir Thomas Drew (1838-1910).

Drew was a son of the Revd Canon Dr Thomas Drew, ‘a militant Orange’ clergyman who was Rector of Christ Church, Durham Street, Belfast, and later of Loughinisland, Co Down, and Precentor of Down Cathedral.

The younger Thomas Drew was articled in 1854 to Charles Lanyon, who later went into partnership with William Henry Lynn. Drew was Lanyon’s superintendent and clerk of works in 1858-1861. In 1861, he formed a brief partnership with Thomas Turner in Belfast, but the following year he moved to Dublin, where he became principal assistant to William George Murray.

Drew became diocesan architect of the United Dioceses of Down, Connor and Dromore in 1865, but remained Murray’s chief assistant until 1867. Later he practised on his own, although in 1870 he worked closely with William Fogerty before Fogerty moved to the US.

Drew reached the peak of his career with his design for Saint Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast. He was also the consulting architect for Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, after its restoration by George Edmund Street, and for Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, Saint Patrick’s (Church of Ireland) Cathedral, Armagh, and Saint Columb’s Cathedral, Derry. He was also responsible for the restoration of Christ Church Cathedral, Waterford, advised on the restoration of the nave pillars in Truro Cathedral, and designed the former Soldiers’ Institute near the Phoenix Park in Dublin.

Drew was president of the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland (RIAI, 1892-1901), the Architectural Association of Ireland (AAI, 1875-1876), the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (RSAI, 1894-1897) and the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA, 1900-1910), the only person to ever hold all four positions.

He was a one-time editor of the Irish Builder, gave frequent papers on architectural and antiquarian topics, and for many years delivered a lecture on the history and fabric of Christ Church Cathedral at Strongbow’s tomb every Saint Stephen’s Day.

He was Professor of Architecture at the RHA (1884-1910), and in 1894 he became professor and lecturer in architecture at the Metropolitan School of Art.

Drew was knighted in Queen Victoria’s birthday honours in 1900. He received an honorary degree of LL.D. from Trinity College Dublin in 1905. Two months before his death, he was invited to become the first Professor of Architecture in the National University of Ireland.

He died on 13 March 1910 and was buried in Dean’s Grange cemetery. He married Adelaide Anne, sister of William George Murray, in 1871; she died on 9 January 1913.

Meanwhile, the Free Church of Scotland and the United Presbyterian Church formed a new union in 1900, and the congregation became part of the United Free Church of Scotland. Membership of the congregation peaked in the 1910s at 448 people.

The congregation joined the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in 1929 and took the name Scots Church. In 1938, the Ormond Quay congregation – which was founded in 1848 but dated back to 1707 – and its minister, the Revd Thomas Byers, joined Scots Church in Abbey Street and the church became known as Ormond Quay and Scots Presbyterian Church. The church building on Ormond Quay remained the home of the Dublin City Mission of the Presbyterian Church until the late 1940s, when it was acquired by Dublin Corporation.

The dwindling congregation of Ormond Quay and Scots Church decided to close its church in Abbey Street and to amalgamate with the Presbyterian Church in Clontarf in 2003.

The Presbyterian Church in Clontarf traces its roots to the two Secession congregations in at Mary’s Abbey and Mass Lane in Dublin that merged 200 years ago to form the Union Chapel. The Secession Synod started a mission in 1836 to form a second Secession congregation in Dublin. In 1837, this congregation bought Ebenezer Chapel on the corner of D’Olier and Hawkins Street for £600 to use as their church. The congregation moved to a new church in Lower Gloucester Street, now Sean McDermott Street, in 1846.

By the 1880s, many members of the congregation were living in the new suburbs of Fairview and Clontarf. In 1888, the Gloucester Street church decided to move to Clontarf, a site was found on the corner of Howth Road and Clontarf Road and the new church opened in 1890.

The Clontarf congregation welcomed the members of Ormond Quay and Scots Church in 2003, and the church in Clontarf is now known as Clontarf and Scots Presbyterian Church.

The minister of Clontarf and Scots Church, the Revd Lorraine Kennedy-Ritchie, was one of the speakers at the Clontarf Ecumenical Conference on Saturday.

The former Ormond Quay and Scots Church closed in 2003 and merged with Clontarf and Scots Presbyterian Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Monday, 15 October 2018

Saint John the Baptist Church,
Clontarf, has links with Celtic
saints and Templar knights

The Church of Saint John the Baptist on Seafield Road, Clontarf, was designed by Welland and Gillespie and built in 1864-1866 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

I was in Clontarf last weekend, speaking at the Clontarf Ecumenical Conference in the Church of Saint John the Baptist on Seafield Road.

I was in the church many times in the past, on Sunday duty for a previous rector, the late Revd Derek Sargent. But Sundays seldom appropriate opportunities to photograph a church and to inquire about its history.

This Church of Ireland parish church was built in 1864-1866 to replace an earlier church about 200 metres away on Castle Avenue, on the edge of the grounds of Clontarf Castle. But the first church in Clontarf is said to have been founded in the sixth century by Saint Comgall, Abbot of Bangor, Co Down, as part of the early Christian developments across north Dublin, perhaps from a base at Saint Mobhi’s Church in Glasnevin.

Inside the Church of Saint John the Baptist in Clontarf (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Saint Comgall became the Patron of Clontarf and remained so until the 14th century, when the parish came under the oversight of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem and Saint Comgall was replaced as patron by Saint John the Baptist.

Clontarf was a central location of the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 between Brian Boru and the Vikings. The remains of a well supposed to have been used by Brian Boru are still pointed out on Castle Avenue, about 500 meters from the parish church.

A royal head on the west door, perhaps recalling Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

During the reign of Henry II, the lands of Clontarf passed to the Knights Templar, and when that order was suppressed in 1312, this became a preceptory of the Knights Hospitaller of Saint John of Jerusalem, by then based on the island of Rhodes.

The Turks captured Rhodes from the knights in 1522, and the order re-established itself on Malta in 1530. Throughout those two centuries, Clontarf remained a possession of the Knights of Saint John. But at the Reformation and the suppression of the monastic houses, their house was disbanded in 1542, and the last Prior, Sir John Rawson (ca 1470-1547), became Viscount Clontarf.

Rawson was born in London and joined the order in 1497. who was appointed Prior of Kilmainham in 1511 and became Lord Treasurer of Ireland in 1517. He was also an experienced soldier and took part in the Siege of Rhodes in 1522. Despite being ordained, he had fathered several illegitimate children. At the Reformation, he surrendered all the order’s properties, including Clontarf, in return for a pension and the title of Viscount Clontarf.

A memorial in the church recalling members of the Vernon family of Clontarf Castle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

An early church on what is now Castle Avenue, close to Clontarf Castle, was rebuilt in 1609, and this remained the parish church of Clontarf for over 250 years.

Over a period more than 130 years, between 1680 and 1811, the parish had only three rectors, all members of the one family: Adam Ussher (1680-1713), who was also Archdeacon of Clonfert; his son Frederick Ussher (1713-1766); and John Ussher (1766-1811), who was buried in Clontarf when he died at the age of 92 in 1829. And another Adam Ussher was curate of Clontarf from 1743 until he ‘died of fever and pleurisy on [a] Sunday morning’ in 1745.

Abraham Stoker, son of Abraham and Charlotte Matilda Stoker of The Crescent, Clontarf, was baptised in the church on 30 December 1847. He was later known as Bram Stoker, the author of the Dracula novels. The Stoker family later moved to Artane Lodge, but Bram Stoker’s younger siblings were also baptised in Clontarf.

The East Window in the Church of Saint John the Baptist, Clontarf (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

A key arrival in the parish was Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness (1798-1868), the grandson of Arthur Guinness, and a partner in running the brewery, who bought lands in Clontarf and Raheny to form Saint Anne’s Estate. He married his first cousin Elizabeth Guinness and all their children were baptised in Clontarf parish.

His cousin, Dr Arthur Grattan Guinness (1813-1897), practised and lived in Clontarf from 1843 to 1848, and many of his children were baptised in the parish.

Meanwhile, the church beside Clontarf Castle had become too small for a growing suburb, especially in the summer. The trustees, including John EV Vernon of Clontarf Castle, drew up plans in 1859 and raised funding to build a second church at the Dollymount end of the parish.

However, the Rector of Clontarf, the Revd William Kempston (1854-1862), told Archbishop Richard Whately of Dublin that the existing church was adequate for the needs of the parish, and the project was abandoned.

When Kempston left Clontarf in 1862, he was succeeded by the Revd James Pratt, and plans were drawn up for a new and larger church on the present site on Seafield Road.

The turret leading to the tower and spire in the Church of Saint John the Baptist, Clontarf (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The church was designed by the architects Welland and Gillespie in 1864-1866. William Joseph Welland and William Gillespie had been appointed joint architects to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in May 1860, following the death of Joseph Welland.

Both men were already working for the commissioners, and they held this appointment until the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland on 31 December 1870.

During their 10 years in office, they developed an increasingly personal and idiosyncratic version of Gothic in the churches they designed. They are also known to have routinely signed designs for churches designed by other architects, often signifying their approval rather than work.

Inside the turret leading to the tower and spire in the Church of Saint John the Baptist, Clontarf (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The foundation stone of the new church was laid on 9 August 1864 by John Vernon of Clontarf Castle, who had presented the site. The cruciform church, with a belfry and spire could accommodate 700 people, and was completed over the next two years.

The new church was consecrated on 14 May 1866 by Archbishop Richard Chenevix Trench of Dublin.

The altar and chancel in the Church of Saint John the Baptist (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness’s eldest son, Sir Arthur Guinness (1840-1915), later Lord Ardilaun (1880), was elected to the Select Vestry of the parish in 1872. But in a letter from Ashford Castle, he declined the offer on the grounds of frequent absences from the parish. He also funded the building of All Saints’ Church, Raheny.

Another connection with the Guinness family came when the Revd Robert Wyndham Guinness served as curate of Clontarf in 1871-1874 until his appointment as Rector of Rathdrum, Co Wicklow.

The porch was designed by James Franklin Fuller (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The church was originally built without a chancel. The Kerry-born architect James Franklin Fuller (1835-1924), who received many commissions from the Guinness family, including Farmleigh House, designed the chancel and porch that were added to the church in 1897-1899. The contractor was JF Lidwill. The chancel was dedicated by Archbishop Joseph Peacocke of Dublin on 17 March 1899.

The many parishioners who fought in World War I are commemorated in an illuminated scroll in the church and the War Memorial Cross erected in the churchyard.

The War Memorial Cross in the churchyard at Saint John the Baptist Church, Clontarf (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Clontarf quickly became one of the largest parishes in the Church of Ireland in the mid-20th century, and a new school opened in 1952.

The centenary of the church was celebrated in 1966, and a new Parish Centre was built in the church grounds in 2007.

The Revd Lesley Robinson has been the Rector of Clontarf since 2013.

A rainy Saturday afternoon at the Church of Saint John the Baptist, Clontarf (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

A workshop on preparing for
Remembrance Day 2018

A lone poppy by a river bank (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Ministry Training Day,

The Diocese of Limerick, Killaloe and Ardfert,

Saint Mary's Rectory, Askeaton, Co Limerick,

15 October 2018


Sunday 11 November 2018 is the Third Sunday before Advent, but is also Remembrance Sunday.

It would be more than a missed opportunity not to take advantage of Remembrance Sunday falling this year on 11 November, the 100th anniversary of the armistice on 11 November 1918 that brought an end to World War I, and to commemorate this with silence at 11 minutes past 11 on 11 November.

Today’s workshop falls into seven parts:

1, Looking at the Liturgical Resources in the form of the special services available in the Church of Ireland, especially the ‘Service of the Word to mark the end of the First World War in a Local Church’ produced by the Liturgical Advisory Committee.

2, Some additional prayers and Liturgical Resources, including the Collect, Post-Communion Prayer, the Act of Remembrance, and the Act of Commitment.

3, Selecting the Readings.

4, Selecting the Hymns.

5, Additional resources from Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI).

6, A reflection on ‘For the Fallen’ by Robert Laurence Binyon:

7, Some additional photographs. This resource is illustrated with appropriate photographs that may be used on service sheets and parish notices. There are additional photographs at the end of the page. However, when using the photographs, please credit them to Patrick Comerford. This is especially important if you decide to use them on a parish Facebook page or website.

The War Memorial in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

PART 1, The special services available in the Church of Ireland:

In this ‘Decade of Centenaries,’ the Church of Ireland has produced many resources for use in churches and parishes.

These resources include services for the 1916 Commemorations, including a Service of the Word for a commemoration of the Easter Rising, PDF, and a Service of Commemoration of the Easter Rising 1916 PDF.

The resources for World War I commemorations include a Service of the Word for the Remembrance of World War I in a local church, for which I wrote the introduction, and available as an MS Word doc or PDF, a Commemoration of the Battle of the Somme for Local Use, PDF, and a Service to mark the end of World War I in a local church, available as PDF or in MS Word.

Further resources will be available here as soon as they are produced.

A Service of the Word to mark the end of the First World War in a Local Church.



Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanks be to God.

We meet in the presence of God
who knows our needs,
hears our cries,
feels our pain,
and heals our wounds.

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.

Sentences of Scripture

God is our refuge and strength;
a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46: 1

I lift up my eyes to the hills –
from whence will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121: 1-2

This I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning. Lamentations 3: 21-23

Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary
they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40: 31

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



Brothers and Sisters, as we commemorate the centenary of
the ending of the First World War,
we come together to offer to almighty God
our worship and praise and thanksgiving
to draw near to the throne of God
in penitence and humility;
to hear his proclamation of justice and righteousness
to remember those who participated
in the war from our parish/town.
to pray for all those who continue to serve
in our armed/defence forces.
And to pray that in the power of his spirit
we may serve him in the pursuit of his heavenly realm.


Almighty God,
you call us into a common fellowship
of solidarity and love;
draw near to us as we commemorate
those who died in the First World War.
As we reflect on their sacrifice and the horrors of conflict,
may you move us to always work for peace
and justice in our broken world;
this we ask through the Prince of Peace,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen


The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart God will not despise.
Let us come to the Lord, who is full of compassion,
and acknowledge our transgressions in penitence and faith.

Lord God,
you sent your Son to reconcile us to yourself
and to one another.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
you heal the wounds of sin and division.

Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
through you we put to death the sins of the body – and live.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.


For boundless love of self,
and for failing to walk with humility and gentleness:

Lord in your mercy
Forgive our sin

For longing to have what is not ours,
and for hearts that are not at rest with ourselves:

Lord in your mercy
Forgive our sin

For misuse of human relationships,
and for unwillingness to see the image of God in others:

Lord in your mercy
Forgive our sin

For jealousies that divide families and nations,
and for rivalries that create strife and warfare:

Lord in your mercy
Forgive our sin

For inequity in sharing the gifts of God,
and for carelessness with the fruits of creation:

Lord in your mercy
Forgive our sin

For hurtful words that condemn and angry deeds that harm:

Lord in your mercy
Forgive our sin

For idleness in witnessing to Jesus Christ,
and for squandering the gifts of love and grace:

Lord in your mercy
Forgive our sin

The priest pronounces this absolution.

Almighty God,
who forgives all who truly repent,
Have mercy on you,
pardon and deliver you from all your sins,
confirm and strengthen you in all goodness,
and keep you in eternal life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Beatitudes (BCP pages 223-224) may also be used

Act of Commemoration

The Names inscribed on the memorial may be audibly read aloud.

Those wishing to do so come forward to lay wreaths, light candles, or offer other symbols of remembrance and hope, such as single flowers or crosses.

This may take place at this point or following the Ministry of the Word.

The Silence


Ministry of the Word



First Reading


Second Reading

The Sermon


Affirmation of Faith

Let us confess the faith of the Church.

We believe in God the Father,
who made the world.
We believe in Jesus Christ, his Son,
who redeemed humankind.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
who gives life to the people of God.


Let us declare our faith in God:

We believe in God the Father,
from whom every family
in heaven and on earth is named.
We believe in God the Son,
who lives in our hearts through faith,
and fills us with his love.
We believe in God the Holy Spirit,
who strengthens us
with power from on high.
We believe in one God;
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Apostles’ Creed may also be used.

Prayers of Intercession

Almighty God, Father of Heaven and Earth:
In remembering those who endured the First World War,
we give you thanks for that conflict's conclusion;
grant that in our memories and reflections,
we may better learn the way of peace and of compassion in our own lives.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Lord of the Church,
we remember the responsibility we have
as the body of Christ,
to pray for peace,
to bring forth your word
and to see swords beaten into ploughshares:
especially, we pray for chaplains who minister to the members of our armed/defence forces;
grant them discernment, perseverance and protection.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Lord of all Creation,
as your son faced he violence of his own death,
yet cried ‘Father, forgive!’
so we pray for hearts of forgiveness in your world.
Where nation will rise against nation,
people against people,
we pray that peace might prevail.
Bless the leaders of the world with clarity of vision
to speak peace into situations of conflict.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Lord of compassion,
we give thanks for the women and men
who risked their lives
for the sake of others during the First World War:
especially, we remember those doctors and nurses
who served on the Front Lines.
Grant your blessing to those
who serve in the theatre of war today,
whether in combat, in logistical support or medical care.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Lord of eternity,
you knit together your elect
in the Communion of all your saints;
we remember with gratitude
the fallen of the First World War
and of conflicts since.
We thank you for the promise in your word,
that even death cannot separate us
from your love found in Christ Jesus.
Grant that we may live lives
worthy of this truth as we recall those
who laid down their lives for the benefit of others.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Almighty God, Father of Heaven and Earth,
hear the prayers which we ask in faith
for the sake of your Son, who conquered death
and stood victorious as the Prince of Peace,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


In peace let us pray to the Lord.
We pray for the leaders of the nations,
that you will guide them in the ways of freedom, justice and truth.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

We pray for those who bear arms on behalf of the nation,
that we may have discipline and discernment,
courage and compassion.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

We pray for our enemies, and those who wish us harm,
that you will turn the hearts of all
to kindness and friendship.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

We pray for the wounded and the captive,
the grieving and the homeless,
that in all their trials they may know your love and support.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Most holy God and Father,
hear our prayers for all who strive for peace
and all who fight for justice.
Help us, who today remember the cost of war,
to work for a better tomorrow;
and, as we commend to you lives lost in terror and conflict,
bring us all, in the end, to the peace of your presence;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Gathering up all our prayer and praise into one, as our Saviour Christ has taught us, we are bold to say,

Our Father...

The Peace

Let us pray that we may be instruments of your peace …

Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that we may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and
it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Jesus said: ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.’ (John 14: 27)

The peace of the Lord be with you always.
and also with you.

It is appropriate that the congregation share with one another a sign of peace

Going Out As God’s People


[The National Anthem may be sung]

Act of Commitment

Let us commit ourselves to responsible
living and faithful service.

Will you strive for all that makes for peace?
We will

Will you seek to heal the wounds of war?
We will

Will you work for a just future for all humanity?
We will

Merciful God, we offer to you the fears in
us that have not yet been cast out by love:
May we accept the hope you have placed
in the hearts of all people,
And live lives of justice, courage and mercy;
through Jesus Christ our risen Redeemer. Amen


God grant to the living, grace
to the departed, rest,
to the Church and to the nations, peace and concord;
and the blessing ...


Neither death nor life can separate us from the love of God.
Thanks be to God. Amen


Go in peace. Love one another as Christ has loved us.
Thanks be to God.

Additional Collects

For Commitment to Reconciliation

Almighty God
through your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
you call your people into
a common fellowship of peace and love;
grant that we may always seek
reconciliation and forgiveness,
in our own relationships, in the life of our country,
and amongst the family of nations across the world:
May we never fall silent in the face of injustice,
always seek wholeness where there is division,
and continually proclaim the gospel of unconditional love,
given to us in Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen

For Peace in a Broken World

Lord God our Creator,
your Son Jesus Christ prayed
that his disciples might have abundant life;
we gather to bring before you those whose lives are scarred
by the evils of hatred, violence and genocide,
by our inhumanity one to another.
Through the mystery of Christ’s suffering
transform our brokenness and disunity
into a new a lasting wholeness and peace:
we ask this through him who suffered, died and rose again,
even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

For Forgiveness

Loving God,
you made us in your own image
and set us in the midst of your creation;
move us to repentance for our marring of that image
and the destruction of your creation
by our sins of greed and hatred, injustice and warfare;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

The War Memorial in Pery Square, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

PART 2: Some additional prayers and Liturgical Resources, including the Collect and Post-Communion Prayer.


Almighty Father,
whose will is to restore all things
in your beloved Son, the king of all:
Govern the hearts and minds of those in authority,
and bring the families of the nations,
divided and torn apart by the ravages of sin,
to be subject to his just and gentle rule;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post-Communion Prayer:

God of peace,
whose Son Jesus Christ proclaimed the kingdom
and restored the broken to wholeness of life:
Look with compassion on the anguish of the world,
and by your healing power
make whole both people and nations;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The Act of Remembrance:

They shall not grow old,
as we that are left grow old;
age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun
and in the morning,
we will remember them.
We will remember them.

Silence is kept

When you go home
tell them of us and say,
for your tomorrow
we gave our today.

The Act of Commitment:

Let us commit ourselves to responsible living and service.
Will you strive for all that makes for peace?
We will.

Will you seek to heal the wounds of war?
We will.

Will you work for a just future for all humanity?
We will.

Merciful God, we offer to you the fears in us
that have not yet been cast out by love:
may we accept the hope you have placed
in the hearts of all people,
and live lives of justice, courage and mercy;
through Jesus Christ our risen redeemer. Amen.

The Litany of Reconciliation (Coventry Cathedral):

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,
Father Forgive.

The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,
Father Forgive.

The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,
Father Forgive.

Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,
Father Forgive.

Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,
Father Forgive.

The lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children,
Father Forgive.

The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God,
Father Forgive.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Some additional prayers:

May God grant to the living Grace,
to the departed Rest,
to the Church and the world peace and concord,
and to all us sinners Eternal Life, Amen.

The Prayer for Peace at Westminster Abbey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

PART 3: Selecting the Readings:

The Revised Common Lectionary as adapted for use in the Church of Ireland, provides for the following readings on Sunday 11 November 2018 as the Third Sunday before Advent:

Paired Readings: Ruth 3: 1-5; 4: 13-17; Psalm 127; Hebrews 9: 24-28; Mark 12: 38-44.

Continuous Readings: I Kings 17: 8-16; Psalm 146; Hebrews 9: 24-28; Mark 12: 38-44.

A second service: Psalm 46 or Psalm 82; Isaiah 10: 33 to 11: 9; John 14: 1-29 or John 14: 23-29.

Ruth 3: 1-5; 4: 13-17:

1 Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, ‘My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. 2 Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing-floor. 3 Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing-floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.’ 5 She said to her, ‘All that you tell me I will do.’

13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.’ 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. 17 The women of the neighbourhood gave him a name, saying, ‘A son has been born to Naomi.’ They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Psalm 127

1 Unless the Lord builds the house, •
those who build it labour in vain.
2 Unless the Lord keeps the city, •
the guard keeps watch in vain.
3 It is in vain that you hasten to rise up early
and go so late to rest, eating the bread of toil, •
for he gives his beloved sleep.
4 Children are a heritage from the Lord •
and the fruit of the womb is his gift.
5 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, •
so are the children of one’s youth.
6 Happy are those who have their quiver full of them: •
they shall not be put to shame
when they dispute with their enemies in the gate.

Hebrews 9: 24-28:

24 Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; 26 for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself.
27 And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgement, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Mark 12: 38-44:

38 As he taught, he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! 40 They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’

41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’

The Church of Ireland Directory for Sunday 11 November 2018 says:

Remembrance Sunday may be observed using the following readings:

Isaiah 2: 1-5 or Isaiah 10: 33 to 11: 9 or Ezekiel 37: 1-14.

Psalm 4 or Psalm 47 or Psalm 93 or Psalm 126 or Psalm 130.

Romans 8: 31-39 or Revelation 1: 1-7.

Matthew 5: 1-12 or John 15: 9-17.

Any combination of the above Remembrance Sunday readings may be used.

Wreaths at the War Memorial in Pery Square, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

PART 4: Selecting the Hymns.

I have used these hymns on Remembrance Sunday in the past:

62, Abide with me by Henry Francis Lyte.
647, Guide me, O thou great Jehovah, by William Williams.
666, Be still, my soul, to a well-known tune by Katherina von Schlegel, translated by Jane Laurie Borthwick (tune Finlandia by Sibelius.
81, Lord for the years by Timothy Dudley-Smith.
522, In Christ there is no east or west, by John Oxenham (William Arthur Dunkerley).
537, O God, our help in ages past, by Isaac Watts and revised by John Wesley.
509, Your kingdom come O God, by Lewis Hensley.

In Sing to the Word (2000), Bishop Edward Darling suggests these hymns are also suitable for Remembrance Sunday observance:

502, God! As with silent hearts we bring to mind
535, Judge eternal, throned in splendour
538, O Lord, the clouds are gathering
527, Son of God, eternal Saviour

One hymn not included in the Church Hymnal is I Vow to Thee, My Country, based on a poem by Cecil Spring Rice, who had deep family roots in Co Limerick.

A wilted poppy in the mud in a field in Comberford, Staffordshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

PART 5: Additional resources from CTBI:

In preparation for 11 November 2018 and to mark 100 years since the end of World War I. A number of churches and Christian organisations have partnered in providing resources in the run-up to the event and for the Sunday itself. They are available on the Remembrance 100 website.

Some Churches and Christian organisations are also involved with Battle’s Over: A Nation’s Tribute on 11 November 2018. It is organised in association with (among others) the Church of Scotland, Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS) and the Association of English Cathedrals. Cathedrals and churches are being encouraged to participate by ringing their bells at 7.05pm on 11 November 2018. The guide for taking part in the events includes messages from leaders of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Church of Scotland, Church in Wales and the President of the Irish Council of Churches.

A new hymn has been released by Jubilate Hymns to mark 100 years since Armistice Day and the end of the First World War, following a nationwide competition supported by Hymns Ancient & Modern and the Pratt Green Trust. The hymn, Hope for the world’s despair (Hymn of Peace) by Ally Barrett is set to the familiar tune of John Ireland’s ‘Love Unknown’. A recording has been produced featuring Jonathan Veira and the All Souls Orchestra, along with an animated video, which Jubilate Hymns hope churches will use in services.

We Will Remember

Download the free ebook, written by Keith Clements. Timed to coincide with the commemoration of the centenary of World War I, this publication looks at how the churches in Britain responded to the First World War.

Buy from Church House Bookshop.

Below are resources for any Remembrance Sunday available to download or order, including an order of service, Powerpoint presentations and free ebook versions of Beyond Our Tears: Resources for Times of Remembrance.

Remembrance Sunday is 11 November 2018.

Order of service

The Order of Service for Remembrance Sunday is published by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and prepared with the Joint Liturgical Group of Great Britain and The Royal British Legion. A new version was produced in 2005.

The downloadable version of the service does not include the introduction, notes for organisers, Presidents’ comments or additional resources. The full version can be purchased.

Buy (from Church House Bookshop)

Remembrance Sunday Order of Service (PDF)
(For help downloading see the download guide)

Remembrance Sunday Order of Service (.doc)
(For help downloading see the download guide)


Remembrance Sunday Order of Service (For help downloading see the download guide)

Remembrance Sunday – Powerpoint of poppies
(For help downloading see the download guide)


You can View the images from the Powerpoint on Pinterest.

Please note: the photographs have a Creative Commons licence and can be freely shared if you adhere to the licence terms (see the final Powerpoint slide).

Beyond Our Tears:

Beyond Our Tears: Resources for Times of Remembrance by Jean Mayland is available to buy or download free as an ebook. In moments of national tragedy and private grief, the right words can be hard to find. This collection helps to express what is almost beyond words, bringing together prayers, readings, poems and hymns.

Buy paperback (from Church House Bookshop)

Buy large print (from Church House Bookshop)

Beyond Our Tears ebook (.mobi)

(For help downloading see the download guide)

Beyond Our Tears ebook (.epub)
(For help downloading see the download guide)

The .mobi files can be read on Kindle devices or using free Kindle software on Apple and Android tablets and phones, plus PCs and Apple Macs. The .epub files can be read on Apple iPhones, iPads and Macs using iBooks, and some other ebook readers.

Poppies in a field in the south of France (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

PART 6: A reflection on ‘For the Fallen’ by Robert Laurence Binyon:

The poem ‘For the Fallen,’ by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), was published in The Times on 21 September 1914:

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon wrote this poem as he sat on the cliff-top looking out to sea from the north Cornish coastline. A plaque marks the location at Pentire Point, north of Polzeath.

It was mid-September 1914 and a few weeks after the outbreak of World War I. During those first few weeks, British forces had suffered casualties following their first encounter with Germans at the Battle of Mons on 23 August, during the retreat from Mons in late August, the Battle of Le Cateau on 26 August, and the First Battle of the Marne from 5 to 9 September 1914.

Binyon was too old to enlist but went to work for the Red Cross as a medical orderly in 1916. He lost several close friends and his brother-in-law in the war.

Binyon said in 1939 that the four lines of the fourth stanza came to him first. These words of the fourth stanza have become especially familiar and famous, having been adopted Remembrance ceremonies and commemorations.

The second line of the fourth stanza, ‘Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn,’ draws on Enobarbus’ description of Cleopatra in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra: ‘Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale.’

It has been debated whether the line ‘Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn’ should end with the word ‘condemn’ or the word ‘contemn.’ The word contemn means to ‘treat with contempt.’

When the poem was first printed in The Times on 21 September 1914 the word ‘condemn’ was used. This word was also used in the anthology The Winnowing Fan: Poems of the Great War in 1914, which included this poem.

Dying poppies in a garden on Beacon Street in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

PART 7: Some additional photographs:

This resource is illustrated with appropriate photographs that may be used on service sheets and parish notices. These additional photographs are also suitable for use.

However, please note when using the photographs, that for copyright reasons they must be credited to Patrick Comerford. This is especially important if you decide to use them on a parish Facebook page or website.

Poppies in the cell of John Godwin in the concentration camp in Sachsenhausen, north of Berlin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Pax 1919 ... the gates at the Memorial Garden in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The World War I memorial at Heuston Station in Kingsbridge, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A row of poppy wreaths at the base of the War Memorial in Liverpool Street Station, London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The War Memorial in Tarbert, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Going to war or going home? The War Memorial in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The War Memorial window in the High School, Rathgar, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Reconciliation monument in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The War Memorial in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.