Sunday, 7 July 2019

Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth, a large
church with a unique story and features

Saint Editha’s Collegiate Church Tamworth … one of the largest and oldest parish churches in the English Midlands (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Tamworth and District Civic Society recently asked me to give a lecture on the history of the Comberford and Comerford families in Saint Editha’s Collegiate Church, the parish church of Tamworth.

I was speaking in Saint George’s Chapel, and my talk was followed by a reception in the Comberford Chapel, two of the main side chapels in Saint Editha’s Church.

Saint Editha’s Church is one of the largest and oldest parish churches in the English Midlands, dating back 1,200 years. The English architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner has described Saint Editha’s as ‘one of the largest parish churches of Staffordshire … and one of the most interesting.’

The church is especially notable for its Norman work, its monuments, its Pre-Raphaelite and other windows by Edward Burn Jones, William Morris and Ford Madox Ford, and for the restoration works in the 19th century by great Victorian architects, including Benjamin Ferrey and George Gilbert Scott (1850s), and William Butterfield (1871).

A large and magnificent church

Saint Editha depicted in a statue in south-east corner of the chancel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Many people wonder why Tamworth, a relatively small market town for most of its history, has such a large and magnificent parish church. The answer is found in the history of Tamworth, dating back to Saxon days 1,200 years ago, when this became an important settlement of Mercia.

The church has ninth century origins, shown in the plan of former crossing tower. There are Norman crossing arches, chancel south wall and part of the north wall, and an Early English north porch. Most of church dates from the mid to late 14th century following a fire of 1345, the west tower dates from the late 14th and the west tower, clerestories and roofs date from the 15th century.

Saint Augustine was sent from Rome in 587 on a mission to the Anglo-Saxons, and 70 years later, in 667, Saint Chad became Bishop of Lichfield. It is thought he visited nearby Tamworth and an early church soon stood on today’s site of Saint Editha’s Church.

A century later, Tamworth was the capital of Mercia, the principal kingdom in England. King Offa (775-796) built his great palace at Tamworth and kept the great feasts of Easter and Christmas here, so the church in Tamworth was probably of some size and splendour.

No less than 14 royal charters were issued from Tamworth Between 796 and 857, many of them witnessed by senior church figures. Tamworth was invaded by the Danes in 874, the town was sacked and the church was destroyed. But in 913 Aethelfleda, Lady of the Mercians and daughter of King Alfred the Great, drove back the Danish invasion and rebuilt the town and church.

Attempts were made to negotiate a peaceful settlement between Mercia and Northumbria in 925, where Sigtrygg the Dane was king. A marriage was arranged between King Sigtrygg and Aethlefleda’s niece, Editha, sister of King Athelstan of Mercia. The wedding took place in the presence of King Athelstan and solemnised by Bishop Ella of Lichfield.

But Sigtrygg soon lapsed from Christianity, the marriage was never consummated, and Editha returned to Tamworth and entered a convent at Polesworth. Here she devoted her life to the poor and sick, and was the abbess of a convent in Tamworth until she died in 960. When the church needed a dedication, the local people asked for Editha’s name, and so she became a saint by popular acclaim.’

However, the story of pillage continued, and in 943 the Danes razed Tamworth again and its church was destroyed, only to be rebuilt by Kind Edgar in 963.

Building a Norman church

Baldwin de Witney, Dean of Tamworth, rebuilt the church after the great fire in in 1345 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The great Norman church was built in 1080, probably as an extension of King Edgar’s church and it was at least as long as the present building (190ft), in the shape of a crucifix and with a central tower over the crossing.

There is a deeply splayed round-headed window on the south side of the chancel, which in the 12th century was an outside wall. This window has beautifully twisted columns with cushion capitals externally, and a delicately carved string course underneath.

The chancel of Saint Editha’s Church, with the ‘elegant but modest’ 18th century wrought iron screen (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

There are two great Norman arches in the chancel, but originally there were four. The four arches carried the tower and the position of the two former transverse arches can be traced by the roughness of the walls showing where they were cut away. Remnants of the zig-zag moulding of the Norman screen wall – originally grey stone, but burned a deep red by fire – still face the nave.

Tamworth was a collegiate church, and although it was not a cathedral it had a dean and a college of six prebendaries or canons, supported through the tithes of neighbouring parishes.

The Great West Tower holds a unique double helix spiral staircase (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

A fire destroyed Tamworth and the parish church on 23 May 1345, leaving only the large transept arches and portions of the quire, the west walls of the nave, and the north aisle with porch. But over the space of 20 years, the church was rebuilt by the Dean of Tamworth, Baldwin de Witney, despite untold difficulties, including poverty, war and the terrible Black Death. He died in 1369 and is buried in Saint George’s Chapel.

The great West Tower was built between 1380 and 1420. The height to the battlements is 30 metres, with the highest weathervane at 42 metres. The tower has a unique double helix spiral staircase that is just under two metres in diameter. There are 106 outer steps and 101 inner steps, so that two people can climb the tower at the same time without seeing each other until they reach the top. The tower is unusual in England, and the only other examples are in Much Wenlock and Pontefract.

The College of Canons and their vicars survived until 1547, when it was dissolved at the Reformation and Saint Editha’s became the parish church of Tamworth.

Pre-Raphaelite windows

The Pre-Raphaelite East Window in Saint George’s Chapel by Sir Edward Burne-Jones (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Visitors to Saint Editha’s are easily taken aback by the windows in the church, and by the number of side chapels, dating back to its days as a collegiate church with a large number of priests, each in need of an altar to celebrate Mass daily.

The real treasure in the church is the Pre-Raphaelite East Window in Saint George’s Chapel by Sir Edward Burne-Jones. This window is a memorial to Sir John Peel (1804-1872), MP for Tamworth. The window, known as ‘Angels of Creation,’ connects the story of the six days of creation with redemption. The glass is by William Morris. The central figure is Saint Christopher carrying the Christ Child, and lower panels depict Old Testament prophets and New Testament saints.

A four-light window by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris in Saint George’s Chapel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Saint George’s Chapel also has four sets of four-light windows, including one set by Burne-Jones and William Morris, one by William Morris and two sets by the Camm Brothers.

The great East Window depicting the Twelve Apostles was designed by William Wailes (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The great East Window, designed by William Wailes, is filled with figures representing the 12 Apostles. The Marmion Windows, high up in the clerestory on the south side of the church, tell the legend of Saint Editha. They were designed by Ford Maddox Brown with glass by William Morris and installed in 1873.

The World War I window by Henry Holiday depicting Christ the King (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

There are three war memorial windows in the north aisle. The western-most window by Henry Holiday depicts Christ the King and is dedicated to Tamworth parishioners who died in World War I. The middle window, also by Holiday, depicts Life, Death and Resurrection, and recalls the Revd Maurice Berkeley Peel, Vicar of Tamworth (1915-1917) and grandson of Sir Robert Peel, who was killed in France in 1917.

The Maurice Peel window depicts Life, Death and Resurrection (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The third, eastern-most window, by Gerald ER Smith, shows the Risen Christ in Glory and takes the theme of the canticle Te Deum, with angels, prophets, the ‘glorious company of apostles,’ the ‘noble army of martyrs’ and ‘the Holy Church throughout the World.’ It is dedicated to the men of the parish who died in World War II.

The World War II window by Gerald ER Smith, shows the Risen Christ in Glory and illustrates the canticle ‘Te Deum’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Side chapels

The chapels include Saint George’s Chapel, the Lady Chapel and the Comberford Chapel.

Saint George’s Chapel was built in the late 14th and early 15th century. A smaller chantry may have been here as early as the 12th century.

The Comberford Chapel was the burial place of the Comberford family (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The Comberford Chapel in the former north transept was built by the Comberford family of Comberford Hall, north of Tamworth, who also had a townhouse in Tamworth at the Moat House on Lichfield Street.

The monuments in the Comberford Chapel include a fragment of a 15th century effigy of a knight, and a wall tablet with a Latin inscription erected in 1725 by members of the Comerford family in Ireland to members of Comberford family of Staffordshire.

The monument erected in the Comberford Chapel in 1725 by the Comerford family of Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

A four-light window in the Comberford Chapel depicts Christ the Teacher and commemorates the Revd Francis Blick, Vicar of Tamworth (1796-1842).

The Lady Chapel has a small altar with iron gates and a votive stand.

The High Altar and the reredos were designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, John Birnie Philip and Antonio Salviati (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

In the chancel, the High Altar and the reredos were designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, John Birnie Philip and Antonio Salviati. Pevsner describes the 18th century wrought iron screen as ‘elegant but modest.’

The pulpit replaced an oak three-decker pulpit in 1870, and the eagle lectern dates from 1875.

Scott’s ornate, octagonal Baptismal Font is carved from Caen stone (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The ornate, octagonal Baptismal Font is carved from Caen stone from Normandy in North France and was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott in 1853. It replaced a simpler one, earlier font and the carvings include the Dove of Peace and the Lamb of God.

The present organ, fitted in 1926, is the third organ in the church. It cost £4,776 and was built by Harrison and Harrison of London and Durham. The electronically controlled blowing apparatus is housed in an underground chamber in the churchyard.

There are 10 bells in total. The earliest date for bells is 1552, but the original bells were melted down in the 17th century and replaced by six bells. Two bells were added in 1883, and two further bells were added in 1960 to mark the 1,000th anniversary of Saint Editha’s death.

A brass plaque on the west wall remembers Private Samuel Parkes, one of the first recipients of the Victoria Cross for his bravery at the Charge of the Light Brigade in Balaklava in 1854.

Looking to the future

The Great West Window by Alan Younger is inspired by Saint John’s closing vision in the Book of Revelation (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

But perhaps the most beautiful, modern feature in Saint Editha’s Church is the captivating Great West Window, ‘Revelation of the Holy City,’ designed by Alan Younger (1933-2004), one of the most important stained-glass artists in post-war Britain.

This window, unveiled by Princess Margaret in 1975, takes its theme from Saint John’s account in the Book of Revelation of the New Jerusalem, a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21-22).

In many ways, it is a bright symbol of a church that is rooted in over 1,200 years of history, lives in the present, and looks forward to the future in confidence and faith.

Canon Patrick Comerford is priest-in-charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This feature was first published in July 2019 in the ‘Church Review’ (Dublin and Glendalough).

Where is ‘The Prophetic Voice
of the Church’ heard today?
Who speaks ‘Truth to Power’?

The High Leigh Conference Centre near Hoddeson … the venue for the USPG Conference this year (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday, 7 July 2019, the Third Sunday after Trinity.

11.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer, Saint Brendan’s Church (Kilnaughtin), Tarbert, Co Kerry.

Readings: II Kings 5: 1-14; Psalm 30; Galatians 6: (1-6), 7-16; Luke 10: 1-11, 16-20.

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Our readings this morning are very much readings about mission.

In our Old Testament reading (II Kings 5: 1-14), we meet Naaman, a victorious general who is faced with the physical defeat of skin diseases.

Naaman suffers from leprosy, a word used for several skin diseases and disorders, many of them incurable. At an advanced stage of these skin diseases, people also suffered severe social isolation.

Naaman has great expectations but they can only be met by responding to simple commands. Naaman thinks he can buy God’s healing, but finds he receives faith freely in the free-flowing water.

Naaman finds healing and wholeness among a strange people. It is an interesting model of mission in reverse, for instead of Elisha going to him with good news and the promise of healing, Namaan goes to the prophet in the hope of healing and hearing good news.

In our Epistle reading (Galatians 6: 1-16), Saint Paul concludes his Letter to the Galatians, a church divided between those who say new converts to Christianity must first become converts to Judaism and people from the local Gentile community who were mainly Greek-speakers, many of them descended from Celtic tribes that had settled in central Anatolia.

Last Sunday, we heard Saint Paul telling these people that the whole law is summed up in one single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’ (Galatians 5: 5). He reminds them that ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’ (Galatians 5: 22-23).

Now, Saint Paul ends this letter telling these people to bear one another’s burdens, and to be honest about themselves and with each other. Within the church, he tells them, there is no place for adhering to old divisions or boasting about being Jew or Gentile, circumcised or not circumcised. What truly matters is the new creation.

In the Gospel reading (Luke 10: 1-11, 16-20), Christ is on his way to Jerusalem when he sends out 70 disciples on a mission of healing and proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom of God. They are to go ahead of Christ, to the places he is about to travel through on his way to Jerusalem, preparing the way for Jesus’ own mission, and he tells them how to respond to both acceptance and rejection.

They are sent out with the understanding that the ‘harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few’ (verse 2).

The Seventy are sent out ‘like lambs into the midst of wolves’ (verse 3). But this is not a threatening image. You may recall how the Prophet Isaiah describes the coming Kingdom of God as an era of peace and reconciliation, in which ‘the wolf and the lamb shall feed together’ (see Isaiah 65: 25).

The Seventy are to bring peace with them, and when they meet a person of peace, God’s peace will be with that person. They should accept whatever hospitality and food they are offered, and to show their faith by their action, healing people and sharing the promise of the kingdom of God.

When the 70 return, they come back surprised and filled with joy following their experiences.

I am just back from the annual conference of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

The conference theme this year was ‘The Prophetic Voice of the Church.’ Over a period of three days, we heard stories of mission and reaching out as people described and shared their experiences of mission, in these islands and across the globe.

The general secretary of USPG, the Revd Duncan Dormor, spoke of how USPG lives out its mission in the midst of the world’s challenges. Climate justice and inter-religious living, as well as other key challenges, like migration and gender justice ‘are truly global in nature and remind us of the fundamental interdependence of the world, and the deep sense of connection between the churches of the Anglican Communion ... They shape the mission priorities of our partner churches,’ he said.

There was an opportunity for a long meeting with Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya of Swaziland, who has had close links with this diocese. Our Bible studies each morning were led by the Very Revd Gloria Mapangdol, a theologian from the Philippines.

The world of mission has shifted from a one-way process to partnership, we were told by Bishop Dickson Chilongani, from Central Tanganyika in Tanzania. He spoke movingly about suffering and trusting in God. We are not merely human beings but ‘human becomings.’

Bishop Dickson said to be prophetic is to speak on God’s behalf. He reminded us that the majority of prophets in the Old Testament were not priests but lay people, ordinary people, like Amos the farmer who was a shepherd and who was looking after sycamore trees.

These lay prophets told the truth about power and society, spoke on behalf of the poor and the oppressed. For the ‘Prophetic Voice of the Church’ to be heard today, lay participation is crucial, he said.

Canon Kirilee Reid, chaplain and refugee projects officer in Calais in France, spoke movingly of her work with the 550 displaced and often forgotten people living in Calais.

In one of her Bible studies, Gloria Mapangdol brought us through Mary’s song in Saint Luke’s Gospel, Magnificat, and then left us with three questions to discuss:

● How can we become the prophetic voices of our communities?

● Are we willing to take risks to give voice and hope to those who do not have them?

● How can we in the Church strengthen or recover our prophetic ministry in today’s world?

If someone like Naaman came to the Church today, expecting healing and to hear a prophetic voice, what would we have to say to him, and would he hear the ‘Prophetic Voice of the Church’?

If we were sent out like the 70 this morning, to prepare the way for Christ in our society, what would people hear from us?

Would they hear the ‘Prophetic Voice of the Church’?

Would we proclaim the promises of the kingdom of God in our words and in our actions?

Would we like Saint Paul this morning, be able to ‘never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Galatians 6: 14)?

And would we come back rejoicing?

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

‘Bear one another’s burdens’ (Galatians 6: 2) … suitcases belonging to delegates at this year’s USPG conference in High Leigh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Luke 10: 1-11, 16-20:

10 After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2 He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. 3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.”

16 ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.’

17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’ 18 He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’

‘He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments’ (II Kings 5: 5) … old coins in an antique shop in Rethymnon, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Liturgical Colour: Green

The Collect:

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.

‘May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Galatians 6: 14) … an icon cross on the nave altar in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Hymns:

492, Ye servants of God, your master proclaim (CD 28)
456, Lord, you give the great commission (CD 27)
443, Sent forth by God’s blessing, our true faith confessing (CD 26)

‘May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Galatians 6: 14) … a cross on the sand dunes in Laytown, Co Meath (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. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

‘Sent forth by God’s blessing,’
listening to the ‘Prophetic Voice
of the Church’ with USPG

‘Bear one another’s burdens’ (Galatians 6: 2) … suitcases belonging to delegates at this year’s USPG conference in High Leigh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday, 7 July 2019, the Third Sunday after Trinity.

9.30 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick.

Readings: II Kings 5: 1-14; Psalm 30; Galatians 6: (1-6), 7-16; Luke 10: 1-11, 16-20.

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Our readings this morning are very much readings about mission.

In our Old Testament reading (II Kings 5: 1-14), we meet Naaman, a victorious general who is faced with the physical defeat of skin diseases.

Naaman suffers from leprosy, a word used for several skin diseases and disorders, many of them incurable. At an advanced stage of these skin diseases, people also suffered severe social isolation.

Naaman has great expectations but they can only be met by responding to simple commands. Naaman thinks he can buy God’s healing, but finds he receives faith freely in the free-flowing water.

Naaman finds healing and wholeness among a strange people. It is an interesting model of mission in reverse, for instead of Elisha going to him with good news and the promise of healing, Namaan goes to the prophet in the hope of healing and hearing good news.

In our Epistle reading (Galatians 6: 1-16), Saint Paul concludes his Letter to the Galatians, a church divided between those who say new converts to Christianity must first become converts to Judaism and people from the local Gentile community who were mainly Greek-speakers, many of them descended from Celtic tribes that had settled in central Anatolia.

Last Sunday, we heard Saint Paul telling these people that the whole law is summed up in one single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’ (Galatians 5: 5). He reminds them that ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’ (Galatians 5: 22-23).

Now, Saint Paul ends this letter telling these people to bear one another’s burdens, and to be honest about themselves and with each other. Within the church, he tells them, there is no place for adhering to old divisions or boasting about being Jew or Gentile, circumcised or not circumcised. What truly matters is the new creation.

In the Gospel reading (Luke 10: 1-11, 16-20), Christ is on his way to Jerusalem when he sends out 70 disciples on a mission of healing and proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom of God. They are to go ahead of Christ, to the places he is about to travel through on his way to Jerusalem, preparing the way for Jesus’ own mission, and he tells them how to respond to both acceptance and rejection.

They are sent out with the understanding that the ‘harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few’ (verse 2).

The Seventy are sent out ‘like lambs into the midst of wolves’ (verse 3). But this is not a threatening image. You may recall how the Prophet Isaiah describes the coming Kingdom of God as an era of peace and reconciliation, in which ‘the wolf and the lamb shall feed together’ (see Isaiah 65: 25).

The Seventy are to bring peace with them, and when they meet a person of peace, God’s peace will be with that person. They should accept whatever hospitality and food they are offered, and to show their faith by their action, healing people and sharing the promise of the kingdom of God.

When the 70 return, they come back surprised and filled with joy following their experiences.

I am just back from the annual conference of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

The conference theme this year was ‘The Prophetic Voice of the Church.’ Over a period of three days, we heard stories of mission and reaching out as people described and shared their experiences of mission, in these islands and across the globe.

The general secretary of USPG, the Revd Duncan Dormor, spoke of how USPG lives out its mission in the midst of the world’s challenges. Climate justice and inter-religious living, as well as other key challenges, like migration and gender justice ‘are truly global in nature and remind us of the fundamental interdependence of the world, and the deep sense of connection between the churches of the Anglican Communion ... They shape the mission priorities of our partner churches,’ he said.

There was an opportunity for a long meeting with Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya of Swaziland, who has had close links with this diocese. Our Bible studies each morning were led by the Very Revd Gloria Mapangdol, a theologian from the Philippines.

The world of mission has shifted from a one-way process to partnership, we were told by Bishop Dickson Chilongani, from Central Tanganyika in Tanzania. He spoke movingly about suffering and trusting in God. We are not merely human beings but ‘human becomings.’

Bishop Dickson said to be prophetic is to speak on God’s behalf. He reminded us that the majority of prophets in the Old Testament were not priests but lay people, ordinary people, like Amos the farmer who was a shepherd and who was looking after sycamore trees.

These lay prophets told the truth about power and society, spoke on behalf of the poor and the oppressed. For the ‘Prophetic Voice of the Church’ to be heard today, lay participation is crucial, he said.

Canon Kirilee Reid, chaplain and refugee projects officer in Calais in France, spoke movingly of her work with the 550 displaced and often forgotten people living in Calais.

In one of her Bible studies, Gloria Mapangdol brought us through Mary’s song in Saint Luke’s Gospel, Magnificat, and then left us with three questions to discuss:

● How can we become the prophetic voices of our communities?

● Are we willing to take risks to give voice and hope to those who do not have them?

● How can we in the Church strengthen or recover our prophetic ministry in today’s world?

If someone like Naaman came to the Church today, expecting healing and to hear a prophetic voice, what would we have to say to him, and would he hear the ‘Prophetic Voice of the Church’?

If we were sent out like the 70 this morning, to prepare the way for Christ in our society, what would people hear from us?

Would they hear the ‘Prophetic Voice of the Church’?

Would we proclaim the promises of the kingdom of God in our words and in our actions?

Would we like Saint Paul this morning, be able to ‘never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Galatians 6: 14)?

And would we come back rejoicing?

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

The High Leigh Conference Centre near Hoddeson … the venue for the USPG Conference this year (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Luke 10: 1-11, 16-20:

10 After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2 He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. 3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.”

16 ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.’

17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’ 18 He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’

‘He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments’ (II Kings 5: 5) … old coins in an antique shop in Rethymnon, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Liturgical Colour: Green

The Collect:

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.

The 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.

‘May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Galatians 6: 14) … an icon cross on the nave altar in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Hymns:

492, Ye servants of God, your master proclaim (CD 28)
456, Lord, you give the great commission (CD 27)
443, Sent forth by God’s blessing, our true faith confessing (CD 26)

‘May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Galatians 6: 14) … a cross on the sand dunes in Laytown, Co Meath (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. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.