Sunday, 31 May 2020

Sunday intercessions on
Pentecost Sunday, 31 May 2020

‘Spirit of God unseen as the wind’ (Hymn 386) … sunrise on the River Slaney at Ferrycarrig near Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

These intercessions were prepared for use on Day of Pentecost, 31 May 2020, in the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. However, the churches have been closed temporarily because of the Covid-19 pandemic:

Christ is Risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Let us pray on this Day of Pentecost:

‘May the glory of the Lord endure for ever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works’ (Psalm 104: 33):

Loving Father,
may we rejoice in your care for us,
in body, mind and spirit.

Comfort those who are isolated and alone;
sustain and protect frontline workers;
enlighten the minds of those working
to contain the spread of Covid-19
and those searching for a vaccine;

Give hope to schools and places of education,
to teachers and lecturers,
to students and pupils,
to parents and staff;

Give wisdom to the government,
guide all who make difficult decisions,
help us to protect our communities and ourselves.

Give wisdom to people in America
this weekend crying for justice,
condemning racism,
seeking peace.

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

Lord Jesus Christ:
no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’
except by the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12: 3):

We pray for the Church,
that we may share that life generously and in abundance.

We pray for churches that are closed this morning,
that the hearts of the people may remain open
to the love of God, and to the love of others.

In the Anglican Cycle of Prayer, we pray this week
for the Anglican Church of Melanesia
and the Most Revd Leonard Dawea,
Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Melanesia and Bishop of Temotu.

In the Church of Ireland, we pray this month for
the Diocese of Connor and the Bishop-elect, George Davison.

We pray for our Bishop Kenneth;

In the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer,
we pray for Growth, unity and the service of Christ’s church
in our dioceses.

Christ have mercy,
Christ have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
you are poured out on all flesh (Acts 2: 17):

We pray for ourselves and for our needs,
for healing, restoration and health,
in body, mind and spirit.

We give thanks for new life …
We give thanks for the birth of Verity Rebecca …
and ask for your blessings on her parents, Amy and Damien …
her grandparents, Jennifer and Niall …
her great-grandmother, Ruby …

We pray for one another,
for those who are alone and lonely …
for those who are sick, at home or in hospital …
Alan ... Ajay … Charles …
Lorraine … James … Terry …
Niall … Linda ... Basil …

We pray for those who have broken hearts …
for those who live with disappointment …
We pray for all who are to be baptised,
We pray for all preparing to be married,
We pray for those who are about to die …

We pray for those who mourn and grieve…
for Michelle, Ian, and the Shorten and O’Riordan families …
for Lynn and the O’Gorman, Hodge and Latchford families …
for those who mourn PJ and who mourn Sherry …
may their memories be a blessing …

We pray for those who have asked for our prayers …
and for those we have offered to pray for …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

A prayer on the Day of Pentecost,
in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG,
United Society Partners in the Gospel:

Loving God, on this day of Pentecost, give us a
fresh appreciation for the diversity that we enjoy in
the Body of Christ through your Holy Spirit.

Merciful Father, …

‘The doors of the house
where the disciples had
met were locked for fear’

‘The doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear’ (John 20: 19) … locked doors at Easter in the side streets of Panormos, near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 31 May 2020,

The Day of Pentecost (Whit Sunday)

The Parish Eucharist


The Readings: Acts 2: 1-21; Psalm 104: 26-36, 37b; I Corinthians 12: 3b-13; John 20: 19-23.

There is a link to the readings HERE.

‘The Day of Pentecost’ or ‘The Descent of the Holy Spirit’ by Titian in the Church of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

The Day of Pentecost in the Church calendar is the Birthday of the Church and the day we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit.

This morning we hear two accounts of the gift of the Holy Spirit for the Church. In the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Luke associates the gift of the Holy Spirit with the great festival of in-gathering, Pentecost, 50 days after Passover.

On the other hand, in Saint John’s Gospel, we hear too that the Holy Spirit is the gift of Christ’s resurrection, on the Day of the Resurrection itself.

Yes, of course, both accounts are true.

Early on Easter morning, Mary Magdalene finds that body of Jesus is missing from the tomb. She assumes that the man standing nearby is the gardener, but when he speaks to her, she recognises him as Christ. She has told the disciples: ‘I have seen the Lord’ (verse 18).

Now, in this morning’s Gospel reading (John 20: 19-23), the Risen Christ now appears to his disciples. He bears still the marks of his passion and crucifixion, yet can pass through doors; he is truly alive.

Earlier, he has said ‘[my] peace I leave with you’ (John 14: 27). Now he now sends out the disciples, and the Church, to continue his work (verse 21). To early Christians, the exaltation of Jesus, his appearances and the giving of the Holy Spirit all become one event.

Quite often we think the gift of the Holy Spirit is something to consider only at ordination or at confirmation, or it is just left as a gift for Charismatic Evangelicals to talk about. But the gift of the Holy Spirit does not stop being effective the day after confirmation, the day after ordination, the day after hearing someone speaking in tongues, or the day after Pentecost.

How many people in America this morning, as they turn to those words in the Gospel describing how Christ breathed on the disciples, how many must think of George Floyd’s dying words on the street, as a policeman squeezed his neck, ‘I can’t breathe’?

For the gifts that Christ breathes on his disciple this morning are the gifts of life, the gifts of the Spirit, the gift of peace, the gift of forgiveness, but also the gift of calling people to account for their sins.

In America today, divided by racism and violence, we see a society that is so in need of those Pentecost gifts where ‘young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams’ (Acts 2: 17). Instead, the one old man who is charged with dreaming dreams is giving oxygen to bigotry and violence, while young people on the streets wonder who has a vision for justice and truth.

The gift of the Holy Spirit marks the beginning, the birthday, of the Church. And this is a gift that does not cease to be effective after Pentecost Day. The gift of the Holy Spirit remains with the Church – for all times.

In both Pentecost stories this morning, the disciples are found locked away in fear, behind shut and bolted doors, afraid to go out into the world, afraid of what may be waiting for them out there.

They have been there for ten days, since the Day of Ascension. Had they been locked away for ten weeks, many of us going through this Covid-19 pandemic lockdown would fully identify with their isolation and their fears.

But Christ never leaves us on our own, so that we may fade away in fear and isolation on the one hand or, on the other, soar into spiritual fantasy and relish the prospects of more magic and more religion.

‘Little Gidding,’ the fourth and final poem in the Four Quartets, is TS Eliot’s own Pentecost poem, written after his visit to Little Gidding on Ascension Day 1936 (21 May 1936), ten days before Pentecost that year (31 May 1936).

‘Little Gidding’ begins in ‘the dark time of the year,’ when a brief and glowing afternoon sun ‘flames the ice, on pond and ditches’ as it ‘stirs the dumb spirit’ not with wind but with ‘pentecostal fire.’

At the end of the poem, Eliot describes how the eternal is contained within the present and how history exists in a pattern, and repeating the words of Julian of Norwich, he is assured:

And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.


I have no doubts that the Holy Spirit works in so many ways that we cannot understand. And I have no doubts that the Holy Spirit works best and works most often in the quiet small ways that bring hope rather than in the big dramatic ways that seek to control, in little ways dispel fear when we most feel isolated and alone.

Sometimes, even when it seems foolish, sometimes, even when it seems extravagant, it is worth being led by the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit may be leading us to surprising places, and, surprisingly, leading others there too, counting them in when we thought they were counted out.

Our task as disciples is to prepare to go out into the world, to bear fruit, to let the seed sown in death rise to new life. What matters is life and love.

This account of the first Day of Pentecost is a sharp reminder that Pentecost is for all. The Holy Spirit is not an exclusive gift for the 12, for the inner circle, for the believers, or even for the Church.

The gift of the Holy Spirit marks the beginning, the birthday, of the Church, so perhaps champagne is the right image as we celebrate the birthday of the Church. But this is a gift that does not cease being given after Pentecost.

God never leaves us alone. This is what Christ promises the disciples, the whole Church, as he breaks through the locked doors and breaks through all their fears.

We need have no fears, for the Resurrection breaks through all the barriers of time and space, of gender and race, of language and colour.

Because of this gift, the Church is brought together in diversity and sustained in unity..

As we affirm our faith in the words of the Nicene Creed, as we say ‘We believe in the Holy Spirit,’ do we really believe in the Holy Spirit as ‘the Lord, the giver of life’?

Pentecost promises hope. But hope is not certainty, manipulating the future for our own ends, it is trusting in God’s purpose … no matter how difficult that is in these days of pandemic ‘lockdown.’

The gift of the Holy Spirit remains with the Church – for all times.

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

‘Come Holy Spirit’ … the holy water stoup in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Acts 2: 1-21 (NRSVA):

1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs — in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ 13 But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

17 “In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved”.’

‘The doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear’ (John 20: 19) … locked doors on Princelet Street in the East End of London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

John 20: 19-23 (NRSVA):

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

‘ … all shall be well and / All manner of thing shall be well’ (TS Eliot, ‘Little Gidding’) … sunset seen from the Sunset Taverna in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical colour: Red (Pentecost, Year A)

Greeting (from Easter until Pentecost):

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Penitential Kyries:

Great and wonderful are your deeds,
Lord God the Almighty

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

You are the King of glory, O Christ.

Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Come Holy Ghost, our souls inspire.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty God,
who on the day of Pentecost
sent your Holy Spirit to the apostles
with the wind from heaven and in tongues of flame,
filling them with joy and boldness to preach the gospel:
By the power of the same Spirit
strengthen us to witness to your truth
and to draw everyone to the fire of your love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Introduction to the Peace:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace.
If we live in the Spirit, let us walk in the Spirit.
Galatians 5: 22

Preface:

Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
according to whose promise
the Holy Spirit came to dwell in us,
making us your children,
and giving us power to proclaim the gospel throughout the world:

Post Communion Prayer:

Faithful God,
who fulfilled the promises of Easter
by sending us your Holy Spirit
and opening to every race and nation the way of life eternal:
Open our lips by your Spirit,
that every tongue may tell of your glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

The Spirit of truth lead you into all truth,
give you grace to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
and to proclaim the words and works of God …

Dismissal (from Easter Day to Pentecost):

Go in the peace of the Risen Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

‘Spirit of God unseen as the wind’ (Hymn 386) … sunrise on the River Slaney at Ferrycarrig near Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Hymns:

386, Spirit of God unseen as the wind
310, Spirit of the living God
296, Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire
293, Breathe on me, Breath of God

‘Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire’ (Hymn 296) … sunset on the beach at Platanias near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

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.

This sermon was prepared for a united group celebration of the Parish Eucharist in the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes on the Day of Pentecost, 31 May 2020, and was part of a celebration of the Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Rectory, Askeaton, Co Limerick

‘And the fire and the rose are one’ (TS Eliot, ‘Little Gidding’) … a candle and a rose on a dinner table in Minares on Vernardou Street, Rethymnon, in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Praying in Easter with USPG:
50, Sunday 31 May 2020

‘Come Holy Spirit’ … the holy water stoup in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the day of Pentecost, fifty days after Easter Day and the last day of the Easter Season.

I have been using the USPG Prayer Diary, Pray with the World Church, for my morning prayers and reflections throughout this Season of Easter. USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is the Anglican mission agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential, and champion justice. It was founded in 1701.

The theme of the USPG Prayer Diary for this week (31 May to 6 June 2020) is ‘Each one heard them speaking in the native language of each (Acts 2: 6).’ The Rev’d Dr Hugo Adan, Rector of Holy Trinity with Saint Matthew, Southwark, London, introduces this theme in the Prayer Diary this morning:

‘When we read Chapter 2 of the Acts of the Apostles, two things immediately come to our minds: the fact that the Gospel was proclaimed in every language and that everybody understood the message. The text doesn’t say Peter spoke in all the different languages mentioned; it just says that people understood in their own language.

‘We all come to faith with our own backgrounds. We all have a culture; a context that gives us a framework from which we understand the world. The fact that we are Christians and/or priests, lay leaders, missioners or evangelists doesn’t make our cultural framework any less active. This is why inculturation (the theological reflection about culture and the Gospel) is important in our global context today.

‘At St Matthew’s, we try to be aware of our cultural context. We are a bilingual parish (English-Spanish) and every day we experience that the language of love (God) is universal – but this is expressed through our own particular languages, which are not always universal. The ability to come out of our comfort zones and value our encounters with the ‘other’ are essential parts of the way we try to live the Gospel.’

Sunday 31 May 2020 (Pentecost):

Loving God, on this day of Pentecost, give us a
fresh appreciation for the diversity that we enjoy in
the Body of Christ through your Holy Spirit.

The Readings:

Acts 2: 1-21 or Numbers 11: 24-30; Psalm 104: 26-36, 37b; I Corinthians 12: 3b-13 or Acts 2: 1-21; John 20: 19-23 or John 7: 37-39.

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty God,
who on the day of Pentecost
sent your Holy Spirit to the apostles
with the wind from heaven and in tongues of flame,
filling them with joy and boldness to preach the gospel:
By the power of the same Spirit
strengthen us to witness to your truth
and to draw everyone to the fire of your love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post Communion Prayer:

Faithful God,
who fulfilled the promises of Easter
by sending us your Holy Spirit
and opening to every race and nation the way of life eternal:
Open our lips by your Spirit,
that every tongue may tell of your glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s reflection

Series Concluded

Saturday, 30 May 2020

The Victorian ‘slum priest’
who has left his mark on
the streets of Tamworth

The Co-operative shops in Tamworth are the lasting legacy of the Revd William MacGregor (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

It is impossible to walk around Tamworth or to write about Tamworth without becoming impressed by the life of the Revd William MacGregor (1848-1937) who was, without doubt, Tamworth’s ultimate ‘champion of the poor.’

His name keeps on coming up as I read about Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth Castle, Bolehall Manor or Tamworth’s architectural and social history. He was the very embodiment of the Victorian ‘slum priest’ and throughout his life he remained faithful to his beliefs and morals.

The Revd William MacGregor (1848-1937) … the Victorian ‘slum priest’ who loved the people of Tamworth

The Revd William MacGregor was born in Liverpool on 16 May 1848 into a wealthy shipping family. His Scottish grandfather had made a fortune as a merchant and banker, while his father owned a thriving Liverpool iron foundry.

William went to school at Rugby in Warwickshire, then went to Exeter College, Oxford, where he proposed to study law, but instead turned to theology. He graduated BA 1871 and MA in 1874, was ordained Deacon in 1872 and Priest in 1873 at Lichfield Cathedral.

He was a curate in Hopwas, outside Tamworth, in 1872-1876, and then Vicar of Saint Matthias’, Liverpool, in 1877-1878. But he returned to the Diocese of Lichfield when he was appointed Vicar of Tamworth in 1878 at the age of 30.

Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth … William MacGregor was Vicar of Tamworth in 1878-1887 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In Tamworth, MacGregor was respected as a godly man with immense faith who devoted his life to the people of the town. He brought in two curates to help him and personally financed their ministry.

He gave Saint Editha’s Church a major facelift, had its bells re-cast, and built two churches, at Glascote and at Hopwas, where named the church Saint Chad’s. This brick and timber-framed ‘chocolate-box,’ church, praised by the architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as ‘an ingenious and entertaining building,’ is on Hopwas Hill in the shadow of Hopwas Hayes Wood. It was designed in 1879-1881 by the architect John Douglas (1830-1911) of Chester and is a Grade II listed building.

MacGregor also served occasionally as a magistrate. On one occasion a young boy was brought before him for playing football on the road. The boy told him there was nowhere else to play so William MacGregor bought a plot of land near the railway arches and gave Bolehall Park – now MacGregor Park – to the young people of the town.

He started a branch of the Mother’s Union in Tamworth and employed a home nurse to visit and help poor mothers with infants at home. He then started a girls’ club where they could not only learn needlework and religion but also have a place to read and socialise.

He spent the first ten years in Tamworth visiting the poor and squalid homes where typhoid was often rampant. He campaigned tirelessly for every home to have clean water and sanitation despite the strong opposition from the town’s wealthy inhabitants.

He exposed landlords for the squalid state of the homes of their tenants. He mediated between miners and colliery bosses when wages were cut drastically. He took children out of workhouses and put them into family homes. He took orphans from the slums to holiday in his own home.

He started a free library and a coffee house for teetotallers and established a workingmen’s club in Bolehall. He founded and financed Tamworth’s first hospital at his own expense in 1880 and acted as honorary secretary for many years, and his interest in the hospital never waned.

The Church Street Baths and Institute in 1891 (Photograph © Historic England Archive ref: BL10877)

The Church Street Baths and Institute were among MacGregor’s many gifts to the town. They were built in a timber-framed Tudor style in 1885 to a design by the architect John Douglas, who also designed Saint Chad’s Church, Hopwas, for MacGregor.

The building had a façade designed to harmonise with the 15th and 16th century timer-framed buildings on Church Street. There was a jettied gable and oriel window on one side, and the institute was on one side, with swimming baths on the other, while the School of Art occupied the first-floor rooms.

The poor people of Tamworth appealed to MacGregor to help them start a Co-operative Society where they could buy food cheaply at fair prices and share in the profits. He sourced the premises in Colehill in 1885 and acted as guarantor.

The local shopkeepers were enraged and feared that this cut-price Co-op would affect their livelihoods. MacGregor was abused in the street, and damned in letters sent to him, to the Tamworth Herald and to the bishop. Some parishioners even stopped going to church in protest.

Within a year he had resigned as the Vicar of Tamworth. An editorial he wrote in the parish magazine in December 1886 sums up his distress at the bad feeling surrounding him. He describes his first eight years in Tamworth as giving him some anxiety but also ‘much happiness.’ He then explains why the ninth year has opened ‘under a cloud’: ‘My connection with the Co-operative movement, which is about to get a footing in Tamworth, is an offence to many who have hitherto worked cordially with me, and whom I have valued highly as friends and helpers.’

As much as he regretted the ill-feeling that had developed, he could not hold himself back from helping a movement ‘calculated to benefit morally, socially and politically a large number of people.’

Although MacGregor resigned as Vicar of Tamworth in 1887, he continued to live in Tamworth, faithful to his beliefs and morals, held in esteem by ordinary working men and women.

Tamworth Castle … William MacGregor helped ensure the castle was bought for the people of Tamworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

When Lord Townshend decided to sell Tamworth Castle, MacGregor started the fund to buy Tamworth Castle for the town, and had a deep, practical commitment to the maintenance of the Castle. It was purchased from by the Borough of Tamworth to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897, and was officially opened in 1899 as the borough’s museum.

MacGregor addressed the 350 invited guests at an official lunch in the Tamworth Assembly rooms in 1899 to celebrate the purchase of Tamworth Castle:

‘In my public life, which has not been a short one, I have known no moment of supreme satisfaction than when the auctioneers’ hammer fell on Whit Tuesday night two years ago in the Town hall, Guy built for us, and the auctioneer announced that the ancient Castle of Tamworth, with its history dating from 775, had become the property of the Mayor and Corporation of Tamworth in the name of the people.

‘It will be to us a centre of light and life, a centre of the history of our town and England and we shall gather there in the course of time, collections, scientific and artistic, of interest to us.

‘I can only trust that as the young men and women of Tamworth grow up here and see their Castle rising in the midst of them, their minds will be carried back to the story of England’s history, that they will feel that history is a real and living thing. The people of Tamworth are the trustees of the Castle for the people of England.’

A serious lung illness later life caused him to convalesce in Egypt in 1885. He continued to visit Egypt regularly, developed his interests in Egyptian archaeology and excavations and became an eminent Egyptologist. He amassed a private collection that he housed in a special museum in his house at Bolehall Manor in 1903.

He is said to have buried at least two of the mummies he brought back from Egypt in the grounds of Bolehall Manor as they began to deteriorate.

Bolehall Manor, now Bolehall Manor Club … for decades the home of William MacGregor

He was also a noted authority on Greek pottery and was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

As he grew older, he donated some of his collections to Tamworth Castle, but he sold most of his collection privately. The MacGregor collection of 8,000 pieces was sold by Sotheby’s in 1921. The sale catalogue describes him as ‘one of the most important collectors of Egyptology.’

MacGregor sat on Warwickshire County Council from 1888 to 1917 and was Chairman of the Tamworth Herald from 1906 to 1928. He was 89 when he died on 26 February 1937 at Bolehall Manor, and he was buried at Saint Chad’s Church, Hopwas.

His baths on Church Street, Tamworth, were demolished in December 1966. But many of the objects from his private collections can be seen in museums, including the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and the British Museum in London.

A blue plaque at Bolehall Manor Club commemorates Macgregor’s legacy, Bolehall Boys School was renamed William MacGregor School in his honour, and he has given his name MacGregor Park (formerly Bolehall Park), MacGregor Crescent at Glascote, and the MacGregor Tithe sheltered housing complex on the site of Tamworth General Hospital. His chair with his engraved initials is still in the office of the chief executive of the Tamworth Co-operative Society.

The Revd William MacGregor continues to be remembered with pride in Tamworth

Praying in Easter with USPG:
49, Saturday 30 May 2020


Patrick Comerford

We are in the final week of the season of Easter this year, between Ascension Day and the Day of Pentecost tomorrow.

I am continuing to use the USPG Prayer Diary, Pray with the World Church, for my morning prayers and reflections throughout this Season of Easter. USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is the Anglican mission agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential, and champion justice. It was founded in 1701.

Throughout this week (24 to 30 May 2020), the theme of the USPG Prayer Diary has been ‘Change is Possible.’ Rebecca Boardman, USPG Regional Manager for East Asia, Oceania and Europe, introduced this theme in the Prayer Diary on Sunday morning.

Saturday 30 2020:

Pray for the Church of North India’s Community Approach for Rural Development (CAFORD) programme, and for the communities it serves via the Khristiya Seva Niketan Hospital in West Bengal.

The Readings:

Acts 28: 16-20, 30-31; Psalm 11: 4-8; John 21: 20-25.

The Collect of the Day:

O God the King of Glory,
you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ
with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:
Mercifully give us faith to know
that, as he promised,
he abides with us on earth to the end of time;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection

Concluded tomorrow

Friday, 29 May 2020

Reminders of two more
Comerford houses in
Dublin’s ‘Little Jerusalem’

No 76 Lower Clanbrassil Street … once the home of Robert Comerford from Bunclody and later Goldwater’s shop (Photograph courtesy Manus O’Riordan)

Patrick Comerford

In the short space of about half a century, immediate members of one branch of the Comerford family had addresses in at least 15 houses in Lower and Upper Clanbrassil Street, the heart of Dublin’s ‘Little Jerusalem.’

Many more members of this branch of the family lived at different times in that era in houses in the warren of streets off Clanbrassil Street, in Little Jerusalem, in Portobello and around Charlemont Street. If I add to them their in-laws, their cousins and their nieces and nephews, it must have been impossible for any of them to walk along Clanbrassil Street any time of night or day without meeting and greeting another member of the Comerford family.

Little did I realise in the late 1950s and early 1960s that I was walking in their shadows, and in recent years I have tried to track the many houses they lived in and to photograph them.

In all those endeavours, two houses stood out as being impossible to photograph: No 76 and No 82 Lower Clanbrassil Street, and while I had a photograph of No 76 in ruins before it was demolished in the 1970s, I had no photograph of either house in their full standing.

That was until earlier this week when I was contacted by Manus O’Riordan, who grew up in Victoria Street in ‘Little Jerusalem’ and who shares my interest in this part of Dublin, including the stories of the Jewish community and the synagogues that once made this area the heart of Jewish Dublin until the mid-20th century.

Although the heart has been ripped out of Lower Clanbrassil Street by road widening and demolition in the 1970s, in the first half of the 20th century this was the heart of the Jewish community. The boundaries of ‘Little Jerusalem’ – if they were ever delineated – might be said to stretch from Clanbrassil Street to Donore Avene on the west, Windsor Terrace along the banks of the Grand Canal to the South, to the west side of Richmond Street and Kelly’s Corner, from there east to the junction with Charlemont Street, north behind the west front of Harcourt Street, then back through Pleasant Street, heading west towards the junction with Clanbrassil Street.

The area along Lower Clanbrassil Street and throughout ‘Little Jerusalem’ included Jewish shops and businesses, kosher butchers, a kosher bakery in Lennox Street, and a ritual slaughterhouse in Vincent Street. There was a women’s dispensary and a Jewish school in Bloomfield Avenue, with the Chief Rabbi’s home and office nearby. There were large synagogues on the South Circular Road and Adelaide Road, and were smaller synagogues in Walworth Road (now the Irish Jewish Museum), Saint Kevin’s Parade, and many of the other small side streets, including Saint Kevin’s Parade, Oakfield Place, Lennox Street, Lombard Street West, and on Camden Street.

The Goldwater family ran a shop at 76 Lower Clanbrassil Street for many years after the death of Robert Comerford

I had a photograph of the remains of Goldwater’s shop and the blocked-up ground floor at 76 Lower Clanbrassil Street, shortly before it was demolished. But, until Manus O’Riordan posted a photograph of it earlier week, I had no photograph of the full house as it once stood.

My grandfather’s first cousin, Robert Comerford (1855-1925), a nephew of my great-grandfather, was living at this house when he died in 1925. Robert was born in Newtownbarry (Bunclody), Co Wexford, and moved to Dublin with his brother Richard and his sister Mary after the death of their father, also Robert Comerford, in 1864.

Robert was a founding member of the Regular Stucco Plasterers’ Trade Union in 1893 with my grandfather and great-grandfather. He was living at 9 New Bride Street in 1881, when he married Margaret Walsh of 37 Cuffe Street in Saint Kevin’s Church. Her sister of Elizabeth Walsh, first wife of another cousin, also called James Comerford.

Robert Comerford lived at 9 New Bride Street (1881), 37 Cuffe Street (1882), 36 Cuffe Street (1889), 140 Rialto Cottages (1901), 17 Martin Street (1905), 15 Williams Place South (1911) and 76 Lower Clanbrassil Street (1925). When Robert died on 1 May 1925, aged 67, he was living at 76 Lower Clanbrassil Street. His widow Margaret died in 1937.

The shop at the ground floor of No 76 was R Rosenovsky’s drapery shop in 1911-1912. It was Goldwater’s butcher shop from the 1930s until it finally closed in 1977.

No 82 Lower Clanbrassil Street … Catherine Comerford married Michael O’Brien of No 82 in 1931 (Photograph courtesy Manus O’Riordan)

Manus O’Riordan also posted a photograph this week of No 82 Lower Clanbrassil Street. For a short time, No 82 was also the marital home of grandfather’s god-daughter Catherine Comerford, when she married Michael O’Brien.

My grandfather’s eldest brother, James Comerford and his wife Lena (Donovan) were the parents of three sons and two daughters, many of whom lived in the Clanbrassil Street or ‘Little Jerusalem’ area. Their second child, Catherine Mary, my father’s first cousin, was born on 21 April 1890, and when she was baptised in Saint Kevin’s on 25 April 1890 her godfather was my grandfather, Stephen Comerford. She married Michael O’Brien of 82 Lower Clanbrassil Street in Saint Kevin’s on 23 November 1931.

No 82 Lower Clanbrassil Street was Rubinstein’s butcher shop, opened in 1905 by Myer Rubinstein. His son, Philly Rubinstein, who continued the business, is credited by Ray Rivlin in Jewish Ireland, a social history with finding the site for Edmondstown Golf Club in the 1940s. The shop closed in 1979.

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Clanbrassil Street was Dublin’s main Jewish shopping street. In 1943, 23 kosher shops were trading here, and there were 16 by the end of the 1950s. But the number had dropped to nine by the end of the 1960s, only five were open by the end of the 1970s, and two in the 1980s.

After World War II, many Jews from ‘Little Jerusalem’ moved to Manchester, London, New York and Israel. Due to increasing prosperity and the decline of Clanbrassil Street, those who remained in Dublin moved to areas like Terenure, Rathfarnham and Churchtown. There was only one surviving kosher shop on Lower Clanbrassil Street in the 1990s. The last to close was Ehrlich’s butcher shop at No 35, which opened in 1952 and finally closed in May 2001.

In a similar fashion, as members of the Comerford family found new prosperity in 20th century Dublin, the families of stuccodores and plasterers became surveyors and architects, and moved out to suburbs like Ranelagh, Rathmines, Rathgar, Harold’s Cross, Terenure and Rathfarnham.

These days, whenever I return to Clanbrassil Street, I bump into no Comerfords and no members of the Jewish community. But as I sip my coffee in one of the cafés along the street, I dream of how the children and the grandchildren of Muslims in this area are going to be integrated into Irish society over the next century or century and a half.

By the first half of the 20th century, Lower Clanbrassil Street was at the heart of the Jewish community

Praying in Easter with USPG:
48, Friday 29 May 2020

‘Prince of Peace, we give thanks for all those who have dedicated their lives to helping resolve conflicts in our world’ … ‘Pax 1919’ on the gates of the Memorial Garden in Lichfield, with the spires of Lichfield Cathedral in the background (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

We are in the final week of the season of Easter this year, between Ascension Day and the Day of Pentecost.

I am continuing to use the USPG Prayer Diary, Pray with the World Church, for my morning prayers and reflections throughout this Season of Easter. USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is the Anglican mission agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential, and champion justice. It was founded in 1701.

Throughout this week (24 to 30 May 2020), the theme of the USPG Prayer Diary is ‘Change is Possible.’ Rebecca Boardman, USPG Regional Manager for East Asia, Oceania and Europe, introduced this theme in the Prayer Diary on Sunday morning.

Friday 29 May 2020 (International Day of UN peacekeepers):

Prince of Peace, we give thanks for all those who have dedicated their lives to helping resolve conflicts in our world.

The Readings:

Acts 25: 13-21; Psalm 103: 1-2, 11-12; John 21: 15-19.

The Collect of the Day:

O God the King of Glory,
you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ
with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:
Mercifully give us faith to know
that, as he promised,
he abides with us on earth to the end of time;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Thursday, 28 May 2020

‘In my smudged imperfect hands,
from my holy imperfect heart’

The statue of the poet and philosopher Solomon ibn Gabirol in a small square in Málaga … his liturgical poem ‘Azharot’ is associated with Shavuot, which begins this evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

The Jewish holiday of Shavuot (שָׁבוּעוֹת), known as the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost in English, begins this evening (28 June 2020), at the start of the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan.

Shavuot has a double significance – agricultural and spiritual. As an agricultural festival, it marks the wheat harvest (see Exodus 34: 22); spiritually, it celebrates the day God gave the Torah to the people at Mount Sinai.

This is one of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals of the Bible, along with Pesach (Passover) and Sukkot, the Festival of Booths.

The word Shavuot means ‘weeks’ and it marks the conclusion of the Counting of the Omer, beginning on the second day of Passover. Seven weeks of seven days totals 49 days – a week of weeks – so, Shavuot falls 50 days after Passover, hence Pentecost (Πεντηκοστή) in Biblical Greek. This year, Shavuot and Pentecost almost coincide, with the Day of Pentecost next Sunday (31 May 2020).

This counting of days and weeks is understood to reflect anticipation of God giving the Torah. On Passover, the people were freed from slavery in Egypt; on Shavuot, they were given the Torah and became a nation committed to serving God.

Shavuot is celebrated in Israel for one day, for two days by Conservative and Orthodox Jews in the Diaspora, and for one day only by Reform Jews.

The customs associated with Shavuot include reading of a liturgical poem during morning services; eating dairy products like milk, cheese and cheesecake; reading the Book of Ruth at morning services; decorating homes and synagogues with greenery; and all-night Torah study.

The 90-line liturgical poem Aqdamut (Aramaic אקדמות‎) praising God’s greatness, was written by Rabbi Meir of Worms, whose son was murdered during the First Crusade in 1096.

However, Sephardi Jews sing Azharot, a liturgical poem that sets out the 613 commandments in rhymed verse. The best known versions of this poem include those by two Spanish authors of the Middle Ages, Isaac ben Reuben Albargeloni and Solomon ibn Gabirol.

Solomon ibn Gabirol was born in Málaga ca 1021 and died in Valencia ca 1058. Sephardim recite the azharot by Solomon ibn Gabirol – the 248 positive commandments on the first day of Shavuot, and the 365 negative commandments on the second day.

A plaque in Málaga commemorating Solomon ibn Gabirol (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The Book of Ruth (מגילת רות, Megillat Ruth) is read on Shavuot because, it is said, King David, Ruth’s descendant, was born and died on Shavuot; Shavuot occurs at harvest time, the setting for the Book of Ruth; the numerical value of Ruth is 606, the number of commandments given at Sinai in addition to the seven Noahic Laws, for a total of 613; because the book describes Ruth’s conversion and her entry into the covenant given on Mount Sinai; and because loving-kindness is central to both the Torah and the Book of Ruth.

On her blog ‘Velveteen Rabbi,’ Rabbi Rachel Barenblat posted a poem for Shavuot two years ago:

Fruits: a poem for Shavuot

The fruits of my hands
bright origami cranes
minced garlic and chiffonaded kale
clean t-shirts, folded.

The fruits of my heart
poems of yearning and ache
text messages that say I love you
in a hundred different ways.

The fruits of my mind
sentences and paragraphs
eloquence and argument
new ideas casting bright sparks.

The fruits of my soul
the harmony that makes the chord
prayer with my eyes closed tight
inbreath of tearful wonder.

I offer the first of these
the best of these
in my smudged imperfect hands
from my holy imperfect heart.

I have been in tight places
I’ve cried out – and You heard me!
Now I stand on the cusp
of flow and abundance.

I give You these first fruits
not because they’re ‘enough’
but because I want to draw near
to You, now and always.

The Scroll of Ruth in a synagogue in Prague (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Praying in Easter with USPG:
47, Thursday 28 May 2020


Patrick Comerford

We are in the final week of the season of Easter this year, between Ascension Day and the Day of Pentecost.

I am continuing to use the USPG Prayer Diary, Pray with the World Church, for my morning prayers and reflections throughout this Season of Easter. USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is the Anglican mission agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential, and champion justice. It was founded in 1701.

Throughout this week (24 to 30 May 2020), the theme of the USPG Prayer Diary is ‘Change is Possible.’ Rebecca Boardman, USPG Regional Manager for East Asia, Oceania and Europe, introduced this theme in the Prayer Diary on Sunday morning.

Thursday 28 May 2020:

Pray for the people of Azerbaijan as they mark their Republic Day today.

The Readings:

Acts 22: 30, 23: 6-11; Psalm 16: 1, 5-10; John 17: 20-26.

The Collect of the Day:

O God the King of Glory,
you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ
with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:
Mercifully give us faith to know
that, as he promised,
he abides with us on earth to the end of time;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

The colourful Polish
painter who wanted to
be a count in Ireland

Constance Markievicz … her husband claimed he was a Polish count (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I should be in Warsaw today [27 May 2020] on the second full day or a three or four-day city break. But for the second time in just over two years, I have been forced to abandon plans to visit the Polish capital.

The package to Warsaw, with Ryanair flights and Airbnb accommodation, was a Christmas present, and I was due to fly out on Monday and return tomorrow. But the travel restrictions introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic have cancelled all these arrangements.

So, despite having read the guidebooks and planned the sites I was going to visit – including the former Warsaw ghetto, the synagogues and the museums – I am still in Askeaton, Co Limerick. And I am still wondering about Ireland’s most famous Polish ‘in-law’: Casimir Dunin Markievicz, the husband of the suffragist and revolutionary Constance Gore-Booth.

Casimir Joseph Dunin Markievicz (1874-1932), who styled himself Count Markievicz, was a playwright, painter and theatre director. He died in Warsaw on 2 December 1932. But was he really Polish? And, was he ever a count?

The Markievicz family held land in Malopolska Province, now in Ukraine. Casimir was born on 15 March 1874 and grew up on the family farm near the small town of Zywotow. He went to the secondary school or state gymnasium in the Black Sea port of Kherson, where a quarter of the population was Yiddish-speaking Jews, and a quarter to one-third of emigrants with the name Markievicz from these parts of Poland and Ukraine were Jewish.

Casimir Markievicz studied law at the University of Kyiv (Kiev), before moving in 1895 to Paris, where he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts. There he met and married Jadwiga Splawa-Neyman, and they were the parents of two sons, Stanislas and Ryszard. But the marriage did not last, and Jadwiga returned to Ukraine, where she and Ryszard died in 1899.

That year, Casimir met Constance Gore-Booth in Paris, where the two mixed in student society and Bohemian circles. Constance was born in London in 1868, the eldest child of Sir Henry Gore-Booth (1843-1900) of Lissadell House, Co Sligo, and his wife, the former Georgina Hill. She wanted to study art and persuaded her parents to send her to the Slade School of Art in London in 1893. From there she moved to Paris, where she and the recently-widowed Casimir Dunin Markievicz met at a student ball in 1899.

Eight months after her father’s death, the couple married in Saint Marylebone Church, London, on 29 September 1900 – he was 26 and she was 30; he gave his name as Casimir Joseph Dunin de Markiewicz, and described himself and his father as Polish nobles, but while he dressed in formal court uniform he did not use the title count. The wedding was conducted by the Revd Frederick Sheridan Le Fanu.

Her brother, Sir Josslyn Gore-Booth (1869-1944), asked the British ambassador in Russia, Sir Charles Scott, to look into background of his future brother-in-law, the soi-disant count. The ambassador reported back that Casimir had taken the title of count ‘without right’ and that ‘Poland never had a count of that name.’ The police report wondered whether the Markievicz family, who were landowners, had bought the title at the Vatican or in the Habsburg empire.

Their daughter Maeve was born the following year, when the father’s name at the baptism is given as Cassimir de Markie. But Constance had a strained relationship with her daughter, and when the couple returned to Paris in 1902, their daughter was left in the care of her grandmother, Lady Gore-Booth, at Lissadell House.

When they returned to Ireland, the couple lived at a house on Leinster Road, Rathmines, bought by Lady Gore-Booth, and they were part of the literary circle in Dublin that included WB Yeats, Lady Gregory and the Abbey Theatre. According to his biographer Patrick Quigley, in The Polish Irishman: The Life and Times of Count Casimir Markievicz, the high point of Casimir’s career as a public painter in Ireland came in 1905 when he was commissioned to paint the investiture of the Earl of Mayo as a Knight of the Order Saint Patrick, a major work that captured 68 members of the Irish aristocracy at the ceremony.

He formed his own theatre company, the Independent Dramatic Company, in 1910, which staged plays written by Casimir and starring Constance. But the marriage did not last long. Markievicz left Dublin in 1913, perhaps unenamoured with his wife’s fast-developing political radicalisation, and returned to live in what is present-day Ukraine. A year later, he was one of the many Poles living in the Russian Empire who joined the Tsar’s army at the outbreak of World War I. He never returned to live in Ireland, although he continued to write to his wife in Dublin.

Constance Markievicz was elected to the House of Commons in 1918 and to the Dail for Fianna Fail in 1926. Meanwhile, Casimir Markievicz had moved to Warsaw, where he continued to write and paint. When she was taken to hospital in 1927, he rushed from Warsaw to be by her bedside, painting her picture on her deathbed.

Casimir survived Constance by five years, but he lived with constant ill health and financial difficulties. He lived out his last years in Warsaw, sending freelance contributions to London magazines and newspapers, writing a screenplay for a Polish film that had limited success, and painting portraits and landscapes.

Some of his paintings are in Dublin, some are in the National Museum in Kraków. He died in Warsaw on 2 December 1932, and was buried in an unmarked grave in Nowe, a small town 80 km south of Gdansk.

Casimir used the style and title of count in Paris and in Dublin. But was he ever a real count? Did Constance pretend he was a Ukrainian count to win approval for her marriage from her widowed mother and her brother who had succeeded to the family title?

Despite her revolutionary politics, she liked to be known as Countess Markievicz or Madame Markievicz. But, historically, there were no men in Polish or Ukrainian history with the title Count Markievicz. Eamon de Valera was discreet enough to refer to this founding member of Fianna Fai, as ‘Madame Markievicz.’ He extended similar courtesies to ‘Madame’ Maud Gonne and to ‘Madame’ Charlotte Despard, neither of whom claimed to be a countess.

Poland was notable throughout its history for not granting titles of nobility. There are no counts, barons or nobles with the name Markievicz in the standard lists of Polish counts of the Holy Roman Empire, Polish nobility, Prussian and Austrian nobility in Poland and Ukraine, Russian noble families or Russian nobility of Polish descent, nor did Casimir ever apply for a licence or permission to use the title in Ireland, Britain or France.

The closest he ever got to being a count is through his descent from the Dunin or Duninowie family, also known as Łabędzie. But this was a Polish knightly family of możnowładcy or magnates in mediaeval Poland. One line of descent, the Dunin-Borkowski family, were recognised as counts in Austrian Poland, but this was not the Markiewicz family.

Donal Nevin, in his biography James Connolly, a full life (2005) concludes:

In fact he was not a Count. At least his son, Stanislas, emphatically denied that his father was a Count. Before he left Ireland moved to London, later to America, in the 1930s Stanislas left a sealed letter with John McCann which was not to be opened until after his death. Stanislas died in San Diego in October 1971. The sealed letter read: ‘Dear John, My father was not a Count – Yours – Stasco.’

The colourful Polish count who swept Constance Gore-Booth off her feet at a ball in Paris may have been a romantic rather than a fraud. He was never a count and is virtually forgotten as an artist.

Strolling around the grounds of Lissadell House, Constance Gore-Booth’s ancestral home in Co Sligo, before Leonard Cohen’s concert in 2010 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Praying in Easter with USPG:
46, Wednesday 27 May 2020

Saint Peter’s Cathedral, Likoma Island … badly damaged by heavy rains (Photograph: Tripadvisor)

Patrick Comerford

We are in the final week of the season of Easter this year, between Ascension Day and the Day of Pentecost.

I am continuing to use the USPG Prayer Diary, Pray with the World Church, for my morning prayers and reflections throughout this Season of Easter. USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is the Anglican mission agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential, and champion justice. It was founded in 1701.

Throughout this week (24 to 30 May 2020), the theme of the USPG Prayer Diary is ‘Change is Possible.’ Rebecca Boardman, USPG Regional Manager for East Asia, Oceania and Europe, introduced this theme in the Prayer Diary on Sunday morning.

Wednesday 27 May 2020:

Pray also for the Diocese of Northern Malawi as it tries to save Saint Peter’s Cathedral on Likoma Island, which was badly damaged by the heavy rains.

The Readings:

Acts 20: 28-38; Psalm 68: 27-28, 32-35; John 17: 11-19.

The Collect of the Day:

O God the King of Glory,
you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ
with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:
Mercifully give us faith to know
that, as he promised,
he abides with us on earth to the end of time;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

A missed opportunity
to visit Warsaw’s only
pre-war synagogue

Facing the Ark in the Nożyk Synagogue, the only surviving pre-war synagogue in Warsaw (Photograph: Ethan Doyle White / Wikipedia)

Patrick Comerford

I should be in Warsaw today [26 May 2020] on the first full day or a three or four-day city break. But for the second time in just over two years, I have been forced to abandon plans to visit the Polish capital.

The package to Warsaw, with Ryanair flights and Airbnb accommodation, was a Christmas present, and I was due to fly out yesterday and return on Thursday. But the travel restrictions introduced as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic have cancelled all these arrangements.

I particularly wanted to visit Warsaw this year and to visit the synagogues of Warsaw and the sites of the Warsaw ghetto uprising on the 75th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust and the end of World War II.

So, I am still in Askeaton, Co Limerick, and this evening I am taking part in the fourth webinar in the Sephardi Academia programme organised by the Bevis Marks Synagogue, with Rabbi Shalom Morris in conversation with Eliezer Papo, who is talking about Sephardim and Ottoman Jewry in the modern state and how they helped to create the world we know today.

The Jewish Community of Warsaw has about 700 members and four synagogues today: the Nożyk Orthodox Synagogue, the Etz Chaim Reform Synagogue, and synagogues of the Chabad community and the reformed community of Beit Warszawa.

The Jewish heritage sites in Warsaw include the synagogue sites, cemeteries, mikvah houses and houses of study, memorials and museums. As the only surviving pre-war synagogue in Warsaw, the Nożyk Synagogue is a reminder of how Jewish Warsaw used to be before the Shoah.

Although Jews had been present in the Mazovia region since 11th century, the oldest document confirming their presence in Warsaw dates from 1414.

A law passed in 1775 encouraged Jews to settle throughout the Mazovian Province, but excluded Warsaw. The early communities near Warsaw developed in Praga from 1780, then still outside the official limits of Warsaw proper.

At the end of the 18th century, Jews gained the right to settle in Warsaw and two communities developed, in Warsaw and in Praga, and the Jewish community established self-government under Prussian rule.

Warsaw’s Jewish population reached its height in the 19th century. When Dov Ber Meisels was appointed the Chief Rabbi of Warsaw in 1856, Jews accounted for more than 26% of the city’s population.

At the beginning of World War I, Warsaw had a Jewish population of 337,000 (38%) in 1914. In the inter-war years this was Europe’s largest Jewish community with 400,000 people – the second largest Jewish population after New York. Before World War II, the Jewish community of Warsaw had over 400 houses of prayer, although most were smaller rooms or houses of prayer attached to schools, hospitals or private homes.

A postcard of the Great Synagogue … once the grandest 19th century building in Poland

The Round Synagogue in Praga was built in 1836, and was the main synagogue in Warsaw until the Great Synagogue was built in 1878. The Great Synagogue of Warsaw was once the grandest 19th century building in Poland. When it opened on 26 September 1878 at the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, it was the largest synagogue in the world

It was built in 1875-1878 at Tłomackie Street and was designed by the Polish architect Leandro Marconi (1834-1919).

Marconi’s father, Enrico Marconi, was a famous architect who moved to Warsaw in 1822, his mother Małgorzata (Margaret) Heiton was of Scottish descent, while his cousin Leonard Marconi was a sculptor.

Marconi began trained as an architect with his father. They worked together on the Hotel Europejski (1856-1859) and a parish church in Wilanów (1857-1860). His first major project was a villa for the entrepreneur Wilhelm Ellis Rau (1868).

His other works included a villa for his father, dubbed the ‘palace under the artichoke,’ the head office of the Bank Handlowy (1873), a house for Stanisław Zamoyski, a villa for the Sobański family (1877), a renaissance revival palace for Konstanty Zamoyski on Foksal Street, a house for the Branicki family in the Frascati Gardens and numerous palaces and churches outside Warsaw. For many years, he supervised the reconstruction of the Wilanów Palace, the summer residence of the Polish kings.

Inside the Great Synagogue … blown up by the Nazis on 16 May 1943 in the last act of destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto

The Great Synagogue, his best-known work, was commissioned in 1877. Some sources also say he also designed the Nożyk Synagogue, although this is not certain. He died on 8 October 1919 in Montreux.

Although the Great Synagogue was not part of any movement for reform, sermons were delivered in Polish and not in Yiddish, there was an all-male choir and an organ, although the organ was only played at weddings, and the liturgy continued in the Orthodox tradition.

The Great Synagogue was blown up by Jürgen Stroop, the SS commander in Poland, on 16 May 1943, in the last act of destruction of the ghetto in Warsaw by the Nazis. It was never rebuilt, and since the 1980s the site has been occupied by a large skyscraper, once known as the Golden Skyscraper and now known as the Blue Skyscraper.

The remains of the Round Synagogue, dating from 1836, were demolished in 1960, and today the Nożyk Synagogue is the only surviving pre-war synagogue in Warsaw. In addition, there is the Progressive Jewish Etz Chaim synagogue on Aleje Jerozolimskie, and the Chabad community and the Reformed community of Beit Warszawa have their own synagogues.

The Nożyk Synagogue, built in 1898-1902 … the last surviving pre-war synagogue in Warsaw (Photograph: Wilipedia / PKO)

The Nożyk Synagogue on Twarda Street was founded by Zelman Nożyk, a Warsaw merchant, and his wife Ryfka, who donated the site in 1893. It was built in 1898-1902 and was designed by Karol Kozłowski, a Warsaw architect who also designed the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra Hall. However, some sources say it was designed by Leandro Marconi, who also designed the Grand Synagogue.

When it was built, the Nożyk Synagogue was surrounded by high-rise tenement buildings. The synagogue was officially opened on this day 118 years ago, 26 May 1902. The founders donated it to the Warsaw Jewish Community in 1914 in return for yearly prayers in their memory. The building was refurbished in 1923 by Maurycy Grodzieński, who also designed a semi-circular choir at the east wall.

The synagogue was damaged during an air raid in September 1939. During World War II, the area was part of the Small Ghetto and shared its fate during the Ghetto Uprising and then the annihilation of the Jewish community of Warsaw by the Nazis. After 1941, the Germans used the building as stables and a depot.

The Nożyk Synagogue was partially restored after World War II and was returned to the Warsaw Jewish Community. It was completely rebuilt in 1977-1983 and officially reopened on 18 April 1983. It is still a working synagogue and the only surviving pre-war synagogue in Warsaw. It also houses the offices of the Warsaw Jewish Community and other Jewish organisations.

The Etz Chaim Progressive Community Centre was established in 2010 as part of the Jewish Community of Warsaw. The synagogue is in a building on Jerozolimskie Avenue in the heart of Warsaw, opposite the Palace of Culture and Science. Rabbi Stas Wojciechowicz, an Uzbek-born rabbi who came from Israel, has been the rabbi for years.

Beit Warszawa Synagogue, a liberal Jewish synagogue, opened in 1999. It began in 1995 when Severyn Ashkenazy, the Polish-born American hotelier and philanthropist, gathered a group of friends to explore the possibility of creating a reform synagogue.

Cynthia Ann Culpeper (1962-2005) was the first female rabbi to lead religious services in Poland when she conducted High Holy Day services at Beit Warszawa in 2000.

She had converted to Judaism from Roman Catholicism when she was 21, and was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1995. She was working as a nurse in San Francisco when she accidentally contracted HIV due to a needle stick, and was diagnosed with HIV in 1995. When she became rabbi of Agudath Israel in Montgomery, Alabama, she was the first full-time female rabbi and the first Conservative female rabbi in Alabama.

She was the first pulpit rabbi to announce being diagnosed with AIDS. When she announced her diagnosis in 1996, her congregation rallied around her, insisting she continue to work, and wearing red AIDS awareness ribbons. She moved to Birmingham, Alabama, in 1997 where she could get ‘cutting edge’ treatment. Culpeper spoke about AIDS to Jewish communities throughout America, but she did not want to be known as ‘the AIDS rabbi.’ She died of AIDS on 29 August 2005.

Meanwhile, the Beit Warszawa congregation moved into dedicated premises in Warsaw in 2003.

Today, the Jewish community is served by four rabbis, and Dr Michael Schudrich has been the Chief Rabbi of Poland since 2004.

Inside the Nożyk Synagogue … rebuilt in in 1977-1983 and reopened in 1983 (Photograph: Ethan Doyle White / Wikipedia)

Praying in Easter with USPG:
45, Tuesday 26 May 2020

‘Pray for the residents of Likoma Island in Malawi, especially for those left homeless as a result of the heavy March rainfall’ … USPG’s link with Likoma Island in Lake Malawi dates back to 1885

Patrick Comerford

We are in the final week of the season of Easter this year, between Ascension Day and the Day of Pentecost.

I am continuing to use the USPG Prayer Diary, Pray with the World Church, for my morning prayers and reflections throughout this Season of Easter. USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is the Anglican mission agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential, and champion justice. It was founded in 1701.

Throughout this week (24 to 30 May 2020), the theme of the USPG Prayer Diary is ‘Change is Possible.’ Rebecca Boardman, USPG Regional Manager for East Asia, Oceania and Europe, introduced this theme in the Prayer Diary on Sunday morning.

Tuesday 26 May 2020:

Pray for the residents of Likoma Island in Malawi, especially for those left homeless as a result of the heavy March rainfall.

The Readings:

Acts 20: 17-27; Psalm 68: 9-10, 18-19; John 17: 1-11.

The Collect of the Day:

O God the King of Glory,
you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ
with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:
Mercifully give us faith to know
that, as he promised,
he abides with us on earth to the end of time;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Monday, 25 May 2020

Who was the boy in
the Warsaw ghetto with
his hands in the air?

A group of Jewish people are moved from the Warsaw Ghetto by German soldiers on 19 April 1943

Patrick Comerford

I should be in Warsaw today [25 May 2020] on a three or four-day city break. But for the second time in just over two years, I have been forced to abandon plans to visit the Polish capital.

The package to Warsaw, with Ryanair flights and Airbnb accommodation, was a Christmas present, and I was due to fly out today and return on Thursday. But the travel restrictions introduced as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic have cancelled all these arrangements, and I now wonder when or whether I am ever going to visit Warsaw.

Two years ago, I had booked a three-day visit to Warsaw in early March 2018. That would have been my second visit to Poland, following a city break in Kraków and Auschwitz at the end of 2016. But the ‘Beast from the East’ and ‘Storm Emma’ made a motorway journey to the airport too risky that year, and Warsaw was transferred to my wish list.

I particularly wanted to visit Warsaw this year and to visit the sites of the Warsaw ghetto uprising on the 75th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust and the end of World War II.

We all have photographs that have stayed with us as haunting memories from our childhood, and my two are an image of Adolf Eichmann behind a Perspex screen during his trial in 1960, and the photograph of the terrified young boy with his hands raised in the Warsaw Ghetto.

He was one of half a million Jews packed into the Warsaw ghetto, transformed by the Nazis into a walled compound of starvation and death.

In July 1942, the Germans began deporting 5,000 people a day from Warsaw to the concentration camps. As news of exterminations seeped back, the ghetto residents formed a resistance group.

‘We saw ourselves as a Jewish underground whose fate was a tragic one,’ wrote its young leader Mordecai Anielewicz. ‘For our hour had come without any sign of hope or rescue.’ That hour arrived on 19 April 1943, when Nazi troops came to deport the rest of the Jews from the ghetto.

The partisans were poorly armed as they fought back but were eventually defeated by German tanks and flame¬throwers. When the uprising ended on 16 May 1943, the 56,000 survivors faced summary execution or deportation to concentration camps and slave-labour camps.

Jürgen Stroop, the SS commander in occupied Poland, put together a 75-page victory album of his role in suppressing the ghetto uprising. The photographs in his album include the now well-known photograph of the unnamed boy with his hands raised high.

Franz Konrad, an Austrian-born SS officer in the Warsaw ghetto, confessed to taking some of the photographs before he was executed by hanging in Warsaw on 6 March 1952.

When the Ghetto Uprising was suppressed, Stroop ordered the destruction of Warsaw’s Great Synagogue on 16 May 1943. He gloated as he later recalled: ‘What a marvellous sight it was. A fantastic piece of theatre. My staff and I stood at a distance. I held the electrical device which would detonate all the charges simultaneously … and pressed the button. With a thunderous, deafening bang and a rainbow burst of colours, the fiery explosion soared toward the clouds, an unforgettable tribute to our triumph over the Jews. The Warsaw Ghetto was no more.’

The Great Synagogue of Warsaw was one of the grandest 19th century buildings in Poland and was once the largest synagogue in the world. It was designed by the architect Leandro Marconi and stood on Tłomackie Street. It opened on 26 September 1878 at the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

Stroop’s destruction of the Great Synagogue was the last act of destruction in the Warsaw Ghetto. About 7,000 Jews died in Europe’s first urban anti-Nazi revolt, most of them burned alive. Almost all the survivors were sent to Treblinka.

Stroop was decorated with the Iron Cross and then sent from Warsaw to Nazi-occupied Greece in September 1943, before being recalled to Germany.

Stroop’s album with this photograph became key evidence at the Nuremburg war crimes trials. Stroop was convicted at Dachau and later in Warsaw. He was hanged near the Warsaw Ghetto on 6 March 1952.

Poland was once Europe’s Jewish heartland; 90 per cent of the 3.3 million pre-war Jews there had been wiped out by 1945.

The Great Synagogue was not rebuilt in Warsaw after World War II. Since the 1980s, the site has been occupied by a large skyscraper, once known as the Golden Skyscraper and now known as the Blue Skyscraper.

The identity of the boy in the photograph has never been confirmed. But he has become one of the well-known faces of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust.

Praying in Easter with USPG:
44, Monday 25 May 2020

The Church of the Redeemer in Amman, the capital of Jordan, is the largest parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem

Patrick Comerford

We are in the final week of the season of Easter this year, between Ascension Day and the Day of Pentecost.

I am continuing to use the USPG Prayer Diary, Pray with the World Church, for my morning prayers and reflections throughout this Season of Easter. USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is the Anglican mission agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential, and champion justice. It was founded in 1701.

Throughout this week (24 to 30 May 2020), the theme of the USPG Prayer Diary is ‘Change is Possible.’ Rebecca Boardman, USPG Regional Manager for East Asia, Oceania and Europe, introduced this theme in the Prayer Diary yesterday morning.

Monday 25 May 2020:

Pray for the people of Jordan as the country marks its Independence Day today.

The Readings:

Acts 19: 1-8; Psalm 68: 1-6; John 16: 29-33.

The Collect of the Day:

O God the King of Glory,
you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ
with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:
Mercifully give us faith to know
that, as he promised,
he abides with us on earth to the end of time;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow