02 March 2020

Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin
Group parish notes in
‘Newslink’ March 2020

Parishioners in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, mark World Holocaust Memorial Day (see separate news report)

Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes

Rathkeale, Askeaton, Castletown and Kilnaughtin

Priest-in-Charge: Revd Canon Patrick Comerford

We have moved from Epiphany and Candlemas, the Feast of the Presentation, through ‘Ordinary Time’ and arrived at Lent.

In the in-between time, the children in Sunday School in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, made Valentine’s Day cards and hearts for God as a sign of their love.

As we prepare to journey through Lent, we remember God’s love shown to us in Christ at Good Friday and on Easter Day.

Holocaust Memorial Day:

In preparation for Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January, Canon Patrick Comerford and Barbara were invited to a reception in the House of Lords to launch resources for the churches prepared by the Council for Christians and Jews.

The launch was chaired by Bishop Michael Ipgrave of Lichfield, and the speakers included the Bishop of London, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, and a number of rabbis.

The resources were used in all four churches in the group of parishes, and many parishioners joined in displaying boards with the hashtag #WeRemember (see the separate report in this month’s edition of Newslink).

Ministry, Mission and Hospitality:

The Rectory in Askeaton was the venue for another Ministry Training Day on 18 February, when the Diocesan Communications Officer, Mr Stephen Fletcher, and the co-editor of Newslink, Ros Stevenson, looked at communications, including the use of social media, radio and television.

Later in March, the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) has asked Patrick to visit Myanmar and to represent USPG at the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Anglican Church in the country once known as Burma.

Please pray for Patrick as he travels in mission.

Church Services in March:

Sunday 1 March 2020 (The First Sunday in Lent):

9.30 a.m., Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, the Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2);
11.30 a.m., Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Morning Prayer 2.

Sunday 8 March (The Second Sunday in Lent):

9.30 a.m., Castletown Church, The Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2);
11.30 a.m., Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Morning Prayer.

Sunday 15 March (The Third Sunday in Lent):

9.30 a.m., Askeaton, Morning Prayer;
11.30 a.m., Tarbert, The Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2)

Tuesday 17 March (Saint Patrick’s Day):

11 a.m., Saint Patrick’s Day Eucharist, Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton.

Sunday 22 March (The Fourth Sunday in Lent):

9.30 a.m., Castletown Church, Morning Prayer;
11.30 a.m., Rathkeale, The Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2).

Sunday 29 March (The Fifth Sunday in Lent, ‘Passion Sunday’):

11 a.m.: United Group Service: The Parish Eucharist, Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert) with the Revd Joe Hardy.

Advance dates for April and Easter:

5-11 April: Holy Week
5 April: Palm Sunday.
10 April: Good Friday.
12 April: Easter Day

This is an edited version of the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes parish notes in the March 2020 edition of ‘Newslink,’ the magazine of the Church of Ireland United Dioceses of Limerick, Killaloe and Ardfert (page 27)

Learning to keep cool
when everyone panics

The Tapestry in Eyam Museum recalling the brave and sacrificial story of the plague in 1665/1666

Patrick Comerford

1, Panic or Pandemic:

A lot of people are panicking about the Coronavirus – or COVID-19.

They are worrying that this going to lead to a pandemic, an epidemic that spreads everywhere.

Sometimes, fear is worse that the thing we fear the most.

So, panic about an epidemic can lead to pandemonium.

What are you afraid of?

In the past we have had plant of scares like this: public panic was created in the past by swine fever, SARS, fear of the HIV virus, ‘Mad Cow’ disease, Ebola, a fictitious computer virus called YK2.

It has always like this. There was ‘Spanish ’Flu’ 100 years ago. Hundreds of years ago there the plague.

When COVID-19 has run its course, we may find that more people have died in this winter ’flu from ordinary, everyday ’flu.

This morning, I want to tell you of one case, long ago, when isolation seems to have worked?

Canon William Mompesson … the Vicar of Eyam, the ‘Plague Village’ in Derbyshire

2, The vicar who was a hero

Many years ago, when I was a young man in my 20s, I spent a day or two in Eyam, a village in Derbyshire.

In 1665, 350 people were living in Eyam. The most important person in the village was the Rector, the Revd William Mompesson (1639-1709), who moved to Eyam a year before (1664) with his wife Catherine and their children.

But, to this day, Eyam is known to this day as the ‘Plague Village.’

The village has this name because of an outbreak of the plague in 1665.

The villagers decided to respond by isolating themselves rather than let the infection spread.

The sacrifice made by the villagers of Eyam is said to have saved many places throughout the Midlands and northern England.

The Tapestry in Eyam Museum recalling the brave and sacrificial story of the plague in 1665/1666

3, The plague comes to Eyam

In the summer of 1665, the village tailor received a flea-infested bundle of cloth from his supplier in London. This parcel contained the fleas that caused the plague. Within a week, the tailor’s assistant, George Vicars, had died from the plague. More began dying in the household soon after; by the end of September, five more villagers had died; 23 died in October.

As the plague spread, the villagers turned to their rector CanonMompesson. When some villagers wanted to flee to Sheffield, Canon Mompesson feared they would bring the plague with them and persuaded them to cut themselves off from the outside would.

From May 1666, precaution measures were introduced to slow the spread of the plague. Families buried their own dead and church services were moved outdoors (to the natural amphitheatre at Cucklett Delph), allowing villagers to separate themselves and reduce the risk of infection.

The villagers voluntarily quarantined themselves although this would mean certain death for many of them. The village was supplied with food by people living outside who left supplies at the ‘plague stones’ marking the boundary that separated Eyam from the outside world.

The villagers left money in a water trough filled with vinegar to sterilise the coins. In this way, the people of Eyam were not left to starve to death, and the people who supplied the village with food did not come into contact with the plague.

Eyam continued to suffer from the plague throughout 1666. Canon Mompesson had to bury his own family in the churchyard. When his wife died in August 1666, he decided to hold services outdoors to reduce the chances of people catching the disease.

Eyam Hall, built shortly after the plague (Photograph: Dave Pape/Wikipedia)

4, Surviving the plague

By November 1666, the plague had come to an end. In all, 260 out of 350 villagers had died in Eyam. But their selfless sacrifice saved many thousands of lives in the north of England.

Canon Mompesson survived. He wrote at the end of the ordeal: ‘Now, blessed be God, all our fears are over for none have died of the plague since the eleventh of October and the pest-houses have long been empty.’

The plague had run its course over 14 months. But when it came to an end it had killed most of the villagers. The parish records name 273 people who died Only 83 people survived out of a population of over 350.

Those who survived did so randomly and there is no explanation for their survival. Many of the survivors had close contact with those who died yet never caught the disease.

5, After the plague

Canon Mompesson eventually remarried, moved parish, and died in 1709.

Every Plague Sunday, a wreath is laid on Catherine Mompesson’s grave in the churchyard. Plague Sunday now takes place on the last Sunday in August.

One of his successor’s was Canon Thomas Seward (1708-1790), who was the Rector of Eyam for half a century from 1740 until his death in 1790.

His daughter was a famous poet Anna Seward, who was born in Eyam in 1747. Some of her poems are about her childhood memories in Eyam.

The former Bishop’s Palace in Lichfield, where Anna Seward, wrote her poems about the ‘plague village’ of Eyam in Derbyshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

6, Some lessons

1, The people of Eyam not only isolated themselves: they took simple measures like putting their coins in vinegar. Two of the most simple and most sensible things you can do is to keep washing your hands – all the time – with soap and hot water, and remember to us a tissue and bin it when you sneeze.

2, All bad things come to pass.

3, Panic is usually worse than what we fear

4, Some good people make sacrifices in their own lives for the good of others

5, Our own good is not our only priority

6, When people make sacrifices so that other people can live, it can remind us what Jesus does for us on Good Friday

These notes were prepared for a school assembly on 2 March 2020

Praying through Lent with
USPG (6): 2 March 2020

The fence at Auschwitz-Birkenau (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

In the Calendar of the Church of England, today commemorates Saint Chad, Bishop, missionary and founder of the Diocese of Lichfield [2 March 2020].

Saint Chad is being celebrated in Lichfield Cathedral today at Morning Prayer (8 a.m.), Lichfield Cathedral School Prayers (8.45 a.m.) the Eucharist (12.30) and the Festal Evensong with Commemoration of Benefactors (5.30 p.m.). However, the Patronal Eucharist is being celebrated in the cathedral next Sunday (8 March 2020), with the Choral Eucharist at 10.30 a.m., when the preacher is the Archdeacon of Canterbury, the Ven Jo Kelly-Moore, and Solemn Evensong at 3 p.m., with a Lenten Homily, ‘In the footsteps of the Saints: Saint Chad.’

Yesterday was the First Sunday in Lent. During Lent this year, I am using the USPG Prayer Diary, Pray with the World Church, for my morning prayers and reflections, and – because this year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the end of the Holocaust – illustrating my reflections with images on this theme.

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.

This week (1-7 March), the USPG Prayer Diary is focussing on ‘Theological Education: a Key Pillar of Mission,’ with a particular focus on Bishop Gaul Theological College in Harare.

However, the Prayer Diary shifts its focus to Guyana.

Monday 3 March:

As the people of Guyana go to the polls today, let us pray for peace in the country, and that whoever wins the election will govern fairly, with wisdom and justice.

Saint Chad (centre) on the West Front of Lichfield Cathedral, between King Richard II of England and King Penda of Mercia (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Readings: Leviticus 19: 1-2, 11-18; Psalm 19: 7-14; Matthew 25: 31-46.

The Collect:

Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
Give us grace to discipline ourselves
in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness,
so may we know your power to save;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Collect (Saint Chad’s Day):

Almighty God,
from the fruits of the English nation who turned to Christ,
you called your servant Chad
to be an evangelist and bishop of his people:
give us grace so to follow his peaceable nature,
humble spirit and prayerful life,
that we may truly commend to others
the faith which we ourselves profess;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Chapel of Saint Chad’s Head in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Continued tomorrow

Yesterday’s reflection