18 February 2021

A Franciscan Blessing for Lent
at the end of a USPG webinar

The cloisters in the Franciscan Friary in Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Once again, as another week moves towards its close, I am beginning to feel ‘all zoomed-out’ with a number of Zoom meetings and webinars that have included clergy meetings, and community action groups, as well as preparing sermons for Ash Wednesday and the Sunday before Lent, along with a parish funeral that was streamed live by the undertakers.

It seems on-line seminars and meetings are going to be a pattern for the future, long after this pandemic lockdown eases, if it never comes to a final conclusion.

Earlier this week, I was one of more than 300 people who attended the online seminar ‘Past and Present: Pastoral Care across space and time.’ It was organised jointly by the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), of which I am a trustee, and SPCK (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge).

Both societies were founded over 300 years ago by the Revd Dr Thomas Day (1656-1730), and this ‘Bray Day’ webinar was a way of marking ‘Founder’s Day.’

USPG was founded by Bray as SPG (Society for the Propagation of the Gospel) in 1698, and he founded SPCK three years earlier in 1701.

The webinar discussed pastoral care across time and space, and launched an exhibition of USPG’s archives, which you may be viewed HERE.

Over 300 delegates from 30 different countries attended the webinar, making it USPG’s largest online event to date. Dr Jo Sadgrove (USPG) offered broad reflections on the contents of the archive, Dr Alison Searle and Dr Emily Vine (University of Leeds) presented documents from the archive, and the former Archbishop of Canternury, Bishop Rowan Williams, discussed the archive with journalist Rosie Dawson.

The Revd Dr Carlton Turner, a USPG Trustee, the Right Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Bishop of Dover, and the Revd Professor Veront Satchell, Professor of Economic and Landscape History at the University of the West Indies, provided reflections on the archive.

At the end of the webinar, Bishop Rose Hudson-Wilkin offered this Franciscan Blessing which is a prayer to consider using throughout Lent:

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that we may reach out our hand to comfort them and turn their pain to joy.

And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all God’s children. Amen.

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