Sunday, 31 October 2021

Sunday intercessions, 31 October 2021,
All Saints’ Sunday

All Saints’ Day … the Lamb on the Throne surrounded by the angels and saints

Let us pray:

The response to ‘God of Love’ is ‘grant our prayer.’

God of love
grant our prayer.

God of the past,
on this feast of All Saints
we remember before you, with thanks,
the lives of those Christians who have gone before us:
the great leaders and thinkers,
those who have died for their faith,
those whose goodness transformed all they did;
Give us grace to follow their example and continue their work.

God of love
grant our prayer.

God of the present,
on this feast of All Saints
we remember before you
those who have more recently died,
giving thanks for their lives and example and for all that they have meant to us.
We pray for those who grieve
and for all who suffer throughout the world:
for the hungry, the sick, the victims of violence and persecution.

God of love
grant our prayer.

God of the future,
on this feast of All Saints
we remember before you the newest generation of your saints,
and pray for the future of the church
and for all who nurture and encourage faith.

God of love
grant our prayer.

We give you thanks
for the whole company of your saints
with whom in fellowship we join our prayers and praises
in the name of Jesus Christ
Amen.

Merciful Father …

All Saints depicted in the window in Saint Columb’s Cathedral, Derry, in memory of Canon Richard Babington (1837-1893) of All Saints’ Church, Clooney, Derry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

‘The souls of the righteous
are in the hand of God, no
torment will ever touch them’

Saints and Martyrs … the ten martyrs of the 20th century above the West Door of Westminster Abbey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 31 October 2021, All Saints’ Sunday.

Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick

11 a.m.:
The Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2, United Group Service)

The Readings: Wisdom 3: 1-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21: 1-6a; John 11: 32-44.

There is a link to the readings HERE.

Saints and Angels in the glass wall by John Hutton at the entrance to Coventry Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

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

November is a month when we traditionally remember the saints, the Communion of Saints, those we love and who are now gathered around the throne of God, those who have died and who we still love.

As the evenings close in, as the last autumn leaves fall from the trees, it is natural to remember the dead and the fallen, with love and affection.

All Saints’ Day on 1 November is one of the 12 Principal Feasts of the Church. In many parts of the Anglican Communion, 2 November is All Souls’ Day, the ‘Commemoration of the Faithful Departed’ (Common Worship, p 15). In Ireland, 6 November traditionally recalls ‘All Saints of Ireland.’ Remembrance Day is on 11 November, and this year we mark Remembrance Sunday on 14 November.

Hallowe’en is not a day to associate with ghouls and ghosts, still less for making light or making fun of evil. There was a disturbing discussion on Joe Duffy’s Live Line show last Thursday of Nazi uniforms being hired out as Hallowe’en costumes. One contributor to the show even thought this was funny. How can anyone make fun of the Holocaust and the mass murders of World War II? How can anyone want to link the Nazis with saints, except as martyrs and victims?

Hallowe’en is the day before we remember the Hallowed, the blessed, the saints, who are models for our lives, our Christian lifestyle today.

When he was Dean of Liverpool, Archbishop Justin Welby organised a Hallowe’en service he labelled ‘Night of the Living Dead’. At first, it sounds ghoulish. But that’s what it is … the Night of the Living Dead’. We believe the dead we love are still caught up in the love of God and are alive in Christ.

Indeed, saints do not need to be dead to be examples of ‘holy living and holy dying’ (Jeremy Taylor).

Saint Paul regularly refers in his letters to fellow Christians as ‘saints.’ Saints Alive!

Yet we have been shy, reluctant, perhaps even fearful, in the Church of Ireland when it comes to recalling, commemorating and celebrating the saints. We only have to compare the calendars of the Church of Ireland and the Church of England.

Perhaps we were too afraid in the past of being seen to pray to the saints, or to pray for the dead. But, really, these are quite different to finding examples of godly living among Christians from the past, and expressing confidence that the dead we have loved are now committed to God’s love.

Our psalm this morning (Psalm 24) talks about those who can enter the presence of God. The response provided in the Lectionary is a quotation from the first reading, ‘The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, no torment will ever touch them’ (Wisdom 3: 1).

Is anyone this morning able to name the patron saints of Ireland? (Answer: Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid and Saint Columba or Colmcille?)

Apart from Saint Patrick, do you know the saints’ day for the other two? (Answer: Brigid, 1 February; Columba, 9 June)

Does anyone remember who is the patron saint of the Diocese of Limerick? (Answer: Munchin, 2 January)

Yet the Church of England sees the calendar of saints as a living calendar, something that is added to as we find more appropriate examples of Christian living for today.

Saints do not have to be martyrs. But in recent years Oscar Romero was canonised and there was a major commemoration in Westminster Abbey of Oscar Romero to mark his 100th birthday.

Saints do not have to be canonised. Modern martyrs may include Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King, or Heather Heyer, the civil rights activist killed by far-right neo-Nazis and racists in Charlottesville, Kentucky, in 2017.

Many of us we know people who handed on the faith to us – teachers, grandparents, perhaps neighbours – even though some may be long dead yet are part of our vision of the Communion of Saints.

Saints do not have to live a perfect life … none of us is without sin, and none of us is beyond redemption. Some of the saints carved on the West Front of Westminster Abbey might have been very surprised to know they were going to appear there. But their lives in sum total are what we are asked to think about.

They are: Maximilian Kolbe, Manche Masemola, Archbishop Janani Luwum, Grand Duchess Elizabeth, Martin Luther King, Oscar Romero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Esther John, Lucian Tapiedi, and Wang Zhiming.

Some years ago, I asked students to share stories of their favourite ‘saints and heroes.’ They included an interesting array of people, some still living, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who celebrated his 90th birthday this year.

In the back-page interviews in the Church Times, people are sometimes asked who they would like to be locked into a church with for a few hours.

Who are your favourite saints? (time for answers).

Who would you like to learn from a little more when it comes to living the Christian life?

In the Apostles’ Creed, we confess our faith which includes our belief in ‘the communion of saints’ and ‘the resurrection of the body.’ In a few moments, we confess our faith in the words of the Nicene Creed, including our belief in ‘the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

Then there is an opportunity to recall the saints in our lives, in our own personal calendars, and to recall those we have committed to God’s love and who are part of ‘the communion of saints’.

We have had seven funerals in this group of parishes since last Christmas. There are seven candles on the altar with a single name on each one. In addition, there are two bowls of water here, in which we can place our nightlights to remember those we still love.

And throughout the month of November, there are opportunities to include their names in our weekly, Sunday intercessions.

In the meantime, ‘The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, no torment will ever touch them.’

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

‘The Tree of the Church’ (1895) by Charles Kempe … a window in the south transept of Lichfield Cathedral shows Christ surrounded by the saints (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

John 11: 32-44 (NRSVA):

32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ 37 But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’

38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ 40 Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’

The Great West Window in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth, ‘Revelation of the Holy City,’ was designed by Alan Younger, who was inspired by Revelation 21 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical colour: White

Penitential Kyries:

Lord, you are gracious and compassionate.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

You are loving to all,
and your mercy is over all your creation.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Your faithful servants bless your name,
and speak of the glory of your kingdom.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect:

Almighty God,
you have knit together your elect
in one communion and fellowship
in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord:
Grant us grace so to follow your blessed saints
in all virtuous and godly living
that we may come to those inexpressible joys
that you have prepared for those who truly love you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Introduction to the Peace:

We are fellow citizens with the saints
and the household of God,
through Christ our Lord,
who came and preached peace to those who were far off
and those who were near (Ephesians 2: 19, 17).

The Preface:

In the saints
you have given us an example of godly living,
that rejoicing in their fellowship,
we may run with perseverance the race that is set before us,
and with them receive the unfading crown of glory …

Post-Communion Prayer:

God, the source of all holiness
and giver of all good things:
May we who have shared at this table
as strangers and pilgrims here on earth
be welcomed with all your saints
to the heavenly feast on the day of your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Blessing:

God give you grace
to share the inheritance of all his saints in glory …

Christ the Pantocrator surrounded by the saints in the Dome of the Church of Analipsi in Georgioupoli, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hymns:

459, For all the saints, who from their labours rest (CD 27)
466, Here from all nations, all tongues, and all peoples (CD 27)
468, How shall I sing that majesty (CD supplied)

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.



Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
155, Methodist Church, Tamworth Street, Lichfield

Lichfield Methodist Church, on the corner of Tamworth Street and Lombard Street … opened on 20 April 1892 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Fourth Sunday before Advent (31 October 2021), but is being marked in this group of parishes as All Saints’ Sunday. I am presiding and preaching at the Parish Eucharist at 11 a.m. in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, a united service for the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes, and later in the afternoon I am taking part in the farewell service for Bishop Kenneth Kearon in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick.

Before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

My theme last week was churches in Lichfield, and this week’s theme is Methodist churches. These two themes are linked this morning (31 October 2021) with my choice of Lichfield Methodist Church on Tamworth Street, Lichfield.

The Wesleyan Methodist Church on Tamworth Street, Lichfield, at its opening in 1892

The Methodist church at the city end of Tamworth Street, at the junction with Lombard Street, has undergone extensive redevelopment in recent years, with the addition of schoolrooms and meeting rooms. This is the home church of the Tamworth and Lichfield Circuit, which includes the Methodist churches in Lichfield, Alrewas Glascote, Shenstone and Tamworth.

Although John Wesley visited Lichfield three times in 1755, 1756 and 1777, he never preached in Lichfield, and the first Methodist chapel in Lichfield was not registered until 1811.

A warehouse at Gallows Wharf was registered in 1811 as places of worship by Joshua Kidger. A chapel was built in Lombard Street in 1813, and was opened in 1814 by Dr Adam Clarke in 1814.

There is evidence of another Wesleyan chapel that opened in 1815 and that in Wade Street in 1815 and that was still in use as late as 1837. During the 1851 Religious Census, the chapel in Lombard Street recorded attendances of 22 in the morning and 41 in the evening, but referred to congregations of 130 in the winter months.

Lichfield was in the Burton upon Trent Circuit until 1886, when the Tamworth and Lichfield Circuit was formed.

A site for a new chapel was bought in 1891. The ‘new’ Lichfield Wesleyan Methodist Church on Tamworth Street was built in the Victorian Gothic ornamental style to designs by Thomas Guest of Birmingham.

The foundation stones were laid on 12 August 1891 by Samuel Haynes, Mayor of Lichfield, and Reginald Stanley (1838-1914) of Nuneaton, a prominent Methodist business figure who owned brickyards, collieries, and an engineering firm. The builder was Edward Williams of Tamworth. The stone-laying ceremony was followed by a tea in the Guildhall.

The church was opened on 20 April 1892 by the President of the Methodist Conference, the Revd Dr Thomas Bowman Stephenson (1839-1912), regarded as ‘the architect of a more socially-minded Methodism’.

This new church replaced the Lombard Street chapel, but that building was not sold until 1921, after Tamworth House next to the new chapel was bought. New Sunday School premises were opened in 1924 and a period of growth led to extensions of the premises in 1972.

Meanwhile, there were Primitive Methodists in Lichfield from 1820 at Greenhill. They registered a schoolroom in Saint Mary’s parish for worship in 1831 and opened their own chapel in George Lane in 1847/1848. The George Lane chapel closed and was sold in 1934, when the members joined the Wesleyan Methodists at Tamworth Street.

In 1826, the Methodist New Connexion registered a barn in Sandford Street that had formerly been used by the Congregationalists. It was replaced in 1833 by a chapel in Queen Street, but this was sold in 1859 when the congregation disbanded.

Major alterations were made to the church on Tamworth Street in 1982, when the sanctuary was relocated at the Tamworth Street end and with new entrance facing Tamworth House. The pews were replaced by chairs from a prison on the Isle of Wight prison. But the loss of the choir stalls also led to the demise of the choir itself.

Meanwhile, a growth in population in Lichfield in this period, particularly with the development of the Boley Park estate, was matched by a growing membership, which reached 348 in 1987.

The church buildings were refurbished in 1998-1999 and again in 2012. The glass doors at the main entrance of the church mean that on a Sunday morning the church is looking out onto Lichfield, and Lichfield is looking into the church at worship … an architecturally perfect way to express the mission of the Church.

The Minister of Lichfield Methodist Church is the Revd Roger Baker, Superintendent of the Tamworth and Lichfield Methodist Circuit, and Sunday services are at 10 a.m.

The foundation stone was laid on 12 August 1891 by Samuel Haynes, Mayor of Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Mark 12: 28-34 (NRSVA):

28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ 29 Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” 31 The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ 32 Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”; 33 and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength”, and “to love one’s neighbour as oneself”, — this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’ 34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that no one dared to ask him any question.

The glass doors at the main entrance of the church mean that on a Sunday morning the church is looking out onto Lichfield, and Lichfield is looking into the church at worship (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (31 October 2021) invites us to pray:

Heavenly Father,
may we love you with all of our hearts, souls and minds.
Let us love each other
and all of creation

Lichfield Methodist Church was designed in the Victorian Gothic ornamental style by Thomas Guest of Birmingham (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

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

The former Regal Cinema, facing Lichfield Methodist Church at the corner of Tamworth Street and Lombard Street … now converted into apartments (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saturday, 30 October 2021

First Belonging –
from Sarawak to England and Back

With Charlotte Hunter during a recent visit to Dublin

Patrick Comerford

Some years ago, I wrote a paper for the journal Ruach on belonging in time and space, through family and place. Using words from John Betjeman, ‘To praise eternity in time and place,’ I discussed my own search for ‘a spirituality of place’ (‘To praise eternity in time and place … searching for a spirituality of place’ Ruach, No 4 (Michaelmas 2017), pp 50-56).

I maintain a family history website that connects me with people across the globe who share my surname and its variants, including Comerford, Commerford and Comberford. This website allows many people to develop a shared identity, not only because of a shared family name, but because they believe that they have found an identity that is rooted in time and place.

Many of us feel rootless, both in time and place. We do not know where we are because we do not know where we have come from, and so question where we are going. Despite shared cultures, that has many similar and familiar expressions, identity with place is a feeling that varies from one country to the next.

So, it was with particular personal interest that I read a feature on place and belonging that I could identify with by my friend Charlotte Hunter in the current edition of Koinonia (Issue 7, 10/2021, p 22), the magazine of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel):

First Belonging – from Sarawak to England and Back

Charlotte Hunter writes of her time on USPG’s Journey with Us programme

Having been accepted on ‘Journey with Us’ in November 2015, my 12-month placement was with the Anglican Diocese of Kuching in Malaysia. It was no coincidence that I ended up in my mother’s original city. This gave me the chance to connect with the Anglican church and with my family history on a deeper level. Since then, I have chosen to stay in Kuching for several months every year, still in the neighbourhood of my mother’s birth.

My claim to being a member of the Kuching community may seem tenuous. Though a daughter of a Sarawakian-Chinese mother, I am also a product of a Northern Irish father. Though there were extended visits to Kuching as a child I was born and raised in England, and English is my mother tongue. However, in Kuching there exists for me a physical rootedness to my identity in the form of a traditional style shophouse on Carpenter Street, in the heart of the old town, from which my maternal family flows.

You may ask why this is important to me, and the answer may be that because my identity is split along the fault lines of race, culture, and continents, I’ve always felt a need for something physical, something definitive, to help me see in part who I am. This extends to the bricks and mortar of the house in which my mother was born, to the portrait of my late uncle – hung now with the photos of his parents – to my cousin at work in the family trade of watch repair, bent over his microscope as his father had done before him, and our grandfather before him, and our great grandfather before him … ‘The poetry of the everyday’, I believe it’s called.

There’s a continuity present that stretches outwards to the rest of our quarter, in particular to the thin triangle formed between the family shophouse, the temple, and Lau Ya Keng food court. The food court has been a daily part of family life reaching back to my mother's childhood, and during those extended visits, part of mine too. I now feel a deep-seated recognition of the smell of kerosene from the mobile cookers mingled with freshly brewed coffee, while the sound of torrential rain pounds on corrugated metal roofs. It was in here that my uncle and I last spoke before his final illness, where he whispered to me in his failing voice: ‘I used to bring you here for satay when you were a little girl, and now you are bringing me’.

One cousin tells me I have a tendency to romanticise life in these parts, and I fear she is right. After all, for all the familiarity there is the unfamiliarity – what the writer Amin Maalouf describes as ‘being estranged from the very traditions to which I belong’. I think about the metal grille across the front of the shophouse which, when the shop is closed, needs to be pulled back to let anyone in or out. I have never been able to manage it.

Not because it is heavy or stuck, but like a mortice key in a tricky lock, it takes a sleight of hand gained through habitude to make it shift – something I do not possess. On more pensive, introspective days, it becomes a symbol for the alienation I know exists between myself and this society in which I both belong, and cannot one hundred percent belong. I speak none of the local languages, without which no person can ever truly inhabit a society, and for all my extended childhood visits, ultimately, I was socialised in England. The consequence is that there are social and cultural complexities within both my family and the wider community which I might never understand.

Nonetheless, the feeling of belonging is stronger than any sense of non-belonging. Were anyone to ask me where my first point of identity lies, I would say right here, among these narrow streets and dark, dilapidated shophouses, in the chaos and in the heat. I would say I belong to one house in particular – the place where I’ve found the steadfastness I’ve always needed, the wellspring where four generations of my family have lived, worked, married, been born, and died. When the time comes, throw my ashes in the back yard. I’ll be home.

This is an edited version of an article first written for KINO magazine, published March 2020.



Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
154, Saint John’s Church, Wall

Saint John’s Church, Wall, stands on the site of a Roman temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Before the day begins, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

My theme for this week is churches in Lichfield, where I spent part of the week before last in a retreat of sorts, following the daily cycle of prayer in Lichfield and visiting the chapel in Saint John’s Hospital and other churches.

In this series, I have already visited Lichfield Cathedral (15 March), Holy Cross Church (26 March), the chapel in Saint John’s Hospital (14 March), the Church of Saint Mary and Saint George, Comberford (11 April), Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Farewell (2 September) and the former Franciscan Friary in Lichfield (12 October).

This week’s theme of Lichfield churches, which I began with Saint Chad’s Church on Sunday, included Saint Mary’s Church on Monday, Saint Michael’s Church on Tuesday, Christ Church, Leomansley, on Wednesday, Wade Street Church on Thursday, and the chapel of Dr Milley’s Hospital yesterday.

This theme continues this morning (30 October 2021) with Saint John’s Church, Wall.

Saint John’s Church, Wall, was designed by WB Moffatt and Sir Gilbert Scott (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Wall is a small village just south of Lichfield, close to the A5 and the junction of the Roman roads Watling Street and Rynkild Street. Today, it is best known for the ruins of the Roman settlement at Letocetum, although it is not as well-visited as other Roman ruins throughout England.

In the first century AD, A fort was built in the upper area of the village near to the present church in 50s or 60s and Watling Street was built to the south in the 70s. By the second century, the settlement covered about 30 acres west of the later Wall Lane.

In the late third or early fourth century, the eastern part of the settlement of approximately six acres, between the present Wall Lane and Green Lane and straddling Watling Street, was enclosed with a stone wall surrounded by an earth rampart and ditches. Civilians continued to live inside the settlement and on its outskirts in the late fourth century.

The settlement declined rapidly soon after the Romans left Britain in AD 410 and the focus of settlement shifted to Lichfield. After the Romans left, Wall never developed beyond a small village.

The earliest mediaeval settlement may have been on the higher ground around Wall. Close to the church, Wall House on Green Lane probably stands on the site of the mediaeval manor house, while Wall Hall stands on the site of a 17th century house. The Trooper Inn was in business by 1851. In the 1950s, 10 council houses were built on a road called The Butts. The re-routing of the A5 around Wall, as the Wall by-pass in 1965, relieved the village of traffic, re-establishing its quiet nature.

The parish church in Wall was built in 1837 and was consecrated as the Parish Church of Saint John in 1843. The church is set at the top of a rise and is said to stand on the site of a Roman temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva, and later used for Mithraic worship. But even before the Romans, this may have been the site of Celtic temple dedicated to the god Cernunnos, who was the equivalent of the Roman Pan.

The site for the church was donated by John Mott of Wall House in 1840, along with an endowment of £700, and a further grant of £500 came from Robert Hill, a previous owner of Wall House.

The church is the work of William Bonython Moffatt (1812-1887) and his partner, the great Victorian architect Sir Gilbert Scott (1811-1878).

The church is built of pale yellow, chisel finished sandstone. There are tiled roofs on corbelled eaves with verge parapets. The church has a west steeple, nave and chancel. The steeple is a square tower of approximately three stages on a plinth with two-stage diagonal buttresses, and is chamfered in at the last stage to form an octagonal base for the short spire.

There is a single stage of small lucarnes and a small slit trefoil-headed window over the pointed west door.

The nave is of four bays on a plinth and is divided by two stage buttresses. There are two-light, square-headed trefoil-light windows to each bay.

The chancel is lower than the nave but has similar details and consists of one short bay. At the east end, there is a three-light, labelled pointed, Perpendicular-style window with panel tracery.

The interior is plain-finished, with a plastered nave, a single hammer beam and arch braced roof with double purlins and exposed rafters. There is a narrow, pointed chancel arch.

The church was built as a district chapel for the Parish of Saint Michael in Lichfield, and the finished chapel was consecrated by the Bishop of Hereford in May 1843 on behalf of the Bishop of Lichfield.

Charles Eamer Kempe (1837-1907), the Victorian stained glass designer and manufacturer, and his studios produced over 4,000 windows along with designs for altars and altar frontals, furniture and furnishings, lichgates and memorials that helped to define a later 19th century Anglican style. Many of Kempe’s works can be seen in Lichfield Cathedral, Christ Church, Lichfield, and the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield. He also designed the reredos in the Lady Chapel, Lichfield.

Kempe’s window in Saint John’s Church, Wall, shows the Risen Christ meeting Mary Magdalene in the Garden on the morning of the Resurrection, and addressing her: ‘Mary.’ Peter and John who arrived at the empty tomb that Easter morning can be seen as two small figures in the background.

The dedication on the window reads: ‘To the glory of God and in loving memory of Georgina Charlotte Harrison, AD MCMIX (1909).’

South Side:

The windows on the south side, beginning at the west end, beside the entrance, depict:

1, Saint John the Baptist and the Prophet Isaiah: Both Saint John the Baptist and the Prophet Isaiah, who herald the promised coming of Christ as the Son of Man, are depicted holding staffs. The dedication reads: ‘To the glory of God & as a thank offering this window has been erected by HS and CAS.’

2, The Risen Christ meets Mary Magdalene.

3, Saint John the Divine and Saint Luke: This window may also be the work of CE Kempe. The left light shows Saint John the Evangelist holding a parchment with the opening verse of his Gospel: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.’ The window’s dedication reads: ‘To the glory of God and in loving memory of Anne Bradburne AD 1899.’

4, Saint Peter and Saint Paul: Saint Peter is on the left holding the keys of the kingdom, while his stole is inscribed with the Greek word Άγιος (‘Holy,’ ‘Saint’ or ‘Saintly’). Saint Paul, on the right, is holding a sword, the symbol of his martyrdom. The dedication reads: ‘To the Glory of God & in loving memory of the Rev W Williams, formerly vicar of this parish.’ The Revd William Williams was the Vicar of Wall for 12 years from 1864 to 1876.

The East End window:

The East Window above the altar shows Christ as the Good Shepherd. There are three sets of initials in the top of the window: Alpha (Α) and Omega (Ω), the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and a title of Christ in the Book of Revelation; IHS, representing the name Jesus, spelt ΙΗΣΟΥΣ in Greek capitals (Ιησουσ); and the Chi Rho symbol (XP), representing the Greek word ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ (Χριστός, Christ). On either side of Christ are the Virgin Mary (left) and Saint John the Divine (right).

The North Side:

The windows on the north side, from left to right, beginning at the west end or entrance, depict:

1, Abel and Enoch: The first window on the north side shows Abel and Enoch. Abel on the left is holding a lamb, while Enoch is one of the early prophets. The Letter to the Hebrews praises the faith of Abel and Enoch (see Hebrew 11: 4-6). The dedication reads: ‘To the glory of God & in memory of Ann Danks of Fosseway in this parish, died Sep 3 1877.’

2, Noah and Abraham: Noah (left) is holding the ark in his arms, while Abraham is holding a rather unwieldy knife representing his intended sacrifice of Isaac. This window is without any dedication or inscription.

3, Moses and Elias: This window, with Moses on the left and Elijah (or Elias) on the right has the dedication: ‘To the glory of God and in loving memory of Louisa Ann Mott & Henrietta Ley.’ Moses and Elijah represent the Law and the Prophets, and at the Transfiguration they are seen on either side of Christ.

The West End:

The two, single-light windows at the west end, at either side of the entrance, depict the Lamb of God (north) and the Holy Spirit (south).

The Church of Saint John the Baptist is at Green Lane, Wall, Staffordshire, WS14 0AS. It is uited with the Parish of Saint Michael, Greenhill. The Sunday services are normally at 10 a.m. each week. The benefice is awaiting a new rector, but in the past Sunday services have included Holy Communion on the first, second and fourth Sundays, Morning Worship on the third Sunday, and ‘Wall praise’ on the fifth Sunday, described as ‘a serviced for all the family.’

The East Window in Saint John’s Church, Wall, depicts Christ as the Good Shepherd (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 14: 1, 7-11 (NRSVA):

1 On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.

7 When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honour, he told them a parable. 8 ‘When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; 9 and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, “Give this person your place”, and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher”; then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’

The Risen Christ meets Mary Magdalene … a window by CE Kempe in Saint John’s Church, Wall (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (30 October 2021) invites us to pray:

We pray for those who build bridges between those of different faiths and none, and for those with whom we share a common faith in Jesus as Lord. Give us unity of mind and spirit.

Saint John the Divine and Saint Luke … this window in Saint John’s Church, Wall, may also be the work of CE Kempe (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

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

Looking down at the Roman site of Letocetum from the West Door of Saint John’s Church, Wall, south of Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Friday, 29 October 2021

Heritage award for film
recalling ‘Memories of
a Cork Jewish Childhood’

The former Cork Synagogue at 10 South Terrace (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

For my Friday evening reflections this evening, I am watching once again Memories of a Cork Jewish Childhood, produced by Ruti Lachs.

I have returned to this short film because it was one of the runners-up in the National Heritage Week Awards ceremony last week, and it received a special mention.

In this film, former Cork residents remember their childhoods in Ireland: their Jewish upbringing, the synagogue, the characters, the sea. Interspersed with photos from the last hundred years of life in Jewish Cork, these stories paint a picture of a time and community gone by.

It is interesting to hear members of some old Cork Jewish families speaking so fondly of life in Cork. Some, despite years of living outside of Cork, are still proud of their Cork accents.

The film is a follow-up to Ruti’s 2020 Cork Jewish Culture Virtual Walk video and webpage which also won a National Heritage Day Award. It is interspersed with photographs from the last 100 years of life in Jewish Cork, and these stories paint a picture of a time and community gone by. This can be seen on www.rutilachs.ie.

Since its release two months ago (14 August 2021), Memories of a Cork Jewish Childhood has been available to view on the Cork Heritage Open Day and Heritage Week websites as well: https://www.corkcity.ie/en/cork-heritage-open-day/ and https://www.heritageweek.ie.

This project was made possible by Cork City Council and the Heritage Plan.

A traditional Jewish blessing on children on Sabbath evenings or FRiday evenings draws on the words of the priestly blessing (see Numbers 6: 24-26) prays:

(For boys):
May you be like Ephraim and Menashe.
(For girls):
May you be like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah.
For both boys and girls:
May God bless you and protect you.
May God show you favour and be gracious to you.
May God show you kindness and grant you peace

The blessing is performed differently in every family. In some traditional homes, only the father blesses the children. In other families, both parents give blessings – either together and in unison, or first one parent, followed by the other. In some homes, the mother blesses the girls and the father blesses the boys.

Usually the person giving the blessing places one or both hands on the child’s head. Some parents bless each child in succession, working from oldest to youngest. Others bless all of the girls together, and all of the boys together.

After the blessing, some parents take a moment to whisper something to their child – praising him or her for something he or she did during the week, or conveying some extra encouragement and love.

Almost every family concludes the blessing with a kiss or a hug.

Shabbat Shalom



Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
153, the Chapel of Dr Milley’s Hospital

Dr Milley’s Hospital on Beacon Street, Lichfield … refounded and endowed by Canon Thomas Milley almost 520 years ago in 1504; the chapel is immediately above the entrance (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

Before the day begins, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

My theme for this week is churches in Lichfield, where I spent part of the week before last in a retreat of sorts, following the daily cycle of prayer in Lichfield and visiting the chapel in Saint John’s Hospital and other churches.

In this series, I have already visited Lichfield Cathedral (15 March), Holy Cross Church (26 March), the chapel in Saint John’s Hospital (14 March), the Church of Saint Mary and Saint George, Comberford (11 April), Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Farewell (2 September) and the former Franciscan Friary in Lichfield (12 October).

This week’s theme of Lichfield churches, which I began with Saint Chad’s Church on Sunday, included Saint Mary’s Church on Monday, Saint Michael’s Church on Tuesday, and Christ Church, Leomansley, on Wednesday, and Wade Street Church yesterday. This theme continues this morning (29 October 2021) with the chapel of Dr Milley’s Hospital at No 7 Beacon Street.

Inside the chapel in Dr Milley’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

I pass Dr Milley’s Hospital regular when I am walking along Beacon Street from the Hedgehog Vintage Inn to Lichfield Cathedral, and some years ago I was part of a small tour of Dr Milley’s organised by Kate Gomez and the local history group, Lichfield Discovered.

We were welcomed by the chair of the trustees, Mrs Sheelagh James, then Deputy Mayor of Lichfield, and were shown around by two other trustees, Mr Peter Parsons and Mr Ronald Monk.

Alongside the Cathedral and Saint John’s Hospital, Dr Milley’s Hospital is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Lichfield. The original almshouse was founded almost 600 years ago by the Bishop of Lichfield, William Heyworth, in 1424, and it was refounded and endowed by Canon Thomas Milley almost 520 years ago in 1504.

The pedimented tablet above the entrance says:

This hospital for fifteen women was founded by Thomas Milley, DD, Canon Residentiary of the Cathedral Church of Lichfield AD 1504.

A view of the front of the hospital, drawn in 1841, suggests a number of alterations were made in the 18th century. These included the facing of the exterior with plaster, the insertion of wood casement windows, and the addition of gabled dormers to the roof.

Stepping into the hospital is like stepping down in a bygone age, and I mean stepping down, for the ground floor of Dr Milley’s Hospital is now well below the street level on Beacon Street, due both to its original location in the town ditch, and to the raising of the street levels over the years, catering for the heavy traffic along the A51 which was once the main road from Chester to London, running through the heart of Lichfield.

The front range, facing onto Beacon Street, contains a central stone porch giving access to a wide entrance hall flanked by rooms for the matron and almswomen. It is possible the large beam in the entrance hall below the chapel dates back to the building of 1504, and I had to stoop my head several times to avoid a nasty bump.

The hospital building is a two-storey, red-brick building, with a stone plinth and stone dressings. Originally the building was L-shaped in plan: from the southern end of the front range, a long rear wing extended back along the southern boundary of the property.

It is generally believed in Lichfield that parts of Dr Milley’s Hospital date back to the 16th century and that the building survived the English Civil War in the mid-17th century.

However, a scientific report by MJ Worthington and DWH Miles of the English Heritage Centre for Archaeology in 2002 used dendrochronology or tree-ring dating techniques and they suggest that much of the hospital did not survive the civil war and that it was rebuilt just after 1652.

An examination of glass-making techniques has shown that some of the glass in windows in the upper storey survive from the late 17th and early 18th century.

The chapel is in the oldest part of the building, and is in a separate space on the first floor, above the porch and hallway and facing east.

The rear wing has a corridor on each floor, and these corridors originally gave access to residents’ rooms on the south side of the building. On the north side of the corridors is the staircase and also a two-storey addition, probably dating from the late 18th century, containing two rooms. At the bottom of the staircase, we were pointed to the covering over a well that provided fresh, clean water in the hospital until the first half of the 20th century.

The internal partitions are of heavy close-studded timbering and incorporate many of the original early 16th century doorways.

By the early 20th century, the hospital was in need of modernisation and repair, and a complete rebuilding was proposed, with plans to demolish the old building. However, the Charity Commissioners wanted a careful restoration instead, and their recommendations were carried out in 1906-1907. The alterations allowed for only eight resident women, but their accommodation was now more comfortable. New stone-mullioned windows were inserted at the front, and the external plaster was stripped away to reveal the earlier brickwork.

Each woman had one room for all her needs, but water had to be carried from the well at the end of the passage.

The building was designated a Grade II* Listed building in 1952, and it was not until 1967 that the hospital was provided with one bathroom and a communal laundry room.

Dr Milley’s Hospital was extensively refurbished in 1985-1987, with a major extension and the provision of a communal lounge. New kitchens were provided in 2013, the communal lounge and heating were renovated in 2014, and this year sees the updating of bathrooms in in the apartments.

Dr Milley’s Hospital now has 10 residents. Six of the women live in self-contained flats and the other four live in studio apartments. Each resident has her own kitchen and bathroom, and some women live in studio apartments.

After our tour of the hospital and gardens we were entertained to morning tea and coffee in the Dennis Birch Room, which serves as a community or common room, and in the gardens.

The chapel, in a separate space on the first floor, above the porch and hallway and facing east, is in the oldest part of the building (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 14: 1-6 (NRSVA):

1 On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely. 2 Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy. 3 And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, ‘Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?’ 4 But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away. 5 Then he said to them, ‘If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?’ 6 And they could not reply to this.’

The window ledge in the chapel in Dr Milley’s Hospital, looking out onto Beacon Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (29 October 2021) invites us to pray:

We pray for all those in whom we remember Christ the refugee; for those who administer national laws on migration; for those who exploit the vulnerable, and all whose hearts are hard towards their fellow human beings.

The pedimented tablet above the entrance and beneath the chapel window recalls Canon Thomas Milley of Lichfield Cathedral, who founded the hospital for 15 women in 1504 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

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

Sunshine in the gardens at the rear of Dr Milley’s Hospital (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Thursday, 28 October 2021

When 5.5 million readers are
more than I can count

Čumil ‘the watcher’ or the ‘Man at Work’ is hardly bothered by his daily tasks in Bratislava … about 5.5 million people live in Slovakia (Photographs: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

It came as a pleasant surprise to me that the number of visitors to this blog passed the 5.5 million mark late this afternoon [28 October 2021].

I have said so often before that this is not a ‘bells-and-whistles’ blog, and I still hope it is never going to be a commercial success. It was never designed to be so.

I decline advertising and commercial sponsorships, I accept no ‘freebies,’ and I endorse no products. Even when I am political, mainly about war and peace, racism, human rights and refugees, I refuse to declare my personal party preferences when it comes to voting.

I am keen to resist commercial pressures, I have refused to receive books from publishers and I only review books I have bought myself. Without making too much a point of it, I value my independence so much that I refuse the offer of coffee when I return to a restaurant I have mentioned … as journalists like to be reminded, there is no such thing as a free meal.

The half dozen most popular postings on this blog so far have been:

1, The Transfiguration: finding meaning in icons and Orthodox spirituality (7 April 2010), almost 30,000 hits.

2, About me (1 May 2007), over 25,400 hits.

3, ‘When all that’s left of me is love, give me away’ … a poem before Kaddish has gone viral (15 January 2020), over 17,000 hits.

4, Readings in Spirituality: the novelist as a writer in spirituality and theology (26 November 2009), over 16,500 hits.

https://www.patrickcomerford.com/2009/11/readings-in-spirituality-novelist-as.html
5, A visit to Howth Castle and Environs (19 March 2012), over 16,000 hits.

6, Raising money at the book stall and walking the beaches of Portrane (1 August 2011), about 12,400 hits.

When I began blogging it took until July 2012 to reach 0.5 million hits. This figure rose to 1 million by September 2013; 1.5 million in June 2014; 2 million in June 2015; 2.5 million in November 2016; 3 million by October 2016; 3.5 million by September 2018; 4 million on 19 November 2019; 4.5 million on 18 June 2020; and 5 million on 27 March 2021.

To break down those figures, you could day that 10 per cent of hits have been in the past seven months or so. This blog is getting more than half a million hits in a seven-month period, somewhere about 50,000 to 60,000 a month, or up to 2,000 a day.

But those are figures surpassed on some occasions, and this is a tally of the biggest daily hits:

19,328: 18 August 2021
19,143: 3 February 2020
17,641: 5 February 2020
16,854: 4 February 2020
16,331: 19 August 2021

15,587: 6 February 2020
14,775: 2 February 2020
13,030: 26 May 2020
9,960: 30 January 2020
8,671: 26 December 2019

7,239: 20 May 2020
7,128: 3 May 2020
6,933: 24 November 2019
6,683: 14 January 2020
6,541: 9 April 2020

6,507: 22 December 2019
6,463: 26 January 2020
6,374: 6 November 2019
6,308: 26 November 2019
6,285: 14 October 2019

6,280: 3 January 2020
6,208: 29 November 2019
6,205: 30 November 2019
6,152: 1 October 2019
6,113: 2 January 2020

In other words, the top ‘two dozen’ or have been within the past year or two.

As for the latest landmark figure of 5.5 million hits, I might ask: what do 5.5 million people look like?

After 10 years of conflict, half the population of Syria has been forced to flee home, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, and 70% are living in poverty.

In a statement marking the tenth anniversary of the start of the conflict in Syria, UNHCR said that the crisis has produced more than 5.5 million refugees in the region. while hundreds of thousands more are scattered across 130 countries. Of these 5.5 million refugees, 70% of refugees are living in a condition of total poverty, without access to food, water and basic services.

About 5.5 million people live in Denmark, Finland and Slovakia, the population of Scotland reached 5.5 million last year, and the population of Ireland is expected to reach 5.5 million by 2050. There are about 5.5 million people in Singapore, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Fukuoka, Khartoum, Barcelona, Johannesburg and Saint Petersburg.

The European Commission allocated €5.5 million in August in humanitarian funding to help strengthen the Covid-19 response in Lebanon. The funding comes as Lebanon faces high infection rates, with the national health system close to collapse as well as low vaccination rates.

Montebello House, a nine-bedroom five-bathroom Victorian house on Killiney Hill Road, went for sale this year with an asking price of €5.5 million, the same price as a private island off the west coast of Ireland that was sold last year. When Montebello came on the market in 2017, the asking price was €9 million.

Horse Island, a 157-acre private island off the coast of Schull in Co Cork, sold for over €5.5 million last year. Horse Island has one main, six-bedroom house, six guest houses, a boathouse and a helipad. It was sold after months of negotiations during the Covid-19 lockdown.

A prime site in Dublin city centre’s business district at 19/20 Lombard Street and 112/114 Townsend Street, was put on the market earlier this year on behalf of a private investor by agent JLL, with a guide price of €5.5 million.

Ariel House, a well-known guesthouse in Dublin, was for sale earlier this year at €5.5 million. The four-star, 37-bedroom business includes three adjoining Victorian houses at 50, 52 and 54 Lansdowne Road, Ballsbridge.

More than 5.5 million fewer passengers used Irish airports in the first quarter of 2021 compared to last year. Figures show that during January, February and March, almost 419,000 passengers passed through the five main Irish airports, a drop of 92.9% when compared with the same period last year.

Irish lobbyists spent more than €5.5 million in 2019 and 2020 engaging with EU officials, according to figures released this year.

Diabetes UK warned earlier this month that without significant government action up to 5.5 million people could be living with diabetes in the UK by 2030.

Ed Sheeran has broken the record for the biggest ever Live music performance on TikTok with over 5.5 million unique viewers watching the show across the live stream on Friday 25 and two replays on Saturday 26 June.

Work continues on Gaudí’s La Sagrada Família … about 5.5 million people live in Barcelona (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
152, Wade Street Church, Lichfield

Wade Street Church in Lichfield represents a tradition dating back to the 1670s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

In the Church Calendar, today is the Feast of Saint Simon and Saint Jude, Apostles (28 October 2021).

Before the day begins, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

My theme for this week is churches in Lichfield, where I spent part of the week before last in a retreat of sorts, following the daily cycle of prayer in Lichfield and visiting the chapel in Saint John’s Hospital and other churches.

In this series, I have already visited Lichfield Cathedral (15 March), Holy Cross Church (26 March), the chapel in Saint John’s Hospital (14 March), the Church of Saint Mary and Saint George, Comberford (11 April), Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Farewell (2 September) and the former Franciscan Friary in Lichfield (12 October).

This week’s theme of Lichfield churches, which I began with Saint Chad’s Church on Sunday, included Saint Mary’s Church on Monday, Saint Michael’s Church on Tuesday, and Christ Church, Leomansley, yesterday, and continues this morning (28 October 2021) with photographs from Wade Street Church.

The interior of Wade Street Church, Lichfield, seen from the gallery (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

I spoke in Wade Street Church two years ago [17 September 2019] on the Comberford family of Comberford Hall and the Moat House, Tamworth, at the invitation of Lichfield Civic Trust, and about 60 or 65 people were present in the Wade Street Church Community Hall on Frog Lane.

Wade Street Church represents the continuity of a religious tradition that dates back to 1672, when five houses in Lichfield were licensed for Presbyterian worship. The Congregationalists met in Tunstall’s Yard in 1790, grew into the United Reformed Church in Wade Street, which is now both a United Reformed and a Baptist church.

Despite the evangelical revival in the late 18th century, Lichfield remained a staunchly Anglican city. A storeroom on Sandford Street was fitted for public worship by George Burder of Coventry and John Moody of Warwick in 1790, but by 1796 the congregation had declined and closed.

But the situation changed again in 1802, and the former chapel on Sandford Street reopened in 1802 as an ‘Independent’ or Congregationalist chapel. William Salt from Cannock was one of the first leaders of the new church, and the Christian Society, as it then called itself, was formally set up on 13 June 1808.

However, Salt wrote of how the new congregation faced considerable local opposition, and the numbers attending dwindled to 60. As a consequence of this strong local opposition, 19-year-old Henry Fairbrother, a tailor’s apprentice, poisoned himself. The jury at his inquest agreed his suicide was caused by ‘lunacy due to the effects produced by the doctrines he had heard at the meeting of the persons called “The Methodists”.’

The entry for his burial at Saint Chad’s Church reads: ‘buried Henry Fairbrother, an exemplary young man until driven to despair and suicide by the denunciation of the people called “Methodists”.’

Of course, the Congregationalists were not Methodists, but at the time the two groups were often confused by many people in Lichfield.

Meanwhile, Salt was attacked in pamphlets circulated throughout Lichfield. In response, he preached a sermon and distributed 1,000 copies to every house in Lichfield. The response was positive, and a fund was set up to build an ‘Independent’ or Congregationalist chapel by subscription.

Salem Chapel on Wade Street was registered for public worship on 17 September 1811, the church was officially opened on Wednesday 18 March 1812, and the Revd William Salt was ordained as its first full-time minister.

The church was designed as a simple ‘preaching box,’ with a central pulpit but with no stained glass or any other decoration. The style of a lecture hall emphasised the centrality of the preaching of the word of God.

To meet the needs of a growing congregation, the rear gallery was opened on Christmas Day 1815, and the side galleries added by 1824. One of these side galleries still has the original numbered box pews that continued to be rented until the early 20th century.

Salt, who was the pastor of the Independent Church in Lichfield for 33 years, died on 1 June 1857.

The church was renovated in the 1870s, when new pews in light wood were installed downstairs and the interior was painted. The Lichfield Mercury reported that the once ‘dingy and uninviting interior now had a cheerful and inviting aspect.’

A celebratory party in the Corn Exchange – now McKenzie’s Restaurant – was attended by 350 people.

A new organ with 566 pipes was bought for £180 in 1884.

The Revd William Francis Dawson was appointed minister in 1895, with an annual stipend of £100. But the stipend was insufficient, and things began to decline in the church. The Sunday school closed in 1900, the trustees closed the chapel in 1902 and Dawson resigned.

The church remained closed for 15 months. But seven members met in 1903 to discuss reopening the chapel. Staffordshire Congregational Union made a grant of £70 towards a minister’s stipend, and in turn was given a voice in running the church and calling its ministers.

The church reopened in June 1903 along with the Sunday School, and things continued to improve. A new pulpit was erected in 1916, and a new hall was built on Frog Lane in 1932. In the decades that followed, the congregation grew and declined, following national trends.

The Congregationalist churches in Britain united with the Presbyterian Church in 1972 to form the United Reformed Church, and Wade Street Church was part of this new union.

An attempt was made to sell the church in 1980s. But Lichfield District Council listed the building, it was refurbished, a new floor was provided, the pews were ‘dipped’ and cleaned, new carpets were laid, and the old tortoise stove was removed.

The congregation grew steadily in the 1990s, and the church became an ecumenical partnership with the Baptists.

The organ was removed in 1997, creating more space, and new seating was installed throughout the building.

A £500,000 project was launched to redevelop the premises, and new multipurpose facilities opened in 2005, ahead of target and under budget.

The Revd Ian Hayter is the minister of Wade Street Church. The church and its halls are used today by a variety of community groups, including Lichfield Civic Trust, who hosted my lecture, as well as the Cathedral Chorus, the Wildlife Folk, Weightwatchers and the Food Bank.

The gallery in Wade Street Church in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 15: 17-27 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 17 ‘I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

18 ‘If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you.19 If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world – therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, “Servants are not greater than their master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 It was to fulfil the word that is written in their law, “They hated me without a cause.”

26 ‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27 You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.’

‘Pray to the Lord for the City’ … Lichfield Cathedral and the city on a banner in Wade Street Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (28 October 2021, Saint Simon and Saint Jude, Apostles) invites us to pray:

Let us give thanks for the lives of Saint Simon and Saint Jude. May we strive to emulate their zeal and hope.

A surviving box pew in the gallery in Wade Street Church, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The Revd William Salt of Wade Street Church died in 1857 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

A tapestry with angels in Wade Street Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Three sculptures in Coventry Cathedral:
3, ‘Choir of Survivors’ by Helmut Heinze

The ‘Choir of Survivors’ by Helmut Heinze at the west end of the ruins of the Old Coventry Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

During my visit to Coventry Cathedral earlier this month, Jacob Epstein’s triumphant bronze figures of the Archangel Michael vanquishing the Devil were covered for repair work and was not visible.

However – apart from the effigy of Bishop Huyshe Wolcott Yeatman-Biggs by Sir William Hamo Thornycroft – three sculptures in particular drew my attention in the ruins of the Old Cathedral: Jacob Epstein’s statue Ecce Homo; a Statue of Christ by Alain John when he was an 18-year-old pupil at Blundell’s School; and the ‘Choir of Survivors’ by Helmut Heinze, a gift from Dresden.

The ‘Choir of Survivors’ by Helmut Heinze, in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral, is a gift from the Frauenkirche Foundation in Dresden. The Frauenkirche church in Drseden was destroyed by allied bombing during World War II.

The 2.77 metre sculpture, known in German as Chor der Überlebenden (Choir of Survivors), is in memory of the lost civilian lives on both sides of the conflict during World War II. It was unveiled at the west end of the cathedral ruins on Sunday 20 May 2012 as part of the new cathedral’s fiftieth anniversary celebrations.

The ‘Choir of Survivors’ is dedicated to civilians killed or injured in aerial bombing during wars past and present. During the act of dedication, specific reference was made to German civilians killed in the allied bombings in 1940-1945. A delegation and choir from the bombed German city of Dresden, led by the Bishop of Saxony, took part in the ceremony.

Bishop Christopher Cocksworth of Coventry said at the unveiling that this was a ‘very significant sculpture.’ He described it as ‘a symbol of hope; of new life rising out of destruction.’

Bishop Cocksworth added: ‘An amazing story of reconciliation has happened over the years between Coventry and Dresden, particularly between Coventry Cathedral and the Frauenkirche.’

The statue is the work of the German artist and sculptor Helmut Heinze, who was born on 24 April 1932. He also designed a memorial for the victims of the Bombing of Dresden in World War II.

Heinze interrupted his studies in 1953-1955 for a stone sculptor apprenticeship under Werner Hempel. During this time, Heinze took part in restoring the Dresden Kreuzkirche and Meissen Cathedral. He was professor for plastic arts at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts from 1979 to 1997.

Yesterday: ‘Statue of Christ’ by Alain John

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
151, Christ Church, Leomansley

Christ Church, Lichfield … a Gothic Revival triumph by Thomas Johnson, the Lichfield architect (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Before the day begins, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

My theme for this week is churches in Lichfield, where I spent part of the week before last in a retreat of sorts, following the daily cycle of prayer in Lichfield and visiting the chapel in Saint John’s Hospital and other churches.

In this series, I have already visited Lichfield Cathedral (15 March), Holy Cross Church (26 March), the chapel in Saint John’s Hospital (14 March), the Church of Saint Mary and Saint George, Comberford (11 April), Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Farewell (2 September) and the former Franciscan Friary in Lichfield (12 October). The theme of Lichfield churches, which I began with Saint Chad’s Church on Sunday, Saint Mary’s Church on Monday, and Saint Michael’s Church, yesterday, continues this morning (27 October 2021) with photographs from Christ Church, Leomansley.

Inside Christ Church, Leomansley … built on Christchurch Lane in Lichfield in 1846 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Christ Church was built in 1846 on Christchurch Lane in Leamonsley, just off Walsall Road in the south-west corner of Lichfield. It serves a parish that includes the areas around Leamonsley, Sandfields and Lower Sandford Street.

The church was photographed extensively and described beautifully (13 January 2013) by the Lichfield blogger and local historian Kate Gomez. It has connections with two great Gothic Revival architects, Thomas Johnson and George Frederick Bodley, and its Hardman and Kempe windows and interior decorations bring together a truly delight expression of the late period of Gothic Revival architecture and art in Staffordshire.

My recent visit to the church was arranged by the Revd Janet Waterfield, Vicar of Christ Church, Lichfield, and Saint James’s, Longdon, and I was shown around the church by the verger, Margaret Beddoe.

Christ Church is a fine example of the Decorated Gothic revival style of the 19th century. The church is a Grade II* listed building. On the ceiling of the chancel are some unique Pre-Raphaelite canvas panels painted by John Dickson Batten (1860-1932).

A growing population in the west of Lichfield created the need for a new church in the area. Building work on Christ Church began in 1844 and it was completed by 1847, making it the first new parish church in Lichfield since mediaeval times.

The ¾-acre site for the church was a gift in 1844 from Richard Hinckley, a Lichfield solicitor and the owner of Beacon Place and its surrounding estate grounds. The site was about 500 metres south of Beacon Place at the edge of the grounds of the Hinckley estate and could be seen by the Hinckleys from their home.

The church was built in the corner of the park surrounding Beacon House. Because the church had no parish, a new parish was created by annexing parts of the parishes of Saint Michael and Saint Chad.

The church was built and endowed by the generosity of Richard Hinckley’s wife, Ellen Jane Hinckley, the daughter of John Chappel Woodhouse (1780-1815), Dean of Lichfield (1807-1833). She was a niece of the Lichfield hymn-writer, Frederick Oakeley (1802-1880), best known as the translator of ‘O come, all ye faithful.’

Ellen had suffered tragic family losses. Her first husband was Canon William Robinson, and they had two daughters, Ellen-Jane and Marianne, who died in their childhood in 1813 and 1814. These two children are the subject of the memorial in Lichfield Cathedral carved by Sir Francis Chantry and known as ‘The Sleeping Children.’

Canon Robinson died in 1812 while he was still in his 30s. Ellen married her second husband, Hugh Dyke Acland (1791-1834), in Lichfield Cathedral in 1817. But she was widowed a second time when he died in 1834. A year later, in 1835, she married her third husband, Richard Hinckley. They moved into Beacon Place in 1837, and soon after donated a corner of their estate for building a new church.

Christ Church was built of sandstone quarried in Lichfield and was designed by the Lichfield architect, Thomas Johnson, who lived in 67 Upper John Street, later known as Davidson House.

The church was built with local red sandstone in a decorated Gothic revival style under the design of Thomas Johnson of Lichfield. When the church was completed in 1847, it consisted of a chancel, nave and west tower with a bell cast in 1845 by CG Mears of London. The tiles are by Herbert Minton, whose firm also worked closely with AWN Pugin and donated tiles to about 40 or 50 churches and vicarages throughout the Diocese of Lichfield.

The church was consecrated on 26 October 1847 by the Bishop of Lichfield, the Right Revd John Lonsdale. The first incumbent was Canon Thomas Alfred Bangham (1819-1876). He been ordained priest only a few months earlier in May 1847, but he stayed at Christ Church until his death.

Over the decades, the church has been richly endowed with many treasures and more practical items such as a modern heating system due to the generosity of local benefactors.

The north and south chancel windows, transept east window and nave south window date from the 1870s and 1880s and were designed by Hardman & Co, the Birmingham firm founded by John Hardman (1811-1867) of Handsworth, who worked closely with AWN Pugin.

The church was enlarged to designs by Matthew Holding of Northampton in 1887, when the north and south transepts and the bays were added. The north extension consisted of a Lady Chapel and the south extension provided the church with an organ chamber and vestry. The extensions were partly funded by Samuel Lipscombe Seckham, who had bought Beacon House from the Hinckley family in 1881, and partly by public subscription.

Samuel Lipscomb Seckham (1827-1901) was a prosperous architect, developer, magistrate and brewer. He was employed by Saint John’s College, Oxford, to develop parts of North Oxford, including Park Town, Walton Manor and Norham Manor. From 1877 to 1883, he owned Bletchley Park, later known as the location for the codebreakers in World War II. In 1889, he bought Whittington Old Hall, a 16th-century country house outside Lichfield.

The chancel screen in Christ Church was presented by Seckham’s wife, Kinbarra Sweene (nee Smith), in 1888, but this has since been removed to the former choir gallery.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the church in 1897, the vicar and churchwardens commissioned the decoration of the chancel ceiling and walls by John Dickson Batten, better known as an illustrator, and his work for Joseph Jacob’s various editions of fairy tales in the 1890s display his talent for design and creativity.

Batten painted his canvases for Christ Church in the Pre-Raphaelite style, depicting Old Testament figures with symbols of the Passion and the Eucharist. In these canvasses, Batten represents the Biblical figures pointing to Christ as the promised and hoped-for Messiah and the Eucharist as the Christian’s means of union with him.

The paintings on the north side of the sanctuary represent (viewed from left to right):

● Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden;
● Noah, with the rainbow, the sign of God’s promise and blessing;
● the Archangel Gabriel guarding the gates of Paradise until Paradise should be regained by Christ;
● Abraham with Jacob, with Jacob’s vision of a ladder between Heaven and Earth;
● Moses, the leader and lawgiver, with Aaron, the High Priest who offers sacrifice to God.

The paintings on the south side of the sanctuary (viewed from left to right) represent:

● Joshua leading God’s army into the Promised Land;
● David, the king and psalmist from whose royal house the Messiah would come;
● Solomon, the builder of the Temple in Jerusalem;
● Elijah, the prophet of God’s judgment, with Isaiah, speaking of comfort;
● the Archangel Gabriel, with Saint John the Baptist, calling the Virgin Mary to be the mother of Christ.

The original watercolours used by Batten as cartoons for his work on the ceiling paintings were discovered in the tower of Christ Church in the early 1980s. At first, it was thought they were the work of the Birmingham stained-glass artist Florence Camm (1874-1916). But this was disputed while the watercolours were being restored at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Art historians and the BMAG and the Victoria and Albert Museum now agree that they are the work of Batten.

The Tractarian artist Charles Eamer Kempe (1837-1907) designed the glass for the north transept west window in 1894. Kempe, who studied architecture under George Frederick Bodley, also designed the colourful triptych that forms the reredos of the altar in the Lady Chapel in Lichfield Cathedral.

The reredos and marble sanctuary floor were presented to Christ Church in 1906 by Thomas Cox, a churchwarden, and his daughters in memory of Sarah Cox, wife and mother.

The sanctuary refurbishings were designed by George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907), and were built by Robert Bridgeman and Son of Quonians Lane, Lichfield.

Bodley was a lifelong friend of Kempe, and he was the first major patron of William Morris’s stained glass. He is closely associated with the Gothic Revival and High Anglican aesthetics, and his biographer Michael Hall argues he ‘fundamentally shaped the architecture, art, and design of the Anglican Church throughout England and the world’ (George Frederick Bodley and the Later Gothic Revival in Britain and America, Yale University Press, 2012). The Church Historian, Owen Chadwick, says Kempe’s work represents ‘the Victorian zenith’ of church decoration and stained glass windows.

Bodley’s other works in the Diocese of Lichfield include the Church of the Holy Angels, Hoar Cross (1871-1872), the Mission Church in Hadley End (1901) and Saint Chad’s Church, Burton-on-Trent (1903-1910).

Other churches designed by Bodley include All Saints’ Church on Jesus Lane, Cambridge, close to Westcott House and Sidney Sussex College; and the Chapel of Queens’ College, Cambridge. He also designed the statue of a sailor from HMS Powerful, carved by Bridgeman, on the wall of Lichfield’s former museum and library, now the city Register Office, at Beacon Park.

The clock on the tower of Christ Church, installed in 1913, was presented by the Burton brewer by Albert Octavius Worthington of Maple Hayes in memory of his wife Sarah. He was the vicar's warden in Christ Church, and after he died on Ascension Day 1918 the east window was installed by his children in his memory in 1920.

The churchyard was enlarged twice, in 1895 and again in 1929. Three tombs of the Hinckley and Acland families at the rear of the church also have Grade II listing as monuments.

Today, Christ Church stands serenely in a beautiful and peaceful churchyard. It has a very village-like feeling to it in this quiet corner of Lichfield. The church is an active parish church with regular Sunday morning services 9.30 am and Evening Prayer at 6 pm on the second and fourth Sunday.

The reredos in Christ Church was designed by the Tractarian artist CE Kempe (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 13: 22-30 (NRSVA):

22 Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, ‘Lord, will only a few be saved?’ He said to them, 24 ‘Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, “Lord, open to us”, then in reply he will say to you, “I do not know where you come from.” 26 Then you will begin to say, “We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.” 27 But he will say, “I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!” 28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. 29 Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.’

The paintings by John Dickson Batten on the ceiling of the sanctuary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (27 October 2021) invites us to pray:

We remember those who bought our freedom at great cost, and we pray for those who continue to uphold it, praying especially for all those who work to gather and spread reliable news.

Hardman windows in the chancel of Christ Church (Photographs: Patrick Comerford)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The Adoration of the Magi … a window by CE Kempe in the Lady Chapel in Christ Church, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

The tombs of the Hinckley and Acland families at the east end of Christ Church are Grade II listed monuments (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)