Sunday, 5 September 2021

Island hopping in Aegean-like
summer sunshine in Ireland

A sculptor’s workshop close to Saint John’s Church in Knightstown on Valentia Island (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

It is two years since I have been in Greece. But now that the vaccine has been rolled out and – despite the forest fires and soaring temperatures in August – Greece appears to be as safe a place to be as Ireland.

I hope to be back in Crete later in September, returning to an island that has been almost like a second home since the 1980s.

But the warm sunshine earlier this summer in Ireland offered opportunities for some ‘island hopping’ in Cork and Kerry that was almost as inviting as ‘island hopping’ in the Aegean and the Mediterranean.

Over a number of weeks, two of us found the opportunities – more by accident than design – to visit Valentia Island and the Blasket Islands off the coast of Co Kerry, and Cape Clear Island and Garinish Island off the coast of Co Cork.

The Church of Saint John the Baptist, Valentia … is this ‘the most westerly Protestant Church in Europe’? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Returning to Valentia
by accident


As the first promises of summer arrived, we spent a day at Kells Bay House and Gardens and Kells Bay Beach on the north loop of the Ring of Kerry, and as the day, drew to a close we visited Cahersiveen.

Cahersiveen’s place in church history includes the story of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty (1898-1963), who is known as the ‘Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican,’ for his daring exploits and the rescue of over 4,000 people, including Jews and Allied soldiers, in Nazi-occupied Rome.

The town’s Roman Catholic parish church is named the Daniel O’Connell Memorial Church, in honour of the monumental figure in Irish politics in the early 19th century. Saint Finian’s, the former Church of Ireland parish church in the town, has housed the Oratory Pizza and Wine Bar since 2016.

As the early summer sunshine continued to linger, we found ourselves on the ferry to Valentia Island once again, and visiting the Church of Saint John the Baptist in Knightstown, which claims to be ‘the most westerly Protestant Church in Europe.’

Previous Rectors of Valentia include John Godfrey Day (1830-1847), later Dean of Ardfert (1861-1879), father of Bishop Maurice Day of Clogher and grandfather of Archbishop Godfrey Day, Abraham Isaac, later Dean of Ardfert (1894-1905); the Revd Alexander Delap, father of the marine biologist, Maude Delap (1866-1953); and George Lill Swain, later Dean of Limerick (1929-1954).

The Sensory Garden was designed by Arthur Shackleton to cater for people with disabilities and was opened by Bishop Michael Mayes in 2005.

A sign outside the church claims it is ‘the most westerly Protestant Church in Europe.’ But, of course, that depends on how you draw the maps and boundaries of Europe. No doubt, churches in Iceland could make similar claims, but is Greenland part of Europe of part of the North American continent?

The Blasket Islands in summer sunshine … an invitation to a Mediterranean experience – but only in summer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The literary legacy of
the Blasket Islands


The Great Blasket Island is one of the most remote parts of the Gaeltacht or Irish-speaking area of Co Kerry. It has been deserted since 1954, but remains a part of Irish literature and cultural identity because of the disproportionate number of islanders whose books were part of the school curriculum for generations of Irish schoolchildren.

Their books continue to be read, and most Irish people are still familiar with the names of Peig Sayers (1873-1958), no matter how negative their memories are of her book, and Muiris Ó Súilleabháin and Tomás Ó Criomhthain.

I am typical of my generation when I say I still resent having to read through Peig, and it helped to create many long-lasting negative images of how the Irish language was taught at schools in the 1960s.

But my schoolboy experiences of the Kerry Gaeltacht in Ballinskelligs have left me with a life-long affection for this part of Ireland, and a day-long guided tour of the Blasket Islands seemed inevitable during a summer visit to the Dingle Peninsula.

The Church of Ireland school on the Great Blasket set up by Mrs Thompson from Ventry lasted a mere two or three decades (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Great Blasket covers over 1,100 acres of largely mountainous terrain, and is about 4 miles long and half a mile wide.

A number of books were written in the early 20th century by islanders, recording island traditions and way of life. These include Peig or Machnamh Seanamhná (An Old Woman’s Reflections) by Peig Sayers (1939), An tOileánach (The Islandman) by Tomás Ó Criomhthain (1929), and Fiche Blian ag Fás (Twenty Years a-Growing) by Muiris Ó Súilleabháin (1933).

During my visit, I began to feel sorry for Peig, with her arranged marriage, her sorrows, her hardships, the children who died without the joys of childhood, the reproaches for her grief and mourning, and the bodies falling out of coffins.

They were stories that should never have been imposed on young teenagers in the 1960s. My new-fond sympathy for Peig was complimented during that visit by comparisons of Tomás Ó Criomhthain with his Russian contemporary Maxim Gorky, placing him within the corpus of European literature of the day.

Cape Clear Island off the coast of Co Cork is intimately linked with the legends surrounding the life Saint Ciarán (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Saint Ciaran’s legacy
on Cape Clear Island


Clear Island or Cape Clear Island (Cléire or Oileán Chléire), 8 miles off the south-west coast of Co Cork, is the most southerly inhabited part of Ireland. Cape Clear is 3 miles long by 1 mile wide. Most of the 147 residents are bilingual in Irish and English, making this Ireland’s southern-most inhabited Gaeltacht island.

Mizen Head, the mainland’s most southerly point, is to the north-west. The nearest neighbouring island is Sherkin Island, 2 km to the east, and the solitary Fastnet Rock, with its lighthouse, is three miles west of the island. The boat trip from Baltimore this summer took only 40 minutes, with views of the rugged coastline West Cork and occasional sightings of dolphins.

Ferries from Schull and Baltimore arrive into the North Harbour, while the South Harbour is often a berth for yachts and pleasure boats.

Arriving on the ferry from Baltimore into the North Harbour, the first archaeological and ecclesiastical site the visitor sees are the ruins of a 12th-century church, close to the main pier, with Saint Ciaran’s Well beside it.

Saint Ciarán of Saighir gives his name to the ruined church and holy well at the North Harbour (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Saint Ciarán, the island’s patron, is allegedly one of Ireland’s four, early pre-Patrician saints. He is said to have been born on the shoreline beside the harbour, Trá Chiaráin, in front of the well, and the islanders gather there to mark his feast on 5 March each year.

Saint Ciarán of Saighir was one of the ‘Twelve Apostles of Ireland’ and was the founding Bishop of Saighir (Seir-Kieran). He remains the patron saint of the Diocese of Ossory. Sometimes he is called Saint Ciarán the Elder to distinguish him from Saint Ciarán of Clonmacnoise.

The reverence for Saint Ciarán is reflected in the proliferation of his name on Cape Clear Island, from beaches to holy wells, from churches to graveyards. Indeed, almost every family includes someone with the name Ciarán.

The ruins of Saint Ciaran’s Church, a 12th century rectangular church surrounded by a graveyard, face the North Harbour. A steep climb from the harbour and a 15-minute walk lead up to Saint Ciarán’s Roman Catholic Church, built in 1839. It is the southern-most church still in use in Ireland.

The Italian Garden is the outstanding feature on Garinish Island (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Mediterranean gardens
on Garinish Island


The Harbour Queen ferry from Glengarriff Pier brought us to Garinish Island at the mouth of Bantry Bay. Garinish is renowned for its gardens, laid out in beautiful walks and it has specimen plants that are rare in this climate.

Garinish Island extends to 15 hectares (37 acres). The gardens on Garnish Island flourish in the mild humid micro-climate of Glengarriff Harbour. This is an island garden of rare beauty, assisted by a mainly pine shelter belt, and known to horticulturists and lovers of trees and shrubs around the world.

The gardens were designed by the architect and garden designer Harold Peto (1854-1933) for the island’s owners, John Annan Bryce (1841-1923), a Belfast-born Scottish politician who bought the island from the War Office in 1910, and his wife Violet (L’Estrange).

Peto and Bryce were a creative partnership, so the island is still renowned for its richness of plant form and colour, changing continuously with the seasons.

The Italian Garden is, perhaps, the outstanding feature of Garinish. Here, Peto’s genius, combined with Bryce’s ideas and resources, resulted in the creation of a formal architectural garden that blends with its natural setting.

The Martello tower on the island dates from the time of the Napoleonic Wars. Plans were drawn up for a mansion incorporating the Martello Tower, but it was never built. Instead, Bryce House, an extensive cottage, became the home of the Bryce family.

Among the guests were the writers George Bernard Shaw, who stayed on the island in 1923 while writing his play, Saint Joan, the poet Æ George Russell, and Agatha Christie.

Bryce House is presented as it would have appeared when the Bryce family lived there. A selection from their vast collection of important paintings, prints, drawings, and books is on display.

A theme throughout the house is the winged lion of Saint Mark, the symbol of Venice – yet another reminder of the Mediterranean during an island-hopping expedition in Ireland this summer.

This two-page feature was first published in the September 2021 edition of ‘The Church Review’ (Dublin and Glendalough), pp 14-15



Sunday intercessions on
5 September 2021, Trinity XIV

A detail from the ‘Sarcophagus of the Crying Women,’ from Sidon (see Mark 7: 24-37), now in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum

Let us pray:

‘Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor’ (Proverbs 22: 9)

Heavenly Father,
we prayer for mothers and daughters who are marginalised throughout the world,

We pray for the mothers and daughters
who live in fear in,
who have been displaced from,
who have lost their homes, their rights, their families, their dignity,
in Afghanistan, Syria, Haiti,
and so many other places

On the Nations’ Climate Sunday,
we pray for Mother Earth,
and pray that you would renew and refresh our commitment
to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation,
and sustain and renew the life of the earth …

We pray for the nations of the world,
and for all who live in fear and hunger for mercy, peace and justice.

We pray too for the people of Haiti, Greece and Turkey.

We pray for Ireland, north and south …

We pray that we may hear the voices of women who face discrimination …
who are denied equal opportunities …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

‘A woman … heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet’ (Mark 7: 25):

Lord Jesus Christ,
we pray for Mother Church,
that we may hear the voice of women,
and encourage women in ministry and all aspects of Church life …

In the Church of Ireland this month,
we pray for the Diocese of Meath and Kildare
and Bishop Pat Storey.

In the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer,
we pray for children in our dioceses starting a new school year,
that they may be sale and happy, and grow in learning …

We pray for our Bishop, Kenneth, as he prepares to retire,
we pray for our neighbouring churches and parishes,
and people of faith everywhere,
that we may be blessed in our variety and diversity.

In the Anglican Cycle of Prayer,
we pray this week for the Province of the Episcopal Church of Sudan,
and the Primate, Archbishop Ezekiel Kondo Kumir Kuku, Bishop of Khartoum.

In our community,
we pray for all mothers and daughters.

We pray for our parishes and people …
and we pray for ourselves …

Christ have mercy,
Christ have mercy.

‘Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are true of heart’ (Psalm 125: 4):

Holy Spirit, we pray for one another …

We pray for those we love and those who love us …
we pray for our families, friends and neighbours …
we pray for all on holidays …
and we pray for those we promised to pray for …

We pray for those who have been baptised, married and ordained in recent weeks …
for the Revd Leonard Madden, to be ordained priest on Saturday,
We pray for families where children, partners and those who are vulnerable
suffer violence, abuse or neglect …

We pray for all who feel rejected and discouraged …
we pray for all in need and who seek healing …

We pray for all who are sick or isolated,
at home, in hospital …

Ruby … Ann … Daphne … Sylvia … Hilary …
Helen … Ajay … Adam … Pat … Trixie … Brian …

We remember all who grieve and mourn at this time …
all who are broken-hearted …
We remember Joey Smyth, on his birthday …
Brian Corbett, who died yesterday …
Father James Leachman, priest, monk and scholar, who died last Sunday …

May their memories be a blessing …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

The Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) in its Prayer Diary this morning, the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, invites us to pray:

Eternal God,
may we trust in you.
Help us to let the world know
your everlasting love.

Merciful Father …

‘The just shall not put their hands to evil’ (Psalm 125: 3) … the courthouse in Skibbereen, Co Cork (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Setting limits to our compassion
… or inviting all to the banquet?

But she answered, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs’ (Mark 7: 28) (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 5 September 2021

The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, Trinity XIV


9.30 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist, Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton

11.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer, Saint Brendan’s Church, Tarbert

The Readings: Proverbs 22: 1-2, 8-9, 22-23; Psalm 125; Mark 7: 24-37.

There is a link to the readings HERE.

But she answered, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs’ (Mark 7: 28) … seen on the streets in Ballybunion, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

I am an avid fan of soap operas like EastEnders. All human life is there.

When my children were younger, EastEnders gave us an opportunity to talk about major life issues without having to point fingers at anyone we know.

We could talk about drugs, gambling, business ethics, sexuality, relationships, domestic violence, poverty, racism, justice and injustice … all within context, but without naming or shaming anyone we know.

But context is everything. If you watch it regularly, then the profile of each character is built up night-by-night, week-by-week.

However, if you miss an episode, or miss a week, then you cannot come to a full and fair judgment or evaluation of someone’s actions and their intentions, or come to any conclusion about causes and consequences.

Sometimes, it can be a bit like that too when it comes to reading one episode on its own from the Gospel story. If I was not in church last week, I might not realise the context of the Gospel reading on a Sunday morning. And if I am not in church the following Sunday, I might just miss out on what is caused, what the consequences of a Gospel reading are.

Context involves what happened before and what happens after.

And we might realise the same with our readings these weeks from Saint Mark’s Gospel, including this morning’s reading about the Syro-Phoenician woman.

Context is all important: why does Jesus seemingly refuse at first to offer hope and comfort to this woman and her daughter?

Why do the disciples encourage him to show no compassion?

Why does Jesus use such shocking, crude language when he speaks to this woman?

This story is set in the area around today’s northern Israel and south Lebanon. Even to this day, dogs are not seen as the sort of animals that should be in the same room as we eat.

Is Jesus telling this woman she is dirty in her domestic habits?

Last week, in our Gospel reading we heard how the very same accusation was made against Jesus and his disciples – accused of not washing their hands before eating.

Is Jesus using language that is so direct and so shocking that it amounts to implying her daughter is a ‘little bitch’?

My friend and colleague Dr Clare Amos is a Biblical scholar who has worked in that area – in Jerusalem and Lebanon – for many years. She is now Director of Lay Discipleship in the Diocese in Europe, and like me she prepares a weekly blog that is related to the weekly lectionary readings.

In her posting last week, she points out that today’s Gospel reading comes between two great stories in Saint Mark’s Gospel of feeding large crowds with bread: his account of the feeding of the 5,000 with bread (Mark 6: 30-44) and the feeding of the 4,000 with bread (Mark 8: 1-10).

In between these two very similar stories, we hear about the Syrophoenician woman and her encounter with Jesus. And bread, once again, is a prominent theme in their exchange that could be a script for an episode of EastEnders.

Jesus says to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’

But she answers him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs’ (Mark 7: 27-28).

If Christ’s retort is meant to be witty, then the woman is also witty in her reply, appearing to ask whether her thinks her daughter is a ‘little bitch’: κυνάριον (kinárion) in verse 28 in our reading is translated as ‘dog’, but it is diminutive and could be more accurately rendered as ‘little dog’ … even ‘little bitch’!

This exchange is both witty and compassionate. Like so many classical dramas, it is a mixture of comedy and tragedy, and it alludes to a well-known Greek play, the Phoenician Women (Φοίνισσαι, Phoinissai), a tragedy by Euripides.

In our reading, she is described as ‘a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin’ (verse 26). But the original Greek text describes her as ‘a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth’ (ἦν Ἑλληνίς, Συροφοινίκισσα τῷ γένει). The Clementine Homilies name her as Justa and her daughter as Bernice. But, like so many women in the Gospels, they are unnamed.

At first, it appears, Jesus is not willing to heal this woman’s daughter.

Is this because he is afraid, once again, of being accused, along with his disciples, of being ritually unclean?

Or, as I have asked before in previous sermons after we have met this woman in the Gospel readings, is his unwillingness, his reluctance, a dramatic pose that challenges the disciples to think again about the limits of their compassion?

Some years ago, when I bumped into the journalist, broadcaster and lay theologian the late Seán Mac Réamoinn in Saint Anne’s Church, Dublin, I asked him how he was.

He told me he felt like a filled-out census form.

I must have looked puzzled, so he explained: ‘I’m broken down by age, sex and religion.’

Have the disciples been caught out by the banter and exchanges between Jesus and this woman?

Have they been shown that they have a compassion that is severely limited by age, sex, religion, language and ethnicity?

Is my compassion truly compassionate if it is limited by boundaries I construct like this – when I hedge it with my own prejudices and limitations?

After this witty exchange between the woman and Jesus, their puns and insider jokes about the ‘crumbs,’ Jesus is shown not to be hesitant at all. He tests this woman, and she meets the test, and – unlike the daughters of the Phoenician women in the play by Euripides – this woman’s daughter is healed and restored to a place in society that even the disciples are unwilling to extend to her.

As Clare Amos points out, the context of this morning’s Gospel story is found in the way it comes between Saint Mark’s two accounts of the feeding of multitudes: the feeding of the 5,000 and the feeding of the 4,000. She recalls a very ancient tradition that the people who are fed at the first miracle are Jewish, and the people fed at the second miracle are Gentiles.

In other words, between these two stories, Christ’s ministry moves from engaging with his fellow Jews, to reflecting God’s abundant provision for all people, Gentiles as well as Jews.

She suggests that in this encounter between Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman, a vital ‘boundary’ is crossed and broken, taking Christ out into the Gentile world.

The story of this mother and her daughter finds its context in – is sandwiched between – the two stories about feeding the crowds. All three stories involve feeding with bread. Christ’s invitation to the Eucharist needs to be opened out, from being a rite of the Church to being a banquet for the world.

Only when we break down our limitations or prejudices can Christ’s healing message be brought to a world that cries out for God’s healing, God’s mercy, God’s justice … that cries out to be called into God’s Kingdom.

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

In the small miniature below Jean Colombe’s painting of the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman, the Disciples, gathered like a Greek chorus, can see her but cannot see the body language and facial reaction of Christ

Mark 7: 24-37 (NRSVA):

24 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25 but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ 28 But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ 29 Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go – the demon has left your daughter.’ 30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ 35 And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’

Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Folio 164r - The Canaanite Woman (The Musée Condé, Chantilly)

Liturgical Colour: Green

The Collect:

Almighty God,
whose only Son has opened for us
a new and living way into your presence:
Give us pure hearts and steadfast wills
to worship you in spirit and in truth,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Collect of the Word:

O God,
whose word is life,
and whose delight is to answer our cry:
give us faith like that of the woman
who refused to remain an outsider,
so that we too may have the wisdom to argue
and demand that our children be made whole,
through Jesus Christ.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Lord God,
the source of truth and love:
Keep us faithful to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,
united in prayer and the breaking of bread,
and one in joy and simplicity of heart,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

‘Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity’ (Proverbs 22: 8) … … the museum in the old courthouse in Adare, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hymns:

494, Beauty for brokenness (CD 29)
34, O worship the King all-glorious above (CD 2)

Christ in conversation with the Syrophoenician woman … a modern icon

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:
99, Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe

Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe is the last of Wren’s city churches (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XIV), and later this morning (5 September 2021) I am presiding and preaching at the Parish Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick, and preaching at Morning Prayer in Saint Brendan’s Church, Tarbert, Co Kerry.

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 for the coming weeks is Wren churches in London. Already in this series, I have visited Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London (28 April). This week’s theme begins this morning with Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe.

Inside Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe on Queen Victoria Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe, on Queen Victoria Street, two blocks south of Saint Paul’s Cathedral and close to Blackfriars station, is the last of Wren’s city churches. It was first mentioned around 1170, so it must have been founded considerably earlier. In the 13th century, the church was a part of Baynard’s Castle, an ancient royal residence.

In 1361, King Edward III moved the Royal Wardrobe, which was used to store royal belongings, including arms, clothing and other personal items, from the Tower of London to a building just north of the church. This association gave the church its unique name.

William Shakespeare was a member of the parish for about 15 years while he was working at the Blackfriars Theatre nearby. Later he bought a house in the parish, in Ireland Yard.

Saint Andrew’s has a memorial to Shakespeare in the west gallery, carved in oak and limewood. There is also a matching memorial to one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, the famous lutenist, singer and composer John Dowland (1562-1626) who was buried in the churchyard of Saint Ann’s, Blackfriars. Saint Ann’s was not rebuilt after the Great Fire and its parish was afterwards merged with Saint Andrew’s.

In a rather fanciful scene, Shakespeare and Dowland are shown kneeling on a stage while cherubs hold back the final curtain. Under the window between the pair is the following inscription:

If music and sweet poetry agree,
As they must needs, the sister and the brother …
Dowland to thee is dear, whose heavenly touch
Upon the lute doth ravish human sense …


Although these lines may be appropriate in Dowland’s case, they have only a slim link with William Shakespeare. Although they come from The Passionate Pilgrim, a collection of verse published in 1599 with Shakespeare’s name on the title page, this poem was written by Richard Barnfield.

Both the former royal wardrobe and the church were destroyed in the Great Fire in 1666, and, the location of the king’s store room is now only remembered in Wardrobe Place.

After the Great Fire, was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren in 1695. It is among the simplest of his designs, was rebuilt in 1695.

In the following century, the hymnwriter John Newton, author of Amazing Grace, had close links with Saint Andrew by the Wardrobe and its rector, William Romaine.

Changes in parochial boundaries in the 19th century also had an impact on the parish boundaries of Saint Andrew’s. In 1542, the Mercers’ Company bought from Henry VIII the property of the Hospital of Saint Thomas of Acon which included the advowson of St Mary Colechurch at the corner of Cheapside and Old Jewry. The Great Fire destroyed this church and the benefice was united with Saint Mildred Poultry.

In 1871, Saint Mildred’s was pulled down and an exchange of rights was made between the Company and the Crown which gave the Company a share in the presentation of Saint Andrew by the Wardrobe. Under a Deed signed in 1984 the Company became the joint Patrons with the Parochial Church Council of Saint Andrew’s.

The church was again destroyed by German bombs during the London blitz in World War II, and only the tower and the walls survived.

The church, which was designated a Grade I listed building in 1950, was rebuilt and rededicated in 1961.

The pulpit in Saint Andrew’s came from Saint Matthew’s, Friday Street, and the font and cover from All Hallows’ Church, Bread Street. The royal arms, of the House of Stuart came from Saint Olave Old Jewry, which was demolished in 1887. The weathervane on the steeple comes from Saint Michael Bassishaw, which was demolished in 1900.

The Revd Guy Treweek was priest-in-charge in 2011-2015. His wife, Bishop Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester, is the first woman to become a diocesan bishop in the Church of England.

The present rector is the Ven Luke Miller, Archdeacon of London. He studied history at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and theology at Saint Stephen’s House, Oxford. He is a member of the Society of the Holy Cross. His wife, the Revd Jacqueline Ann Miller, is a curate at Saint Peter, Eaton Square.

For many years Oswald Clark, a former Chairman of the House of Laity of the General Synod in the Church of England, was parish clerk and a churchwarden there.

A number of City Livery Companies have links with Saint Andrew by the Wardrobe and some of their banners are in the church, including the Mercers, Apothecaries, Parish Clerks and Blacksmiths. Saint Andrew’s has been designated as the Ward Church of the Castle Baynard Ward.

The church offers this prayer for people who have no shelter on the streets of London:

God of compassion,
your love for humanity was revealed in Jesus,
whose earthly life began in the poverty of a stable
and ended in the pain and isolation of the cross:
we hold before you those who are homeless and cold
especially in this bitter weather.
Draw near and comfort them in spirit
and bless those who work to provide them
with shelter, food and friendship.
We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


A number of City Livery Companies have links with Saint Andrew by the Wardrobe and some of their banners are in the church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 7: 24-37 (NRSVA):

24 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25 but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ 28 But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ 29 Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ 30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ 35 And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’

The pulpit in Saint Andrew’s came from Saint Matthew’s, Friday Street, and the font and cover from All Hallows’ Church, Bread Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The pulpit in Saint Andrew’s came from Saint Matthew’s, Friday Street, and the font and cover from All Hallows’ Church, Bread Street. The royal arms, of the House of Stuart came from Saint Olave Old Jewry, which was demolished in 1887. The weathervane on the steeple comes from Saint Michael Bassishaw, which was demolished in 1900.

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (5 September 2021, Trinity XIV) invites us to pray:

Eternal God,
may we trust in you.
Help us to let the world know
your everlasting love.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

A sample of William Shakespeare’s handwriting on display in the church … Shakespeare was a member of the parish for about 15 years while he was working at the Blackfriars Theatre nearby (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