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)