23 August 2022

Lichfield Peace Walk and
a day along Cross in Hand Lane
and the ‘Two Saints Way’

The monks from King’s Bromley rest beneath a tree beside Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Farewell, during Lichfield Peace Walk (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

I was back in Lichfield yesterday [22 August 2022] to take part in this year’s Lichfield Peace Walk, a three-day, 30 km (20 mile) walk along the pilgrim way from Saint Chad’s Church, Lichfield, to Saint Chad’s Church, Stafford.

This is an interfaith venture, organised by Andrew Jacobs, a Lichfield-based teacher, and supported by members of the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Buddhist communities in the Lichfield area.

A group of 13 monks and nuns from the Wat Mahathat Thai Buddhist Temple in King’s Bromley, led by Abbot Ajahn, Thailand’s most senior monk in Britain, were prominent participants on the walk as we walked through Lichfield and then began our way along the pilgrim way from Lichfield to Stafford.

The Lichfield Peace Walk began at Saint Chad’s Church, Lichfield, at 8 am on Monday morning.

The Rector of Saint Chad’s, the Revd Rod Clark, and a number of parishioners were at Saint Chad’s to meet the walkers. He spoke of Saint Chad’s early presence at this site seventh century, and the links between Lichfield and the early church in Lindisfarne trough Saint Chad, Saint Aidan and Saint Oswald.

After prayers and reflections in Saint Chad’s Church, the monks and nuns gathered around Saint Chad’s Well in the churchyard to pray and chant.

Lichfield Peace Walk stops outside Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

From Saint Chad’s Church, the walkers made our way along the rim of Stowe Pool, with the spires of Saint Michael’s Church, Greenhill, and Saint Mary’s Church towering above us in the background.

On our arrival in the Cathedral Close, Rod spoke of the significance of Peter Walker’s new statue of Saint Chad at Lichfield Cathedral.

We arrived at Lichfield Cathedral after Morning Prayer and were greeted at the west front of the cathedral by the Precentor of Lichfield, Canon Andrew Stead.

This year marks the 1350th anniversary of the death of Saint Chad in the year 672. He spoke in the Lady Chapel of how the area is being prepared for a new shrine of Saint Chad, and how part of his relics are due to arrive in Lichfield Cathedral from Birmingham Cathedral in November.

After prayers and after the monks chanted, we made our way from the Cathedral Close to the Garden of Remembrance on Beacon Street, below the cathedral spires and by Minster Pool. It was appropriate on this Peace Walk to remember all who had died in war.

We then visited the site of the former Franciscan Friary, and returned through Beacon Park and by the statue of Edward Smith, the captain of the Titanic, to the Beacon Park Peace Garden.

We left Beacon Park at Abnall’s Lane, and made our way along the Western Bypass, to the beginning of Cross in Hand Lane, just beside the Hedgehog Vintage Inn, on the corner of Stafford Road and the beginning of the ‘Two Saints’ Way.’

This is the beginning of the ancient pilgrim route between Lichfield and Chester, a 142 km (88 miles) from the shrine of Saint Chad to the shrine of Saint Werburgh, the two Saxon saints who brought Christianity to the ancient Kingdom of Mercia in the seventh century.

Many of the walkers – appropriately – held small wooden crosses as we walked along Cross in Hand Lane, England’s own version of the Camino. We varied in numbers as the walk continued along the ‘Two Saints Way’, from two to three dozen at any one time.

Little has changed in the landscape along Cross in Hand Lane since mediaeval times. The road twists and turns, rises and falls, with countryside that has changed little over the centuries.

The fields along Cross in Hand Lane are green and golden under the blue skies of summer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The fields along Cross in Hand Lane are green and golden under the blue skies of summer. The fields in this part of rural Staffordsire are busy with farm work, the barns are being filled, there are horses in paddocks, there are some cows too, and sun was shining all along our way. Little has changed since I got to know this landscape snce I first got to know it over half a century ago, apart from the loss of the view of the stacks of the cooling towers at Rugeley Power Station last year (6 June 2021).

Along the way, Abbot Ajahn spoke of his PhD work in Birmingham, and we shared our understandings of mission, interfaith dialogue, presence and engagement, hospitality, diversity and pluralism, war and peace.

As we reached Farewell, we followed the pilgrim route signs along public footpaths and across the fields, and sat beneath the trees in a large field for a picnic lunch before being welcomed to Saint Bartholomew’s Church. Tomorrow is the Feast of Saint Bartholomew (24 August).

Later, the Revd Lynn McKeon, Priest-in-Charge of Farewell and Gentleshaw, also welcomed the peace walkers to Christ Church, Gentleshaw.

The monks on Lichfield Peace Walk wend their way along Cross in Hand Lane from Lichfield to Farewell (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Before leaving the pilgrims at Farewell, Abbot Ajahn exchanged and shared blessings. As I returned to Lichfield, the peace walk continued on to Castle Ring, where Monday’s stage of the walk ended.

Today, on Day 2 (Tuesday 23 August), the Lichfield Peace Walk continued across Cannock Chase. Beginning at Castle Ring at 8 am, the walkers continued along the Heart of England Way, visiting the Commonwealth, German and Polish war memorials, and continuing along Sherbrook Valley to Milford.

Tomorrow, on Day 3 (Wednesday 24 August), the Lichfield Peace Walk sets off for Stafford. The walk begins at Milford Common at 8 am, and continues through golden fields, green forest and along a beautiful river-side walk, before arriving at the final stage of the walk at Saint Chad’s Church, Stafford.

The Lichfield Peace Walk follows the ‘Two Saints Way’ through the fields outside Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Andrew Jacobs says Lichfield Peace Walk has two main goals. He believes peace on earth cannot be achieved until people of different faith backgrounds talk to each other, and especially visit each other’s places of worship.

He also believes that when Lichfield venerates Saint Chad, the city prospers. ‘When his shrine was destroyed pilgrims stopped coming, and eventually violence erupted in the Cathedral.’

He describes Saint Chad as ‘England’s Saint Francis.’ England has Saint George, Ireland has Saint Patrick, Scotland has Saint Andrew and Wales has Saint David. But in conversation he suggested Saint Chad as an appropriate candidate as a ‘group patron’ of the four island nations, as his life story links all four nations.

Praying with USPG and the music of
Vaughan Williams: Tuesday 23 August 2022

The chapel of Trinity College Cambridge … the three organ preludes are a tribute by Vaughan Williams to the organist Alan Gray (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I am back in Stony Stratford this morning after taking part yesterday in the first stage of the three-day Lichfield Peace Walk from Saint Chad’s Church, Lichfield, to Saint Chad’s Church, Stafford.

I regret that I cannot be in Dublin later today for the funeral of my friend and colleague, the Revd Canon Professor John Bartlett, in Christ Church Cathedral this afternoon. Before the day begins, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose music is celebrated throughout this year’s Proms season. In my prayer diary for these weeks I am reflecting in these ways:

1, One of the readings for the morning;

2, Reflecting on a hymn or another piece of music by Vaughan Williams, often drawing, admittedly, on previous postings on the composer;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

‘You … have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith’ (Matthew 23: 23) … the symbol of justice above the Doge’s Palace in Venice (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The Gospel reading at the Eucharist in the Lectionary of the Church of Ireland this morning is:

Matthew 23: 23-26 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 23 ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practised without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!

25 ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.’

Today’s reflection: ‘Rhosymedre’

For these three mornings [Monday to Wednesday], I am listening to his Three Preludes Founded on Welsh Hymn Tunes, and this morning [10 March 2015] I continue as I listen to the second of these preludes, ‘Rhosymedre.’

These three organ solos are based on Welsh tunes, which Vaughan Williams had already arranged for hymns in the English Hymnal, which he edited with Canon Percy Dearmer.

Vaughan Williams’s father, the Revd Arthur Vaughan Williams, came from a family of Welsh origins that had distinguished itself in the law.

The composer first published these organ preludes in 1920 and dedicated them to Alan Gray (1855-1935), who was the organist of Trinity College Cambridge (1892-1930) when Vaughan Williams was an undergraduate there.

Vaughan Williams studied the organ under Gray at Trinity, and with Gray’s patient help he passed his exams to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists (FRCO) in 1898, and received his Doctorate in Music (MusD) at Cambridge the following year. These three organ preludes are Vaughan Williams’s tribute as a grateful student to Alan Gray.

The second of these preludes, ‘Rhosymedre,’ is based on the tune of that name by the Welsh Anglican priest, the Revd John David Edwards (1805-1895). That tune was harmonised by Vaughan Williams for Charles Wesley’s hymn ‘Author of Love Divine’ in the English Hymnal (No 303; see New English Hymnal, No 274).

Edwards was born in Ceredigion (Cardiganshire) in Wales, and studied at Jesus College, Oxford, before his ordination. In 1843, he became the Vicar of Rhosymedre, near Wrexham in north Wales, and remained until he died in 1895.

He composed many hymns tunes, and his collection Original Sacred Music (1836) was the first book of hymn-tunes for Anglican churches in Wales. A second collection was published in 1843.

Edwards named the tune Rhosymedre after the village where he was vicar for over half a century, although it is also known as ‘Lovely.’ The hymn tune is seven lines long, with a metrical index of The tune was used by Vaughan Williams as the basis of the second movement of his organ composition ‘Three Preludes on Welsh Hymn Tunes.’

Vaughan Williams’s Choral Prelude based on this Welsh tune was played on the organ at the Church Musical Festival in the Crystal Palace, London, on 21 July 1933.

Here, as with so many of his arrangements of folk music, Vaughan Williams turns an apparently simple tune into a work of great beauty and with profound emotional impact.

This prelude is probably best known as an orchestral arrangement by Arnold Foster published in 1938. It has also been arranged for other instruments and combinations of instruments, including solo piano, piano duet and four recorders.

In 2008, to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Vaughan Williams, Richard Morrison arranged the piece for string quartet and solo tenor.

In Wales, the original tune by Edwards is associated with Easter and is thought of as a jubilant hymn tune. Outside Wales, however, it often receives a more devotional treatment, and so it Vaughan William’s prelude provides an appropriate meditation this morning.

Today’s Prayer, Tuesday 23 August 2022:

The theme in the USPG prayer diary this week is ‘The Pursuit of Justice.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by Javanie Byfield and Robert Green, ordinands at the United Theological College of the West Indies.

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today (International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition) in these words:

We give thanks for those who worked to abolish the slave trade. May we remember the horrors and atrocities of the past, and work towards a better future.

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