15 June 2023

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (18) 15 June 2023

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Shanghai … designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and reopened last December (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The First Sunday after Trinity was celebrated on Sunday (11 June 2023). The Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship today remembers Evelyn Underhill (1941), Spiritual Writer, 1941.

Before this day begins, I am taking some time this morning for prayer, reading and reflection.

Over these weeks after Trinity Sunday, I am reflecting each morning in these ways:

1, Looking at relevant images or stained glass window in a church, chapel or cathedral I know;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Worshippers at the reopening of Holy Trinity Cathedral, Shanghai, on 12 December 2022 (Photograph: China Christian Daily)
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Shanghai:

Holy Trinity Church, Shanghai is the former Anglican church in the Huangpu District of Shanghai, and the oldest such cathedral in China. It was designed in the Gothic Revival style by the architect Sir George Gilbert Scott and was consecrated in 1869.

A Scottish merchant in Shanghai, Thomas Chaye Beale of Dent & Co bought and donated the current site as a gift to the church. The first church on the site was of poor quality, and the roof collapsed after intense rainfall, on 24 June 1850.

Holy Trinity Cathedral was designed in the Gothic revival style by Sir George Gilbert Scott. The foundation stone was laid on 24 May 1866 and the church opened on 1 August 1869.

Holy Trinity Cathedral is known to local people as ‘the red church’ and is built in red brick with neo-Gothic detailing. Scott was commissioned to draw plans for the church as a replacement for the older timber-built church and to serve the growing Christian community in Shanghai.

Scott’s resulting design is spectacular and one of Scott’s masterpieces. At the time, the church had a nave, two transepts, two aisles and a chancel, each element fashioned in the Gothic style.

Holy Trinity is oriented liturgically towards Jerusalem to the west. The colonnades are carved from stone and the red exterior brickwork is perfectly laid out. Red brickwork is a primary theme throughout the building, with even the architraves on the façade being made from red brick.

Because of budgetary constraints, the original design was modified by William Kidner (1841-1900), one of Scott’s junior architects, who scaled down the extravagance of the original plans but planning to accommodate a growing congregation.

A spire was added to the original tower in 1901. The organ by JW Walker & Sons of London was installed in 1914, and was then the largest organ in Asia.

Bishop William Armstrong Russell (1821-1879) became the first Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of North China in 1872, and Holy Trinity became his cathedral. William Russell was a son of Marcus Carew Russell of Ballydavid House, Littleton, Co Tipperary. He was educated at Midleton College, Co Cork, and Trinity College, Dublin. He was ordained in 1847 and went to China as a missionary that year.

Russell was appointed the first missionary bishop of North China in November 1872, and was consecrated in Westminster Abbey on 15 December. He died at Shanghai on 5 October 1879.

The Diocese of North China was based in Holy Trinity Cathedral from 1875 and in 1912 it became part of the Anglican Church in China, known as Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui (CHSKH, or the Holy Catholic Church in China).

The boys’ school attached to the cathedral was built in 1928. The pupils included the author JG Ballard, and it features in his novel Empire of the Sun.

Like Russell, the last two missionary bishops based in Shanghai were Irish-born. Herbert James Molony (1865-1939) was born in Dublin, and educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He became the Bishop of Chekiang in 1907. A year later, the name and boundaries of his diocese were changed and he became Bishop of Zhejiang (Chekiang). The diocese included Hangzhou (Hangchow) and Ningbo (Ningpo), and Holy Trinity Cathedral, Shanghai, became the cathedral of the Diocese of Zhejiang. He retired to England in 1937, and died in 1939.

John Curtis (1880-1962) was born in Dublin and educated at Trinity College, Dublin. He was a curate at Christ Church, Leeson Park, Dublin and then an army chaplain in Thessaloniki. He was Bishop of Zhejiang in 1929-1949. He retired to England in 1957 and died in 1962.

The last Bishop of Zhejiang was KH Ting, Ting Kuang-hsun or Ding Guangxun (1915-2012), from 1955. He was the last surviving Anglican bishop in China, and when he died he was chairperson emeritus of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and president emeritus of the China Christian Council.

The Anglican Church in China was forcibly amalgamated in 1958 with other churches in the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) and the China Christian Council (CCC).

The cathedral spire was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, the church was confiscated by the Huangpu District authorities and it was converted into a cinema. A stage was installed in the chancel, a second floor and sloping floor were introduced and the brickwork was covered by plaster and painted. The cathedral was later used as police offices and the exit visa bureau in Shanghai.

The church fell into disrepair over time, but the church complex was handed over to the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the China Christian Council as its headquarters in 2004. When I visited Shanghai, the former cinema seats were still in place. I visited the offices too, and I bought a full set of stoles in liturgical colours in the Amity shop.

The cathedral was restored by Zhang Ming Architectural Design Firm, carved teak pews were provided by a furniture factory in Zhejiang province.

Holy Trinity Cathedral Shanghai received a ‘Religious Venue Registration Certificate’ on 6 January 2022, and reopened to the public on 12 December 2022 after renovations. After being closed for 56 years, it is open once again, serving as a church.

The Protestant ‘National Lianghui’ office in Shanghai (Photograph: Flsxx/Wikipedia)

Matthew 5: 20-26 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 20 ‘For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

21 ‘You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” 22 But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.’

Holy Trinity Cathedral in Shanghai during reconstruction and redecoration (Photograph: Grafiti - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, wikimedia)

Today’s Prayer:

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Opening the World for Children through Learning.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday.

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (15 June 2023) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for the Church of Ceylon and for the long and cherished relationship that USPG hold with them. May it continue to flourish in the future.

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Shanghai, is one of Sir George Gilbert Scott’s masterpieces (Photograph: GilbertScott.org / ‘The Scott Dynasty’)


O God,
the strength of all those who put their trust in you,
mercifully accept our prayers
and, because through the weakness of our mortal nature
we can do no good thing without you,
grant us the help of your grace,
that in the keeping of your commandments
we may please you both in will and deed;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Eternal Father,
we thank you for nourishing us
with these heavenly gifts:
may our communion strengthen us in faith,
build us up in hope,
and make us grow in love;
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

A stole bought in the Amity shop at Holy Trinity Cathedral, Shanghai (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

No comments: