21 August 2023

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (85) 21 August 2023

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

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and this week began with the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XI, 20 August 2023).

Before this day begins (21 August 2023), I am taking some time this morning for prayer, reading and reflection.

In recent weeks, I have been reflecting on the churches in Tamworth. Throughout this week and last week, I am reflecting each morning in these ways:

1, Looking at a church in Lichfield;

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

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

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

Wade Street Church, Lichfield:

I spoke in Wade Street Church four 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, and grew into the United Reformed Church in Wade Street, which is now both a United Reformed church 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 Congregational 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 Congregational 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 preaching 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 were 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 Congregational 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, the minister of Wade Street Church, an Ecumenical Canon of Lichfield Cathedral, and the Mayor’s Chaplain in Lichfield, retired in 2022. Sunday services are at 9 am and 11 am. 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)

Matthew 19: 16-21 (NRSVA):

16 Then someone came to him and said, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ 18 He said to him, ‘Which ones?’ And Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19 Honour your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ 20 The young man said to him, ‘I have kept all these; what do I still lack?’ 21 Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 22 When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

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

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 ‘Modern-Day Slavery Reflection – The Clewer Initiative.’ This theme was introduced yesterday.

For more resources: www.theclewerinitiative.org

The USPG Prayer Diary today (21 August 2023, International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism) invites us to pray in these words:

Pray for comfort for all people who have been affected by acts of terrorism.

The Collect:

O God, you declare your almighty power
most chiefly in showing mercy and pity:
mercifully grant to us such a measure of your grace,
that we, running the way of your commandments,
may receive your gracious promises,
and be made partakers of your heavenly treasure;
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.

The Post Communion Prayer:

Lord of all mercy,
we your faithful people have celebrated that one true sacrifice
which takes away our sins and brings pardon and peace:
by our communion
keep us firm on the foundation of the gospel
and preserve us from all sin;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ian retired in 2022. New minister incoming soon!