30 June 2014

John Hughes, Dean of Jesus College,
dies in car crash near Cambridge

John Hughes, Dean of Chapel at Jesus College, Cambridge, died in a car crash on Monday evening

Patrick Comerford

I have been saddened tonight to learn of the death of the Dean of chapel at Jesus College, Cambridge, the Rev Dr John Hughes, who was driving his car when it was involved in a crash near Melbourn, outside Cambridge, late yesterday [Sunday, 29 June 2014].

I first met Dr Hughes (35) in Cambridge three years ago when he lectured in Sidney Sussex College in 2011 as part of the summer school programme organised by the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies. He also lectured in philosophy, ethics and social thought in the Faculty of Divinity in Cambridge.

The Master of Jesus College, Professor Ian White, said: “The loss of John Hughes is acutely felt as the life of the college was greatly enriched by him. A former undergraduate of the college, he was both an outstanding academic who inspired the students he taught, and a faithful priest and pastor who touched profoundly all those with whom he came into contact. He will be deeply missed.”

Dr Hughes’s car, which had been travelling northbound, was thought to have been badly damaged by fire immediately after the crash. A passenger in his car, a 36-year-old woman from Cambridge, suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries. A second person, a 22-year-old man from Cambridge, had minor injuries.

The only person in the other car, a 67-year-old man, has suffered slight injuries.

Among those who have been paying tribute to Dr Hughes this evening are the MP for Cambridge, Dr Julian Huppert, who said: “I had the great pleasure of knowing John for many years, and enjoying a number of holidays with him. He was an incredibly thoughtful and caring person, and still managed to be great fun.”

He added: “Many of us watched how well he was doing in the Church, and expected him to rise even higher. Now alas we will never know. My heart goes out to his family and friends, and to those who worked with him at Jesus College and Exeter. He is a great loss.”

Tributes are also flooding in to Dr Hughes on his Facebook page and to the Facebook page of Jesus College.

Jana Howlett says: “John was a born pastor: enquiring, understanding, compassionate. He communicated this, as well as his enormous enjoyment of life, to all who met him. This is such a shock to all of us who knew him and worked with him.”

Tom Bradshaw says: “The premature death of a person as kind, thoughtful, intelligent, modest and warm as John is hugely sad and I am deeply shocked.”

John John was a student at Westcott House from 2001 to 2005. During that time he completed his PhD at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. After studying theology in Cambridge under Professor Janet Soskice and in Oxford under Professor Oliver O’Donovan, he completed his PhD on ‘Theologies of Work’ with Dr Catherine Pickstock and Dr Jeremy Morris, published as The End of Work (Blackwell: 2007). He became a curate in the Diocese of Exeter on leaving Westcott, and he returned to Cambridge in 2009, first as Chaplain in Jesus College and then as Dean of Chapel.

He taught philosophy and ethics, with a particular interest in aesthetics and political thought. He published a paper on the Russian theologian Sergei Bulgakov in Sobornost, and he contributed a chapter in a recent volume on the Crisis of Global Capitalism. He was also working on a project on the role of divine ideas in the doctrine of creation.

At the summer school in Sidney Sussex College in 2011, he said the global financial crisis has brought about a questioning of dominant neo-liberalism, and has raised theological questions about the ultimate ends of the economy. He was speaking on the topic: “Beyond the Secular Market: Christian Social Teaching and the Economic Crisis.”

Dr Hughes has beenpart of the Radical Orthodoxy movement, which is rooted in the Cambridge theological tradition, and provides a critique of the violence of secular social theories. Its main figures include John Milbank, Catherine Pickstock and Graham Ward.

Dr Hughes argued that morning that the free market has long been bound up with secularism, and he set out how Christian theology has responded to this, arguing that the markets need morals.

The market was once seen as the answer to everything and, until the recent crisis, the market was untouchable and went unquestioned. But the crisis has seen a widespread rejection of the myth of a morally neutral free market and of the neoliberal utilitarian fantasy.

Since 2008-2009, it has been recognised that the market is not an end in itself, and a new consensus has emerged, he told us.

Prior to the 2009 summit, Gordon Brown spoke in Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London, about a society that is free but not laissez faire, pointing out that markets cannot self-regulate but can self-destruct. About the same time, David Cameron had spoken in Davos in 2009 about markets without morality, and capitalism without a conscience, saying the markets are a means to an end and not an end in themselves. Cameron had argued that we need to shape capitalism to suit needs of society.

Looking at the significance of this language, Dr Hughes said the politics of virtue may be on the rise, and that questions that ask what the market is for are quasi-theological questions.

The market is fundamentally cultural, therefore we did not have to end up here. The present crisis was not a natural happening, but was due to specific, ideological decisions, he said.

The tower in the chapel in Jesus College, Cambridge ... the Revd Dr John Hughes of Jesus College died in a car crash near Cambridge this evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Corrected: 2 July 2014, with additional details.

Listening to tongue-twisters as sports
commentators wrestle with Greek names

Thanks for the journey … but which commentators get tongue-tied on your names?

Patrick Comerford

I once had a working colleague who was of Greek descent and whose surname was Franceskides. It is a well-known Greek family name in both Greece and Cyprus, but it was interesting to hear her pronounce it in a very English way, like Francisk-eye-days.

I am reminded of this pronunciation every time I hear Dot Cotton trying, but failing, constantly, to name Andonis Papadopolous, the unseen Greek owner of the laundrette in EastEnders.

In a long-running joke, Dot has difficulty pronouncing this ordinary Greek surname, and for much of the soap opera’s history he has been referred to as Mr Oppodopolus, Oppydoppy, or varying other mispronunciations.

But, until Greece was defeated by Costa Rica in the penalty shoot-out last night, television commentators have had equal difficulty in pronouncing the names of the Greek squad in the World Cup.

In particular, midfielder Lazaros Christodoulopoulos (Λάζαρος Χριστοδουλόπουλος) managed to trip them up constantly, although he is well-known in Western Europe and plays for Bologna in italy.

So too with the defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Σωκράτης Παπασταθόπουλος), who scored last night’s late equaliser for Greece. But he too should be well known as he plays as a centre back for the German Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund.

Striker Kostas Mitroglou (Κωνσταντίνος Μήτρογλου) may have found a little more recognition because he plays for Fulham. But I wonder how many commentators also realised that his surname indicates some Turkish ancestry on his father’s side of the family.

Trying to tell Samaras from Samaris and Samaris

And there were constant difficulties in distinguishing the surnames of the Olympiakos and Greek central midfielder Andreas Samaris (Ανδρέας Σάμαρης) and the winger/striker Georgios Samaras (Γεώργιος Σαμαράς), from Iraklion in Crete, who also plays for Celtic in Scotland. Neither player should be confused with the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (Αντώνης Σαμαράς).

There is no reason for Greek surnames to become tongue twisters for football commentators. They can be broken down into simple parts, and often illustrate the colourful diversity of Greek family stories and backgrounds. How sweet to have a goalkeeper whose surname is Glykós (Γλυκός), meaning “sweet.”

Most Greek surnames are patronymics, indicating descent from an ancestor with a well-known given name. Other surnames are derived from an ancestor’s occupation, or characteristic, and in some cases they indicate a place of origin. So, there is very little difference between the way surnames have been formed in Greece and how they have been formed in England or in Ireland.

Because of their codification in the modern Hellenic state, surnames have formal Greek or Καθαρεύουσα (katharevousa) forms, although katharevousa was abolished as the official standard language in Greece in 1981 by the government of Andreas Papandreou.

For example, the ancient Greek name Eleutherios (Ελευθέριος, the “Liberator”) forms the modern Greek proper name Lefteris (Λευτέρης).

In the past, it was a common practice to prefix the surname to the proper name, so that someone called Manolis Xrysakis was known as Xrysakis Manolis. Modern practice is to call the same person Giannis Eleftheriou (Γιάννης Ελευθερίου).

You can see here that the proper name is vernacular (and not Ioannis, Ιωάννης), but the surname is an archaic genitive.

The Greek squad … but can northern European commentators pronounce their sfmily names?

Some Greek surnames have the prefixed with Papa- (Παπα-), indicating descent from a priest. So in the case of the late Andreas Papandreou (Ανδρέας Παπανδρέου), his surname indicates descent from a priest named Father Andrew. The defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos was one of the tongue-twisters in Brazil these past few weeks.

Prefixes such as Archi- and Mastro- signify “boss” and “tradesman” respectively. Christos Archontidis (Χρήστος Αρχοντίδης) is a well-known Greek player/manager.

Prefixes such as Konto-, Makro- or Chondro-, describe physical features, such as “short,” “tall/long” or “fat” – although no-one playing this year’s World Cup squad seems to have had ancestors with these appearances.

The prefixes Gero- and Palaio- signify “old” or “wise.”

The prefix Hadji- indicates an honorific imitating the Turkish hadj or pilgrimage, and so tells us this family is descended from someone who made a pilgrimage, but in the case of Greeks this is a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and not to Mecca.

The prefix Kara- is attributed to the Turkish word for “black” and dates back to the Ottoman era. An example of this type of surname is provided by the Greek captain, Giorgos Karagounis (Γιώργος Καραγκούνης).

Many Greeks also have surnames that indicate descendent from the Arvanite people in northern Greece, who originally spoke a language close to Albanian dialects. For example, çanavar is the word in Arvanitika for “brave” or παλληκάρη (pallikári) in Greek. The original Turkish word canavar means “monster”). In its shortened form çavar it was pronounced tzanavar or tzavar, giving rise to Greek family names such as Tzanavaras and Tzavaras. This may explain the origin of the surname of Georgios Tzavellas (Γεώργιος Τζαβέλλας), who plays at left back or centre back for PAOK and the Greek national team.

The tags at the end of Greek surnames, or suffixes, are usually diminutives and they vary by region, so they often give clues to a person’s regional ancestry. These Greek suffixes include:

-akis (-άκης): associated primarily with Crete and the Aegean Islands. The writer Nikos Kazantzakis (Νίκος Καζαντζάκης), the former New Democracy Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis (Κωνσταντίνος Μητσοτάκης) and the composer Mikis Theodorakis (Μίκης Θεοδωράκης) are all from Crete.

-as (-ᾶς): from Macedonia and the Epirus. Examples may include defender Kostas Manolas (Κώστας Μανωλάς), ho also plays for Olympiakos; defender Vangelis Moras ( Βαγγέλης Μόρας), who plays in Italy as a centre back for the Serie A club Hellas Verona; and the unusually-named German-born José Lloyd Cholebas (Χοσέ Λόυντ Χολέβας), who was born in Germany and plays for Olympiakos and Greece.

-atos (-ᾶτος): often indicates a family with origins in Kephalonia. The suffix is of Italian derivation, and is traced to the Veneto region, where it is found as -ato. Kephalonia, the island featured in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, was a Venetian possession for almost 500 years.

-elis (-έλης) and -ilis (-ιλής) are probably suffixes from Anatolia, and they were found throughout western Anatolia and on the islands of Mytilini, Lemnos and Imbros. The winger and striker Nikolaos Karelis (Νικόλαος Καρέλης), who plays for Panathinaikos, is from Iraklion in Crete.

-allis (-άλλης) and -ellis (-έλλης) are both suffixes deriving especially from the Dodecanese, mainly the island of Rhodes.

-idis, -ides, -iadis and -iades (-ίδης, -ιάδης): are parts of very ancient last names and clan forms used in the Pontic Alps region and among Pontic Greeks from other parts of north-east Anatolia. These suffixes are also found among including Caucasus Greeks from Georgia, and other parts of former southern Russia.

Vasilis Torosidis (Βασίλης Τοροσίδης) plays for Greece and the Italian Serie A club Roma. The Greek winger Giannis Fetfatzidis (Ιωάννης Φετφατζίδης) also plays for Genoa. Midfielder Panagiotis Tachtsidis (Παναγιώτης Ταχτσίδης) plays for Greece and for the Italian Serie A club Torino. Winger/striker Dimitris Salpingidis (Δημήτρης Σαλπιγγίδης) plays for PAOK in Thessaloniki and for the Greek team.

-opoulos (-όπουλος) is a suffix that means “descendant of.” It is first used in the Peloponnese in the 10th century, but has since become widespread throughout Greece. I know someone who once mused about opening a small shop in a resort town in Crete and calling it “Shoptilyoudropoulos.” As well as Dot Cotton’s mispronounced boss Andonis Papadopolous, examples in this year’s World Cup squad include Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Lazaros Christodoulopoulos.

-oglou (-όγλου): this suffix has roots in Turkish, in which -oğlu indicates “son of.” This ending is found in the surnames of people whose ancestors were immigrants from Asia Minor or Turkish speakers in the Dodecanese or northern Greece. Examples include striker Kostas Mitroglou (Κωνσταντίνος Μήτρογλου), who came on as a sub last night and who plays for Fulham.

-ou (-ου): this genitive, when it is used in a male surname, is found mainly in Cyprus. Surnames in the present Cypriot cabinet include Emilianidou, Nicolaou, Panayiotou and Lambrianidou. Before the World Cup, Christos Mastrou, Panos Constantinou, Giorgos Loizou, Charis Kyriakou, Marios Stylianou, Nicholas Ioannou, Marios Nicolaou, Giorgos Vasiliou, Pieros Sotiriou and Andreas Papathanasiou were all called up for the friendly match Cyprus played against Japan last month [27 May 2014].

-akos (-ᾶκος): this is mainly from Laconia, and particularly the Laconian area in the Mani peninsula. The winger Dimitris Saravakos (Δημήτρης Σαραβάκος), known as O Μικρός (“The Kid”), is one of the best Greek players of all time. He played for Panionios, Panathinaikos FC, and AEK Athens in the 1980s and 1990s, and captained Greece in the 1994 World Cup. He is now a strategic adviser for Panathinaikos.

-eas (-εας): like -akos, this suffix is also associated with the Mani peninsula, and mainly with the Messenian area. Anelos Charisteas (Άγγελος Χαριστέας) played a crucial role when Greece won the UEFA Euro 2004, scoring three vital goals – including the winning goal against Portugal in the final.

-tis and -otis (-της, -ώτης) mean “of” a place, indicated where someone’s ancestors come from. Defender Giannis Maniatis (Γιάννης Μανιάτης), who plays for Olympiakos, may have ancestors from the Mani peninsula.

-tzis, -tsis (-τζής, -τσής) and the feminine -tzi, -tsi (-τζή, -τσή) are of Turkish origin and signify an occupation, trade or profession. It could be compared to the ending -er in English occupational surnames such as Butcher, Baker and Thatcher.

-lis (-λής) is another suffix of Turkish origin, found among Greek people whose families were forced to leave Anatolia. Alexandros Tziolis (Αλέξανδρος Τζιόλης) in the Greek squad is from Katerini in Macedonia, northern Greece, and plays for PAOK.

Greek surnames may also indicate distant ethnic origins. For example, Frangopoulos (Φραγκόπουλος) means “Son of a Frank” – in this case and in the case of Franceskides, Frank means a Crusader, or even a Roman Catholic. Persopoulos (Περσόπουλος) means “Son of a Persian,” Servopoulos (Σερβόπουλος) means “Son of a Serb,” and Voulgaropoulos (Βουλγαρόπουλος) means “Son of a Bulgar.”

What happens with women’s surnames? Generally they are found in the katharevousa genitive case of a male name. The feminine version of Greek surnames is generally the genitive of the woman’s father’s name or her husband’s name – for example Mr Yannatos and Mrs Yannatou – which can cause confusion and difficulties when it comes to some popular Cypriot surnames.

This is an innovation in modern Greece. However, the Byzantine practice was to form a feminine counterpart of the male surname. For example, we find the Byzantine male Palaiológos (Παλαιολόγος), the Byzantine feminine Palaiologína (Παλαιολογίνα), but the modern feminine Palaiológou (Παλαιολόγου).

In the past, women would change their surname when they married to their husbands’ surname, but using the genitive case. This signified the transfer of “dependence” from the father to the husband. Today however, most Greek women do not change their surname when they get married, although some women sometimes use their husbands’ surname socially.

And just to cause confusion, as Greece exits gracefully from Brazil 2014, there is a Greek sports player called Costas Rigas (Κώστας Ρήγας) – he is a retired Greek professional basketball player, and a former professional basketball referee who turned 70 this year.

27 June 2014

Swans on the lake at Farmeligh and
opera by the mill pond in Dundrum

Opera by the Mill Pond ... Donizetti’s ‘L’Elisir d’Amore’ in Dundrum Town Centre (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

It was quite by accident that I came across today’s “Opera by the Mill Pond” at Dundrum Town Centre this evening [27 June 2014].

At the end of a busy working day, it was surprising how many shoppers, commuters and workers took an air to sit out in the open and enjoy the abridge presentation of Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore (The Elixir of Love).

This is a melodramma giocoso in two acts by the Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848), with an Italian libretto by Felice Romani. It had its premiere in Milan in 1832, and has since become one of the most frequently performed of Donizetti’s operas. It is best known for the plaintive aria Una furtiva lagrima (A furtive tear) – sung by Nemorino in Act II, Scene 2 – one of the most famous and often-recited arias in all of opera.

Other noted arias include: Quanto è bella, quanto è cara (How beautiful she is), sung by Nemorino in Act I, Scene 1; Come Paride vezzoso (Just as the charming Paris), by Sergeant Belcore in Act I, Scene 1; Della crudele Isotta (Of the cruel Iseult), by Adina in Act I, Scene 1; Udite, udite, o rustici (Listen, listen, o peasants), by Dr Dulcamara in Act I, Scene 2; and Prendi, per me sei libero (Take it, I have freed you), sung Adina in Act II, Scene 2.

The main characters in L’elisir d’amore are: Adina, a beautiful, a young, rich land-owning woman (soprano, Sandra Oman); Nemorino, a poor peasant farmer who falls in love with Adina (tenor, whose name was not on the programme); Sergeant Belcore, an over-confident and brash soldier (baritone, Simon Morgan); Dr Dulcamara, a travelling quack (basso buffo, Stephen Fennelly); and Giannetta, a village girl (soprano) – although Giannetta was absent from this evening’s performance.

David Wray was the musical director, and Eoin Cannon was in charge of stage direction.

This comic opera, which is part of the programme for this year’s Dundrum Arts and Cultural Festival, which ends on Sunday [29 June 2014].

The two-act opera is set in a small Italian village in the early 19th century, and opens with Nemorino and the other farm workers listening to Adina telling the story of Tristan and Isolde, and their love potion. Nemorino knows that it is impossible to be in love with such a beautiful and smart woman. The self-important Sergeant Belcore arrives with his regiment and is smitten by Adina’s beauty. He gives her a flower and proposes to her in front of everyone, asking her to marry him at once.

The travelling quack salesman, Dr Dulcamara, who claims encyclopaedic knowledge, arrives in the town, peddling his bottles of potions. Nemorino remembers the story of Tristan and Isolde, and innocently asks Dulcamara if he has anything like Iseult’s love potion. Dulcamara claims he has the Elixir of Love – the potion that gives this opera its name. He says it will work within 24 hours, and sells Nemorino a bottle at a price matching all that Nemorino has in his pockets. Unknown to Nemorino, the bottle only contains cheap wine. Nemorino drinks the bottle and in his drunken state grows in confidence.

Emboldened by the “elixir,” he meets Adina. She teases him mercilessly, but not so much that in the audience we cannot catch a hint that the attraction might be mutual, despite her plans to marry the pompous sergeant in six days’ time. Nemorino still believes that he can win Adina’s love tomorrow because of the elixir, and so acts indifferently towards her.

An upset Adina is upset not only tries to hide her feelings, but ups the stakes by agreeing to marry Belcore immediately after the sergeant receives orders to join his regiment the next morning. However, Adina and Belcore notice Nemorino’s reaction to this news – the Sergeant resents this reaction, while Adina is filled with despair. Nemorino panics and cries out for Dr Dulcamara to come to his aid.

Act 2 opens with Adina’s wedding reception in full swing outdoors. Dr Dulcamara sings a song with Adina to entertain the guests. When the notary arrives to officiate, Adina is sad that Nemorino has not turned up. As everyone goes in to sign the wedding contract, Dulcamara stays outside, helping himself to food and drink.

When Nemorino arrives and sees the notary, he believes he has lost Adina. Frantically, he begs Dulcamara for more of his elixir, but this time wants a potion that works immediately. However, the desperate Nemorino is penniless and the doctor refuses, making his way inside. Belcore emerges on his own, wondering aloud why Adina has suddenly put off the signing their wedding contract. He asks Nemorino why he is feeling down. Nemorino says he has no money, and Belcore suggests that if he joins the army he can pay him immediately.

When Nemorino signs up, he gets cash on the spot from Belcore. Nemorino now thinks he can buy more of the elixir of love from Dulcamara, while Belcore thinks he is about to send his rival off to war. After drinking the second bottle of wine, the village girls begin to swarm around him. They have heard the news – which Nemorino has not yet heard – that his rich uncle has died, leaving him with a large inheritance.

Poor Nemorino is the worse for the weather having spent the cash he received from Belcore on more wine, deluded into believing that it is the “Elixir of Love.” In his drunken state, he thinks he is the object of the affections of the village women, not because of his inheritance but because of this second bottle of elixir.

When Adina sees Nemorino in such a jolly mood, she asks Dulcamara what has happened. The quack-doctor is not aware that Nemorino has fallen in love with Adina, and so he tells her the story of how the poor man is smitten, has spent his last penny on the elixir, and has signed his life away, joining the army to get more money, so desperate is he to win the love of some unnamed cruel woman.

At last, Nemorino’s sincerity dawns on Adina and regrets teasing him. She realises she has fallen in love with him, and is taken by the sincerity of his love. For his part, Dulcamara thinks her behaviour is some sort of condition that needs to be cured with one of his potions.

Nemorino appears alone and recalls a solitary a tear he saw in Adina’s eye when he was ignoring her earlier – the tear that gives the title to the plaintive aria he now sings, Una furtiva lagrima (A furtive tear). This received the greatest applause from this evening’s open-air audience in Dundrum – and, of course, he is now convinced that Adina loves him.

Adina returns and asks why he has signed up for the army and is leaving. Nemorino tells her he wants a better life. Adina tells him he is loved, and that she has bought out his military contract. She offers him the redeemed contract, telling him he is free and that if he stays in town he will no longer be sad.

Nemorino takes the contract but as Adina turns to leave Nemorino thinks she is abandoning him and says that if he is not loved, if the elixir has not worked, if the doctor has fooled him, he might as well go anyway and die a soldier. Adina stops him and confesses that she loves him. Nemorino is ecstatic. When Adina begs him to forgive her for teasing him, they kiss and embrace.

Belcore returns to find the two in an embrace. Adina explains her love for Nemorino to a disdainful sergeant, who tells her there are plenty of other women in the world. Seeing his opportunity, Dr Dulcamara offers to provide the elixir for the sergeant’s next conquest. Everyone agrees the elixir has worked and they bid a fond farewell to the doctor.

Donizetti’s ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ from ‘L’elisir d’amore’ is immediately recognisable (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Alongside Bellini and Rossini, Donizetti (1797-1848) is one of the leading composers of bel canto opera. His most famous opera is Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), yet his most immediately recognisable work is this evening’s aria Una furtiva lagrima from L’elisir d’amore (1832).

Seven years ago in 2007, while staying near Venice, I visited his grave in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo, and I was moved by the sad life this composer lived, despite the great love stories in his operas.

When L’elisir d’amore was first staged in 1832, it was deemed one of the masterpieces of the comic opera. After the success of Lucrezia Borgia (1833) boosted his reputation, Donizetti followed both Rossini and Bellini to Paris. But he soon returned to Naples to produce his masterpiece, Lucia di Lammermoor, based on Sir Walter Scott’s novel, The Bride of Lammermoor. This became his most famous opera, and one of the high points of the bel canto tradition, alongside Bellini’s Norma.

In 1838, Donizetti returned to Paris after the Italian censor objected to the production of Poliuto on the grounds that such a sacred subject was inappropriate for the stage. In Paris, he wrote La fille du regiment, which became another success.

More fame came with Don Pasquale in 1843. But by then Donizetti was showing signs of syphilis and what we now know as bipolar disorder. After being institutionalised in 1845, he was sent to Paris, where he was taken care of by his friends, including Verdi. But, after several years of insanity, his friends eventually sent him home to Bergamo, where he died in 1848.

To add to this tragic tale, Donizetti and his wife Virginia Vasselli had three children, but none of them survived and she died tragically from cholera. Donizetti’s body was later moved to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo, where he was buried close to his former teacher, Father Johann Simon Mayr.

The restored Victorian glasshouse at Farmeligh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Earlier in the afternoon, two of us visited Farmleigh, the state guest house beside the Phoenix Park, just in time for the last guided tour of the former palatial residence of the Earls of Iveagh and their branch of the Guinness family.

The house retains much of its original interior decoration including portraits by Sir William Orpen and Sir Joshua Reynolds, and stucco ceilings decorated by the Stapleton brothers.

As part of the guided tour of the house we also saw the current exhibition, Seán O’Casey: A Rebel Playwright with a Cause, exploring the themes of rebellion and conflict that permeate Seán O’Casey’s life and work, from his involvement in the 1913 Lockout and Strike, the Dublin Trilogy, his politically-charged masterpiece, his conflicts with the Abbey Theatre, and controversies involving the Roman Catholic Church.

The exhibits are drawn from the Benjamin Iveagh Library at Farmleigh and include O’Casey’s printed works and correspondence from the papers of the former the Abbey Theatre director, Lennox Robinson.

Estonian jewellery from the exhibition ‘Rethinking The Everyday’ in Farmleigh Gallery ... the exhibition continues until 20 July (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Before the guided tour of the house, we paid a brief visit to ‘Rethinking The Everyday,’ an exhibition of Estonian contemporary jewellery and textiles in Farmleigh Gallery.

Later we had coffee (two double espressos) in the Boathouse, a delightful and welcoming café by the lake in the grounds of Farmleigh. I had promised myself a return after my first visit after last Christmas.

Although the coffee machines had been washed and the place was about to close for the day, they welcomed us in, and still made fresh coffee for us.

As they continued to clean up inside and unobtrusively, we sat on the deck outside, where we were joined by a friendly swan and a half dozen hungry ducks.

As we drove back through the Phoenix Park, a young deer jumped across our path. Our hearts were beating even before Donizetti invited us to taste the ‘Elixir of Love’ in Dundrum.

The Boathouse is a friendly and welcoming café beside the lake in the grounds of Farmeligh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

25 June 2014

Enjoying the Peace of Christ and
enjoying the sun at Christ’s Pieces

A tree-lined walk in Christ’s Pieces, Cambridge, this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

My own “typos” constantly prove I can never attain a claim to infallibility, so I am reluctant to point out the typing errors of others, and certainly would not want to do so in a way that would identify them publicly.

But, a few months ago I came across the peace in a service sheet in one parish that invited us to share the “Piece of Christ.”

On the other hand, there is a public park in the centre of Cambridge that is called Christ’s Pieces. This Victorian park is only a short walking distance from Sidney Sussex College, which I dropped into this afternoon [25 June 2014] on a detour through Cambridge, on my way from the annual conference of Us (formerly USPG) to Stansted Airport to catch the last flight back to Dublin.

Christ’s Pieces is to the east of Christ’s College, from which it takes its name, and to the north of Emmanuel College., and beside Drummer Street Bus Station, which is on the southern edge of Christ’s Piece near the south-west corner. There are tennis courts and a bowling green too, and the Christ’s Pieces Residents Association tries to maintain the character of the area.

In the Middle Ages, the area now known as Christ’s Piece was used for agriculture. A cereal crop is shown on a map from 1574, and later it became pasture land. At one point, the place formed part of the Barnwell Open Fields known as the Clayangles.

The 16th and 17th century paths include Pike’s Walk and Milton’s Walk. Milton’s Walk, which marks the boundary between Christ’s College and Christ’s Pieces, was once a mediaeval lane. In that map from1574, it is called “Christes Colledge Walke,” but the later name of Milton’s Walk honours the poet John Milton (1608-1674), who was once an undergraduate at Christ’s College.

By 1688, a diagonal path ran from the south-west corner to New Square. By the end of the 18th century, there was tree-planting along the boundary with Emmanuel Road. Further trees were in place along Pike’s Walk by 1830 and 1852.

With the passing of the Enclosure Act, the land passed to Jesus College. In 1886, the area was acquired from Jesus College by the Corporation of Cambridge for the sum of £1,000. The corporation drained the land, planted many more trees and a multitude of bulbs and laid out the park much as we see it today, although a planned artificial lake never materialised and the Victorian bandstand is long a thing of the past.

Today Christ’s Pieces is a pleasant space for students, workers and visitors to sit in peace away from the bustle of the city centre. Christ’s Pieces also plays an important role as a “green lung” in the heart of the city.

Before visiting Christ’s Pieces I spent some time in Waterstone’s Bookshop in Sidney Street, stopped off for light refreshment in Baroosh Bar in Market Passage, off Sidney Street, and dropped into Sidney Sussex College, where I have stayed each year since 2008.

Strolling through the heart of Cambridge in the summer sunshine this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

In between the three of these, as I was strolling along Sidney Street I bumped into Archbishop Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, who is now Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.

On a sunny afternoon, you just don’t know what to expect or who you are going to meet in Cambridge.

But in the meantime, may you enjoy the Peace of Christ, and my you be blessed by the Peace of Christ.

Outside Sidney Sussex College in Sidney Street, Cambridge, this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Bringing the love of Christ
even into the darkest places

Pointing the way forward ... a walk through the countryside at High Leigh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

The annual conference of Us (formerly USPG) came to an end at High Leigh at lunchtime today [25 June 2014] with a celebration of the Eucharist. Bishop Jacob Ayeebo from Ghana, one of the retiring trustees, presided and the preacher was the Chief Executive of Us, Ms Janette O’Neill.

Janette spoke movingly as she related the story of Christ’s healing of the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15: 21-28) with the plight of women who are the victims if gender-based violence, including the 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria, the woman stoned to death on the steps of a courthouse in Pakistan, teenage girls raped and hanged in India and women who are the victims of domestic violence in Zambia.

She spoke of the work of Us in challenging gender-based violence and bringing the love and light of Christ even into the darkest places.

Earlier in the morning we talked about fundraising, legacies and recruiting volunteers as part of carrying the vision of Us forward in the coming years and generations.

The directors of Us Ireland and Us Northern Ireland who are here also met briefly during the morning session to discuss our vision for future plans and projects.

The Revd Tim Harford, the newly-appointed Director of Fundraising and Communications, spoke about recruiting, training and enabling volunteers and the need for legacies,

.One new initiative is the Bray Circle, which replaces the 300 + Club, set up to mark the 300th anniversary of the foundation of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in 1701. This new initiative invites two levels of membership, with members pledging £300 or more a year, and patrons giving £1,200 a year or more.

Tim and Carrie Myers, the Volunteering Manager, emphasised the need for invitations to churches and parishes to talk about the work of Us.

Looking up at High Leigh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

24 June 2014

Saying farewell to old friends
and welcoming some new ones

At High Leigh during a coffee break at the Us conference today (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

At the end of a long day’s work at the annual conference of Us, the Council of Us held its annual meeting at the High Leigh Conference Centre near Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire.

I represent the Church of Ireland on the Council of Us (along with the Revd Lynne Gibson who cannot be at this year’s meeting). The other members of the Church of Ireland on Council include the Bishop of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory, the Right Revd Michael Burrows, who is a Trustee of the London-based parent body, Us (formerly USPG) and Jan de Bruijn, who is also a director of Us Ireland and Us Northern Ireland.

The Revd Dr Alan McCormack, who I once worked with closely in the Dublin University Far Eastern Mission, was here today as the Council member for the Diocese of London; Linda Chambers de Bruijn is here as a staff member of Us Ireland, and board members of Us Ireland here include the Revd Richard Bartlett, who is also a trustee of Us, and Mrs Yoshimi Gregory from the Diocese of St Albans.

We had financial matters, accounts, reports, and some constitutional matters to deal with this evening, as well as the appointment of auditors.

Among the new Vice-President we elected this evening are: the Revd Canon Edgar Ruddock, former Deputy General Secretary of Us/USPG; Bishop William Down; the Revd Brian Stevenson (Diocese of Rochester), and the Right Revd Mauricio José Araújo de Andrade, Primate of the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil It was a privilege to second their nominations.

We heard about the resignation of two trustees due to the pressure of work, the Right Revd Andrew Proud, Bishop of Reading, and the Ven Dr John Perumbalath, who has become Archdeacon of Barking in the Diocese of Chelmsford since the last residential meeting in High Leigh.

In addition, three trustees have completed their term of term of office: the Right Revd Dr Jacob Ayeebo, Bishop of Tamale, Ghana; the Right Revd Edward Malecdan, Prime Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines; and the Revd Dr Ian Rock, Principal of Codrington College, Barbados.

We elected a new trustee, the Revd Bunmi Fagbemi (Diocese of London), elected Mr Roger Hird to the Council, and said farewell to some former council members who are retiring.

Before the end of the day, the Revd Dr Andrew Wingate spoke about his excitement at recovering some paintings that he thought had been lost with the sale of the College of the Ascension in Birmingham, where he had once been Principal.

The conference continues tomorrow [Wednesday] morning, and concludes at noon with the Eucharist. Bishop Jacob Ayeebo, one of the retiring trustees, is presiding, and the preacher is the Chief Executive of Us, Ms Janette O’Neill.

Walking in the Hertfordshire countryside near High Leigh, outside Hoddesdon, this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

‘Here they confessed they were strangers and pilgrims,
And still they were seeking the city of God’

Reflections on the small lake in the grounds of High Leigh after the morning mist and clouds had lifted (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

Last night’s heavy rain left the countryside around Hoddesdon shrouded in a heavy mist when I awoke at 5 a.m. this morning and it was some hours before the sun broke though.

In the morning mist and dew, hares were hopping around on the lawn below my window and squirrels were bounding the boughs and branches of the trees. I had a walk in the grounds of High Leigh before today’s sessions of the annual conference of Us (formerly USPG).

The theme of this year’s conference is “Hearts, minds, hands, voices.” And this morning we heard heart-moving voices of Christians for whom inter-faith dialogue is a living reality.

We began the day at 7.30 with the Eucharist for the Feastday of the Birthday of Saint John the Baptist [24 June] celebrated by the Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf, the Right Revd Michael Lewis.

The clouds had lifted at last after breakfast, when the Revd Dr Samuel Packiam, Director of the Henry Martyn Institute in Hyderabad, India, led our Bible study. He is a priest in the Church of South India and has served on a high-level government committee on India’s large Muslim minority. At Bishop Michael’s suggestion, his Bible study focussed on Acts 17: 24-28.

Acts 17: 24-28

24 The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands,25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26 From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him – though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,

‘For we too are his offspring.’

Three attitudes to other faiths

Dr Packiam identified three ways Christians engaged in mission in the past have looked at people of other faiths:

1, Others as enemies of God;

2, Others as potential converts:

3, Others as holding to a primitive superstitions.

But, he said, Saint Paul’s attitude to the Athenians in his sermon at the Areopagus was to attack their sense of superiority and to tell them that all humanity is made by God and that God placed humanity throughout the whole earth.

He compared the attitude of those Atenians to Christians who see Christianity as a brand, like the phone we use, which iPad we use or how we dress.

Saint Paul speaks about the sovereignty of God and the unity of the whole human race. God is the author of diversity, and has a purpose for this diversity even when we may discriminate.

He asked us five questions to help us articulate a theology of religion in our plural world:

1,, How do we place the Bible among the Scriptures of other religions?

2, Where do we put God among other gods? (he pointed out that in India there are, perhaps, 33 million gods.)

3, Where do we put Jesus among other saviours?

4, Where do we put the Church among other communities of faith?

5, Where do we place the Kingdom of God among other kingdoms?

He might also have asked where we put Christian priests among the priests of other religions.
Too often, he suggested, religion is a dead body, whose breath is missing, like a golden cage from which the bird has flown. He said 99 per cent of people feel good about religion because it does not threaten them.

When religion is alive it possesses us, he said. But religion too often is a consolation rather than a revolution and rebellion.

The High Leigh Conference near Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire ... the venue for the Us conference (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

The Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf, the Right Revd Michael Lewis, spoke about his Province in the Anglican Communion, the Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East, which extends to three continents, Asia, Africa and Europe.

In that Church, Iran is the only diocese contained within a single country. But when one asks how many countries are in his diocese, it depends on how you count them: the United Arab Emirates is one unit on the international stage, but is seven different emirates, while Cyprus is divided de facto by a line of occupation. So, the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf is a diocese with nine or ten, perhaps even 15 or 16 countries, depending on how you count them.

He then spoke of what it is like to be an Anglican, or a Christian, in those countries, when many countries define themselves as Muslim, and said many people asked whether in the historic heartlands of Islam the Arabian Peninsula and along the Gulf, the word mission should be used and how the Church can reach out to the community or be a voice for justice.

He said he had suggested the passage for Bible study led by Dr Packiam’s Bible study because of its emphasis on the radical oneness of humanity, and its emphasis on the radical oneness of God in whom we live and move and have our being.

The radical oneness of humanity is important in his context, he said, identifying the danger for many Christians in parts of his diocese of living in a ghetto or a club, although Anglicans are often seen the “honest brokers” or “caretakers,” allowing other Christians to worship on their ground.

He said Acts 17 speaks of God as the God of everything and .of the radical oneness of God the Creator. Instead, he might have suggested Philippians 3: 20, where Saint Paul reminds us that our homeland is in heaven, or even two lines from William Henry Draper’s hymn, In our day of thanksgiving:

Yet here they confessed they were strangers and pilgrims,
And still they were seeking the city of God.

In his diocese, many Christians cannot be citizens of the country they live in. Although it is different in Iraq different and the situation in Cyprus mixed, this is true in most other countries, where they remain non-citizens.

The words used for them and by them include “expatriates” and “migrants.” Yet many of these people are committing huge amounts of their lives to those places. Many Indians have lived most of their lives in Abu Dhabi or Dubai or Kuwait, but their children are not citizens of the countries they live in and have to seek Indian citizenship.

He pointed out that the word “expatriate” usually implies those who are economically advantaged, while migrant is generally applied to those with low calibre, low status and low income jobs.

But, pointed out, that although a bishop he too is a migrant, in the same dilemma as an Indian domestic worker, say.

Yet, he said, the normative spiritual state for a Christian is to be a migrant, and our true citizenship is in heaven. Abraham’s story is about his becoming an expatriate migrant, and we remember Moses for travelling on and out so that he can travel back to God.

We are strangers and pilgrims, seeking the city of God, and this is our primary identity.

Looking at the countries in his diocese, he said there are several million Christians in Arabian peninsula and the Gulf. The residents in the Emirates, for example, include five-sixths who are not Emiratis, and a large proportion of these are Christians.

In Dubai, on a normal weekend in Holy Trinity Church, 32,500 Christians pass through the doors, and there are similar figures for Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Bahrain, and similar numbers for Roman Catholics.

The situation varies from country to country, and “persecution” is a word that should not be used lightly used, but should be restricted in use to state institutionalised persecution that is sanctioned by legislation.

He painted an image of a spectrum of experiences from Saudi Arabia, where there is complete denial that there are Christians there, to the problems in large parts of Iraq, where there is objective massive danger in Baghdad and Basra, to Oman, where the attitude is one of watchful, tolerant, friendly hospitality, although not open religious freedom.

Tolerance of Christianity comes in varying measure, and the openness to conversation and dialogue in many places raises questions about mission and evangelism and brings challenge to go beyond facile understandings of mission so that the words mission, evangelism and Gospel are not put not in a box and locked away but are lived out instead.

The opportunities for service are legion, and he cited examples from the areas of medicine and education. They, show radically that we one in our humanity, he said, and there is no need to be afraid of getting involved in any or all of that.

He spoke of the possibilities for great works of Christian witness for justice, such as speaking on behalf of workers who are victimised by their employers, or people needing repatriation. “The opportunities are there if imagination is given free rein,” he said.

He also spoke about the “tragic and appalling” situation in Syria, which had once been a safe haven for refugees in the Middle East, particularly for Christians from Iraq, many of whom are now trapped.

There are over two million refugees in Jordan and Lebanon, countries that are almost breaking under the strain. “It is a really dire situation ... but I don’t see the great powers of the world taking seriously the power of the arithmetic.”

Mission flows from the way we behave towards one another, he said, declaring: “To be frank, I am embarrassed by what is called Fortress Britain.”

A Pakistani family mourn over the death of relatives at the site of suicide attack on the All Saints Church in Peshawar … one of the images shared by Bishop ‘Mano’ Ramalshah this morning

Bishop Munawar (‘Mano’) Ramalshah from Pakistan, a former General Secretary of USPG, spoke of Dr Packiam “adding mystery to the divine,” and thanked Bishop Michael for redeeming the situation of Christians in the Middle East from images of persecution.

But he spoke with pain and emotion of the situation in Pakistan and of the cataclysmic tragedy that struck Christians there on 22 September 2013 with the attack on All Saints’ Church in Peshawar, which he said was the worst-ever communal attack in all time in Pakistan.

The church was built in the style of Islamic architecture, which was a very daring step in 1883, and nine newly-converted Christians were martyred on the day it was opened so that it could be said their blood of the martyrs became the foundation stone of the church.

In the attack last September, over 100 people were killed, over 150 people were injured in the attack, 16 children between four and 16 were orphaned, and 32 children lost the only earning member in their family. Two bodies found on top of the church. The youngest martyr was a child who was eight months in the womb.

He said he had baptised some of those people, married some of them, and now he had buried some of them.

He went on to say he had worn his pectoral cross throughout Pakistan, and sometimes feels more threatened when he is wearing it on the Underground in London. The only time he asked to remove at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. “No Taliban had ever pulled it from my neck,” he said.

The situation in Pakistan continues to be volatile and insecure in Pakistan, with a sharp rise in suicide attacks, and with the vast numbers of killings mow put at many thousands.

He said the creation of Pakistan was the first state whose definition was based on religion. He described this as an ignominious horrendous action to which all of us where party, and one that facilitated the creation of the state of Israel a year later. He called the creation of Pakistan as a state based on religion “a crime against humanity.”

As a Christian, he said, he does not have full rights of citizenship in the land of his birth when he has those rights in Britain, the land of his adoption.

He said the survival of Christianity in Pakistan is at stake: “We are being suffocated... our legal rights are being denied us.”

Yet, he said, Christians in Pakistan are “re-enacting God’s love as we have experienced in Jesus Christ ... This is the moment when we express who we are and what the Gospel is really about.

When asked about Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, who had once been his server, he said he was saddened that the former Bishop of Rochester had resigned and that he is now identified with Gafcon. He said Gafcon is a cancer destroying the Anglican Communion, and because of the Anglican Communion has sadly lost an angel like Archbishop Rowan Williams.

The attack on All Saints’ Church nurdered and maimed men, women and children … one of the images shared by Bishop ‘Mano’ this morning

A personal anniversary

Today marks the thirteenth anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. I was ordained priest on the Feastday of the Birthday of Saint John the Baptist, 24 June 2001, by Archbishop Walton Empey of Dublin in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, having been ordained deacon by him a ye¬¬ar earlier, on 25 June 2000.

It was moving today to realise I shared my priesthood with people who shared their experiences at the Us conference this morning.

And later in the day I found myself going over-and-over again the words of that hymn by William Henry Draper (1855-1933) that Bishop Michael had cited:

In our day of thanksgiving one psalm let us offer
For the saints who before us have found their reward;
When the shadow of death fell upon them, we sorrowed,
But now we rejoice that they rest in the Lord.

In the morning of life, and at noon, and at even,
He called them away from our worship below;
But not till his love, at the font and the altar,
Had girt them with grace for the way they should go.

These stones that have echoed their praises are holy,
And dear is the ground where their feet have once trod;
Yet here they confessed they were strangers and pilgrims,
And still they were seeking the city of God.

Sing praise, then, for all who here sought and here found him,
Whose journey is ended, whose perils are past;
They believed in the Light; and its glory is round them,
Where the clouds of earth’s sorrows are lifted at last.


Going barefoot and getting wet for
the sake of God’s love and friendship

Jeanette O’Neill, chief executive of Us, and Linda Chambers de Bruijn of Us Ireland with the new charter for Us (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

At the opening session of the Us (USPG) conference in High Leigh, Rachel Parry was talking about the problems climate change is bringing to the people of Bangladesh. And as Rachel was speaking this afternoon, the heavy clouds that have been hanging over these parts of Hertfordshire and Essex all day opened and started to rain down a heavy midsummer shower on the whole countryside.

It was an object lesson for all of us about the consequences of climate change.

We heard of the work of Us throughout these islands and throughout the world from a panel of speakers last night [Monday 23 June 2014], drawing on a wide variety of experiences.

Linda Chambers de Bruijn of Us in Ireland, who was a member of the panel, spoke of her work, including going barefoot for Holy Week.

“Why?” she was asked. “Could you not have done a sponsored silence?”

Her husband Jan promptly interjected from the floor: “No?”

Linda raising over €9,000 for the work Us in Ireland supports in Swaziland, where, she pointed out this evening, half the school-going children are without shoes.

Linda was then asked whether she was worried about losing face as walked barefooted through Dublin. “Dublin is such a diverse city with so many eccentrics, no-one even noticed,” she explained.

She told of how two rectors from the Church of Ireland, the Revd Andrew McCroskery and Canon Nigel Kirkpatrick, who are “priest bikers” are going to use their holiday time to spend the first 10 days of August visiting the 30 cathedrals in the Church of Ireland.

Their tour marks the 300th anniversary of Us in Ireland, founded in 1714 as the Irish Auxiliary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG).

Linda said exciting things are happening with Us in Ireland, but the biggest challenge is finance. People have great ideas and enthusiasm, “but the money doesn’t always follow.”

However, she said mission is about friendliness, building up relationships and trust. She spoke too of the rectory kitchen table as the heart of where the relationships are built up between Us in Ireland and local parishes.

Bishop Derek Kamumkwamba echoed these sentiments when he said mission is sharing the friendliness of God. God is love, and friendliness is part of God’s love.

Bishop Derek and his wife Evelyn spoke of their work in Zambia, where he is Bishop of Central Zambia and she is a teacher. She is in England on with the diocese’s companion link in the Diocese of Bath and Wells, but in Zambia she works in a community school in a shanty town that has no roads.

Bishop Derek was asked: “Who cares for the bishop?” He admitted this is challenging in Africa, where everyone looks to you as bishop. You are the fundraiser without a financial department, he explained, and it can be both challenging and frustrating when people come only with problems and not with their light moments.

Dr Elizabeth Taylor of the Diocese of Oxford talked about her recent work in Tanzania as an IT consultant, when she had only one holiday in seven years.

She told us (and Us) to listen to the local needs and work with them.

Canon Tony Barnard from the Diocese of Lichfield spoke of his diocese’s links with Malaysia and Mozambique, and also referred to his work at Erasmus Darwin House and museum in the Cathedral Close in Lichfield.

Others panel members and speakers earlier in the day spoke of their work in Belize, Brazil and India. It was like a World Cup of mission, with all the passion but without any of the conflict.

It was still raining when we that session finished with Compline late in the evening. But has not dampened the enthusiasm of anyone for what is ahead of us at the rest of this conference. I sat up to watch Brazil defeating Cameroon.

We begin the day at 7.30 this morning with the Eucharist celebrated by the Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf, the Right Revd Michael Lewis, who speaks later in the morning at Session 3. The other speakers this morning are the Revd Dr Samuel Packiam, Director of the Henry Martyn Institute in Hyderabad, India, and Bishop Munawar (‘Mano’) Ramalshah from Pakistan, a former Genereal Secretary of USPG.

The afternoon rains covered the countryside around High Leigh and continued into the late evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)


23 June 2014

Stopping off in Newport in Essex
and stepping back in time

Stepping back in time in Newport, Essex, this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

A place with a name like Newport sounds like somewhere by the sea or close to a beach. Think: Newport, on the road from Westport to Achill Island; Newport, Rhode Island; Newport on the Island of Wight; Newport, east of Cardiff, in South Wales; or perhaps even Newport Beach in California.

But there many places named Newport that are inland in England, including Newport near Telford in Shropshire, about 12 miles west of Stafford; Newport Pagnell, near Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire; Newport in Gloucestershire, between Bristol and Gloucester; and Newport in East Yorkshire.

This morning I found myself going for a walk in Newport in Essex. I have often noticed this pretty village from the train on my way to Cambridge, but never before have I taken time to visit this place.

In previous years when I have arrived for the Us (USPG) conference in High Leigh, Hoddesdon, I have spent extra time in Cambridge, or taken a walk though some of the towns in this part of Essex and East Anglia, including Hoddesdon, Saffron Walden and Bishop’s Stortford, photographing their churches and their timber-framed houses and pubs with pargetting and over-hanging jetties.

This is the charming countryside described lovingly by the late poet laureate John Betjeman:

The deepest Essex few explore
where thatch is sunk in flowers
and out of the elm and sycamore
rise flinty 15th century towers.

Newport in northern Essex is in a rural conservation area only five miles from Stansted Airport (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Newport, with a population about 2,500, is a large village in Essex, between Saffron Walden and Bishop’s Stortford, south of Cambridge and about 66 km (41 miles) north of London. It nestles in the arable fields of northern Essex, in a rural conservation area close to the borders of Essex and Cambridgeshire and about five miles from Stansted Airport.

Newport is the centre point of the long-distance path known as the Harcamlow Way, a figure-of-eight walk between Cambridge and Harlow. This means there is a large number of walks radiating from its centre, including walks towards Saffron Walden, the English Heritage property of Audley End House, or Prior Hall Barn in Widdington.

I caught a bus early this morning from Stansted Airport through the villages of Ugley (which is pretty) and Widdington, to Newport, and was transported back in time as I walked along its pretty High Street, and found myself taking turns here and there to see the old houses or to visit the local parish church.

There may have been a settlement named Wigingamere here when King Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great, was engaged in the reconquest of the Danelaw ca 917-921. But the earliest certain mention of the name Newport for this village appears in the Domesday Book in 1086. The name is thought to be of Anglo-Saxon origin, meaning “new town” or “new market,” rather than a modern-day seaport. “Port” was often a name for a market in Saxon times, and Newport once had a flourishing market.

The village grew and prospered until around 1300, but it declined soon after that. The market ceased and Newport was overtaken in importance by neighbouring Chipping Walden, now known as Saffron Walden.

Because Newport once had a large royal fish pond, it was also known as Newport Pond. But the pond had dried up by the 16th century and the name fell into disuse.

Newport Free Grammar School was founded by Dame Joyce Frankland in 1588 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Later in the 16th century, Newport Free Grammar School was founded by Dame Joyce Frankland in 1588. Hannah Woolley, the 17th century writer of books on cookery and household management, lived in Newport and was the wife of the schoolmaster around 1646.

King Charles II probably drove through the village on his way to Newmarket and the 17th century diarist Samuel Pepys visited a house in Newport, although it is not known which house he stayed in.

A remaining sign from the Toll Bridge in Newport (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

The main road through Newport was greatly improved with the creation of a turnpike trust in 1744, bringing new people and new trade to the village. This growth continued with the arrival of the railway in 1845.

Until recently the village had six large mixed farms, and the Enclosure Acts of the 18th century had no effect on the village. Newport was covered by the 1856 Enclosure Act, but it was not until 1861 that the last open fields were enclosed and mediaeval strip-farming finally came to an end.

Until the 20th century, Newport depended mainly on agriculture, although a variety of local trades was followed in the past, notably the leather trade, wool combing and, later, in malting.

The greatest changes have taken place in recent years, so while 900 or so people, largely agricultural workers, lived in 220 houses about 100 years ago, by 1971 the population had grown to over 1,200. Since then, all the livestock farms have closed, fields, orchards and farm premises in the centre of the village have been built over, and about 2,500 people now live there in over 900 houses.

Hardly anyone in Newport is engaged in agriculture today. The occupations are drawn from a diversity of industries, mostly outside the village, and many people commute to London, Saffron Walden or Cambridge.

The Parish Church of Saint Mary the Virgin was first built in the early 13th century and dates mainly from the 14th and the 15th centuries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

The first church in Newport was built probably in the late Saxon period. The present parish church, Saint Mary the Virgin, was first built in the first half of the 13th century and much of it dates from the late 14th and the 15th century.

Saint Mary the Virgin is a bright and spacious Grade I building, with the capacity for a congregation of about 300. The church is open for prayer and reflection every day. There is an open, well-kept churchyard which, however, includes a few tombs that are in need of repair.

Repairs to the nave roof were carried out in 2001/2002 at a cost of £140,000 and the external faces of the tower were repaired and the glazing of the west window conserved in 2004 at a cost of £94,500. The pews were replaced by chairs in 2005/2006 at a cost of £6,500.

The quinquennial report in 2010 listed many items needing attention, including the lead chancel roof and internal roof structure, the parapet walls and gutters, the stair to the first floor porch, the south aisle buttress and the north transept gable. Work is also needed on the clerestory windows, and full re-decoration.

A late 13th century iron-bound oak chest In the south transept there may have been used as a battlefield altar (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

In the south transept there is a late 13th century iron-bound oak chest said to have been used as a battlefield altar. PA row of plaques in the north transept commemorate the headmasters of the nearby local grammar school.

The church also has two organs. However, all that remains of the original Walker organ are the pipes at the west end of the church. In 2010, a stand-alone organ was bought second-hand from Bardwell in Suffolk and installed in the east transept.

The Crown House dates mainly from the late 16th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Apart from the church, the two most interesting buildings in Newport are the Crown House and Monks Barn.

The Crown House at Bridge End dates mainly from the late 16th century, although the date over the door says 1692.

The house has 17th century pargetting and a shell hood over the door with a crown above, added in the late 17th century.

Monks Barn ... a Wealden-type house dating from the 15th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Monks Barn is a Wealden-type house dating from the 15th century and featuring an oriel window supported by a carved wooden bracket. A Wealden hall house is a mediaeval timber-framed hall house that is traditional in south-east England. Typically, these houses were built for yeomen, and they are most common in Kent, which had the once densely forested Weald, and east Sussex.

A late mediaeval carving in the wooden frame of Monks Barn (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

In the early 20th century it was divided into two cottages, but it is now one house, with an interesting mediaeval wood carving of the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child attended by two angels, one playing the harpsichord, the other playing the harp.

Newport Free Grammar School, founded in 1588, retains its name, but began taking boys of all abilities in 1976, and is now fully comprehensive and co-educational.

Jamie Oliver’s father runs the The Cricketers in neighbouring Clavering (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

The chef Jamie Oliver went to Newport Free Grammar School and lives in the nearby village of Clavering, where his father owns a pub, The Cricketers.

Matt Holland, who also went to school here, played international football for the Republic of Ireland from 1999 to 2006. Although born in England, he qualified to play for the Republic of Ireland through his grandmother who was from Co Monaghan. He earned 49 caps, scored five goals, captained the side in three internationals, and was in the Ireland squad at the 2002 World Cup, scoring the equaliser against Cameroon in the opening game.

He has played for West Ham, Bournemouth, Ipswich Town and Charlton Athletic, and turned down a £4.5 million move to Aston Villa. Since retiring in 2009 he has worked in the media, including RTÉ, the BBC and Talksport.

Martin Philip Caton, Labour MP for Gower since 1997, was born in neighbouring Bishop’s Stortford and also went to Newport Free Grammar School.

The Coach and Horses is a large 17th century inn at the north end of Newport (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

The village has two public houses. The Coach and Horses is a large 17th century inn at the north end of the village. The White Horse is an equally old but smaller pub in the centre of the village.

The White Horse is an 17th century inn in the centre of Newport (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

In addition, the Newport Club is a private members’ club, but in all respects serves as a local pub, down to still flying the English flag with Saint George’s Cross, hoping bravely, I imagine, for a dignified exit from the World Cup tomorrow evening [24 June 2014].

Newport Club ... still flying the flag for England today (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Newport has a lively community with activities for all, ranging from scouting to local history. These are identified in Newport News, the twice-yearly village magazine. Newport has a tennis club and youth organisations, and the Village Hall is used for a farmers’ market and a variety of community activities, including the HOL (Hennigan O’Loughlin) School of Irish Dancing on Friday afternoons.

There was more to explore and inquire about. Where did Elephant Green get its name? And why is one of the houses on Elephant Green named Ivory Cottage?

Perhaps Newport had its own intrepid explorers long before Stansted Airport could even have been dreamed of.

But I had a train to catch to Broxbourne so I could get to the High Leigh Conference Centre near Hoddesdon for the Us conference.

How did Elephant Green and Ivory Cottage get their intriguing names? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Three days in the countryside
in Hertfordshire and Essex

Dobb’s Weir near the High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon … the west side of the river is in Hertfordshire, and the east side is in Essex (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I am in rural Hertfordshire, on the borders of Essex and Cambridgeshire, for this year’s annual conference of Us, on the theme ‘Hearts, minds, hands, voices’ is the title of the Us annual conference for 2014.

The conference title this year comes from the hymn ‘Angel voices ever singing,’ written in 1861 by Archdeacon Francis Pott (1832-1909). Pott was a member of the committee that compiled Hymns Ancient and Modern. This hymn refers to God’s people having hearts for mission, minds inspired by the Gospel, hands that build Church and community, and voices that speak out for justice.

The Us annual conference is an opportunity to discover how the world church is putting its faith into action. The international guest speakers at this year’s conference include the Right Revd Michael Lewis, Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf, and the Right Revd Munawar ‘Mano’ Rumalshah, a former General Secretary of Us (then USPG).

Bishop Michael read Oriental Studies and then theology at Oxford. He is Bishop-Visitor of the Community of the Sisters of the Love of God at Fairacres and a member of the International Commission on Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue. He represents the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East on the Anglican Consultative Council.

Bishop Mano, a former Bishop of Peshawar, Pakistan, speaks with a radical voice in his call for peace and reconciliation, and mutual respect for all faiths in spite of the persecutions Christians suffer in Pakistan. However, he understands that many Christians in the Wst have only a limited understanding of the fragility of life for Christians in Pakistan.

Us is one of the oldest Anglican mission agencies, dating from 1701, and this year is celebrating the tercentenary of its foundation in Ireland in 1714 as the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG, later USPG and now Us).

This year’s conference is taking place once again in the High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon. It all starts with registration from 2.30 p.m. this afternoon [Monday 23 June 2014] and continues until 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

The programme includes talks, workshops and ideas to take back to dioceses and parishes. The Bible studies are being led by the Revd Dr Samuel Packiam, Director of the Henry Martyn Institute, an International Centre for Research, Interfaith Relations and Reconciliation in Hyderabad, India.

Bishop Michael is presiding at the Eucharist tomorrow morning, when the preacher is the Revd Dr Ian Rock, Principal of Codrington College, Barbados. At the concluding Eucharist on Wednesday, the Right Revd Dr Jacob Ayeebo, Bishop of Tamale in Ghana, is presiding, and the General Secretary and Chief Executive of Us, Janette O’Neill, is preaching. Both Dr Rock and Bishop Ayeebo are trustees of Us.

The conference also offers opportunities to meet some world church partners linked with Us. I represent the Church of Ireland on the Council of Us, which meets formally at 8 p.m. tomorrow evening [Tuesday], and I am also on the boards of Us in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The programme tomorrow allows time to watch the World Cup match between England and Costa Rica at 5 p.m. Hopefully, there will be time too over these three days to meet old friends, and for walks in the countryside, in the Lee Valley, along the banks of the rivers and canals near Hoddesdon and Broxbourne, and to visit some of the pretty villages and timber-framed pubs in this part of Hertfordshire and Essex. Later in the week I may even spend a few hours in Cambridge.

The High Leigh Conference Centre in Hertfordshire ... the venue for the USPG conference, ‘Pushing boundaries’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

22 June 2014

‘For all the saints, who from their labours rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed …’

The interior of All Saints’ Church, Grangegorman … redesigned and renovated according to Tractarian principles while William Maturin was the vicar (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

For the past three Sundays I have been doing “Sunday duty” in the three churches in the Christ Church Cathedral group of parishes, presiding at the Parish Eucharist and preaching in Saint Werburgh’s Church in Werburgh Street, Saint Michan’s Church on Church Street, and All Saint’s Church, Grangegorman.

Each church is unique, with its own history, traditions and style of worship, and each beloved by a core group of dedicated parishioners.

My last Eucharist for these three Sundays was in All Saints’ Church, Grangegorman, this morning.

The church stands in an area that was once a grange belonging to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church Cathedral, with lands providing rents that supported the Vicars Choral of the cathedral.

Although a curate was being appointed to the area from the early 18th century on, this was hardly a demanding position and because there was no church, the position was described as late as 1800 as being a sinecure.

All Saints’ Church was designed by John Semple in 1828, with a bellcote and octagonal corner turrets (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Originally this church was built as what has been described as “a dour little First Fruits gabled hall of 1828,” designed by John Semple, with a bellcote and octagonal corner turrets. A new parish was formed in 1829 from parts of the parishes of Saint Michan and Saint Paul, the new church was licensed for public worship in 1830, and a new glebe house was built.

The first Vicar of the new parish was the Revd Arthur Smith Adamson, but his contribution to the life of All Saints is overshadowed by the story of his successor, the Revd William Maturin (1806-1887), who was the Vicar of All Saints for almost half a century (1843-1887).

Maturin, who was a cousin of Oscar Wilde’s mother, came to All Saints in 1843 after a year as Warden of Saint Columba’s College,and seven years as Assistant Chaplain of Saint Stephen’s.

A high-churchman strongly influenced by Pusey and Newman, Maturin was unreserved in the expression of his views. This caused Archbishop Richard Whately and others to neglect him, so that, in spite of his great talents as a preacher and his devoted pastoral work in his parish, Maturin remained at All Saints for the rest of his clerical life, with an income that never rose above £100 a year. Friends who wanted to support him found him the additional post of Keeper of Archbishop Marsh’s Library, Dublin, in 1872.

In England, Maturin would have been merely a moderate churchman, but Irish evangelicals of the day pilloried him as an Anglo-Catholic or a ritualist.

After speaking of the great qualities of his sermons, Sir John Pentland Mahaffy, the Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, wrote of Maturin in the Athenaeum: “He was a grim Dantesque sort of man, with deep affection for his family and friends hidden under a severe exterior. He was perfectly certain and clear in his views – a quality rare in modern preachers and fatal to modern preaching; his simple and burning words reflected the zeal of his spirit … I saw him crush by his fiery words a mob of young men, who came to disturb his service on Protestant principles, and drive them cowed and slinking from his church.”

Thomas Drew also remodelled the interior along Tractiarian lines (Photograph: Patrick Comerford,2014)

During Maturin’s time at All Saints, the church was redesigned and renovated according to Tractarian principles. The chancel was added in 1856, Thomas Drew added the north aisle in 1865, and baptistery and south porch were added in 1887.

Drew also remodelled the interior along Tractiarian lines. The walls are lined with red and blue brick, and the pointed brick arches between the nave and the aisle are carried on limestone shafts with stylised Caen stone capitals.

Besides several pamphlets, single sermons, and addresses to the Irish Church Society, Maturin was the author of Six Lectures on the Events of Holy Week (Oxford, 1860), The Distinctive Principle of the Church (Dublin, 1867) and The Blessedness of the Dead in Christ, a collection of 24 of his sermons (1888).

Maturin died at 11 Alma Road, Seapoint, Co Dublin, on 30 June 1887. After lying in state for four days before the altar, he was buried in All Saints’ Church, Grangegorman, on 4 July. Three of his sons were ordained, including the Revd Basil William Maturin, who later became a Roman Catholic and died on board the Lusitania in 1915.

Canon Henry Hogan (1840-1923) was at All Saints’ Church from 1887to 1923 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Maturin’s successor, Canon Henry Hogan (1840-1923) also spent many decades at All Saints – from 1887 to 1923. His portrait dominates the vestry in All Saints, and his influence is still remembered. Two of his curates, Davis Croghan and John Thomas Darragh, later became influential missionaries in South Africa, supported by SPG (later USPG and now Us), helping to shape the liturgy, ethos and values of Anglicanism in South Africa.

But perhaps the best-remembered incumbent is the late Archdeacon Raymond Jenkins, who was at All Saints from 1939 to 1976. He is still remembered affectionately as “Jenky” and has given his name to the Jenkins Room in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute.

Before moving to All Saints, he was Warden of the Divinity Hostel (1934-1939) and Dean of Residence at Trinity College Dublin, and while he at All Saints he remained a Lecturer in Divinity in TCD until 1970. One of his curates at All Saints, from 1966 to 1975, was Bishop Frederick Roberts Willis, who had been Bishop of Delhi (1951-1966) before returning to Ireland.

In the 1970s, All Saints became part of the Christ Church Cathedral group of parishes. A fire in the 1980s might have been disastrous, but the aisle was rebuilt, the interior was redecorated, and this was delightful church to serve for the past three weeks.

Mediterranean colours on the beach at Greystones this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Later, two of us went to Greystones, Co Wicklow, for lunch in the Happy Pear.

The warm Midsummer weather has continue, and we enjoyed the bright summer sunshine, clear skies, and a sea that was filled in every shade of Mediterranean blue.

I am attending the annual conference of Us (previously SPG and USPG) for much of this week. While I am at this conference in High Leigh, near Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire, I shall keep in mind those SPG/USPG missionaries who were nurtured in All Saints as curates and inspired by its parishioners and clergy.

Summer sailing ... the sea at Greystones this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)