14 March 2018

USPG announces details
of this year’s conference

The High Leigh Conference Centre near Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire … the venue for USPG’s annual conference on 2-4 July 2018 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

USPG has announced details for this year’s annual conference, which takes place from Monday 2 July to Wednesday 4 July in the High Leigh Conference Centre near Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire.

‘All Things are Possible’ is the theme of this year’s conference organised by the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel). This builds on the theme of USPG’s Lenten study pack, which we are using in the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes.

The conference offers opportunities to discover how Anglican Churches in Africa, Asia and Latin America are engaging with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

There are workshops and speakers from throughout the world Church, making this year’s annual conference an opportunity to explore how the Church can play its part in tackling poverty, fighting inequality, campaigning for climate justice, and much more.

The speakers this year include:

Archbishop Albert Chama, Archbishop and Primate of the Church of the Province of Central Africa;

Jessica Richard, Co-ordinator, Campaign and Advocacy, the Church of South India;

Dr James Corah, Head of Ethical and Responsible Investment, CCLA;

The Right Revd Donald Jute, who last year became the 14th Bishop of Kuching, the diocese that covers Sarawak and Brunei in the Anglican Church in South-East Asia.

Bishop Donald was consecrated and enthroned on 13 August 2017 in Saint Thomas’s Cathedral, Kuching. The Diocese of Lichfield has long-term links with Kuching.

Before becoming Bishop of Kuching, Bishop Donald was the Vicar of the Good Shepherd Church, Lutong in Miri. He served in the Diocese of Glasgow in 2003-2009 and was Rector of Saint Oswald’s in King’s Park, Glasgow, in 2007-2009.

He has a BD from the University of Edinburgh and a Diploma in Missiology from the Australian College of Theology, and has been a lecturer at the House of the Epiphany Theological College (1992-1998).

He is passionate about Church Renewal, Discipleship Training, Youth Ministry and the Empowerment of Lay Leadership, and has been his diocesan co-ordinator for local ordained ministry. He is married with four children.

USPG supporters have the option of attending either the full three-day conference, or the Tuesday one-day conference. The conference is free for students, ordinands, USPG Diocesan Representatives, volunteer speakers, and Journey With Us participants.

There is also a session for USPG volunteers from 2 to 4 p.m. before the conference officially starts on Monday.

Booking is possible through the USPG website or by contacting the conference organiser, Kathy McLeish, at USPG.

A walk through fields of green and gold during last year’s USPG conference in High Leigh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Stephen Hawking and
the passing of time
in a Cambridge clock

The grasshopper on the Chronophage or ‘Time Eater’ at Corpus Christi ... the clock is accurate only once every five minutes (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The news this morning of the death of Stephen Hawking immediately brought to my mind images of the Corpus Clock, the large sculptural clock the Cambridge physicist unveiled ten years ago in 2008 at the Taylor Library at Corpus Christi College.

The clock is on the corner of Bene’t Street and Trumpington Street in Cambridge, looking out onto King’s Parade. I am familiar with this clock, as Saint Bene’t’s Church nearby has effectively been my parish church whenever I have been staying at Sidney Sussex College.

The clock was conceived and funded by John C Taylor, an old member of Corpus Christi College, and was officially unveiled to the public by Stephen Hawking on 19 September 2008.

The clock’s face is a rippling 24-carat gold-plated stainless steel disc, about 1.5 metres in diameter. It has no hands or numerals, but displays the time by opening individual slits in the clock face backlit with blue LEDs. These slits are arranged in three concentric rings displaying hours, minutes, and seconds.

The dominating visual feature of the clock is a grim-looking metal sculpture of an insect type of creature that looks like to a grasshopper or locust.

John Taylor has called this grasshopper the Chronophage or ‘time eater,’ from the Greek χρόνος (chronos, time) and εφάγον (ephagon, I ate). It moves its mouth, appearing to eat up the seconds as they pass, and occasionally it blinks in satisfaction.

The constant motion of the chrono phageproduces an eerie, grinding sound, and the hour is tolled by the sound of a chain clanking into a small wooden coffin hidden in the back of the clock.

Below the clock is an quotation in Latin from I John 2: 17: mundus transit et concupiscentia eius (‘the world and its desire are passing away’).

The clock is accurate only once in every five minutes. For the rest of the time, the pendulum may seem to catch or stop, and the lights may lag or, then, race to get ahead. According to John Taylor, this erratic motion reflects the ‘irregularity’ of life.

The Chronophage was conceived as a work of public art, and it reminds viewers in a dramatic way of the inevitable passing of time. Taylor deliberately designed it to be terrifying: ‘Basically I view time as not on your side. He’ll eat up every minute of your life, and as soon as one has gone he’s salivating for the next.’

The grasshopper and the Eagle are curious neighbours in Cambridge. A few steps away from tThe Corpus Christi Clock, across the street on the north side of Bene’t Street and opposite Saint Bene’t’s Church, is the Eagle, the pub where James Watson and Francis Crick often had lunch while they were working on the structure of DNA, and is the first place where Watson publicly presented the double helix model.

Together, the Eagle and the Grasshopper in Cambridge present two very important truths about life. The grasshopper reminds us how we can all let our time be consumed by the small things in life, when we should be more focussed on the more important priorities. And the Eagle reminds us of the soaring heights of beauty in God’s creation, explained not even in the marvellous and wonderful discoveries in science.

The full verse quoted on the clock reads: ‘And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever’ (I John 2: 17).

The Eagle in Bene’t Street, Cambridge ... across the street from the ‘Chronophage’ or ‘Time Eater’ on the Corpus Christi clock (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 29:
Millstreet 12: Jesus
dies on the cross

Station 12 at Saint John’s Well, Millstreet, Co Cork … Jesus dies on the cross (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

In my meditations and reflections in Lent this year, I am being guided by the Stations of the Cross from three locations. The idea for this series of morning Lenten meditations came from reading about Peter Walker’s new exhibition, ‘Imagining the Crucifixion,’ inspired by the Stations of the Cross, which opened in Lichfield Cathedral a month ago and continues throughout Lent.

Throughout Lent, my meditations each morning are inspired by three sets of Stations of the Cross that I have found either inspiring or unusual. They are the stations in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, at Saint John’s Well on a mountainside near Millstreet, Co Cork, and in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield.

In my meditations, I am drawing on portions of the Stabat Mater, the 12th century hymn of the Crucifixion (‘At the cross her station keeping’) attributed to the Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi. Some prayers are traditional, some are from the Book of Common Prayer, and other meditations and prayers are by Canon Frank Logue and the Revd Victoria Logue of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.

For these two weeks, I am looking at the 14 Stations of the Cross at Saint John’s Well in a forested area on the slopes of Mushera, outside Millstreet in north Co Cork and close to the Cork/Kerry border.

Saint John’s Well is 8 or 9 km south-east of Millstreet, on the slopes of Mushera, on the Aubane side of the mountain, opposite the entrance to Millstreet Country Park. The Stations date from 1984 and were designed by Liam Cosgrave and Sons, Sculptors, of Blackpool, Cork.

Millstreet 12, Jesus dies on the cross

In the twelfth station by Liam Cosgrave in Millstreet, Christ is abandoned by all but for his Mother and the Beloved Disciple. The dark clouds that we saw above in the previous station have now descended.

The three stakes depicted by Liam Cosgrave and used to keep the cross in place at the base could also be a reminder of the Trinity.

Five years ago, the Cuban artist Erik Ravelo stirred controversy with a work he called as The untouchables. He used six photographs of children crucified, each for a different reason and a clear message,as he sought to reaffirm the right of children to be protected and the need to report abuse they suffer, especially in countries such as Brazil, Syria, Thailand, the US and Japan.

The first image refers to paedophilia in the Vatican, the second to child sexual abuse in tourism in Thailand, the third to the war in Syria, the fourth to the trafficking of organs on the black market, the fifth linking the free availability of weapons in the US to school shooting, and the sixth image linking obesity to the multinational fast food companies. Another version has a panel linking children’s deaths to nuclear disasters.

His work caused controversy, and has been taken down by Facebook from his own page and deleted from several repostings.

But why were people more offended by Erik Ravelo’s work than by the causes of child abuse and child deaths that he pointed to?

Where do you see the innocent Christ being crucified by the sins of others in today’s world?

From Stabat Mater:

Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
Let me share with thee His pain,
Who for all our sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.


Despised. Rejected.
Eloi, Eloi, Lama sabachthani?
My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?
Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.
From top to bottom the veil in the Temple is torn in two.


Lamb that was slain, as you cried out to your Father from the cross we learned how deep was your suffering, how complete was your sense of abandonment. Be present with us when others betray us or forsake us that we may find ourselves in your eyes and not theirs. This we pray in the name of Jesus, our crucified Lord, the King of Glory, the King of Peace. Amen.

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

As Jesus hung on the cross, he forgave the soldiers who had crucified him, and prayed for his mother and friends. Jesus wanted all of us to be able to live forever with God, so he gave all he had for us.

Jesus, let me take a few moments now to consider your love for me. Help me thank you for your willingness to go to your death for me. Help me express my love for you!

A prayer before walking to the next station:

Holy God,
Holy and mighty Holy immortal one,
Have mercy on us.

Tomorrow: Station 13: Jesus is taken from the cross.

Yesterday’s reflection

The Crucifixion in the East Window in the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Nicholas, the 14th century parish church in Beaumaris on the island of Anglesey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)