30 June 2019

The whole law is summed
up in … ‘You shall love
your neighbour as yourself’

‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’ (Galatians 5: 22-23) … lemons ripening on a tree in a garden in Córdoba (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday, 30 June 2019

The Second Sunday after Trinity

11 a.m.:
United Group Eucharist,

The Rectory, Askeaton, Co Limerick.

Readings: II Kings 2: 1-2, 6-14; Psalm 77: 1-2, 11-20; Galatians 5: 1, 13-25; Luke 9: 51-62.

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

I was walking through Cambridge late on Wednesday afternoon, after the annual conference of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

I had visited some colleges, and had spent some time – a lot of time – browsing and rummaging in some of my favourite bookshops.

So, you can imagine, in the warm afternoon sunshine, I was feeling relaxed, and easy-going.

And there, in front of Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge, I saw a large crowd had gathered in a circle in the open space on the corner of Market Street and Sidney Street.

Some of them were visibly amused, some were angry, some were heckling. They were watching and listening to a group of street preachers of the old-fashioned sort, the sort I thought had gone out of fashion many years ago, many decades ago.

And I can quote some of their posters and placards:

‘Cursed is the nation whose God is not the Lord’ ... ‘Woe to them who call evil good and good evil’ … ‘Hate crime: to let sinners go to hell with no warning’ …

When people in the crowd asked questions, they were belittled and derided. Within a short time, I had lost count of the number of times people were told they were being disrespectful of God and God’s word, the number of times people were told they and their souls were going to burn in Hell for eternity.

Not once did I see the speakers smile, not once did I hear them speak words of compassion, let alone love.

Is it any wonder that people turn away when they hear people like this claiming to represent Christ, Christianity, the Christian message and the Church?

There was a much more inviting message in the vision or slogan of the church behind them: ‘Come to Christ, Learn to Love and Love to Learn, in Cambridge and beyond.’

When people respond to preachers like this by saying ‘I don’t believe in God,’ I want to respond by saying, ‘I don’t believe in the God you don’t believe in either.’ Think about what the disciples want to do when they get a whiff of difference, an inkling of rejection.

A whiff of difference creates a whiff of sulphur. They want to burn the Samaritan village to the ground.

What have they been learning from Jesus so far about basic, fundamental Christian beliefs and values being expressed in how we love God and love one another?

What had the disciples learned from Jesus about compassion, tolerance and forbearance in the immediate weeks and months before they arrived in this Samaritan village?

How embarrassed they must have been if this was the same Samaritan village that Christ visits in Saint John’s Gospel (see John 3: 4-42), where it is a Samaritan woman, and not the disciples, who realise who Jesus really is. She is a Samaritan woman of questionable sexual moral values. But it is she, and not the disciples, who brings a whole village to faith in Christ; it is she who asks for the water of life; it is she who first suggests that indeed he may be, that he is, the Messiah.

How embarrassed they must be a little while later when Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan (see Luke 10: 29-37). The one person I want to meet on the road, on the pilgrimage in life, is not a priest or a Temple official, but the sort of man who lives in the very sort of village I have suggested, because of my religious bigotry and narrow-mindedness, should be consumed with fire, burned to the ground, all its people gobbled up.

In the Epistle reading (Galatians 5: 1, 13-25), Saint Paul tells his readers, ‘For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”.’ (Galatian 5: 14)

The command to love, to love God and to love our neighbour, is at the heart of the Gospel. It is summarised in the two great commandments in Matthew 22: 36-40 and Luke 10: 27 (see Leviticus 19: 18).

But Saint Paul, on more than one occasion, reduces it all down to this one great commandment:

‘Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments … are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law’ (Romans 13: 8-10).

And again, in the Epistle reading this morning:

‘For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”.’ (Galatians 5: 14).

In a sentence edited out of this reading, he writes:

‘The only thing that counts is faith working through love’ (Galatians 5: 6).

In other places, he writes:

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in harmony (Colossians 3: 14).


If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, and compassion and sympathy. Make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind (Philippians 2: 1-2).

In a non-Pauline passage, Saint John writes in his first letter:

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them … Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. (I John 4: 16, 20-21).

And, as Saint Paul reminds us this morning in our epistle reading, committed discipleship is costly and demanding, but rewarding. It finds its true expression in ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things’ (Galatians 5: 22-25).

Love one another. After that, everything else falls into place, including the love of God.

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’ (Galatians 5: 22-23) … fruit on a market stall in Tangier (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 9: 51-62:

51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set towards Jerusalem. 54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 Then they went on to another village.

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ 58 And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ 59 To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ 60 But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ 61 Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ 62 Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’

‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’ (Galatians 5: 22-23) … fruit on a market stall in Rome (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: Green.

The Collect:

Lord, you have taught us
that all our doings without love are nothing worth:
Send your Holy Spirit
and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,
the true bond of peace and of all virtues,
without which whoever lives is counted dead before you.
Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Loving Father,
we thank you for feeding us at the supper of your Son.
Sustain us with your Spirit,
that we may serve you here on earth
until our joy is complete in heaven,
and we share in the eternal banquet
with Jesus Christ our Lord.


421, I come with joy, a child of God (CD 25)
652, Lord us, heavenly Father, lead us (CD 37)
643: Be thou my vision (CD 37)

‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’ (Galatians 5: 22-23) … fruit at breakfast-time in Rethymnon, Crete (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

The hymns suggestions are provided in Sing to the Word (2000), edited by Bishop Edward Darling. The hymn numbers refer to the Church of Ireland’s Church Hymnal (5th edition, Oxford: OUP, 2000)

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

29 June 2019

‘More tea vicar?’ … reporting
on diocesan training days

Villiers School, Limerick … the venue for the Limerick and Killaloe Diocesan Synod this weekend (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

The Limerick and Killaloe Diocesan Synod met in Villers School, Limerick, today [29 June 2019]. This two-page report was included in the Book of Reports (pp 60-61):

Ministry Education Training Days
Director of Education and Training:
Report to Diocesan Synod, May 2019

My work as Director of Education and Training for clergy and readers in the diocese includes providing resources and training through monthly workshops and weekly web postings and emails with ideas for preaching, worship liturgy.

Monthly workshops

The monthly workshops for readers and clergy have looked at a variety of topics, from personal prayer and styles of liturgy to Celtic Spirituality, from choosing hymns to marking Remembrance Day appropriately, from Spiritual Tourism to tailor-made ‘road trips’ to the diocesan cathedrals and inter-faith locations.

Most recently, the workshops discussed whether there is such a thing as ‘Anglican culture’ (May 2019). The discussions included poetry, music, literature, and even humour – under the apposite title, ‘More tea vicar?’

In recent months, the Revd Ann-Marie Stuart, FJ, of the Kilcolman Union of Parishes, has led two workshops on ‘The Adventure of Prayer’ and ‘Faith Development’ (March 2019). In February, I looked at ‘Praying with Icons’ and ‘Praying with the Jesus Prayer.’ The Revd Anne-Marie Stuart and the Revd Isabel Keegan of Kilcolman facilitated a day on ‘Celtic Spirituality’ (January 2019).

The Revd Rod Smyth of Nenagh introduced a workshop on the choice of hymns, canticles and music, which is often a difficult task for clergy and readers alike. In November 2018, he dealt with the thorny problems faced by people who have difficulty in selecting hymns for Sundays, and offered advice about appropriate hymns for Advent, as well as Baptisms, weddings and funerals.

To prepare for the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that brought an end to World War I, the workshops last October looked at resources and planning for Remembrance Day on 11 November 2018. The questions to focus the discussions included: Where do I find resources and readings? How can we be sensitive to a diversity and variety of views and the challenges this day poses in a parish?

The programme in September 2018 was a working day on bringing Spiritual Tourism to parishes. The day was facilitated by Archdeacon Simon Lumby and myself, and included a field trip to a number of sites linked to potentials in Spiritual Tourism, including the Templar Tower, the Famine grave, the grave of the poet Aubrey de Vere in Saint Mary’s churchyard, Askeaton, and the ruined cloisters of the Franciscan Friary.

Different approaches to liturgy and worship were discussed in May 2018. This programme, in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick, was led by the Revd Michael Cavanagh of Kenmare and myself.

In March 2018, the workshops discussed personal prayer, prayers in the life of the church, praying for others, and teaching others to pray. Participants looked at different styles of prayer and discussed how the need to develop a life of prayer that suits individual needs and personalities while helping others to develop an approach to prayer that meets their own personality types.
The Diocesan Communications Officer, the Revd Michael Cavanagh, the Editor of Newslink, Joc Sanders, and myself as a former journalist, facilitated the first of these training days in Killarney on the topic of parish communications (October 2017).

The topics included working with local radio stations, newspapers and the diocesan magazine, how to use social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and websites, in your parish, and producing parish newsletters and hand-outs.

Other topics have included, ‘A life of prayer: personal prayer and leading intercessions’ (March 2018), Preparing for Lent and Easter (January 2018) and Preparing for Advent and Christmas (November 2017).

‘Field Trips’

The programme has also included two ‘Field Trips.’

The ‘field trip’ in April 2018 visited the three working cathedrals in the diocese. This began at Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, moved on to Saint Flannan’s Cathedral, Killaloe, Co Clare, and finished in the afternoon with a celebration of the Eucharist in Saint Brendan’s Cathedral, Clonfert, Co Galway.

An interfaith walking tour of Limerick in February 2018 began at the Limerick Islamic Cultural Centre and Mosque, and also visited the former heart of Limerick’s Jewish community on Wolfe Tone Street, and the Jewish Cemetery at Castletroy.

Joining in

These monthly training days are designed for clergy and diocesan and parish readers, but are open to others who are interested, including spouses, partners and friends. The working days generally take place in the Rectory, Askeaton, Co Limerick.

The programme is normally offered in a workshop format from 11 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. for day-time participants. Tea/coffee/biscuits are provided, but participants are asked to bring sandwiches. If there is enough interest, a second workshop is offered in the evening from 7 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. for people in ministry who are also in day-time or secular employment.

Resources for these two workshops are normally made available on the CME Limerick and Killaloe site.

Weekly Sunday resources

Meanwhile, ministerial and liturgical resources for Sundays, including sermon ideas, readings, collects, post-communion prayers, hymn suggestions and illustrations are published each Monday morning by Patrick Comerford on the web at https://cmelimerick.blogspot.com/

Each week’s posting includes reflections on the Sunday readings, collects, prefaces, post-communion prayers, seasonal variations and other liturgical resources, as well as suggested hymns, links to the readings and appropriate photographs that can be used in parish newsletters, service sheets or in power point presentations.

Resources are also available for major events in the Church Calendar, including Lent, Advent, Holy Week and major feast days.

This website was launched at a meeting of the Diocesan Council in September 2017. Initially, the postings attracted about 500 to 800 hits a month, but this reached about 1,800 a month in recent months, which means these resources are facilitating clergy and readers far beyond this diocese.

Emails are sent to readers and clergy with links to the latest resources each Monday morning. Please contact me if you would like to be added to this mailing list.

Patrick Comerford,
Askeaton, May 2019

The reports to the Limerick and Killaloe Diocesan Synod include the report on ministry training and education (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Reminders in Cambridge
of the mixture of fiction
and family intrigues

Saint John’s College, Cambridge, on Trinity Street, with part of the chapel to the right (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

During my visits to Cambridge this week, I could not help but think of the writer Rose Macaulay, and some 16th century family connections with Saint John’s College. Her best-known novel, The Towers of Trebizond, is known even to people who have never read it for its opening line:

“Take my camel, dear,” said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.

The High Mass, of course, is an Anglican High Mass, in the Anglo-Catholic tradition of the Church of England.

The book is heavy on irony, and is delightfully funny about Anglo-Catholics, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals. Yet it shows a deep respect for faith and a poignant longing for grace. The narrator is in a state of mortal sin, and as the child of a very old Anglo-Catholic family, knows himself or herself to be in a state of mortal sin.

One of the enduring mysteries of the book is whether the narrator is a man or a woman. It is a device that helps to place the reader, whether male or female, inside the mind of the narrator.

In the book, travel serves as a metaphor for the soul’s progress towards or away from God. Trebizond, now an impoverished Turkish town whose Byzantine history is of no interest to the local people, represents for the narrator the glories of the past and the wealth and riches of the Byzantine court. But it also represents heaven, and grace, from which the narrator is barred.

With this serious discussion of sin and forgiveness, The Towers of Trebizond is also a brittle comedy of English manners.

Although Rose Macaulay studied at Oxford rather than Cambridge, reading history at Somerville College, Oxford, Cambridge plays a large part in The Towers of Trebizond and an earlier book, They Were Defeated.

This is historical novel, published in 1932, is set in Cambridge just before the English Civil War. The characters include the poets Robert Herrick and John Cleveland, and there are appearances by John Milton, Sir Kenelm Digby, Sir John Suckling, and a host of Metaphysical poets and other historical figures, including Abraham Cowley, Andrew Marvel, Henry More and Richard Crashaw.

Religion is at the heart of this story too, as it begins in a Church where the divisions of Church Papists, Puritans and Anglicans are all too obvious because of the display of harvest bounty in Robert Herrick’s church.

One of the characters becomes a Roman Catholic and narrowly avoids arrest while attending Mass in Cambridge, along with two priests who are arrested and taken away, probably to be sent into exile.

Tensions over religion are increasing in Charles I’s reign and the dangers of being Roman Catholic are evident, even in the relatively positive atmosphere during the reign of Charles I. Even prominent people at Cambridge University who have demonstrated their animus toward Catholicism are considered Papist if they follow Archbishop Laud’s example in using the Book of Common Prayer in high liturgical style, such as John Cosins, the Vice Chancellor of Cambridge and Master of Peterhouse.

The first part of They Were Defeated is set in Devon, while the second part takes place mainly in Cambridge. When the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Dr John Cosin, is threatened with the loss of his position because of his supposed Catholic leanings in early 1641, the authorities begin to crack down on recusants. Three priests are arrested at Mass and several students present are reported to their colleges.

In an epilogue, set in 1647, Herrick is about to be turned out of his church to make way for a Puritan incumbent.

The great gatehouse of Saint John’s College facing Trinity Street, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

But, to return to The Towers of Trebizond, the Cambridge of Cosin, the role of John Cosin, and the Anglican approaches of Archbishop Laud make important contributions too.

As I passed by Saint John’s College on Wednesday afternoon, I recalled one lengthy passage in The Towers of Trebizond that reads like a stream of consciousness but captures a snobbery about Cambridge once found among some Anglo-Catholic families:

Perhaps I had better explain why we are so firmly Church, since part of this story stems from our somewhat unusual attitude, or rather from my aunt Dot’s. We belong to an old Anglican family, which suffered under the penal laws of Henry VIII, Mary I, and Oliver P. Under Henry VIII we did indeed acquire and domesticate a dissolved abbey in Sussex, but were burned, some of us, for refusing to accept the Six Points; under Mary we were again burned, naturally, for heresy; under Elizabeth we dug ourselves firmly into Anglican life, compelling our Puritan tenants to dance round maypoles and revel at Christmas, and informing the magistrates that Jesuit priests had concealed themselves in the chimney-pieces of our Popish neighbours. Under Charles I we looked with disapprobation on the damned crop-eared Puritans whom Archbishop Laud so rightly stood in the pillory, and, until the great Interregnum, approved of the Laudian embellishments of churches and services, the altar crosses, candles and pictures, the improvements in the chapel of St. John’s Cambridge under Dr. Beale and in Peterhouse under Dr. Cosin (Cambridge was our university). During the suppression, we privately kept ousted vicars as chaplains and attended secret Anglican services, at which we were interrupted each Christmas Day by the military, who, speaking very spitefully of Our Lord’s Nativity, dragged us before the Major-Generals. After the Glorious Revolution, we got back our impoverished estates, and, until the Glorious Revolution, there followed palmier days, when we persecuted Papists, conventiclers and Quakers with great impartiality, and, as clerical status rose, began placing our younger sons in fat livings, of which, in 1690, they were deprived as Non-Jurors, and for the next half century or so carried on an independent ecclesiastical existence, very devout, high-flying, schismatic, and eccentrically ordained, directing the devotions and hearing the confessions of pious ladies and gentlemen, and advising them as to the furnishing of the private oratories, conducting services with ritualistic ceremony and schismatic prayer-books, absorbing the teachings of William Law on the sacramental devotional life, and forming part of the stream of High Church piety that has flowed through the centuries down the broad Anglican river, quietly preparing the way for the vociferous Tractarians. These clergymen ancestors of ours were watched with dubious impatience by their relations in the manor houses, who soon discreetly came to terms with the detestable Hanoverians, and did not waste their fortunes and lives chasing after royal pretenders who were not, after all, Anglican.

Change Sussex for Staffordshire and it could be a description of the Comberford family of Comberford Hall and the Moat House in Tamworth, and the description of their downfall in the plaque in the Comberford Chapel in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth, as I recalled in my lecture in Tamworth last month [9 May 2019]:

‘Under Charles I we looked with disapprobation on the damned crop-eared Puritans whom Archbishop Laud so rightly stood in the pillory, and, until the great Interregnum, approved of the Laudian embellishments of churches and services, the altar crosses, candles and pictures, the improvements in the chapel of St. John’s Cambridge … Cambridge was our university.’

Many members of the Comberford family were associated with Saint John’s College.

Humphrey Comberford (ca 1496/1498-1555) of Comberford Hall and the Moat House was educated at Cambridge (BA 1525, MA 1528). Humphrey and two of his brothers – Henry and Richard Comberford – seem to have benefited under the terms of a bequest from John Bayley, and his brother who had funded a fellowship at Saint John’s College, stipulating that preference be given to men from Tamworth.

His brother, Henry Comberford (ca 1499-1586), later Precentor of Lichfield Cathedral, was admitted to Saint John’s College on 31 March 1533. He graduated BA (1533), MA (1536) and BD (1545). He went on to become a Fellow of Saint John’s College and a Proctor of Cambridge University.

When he was the ‘parson of Polstead’, near Colchester, in 1539, Henry was still associated with the college, and he was still a Fellow of Saint John’s when he was involved in a bishop’s visitation to Saint John’s in April 1542.

Their brother, Richard Comberford (ca 1512-post 1547),was born at Comberford and was admitted to Saint John’s on 8 April 1534. He was a Fellow of Saint John’s in 1538, and later was the Senior Bursar in 1542-1544.

Richard Comberford and his brother John Comberford both leased lands at Much Bradley in Staffordshire from Saint John’s College.

Richard Comberford has often been confused by 18th century genealogists with Richard Comerford of Ballybur, Co Kilkenny, and so in a confused way, the family trees became entangled … another intrigue that could so easily provide material for a novel set in Cambridge in the 16th and 17th centuries.

‘Cambridge was our university’ … the Trinity Street frontage of Saint John’s College (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

28 June 2019

Two Sidney Street plaques
are reminders of Charles
Darwin’s days in Cambridge

A plaque at Boots in Cambridge recalls Charles Darwin lived in rooms on Sidney Street in 1828 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

During my visits to Cambridge this week, I noticed for the first time two plaques – one a blue plaque – at Boots in Sidney Street announcing that Charles Darwin (1809-1882) ‘lived in a house on this site’ in 1828.

Darwin once said, ‘Upon the whole, the three years which I spent at Cambridge were the most joyful in my life.’ I had always thought he spent those three years in rooms in Christ’s College, and knew he had later rented rooms on Fitzwilliam Street after returning to Cambridge from the Beagle. But I had never realised that he once stayed in rooms above a tobacconist’s shop on Sidney Street.

It has long been debated why Charles Darwin came to Christ’s College, Cambridge. His grandfather, Dr Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) of Lichfield, went to Saint John’s College, and Charles Darwin’s school, Shrewsbury School, also had connections with Saint John’s.

Darwin’s cousin, Hensleigh Wedgwood (1803-1891), later a philologist and barrister, also went to Saint John’s College in 1821. However, at the time it had a reputation for strict discipline. Wedgwood moved to Christ’s after only one term. He took his BA in 1824 and was elected a Finch and Baines Fellow of Christ’s in February 1829, a position he held until October 1830.

I suppose it is not surprising then that his cousin, Charles Darwin’s brother, Erasmus Darwin, joined Christ’s College on 9 February 1822. He received his MB in 1828. Darwin’s second cousin, William Darwin Fox (1813-1881), later a clergyman and naturalist, came up in 1824.

So, Charles Darwin was following his cousins and brother to Christ’s. In those days, it was known as a quiet and relaxed college, neither academically rigorous nor religiously strict.

Charles Darwin’s name was entered in the admissions books at Christ’s College on 15 October 1827 as a candidate for an ordinary BA degree. As Darwin had forgotten much of his school Greek, he was tutored before coming up to Cambridge in the Lent Term of 1828.

Darwin’s rooms on Sidney Street provided a a glimpse of Lady Margaret Beaufort’s great gatehouse at Christ’s College (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Darwin arrived in Cambridge on Saturday 26 January 1828, at the age of 18. His brother Erasmus returned two weeks later on 8 February. As the academic year began the previous October, all the college rooms were already full, and so Charles found lodgings in rooms above the shop of William Bacon, a tobacconist, in Sidney Street.

Sidney Street was then a narrow street, and he was just a minute or two in walking distance from Christ’s College. The view from his window probably gave him a glimpse of Lady Margaret Beaufort’s great gatehouse, which I was writing about yesterday.

His lodgings above a tobacconist’s shop led to some teasing. One friend, Albert Way (1805-1874) of Trinity College, drew a mock coat of arms for Darwin in April that included crossed tobacco pipes, meerschaum pipes, cigars, a wine barrel and beer tankards.

That summer, Darwin went home to Shrewsbury. When he returned to Cambridge for the Michaelmas Term on 31 October 1828, he found a room was now available in Christ’s College and the Tutor assigned him to a comfortable set on the south side of First Court.

On All Saints’ Day, 1 November 1828, he moved into a set of rooms, as he later recalled, ‘in old court, middle stair-case, on right-hand on going into court, up one flight, right-hand door & capital rooms they were.’

There is a tradition that these were once the rooms of the natural theologian William Paley (1743-1805), although there is no evidence to substantiate this story. At the time, college staircases were not named with letters as they are today, but Darwin’s rooms are now known as G4.

Darwin had a panelled main sitting room with an adjoining dressing room and bedroom. His three windows on the north side overlooked First Court, with the Chapel directly across from him, the Master’s Lodge to its right and closer still the Hall. Darwin’s south facing windows overlooked what was formerly called Bath Court and is today the site of the new undergraduate library.

He decorated his room with 18th century engravings of master paintings, and loved spending time listening to the choir in the Chapel at nearby King’s College.

Darwin spent time listening to the choir in the Chapel at King’s College (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Darwin later recalled: ‘During the three years which I spent at Cambridge my time was wasted, as far as the academical studies were concerned.’ But he graduated in the Easter Term of 1831.

In December 1831, he left England with Captain Robert Fitzroy (1805-1865) on the voyage of HMS Beagle.

When he returned from the five-year voyage in October 1836, Darwin visited his family home in Shrewsbury and then returned to Cambridge and took lodgings at 22 Fitzwilliam Street, near the site where the Fitzwilliam Museum would open in 1848, and where he organised his specimen collection from the voyage. He dined often in Christ’s College, and I was once shown where his name occurs frequently in the Combination Room wine book.

For the rest of his life, he had a strong affection for Christ’s College, and he sent his eldest son, William, there in the 1860s. In his Autobiography in 1876 he recalled, ‘Upon the whole, the three years I spent at Cambridge as the most joyful of my happy life; for I was then in excellent health, and almost always in high spirits.’

Darwin was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws (LL.D) from the University of Cambridge on 17 November 1877. It was a somewhat raucous event in the Senate House, at which a stuffed monkey was dangled above Darwin’s head by undergraduate pranksters.

Christ’s College regretted that new statutes were not approved in Parliament in time to confer on him the only honour it could, that of an honorary Fellowship. He died in London on 19 April 1882 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Darwin’s rooms in Christ’s College were made into an exhibition space. The Cambridge University Library holds many of his documents, including letters, and Cambridge University Press has published much about Darwin, including the correspondence series.

The site of Bacon’s tobacconist shop in Sidney Street is now occupied by Boots the chemist. A blue plaque under the first floor windows commemorates Darwin’s stay there: ‘Charles Darwin lived in a house on this site 1828.’

Lower down, at ground floor level, a slate plaque on a pillar facing the street reads, ‘Charles Darwin 1808-1882 kept in lodgings on this site in 1828 while an undergraduate of Christs [sic] College.’

Darwin’s days on Sidney Street are recalled on two plaques at Boots (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

An afternoon rummaging
in some of my favourite
bookshops in Cambridge

The Cambridge University Press Bookshop on the corner of Trinity Street and Market Hill (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Cambridge has a wonderful array and choice of bookshops, and so, after this week’s USPG conference at High Leigh in Hoddesdon, I found I had the best part of an afternoon to spend rummaging and browsing in some of my favourite bookshops.

Cambridge is just half an hour by train from Broxbourne, the station nearest to High Leigh, and there are trains every half an hour or so. As you might expect for a university city, Cambridge has a wide variety of bookshops in Cambridge, some of them unique.

A favourite bookshop for many was Galloway and Porter at 30 Sidney Street, beside Sidney Sussex College. But, sadly, the shop closed in 2010. The Angel Bookshop was another bookshop in Ben’e’t Street, just off King’s Parade, but closed in 2015 and is still much-missed independent. More recently, John Smith closed its bookshop in Cambridge at the end of last month [31 May 2019]. But Cambridge still has an enthralling array of bookshops.

The Cambridge University Press Bookshop looks out onto the Senate House, Gonville and Caius College and Great Saint Mary’s Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

This week, I was oblivious to the passing time on a summer afternoon while I was browsing in the religious studies section on the first floor of the Cambridge University Press Bookshop is at No 1 Trinity Street, on the corner with Market Hill. On one side I was looking out onto the Senate House and Gonville and Caius College on one side, and on the other at Great Saint Mary’s Church. This shop claims to be the oldest bookshop site in Britain, selling books from the oldest publisher in the world.

Cambridge University Press opened its bookshop here in 1992, but the shop itself has been around for a great deal longer, selling books all the while – since 1581, in fact, when it was run by William Scarlett. Some sources claim there was a bookshop on the site from 1505, but it can certainly claim to be the oldest known bookshop in Britain.

The Cambridge University Press originated from Letters Patent to the University from Henry VIII in 1534. CUP printed its first book in 1584 and has been producing books ever since. The first University printer, Thomas Thomas (1553-1588), was based from 1583 just across the street on what was Regent Walk – not to be confused with Street, but on what is now the Senate House Lawn. At one time, this area was the book-selling centre of the town.

Meanwhile, the bookshop at No 1 Trinity Street passed from hand to hand over the centuries, until Thomas Stevenson died. It was then bought in 1846 by the Scottish publisher Daniel Macmillan (1813-1857), grandfather of the Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, and his brother Alexander Macmillan (1818-1896).

It was here that Tennyson gave a reading of his poem Maud, that Thackeray had lunch with the founders of the Macmillan publishing empire, and that Charles Kingsley was welcomed as a frequent guest.

The Macmillans employed their nephew Robert Bowes as an apprentice. He later became a partner and eventually took over the business.

During a vote on the right of women to received the BA degree at Cambridge in 1897, protesting students took over Macmillan and Bowes and displayed an effigy of a woman on a bicycle from a first floor window. The university rejected the application to admit women that year, although they were finally admitted in 1948.

A plaque on the Trinity Street side summarises the story of the bookshop (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The shop became Bowes & Bowes in 1907, was renamed Sherratt & Hughes in 1986, and became the Cambridge University Press Bookshop 25 years ago on 30 April 1992.

The bookshop is still thriving today. It does not stock fiction or poetry, but specialises in academic texts on literary theory, philosophy and more. There are around 50,000 different titles on the shelves and access to a substantial backlist of print on demand editions, delivering books that are often hard-to-find to people who need them around the world.

The shop expanded around the corner in 2008 into No 27 Market Hill, where it opened its specialist Education and English Language Teaching shop the following year. Recently, the shop has been transformed with touch screens placing its catalogue of books and teaching materials at the fingertips of buyers and browsers.

A few steps away at No 30 Trinity Street, opposite Trinity College, Heffers Bookshop has been called ‘the most knowledgeable bookshop in Cambridge.’ William Heffer, reportedly the son of illiterate agricultural workers, was born in a village 15 miles from Cambridge.

An invitation to Britain’s oldest bookshop (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Heffers first opened its doors in Cambridge at 104 Fitzroy Street in 1876. Initially it was a stationery shop, but books were soon added. Heffers moved to Petty Cury and was there until 1970, when the shop moved to the present premises at Trinity Street, opposite Trinity College. Although Heffers became part of the Blackwell’s academic chain in 1999, it remains an institution in Cambridge.

The shop’s departments range from children’s books to crime fiction, and there is an array of fiction and non-fiction titles, as well as music and stationery and the probably the best range of board games in Britain. It opened its dedicated children’s department in 2010 in a bright space that is filled with thousands of books.

The shop also has a year-round events programme, featuring both well-known and debut authors, children’s activities and games nights.

I also called into Waterstones at 22 Sidney Street, close to Sidney Sussex College. Although it is part of large chain, the shop always has many books of Cambridge interest. Across four floors, there are books from all over the world that give this a more academic atmosphere than most chain bookshop.

Oliver Soskice, a Cambridge painter and the husband of Janet Soskice – a fellow of Jesus College and Professor of Philosophical Theology in Cambridge – found himself trapped upstairs in Waterstones in Cambridge two years ago [13 February 2017].

Staff closed up that evening while he was still inside, and he was alone inside for almost an hour and a half before a manager came to his rescue – which just goes to show how easy it is to get lost in a book and in a bookshop in Cambridge.

G David is in a quiet corner in Saint Edward’s Passage (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

My favourite independent, second-hand and antiquarian bookshop in Cambridge is G David in a quiet corner at 16 Saint Edward’s Passage, beside the Church of Saint Edward King and Martyr.

This independent bookshop sells antique, second-hand, remaindered books, maps and prints dating back to the late 1800s. It was founded by Gustave David in 1896, and has been run by his family across three centuries.

The Haunted Bookshop is also in Saint Edward’s Passage. The names Sarah Kay and Phil Salin are above the door, but it is known as the Haunted Bookshop because of stories about a resident ghost.

However, the main attraction is the treasure trove of books, stacked on the ground floor and on the footpath outside in huge piles.

Cambridge has so many book lovers that it is no surprise that the charity bookshops are well-stocked. They include the Amnesty Bookshop at 4 Mill Road and the Oxfam Bookshop at 28 Sidney Street, near Sidney Sussex, Magdalene and Saint John’s.

Over the years, I have found many treasures in the Oxfam Bookshop. This is a bookshop with a difference, well-stocked with rare and unusual books, maps, children’s books, vinyl, art and philosophy, books in Greek and Latin, sheet music, fiction and non-fiction. fiction.

Graduands from King’s College line up outside the Cambridge University Press Bookshop this week to enter the Senate House (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

27 June 2019

Lady Margaret Beaufort’s
gatehouse is restored at
Christ’s College, Cambridge

The gatehouse at Christ’s College, Cambridge, has been restored and repainted in a project that took four years to complete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Strolling through Cambridge before and after this week’s USPG conference in High Leigh, it was a delight to see how one of the majestic college gates in Cambridge has been restored recently.

The restoration work at Christ’s College has taken four years to complete.

This Gatehouse on St Andrew’s Street is the main entrance to Christ’s College and is highly visible to tourists and shoppers in Cambridge. But the heraldic detail, dating from the early 1500s, had not been painted for many years and had become dull faded. The four-year project included research into the original colours and methods used, repairs, and the painting itself.

Lady Margaret Beaufort’s coat of arms on the gatehouse at Christ’s College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The gatehouse was built by Lady Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII and grandmother of Henry VIII, who refounded the college in the early 16th century.

Christ’s College was originally established in 1437 by William Byngham, who called his new college God’s House. The college moved to its present location in 1448 after Henry VI decided that he needed the original site for his new King's College.

In 1505, God’s House was re-dedicated as Christ’s College under the patronage of Lady Margaret Beaufort. She was the only daughter of John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, and was married four times. With her marriage to Edmund Tudor, the mother of Henry VII, she became a key figure in the Wars of the Roses as the matriarch of the House of Tudor.

Lady Margaret is revered as the founder of not one but two Cambridge colleges, refounding Christ’s College in 1505, and before she died in 1509 beginning the development of Saint John’s College, which was completed posthumously by her executors in 1511. Lady Margaret Hall, the first Oxford college to admit women, is also named in her honour.

The Chapel of Christ’s College was consecrated on or around 1 June 1510 by the then Bishop of Ely, James Stanley, a stepson of Lady Margaret Beaufort. A pious woman, it is said that even before the chapel was consecrated she heard Mass from a gallery now represented by a window in the south wall of the chapel, although the chapel was not formally consecrated until a year after her death.

The chapel survived the Reformation and now stands as a spiritual presence at the front of Christ’s College, tucked away beside the Master’s Lodge. Much of the original chapel fabric is still visible and its original construction is almost entirely intact.

Lady Margaret Beaufort’s statue on the gatehouse at Christ’s College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Lady Margaret’s contribution to re-founding Christ’s College is celebrated in a number of statues, heraldic emblems, and other architectural features around the college buildings. The college is entered through the imposing 16th century gatehouse, which still boasts its original oak doors. Above the entry is a statue and the coat of arms of Lady Margaret Beaufort.

Much of the façade, including the late 16th century oak doors, remained largely unchanged until the masonry was refaced with harder stone in 1714. A statue of Lady Margaret was added in the 19th century.

Christ’s College is laid out in a series of four courts. First Court is the oldest part of the college, dating to the 15th century. The range between the Gatehouse and the Chapel formed part of the original God’s House and were built between 1448 and 1452. The buildings in First Court do not look their age as they were refaced with stone in the 18th century.

The Dining Hall is an early 16th century building. Although it was remodelled in the late Victorian period, the hall retains its original roof and a 16th century portrait of Lady Margaret Beaufort.

Second Court gives access to the Fellows’ Garden, arguably the finest such garden in a Cambridge college. The site has been owned by the college since 1554, but the present garden dates from 1825.

Milton’s Mulberry Tree was planted in the garden in 1608 – the year Milton was born – as part of an attempt to encourage the silk industry in England. Legend says Milton composed Lycidas under the tree. A bathing pool and summerhouse nearby have stood there since at least 1763.

The Old Library houses an excellent collection of mediaeval manuscripts and early printed material.

The notable alumni of Christ’s College include the Poet John Milton and the naturalist Charles Darwin.

I preached in the Chapel of Christ’s College, Cambridge, ten years ago [1 February 2009] at the Solemn Orchestral Mass for the Eve of Candlemas. The sermon was part of the Lent Term series, ‘The ears of the heart …,’ organised by the then chaplain, the Revd Christopher Woods.

I stayed in Christ’s College again in 2010 for a weekend before moving to rooms in Sidney Sussex College, where I was taking part in a summer school organised by the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies.

Recently, people at Christ’s College realised that it had been many years since the gatehouse had been repainted and redecorated. It took about four years to research the right colours to be used, to restore wear and tear to the stonework and then to complete the repainting itself, which was undertaken by skilled craftsmen and women.

The restoration was carried out by Brown and Ralph, based in Longstanton. The firm believes the conservation of the stonework is going to increase its natural life, but also brighten the Cambridge streetscape.

Lady Margaret Beuafort’s coat of arms at the gatehouse at Saint John’s College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

There is a similar gatehouse at Saint John’s College, Cambridge. Anyone interested in architecture, Tudor history and heraldry can catch an alternative glimpse of what the gatehouse at Christ’s College might look like should visit Saint John’s.

There however, the heraldic emblems of Lady Margaret are displayed in a burnished gold, and instead of a statue of Lady Margaret above her coat of arms, the gatehouse displays a statue of Saint John the Evangelist holding the poisoned emblem associated with him in many legends.

The gatehouse at Saint John’s College is similar in many ways to its counterpart at Christ’s College (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

High Leigh: a house
with connections with
a missionary family

High Leigh, once the home of the Barclay family, could easily be a setting for any TV period drama (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

The High Leigh Conference Centre on the edges of Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire, where the USPG conference took place this week, is a beautiful Victorian country house, set in extensive parkland and landscaped gardens.

The garden at High Leigh is set with 40 acres of some of Hertfordshire’s most beautiful countryside, and the parkland is dotted with formal areas, woodland, lawns and ponds. Some of these features were created by the Pulham family of landscape gardeners in Broxbourne, just over a mile from High Leigh. The house could easily be a setting for any TV period drama.

The house was built in 1853 by Charles Webb, a gold lace manufacturer, and was bought in 1871 by Robert Barclay, a member of a well-known banking dynasty and a committed Christian, who renamed it High Leigh.

For generations, members of the Barclay and the Pulham families had been leading Quakers, and they may have attended the same Friends’ Meeting House on Lord Street, leading from Hoddesdon out to High Leigh. Although the Barclay family were once one of the leading Quaker families on these islands, by the time they came to live at High Leigh they were committed Anglicans, and their family story also has interesting links with Anglican mission work in the Far East over a century ago, and with the Diocese of Lichfield.

The impaled Barclay coat-of-arms with an episcopal mitre at High Leigh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

On the stairs to the room where I was staying in High Leigh this week, the walls are lined with Victorian photographs of the Barclay family and their staff, and a stained-glass window in the original parts of the house shows an impaled Barclay coat-of-arms that has a bishop’s mitre as one of the two crests.

Robert Barclay was born on 13 December 1843, in Walthamstow, Essex, the son of Joseph Gurney Barclay and Mary Walker Barclay. Over the generations, his ancestors had married into many other prominent banking families, and he was responsible for merging 20 banks into Barclay and Company Ltd.

Robert was an Anglican, and his immediate family played key roles in the life of the Church of England. He married Elizabeth Ellen Buxton (1848-1911), a granddaughter of the 19th century reformer and campaigner against slaver, Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, and they had a large family that included CMS missionaries.

One son, Joseph Gurney Barclay (1879-1976), was born at High Leigh on 9 February 1879 and was baptised in Stanstead Abbots, Hertfordshire. He was educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, and married Gillian Mary Birkbeck (1882-1909) in 1905.

Joseph entered the family banking empires. But he left Barclay’s Bank to be become am Anglican missionary. Joseph and Gillian were in Japan with the Church Mission Society (CMS) when Gillian died in Kobe in 1909.

Joseph remarried and returned to England in 1926. He was working on the staff of CMS in London while he lived in Rose Hill, close to High Leigh. When he died on 15 April 1976 at Troutstream Hall in Chorleywood, Rickmansworth, he was buried in Saint Augustine’s Churchyard, Broxbourne. His obituary in The Times was written by his nephew, Bishop Robin Woods of Worcester.

Joseph Gurney Barclay’s son, Sir Roderick Barclay (1909-1996), was born in Kobe, Japan and educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge. A career diplomat, he was the British Ambassador to Denmark (1956-1960) and Belgium (1963-1969).

The house at High Leigh faces onto open, rolling Hertfordshire countryside (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Another son of Robert Barclay, the Revd Gilbert Arthur Barclay (1882-1970), was born in High Leigh, baptised in Stanstead Abbots, and educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge. He was a vicar in Cumbria (1912 -1915), and during World War I he became an army chaplain in Flanders (1915-1916) and a hospital chaplain in London and Leicester (1916-1919).

Later he was a vicar in Leicestershire and a rector in Essex. His wife Dorothy Catherine Topsy Studd, who was born in Chin Shih Fang, Luanfu, Shanxi, was the daughter of pioneering missionaries in China, Charles Thomas Studd (1860-1931) and Priscilla Livingstone Stewart (1864-1929), who was born in Belfast.

A daughter of Robert Barclay, Rachel Elizabeth Barclay (1885-1932), who was born in High Leigh, worked as a CMS missionary in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). She is buried at Saint Augustine’s Church in Broxbourne.

Sir Jacob Epstein’s sculpture of Edward Sydney Woods, Bishop of Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Rachel Barclay was a sister of Clemence Rachel Barclay (1874-1952) married the Right Revd Edward Sydney Woods (1877-1953) in Hoddesdon in 1903. He was a son of the Revd Frank Woods, but also had a long line of Quaker ancestors through his mother, Alice Octavia Fry, a granddaughter of the prison reformed Elizabeth Fry.

Edward Woods was the Principal of Ridley Hall, Cambridge and Suffragan Bishop of Croydon, before becoming the 94th Bishop of Lichfield (1937-1952). Their daughter, Josephine Priscilla, married the Revd John d’Ewes Evelyn Firth in Lichfield Cathedral in 1939.

The war-time story is told of how Bishop Woods survived a German air raid by hiding under a dining room table with Ann Charteris, the future wife of Ian Fleming.

Clemence and Edward Wood were the parents of an archbishop, a bishop and an archdeacon.

The Most Revd Frank Woods (1907-1992), who was born in Davos, Switzerland, became the Archbishop of Melbourne (1957-1977) and Primate of Australia (1971-1977). He died in Melbourne in 1992.

The Ven Samuel Edward Woods (1910-2001) was the Archdeacon of Christchurch, New Zealand. His son, Canon Christopher Samuel Woods (1943-2007), was a Canon of Liverpool Cathedral.

The Right Revd Robert ‘Robin’ Wilmer Woods (1914-1997) was born in Lausanne, Switzerland. He was the Archdeacon of Sheffield, Dean of Windsor and Bishop of Worcester.

Robert Barclay continued to live at High Leigh until he died in 1921. His family then sold the property on favourable terms to First Conference Estate, a company he had been a director of, so that the house could become a Christian conference centre. The generosity of the Barclay family is celebrated in a plaque in the Oak Room, where I was taking part in two workshops on Tuesday afternoon.

A plaque in the Oak Room recalls the Barclay family’s connection with High Leigh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

26 June 2019

Where do we hear the voice
of prophecy in a world of
oppression and injustice?

With Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya of Swaziland and the Revd Duncan Dormor, General Secretary of USPG, at High Leigh on the closing day of the USPG conference

Patrick Comerford

Who are the oppressed, the oppressors in our societies today? And where is the Prophetic Voice of the Church to be heard today in the midst of oppression and injustice?

The Very Revd Gloria Mapangdol from the Philippines was leading the Bible discussion this morning at the High Leigh Conference Centre, on the last day of the annual conference of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

The conference theme this year is The Prophetic Voice of the Church, and this is linked to the USPG Bible study course with the same name.

Our Bible studies each morning have been led by Gloria Mapangdol. Her passage this morning [26 June 2019] was Amos 4: 1-3:

1 Hear this word, you cows of Bashan
who are on Mount Samaria,
who oppress the poor, who crush the needy,
who say to their husbands, ‘Bring something to drink!’
2 The Lord God has sworn by his holiness:
The time is surely coming upon you,
when they shall take you away with hooks,
even the last of you with fish-hooks.
3 Through breaches in the wall you shall leave,
each one straight ahead;
and you shall be flung out into Harmon,
says the Lord.

She introduced us to how the Prophet Amos talks first about Israel’s neighbours and what they are doing, before pointing his arrows at Israel. Bashan was known for its fertile land, great oaks, and its livestock. But the poor were oppressed there, the rich were the oppressor, and the families of the rich abetted in the oppression, gaining from it.

Who are the cows of Bashan? Are they cult worshippers of the mighty bull of Samaria? Are they the greedy and the wealthy and pampered women? Gloria Mapangdol suggested they are all who exploit the poor, both men and women, and presented this passage a warning to all who would exploit the poor, both men and women.

Amos condemns them for putting economic prosperity above justice, preferring wealth to justice, ignoring their covenant obligations in pursuit of their own greed.

He spoke of the consequences, with people being led away as prisoners and captives, dragged out alive, and expelled to an unknown destination. But hope is found later in Chapter 9, with the promises of the Lord restoring the fortunes of his people.

She insisted our spirituality cannot be disconnected from the surrounding social circumstances. It must be incarnational, and the church must be faithful to its mission.

This is a challenge not only to clergy and church leaders, but to all of us, she said, as she left us with three questions for discussion:

● Who are the ‘cows of Bashan’ in your community?

● How does your government or church treat the poor and the marginalised?

● How can you become the modern Amos in your given context?

Later this morning, there was a moving presentation on ‘Speaking Truth to Power’ from Cathrine Fungai Ngangira from Zimbabwe, an ordinand at Cranmer Hall, Durham University.

She too asked where the prophetic voice of the Church is to be heard today. Who speaks truth to power today? Perhaps it is time for the church to speak the truth with power, she suggested.

The prophetic voice of the Church is not just in words, but in deeds too, she said. Action speaks louder than words.

Looking forward, Canon Richard Bartlett introduced USPG resources, planned events, including the USPG celebration at All Saints’ Church, Margaret Street, when the preacher is Bishop Michael Burrows of Cashel and Ossory (21 September), regional days this year and next year, next year’s ‘Rethinking Mission’ conference in Saint John’s Church, Waterloo (21 March 2020), and next year’s USPG conference in Swanwick, Derbyshire (20-22 July 2020).

We also discussed hospitality and USPG’s involvement in next year’s Lambeth Conference at Canterbury.

The celebrant at our closing Eucharist in the early afternoon was Bishop Calvert Leopold Friday from the Windward Islands. The preacher was Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya of Swaziland, who has had close links with USPG in Ireland and with the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe.

These have been three days with inspiring speakers, interactive workshops and opportunities to meet old friends and hear new voices engaged in mission.

The weather has been hot and sultry since I arrived on Monday morning, with a heavy rainstorm throughout Monday night and early Tuesday. But it stayed dry today, and in the afternoon I decided to return to Cambridge to browse in some of my favourite bookshops.

I am booked on a flight from Stansted to Dublin later this evening, and I have a busy round of meetings tomorrow in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick.

At the High Leigh Conference Centre at Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Challenges that bring home
the crucial importance of
mission in an unjust world

Looking forward to the next steps in mission with USPG … at the High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

As part of the three-day USPG Conference this week, the Council of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) met in the High Leigh Conference Centre last night [25 June 2019].

John Neilsen, USPG’s chair of trustees since last year’s conference in July 2018, reported how USPG has made several significant strides forward. The trustees have set a clear path to achieving financial sustainability over the next two years, there are several new trustees, and the Revd Duncan Dormor, who has been General Secretary since January 2018, has provide USPG with strategic and energetic leadership.

‘The need for a proactive Anglican mission agency remains very clear,’ he said in his report. ‘We wish to stand closely alongside our partners around the world, many of whom witness to the Gospel in conditions of great challenge, not least in facing poverty and risks to personal security.’

The year 2018 has been one of significant change for USPG. Canon Chris Chivers retired after six years in the chair, and the trustees who retired during the year include Canon Joabe Cavalcanti, John Chilver, the Revd Dr Olubunmi Fagbemi, Rosemary Kempsell (Vice-Chair), Bishop John McDowell of Clogher, Leah Skouby and Jane Watkeys. New trustees include Sheila Cook, Bishop Jo Penberthy, the Revd Dr Carlton Turner and Martin Uden.

At last year’s council meeting in High Leigh (3 July 2018), I was elected a trustee for a second three-year term. At last night’s council meeting, Catriona Duffy and Catherine Wickens were appointed as new trustees, the Revd Canon Dr Daphne Green (Vice-Chair), the Revd Christopher Rogers, and Richard Barrett were reappointed as trustees for a second three-year term each, and the Revd Judith Ware, Diocese of Manchester, was elected to the council.

During the past year, USPG bought new offices at 3 Trinity Street, Southwark. It is a sign of commitment to the long-term ministry of USPG and should be the society’s base for many years to come. The new chapel was filled for the commissioning service on 21 March 2019.

John Neilsen thanked USPG’s staff for their ‘support and dedication through the challenges of moving, first to temporary offices … and then to the new building.’

Looking ahead, USPG recognises its greatest current challenge is to enthuse many more churches and individuals across Britain and Ireland to share in this exciting work, in practical ways as well as with prayer and financial support.

The Revd Duncan Dormor spoke of how USPG lives out its mission in the midst of the world’s challenges. His report spoke of the horror of attacks on churches in Sri Lanka and an unprecedented second cyclone in Southern Africa, with extensive flooding and a cholera outbreak.

‘These events bring home in stark terms the crucial importance of USPG’s engagement with the issues of climate justice and inter-religious living, as well as other key challenges, like migration and gender justice.

‘All of these challenges are truly global in nature and remind us of the fundamental interdependence of the world, and the deep sense of connection between the churches of the Anglican Communion ... They shape the mission priorities of our partner churches.’

USPG has developed a strategic vision for the coming years, outlined in the document, Open to Encounter: Mission in the 21st Century. The process of reflection on what it means to be a mission agency in the 21st century has deepened the commitment to addressing the common challenges.

Three high level strategic priorities have been identified: to Rethink Mission, to Energise Church and Community, and to Champion Justice. These three priorities are delivered through six strategic programmes:

Mission theology: to support, facilitate and encourage creative initiatives in missiological theology within the Anglican Communion and to provide opportunities for dissemination and wider discussion.

Leadership development: To assist in the development of collaborative and mutually accountable leadership within the Anglican Communion.

Strengthening capacity: to accompany the provinces and dioceses of the Anglican Communion as they further develop their capacity to deliver their mission through integrated programmes that serve the needs of their churches and communities in holistic mission.

Mission Engagement in Britain and Ireland: to strengthen and equip the churches of Britain and Ireland to engage in world-wide mission through developing USPG’s engagement with dioceses and a wide range of Church networks, and providing opportunities for individuals to experience the world-wide church.

Policy development and alliance-building: to provide high quality research about faith-based mission and development that informs best practice and influences secular and religious policy- and decision-makers.

Supporting locally prioritised initiatives: To strengthen churches in the Anglican Communion as they seek to tackle injustice by sharing skills, experience and resources to support locally prioritised initiatives.

The conference comes to a close later today.

A walk by the lake at the High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

25 June 2019

Where are refugees and
migrants to hear the ‘Prophetic
Voice of the Church’ today?

The High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon this morning after last night’s rain (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Where is the Prophetic Voice of the Church to be heard today? This question keeps being asked at this year’s three-day conference of the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

The conference is taking place at the High Leigh Conference Centre at Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire, and the conference theme is ‘The Prophetic Voice of the Church.’

Today’s programme has taken the form of a stand-alone event that supporters could take part today in a one-day conference.

The world of mission has shifted from a one-way process to partnership, we were told this morning by the Right Revd Dickson Chilongani, Bishop of Central Tanganyika in Tanzania.

‘The Church in Africa is the Church of the Poor,’ he said, ‘… but the Church in the West has much to learn from us.’ He spoke movingly about suffering and trusting in God. We are not merely human beings but ‘human becomings.’

Bishop Dickson said to be prophetic is to speak on God’s behalf. He reminded us that the majority of prophets in the Old Testament were not priests but lay people, ordinary people, like Amos the farmer who was a shepherd and who was looking after sycamore trees.

These prophets told the truth about power and society, spoke on behalf of the poor and the oppressed, and predicted the consequences of the events of their day, pointing to the choice between impending judgment and redemption.

For the Prophetic Voice of the Church to be heard today, lay participation is crucial.

We also heard three very different perspectives from three priests working on the margins with refugees and migrants.

The Biblical background for our discussion with a ‘migration panel’ was provided by the Revd Dr Evie Vernon O’Brien, who read two relevant Bible passages:

‘A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labour on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.’ (Deuteronomy 26: 5-7)

… an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt ... (Matthew 2: 13-15)

The speakers and guests were drawn from West Africa, North Africa, and Europe:

● the Revd Canon St Obed Arist Kojo Baiden of the Anglican Diocese of The Gambia;

● the Revd Dennis Obidiegwu, chaplain of Saint Andrew’s Church, Tangier, Morocco;

● the Revd Canon Kirilee Reid, chaplain and refugee projects officer in Calais in France.

Many of the people they work with are strong young men and women, most have children. Today, there are about 550 displaced people living in Calais, more up the coast in Dunkirk. When the Jungle disbanded, just means more dispersed, more needs, and difficult to defend their human rights.

Canon St Obed Arist Kojo Baiden asked what is the difference between refugees and migrants. There is a fine difference, he said, but added: ‘All of us are migrants, for all of us are on the move.’

Father Dennis told us, ‘One life that is lost the whole world cannot replace.’

This afternoon we hear snippets and stories from people who have returned from ‘Journey with Us’ programmes in Tanzania, St Vincent and elsewhere. We also heard from the Right Revd Calvert Leopold Friday, Bishop of the Windward Islands in the Church of the Province of the West Indies.

Later in the afternoon, there was a choice from five workshops:

● Mission stories from North India (with Bishop Probal Kanto Dutta of Calcutta);

● Going back, going forward, what is home? (with a Migration Panel);

● Engaging Church and Community in Global Mission (with Davidson Solanki and Fran Mate);

● The Prophetic Voice in the UK and Ireland (with the Revd Duncan Dormor and the Revd Evie Vernon O’Brien).

● Journey with Us (with Habib Nader).

Before the end of the day, there is a meeting of the USPG Council this evening, closing with night prayer.

The final day of the conference tomorrow (26 June 2019) begins again with a Bible study led by the Very Revd Gloria Mapangdol from the Philippines, and morning discussions on Speaking Truth to Power, led by Cathrine Fungai Ngangira from Zimbabwe, a second year ordinand at Cranmer Hall, Durham University, and on the 2020 Lambeth Conference, led by Canon Richard Bartlett.

The celebrant at our closing Eucharist tomorrow is Bishop Calvert Leopold Friday from the Windward Islands, and the preacher is Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya of Swaziland, who has visited the Diocese of Killaloe many times.

In the grounds of the High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon today (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)