11 April 2021

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
54, Saint Mary and Saint George, Comberford

The Church of Saint Mary and Saint George, Comberford … built in 1914 and closed in 2013 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the Season of Easter this year, I am continuing my theme from Lent, taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

Today is the Second Sunday of Easter (Easter II, Sunday 11 April 2021), sometimes known as Low Sunday. This week, I am offering photographs of churches with close associations with my family and ancestors.

This morning’s photographs are from the Church of Saint Mary and Saint George, Comerford, east of Lichfield and north of Tamworth.

For many generations, my family continued to regard Comberford as our ancestral home, despite some of the complicated details in our family tree. My great-grandfather, James Comerford (1817-1902), had a very interesting visit to Comberford and Tamworth at the end of the 19th or in the early 20th century, visiting the Peel family who lived at Comberford Hall … he probably had his heart set on consolidating those family links.

The Stafforshire church historian, Michael Greenslade, suggests the family chapel in Comberford Hall survived until the mid-18th century. But the Comberford family also had its own chapel in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth (my choice of church tomorrow, 12 April 2021), and there was a family chapel in the Moat House on Lichfield Street, Tamworth (my choice for Tuesday 13 April 2021).

The church in Comberford is of a much later date than Comberford Hall and the presence of the Comberford family. The church was built on a site donated in May 1914 by Howard Francis Paget (1858-1935) of Elford Hall. His father, the Revd Francis Edward Paget (1806-1882), was Rector of Elford, an early follower of the Oxford Movement and the author of Tractarian fiction, including The Curate of Cumberworth (sic) (1859).

Some sources say the church was designed by Andrew Capper, a well-known Gothic revival architect who worked closely with George Edmund Street. Other sources say the architects were Hicks and Charlewood of Newcastle-on-Tyne. Robert Bridgeman (1844-1918) and his Joseph, of Quonians Lane, Lichfield, were the builders and also responsible for the interior fittings.

After almost a century, the last service in Saint Mary’s and Saint George’s Church was held on 13 October 2013 before the church closed for the final time. After its closure, Bridgeman’s rood was moved from Comberford to the church at Coven near Brewood in 2014. The Tamworth and District Civic Society reported in late 2019 that the processional cross from Comberford Church is now in the chancel of the 13th century Spital Chapel of Saint James, in Wigginton Road, Tamworth. The church is also remembered in a hassock in Lichfield Cathedral.

Saint Mary’s and Saint George’s Church in Comberford, built by Robert Bridgeman of Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 20: 19-31 (NRSVA):

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 27 Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ 28 Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ 29 Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Comberford is named on a hassock in Lichfield Cathedral with the symbols of the Virgin Mary (white rose) and Saint George (red cross) (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (11 April 2021, Easter II) invites us to pray:

Good and generous God, we thank you
for bestowing on us the constant gifts of Your love.
You care for us all. Forgive us we pray for those times
we have not cared for Your people as we should.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The Comberford Processional Cross, now in the Spital Chapel of Saint James, Tamworth (Photograph © Susan Biggs)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

A Christmas card with the Church of Saint Mary and Saint George Church, Comberford, in a watercolour by Freda Morgan (2008)

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