05 April 2021

Remembering champions of justice
at virtual meetings of USPG trustees

Bishop Humphrey Taylor … instrumental in the USPG response to apartheid in South Africa

Patrick Comerford

For the past year, I have continued to attend meetings of the trustees of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel). But, instead of travelling to London a few times a year for these meetings, the pandemic lockdowns mean these have been ‘virtual’ meetings, attended online in the Rectory in Askeaton, without the benefit of the sideline meetings that help to foster and nurture friendships.

At the end of each meeting of USPG trustees, we remember in prayer former missionaries, staff members and supporters who have died since the previous meeting. At our latest ‘virtual’ meeting, those we remembered included Bishop Humphrey Taylor, a former USPG general secretary, and the Revd James Potts, who had been a missionary in Tanzania.

Bishop Humphrey Taylor (1938-2021) was a former USPG general secretary (1984-1991) and later the Suffragan Bishop of Selby.

He went with SPG to Malawi, where he was the Rector of Saint Peter’s, Lilongwe. But President Hastings Banda expelled the Humphrey family from Malawi in 1971. Back in England, he was chaplain at Bishop Grosseteste College in Lincoln and worked for the General Synod Board of Education.

Humphrey Taylor returned to USPG as Missions Programmes Secretary in 1980 and General Secretary in 1984. He visited South Africa on behalf of USPG in 1982, with Geoffrey Cleaver and Roger Symon, visiting 15 Anglican dioceses and people and groups, from parish level to the Provincial Standing Committee of the Anglican Church.

Their joint report expressed admiration for a Church that was ‘strong in numbers, rich in talent, efficiently led, active in evangelism, powerful in stewardship, deeply involved in social concern.’ But they were also worried that the Church was part of the status quo and pointed out: ‘Despite the black majority (80%) in its church membership, of seventeen diocesan bishops … only six were black.’

The close links between USPG and the Anglican Church in South Africa made USPG a respected source of information for the media, and USPG was instrumental in setting up the South Africa Crisis Information Group. When I was working as a journalist, I relied on USPG as one of my sources for church life in South Africa at that time.

When the life of Bishop Simeon Nkoane was threatened violently in Johannesburg in 1986, Humphrey Taylor and USPG arranged a high-profile visit to South Africa by Bishop Keith Sutton of Lichfield as the representative of Archbishop Robert Runcie of Canterbury. Later, Humphrey Taylor accompanied Archbishop Runcie to the enthronement of Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Cape Town, and it is said he wrote Archbishop Runcie’s sermon for the occasion.

Archbishop Tutu made Humphrey Taylor a Provincial Canon of Southern Africa in 1989 for his ‘inestimable contribution’ to the life and work of the Church there. After 11 years at USPG, he became Suffragan Bishop of Selby in 1991. He died on Ash Wednesday, 17 February, at the age of 82.

The Revd James Potts was a missionary in Tanzania for 12 years, where he was involved in theological education. He later lived in retirement in Lichfield, and we got to know each other at Lichfield Cathedral, where he regularly presided at the mid-day Eucharist in the cathedral, in the Lady Chapel or at the High Altar.

In retirement, he was also the chaplain of Dr Milley’s Hospital on Beacon Street, Lichfield. We last met at the mid-day Eucharist in Lichfield Cathedral many months ago. He died on 8 February at the age of 90.

This news report is published in the April 2021 edition of Newslink (pp 8-9), the Limerick and Killaloe diocesan magazine

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
48, Resurrection windows, Tamworth

The World War I memorial window in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth, by Henry Holiday (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).

Easter began yesterday with Easter Day. This week, I am offering photographs of images of the Resurrection from seven churches, some of which I have already visited during the season of Lent.

My photographs this morning (5 April 2021) are of Resurrection images in the windows in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth.

Saint Editha’s Church has three interesting war memorials side-by-side in the North Aisle. The first of these windows, at the west end of the north aisle, is the World War I Memorial Window, dating from 1920, and by Henry George Alexander Holiday (1839-1927).

The artist Henry Holiday succeeded Sir Edward Burne-Jones as the chief designer for James Powell & Sons in 1863. Some of his windows were made by Lavers & Barraud and by Heaton, Butler & Bayne. He established his own workshop in 1890, and his later work was made at the Glass House, Fulham.

In the centre of this window, the Risen Christ is crowned and enthroned, with a cross in his left hand and his right hand raised in blessing. Above him are the words: ‘Come unto me & ye shall find rest to your souls.’ On either side are the words ‘Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.’

The rainbow above the throne is a sign of the Covenant of God and of hope. Two cherubs above are symbols of Divine Love. Four angels in two pairs on each side bear a scroll with the words: ‘Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.’

The words at the bottom read: ‘The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord hath anointed me to bind up the broken hearted, to comfort all that mourn, to give unto them the garment of praise for the spirit of the spirit of heaviness.’

Below the figure of Christ, groups of bereaved people are bringing their sorrows to him.

The memorial window commemorating the Revd Maurice Peel in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth, by Henry Holiday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The second war memorial window in Saint Editha’s Church, also by Henry Holiday, is in memory of the Revd Maurice Berkeley Peel (1887-1917), Vicar of Tamworth (1915-1917), who was killed in France in May 1917 during World War I.

The three principle human figures in the three lights are caught up in the wind and represent Life (left), Death (right) and Resurrection (centre), with angelic figures above them who represent Faith (left), Hope (right) and Love (centre).

The third window, at the east end of the north aisle of Saint Editha’s, is a World War II Memorial Window from 1949. This window is by Gerald Edward Roberts Smith (1883-1959).

The focal point of this window is the figure of the Risen Christ in Glory in the centre light, symbolising the Victory over Evil. Christ is shown in the Tree of Life, with its branches spreading into the outer lights, for its leaves are for the healing of the nations. He is encircled with the words, ‘Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through Our Lord Jesus Christ.’

This window is inspired by the themes in the canticle Te Deum, and depicts the Prophets, the Glorious Company of the Apostles, the Noble Army of Martyrs, and ‘the Holy Church throughout the World.’

The World War II memorial window by Gerald Smith in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 28: 8-15 (NRSVA)

8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’

11 While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 telling them, ‘You must say, “His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.” 14 If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.’ 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day.

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (5 April 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for women and girls who are afraid to tell when acts of violence are committed against them. We pray for their perpetrators and for a justice system that would believe their tales of pain.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

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