02 September 2022

Praying with USPG and the music of
Vaughan Williams: Friday 2 September 2022

Lucian Tapiedi (second from right) among the ten martyrs of the 20th century above the West Door of Westminster Abbey … he is commemorated today with the Martyrs of Papua New Guinea (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship today [2 September] remembers the Martyrs of Papua New Guinea (1901 and 1942) with a commemoration.

Before today gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose music is celebrated throughout this year’s Proms season. In my prayer diary for these weeks I am reflecting in these ways:

1, One of the readings for the morning;

2, Reflecting on a hymn or another piece of music by Vaughan Williams, often drawing, admittedly, on previous postings on the composer;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

‘I sometimes think about the cross,/ and shut my eyes, and try to see’ … the Lichfield Cross by Ian Knowles in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The church in Papua New Guinea has been enriched by martyrdom twice in the 20th century. James Chalmers, Oliver Tomkins and some companions were sent to New Guinea by the London Missionary Society. They met their death by martyrdom in 1901. Forty years later, during World War II, New Guinea was occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army and Christians were severely persecuted.

Among those who died for the faith were two English priests, Vivian Redlich and John Barge, who remained with their people after the invasion of 1942 but were betrayed and beheaded, together with seven Australians and two Papuan evangelists, Leslie Gariadi and Lucian Tapiedi.

Matthew 10: 16-22 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said,] 16 ‘See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22 and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.’

Today’s reflection: ‘It is a thing most wonderful’

For my reflections and devotions each day these few weeks, I am reflecting on and invite you to listen to a piece of music or a hymn set to a tune by the great English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).

Yesterday, I was listening to the hymn ‘For All the Saints,’ which was written by Bishop William Walsham How and was set by Vaughan Williams to his tune Sine Nomine.

This morning [2 September 2022], I invite you to continue in this mode, listening to another hymn by Bishop How, ‘It is a thing most wonderful’ (Irish Church Hymnal, 226; New English Hymnal, 84), which Vaughan Williams set to the tune ‘Herongate.’

The tune ‘Herongate’ is one of several folksong melodies collected by Vaughan Williams. He transcribed the tune of ‘In Jesse’s City’ in 1903 when he heard a maid singing that song in Ingrave Rectory near Brentwood, about three miles from Herongate in Essex. It was first used with this hymn in 1906 in the first edition of the English Hymnal, which Vaughan Williams edited with Canon Percy Dearmer.

Herongate is near Ingrave, Essex, and both the Boar’s Head pub and the pond at Herongate are named after the crest of the Tyrell family: a boar’s head with a peacock feather in its jaws. The inn has legendary connections with Dick Turpin, with stories of him leaping from upstairs windows.

Whether or not Vaughan Williams ever visited the Boar’s Head, the tune ‘Herongate’ is based on the tune he had heard with ‘In Jesse’s City’ in Ingrave Rectory. But, because he had already used ‘Ingrave’ as the name for a different tune, set to ‘There’s a Friend for Little Children,’ he named this morning’s tune ‘Herongate.’

The song is one of the ‘Died For Love’ / ‘Tavern in the Town’ family, also known as ‘In London City’ or ‘The Butcher Boy’ – although here it is a postman boy who is the unfaithful lover.

‘It is a thing most wonderful’ was written by How, while he was Rector of Whittington in Shropshire – then in the Diocese of St Asaph but now in the Diocese of Lichfield – but it was not published until 1872.

The first version was five verses in length, but within 15 years he had added two more verses to the original. Through this hymn, How is trying to reveal the love of God by looking at the Cross through the eyes of a child. In the 1872 draft, he placed the text I John 4: 10 above the hymn: ‘Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins.’

It is a thing most wonderful,
almost too wonderful to be,
that God’s own Son should come from heaven,
and die to save a child like me.

And yet I know that it is true:
he chose a poor and humble lot,
and wept and toiled, and mourned and died,
for love of those who loved him not.

I cannot tell how he would love
a child so weak and full of sin;
his love must be most wonderful,
if he could die my love to win.

I sometimes think about the cross,
and shut my eyes, and try to see
the cruel nails and crown of thorns,
and Jesus crucified for me.

But even could I see him die,
I could but see a little part
of that great love which, like a fire,
is always burning in his heart.

It is most wonderful to know
his love for me so free and sure;
but ’tis more wonderful to see
my love for him so faint and poor.

And yet I want to love thee, Lord,
O light the flame within my heart,
and I will love thee more and more,
until I see thee as thou art.

All Saints’ Church, one of the two Anglican churches in Rome … William Walsham How was chaplain here from 1865 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayer, Friday 2 September 2022 (The Martyrs of Papua New Guinea):

The Collect:

Almighty God,
by whose grace and power the holy martyrs of Papua New Guinea
triumphed over suffering and were faithful unto death:
strengthen us with your grace,
that we may endure reproach and persecution
and faithfully bear witness to the name
of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post Communion Prayer:

Eternal God,
who gave us this holy meal
in which we have celebrated the glory of the cross
and the victory of the Martyrs of Papua New Guinea:
by our communion with Christ
in his saving death and resurrection,
give us with all your saints the courage to conquer evil
and so to share the fruit of the tree of life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The theme in the USPG prayer diary all this week is ‘A New Province,’ inspired by the work of the Igreja Anglicana de Mocambique e Angola (IAMA), made up of dioceses in Mozambique and Angola, the second and third largest Portuguese-speaking countries in the world.

The Right Revd Vicente Msosa, Bishop of the Diocese of Niassa in the Igreja Anglicana de Mocambique e Angola, shares his prayer requests in the USPG Prayer Diary throughout this week.

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

Let us pray for the Diocese of Zambezia. We pray especially that they continue to serve those displaced by terrorism and cyclones.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

‘I sometimes think about the cross,/ and shut my eyes, and try to see’ … walking along Cross in Hand Lane in Lichfield Cross (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

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

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