27 July 2022

Living with a World of Difference
at the USPG conference this week

Resources to take home from this week’s USPG conference in High Leigh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

I came away from this week’s USPG conference in High Leigh this week with a variety of reading material. ‘Living Stones, Living Hope’ was the theme of this week’s conference of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) at the High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire.

Living with a World of Difference is a five-session study course celebrating diversity within the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion is the world’s third largest Christian community, a worldwide family of tens of millions of Christians, from more than 165 countries around the globe.

This study course introduces the enormous breadth of cultural diversity within the Anglican Communion. Anglicans and Episcopalians live in modern cities and rural heartlands, and speak hundreds of languages, with a wealth of difference and diversity.

Living Stones, Living Hope is a new course for 2022, taking its title from I Peter 2, the text of the Bible study for the Lambeth Conference which opened today. This study was produced by USPG as a resource for both USPG and the bishops taking part in the Lambeth Conference.

The metaphor of the Christian community in I Peter 2 as living stones is rich and evocative. We, the Church, are the living stones, and we are called to bring living hope in our diverse situations, though faith in Christ, who is the cornerstone of our faith. In each context this is lived out differently and is underpinned by a range of theologies. Yet our bedrock in Christ remains our constant.

Living Stones, Living Hope explores this from the perspective of five partner churches around the world, inviting us to reflect on our own experience of being ‘living stones’ and bringing ‘living hope’ to our own situations, in the light of the experiences of others.

I was one of the five global theologians invited to contribute to this study, and drew on my experiences of Church co-operation in Rathkeale in the Diocese of Limerick, where I was the priest-in-charge until the end of March.

I wrote about the experience of the Church of Ireland in the study for Week 4, looking at the impact of Brexit on a cross-border church, of the tensions that remain after the peace process, and other social and political changes in Ireland.

I also wrote about the work of the three main churches in West Limerick, offering the work of the churches in Rathkeale as ‘one small example of applying our understanding’ of ‘the stone that the builders rejected.’ The project in Rathkeale seeks ‘to create understanding and a shared space for Travellers, who are a large ethnic minority in the area, and the people of Rathkeale, who fear losing their social, economic and cultural place in the town.’

I wrote, ‘As the Church takes stock once again, it needs to be less worried about how it is perceived or whether it is losing credibility, and more willing to engage with these questions, even when this is costly.’

I also contributed to a video produced in Askeaton for this course.

The other contributors to ‘Living Stones, Living Hope’ are from Brazil, India, Korea and Zambia.

The latest edition of USPG’s magazine Koinonia (Issue 9 6/2022) includes a feature a new confidence in the Church of Bangladesh, updates on the Ukraine appeal, an introduction to new directors of USPG, and news about this week’s Lambeth Conference.

Dr Jo Sadgrove, Research and Learning Advisor with USPG, is the author of Resourcing the crisis: Pastoral care across space and time. This colourfully-illustrated document is the result of a collaboration between researchers at the University of Leeds and USPG.

The Pastoral Care project was designed to examine the intersections between pastoral care, cross-cultural understandings of disease and cure, models of public health engagement and the role of churches and church leaders in providing care for communities around the world. These intersections and the questions they raise are explored in a some of USPG’s historical records and in relation to its contemporary ministry to churches around the Anglican Communion.

As an Anglican mission agency founded in 1701, USPG occupies a rather strange position – facing both the United Kingdom and Ireland on one hand and the churches of the Anglican Communion, yet ‘belonging’ to neither. The quest for identity and role for an organisation like UPSG in a post-colonial context has been an ongoing challenge.

This project helped USPG staff to understand how some of the key questions that continue to preoccupy USPG as an organisation are sustained across time. These include: Who is the object of pastoral care? How do we provide remote care? How do crises foster innovations in care? How do local care needs define what ministry is in any place?

Resources on display at the USPG conference in High Leigh this week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Praying with the World Church in
Ordinary Time: Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Westcott House, Cambridge … founded as the Clergy Training School by Bishop Brooke Foss Westcott (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The annual conference of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) in the High Leigh Conference Centre at Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire concludes today. The conference, which began on Monday, has the theme ‘Living Stones, Living Hope.’

On the main themes in the conference has been the future of theological education. In the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship, we remember remembers Brooke Foss Westcott, Bishop of Durham, Teacher of the Faith (1901), with a commemoration today (27 July).

I am continuing my prayer diary each morning this week in this way:

1,Reading the Gospel reading of the morning;

2,a short reflections on the reading;

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

Westcott played a significant role in founding the Clergy Training School in Cambridge, later renamed Westcott House (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

One of the Gospel readings provided in Exciting Holiness for Teachers of the Faith and Spiritual Writers is:

Matthew 5. 13-19 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 13 ‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

14 ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

17 ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.’

Bishop Brooke Foss Westcott, who gave his name to Westcott House, Cambridge, died on 27 July 1901 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s reflection:

Brooke Foss Westcott was born near Birmingham on 12 January 1825. He was a student at Trinity College, Cambridge (BA , 1848), was elected a Fellow of Trinity College in 1849, and was ordained deacon in 1849 and priest in 1851.

He left Cambridge in 1852 to become an assistant master at Harrow. There he earned a reputation as a lecturer and scholar, and published a series of scholarly works on the Bible. He wrote commentaries on the gospel and epistles of Saint John, and his History of the New Testament Canon (1855) was for many years a standard work in biblical scholarship.

His reputation led eventually in 1870 to his election as Regius Professor of Divinity in the University of Cambridge, a position he retained even after being named bishop of Durham in 1890.

At Cambridge, he worked with the Dublin-born theologian and Biblical scholar, Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828-1892), and his friend from schooldays in Birmingham, Joseph Barber Lightfoot (1828-1889), in leading a revival in biblical studies and theology.

Westcott and Hort collaborated on an influential critical edition of the Greek text of the New Testament. The Westcott-Hort New Testament appeared in 1881 after almost 30 years of work and became a major source for the English Revised Version of the Bible published the same year.

Westcott was influential too in the field of Anglican social thought. In 1889, he convened a conference of Christians from all over Europe to consider the arms race. From this conference emerged the Christian Social Union, with Westcott as its president.

Westcott also played a significant role in founding the Clergy Training School in Cambridge, later renamed Westcott House in his honour.

In 1890, he was consecrated Bishop of Durham in succession to Lightfoot. His social concerns found other outlets in the promotion of missionary work, which he supported enthusiastically as bishop, and in the mediation of the Durham coal strike in 1892.

He died at Auckland Castle in Durham on this day in 1901.

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) this week is ‘The Way Towards Healing,’ looking at the work for peace of the Churches in Korea. This theme was introduced on Sunday by Shin Seung-min, National Council of Churches in Korea.

Wednesday 27 July 2022:

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

We pray for unity in difference. May we celebrate the diversity of our churches and communities as we journey together.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

‘Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven’ (Matthew 5: 14) … the chapel bell in Westcott House (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