18 August 2022

Lichfield Peace Walk:
a 30 km walk from one
Saint Chad’s to another

Setting out on a morning walk along Cross in Hand Lane, on the edges of Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I am thinking about visiting Lichfield next week to take part in this year’s Lichfield Peace Walk, which starts next Monday morning in Lichfield and reaches Stafford on Wednesday.

The three-day, 30 km (20 mile) walk is along the pilgrim way from Saint Chad’s Church, Lichfield, to Saint Chad’s Church, Stafford. This is an interfaith venture, supported by members of the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Buddhist communities in the Lichfield area.

Nine monks from the Wat Mahathat Thai Buddhist Temple in King’s Bromley, led by Abbot Ajahn, Thailand’s most senior monk in Britain, plan to take part in the walk along the pilgrim way from Lichfield to Stafford between Monday (22 August) and Wednesday (24 August).

The Lichfield Peace Walk begins at Saint Chad’s Church, Lichfield, at 8 am on Monday (22 August). The Rector of Saint Chad’s, the Revd Rod Clark, is looking forward to meeting the walkers.

Saint Chad’s Church, Lichfield … on the site of Saint Chad’s seventh century church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Chad’s Church is a place of pilgrimage, at one end of ‘Two Saints’ Way,’ a pilgrimage route between Lichfield Cathedral and Chester Cathedral. This pilgrimage route was revived in 2012 and can be followed by starting in either Lichfield or Chester.

The walkers then plan to walk on to the new statue of Saint Chad at Lichfield Cathedral, where they hope to hear news about the planned shrine of Saint Chad. From there, the route takes the walkers to a number of sites in Lichfield, including the Garden of Remembrance in Beacon Street, the site of the former Franciscan Friary, and Beacon Park Peace Garden, before setting off along Cross in Hand Lane.

Many of the walkers expect – appropriately – to hold small wooden crosses as they walk along Cross in Hand Lane.

Cross in Hand Lane begins close to the Hedgehog Vintage Inn on the corner of Stafford Road. Little has changed in the landscape along this route since mediaeval times. The road twists and turns, rises and falls, with countryside that has changed little over the centuries.

At this time of the year, the fields along Cross in Hand Lane are green and golden under the clear blue skies of summer. There are horses in paddocks here, or cows there, and most of the land is arable or being used for grazing. In the past, this walk has offered me opportunities to clear out the cobwebbed corners of my brain and (hopefully) my soul, and allowed me time to enjoy this walk as this walk and as nothing more.

At Farewell, they hope to be greeted at Saint Bartholomew’s Church at lunchtime by the Revd Lynn McKeon, Priest-in-Charge of Christ Church, Gentleshaw, and Saint Bartholomew’s, Farewell. Wednesday is the Feast of Saint Bartholomew (24 August).

The story of this country parish church dates back to a small Benedictine Priory of Farewell, founded by Roger de Clinton (1129-1148), Bishop of Lichfield (1129-1148), ca 1140. He endowed the place with several episcopal estates. The Priory was a stopping point on the pilgrim route between Lichfield Cathedral and Chester Cathedral.

Although it began as a foundation for monks or hermits, Farewell soon became a nunnery. But, as the nunnery prospered, all was not well in Farewell. Reports from 14th-century episcopal visitations found incidents of nuns who left the nunnery and put aside their habit, and nuns who were sleeping two in a bed and with young girls in their beds.

The priory did not survive the general Dissolution in the 16th century. In August 1527, the Chapter of Lichfield was granted all the possessions of Farewell Priory, including the house and church and the Manor of Farewell. By the 18th century, Saint Bartholomew’s Church seems to have been the only surviving part of the priory buildings.

The High Altar and reredos in Saint Chad’s Church, Stafford … one of the ancient sites on the Two Saints Way (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Monday’s stage of the walk ends at Castle Ring. The final three miles of the day up to Castle Ring may ‘be difficult for everyone to do,’ says Andrew Jacobs, ‘but the monks have got a mini-bus if anyone’s flagging in the heat.’

On Day 2 (Tuesday 23 August), the Lichfield Peace Walk walks across Cannock Chase. Beginning at Castle Ring at 8 am, the walkers continue along the Heart of England Way, visiting the Commonwealth, German and Polish war memorials, and continuing along Sherbrook Valley to Milford.

On Day 3 (Wednesday 24 August), the Lichfield Peace Walk sets off for Stafford. The walk begins at Milford Common at 8 am, and continues through golden fields, green forest and along a beautiful river-side walk, before arriving at the final stage of the walk at Saint Chad’s Church, Stafford.

Later this year, in November, Lichfield Cathedral is recreating Saint Chad’s shrine. Andrew Jacobs describes Saint Chad as ‘England’s Saint Francis.’ He says Lichfield Peace Walk has two main goals.

He believes peace on earth cannot be achieved until people of different faith backgrounds talk to each other, and especially visit each other’s places of worship. He also believes that when Lichfield venerates Saint Chad, the city prospers. ‘When his shrine was destroyed pilgrims stopped coming, and eventually violence erupted in the Cathedral.’

Praying with USPG and the music of
Vaughan Williams: Thursday 18 August 2022

The memorial plaque commemorating Ralph Vaughan Williams in the Ante-Chapel of Trinity College Cambridge … Vaughan Williams was an undergraduate here and AE Housman was a Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I am back in Stony Stratford this morning (18 August 2022) after my consultation in Sheffield Hospital as a follow-up to my stroke five months ago (18 March 2022). Hopefully this is preparing the way for a surgical procedure within the next few weeks.

Before this day 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.’

‘Go therefore into the … streets, and invite everyone you find to the … banquet’ (Matthew 22: 9) … empty tables at restaurants in the side streets in Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Gospel reading at the Eucharist this morning in the Lectionary as adapted by the Church of Ireland is:

Matthew 22: 1-14 (NRSVA):

1 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2 ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 ‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.’

Today’s reflection: ‘Oh, when I was in love with you’

Ralph Vaughan Williams was the composer of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores, a collector of English folk music and song. With Percy Dearmer, he co-edited the English Hymnal, in which he included many folk song arrangements as hymn tunes, and several of his own original compositions.

Throughout this week, I am listening to On Wenlock Edge, a setting by Vaughan Williams of six poems from AE Housman’s Shropshire Lad.

This morning [18 August 2022], I am listening to ‘Oh, when I was in love with you,’ the fourth of the six settings by Vaughan Williams of these poems by AE Housman (1859-1936), published in 1896.

In reacting to the Boer War, in which his brother Herbert was killed, Housman powerfully anticipated the horror and futility of World War I, and his poems would find fresh relevance of with the outbreak of World War I.

His landscape is a mythical, idealised Shropshire, similar to the Wessex of the novels of Thomas Hardy. His dominant themes are love, and a post-industrial pastoral nostalgia, infused with expressions of disillusionment at the sacrifice of the young soldiers going to war, never to return.

Vaughan Williams composed On Wenlock Edge – a cycle of six songs for tenor, piano and string quartet – in 1909, a year after he had spent three months in Paris studying under Maurice Ravel, a composer three years younger than him. The first performance took place in the Aeolian Hall, London, later that year.

In the 1920s, Vaughan Williams made an arrangement of On Wenlock Edge for full orchestra that was first performed on 24 January 1924 by John Booth, with the composer conducting. Vaughan Williams preferred this version to his original.

The fourth of these songs, ‘Oh, when I was in love with you,’ is lighter than the others in tone and is epigrammatic in its brevity.

This song acts as a much-needed respite between Songs 3 and 5, ‘Is my team ploughing,’ and ‘Bredon Hill.’ With its melodic lines and modal harmonies, the melody sounds like an authentic English folksong.

4, Oh, when I was in love with you

Oh, when I was in love with you,
Then I was clean and brave,
And miles around the wonder grew
How well I did behave.

And now the fancy passes by,
And nothing will remain,
And miles around they’ll say that I
Am quite myself again.

‘Those who had been invited to the wedding banquet … would not come’ (Matthew 22: 3) … empty tables at a wedding reception in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayer, Thursday 18 August 2022:

The theme in the USPG prayer diary this week is ‘Human Trafficking in Durgapur.’ This them was introduced on Sunday by Raja Moses, Project Co-ordinator of the Anti-Human Trafficking Project, Diocese of Durgapur, Church of North India.

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

We pray for all those working to prevent human trafficking worldwide.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

‘Look, I have prepared my dinner … and everything is ready’ (Matthew 22: 3) … preparing for a banquet (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