13 August 2023

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (77) 13 August 2023

Lichfield Cathedral is the only English mediaeval cathedral with three spires – known locally as the ‘Ladies of the Vale’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and today is the Tenth Sunday after Trinity (13 August 2023). Later this morning, I hope to attend the Parish Eucharist in Holy Trinity Church, Old Wolverton.

Before this day begins, I am taking some time this morning for prayer, reading and reflection.

In recent weeks, I have been reflecting on the churches in Tamworth. For this week and next week, I am reflecting each morning in these ways:

1, Looking at a church in Lichfield;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Inside Lichfield Cathedral … the cathedral was rebuilt in the Gothic style and was completed ca 1340 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Lichfield Cathedral:

Lichfield Cathedral and the chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, have been my spiritual home since I was in my late teens. Lichfield Cathedral is the only English mediaeval cathedral with three spires – known locally as the ‘Ladies of the Vale’ – and it is one of the most elegant in England.

Lichfield is among the earliest centres of Christian worship in England. Lichfield Cathedral dates back to the year 700, although was a church (Saint Mary’s) may have been built on the site in 659.

Saint Chad came in 669 and was the first Bishop in Lichfield. His teaching was so impressive was his teaching and his preaching so genuine, that he was venerated immediately after his death, and Lichfield became a place of pilgrimage.

After the invasion of 1066, the Normans built a new cathedral, although few traces remain. Bishop Robert de Limesey and Bishop de Clinton built the Normal Cathedral and Roger de Clinton fortified the Cathedral Close with a wall. Bishop Walter Langton strengthened the Close wall in the 13th century, paid £2,000 for a shrine for Saint Chad, and financed the completion of the Lady Chapel.

The cathedral was rebuilt in the Gothic style and was completed ca 1340. During the Tudor Reformations, Canon Henry Comberford was the Precentor of Lichfield Cathedral.

The great wall around the Close was the cathedral’s undoing in the 17th century and turned the cathedral and the Close into an ideal garrison. The cathedral was besieged three times during the Civil War and cannonballs destroyed both the roof and the central spire.

Lichfield Cathedral suffered more than any other cathedral in England at the hands of the Puritans. The Cromwellians destroyed statues, monuments, documents and carvings. At the Restoration in 1660, the cathedral and the close were in ruins. But it was repaired rapidly within a mere nine years under Bishop John Hacket.

Lichfield Cathedral and the Close flourished again in the 18th century and grew in national importance, becoming a centre of culture and learning. Thanks to Erasmus Darwin and his circle in the Lunar Society, Samuel Johnson and the great antiquarian Elias Ashmole, Lichfield became a notable centre of culture and learning. There was an interesting dynamic with religion and scientific advancement creatively interrelated alongside music, literature and culture, so that Lichfield regarded as a major centre of enlightenment within Europe.

The interior was rearranged at the end of the 18th century, and then Sir George Gilbert Scott and his son Oldrid carried out a major and sensitive restoration of the cathedral in the 19th century. The statues on the west façade were replaced, and 160 ornate carved figures of kings, queens and saints decorate the cathedral walls.

The cathedral’s interior today, with the Skidmore Screen, the choir stalls and the Minton tiles, contains a singular composition of High Victorian artistry.

The many cathedral treasures include the 8th century sculpture of the ‘Lichfield Angel’ from Saint Chad’s tomb chest, and the Saint Chad Gospels – perhaps a little younger than the Lindisfarne Gospels but older than the Book of Kells.

After all its often tumultuous, history Lichfield Cathedral today stands serene in majesty and lively in all its work and worship.

The High Altar and Choir in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 14: 22-33 (NRSVA):

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’

28 Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ 29 He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

Looking out onto the Cathedral Close from the west end of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Today’s Prayer:

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Reducing Stigma.’ This theme is introduced today by xxx:

USPG has been supporting the HIV Stigma Reduction Programme run by Anglican churches in Zimbabwe since it began in 2016. It tackles the stigma surrounding HIV, welcoming people who have disclosed their status and offering them practical support.

Using the public health system approach known as Information, Education and Communication (IEC), the programme educates the public on basic facts about HIV/AIDS with a combination of media, art and advocacy. Churches conducted campaigns and outreaches in institutions and public spaces, produced special videos and made radio programmes. They designed, produced and distributed IEC material covering issues such as HIV transmission, HIV-related stigma, nutrition and the rights of people living with HIV. The message was spread on Tee shirts, scarves, leaflets, mugs and key rings. Sporting events were organised that included people living with HIV. Special events were organised to commemorate World AIDS Day. The programme also lobbied for policy changes, especially workplace HIV policy and recruitment agencies that demand candidates to disclose their HIV status.

One of the programme’s positive outcomes was an increase in the number of people coming forward to find out what their HIV status was. Knowing one’s HIV status enables people to make informed decisions. The church was able to show these people where they could receive medication or advice on their diets. They were also able to join one of the wellness groups the church runs the UN have adopted the Anglican Church’s model into their faith-based practices.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (13 August 2023, Trinity X) invites us to pray in these words:

Lord, you taught us to love our neighbour,
Help us care for those in need
Give us strength to comfort the fearful, tend to the sick
and assure the isolated of our love. Amen.

Peter Walker’s statue of Saint Chad at the south-east corner of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Collect:

Let your merciful ears, O Lord,
be open to the prayers of your humble servants;
and that they may obtain their petitions
make them to ask such things as shall please you;
through 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:

God of our pilgrimage,
you have willed that the gate of mercy
should stand open for those who trust in you:
look upon us with your favour
that we who follow the path of your will
may never wander from the way of life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Shrine of Saint Chad in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

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

Comberford among the churches and parishes in Tamworth Deanery on a hassock in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

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