11 August 2023

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (75) 11 August 2023

An artist’s impression of the now demolished Quaker Meeting House on Lichfield Street, Tamworth (John Tracey / Tamworth Heritage Magazine)

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and this week began with the Ninth Sunday after Trinity (6 August 2023) and celebrations of the Feast of the Transfiguration. The calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship today (11 August) recalls the life and work of both Clare of Assisi, Founder of the Minoresses (Poor Clares), 1253, and John Henry Newman, Priest and Tractarian, 1890.

We got back to Stony Stratford late last night after our short mid-week visit to Dublin. Before this day begins, I am taking some time this morning for prayer, reading and reflection.

As I recently spent a number of days looking at the windows in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth, I am reflecting in these ways for the rest of the week:

1, Looking at some other churches in Tamworth;

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

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

The former Quaker Meeting House stood near Shannon Mill on Lichfield Street, Tamworth, but was demolished in 1960 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The former Quaker Meeting House, Lichfield Street, Tamworth:

It is said locally, with humour that Tamworth once had as many churches as it had pubs. Over the past week I have been looking at a number of those churches, including Saint John’s Roman Catholic Church, and the former Methodist, Congregational and Baptist churches in Tamworth.

In the late 17th century, there were some 140 Quaker families in the whole of Staffordshire attending meetings in dwelling houses in Leek, Keele, Stafford, Uttoxeter, Lichfield, Tamworth and Wolverhampton.

The presence of the Society of Friends or Quakers in Tamworth dates from the mid-17th century, and the early Quakers in Tamworth included Francis Comberford of Comberford Hall and his family.

Francis Comerford of Comerford, as his name is sometimes spelt, was one of only 12 magistrates to become a Quaker in the 17th century. He and his family were living at Comberford Hall in 1653, when they met two of the earliest Quakers, Edward Burrough and Francis Howgill. Francis and Margaret Comberford and their two daughters Margaret and Mary became Quakers.

The minutes of Staffordshire Quarterly Meeting of the Society of Friends record the conversations between Burrough and Howgill with the Comberfords, and Francis Comberford is said to have received them ‘kindly’.

As a gentleman and a magistrate, Francis Comberford probably played a useful role in protecting early Quakers. The minutes go on to say that for several years Francis Comberford held Quaker meetings at his home in Bradley when he returned from Comberford. With the death of his cousin Robert Comberford in 1671, he claimed the Comberford family estates, including Comberford Hall, which he had first leased from his kinsman, William Comberford, but was unsuccessful.

His daughters Mary (1641/1642?-1700) and Margaret (1642/1643?-post 1684) became Quakers at Comberford Hall with their parents in 1655. Mary was later a Quaker mystic and visionary and her dramatic vision shortly before her death in 1700 is described in the recently-edited papers of the Yorkshire Quaker Joseph Wood.

Although Francis Comberford failed to recover Comberford Hall, where he had first become a Quaker, the Quaker presence continued in the Tamworth area. There was a Quaker meeting house in Tamworth by 1653, and the Quakers of Tamworth met at Bitterscote.

Later there was a Quaker meeting house in Tamworth from 1753 to 1850, behind 101 Lichfield Street and close to the Moat House, the former Comberford family home on Lichfield Street, and about 20 Quakers were buried in the burial ground there.

The old Quaker Meeting House on Lichfield Street stood empty from 1857,until it was acquired by the Tamworth Station of the Primitive Methodist Church in 1885.

The Primitive Methodist Chapel Committee and the Circuit Quarterly Meeting agreed to reopen the Tamworth Primitive Methodist Chapel on 3 January 1886. However, attempts to revive the cause at the former Quaker meeting house in 1893 failed.

The former Quaker Meeting House on Lichfield Street was still standing in 1936, but was no longer in use. It fell into disrepair and was finally demolished in 1960. An artist’s impression of the old Quaker Meeting House by John Tracey is in the current edition of the Tamworth Heritage Magazine (1/3, Summer 2023), illustrating an account of the Primitive Methodists in Tamworth.

Many other traditions are part of Tamworth’s church history, including the Bolebridge Street Mission and the Salvation Army. In addition, there have been Spiritualists and the Mormons or Church of Latter Day Saints. They are interwoven with the heritage of Tamworth and although many are now forgotten they have influenced the welfare of the town.

‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’ (Matthew 16: 28) … the Franciscan cross in the Capuchin Church on Church Stfreet, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 16: 24-28 (NRSVA):

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

27 ‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’

Saint Clare Street, off Minories, London, stands on the site of the former Abbey of the Minoresses of Saint Mary of the Order of Saint Clare … one of the last abbesses was Dame Dorothy Comberford (1524-1531) (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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 ‘A reflection on the Exodus narrative (Exodus 1-13).’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by Archbishop Linda Nicholls, who has been the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada since 2019.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (11 August 2023) invites us to pray in these words:

As you told Moses to ‘set your people free’, help us Lord to always hear your word and protect those in need.

The Collect:

God of peace,
who in the poverty of the blessed Clare
gave us a clear light to shine in the darkness of this world:
give us grace so to follow in her footsteps
that we may, at the last, rejoice with her in your eternal glory;
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:

Merciful God,
who gave such grace to your servant Clare
that she served you with singleness of heart
and loved you above all things:
help us, whose communion with you
has been renewed in this sacrament,
to forsake all that holds us back from following Christ
and to grow into his likeness from glory to glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Comberford Hall, between Lichfield and Tamworth … Francis Comberford became a Quaker there in 1653, one of the first Quakers in the Tamworth area (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

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