12 November 2023

Daily prayers in the Kingdom Season
with USPG: (8) 12 November 2023

Poppies tied around a tree in the churchyard at Saint Peter’s Church, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

In this time between All Saints’ Day and Advent Sunday, we are in the Kingdom Season in the Calendar of the Church of England. Today is the Third Sunday before Advent (12 November 2023) and Remembrance Sunday.

Later this morning I hope to be present at the Parish Eucharist in Saint Mary and Saint Giles, Stony Stratford, and I plan to attend the Remembrance Service on Horsefair Green this afternoon.

Before today begins, I am taking some time for prayer and reflection early this morning.

This morning, my reflections are following this pattern:

1, A reflection on Remembrance Sunday;

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

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

The War Memorial in the churchyard at Saint Michael’s Church on Greenhill in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Remembrance Sunday:

Instead of reflecting on any one particular church this morning, I have decided to post a collection of images – war memorials, monuments and churchyards – that I have seen in Berkhamsted, Lichfield, Oxford, Stony Stratford and Wolverhampton during my ‘church crawling’ in recent weeks.

Saint Michael’s Churchyard on Greenhill in Lichfield extends for nine acres and is older than the Church. It is said locally that the churchyard was one of the five ancient burial sites in England that were consecrated by Saint Augustine – the other four were in Glastonbury, Canterbury, Lindisfarne and York.

Other legends claim Saint Chad may have used the churchyard as a retreat for himself.

Trumpeter John Brown from the Charge of the Light Brigade is buried in the churchyard. Another grave has the bodies of the last three men who were hanged in Lichfield; they were hanged in 1810 for forgery.

The church and churchyard also have literary associations with the families of Samuel Johnson and Philip Larkin.

A trail around Saint Michael’s churchyard follows the theme ‘A churchyard journey – praying for a needy world.’

The prayer topics at the stations include, for example, ‘Governments, councils and leaders’ (Station 10). Station 2, at the War Memorial in the churchyard, takes the theme ‘Wars and Conflicts.’

The reflection at Station 2 reads:

‘Looking straight ahead we see the War Memorial that commemorates those from the parish who died in the first and second world wars. Around the churchyard we see many individual Commonwealth war graves. We pray here for the peace of the world, and for those made homeless.

They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Micah 4: 3)

‘Loving Father, Prince of Peace, we pray for all those involved in conflicts around the world – in Ukraine, Yemen, Sudan and elsewhere. We pray for politicians and leaders, that they may seek a just peace; for those who mourn the death of loved ones; for those struggling with injuries; and for those who have been made refugees. May we be generous to help with their healing and to welcome those who need sanctuary. Amen.’

Israel, Gaza and the West Bank could have been added appropriately in recent weeks.

World War I may have been labelled ‘the war to end all wars.’ But over 100 years later, we realise what a rash claim that turned out to be.

We need constant reminders of the causes, consequences and terrors of war and war crimes if we are ever going to eliminate war.

The War Memorial at Saint Peter’s Church, Wolverhampton, was erected in 1920 and was Grade II listed in 1992 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Matthew 25: 1-13 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] ‘Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” 7 Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” 9 But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” 10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” 12 But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” 13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.’

The War Memorial in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Today’s Prayers (Sunday 12 November 2023):

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), draws on ‘A Prayer for Remembrance Sunday and International Day of Tolerance’. This theme is introduced today:

God of peace and gentleness
we remember with deep sorrow
the fault, fear, and failure
that repeatedly leads to the forming of enemies,
the escalation of hatred
and to war.

We repent of our complicity in cycles of violence
for colluding with anger
or defaulting to patterns of hostility
As we remember those who have
suffered because of our forgetfulness
or our inhumanity one to another,
that we may also disarm our desire to overpower, capture or vanquish.
Help us to resist peacefully every form of violence
so that we can follow you
in ways of gentleness and justice,
continually resolving to form life-giving relationships,
strengthened by the forgiveness of Jesus
the fearlessness of the Spirit
the transforming love of the Creator.
Amen Adapted from prayers from The Methodist Church

The USPG Prayer Diary today (12 November 2023, Remembrance Sunday) invites us to pray in these words:

Peaceful God,
Teach us to forsake division and violence.
Let us serve each other in peace,
And live side by side in harmony.

The War Memorial in Saint Barnabas Church, Jericho, Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The Collect:

Almighty Father,
whose will is to restore all things
in your beloved Son, the King of all:
govern the hearts and minds of those in authority,
and bring the families of the nations,
divided and torn apart by the ravages of sin,
to be subject to his just and gentle rule;
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 peace,
whose Son Jesus Christ proclaimed the kingdom
and restored the broken to wholeness of life:
look with compassion on the anguish of the world,
and by your healing power
make whole both people and nations;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Additional Collect:

God, our refuge and strength,
bring near the day when wars shall cease
and poverty and pain shall end,
that earth may know the peace of heaven
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s Reflection

Continued Tomorrow

The War Memorial in the Chapel of Keble College, Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

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

The War Memorial in Saint Aloysius Roman Catholic Church, Woodstock Road, Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

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