09 May 2023

USPG conference in June
asks questions about
Justice and the Church

Yarnfield Park in Stone, Staffordshire … the venue for the USPG 2023 conference next month

Patrick Comerford

The Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in Gospel) has announced details of this year’s conference on the theme of ‘Justice & the Church,’ taking place on 16-17 June.

USPG’s conference next month is exploring the theme of justice across the Anglican Communion. This is an opportunity to hear from guest speakers and to engage with workshops and bible studies focused on the themes of race, gender, and climate action.

This year’s conference is moving from the traditional venues of High Leigh in Hertfordshire and Swanwick in Derbyshire, and is taking place in Yarnfield Park in Stone, Staffordshire.

The conference is exploring what justice means throughout the Anglican world. The programme includes keynote speakers, workshops and bible studies and tackles questions such as:

• What is justice?

• How might we recognise it?

• Where as Christians and Church are we falling short?

• How do we seek God’s justice on earth for all, whilst acknowledging the huge diversity within our church and communities?

The speakers include Dr Sarojini Nadar, who is a theologian and biblical scholar and the Desmond Tutu Research Chair in Religion and Social Justice at the University of the Western Cape. The Revd Dr Al Barrett is the Rector of Hodge Hill Church in the Diocese of Birmingham and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Queen’s Foundation. He is the author of books such as Being Interrupted: Reimagining the Church’s Mission from the Outside, In.

Through a series of participatory workshops and bible studies, the conference will explore how these histories continue to foster injustice in the present – particularly in relation to race, gender and the environment.

Although the time this year will be challenging compared to conferences in previous years, the programme will be framed by fellowship and prayer.

Participants are being asked to be prepared to be thoughtful and inclusive, to create a safe space for discussion so that the time together will be underpinned by mutual respect despite differing opinions.

The organisers hope that all who attend will have time to share, listen, reflect, and discern how they can be agents for justice in their own churches and surrounding communities.

The conference programme runs from 11 am on Friday 16 June until 4 pm Saturday 17 June. A limited number of rooms available on the Thursday night for participants who may like to stay over the night before.

Yarnfield Park is a leading training venue, conference centre and religious retreat venue in Staffordshire.

Bookings can be made HERE.

Morning prayers in Easter
with USPG: (31) 9 May 2023

Archbishop Theodore and Saint Ovin in a stained-glass window in the Chapter House in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

We are more half-way through the season of Easter, and this the Fifth Week of Easter. Two of us are staying for a few days in York, having arrived late yesterday. But, before this day gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for prayer and reflection. Following my recent visit to Lichfield Cathedral, I am reflecting each morning this week in these ways:

1, Short reflections on the windows in the Chapter House in Lichfield Cathedral;

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

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

The window in Lichfield Cathedral with Archbishop Theodore and Saint Ovin is in memory of Dean Edward Bickersteth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Archbishop Theodore and Saint Ovin window:

The Chapter House in Lichfield Cathedral is currently the venue for the exhibition ‘Library and Legacy,’ showcasing the collections in the cathedral library.

The chapter house was decorated with frescoes and stained glass in the late 15th century by Thomas Heywood, Dean of Lichfield in 1457-1492. The glass in the Chapter House once contained figures of the apostles, with other depictions above. These all predated the Cromwellian era, and were destroyed by the Puritans during the Civil War in the mid-17th century.

In the 19th century, the glazing of the chapter house displayed armorial bearings, more or less correct, in imitation of glass known to have ornamented the cathedral in the past. This armorial glass gradually gave way to glass representing scenes in the history of the cathedral. Six of the windows were glazed with these images in the late 19th and early 20th century, and the original but unfilled plan was to fill all the windows in the Chapter House.

The third window I am looking at this morning is by Charles Eamer Kempe and is in memory of the Very Rev Edward Bickersteth (1814-1892), a former Dean of Lichfield (1875-1892). Bickersteth studied at Trinity College Cambridge, Sidney Sussex College Cambridge and Durham University. He was Archdeacon of Buckingham and Vicar of Aylesbury when he was appointed Dean of Lichfield. His main achievement in Lichfield was the restoration of the west front in 1877-1884. He resigned just days before his death on 9 October 1892.

The figures in this window are Archbishop Theodore and Saint Ovin.

Theodore of Tarsus (602-690) was Archbishop of Canterbury in 668-690. He grew up in Tarsus in Cilicia, a Greek-speaking diocese of the Byzantine Empire, but fled to Constantinople when Tarsus fell to the Persian Empire, and later became Archbishop of Canterbury. He is best known for his reforms, including the calculation of Easter, episcopal authority, itinerant monks, calling synods and marriage regulations.

He instructed Chad to step down at York in favour of Wilfrid, but was so impressed by Chad’s humility that he confirmed his ordination as bishop while he returned to Lastingham as abbot. Later Theodore recalled Chad as the fifth bishop of the Mercians or Lichfield.

Chad’s humility and holiness were shown in his refusal to use a horse, insisting on walking everywhere. However, Theodore ordered him to ride on long journeys and lifted him into the saddle on one occasion.

Saint Ovin was born ca 620, the son of a farmer in the Fens. At 21, he was appointed deputy to Prince Tonbert, managing a large part of the Fenland. There he met Etheldreda, daughter of Anna the Christian King of East Anglia who had, under duress, married Tonbert. Etheldreda’s father was killed in battle with the pagan King of Mercia in 654 and a year later, when Tonbert died, Etheldreda appointed Ovin to manage her interests while she lived a religious life on the Isle of Ely.

When the King of Mercia was killed and the Kingdoms of Northumbria and East Anglia drew closer, Etheldreda was ‘persuaded’ to travel north to marry the teenage Prince Egfrid, heir to Northumbria, in 660. Ovin took charge of her journey and attended the wedding in York, but the marriage was dissolved almost immediately, Egfrid remarried and Etheldreda returned to the religious life at Coldingham.

Ovin remained and joined the abbey at Lastingham where Saint Chad was the abbot. When Chad was sent to Lichfield, Ovid went with him.

Chad died in 672 as news reached Ovin that Queen Etheldreda planned to return to East Anglia and establish a monastery at Ely. Ovin joined Etheldreda in building her abbey. Etheldreda died on 23 June 679.

Ovin was then in his late 50s and may have returned to his farm where he died. Two simple stone fragments are part of Saint Ovin’s Cross in Ely Cathedral. The plinth bears the prayer: Lucem Tuam Ovino, ua Deus est Requiem Amen, ‘God give to Ovin your Light and Rest Amen.’

The scenes in the lower part of this window show Saint Chad teaching his clergy, and Saint Ovin listening to the angels calling Saint Chad at his death.

The lower parts of the window show Saint Chad teaching his clergy and Saint Ovin listening to the angels calling Saint Chad at his death (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

John 14: 27-31 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 27 ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.’

Saint Chad is placed on a horse by Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury … a tile in the chancel of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s prayer:

The theme this week in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘The Work and Mission of the Laity.’ USPG’s Regional Manager for Africa, Fran Mate, reflected on Sunday on the work and mission of the laity.

The USPG Prayer invites us to pray this morning (Tuesday 9 May 2023):

Let us pray for the laity within the life of the Church. May the Church celebrate their many and varied gifts and appreciate their role in building a community of faith.


Almighty God,
who through your only–begotten Son Jesus Christ
have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life:
grant that, as by your grace going before us
you put into our minds good desires,
so by your continual help
we may bring them to good effect;
through Jesus Christ our risen Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Eternal God,
whose Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life:
grant us to walk in his way,
to rejoice in his truth,
and to share his risen life;
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.

Edward Bickersteth’s main achievement as Dean of Lichfield was the restoration of the west front of the cathedral in 1877-1884 (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