01 November 2023

Making sense of 144,000
in the Book of Revelation
and world population figures
on All Saints’ Day, 2023

Part of Fra Angelico’s altarpiece for the convent of San Domenico in Fiesole, near Florence

Patrick Comerford

Today (1 November) is All Saints’ Day, a celebration in the Church Calendar that dates back to Pope Gregory III (731-741). He dedicated a chapel to All Saints in Saint Peter’s in Rome on 1 November to honour ‘the holy apostles and … all saints, martyrs, and confessors, … all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world.’

One of the outstanding depictions of All Saints is a five-panel altarpiece made by Fra Angelico’s workshop for the convent of San Domenico in Fiesole, near Florence.

Although the altarpiece was made in his workshop, it is not sure whether Fra Angelico (1395-1455) painted the work himself as he regularly had others do the actual painting. Gold leaves were used in altarpieces like this, and he paint is tempera, a mix of colour pigments with egg yolk that is long lasting. The blue colour was made with the expensive lapis lazuli.

Part of Fra Angelico’s altarpiece for the convent of San Domenico in Fiesole, near Florence

The first of the three lectionary readings for All Saints Day today is:

9 After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying,

‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’

11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, 12 singing,

‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honour
and power and might
be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.’

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?’ 14 I said to him, ‘Sir, you are the one that knows.’ Then he said to me, ‘These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15 For this reason they are before the throne of God,
and worship him day and night within his temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
17 for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ (Revelation 7: 9-17)

In the verses immediately before this reading, we are told:

‘Do not damage the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have marked the servants of our God with a seal on their foreheads.’

4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the people of Israel:

5 From the tribe of Judah twelve thousand sealed,
from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand,
6 from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand,
7 from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand,
8 from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand sealed. (Revelation 7: 3-8)

I love the clear implication that the salvation of humanity is directly and intricately intertwined with the command, ‘Do not damage the earth or the sea or the trees.’

The number 144,000 is a natural number. It is significant in many religious traditions and belief systems. The number 144,000 appears three times in the Book of Revelation, in this passage (Revelation 7: 3-8), and in two other places:

Then I looked, and there was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion! And with him were one hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads (Revelation 14: 1).

3 and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the one hundred forty-four thousand who have been redeemed from the earth. 4 It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins; these follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been redeemed from humankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb, 5 and in their mouth no lie was found; they are blameless. (Revelation 14: 3-5)

The number 12 is used throughout the Bible to symbolise completeness, perfection, and God’s power. Think for a moment of the 12 tribes of Israel or 12 disciples of Christ. There are also 12 patriarchs from Seth to Noah; 12 patriarchs from Shem to Jacob; 12 spies led the way into the Promised Land; there were 12 judges from Othniel to Samuel; and King David appointed 24 groups of 12 (a total of 288) to lead music of praise in the temple (I Chronicles 25).

Exodus 39: 14 recalls there Aaron’s breastplate had 12 precious stones, ‘corresponding to the names of the sons of Israel; they were like signets, each engraved with its name, for the twelve tribe.’

All Saints’ Day is the Patronal Festival in All Saints’ Church, Margaret Street, London

The figure 12 also has symbolic significance in the New Testament. Christ promises the disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel’ (Matthew 19: 28).

Saint Mark’s Gospels recalls how in one hour, Jesus heals a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years and then goes immediately to restore to life a girl who is 12 years old. The first woman is older, with a continual flow of blood, losing hr life blood; the young girl is given back her life blood and comes to life. Both touch Christ and after 12 years are restored to new life (Mark 5: 25-42).

In the Book of Revelation, Christ makes a similar promise to some who will come out of the last age of the church, known as Laodicea (which means ‘judging the people’): ‘To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne’ (Revelation 3: 21).

Revelation describes two groups of 12 (a total of 24) elders who sit around the throne of God, representing the 12 tribes in the Hebrew Bible and the 12 apostles in the New Testament (Revelation 4: 4). One vision in Revelation tells how a ‘great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars’ (Revelation 12: 1). The 12 stars above the woman’s head are a symbol of the leadership of the church (I Corinthians 11: 10).

That great city, the holy Jerusalem … had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel … the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God … has a great, high wall with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites … And the wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (see Revelation 21: 10-14).

The foundation stones of the New Jerusalem (see Revelation 21: 19, 20) appear to be identical to the 12 precious stones on Aaron’s breastplate (Exodus 39: 14).

The figurative use of the whole number 1,000 is also found throughout the Bible. For example, God increases the number of the Israelites 1,000 times (Deuteronomy 1: 11); God keeps the covenant to 1,000 generations (Deuteronomy 7: 9); and God owns the cattle on 1,000 hills (Psalm 50: 10). Other examples are found in Exodus 20: 6; and II Samuel 18: 12; Psalm 84: 10; and Isaiah 60: 22.

The number 12 becomes a symbol of totality, and when it is squared and multiplied by 1,000 it acquires more emphasis. With 1,000 as a multiplier of 12, the numbers 12,000 and 144,000 are imbued with a particular significance that is interpreted variously in Christianity. Some take the numbers in the Book of Revelation to be symbolic, representing all God's people throughout history in the heavenly Church.

All Souls’ Day is being celebrated in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth, tomorrow

Even in conversation, I often find any discussion of the number 144,000 is met by references to the belief among Jehovah’s Witnesses that exactly 144,000 faithful Christians from the year 33 AD until the present day will be resurrected to heaven as immortal spirit beings to spend eternity with God and Christ, serving as king-priests for 1,000 years. They believe all other people accepted by God will have an opportunity to live forever in a restored paradise on earth.

Popular interpretations of the number 144,00, from Jehovah’s Witnesses to literalist evangelicals and fundamentalists, miss out on the interesting poetical and mathematical richness and significance of the number 144,000.

I try to imagine how many people are needed to make up 144,000 people in any one place at any one time. When I was working as a journalist, there were conflicting claims from the police and organisers about the number of people on the streets at any protest or march. To arrive at an impartial estimate, you would count how many people passed one point in a minute, and then multiply that figure by the number of minutes it took the marchers to pass that particular place.

Of course, adjustments had to be made. There are always bottlenecks that hold up a protest for minutes on end, and marches always have gaps and trail off at the end. But, with those allowances, it was a fairly accurate way of making an impartial count.

Inside All Saints’ Church, Margaret Street, London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

If the Book of Revelation is finding a poetic way of describing 144,000 passing through one particular point over one 24-hour period, that is a vast number: 6,000 people every hour, 100 people every minute, 2 or 3 people every second.

If the Book of Revelation is describing two lots of 144,000 people – one group of 144,000 standing on Mount Zion, and a second group of 144,000 before the throne – then we are talking about 288,000 people. In a 24-hour day, that would involve 12,000 people passing by every hour, or 200 every minute in a day.

The numbers 12, 60 and 144,000 are part of our cultural heritage dating back to Ancient Near East or Middle East societies. Sumerians looked to the heavens when they Invented the system of time we use to this day. It may seem curious that we divide the hours into 60 minutes and the days into 24 hours.

We use a multiple 12 rather than 10 because when the ancient Sumerians were inventing time, they did not operate on a decimal (base-10) or duodecimal (base-12) system but a sexagesimal (base-60) system.

For those ancient Sumerian innovators, who first divided the movements of the heavens into countable intervals, 60 was the perfect number. The number 60 can be divided by 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20, and 30 equal parts. Moreover, ancient astronomers believed there were 360 days in a year, a number that 60 fits neatly into six times.

The Sumerian Empire may not have lasted for long. But, for more than 5,000 years, the world has continued to use its calculations when it comes delineating time.

All Saints’ Church, Calverton, near Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire, dates from the 12th century and was rebuilt in 1818 and 1824 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In a burst of imagination on this All Saints’ Day, I thought of the figure 144,000 in the Book of Revelation as a poetic adaptation of Ancient Near East mathematical philosophy, and 144,000 are invited into the Kingdom of God, every day since, say the year 1 CE, for the past 2023 years, the total of people involved is 106,401,708,000. And if there two groups of 144,000 people in the Book of Revelation, that number doubles to 212,803,416,000.

And if the work of salvation is retrospective, going back in time as well as forward in time, perhaps that number could be doubled to at least 425,606,832,000, but probably much, much more.

That is more people than the number of people living today.

That is more people than the number of people who have ever lived on earth.
The UN estimates that the world population in mid-2023 is 8.1 billion (8,045,311,447).

In research for the National Library of Medicine some years ago, C Haub asked, ‘How many people have ever lived on earth?’ Assuming a constant growth rate and birth rates of 80 per 1,000 through to 1 AD, 60 per 1,000 from 2 AD to 1750, and the low 30s per 1,000 by modern times, he concluded 105 billion people have lived on earth, of whom 5.5% are alive today.

An earlier date for the appearance of human life on earth would raise the numbers. But any figures we come to are surpassed excessively by any number of people we could ever imagine ever alive on earth.

I am overwhelmed.

God’s love embraces more people than I can ever imagine, or could ever possibly exist in time, past, present or future. God’s love is beyond measure, is beyond limit, and the saints we celebrate and rejoice with today are beyond any number I can imagine or calculation you or I can make.

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (151) 1 November 2023,
All Saints’ Day

All Saints’ Church in Yelvertoft, Northamptshire, was connected with the Comberford family for about a century and Henry Comberford was the rector in 1546-1560 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and this week began with the Last Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XXI, 29 October 2023). The Church Calendar today (1 November 2023) celebrates All Saints’ Day.

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

Throughout this week, with the exceptions of All Saints’ Day (today 1 November) and All Souls’ Day (tomorrow 2 November), my reflections each morning this week are following this pattern:

1, A reflection on a church or cathedral in Southwark;

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

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Inside All Saints’ Church, Yelvertoft, facing east (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

All Saints’ Church, Yelvertoft, Northamptonshire:

Today is All Saints’ Day. In the early weeks of summer this year, I visited All Saints’ Church in the village of Yelvertoft, between Northampton and Rugby, in rural Northamptoinshire. Canon Henry Comberford was the rector from 1546 to 1560, and the Comberford family had links with parish for about a century.

The advosom of Yelvertoft, or the right to nominate the rector of the parish, was held by the Combeford family for almost a century, from some time after the 1460s, when John Comberford married Joan Parles, the heiress of Watford Manor and Shutlanger, until 1563, when Thomas Comberford sold the Cumberford Manor in Watford to Sir John Spencer and the Comberford family interest in Yelvertoft parish came to an end.

All Saints’ Church, Yelvertoft, is an attractive country church, with an interesting mediaeval tomb niche, a series of carved heraldic shields on the outside north wall of the chancel, a surviving mediaeval sedilia and piscina, a double south aisle and mediaeval carvings on the south porch.

There has probably been a church on the site in Yelvertoft since Saxon times. A church is mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086), although there are no visible traces from that time.

The lofty chancel and a slightly taller nave were built of local cobblestones in the early 12th century in Norman style. The east chancel wall was rebuilt towards the end of the 13th century, when the west tower was added.

The north and south aisles were added to the nave ca 1330 to create a wide, spacious interior. An unusual second south aisle was added to the first south aisle in the 15th century, making the interior of the church almost as broad as it is long. When the second south aisle was built, the south door and porch were moved and reinserted in south side of the new, second aisle.

The most intriguing feature of the church is in the chancel, where half the north wall is taken up by an elaborate tomb in Perpendicular style, probably dating from the 15th century.

Within the tomb niche is the alabaster effigy of a priest, thought to be the Revd John Dycson or Dixon, who was the Rector of Yelvertoft from 1439 to 1445. Although the figure is worn, the carvings are very detailed and finely crafted, and the details of the priest’s vestments are clearly visible. Traces of paint still cling to the effigy, indicating how colourful it was at one time.

The tomb niche of a priest, thought to be the Revd John Dycson or Dixon, Rector of Yelvertoft in 1439-1445 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

On the opposite wall in the sanctuary is a three-seat sedilia, where clergy – priest, deacon and sub-deacon – were seated during the liturgy. The columns separating the seats are worn or eroded, as if they had been badly damaged by weathering.

A local story says the incisions were caused by Cromwell’s soldiers during the Civil War, and that they used the sedilia to sharpen their swords before the Battle of Naseby, about 5 miles from Yelvertoft.

A piscina and aumbry are next to the sedilia.

There is a wall memorial to John Watkin (died 1772) in the chancel. Other monuments commemorate Thomas Rumpin (died 1770), by William Cox senior, to the left of the south chapel arch, with a marble tablet with a cherub below and an heraldic device above; and Thomas Wills (died 1774), in the south chapel, with a marble tablet with curved sides. There are other 19th century marble tablets in the church.

The east window is of painted glass and has suffered the ravages of time and over-enthusiastic cleaning.

The chancel and sanctuary floors are covered with attractive Victorian encaustic tiles, thought to be by Minton.

The columns of the sedilia are worn or eroded, and may have been damaged by Cromwellian soldiers before the Battle of Naseby (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The south window in the Lady Chapel was blown out during World War II. Most of the glass is recent but the tiny triangles at the top are original and date from mediaeval times.

Several pew ends in the nave have carved end panels that may date from the 16th century. They came from a church in the West Country and were installed in 1870. At the end of one pew, a brass plate on the floor commemorates Richard Ashby, a local benefactor who was one of the founders of the original village school in 1711. The school building on the High Street is now known as the Reading Room.

A memorial on the south wall commemorates airmen who died when two Allied planes collided in the air outside Yelvertoft during World War II, causing much blast damage. The organ by Norman Beard, dating from 1908, is a two-manual instrument and is in use every Sunday. There is a copy of Mappa Mundi on the west wall.

Near the carved font, a sheet of lead taken from the roof has the names of churchwardens and the plumber. Painted boards above the south door describe some local village charities that still exist.

The tower houses a ring of five bells, cast locally in 1635 by Hugh Watts II of Leicester. One bell has coins cast into its rim. The castellation at the top of the tower was renewed in 1959 and a new bell frame installed. The local ringers added a sixth bell in 1989. It was designed by a direct descendant of Hugh Watts to match the originals. The bells are rung every Sunday.

A rural churches millennium grant in 2000 was used to enclose the outer south aisle to form a meeting room with kitchen facilities.

Outside the church, the wall beneath the north window of the chancel, aligned directly with the Dycson tomb, is decorated with 32 heraldic shields.

These decorative shields were painted rather than carved, and it is safe to speculate that at one time the heraldic decorative work included the coats of arms of the Parles and Comberford families as patrons of the living, nominating many successive incumbents of the parish, and perhaps also the Babington family.

When John Comberford died in 1508, Cumberford Manor in Watford and his estates near Tamworth and Lichfield were inherited by his son Thomas Comberford (1472-1532), who also inherited the advowsom of Yelvertoft.

The south porch of All Saints’ Church, Yelvertoft (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Many of the Rectors of Yelvertoft appointed by the Comberford family were either drawn from church life in the Diocese of Lichfield or were part of a nexus of families that included the Comberford, Fitzherbert, Babington and Beaumont families. That nexus of families was strengthened by marriages between these families in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

The priests nominated to Yelvertoft by the Comberford family included Canon William Smith LLD, who was the Rector of Yelvertoft in 1507-1510. He was a nephew of William Smith (1460-1514), Bishop of Lichfield (1493-1496) and Bishop of Lincoln (1496-1514), who refounded Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, in 1495.

William Smith, the bishop’s nephew, studied canon law in Ferrara in Italy, as did William Fitzherbert, Chancellor of Lichfield Cathedral. Smith was incorporated LLD in Cambridge in 1505 and in Oxford in 1506, and was appointed to Yelvertoft by John Comberford the following year.

Smith was also Archdeacon of Northampton (1500-1506), Archdeacon and a Prebendary of Lincoln (1506-1528), Archdeacon of Stow (1507-1508) and a Prebendary of Chichester (1508-1528); Vicar of Bugbrooke, Northamptonshire (1501-1508) and Vicar of Earls Barton, Northamptonshire (1525-1528). He died in June 1528.

Smith was succeeded at Yelvertoft by the Revd Thomas Babington, who became Rector in 1510, the year he graduated BA in Cambridge. He was the sixth son of Thomas Babington of Dethick and was part of the nexus that included the Comberford, Fitzherbert, Babington and Beaumont families. He was presented to the parish by his wife’s uncle, Thomas Comberford (1472-1532) of Comberford.

This Thomas Comberford married Dorothy Fitzherbert, daughter of Ralph Fitzherbert of Norbury. She was a sister of: Sir Anthony Fitzherbert of Norbury; Canon Thomas Fitzherbert, Precentor of Lichfield Cathedral; Canon William Fitzherbert, Chancellor of Lichfield Cathedral (1476-1489); Alice Fitzherbert, Abbess of Polesworth, near Tamwortg; and Edith Fitzherbert, who married Thomas Babington of Dethick.

The Revd Thomas Babington was presented as the Rector of Yelvertoft by Thomas Comberford in 1510. He was a nephew of Thomas Comberford, being a son of Dorothy (Fitzherbert) Comberford’s sister, Edith Fitzherbert, and Thomas Babington (d 1518) of Dethick, Sheriff of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

The Revd Thomas Babington’s brother, Humphrey Babington (1481-1544), married Eleanor Beaumont, the youngest of the three daughters and co-heirs of John Beaumont of Wednesbury. Their children included: Thomas Babington (1516-1567), who joined the plot to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne; and Francis Babington (d. 1569), Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University (1560-1562).

Dorothy Beaumont, the second daughter and co-heir of John Beaumont, married Thomas Babington’s cousin, Thomas Comberford’s son and heir, Humphrey Comberford, who was the Master of the Guild of Saint Mary and Saint John the Baptist in Lichfield in 1530.

Joan Beaumont, the eldest daughter and co-heir of John Beaumont, inherited Timmor, near Fisherwick and in the Parish of Saint Michael, Lichfield. She married William Babington, of Rothley Temple, Leicestershire. They were the ancestors of Canon Zachary Babington, Chancellor of Lichfield Cathedral and Master of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, whose grand-daughter Margaret married John Birch, one of the trustees of the Comberford estates in the 1650s.

Thomas Babington was the Rector of Yelvertoft for only a short time, and he died in Cambridge in 1511. He was succeeded by Canon John Harding or Harden, who was the Rector of Yelvertoft until he died in 1541. He was also a canon of Lincoln Cathedral and Prebendary of Welton Brinkhall (1509-1541), a stall held briefly by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in 1509.

Yelvertoft was transferred from the Diocese of Lincoln when the new Diocese of Peterborough was formed in 1541. Harding was succeeded by the Revd Thomas Younge, who was the Rector of Yelvertoft in 1542-1546.

Following the death of Thomas Younge, Canon Henry Comberford (1499-1586) was appointed Rector of Yelvertoft by his brother Humphrey Comberford in 1546. With his brothers, Humphrey and Richard, Henry Comberford was educated at Cambridge (BA 1533, MA 1536, BD 1545). He went on to become a Fellow of Saint John’s College and a Proctor of Cambridge University. His brother Richard Comberford was also a Fellow and Senior Bursar of Saint John’s College, Cambridge, and is sometimes said, confusingly, to be the ancestor of the Comerford family of Co Kilkenny and Co Wexford.

Like many of his clerical contemporaries, Henry Comberford was a careerist and a pluralist. After ordination, he was the Rector of Saint Mary’s, Polstead, near Colchester, Suffolk (1539), a Proctor of Cambridge University (1543-1544), Rector of All Saints’, Earsham, near Bunbay, Norfolk (1553-1558), on the nomination of the Duke of Norfolk, Rector of All Saints’, Hethel, near Norwich (1554-1559), Rector of Norbury, then the Fitzherbert family parish in Derbyshire and then in the Diocese of Lichfield (1558-1560), and Rector of Yelvertoft (1541-1560).

Throughout this time, Henry Comberford was also the Precentor of Lichfield Cathedral (1555-1559) and Prebendary of Bishop’s Itchington, and he may also have been the Archdeacon of Coventry (1558-1559) in the Diocese of Lichfield, although this is disputed.

As a pluralist who spent most of his time in the Cathedral Close in Lichfield, Henry might have been expected to treat Yelvertoft as a sinecure that supplemented or enhanced his income, and to not spend much time in his Northamptonshire parish. However, he is named as ‘Sir Henry Comberford, clerk, parson of Yelvertoft,’ in 1557, when he was appointed one of the executors in the will of Sir Thomas Cave, who died in 1558.

Henry was soon deprived of all his church appointments because of his Catholic sympathies. He was replaced in Yelvertoft by Canon William Walkeden (1526-1620), who was presented to the parish in 1560, and remained there until he died in 1589.

Walkeden was ordained in the Diocese of Lichfield and was also the Prebendary of Whittington and Berkswich in Lichfield Cathedral and Rector of Clifton Campville (1558-1607), Staffordshire, six or seven miles east of Comberford. He too seemingly shared Henry Comberford’s theological outlook, and in the Diocese of Lichfield he was threatened on 3 January 1561 by Bishop Thomas Bentham for ‘evil and papist stuff … uttered in his sermon.’

Thomas Comberford sold his manor in Watford to Sir John Spencer in 1563, and the Comberford family interest in Yelvertoft came to an end after a century of patronage and appointing the rectors of the parish.

• The Revd Graeme Anderson is the Rector of Crick, Lilbourn and Yelvertoft with Clay Coton, and the Rev Kris Seward is curate. Sunday services are at 11.15 am: First Sunday, Sung Holy Communion; Second Sunday, Sung Morning Worship; Third Sunday, Songs of Praise; Fourth Sunday, All-Age Service; Fifth Sunday, a united benefice service, Sung Eucharist in one of the churches in rotation.

Inside All Saints’ Church, Yelvertoft, facing west (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Matthew 5: 1-12 (NRSVA):

5 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’

The carvings on the effigy of the Revd John Dycson are very detailed and finely crafted (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Today’s Prayers: USPG Prayer Diary (Wednesday 1 November 2023, All Saints’ Day):

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 inspired by a Reflection – ‘He restores my soul’ – by Revd Dale R Hanson, introduced on Sunday.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (1 November 2023, All Saints’ Day) invites us to pray in these words:

Let us give thanks for the lives and legacies of the saints who have gone before us. May we seek to be like them in our witness and devotion to the faith.

The mediaeval piscina in the chancel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The Collect:

Almighty God,
you have knit together your elect
in one communion and fellowship
in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord:
grant us grace so to follow your blessed saints
in all virtuous and godly living
that we may come to those inexpressible joys
that you have prepared for those who truly love 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, the source of all holiness and giver of all good things:
may we who have shared at this table
as strangers and pilgrims here on earth
be welcomed with all your saints
to the heavenly feast on the day of your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s Reflection

Continued Tomorrow

The north window of the chancel seen from outside the church (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

Henry Comberford (1499-1586) was the Rector of Yelvertoft in 1546-1560 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)