31 October 2022

Praying in Ordinary Time with USPG:
Monday 31 October 2022

The chapel in Exeter College, Oxford, was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and dominates the Front Quadrangle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

Today is Halllowe’en, the eve of All Hallows’ Day or All Saints’ Day. But the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship today also remembers Martin Luther, Reformer, 1546, with a Commemoration.

Before today gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.

For the rest of this week, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, One of the readings for the morning;

2, A reflection based on seven more churches or chapels in Oxford I visited earlier this month;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

Exeter College, the fourth-oldest college in the University of Oxford, was founded in 1314 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Martin Luther was born in 1483 at Eisleben in Saxony and educated at the cathedral school in Magdeburg and the university in Erfurt. He joined an order of Augustinian Hermits there and was ordained priest in 1507, becoming a lecturer in the university at Wittenberg. He became vicar of his Order in 1515, having charge of a dozen monasteries.

His Christian faith began to take on a new shape, with his increasing dissatisfaction with the worship and order of the Church. He became convinced that the gospels taught that humanity is saved by faith and not by works, finding support in the writings of Augustine of Hippo. He refuted the teaching of the Letter of James, calling it ‘an epistle of straw’.

Martin Luther sought to debate the whole matter by posting 95 theses or theological propositions on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on this day in the year 1517. The hierarchy chose to see it as a direct attack on the Church, which forced Luther into open rebellion. The Protestant Reformation spread throughout Germany and then Europe, many seeing it as liberation from a Church that held them in fear rather than love.

Luther died in 1546, having effected a renaissance in the Church, both Protestant and Catholic.

Luke 14: 12-14 (NRSVA):

12 He [Jesus] said also to the one who had invited him, ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’

Inside Exeter College Chapel, Oxford, consecrated in 1859 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Exeter College Chapel, Oxford:

Exeter College on Turl Street is the fourth-oldest college in the University of Oxford. It was founded in 1314 by Walter de Stapledon, Bishop of Exeter, as a school to educate the clergy. It is right in the centre of Oxford, next-door to the Bodleian Library and close to the science labs. Notable alumni include Raymond Raikes, William Morris, JRR Tolkien, Richard Burton, Roger Bannister, Alan Bennett and Philip Pullman.

The Front Quadrangle sits on roughly the site of the mediaeval college, although Palmer’s Tower in the north-east corner is only part of the early buildings that remains. The quadrangle is dominated by the chapel, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and built in 1854-1860. On the opposite side stands the hall, built in 1618and notable for its vaulted ceilings and numerous fine portraits.

There has been a chapel in Exeter College since its foundation, and the chapels have fulfilled many different functions over the past seven centuries, as understandings of religion and faith have changed through the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the Oxford Movement.

A new chapel was built in 1623-1624. However, by the early 19th century, concerns were expressed about the structural soundness of the 17th century chapel, and the idea of replacing the building was first suggested in 1813.

A survey conducted by the architect RC Hussey in the early 1840s concluded there was no immediate danger, but said repairs to the north wall were needed in the long term and these would cost as much as building a new chapel.

The decision to demolish the 17th century chapel was also influenced by the religious leanings of the fellows of the college. Several fellows were supporters of the Oxford Movement. Newman had remarked in 1837, ‘At Exeter, right opinions are strong.’ The mood was right for building a chapel with a Eucharistic focus and a Decorated Gothic style.

Sir George Gilbert Scott was approved unanimously to design the new chapel in July 1853. He was greatly influenced by French architecture, in particular the mediaeval jewel La Sainte-Chappelle in Paris, and his proposal for Exeter reflected the best of French Gothic style.

His original design was for a building on the north side of the Fellows’ Garden, extending into the quad with a west front facing the gate tower. However, the fellows balked at a cost of £8,000. Scott modified his proposal, suggesting it should be moved back to the site of the old chapel, avoiding the need to demolish student accommodation. This was finally agreed and the foundation stone was laid on 29 November 1856.

By the time the chapel was completed, the cost was nearer £12,000, met by an extensive fundraising campaign and by significant sacrifices by the fellows and students. The chapel was consecrated on 18 October 1859 by Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, with Henry Phillpotts, Bishop of Exeter, in attendance.

In preparation for the 150th anniversary of the consecration of the ‘new’ chapel in 2009, the chapel underwent thorough restoration in 2007. Cleaning work revealed bold features such as the elaborate ceiling stonework and marble inlays, that had been obscured for decades.

The same year work began on the exterior, cutting out large areas of crumbling stone and fixing newly carved grotesques and gablets. After a recent restoration of the windows, the chapel is now looking resplendent.

All are welcome in Exeter College Chapel. Alongside being a place of worship and prayer, it seeks to be a deliberately inclusive space, belonging to the whole college, as well as a place to seek solace and to challenge views of life.

The Revd Andrew Allen is Official Fellow, Chaplain, Chattels Fellow and Dean of Degrees. He read Law and German Law at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and the University of Bonn, and he returned to Oxford to study theology and train for the priesthood. Before ordination, he returned to Bonn to work on a European Union project to process and define a culture of remembrance in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Before being elected chaplain, he was a priest in three rural parishes in Buckinghamshire.

His current research explores the religious life of Edward VII, and whether the monarchy and church relied on each other to secure their positions. He has a wider interest in how liturgy reflects identity, and in particular how the hierarchy of the Church of England responded to the changes of the Oxford Movement in the early 20th century.

He teaches Church History and Doctrine and is part of a nation-wide group that has been leading commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, as defined by Luther’s nailing of the 95 thesis in Wittenberg. This includes lectures and sermons, as well as projects to digitalise and transcribe Reformation era texts.

He is a Vocations Adviser in the Diocese of Oxford, and is keen to strengthen links with European Churches, especially the Old Catholics and Protestant Church in Germany.

Exeter is the only college in either Oxford or Cambridge where a student-led choir sings three services a week. The services in term time are at 6 pm on Sundays and at 6:15 pm on Tuesdays and Fridays. A spoken service of Mattins is offered each morning at 8:30 am.

The choir stalls in Exeter College … alongside being a place of worship and prayer, it seeks to be a deliberately inclusive space (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Today’s Prayer (Monday 31 October 2022):

The Collect:

Almighty and eternal God,
you have kindled the flame of love
in the hearts of the saints:
grant to us the same faith and power of love,
that, as we rejoice in their triumphs,
we may be sustained by their example and fellowship;
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:

Lord of heaven,
in this eucharist you have brought us near
to an innumerable company of angels
and to the spirits of the saints made perfect:
as in this food of our earthly pilgrimage
we have shared their fellowship,
so may we come to share their joy in heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week is ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ This theme was introduced yesterday by the Revd David Rajiah, Diocesan Prayer Co-ordinator for the Diocese of West Malaysia.

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

Let us pray for the Diocese of West Malaysia and the communities it serves.
Help us to put aside our prejudices.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The chapel porch in Exeter College … the chapel underwent a thorough restoration in 2007 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

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

Looking out on the Front Quadrangle of Exeter College from the chapel porch (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

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