19 November 2022

Praying in Ordinary Time with USPG:
Saturday 19 November 2022

The third window on the north wall in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford, is by NHJ Westlake, in memory of Amy (Hunt) Lester, wife of the Revd John Moore Lester (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

The Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship today (19 November 2022) remembers Hilda, Abbess of Whitby (680), and Mechtild, Béguine of Magdeburg, Mystic (1280).

Hilda was born in 614 into the royal house of Northumbria and was baptised in York at the age of 12 by Paulinus. Encouraged by Aidan of Lindisfarne, she became a religious at the age of 33. She established monasteries first at Hartlepool and two years later at Whitby. This house became a great centre of learning and the Synod of Whitby met there in the 664, when it was decided to adopt Roman traditions in preference to Celtic customs. Although a Celt in her religious formation, Hilda played a crucial rôle in reconciling others of the Celtic tradition to the decisions of the Synod. She is also remembered as an educator and for nurturing Caedmon’s gift of vernacular song. She died on 17 November 680, but is remembered on this day.

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

Throughout this week, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, One of the readings for the morning;

2, A reflection on the stained glass windows in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford;

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

Enoch being taken up to heaven without dying (see Genesis 5: 21-24) … a panel in the third window on the north wall in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Luke 20: 27-40 (NRSVA):

27 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28 and asked him a question, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; 30 then the second 31 and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32 Finally the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.’

34 Jesus said to them, ‘Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 35 but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 Indeed they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37 And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’ 39 Then some of the scribes answered, ‘Teacher, you have spoken well.’ 40 For they no longer dared to ask him another question.

The Ascension (see Luke 24: 50-53) … a panel in the third window in the north wall in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Stained-glass windows in Stony Stratford, 7:

Throughout this week, I have been reflecting each morning on the stained glass windows in the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Giles, Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire.

The 12 windows in Saint Mary and Saint Giles include a two-light window at the west end by Charles Eamer Kempe, depicting three archangels; a set of three windows in the south gallery, among them important work by John Groome Howe of the Hardman studios; two separate windows in the south gallery that appear to include fragments from an earlier window; and six windows – three below the gallery on the south wall and three below the gallery on the north wall – by NHJ Westlake of Lavers & Westlake.

The third window in the North Wall in Saint Mary and Saint Giles is dated 1895. It is by Nathaniel Westlake and was commissioned by the Stony Stratford architect Edward Swinfen Harris (1841-1924), whose works, mainly in the Arts and Crafts style, can be seen throughout the town.

This window is of three eyelets and depicts:

1, Enoch is taken up to heaven by angels without dying (see Genesis 5: 21-24);

2, The Ascension (see Luke 24: 50-53);

3, Elijah is taken up to heaven in the Chariot of Fire without dying (II King 2: 11-12).

Enoch and Elijah are both said to have been taken into heaven without dying. These images, along with central panel depicting the Ascension, are illustrations of the Christian hope of eternal life.

This window is in memory of Amy (Hunt) Lester (1850-1895), wife of the Revd John Moore Lester (1851-1884), Vicar of Stony Stratford in 1880-1884. They were married in Christ Church, Lancaster Gate, Westminster, in 1877 and were the parents of nine children. She died on 30 October 1895.

The Revd John Moore Lester was the Rector of Stony Stratford in 1880-1884. He was born in Mumbai (Bombay), a son of General Sir Frederick Lester, and was educated at Rugby and University College Oxford.

From Stony Stratford, he went on to be Vicar of the Holy Trinity Church, Ayr (1884), Vicar of Shifnal, Shropshire, and a Rural Dean in the Diocese of Lichfield (1891), Vicar of Yarcombe, Devon (1903), Rector of Saint Leonard’s, Bridgnorth (1905), and finally Rector of Litchborough, near Towcester in Northamptonshire, and 15 miles north-west of Stony Stratford. He died at Litchborough Rectory on Christmas Eve 24 December 1919.

Amy Lester’s son, Edward Gabriel Lester (1887-1917), was the father of the Canadian-born American actress Katherine Lester DeMille, who played 25 credited film roles from the mid-1930s to the late 1940s. She was considered Hollywood royalty and was noted for her dark beauty.

Katherine Lester DeMille was born Katherine Paula Lester in Vancouver on 29 June 1911. Her father died of multiple wounds in France on 25 June 1917, during World I. Her mother, Cecile Bianca Bertha (Colani), was terminally ill, and travelled to California, supposedly to find Katherine’s paternal grandparents and leave her with them.

However, the child’s grandmother, who is commemorated in this window in Stony Stratford, had died more than 20 years earlier, in 1895, and the child’s grandfather was then living in Northamptonshire. Katherine’s mother died on 18 March 1920, unable to contact her in-laws. By then, Katherine had been placed in an orphanage in Los Angeles. Just weeks months before her grandfather’s death, when she was eight, she was found in the orphanage by Constance Adams DeMille, the wife of producer and director Cecil B DeMille. The DeMilles adopted her as their third child in 1922.

Katherine Lester DeMille married the actor Anthony Quinn (1915-2001), star of Zorba the Greek (1964), in All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Beverly Hills, in 1937. They were the parents of five children. They were divorced in 1965, and she died in Tucson, Arizona, in 1995.

Elijah is taken up to heaven in the Chariot of Fire without dying (II King 2: 11-12) … a panel in the third window on the north wall in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The Collect:

Eternal God,
who made the abbess Hilda to shine like a jewel in our land
and through her holiness and leadership
blessed your Church with new life and unity:
help us, like her, to yearn for the gospel of Christ
and to reconcile those who are divided;
through him 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 Hilda
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.

Collect on the Eve of Christ the King:

Eternal Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven
that he might rule over all things as Lord and King:
keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit
and in the bond of peace,
and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week has been ‘Living Together in Peace.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday, describing the work of PROCMURA, the Programme for Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa. USPG has provided an annual grant to PROCMURA since it started in 1959.

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

We pray for interfaith societies at universities around the world. May they lead to lasting friendships between people of different faiths and backgrounds.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Katherine Lester DeMille, adopted daughter of Cecil B DeMille, was a granddaughter of Amy Lester of Stony Stratford

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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