30 October 2022
I have been in Oxford four or five times this year, including a stay in John Ratcliffe Hospital in March and April following my stroke earlier this year.
There is a good bus service between Stony Stratford and Oxford, and as I make to and from the bus station I cannot but smile as I pass The Four Candles on 51–53 George Street at the corner with Bulwark’s Lane. This was formerly Yates’s Wine Lodge, and before that the Slug and Lettuce. But it was renamed in 2008 when it was taken over by JD Wetherspoon.
The pub’s name, The Four Candles, was inspired by a celebrated comedy sketch by the Two Ronnies, where Ronnie Barker tries to buy fork handles from Ronnie Corbett in a hardware shop. Ronnie Barker asks for and gets ‘four candles’, when all he really wanted were fork handles – ‘andles for forks.’
Four Candles seems an appropriate name for the pub, for Ronnie Barker spent his school days just a few steps away at the City of Oxford High School for Boys, and his first tentative steps on the stage were made a couple of hundred metres away at the Oxford Playhouse.
The beginning of the Two Ronnies goes back to The Frost Report, the satirical show that brought together the future members of Monty Python and the Goodies, and Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett.
By the second series of The Frost Report, the two Ronnies were being paired up in sketches. When David Frost helped found London Weekend Television, most of the Frost Report cast went with him. When Frost’s production company parted company with London Weekend, so did the two Ronnies, and The Two Ronnies emerged.
The eye-catching building next door but one to the Four Candles, on the corner of George Street and New Inn Hall Lane, is Oxford University’s History Faculty building. It was originally the city’s High School for Boys, which opened in 1881, and former pupils include Ronnie Barker.
It was built as the City of Oxford High School for Boys, with the educationalist, philosopher and teetotaller Thomas Hill Green as the leading founding figure. The school was purpose-built and was designed by Sir Thomas Graham Jackson (1835-1924). He also most of Hertford College, including the Bridge of Sighs over New College Lane, much of Brasenose College, and ranges at Trinity College and Somerville College, as well as the former town hall in Tipperary Town.
The foundation stone of the school was laid in 1880 by Prince Leopold, youngest son of Queen Victoria.
The most famous old boy is TE Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, who was a pupil in 1896-1907. He then entered Jesus College, taking first class honours, in 1910. His best known work is the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, an account of his experiences during the Arab revolt of 1916-1918. The title comes from the Book of Proverbs, ‘Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars’ (Proverbs 9: 1).
The school finally closed in 1966. The Faculty of History at the University of Oxford has been based at the former City of Oxford High School for Boys since 2007. The History Faculty building on George Street has three seminar rooms, a lecture theatre and a common room.
This is the Fourth Sunday before Advent. The Season of Advent can be described as the countdown to Christmas, so we are already in ‘the countdown to the countdown.’ Although Hallowe’en is not until tomorrow, already there are Christmas offers in the shops, pubs and hotels.
I plan to be present at the Parish Eucharist in the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Giles later this morning (30 October 2022). But, 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.’
Luke 19: 1-10 (NRSVA):
1 [Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ 6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ 8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ 9 Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’
Pembroke College Chapel, Oxford:
Pembroke College, at Pembroke Square, is a constituent college of the University of Oxford. The college was founded almost 400 years ago in 1624 by King James I of England, using in part the endowment of a merchant Thomas Tesdale, and was named after William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, Lord Chamberlain and then-Chancellor of the University.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the Lichfield-born essayist, moralist, literary critic and lexicographer, entered Pembroke College in 1728 at the age of 19. His tutor asked him to produce a Latin translation of Alexander Pope’s ‘Messiah’ as a Christmas exercise. Johnson completed half of the translation in one afternoon and the rest the following morning. The poem later appeared in Miscellany of Poems (1731), edited by John Husbands, a Pembroke tutor, and is the earliest surviving publication of any of Johnson’s writings.
A lack of funds forced Johnson to leave Oxford without a degree after 13 months, and he returned to Lichfield. He eventually received an MA degree from Oxford just before the publication of his Dictionary in 1755. He received an honorary doctorate from Trinity College Dublin in 1765 and from of Oxford in 1775.
JRR Tolkien was a Fellow of Pembroke in 1925-1945, and wrote The Hobbit and the first two volumes of The Lord of the Rings during his time there.
Sir Roger Bannister, neurologist and former Master of Pembroke College (1985-1993), was the first man to run the mile in under four minutes.
A former Senior President of Tribunals and Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir Ernest Ryder, has been the Master of Pembroke since 2020.
The ornate but intimate chapel in Pembroke College was begun in 1728, the year Samuel Johnson entered the college, and was completed in 1732, when it was consecrated by John Potter (1674-1747), Bishop of Oxford and later Archbishop of Canterbury. As Bishop of Oxford, Potter also ordained John Wesley.
The chapel was designed and built by William Townsend. The Chapel Quad was created in 1848 to designs by the Exeter-based architect John Hayward, and is widely considered one of the most beautiful quads in Oxford.
The interior of the chapel was dramatically revamped by Charles Eamer Kempe, a Pembroke graduate, in 1884-1885.
The Reredos consists of beautifully veined pale marble columns enclosing ‘The Risen Christ’ by James Cranke the younger (1748–1826), after a painting by Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp, over a super-altar of carved alabaster. The windows are filled with stained glass, and the walls and ceiling glow with gold and colours. The painting was a gift from Joseph Plymley in 1786.
Dr Damon Wells, a Pembroke alumnus and a significant benefactor, enabled the restoration of the Chapel in 1972 and provided ongoing support to the Chaplaincy and History Fellowship. He endows the chaplain’s stipend, and the chapel bears his name by authority of a former Archbishop of Canterbury.
Today, the chapel describes itself as ‘as a place of peace,’ with a focus on and prayer for the world and the college community. The college choir includes 12 choristers from Christ Church Cathedral School.
Each Sunday the chapel invites a speaker from one of a host of religious traditions: they included Anglican, Armenian, Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, Latter-Day Saint (Mormon), Lutheran, Methodist, Muslim, and Orthodox speakers, Evangelical, Traditional and Liberal, as well as people who are reluctant to take a faith label, and people who are happy to share their quest from a non-religious perspective.
The chapel is used regularly by the College Christian Union, it is a regular place of worship for Oxford’s Armenian Community, and the Catholic Mass is celebrated there too. The icon of the Armenian Martyrs icon was consecrated by the Armenian Bishop and the 17th-century statue of St Margaret of Antioch is a gift of the Catholic community.
The chapel is also a venue for baptisms, weddings, funerals and memorial services for students, staff and alumni.
The Revd Dr Andrew Teal is Chaplain and Fellow. His responsibilities include all aspects of chapel life and choir, the provision of pastoral care and welfare, as well as teaching. His research interests include ancient theology and philosophy, modern systematic theology and Christology, and the faith and spirituality of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). He is also a Farmington Fellow and Visiting Fellow and Adjunct Faculty at the Neal A Maxwell Institute at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
There are daily services in the chapel from Monday to Friday during Full Term and a Choral Evening Service 5:30 pm on Sundays.
Today’s Prayer (Sunday 30 October 2022):
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 is introduced this morning by the Revd David Rajiah, Diocesan Prayer Co-ordinator for the Diocese of West Malaysia, who writes:
‘On 8 April 1970, the Diocese of West Malaysia was created from the Diocese of Singapore and Malaya.
‘In 1996, the Province of South-East Asia, consisting of the Dioceses of Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore and West Malaysia was created by the Archbishop of Canterbury as the 37th Province in the Anglican Communion, thus making the Anglican Church in the region self-governing, self-supporting and truly indigenous.
‘From 2021 to 2030, the Diocese of West Malaysia’s theme is ‘Behold, I make all things new’. Focusing our ministry on this theme, we are working to cultivate a prayer movement within the diocese, encouraging every church in the diocese to start a prayer group. We also hold regular prayer meetings either in-person or online and diocesan prayer gatherings every Wednesday online. We pray in Tamil, Chinese, English as well as Malayic and Austronesian languages.
‘Many members of our churches are committed to praying for at least five individuals they know – this means we are all connected in a chain of prayer. More infrequently, the diocese leads prayer walks and prayer drives, taking different routes through each state of West Malaysia while praying. As a diocese, prayer is at the heart of our spiritual life.’
The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:
‘For the Son of Man
came to seek out and save the lost’.
May we remember that
no one is beyond redemption.
Help us to put aside our prejudices.
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