20 September 2022

Praying in Ordinary Time with USPG:
Tuesday 20 September 2022

Saint John’s College, on Saint Giles’, Oxford, was founded in 1555 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

Today (20 September) the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship remembers John Coleridge Patteson, first Bishop of Melanesia, and his Companions, Martyrs, 1871, with a lesser festival.

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

This week I am reflecting each morning on a church, chapel, or place of worship in Oxford, which I visited earlier this month.

In my prayer diary this week I am reflecting in these ways:

1, One of the readings for the morning;

2, Reflecting on a church, chapel or place of worship in Oxford;

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

Inside the chapel of Saint John’s College, Oxford, facing the east end (Photograph Patrick Comerford, 2022)

John Coleridge Patteson (1827-1871), was born in London and was still a scholar at Eton when he came under the influence of George Augustus Selwyn, and later studied at Balliol College, Oxford. At the age of 28, Patteson left Britain in 1855 to begin his life’s work among the islanders of the South Pacific, becoming their first bishop.

Patteson was supported by SPG (now USPG). He trained local people in the hope that some would be ordained and so to equip them to share the Gospel in a way that was within their own culture. This bore fruit and Christianity spread rapidly. ‘Thief ships’ or ‘blackbirders’, essentially European slave-traders, also worked in Melanesia at this time, and carried off islanders to work in British and other colonies.

When Patteson landed alone on the island of Nukapu in the hope of showing that not all white men were deceivers, he was killed, probably in revenge for the capture of five young men by ‘blackbirders.’ His fellow-workers were also attacked in their boat, and two of them later died of tetanus.

John Coleridge Patteson and his companions gave their lives for the Gospel on this day in the year 1871.

Luke 8: 19-21 (NRSVA):

19 Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. 20 And he was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.’ 21 But he said to them, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.’

Inside the chapel of Saint John’s College, Oxford, facing the west end (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Saint John’s College, Oxford:

For my reflections and devotions this week, I am reflecting on a church, chapel, or place of worship in Oxford, which I visited earlier this month.

Saint John’s College on Saint Giles’, Oxford, was founded as a men’s college in 1555 by Sir Thomas White to provide a source of educated Roman Catholic clergy to support the Counter-Reformation under Queen Mary.

Saint John’s is the wealthiest college in Oxford, with a financial endowment of £600 million, largely due to 19th century suburban development of land in the city of Oxford. The college has 390 undergraduates, 250 postgraduates and over 100 academic staff.

The Chapel was originally consecrated in 1530 as the chapel of Saint Bernard’s College, the Cistercian house of study in Oxford, and was dedicated to of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. It was rededicated to Saint John the Baptist in 1557.

Sir Thomas White, William Laud and William Juxon are buried in the chapel. All three were presidents of the college, and Laud and Juxon were both Archbishops of Canterbury.

The chapel as it is seen today is largely a result of reordering by Edward Blore in 1843, with later alterations by Sir Edward Maufe in the 1930s. The chequerboard floor is said to date back to the Restoration period, but most other features are 19th century: the altar rails installed by Archbishop William Laud were moved to the parish church in Northmoor, west of Oxford, and the remains of the 17th-century screen are in Painswick House, Gloucestershire.

The wooden reredos behind the altar was made by Charles Kempe in 1892. Kempe also designed the east window, with figures including Sir Thomas White and Henry Chichele, the founder of Saint Bernard’s College.

At the reordering, the majority of the monuments were placed in the small Baylie Chapel to the north of the altar. These include a monument to William Paddy, the physician to James I, surrounded by the snakes of Asclepius; a black urn containing the heart of the antiquary Richard Rawlinson; and a marble relief of the baptism of Christ that commemorates William Holmes, a benefactor of the college.

William Laud endowed the college richly during and after his presidency, and the fine pre-Reformation ecclesiastical vestments that he gave are displayed every term. Laud’s friendship with Orlando Gibbons led to the composition of ‘This is the record of John’ for the choir of Saint John’s, and this setting of a text from Saint John’s Gospel is sung regularly in Chapel. It is now recognised as one of the supreme English anthems.

The eagle lectern was carved by John Snetzler in 1773, and the silver candlesticks date from 1720. The altar cross of 1945 commemorates the 300th anniversary of Archbishop Laud’s execution in 1645.

The chapel also houses significant pieces of contemporary art. A small triptych of the Life of John the Baptist is by a local artist Nicholas Mynheer. The Baylie Chapel has a modern Coptic icon of the Baptism of Christ, made in Egypt. Two windows in the chapel by the stained glass artist Ervin Bossanyi depict scenes in the life of Saint Francis of Assisi.

White left instructions for services to be sung by a choir of men and boys. Laud gave the college its first pipe organ, but the original organ was removed in 1651. Nevertheless, Saint John’s continued to have a boys’ choir until the late 1960s.

A new organ was made for the chapel in 2008 by Bernard Aubertin, who also built the small chamber organ at the end of the choir stalls.

The Revd Dr Elizabeth Macfarlane is the Chaplain of Saint John’s College. Morning Prayer is said every weekday in full term at 8.30 am. Sung Evensong at 6 pm on Sundays includes an address by the Chaplain or a guest preacher, an anthem and three hymns. The Eucharist is celebrated on Mondays 12:15 pm and Choral Evensong is 6 pm on Wednesdays.

The wooden reredos behind the altar was made by Charles Kempe in 1892 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Today’s Prayer (Tuesday 20 September 2022):

The Collect:

God of all tribes and peoples and tongues,
who called your servant John Coleridge Patteson
to witness in life and death to the gospel of Christ
amongst the peoples of Melanesia:
grant us to hear your call to service
and to respond trustfully and joyfully
to Jesus Christ our redeemer,
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 our redeemer,
whose Church was strengthened by the blood of your martyr John Coleridge Patteson:
so bind us, in life and death, to Christ’s sacrifice
that our lives, broken and offered with his,
may carry his death and proclaim his resurrection in the world;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The theme in the USPG prayer diary this week is ‘Welcoming Refugees.’ Father Frank Hegedus, Chaplain of Saint Margaret’s in Budapest, spoke to USPG about how the Church in Hungary is helping refugees fleeing Ukraine.

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

We pray for the Church of England’s Diocese in Europe, which serves diverse communities across the continent and has been pivotal in responding to the recent crisis in Ukraine.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The eagle lectern was carved by John Snetzler in 1773 (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

Morning Prayer is said in the chapel every weekday in full term (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

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