22 September 2022

Praying in Ordinary Time with USPG:
Thursday 22 September 2022

The Anglo-Saxon tower of Saint Michael at the North Gate is one of the distinctive landmarks in Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

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.’

Saint Michael at the North Gate may be the oldest building in Oxford (Photograph Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The Gospel reading provided in the lectionary in Common Worship for the Eucharist today:

Luke 9: 7-9:

7 Now Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, 8 by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen. 9 Herod said, ‘John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?’ And he tried to see him.

Inside Saint Michael at the North Gate in Oxford, facing the west end (Photograph Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Saint Michael at the North Gate, Oxford:

Saint Michael at the North Gate stands on Cornmarket Street, at the junction with Ship Street, on the site of the north gate of Oxford when it was surrounded by a city wall.

The church claims to be Oxford’s oldest building. It was first built ca 1000-1050, and the Anglo-Saxon tower, dating from 1040, is one of the distinctive landmarks of Oxford.

However, all other traces of the original church are long disappeared. Apart from the tower, the earliest surviving parts of the church are the chancel, the east part of the south aisle, nearest the altar, and the south door, all dating from the 13th century.

The east window in the chancel contains four panels of high quality stained glass dating from the 13th century, and this is some of the earliest stained glass in Oxford.

The Lady Chapel and the north transept, where the organ is now located, were added in the 14th century. The north aisle and the nave date from the 15th century.

The Oxford Martyrs were imprisoned in the Bocardo Prison by the church before they were burnt at the stake nearby in what is now Broad Street, then immediately outside the city walls, in 1555 and 1556. Their cell door is on display in the tower.

The pulpit in the church dates from the 15th century and John Wesley preached from it in 1726.

Saint Michael’s location in the heart of the city left it open to a constant process of demolition, rebuilding and enlargement. Some of Oxford’s leading citizens, as well as scholars and undergraduates from neighbouring colleges, are commemorated on the wall plaques and memorials in the church.

William Morris and Jane Burden were married in the church on 25 April 1859.

The architect John Plowman rebuilt the north aisle and transept in 1833. The church was substantially restored by the architect George Edmund Street in the 19th century, and again after a near disastrous fire in 1953. Since then, the largest and most ambitious project has been the restoration of the tower in 1986.

Since 1971, Saint Michael’s has been as the ceremonial City Church of Oxford, regularly attended by the Mayor and Corporation of Oxford. That title was originally held by Saint Martin’s Church at Carfax, which was demolished in 1896, and then by All Saints’ Church in the High Street, which was declared redundant in 1971 and was converted into the library of Lincoln College.

The font is from Saint Martin’s Church at Carfax and may have been seen by William Shakespeare, who stood at a baptism in Saint Martin’s as godfather to the son of an Oxford friend.

Visitors can climb the tower, passing the church’s six large bells, and from the roof there are panoramic views of the ‘Dreaming Spires’ of Oxford and beyond.

The parishes of Saint Martin’s and All Saints’ are now amalgamated with Saint Michael’s. The ‘beating the bounds’ ceremony takes place each year on Ascension Day to mark out the boundaries of the parish.

• The Revd Anthony Buckley is the Vicar of Saint Michael at the North Gate and City Rector of Oxford. Saint Michael’s Church, the Tower and the Visitor Centre are open every day, usually from 9 am to 5 pm. The Choir sings at Matins or Holy Communion on Sundays at 10:30 am.

The Lady Chapel in the north aisle of Saint Michael’s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Today’s Prayer (Thursday 22 September 2022):

The Collect:

Almighty God,
whose only Son has opened for us
a new and living way into your presence:
give us pure hearts and steadfast wills
to worship you in spirit and in truth;
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 God, the source of truth and love,
keep us faithful to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,
united in prayer and the breaking of bread,
and one in joy and simplicity of heart,
in 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 those working to promote peace in regions around the world. May we remember that to be at peace, we also need to pursue justice.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The reredos in the Lady Chapel dates from the late 13th century, but the figures were added in 1938 (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

Saint George in the World War I memorial window by Beatrice French (née Cameron) in the north aisle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

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