01 November 2022

Praying in Ordinary Time with USPG:
Tuesday 1 November 2022

A blessing in the Chapel of the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

Today is in the Church Calendar is All Saints’ Day (1 November). From its earliest days, the Church has recognised as its foundation stones those heroes of the faith whose lives have excited others to holiness and has assumed a communion between the Church on earth and the Church in heaven.

The celebrations of the feast of All Saints began in the fourth century. At first, it was observed on the Sunday after the feast of Pentecost; this was to link the disciples who received the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the foundation of the Church, with those who were martyrs, giving their lives as witnesses to the faith. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III (731-741) dedicated an oratory to All Saints in Saint Peter’s, Rome, on 1 November. Within a century, this day was observed in Britain and Ireland as All Saints’ Day.

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 have visited recently;

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

Inside the Chapel in the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Luke 6: 20-31 (NRSVA):

20 Then [Jesus] he looked up at his disciples and said:

‘Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 ‘Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
‘Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.

22 ‘Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

24 ‘But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
25 ‘Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
‘Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.

26 ‘Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

27 ‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.’

Saint Luke’s Church was the chapel of the Radcliffe Infirmary on Woodstock Road, until the infirmary closed and the hospital sites in Oxford were consolidated (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The Chapel, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford:

It is seven months ago today since I was discharged from the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford on 1 April, where I was treated after suffering a stroke two weeks earlier on 18 March.

On All Saints’ Day, I am remembering with thanks all the ‘saints’ who cared for me then in hospitals in Milton Keynes, Oxford and Sheffield. In this morning’s reflections, I am revisiting the chapel in the John Radcliffe Hospital, which stands within All Saints’ parish in Headington.

The John Radcliffe Hospital (‘the JR’) is a teaching hospital and forms part of the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. It is named after John Radcliffe (1650-1714), an 18th-century physician, politician and pious Anglican who endowed the Radcliffe Infirmary, the main hospital for Oxford from 1770 until 2007.

John Radcliffe gives his name to a number of landmark buildings in Oxford, including the Radcliffe Camera in Radcliffe Square, the Radcliffe Infirmary, the Radcliffe Science Library, Radcliffe Primary Care, the Radcliffe Observatory and the John Radcliffe Hospital in Headington.

Radcliffe was educated at University College Oxford (BA 1669) and became a Fellow of Lincoln College. He resigned his fellowship in 1677, partly to avoid taking Holy Orders, as was required by the college statutes, and partly because he had quarrelled with the rector, Dr Thomas Marshall.

As an undergraduate, Radcliffe had been much influenced Obadiah Walker, then senior tutor at University College.

Walker became master of University College and after James II’s accession declared his Catholic leanings. However, Walker’s efforts to convert Radcliffe to the Roman Catholic Church were firmly rebuffed by his friend former pupil. In a letter to Walker in 1688, Radcliffe emphasised his steadfast devotion to the Church of England.

Severe illness in 1703 deepened Radcliffe’s piety. When almost dying, ‘he behaved himself’, in the words of an acquaintance, ‘much like a good Christian’, and would admit no physician, preferring instead the company of Dr George Hooper, the Dean of Canterbury.

In the years that followed, he made several gifts in support of Anglican causes that underline his strong High Church sympathy. He gave £520 to Dr William Lloyd, the nonjuring Bishop of Norwich, in 1704 for distribution among 50 poor nonjuring clergymen. That year he also gave £50 to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG, now USPG), and only agreed that the gift be publicised to encourage more subscriptions.

Radcliffe gave £300 to Dr Thomas Sprat, Bishop of Rochester, in 1707 for the relief of the Episcopalian clergy in Scotland, saying: ‘The insupportable tyranny of the Presbyterian clergy in Scotland, over those of the episcopal persuasion there, … make[s] it necessary that some care should be taken of them by us’.

In later life, Radcliffe concerned himself with theological issues, especially the preservation of the Church of England. He was a member of the commission for building 50 new churches in London from 1711 until he died, and gave generously to churches in Oxford, including Saint Mary’s Church and All Saints’ Church, now the library of Lincoln College.

In preparing his will, Radcliffe was determined that the infant son of his close friend, the Earl of Derwentwater, a Jacobite, should not follow his father’s Catholicism but be reared an Anglican. In the letter offering a substantial legacy, Radcliffe expressed the strength of his commitment to the Church of England, saying its faith ‘is what has been originally taught by Christ and his Apostles, and will lead him to eternal happiness.’ Derwentwater, however, was adamant that his son should be a Catholic.

Radcliffe died on 1 November 1714. He was given an impressive funeral at Saint Mary’s Church, where he was buried. His money went to the John Radcliffe Infirmary, to fund the Radcliffe Camera outside Saint Mary’s, and to fund other institutions that bear his name.

Saint Luke’s Church was the chapel of the Radcliffe Infirmary on Woodstock Road, until the infirmary closed and the hospital sites in Oxford were consolidated.

John Radcliffe Hospital is the main teaching hospital for Oxford University and Oxford Brookes University, and incorporates the Oxford University Medical School. The distinctive large white-tiled structure occupies a prominent position on Headington Hill, on the outskirts of Oxford. The initial hospital building opened in 1972, the second, much larger building opened in 1979, and other facilities have since been added to the site.

All Saints’ Church, the parish church in Headington, was dedicated on All Saints’ Day, 1 November 1870. The Revd James Cocke was the vicar of All Saints’ Church for 63 years and was the longest-serving priest in the Church of England when he retired in 2020. In an interview with the Oxford Mail in 2015, he recalled the many changes he had seen in Headington, over more than six decades, including the building of the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Symbols of hope and peace in the Chapel in the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Today’s Prayer (Tuesday 1 November 2022, All Saints’ Day):

The Collect:

Almighty God,
you have knit together your elect
in one communion and fellowship
in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord:
grant us grace so to follow your blessed saints
in all virtuous and godly living
that we may come to those inexpressible joys
that you have prepared for those who truly love you;
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:

God, the source of all holiness and giver of all good things:
may we who have shared at this table
as strangers and pilgrims here on earth
be welcomed with all your saints
to the heavenly feast on the day of your kingdom;
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 on Sunday 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 give thanks for the lives and legacies of the saints who have gone before us. May we seek to be like them in our witness and devotion to the faith.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The Virgin Mary and the Christ Child depicted in a statue in the Chapel in the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford (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

The many changes in All Saints’ Parish, Headington, over more than six decades, included building the John Radcliffe Hospital (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

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