16 October 2022

I never got to take photographs or
‘selfies’ like a tourist in Kidlington

Church House in Kidlington houses the offices of the Diocese of Oxford

Patrick Comerford

I was in Church House, Kidlington, last week for a meeting in the Diocese of Oxford, a vast diocese that stretches from the Cotswolds to the edges of London, that embraces Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire, and that includes pretty country villages and towns, the old university city of Oxford and the new city of Milton Keynes. The Diocese of Oxford has more church buildings than any other diocese in the Church of England and has more paid clergy than any other diocese except London.

But, despite this variety, Church House is not much to write home about. It is a brash, modern office block, located on a business park at Langford Locks near Oxford Airport.

Despite what I say, the staff are welcoming, the facilities are excellent, and the welcome area is brightly decorated, including interesting paintings of Jerusalem by Alfred Daniels.

Alfred (‘Danny’) Daniels (1924-2015) came from an East End Jewish family. He had a whimsical touch and his paintings are full of colour and detail. He was once described as a ‘Lowry for Londoners.’ He studied signwriting and typography at Woolwich Polytechnic and the Royal College of Art, and later taught at Hornsey College of Art in London in the 1960s and at Sir John Cass School of Art, and retained a particularly expertise in graphic design.

Tourists with cameras in Jerusalem … a painting by Alfred Daniels in Church House, Kidlington (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The Diocese of Oxford is not the only important organisation to locate its offices in Kidlington: the headquarters of Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Thames Valley Police and the county Saint John Ambulance are also based in Kidlington.

Kidlington still insists on calling itself a village, although it has a population of up to 14,000 people. So far, the people of Kidlington have been successful in resisting all efforts to change its official status to a town. After the Parish Council opted for town status in 1987, the decision was voted down three months later by 83 per cent of voters in a ballot of the local electorate.

Kidlington is between the River Cherwell and the Oxford Canal, 8 km north of Oxford and 12 km south-west of Bicester. I was heading back to a second meeting in Henley Church End in Milton Keynes that day, so I never got to see either Bicester on the way or Kidlington itself, or to take any photographs in either place. But obviously there is a lot to see, according to reports some years ago by the BBC and the New York Times.

Back in 2016, they reported weekly coachloads of sightseers from China arriving on Benmead Road, Kidlington, and posing for ‘selfies’ in front gardens and against parked cars, with no apparent reason for their interest. The reports attracted worldwide interest, with local people in Kidlington being interviewed about their experience.

The theories for the cause of the influx included mistaken identity, a covert social experiment or Oxfordshire’s connection with Inspector Morse.

After analysing results of a Chinese-language questionnaire given to some tourists, the BBC found one of the reasons given by the Chinese visitors for stopping in Kidlington was ‘looking for the true sense’ of Britain.

However, an investigative journalist found that, in fact, Chinese tour operators charge $68 extra for Chinese-language tours of nearby Blenheim Palace, at Woodstock, the seat of the Dukes of Marlborough. Tourists who did not want to pay to visit Blenheim Palace were being dropped off in Kidlington, which they then found is a charming English village. But, in fact, the tour operators selected Kidlington because it is too far from Blenheim to allow their tourists to walk to Blenheim Palace and pay the cheaper £25 price for public tours in English.

Because of introductions through a family connection of my mother’s, I visited Blenheim Palace as a teenager around 1969 or 1970. I don’t know whether I’d be happy to pay $68 today, or even £25, for a guided tour. But I must make my way back soon to Kidlington, and to Bicester, for some more photographs … or simply to pay more attention to those paintings of Jerusalem by Alfred Daniels in Church House.

One of the painting of Jerusalem by Alfred Daniels in Church House, Kidlington (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Praying for World Peace and with USPG:
Sunday 16 October 2022

The week of Prayer for World Peace takes place this year from Sunday 16 October 2022 to Sunday 23 October 2022

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XVIII). Later this morning (16 October 2022), I hope to be present at the Parish Eucharist in the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Giles in Stony Stratford.

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

This year, the Week of Prayer for World Peace is from 16 to 23 October. In my prayer diary from this Sunday until next Sunday, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, One of the readings for the morning;

2, A reflection from the programme for the Week of Prayer for World Peace (16 to 23 October);

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

‘Because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice’ (Luke 18: 5) … the sign at the Wig and Pen near the courthouse in Truro, Cornwall (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 18: 1-8 (NRSVA):

18 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2 He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” 4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming”.’ 6 And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’

The Week of Prayer for World Peace takes place this year from Sunday 16 October 2022 to Sunday 23 October 2022

Week of Prayer for World Peace 2022, Day 1:

The week of Prayer for World Peace takes place from the second to third Sunday in October each year, which this year is from today (Sunday 16 October 2022) to next Sunday (23 October 2022).

The Week of Prayer for World Peace Annual Gathering this year again is only be on line. This allows as many as possible to participate. It will be held at 3:30 London Time this afternoon.

Day 1: Refugees:

We pray for all those who have had to flee their homes, including those internally displaced.

‘Those who spread anger and oppression with wrong words and deeds, and obstruct creative and right-minded people in their work, and take the side of oppression, are the corruptors that push the soul and Conscience of the people to malfeasance.’ – Zoroastrian Gathas

‘Our God and God of our fathers and mothers, help those who flee persecution as our ancestors did some 3,000 year ago. Show loving kindness and compassion to those hemmed in by misery and captivity, to those who take to the open ocean or treacherous landscape, seeking freedom and liberty. Rescue and recover them – delivering them from gorge to meadow, from darkness to light.

‘Inspire us to act on behalf of those we don’t know, on behalf of those we may never meet, because we know the heart of the stranger. We too ate the bread of affliction whose taste still lingers.

‘And so, dear God, inspire us to be pursuers of righteousness for those who seek the same freedoms we enjoy tonight. Do it speedily and in our days, and let us all say, Amen.’ – Rabbi Daniel Gropper, Community Synagogue of Rye, New York, USA

‘I was a stranger and you invited me in.’ – Matthew 25: 33 NIV Bible

‘Children of the Kindertransport’, Frank Meisler’s bronze sculpture at Liverpool Street Station in London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Today’s Prayer (Sunday 16 October 2022, Trinity XVIII):

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
increase in us your gift of faith
that, forsaking what lies behind
and reaching out to that which is before,
we may run the way of your commandments
and win the crown of everlasting joy;
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:

We praise and thank you, O Christ, for this sacred feast:
for here we receive you,
here the memory of your passion is renewed,
here our minds are filled with grace,
and here a pledge of future glory is given,
when we shall feast at that table where you reign
with all your saints for ever.

The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week is ‘World Food Day.’ This theme is introduced this morning:

This World Food Day, we pray for nutritionally vulnerable children in Malawi and their families.

Year after year, the rising costs of fertilisers and the changing climate means that many families are struggling to grow enough food to eat and sell.

Some days, children are going to school on an empty stomach.

Going without food can have a serious impact on whether children will finish school. If they are well-fed, they could have the chance to make the best of their education, setting them up for real success in the future.

That’s why USPG’s Growing Futures Harvest appeal is raising money for the life-changing ‘Food and Nutrition’ programme run by the Anglican Council of Malawi.

The programme provides training in sustainable farming skills and environmental management to local families. Smallholders can join groups where they can access loans, farming equipment and resources to help them to provide fresh food for their children.

Thanks to kind donations, this programme can continue running.

Please join the Anglican Council of Malawi in creating bright futures for vulnerable children. Donate to the Growing Futures campaign today at www.uspg.org.uk/harvest.

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

Holy Father,
teach us to practise justice and equality.
Let us share with each other,
making sure all are fed.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

‘Refugees Welcome’ … a recent protest outside Leinster House in Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

‘We Welcome Refugees’ … a banner on a recent protest in Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)