16 May 2023

Morning prayers in Easter
with USPG: (38) 16 May 2023

The Ascension (see Luke 24: 50-53) … a panel in a window in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

This is the Sixth Week of Easter, and Eastertide continues throughout this week and next week, until the Day of Pentecost. Today, the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship also recalls Caroline Chisholm (1808-1877), Social Reformer.

Before this day gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for prayer and reflection. As Ascension Day is later this week (18 May 2023), I am reflecting each morning this week in these ways:

1, Looking at a depiction of the Ascension in images or stained glass windows in a church or cathedral I know;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

The third window on the north wall in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford, is by NHJ Westlake, in memory of Amy (Hunt) Lester, wife of the Revd John Moore Lester (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Ascension window, Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford:

The Ascension is the theme in the third window in the North Wall in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford. This window, dated 1895, is by Nathaniel Westlake and was commissioned by the Stony Stratford architect Edward Swinfen Harris (1841-1924), whose works, mainly in the Arts and Crafts style, can be seen throughout the town.

This window is of three eyelets and depicts:

1, Enoch taken up to heaven by angels without dying (see Genesis 5: 21-24);

2, The Ascension (see Luke 24: 50-53);

3, Elijah taken up to heaven in the Chariot of Fire without dying (II King 2: 11-12).

Enoch and Elijah are both said to have been taken into heaven without dying. These images, along with central panel depicting the Ascension, are illustrations of the Christian hope of eternal life.

This window is in memory of Amy (Hunt) Lester (1850-1895), wife of the Revd John Moore Lester (1851-1884), Vicar of Stony Stratford in 1880-1884. They were married in Christ Church, Lancaster Gate, Westminster, in 1877 and were the parents of nine children. She died on 30 October 1895.

The Revd John Moore Lester was the Rector of Stony Stratford in 1880-1884. He was born in Mumbai (Bombay), a son of General Sir Frederick Lester, and was educated at Rugby and University College Oxford.

From Stony Stratford, he went on to be Vicar of the Holy Trinity Church, Ayr (1884), Vicar of Shifnal, Shropshire, and a Rural Dean in the Diocese of Lichfield (1891), Vicar of Yarcombe, Devon (1903), Rector of Saint Leonard’s, Bridgnorth (1905), and finally Rector of Litchborough, near Towcester in Northamptonshire, and 15 miles north-west of Stony Stratford. He died at Litchborough Rectory on Christmas Eve 24 December 1919.

Amy Lester’s son, Edward Gabriel Lester (1887-1917), was the father of the Canadian-born American actress Katherine Lester DeMille, who played 25 credited film roles from the mid-1930s to the late 1940s. She was considered Hollywood royalty and was noted for her dark beauty.

Katherine Lester DeMille was born Katherine Paula Lester in Vancouver on 29 June 1911. Her father died of multiple wounds in France on 25 June 1917, during World I. Her mother, Cecile Bianca Bertha (Colani), was terminally ill, and travelled to California, supposedly to find Katherine’s paternal grandparents and leave her with them.

However, the child’s grandmother, who is commemorated in this window in Stony Stratford, had died more than 20 years earlier, in 1895, and the child’s grandfather was then living in Northamptonshire. Katherine’s mother died on 18 March 1920, unable to contact her in-laws. By then, Katherine had been placed in an orphanage in Los Angeles. Just weeks months before her grandfather’s death, when she was eight, she was found in the orphanage by Constance Adams DeMille, the wife of producer and director Cecil B DeMille. The DeMilles adopted her as their third child in 1922.

Katherine Lester DeMille married the actor Anthony Quinn (1915-2001), star of Zorba the Greek (1964), in All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Beverly Hills, in 1937. They were the parents of five children. They were divorced in 1965, and she died in Tucson, Arizona, in 1995.

Enoch being taken up to heaven without dying (see Genesis 5: 21-24) … a panel in the third window on the north wall in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 16: 5-11 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 5 ‘But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, “Where are you going?” 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement: 9 about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 about judgement, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.’

Elijah is taken up to heaven in the Chariot of Fire without dying (II King 2: 11-12) … a panel in the third window on the north wall in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s prayer:

The theme this week in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘The Ascension.’ USPG’s Global Theologian, the Revd Dr Peniel Rajkumar, reflected on the Ascension in the prayer diary on Sunday.

The USPG Prayer invites us to pray this morning (Tuesday 16 May 2023, United Nations International Day of Living Together in Peace):

Let us pray for people to live together in unity and peace. May they be united in difference and diversity and seek to find solidarity in their desire for peace and harmony.


God our redeemer,
you have delivered us from the power of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom of your Son:
grant, that as by his death he has recalled us to life,
so by his continual presence in us he may raise us
to eternal 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.

Post Communion:

God our Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ gives the water of eternal life:
may we thirst for you,
the spring of life and source of goodness,
through him who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.

The Church of Saint Mary and Saint Giles, the parish church of Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

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

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