13 October 2023

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (138) 13 October 2023

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

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and this week began with the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XVIII, 8 October 2023).

Today (13 October), the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship remembers Edward the Confessor, King of England, 1066.

Before the day begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer and reflection.

The Church recently celebrated Saint Michael and All Angels last month (29 September). So in my reflections each morning this week I am continuing the Michaelmas theme of the last two weeks in this way:

1, A reflection on a church named after Saint Michael or his depiction in Church Art;

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

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

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

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.

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

Luke 11: 15-26 (NRSVA):

15 But some of them said, ‘He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.’ 16 Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. 18 If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? —for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. 19 Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. 22 But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armour in which he trusted and divides his plunder. 23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.’

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

Today’s Prayer (Friday 13 October 2023):

Today’s Prayer:

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘After the Storm.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (13 October 2023) invites us to pray in these words:

We pray for the dioceses of Zambezia, Niassa, Rio Pungwe, and Nampula may their churches be places of refuge for those in need.

The Collect:

Sovereign God,
who set your servant Edward
upon the throne of an earthly kingdom
and inspired him with zeal for the kingdom of heaven:
grant that we may so confess the faith of Christ
by word and deed,
that we may, with all your saints, inherit your eternal glory;
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 our redeemer,
who inspired Edward to witness to your love
and to work for the coming of your kingdom:
may we, who in this sacrament share the bread of heaven,
be fired by your Spirit to proclaim the gospel in our daily living
and never to rest content until your kingdom come,
on earth as it is in heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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)

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)

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