16 March 2024

Water Eaton Church
Centre is a shared
ecumenical project for
Anglicans and Baptists

Water Eaton Church Centre on Drayton Road, Bletchley … shared by Saint Frideswide’s Church and Spurgeon Baptist Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

I was in Water Eaton in Bletchley earlier this week for a meeting of clergy in the Milton Keynes at the Water Eaton Church Centre on Drayton Road. The Water Eaton Church Centre is shared by Saint Frideswide’s Church, the local Church of England parish church, and Spurgeon Baptist Church.

The first building on this site, Saint Frideswide’s Church, served the local community while remaining within the Parish of Bletchley. Saint Frideswide is the patron saint of the Diocese, City and University of Oxford. She is said to have inspired the foundation of Christ Church College and the cathedral, and died in the year 735.

Saint Frideswide was named by Chaucer in The Miller’s Tale and her miraculous ‘Treacle Well’ also appears in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Saint Frideswide’s Day on 19 October is also known as Oxfordshire Day.

Inside the shared church at Water Eaton on Drayton Road in Bletchley (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Building work on the site began on 12 December 1956, when Bishop Harry Carpenter of Oxford dedicated the building. The church was consecrated by Bishop Carpenter and opened on 9 July 1961.

Soon, the plans for the new city in Milton Keynes were gaining momentum and by 1970, Water Eaton was growing quickly. Questions began to be asked about the size and role of the church in the new situation. At the same time, Spurgeon Memorial Church on Aylesbury Street in Fenny Stratford was considering the future of its aging building, dating back to 1892.

The two congregations found they shared common interests and were asking the same questions, and came together to discuss a possible joint project. The discussions went on for some time, with both congregations conscious of the needs of the local community.

Eventually, the two congregations committed themselves to a shared project, with a building designed to be of service to the community and in the service of God. Buckinghamshire County Council became fully involved in the project when it came to the building catering for the needs of children and local young people in the area.

The cost of the project was met from a variety of sources: the major contributions coming from the sale of Spurgeon’s Baptist Church site on Aylesbury Street, a grant from Buckinghamshire County Council, and from the sale of a Boys’ Brigade property, while Saint Frideswide’s contributed the value of the site.

Thee building is a shared project, designed to be of service to the community and in the service of God (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

The building was designed by the architects Hinton Brown Madden and Lingstone of Leamington Spa, and was built by JW Dennis of Bletchley.

The original 1950s/1960s Saint Frideswide’s Church buildings were altered and extended, and a youth hall was added, along with Boys’ Brigade room and ancillary rooms. The car park was a joint one with Sycamore Club and its cost was met by Milton Keynes Borough Council. The Water Eaton Church Centre was opened on the 10 June 1975.

The first phase of the work behind the church centre on the landscaping and play area for the local community and the church was completed in 2003.

Saint Frideswide’s describes itself as a church where ‘we have fun, make friends and grow disciples of Jesus’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Saint Frideswide’s is a resource hub in the Diocese of Oxford for community organising and church growth. It is part of the deanery of Milton Keynes and the Diocese of Oxford. It is also a member of CitizensMK, an alliance of diverse organisations in the city working together for the common good of the local communities.

Saint Frideswide’s describes itself as a church where ‘we have fun, make friends and grow disciples of Jesus,’ and ‘living in the fullness of life which God intends for us, and to help others do the same.’

The Revd Catherine Butt has been the Vicar of Saint Frideswide’s since September 2017 after 14 years as part of the leadership team of Saint Mary’s, Bletchley. The Revd Ayo Audu joined the parish as curate in July 2021 after training at Saint Mellitus College. The Revd Steve Hallett is the Associate Minister, and Nudrat Hopper is the congregational development and community organiser.

The main Sunday service is at 9:15 am, with a 5 pm ‘tea time service.’ ‘Soup for the Soul’ at 1 pm every Tuesday offers time for reflection over lunch.

Saint Frideswide’s is a resource hub in the Diocese of Oxford for community organising and church growth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Baptist work in Fenny Stratford started in 1797 and by 1805 there was a small meeting house in Aylesbury Street. A new Spurgeon Memorial Church was built in Aylesbury Street in 1892 and new schoolrooms were added in 1905.

The church takes its name from the 19th century Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London for 38 years. He died the year the memorial church was built in Fenny Stratford.

Spurgeon Baptist Church now shares the Water Eaton Church Centre with Saint Frideswide’s, Church of England. The leadership at Spurgeon Baptist Church is congregational, with every church member having a say in running the church. The church members elect the deacons, currently six in number, the secretary and the treasurer. With the minister, they make up the diaconate which is responsible for spiritual leadership, oversight and day-to-day administration.

The Revd Mung Hatzaw has been the Baptist minister in Water Eaton since the beginning of the month (1 March 2024), although, in the short term, some services are led by members of the lay preaching team. The Baptist Sunday services are at 10:55.

The cross outside Water Eaton Church Centre has become a local landmark (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Daily prayer in Lent with
early English saints:
32, 16 March 2024,
Saint Wulfstan, Bishop of Worcester

Saint Wulfstan depicted in the Goodman window in Worcester Cathedral (Photograph: Christopher Guy © Dean and Chapter, Worcester Cathedral)

Patrick Comerford

Lent began over a month ago on Ash Wednesday (14 February 2024), and Passiontide begins tomorrow with the Fifth Sunday in Lent (Lent V), also known as Passion Sunday. But it is also Saint Patrick’s Day (17 March 2024).

Throughout Lent this year, I am taking time each morning to reflect on the lives of early, pre-Reformation English saints commemorated in the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship.

I plan to spend much of this afternoon watching the international rugby matches in the Sux Nations Championship, particularly the crucial fixture between Ireland and Scotland at 4:45. But, before this day begins, I am taking some quiet time this morning for reflection, prayer and reading in these ways:

1, A reflection on an early, pre-Reformation English saint;

2, today’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Saint Wulfstan depicted on the reredos in the Jesus Chapel, Worcester Cathedral (Photograph: Christopher Guy © Dean and Chapter, Worcester Cathedral)

Early English pre-Reformation saints: 32, Saint Wulfstan of Worcester

Saint Wulfstan (1095), Bishop of Worcester, is remembered in Common Worship with a lesser festival on 19 January.

Wulfstan was born ca 1009, at Itchington in Warwickshire. His maternal uncle, also called Wulfstan, was the second Archbishop of York. Wulfstan was educated in the monastery of Peterborough and spent the first 25 years after his ordination in the Benedictine monastery in Worcester. He was elected Bishop of Worcester against his will in 1062. But he went on to prove an able administrator and pastor.

After the Norman conquest of England, Wulfstan was the only English-born bishop to retain his diocese for any significant time after. He carefully and gently nurtured both church and state through the transition from Saxon to Norman rule. He struggled to alleviate the suffering of the poor, was a strong opponent of the slave trade, and together with Lanfranc, was mainly responsible for ending the 11th century slave trade between Bristol and Ireland.

He died at Worcester on 19 January 1095, at the age of 87, after washing the feet of a dozen poor men, a humble ritual he performed daily. He was canonised by Pope Innocent III in 1203 on the testimony of Archbishop John Comyn of Dublin. He is the patron saint of peasants, vegetarians and dieters.

Inside Worcester Cathedral … Saint Wulfstan was Bishop of Worcester in 1062-1095

John 7: 40-52 (NRSVA):

40 When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, ‘This is really the prophet.’ 41 Others said, ‘This is the Messiah.’ But some asked, ‘Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? 42 Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?’ 43 So there was a division in the crowd because of him. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.

45 Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, ‘Why did you not arrest him?’ 46 The police answered, ‘Never has anyone spoken like this!’ 47 Then the Pharisees replied, ‘Surely you have not been deceived too, have you? 48 Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 But this crowd, which does not know the law – they are accursed.’ 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before, and who was one of them, asked, 51 ‘Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?’ 52 They replied, ‘Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.’

Saint Wulfstan depicted in a window in Holy Trinity Church, Long Itchington (Photograph: Amanda Slater /Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Today’s Prayers (Saturday 16 March 2024):

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), has been ‘Lent Reflection: JustMoney Movement.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by Matt Ceaser, Movement Builder, JustMoney Movement.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (16 March 2024) invites us to pray in these words:

Let us pray for us all to receive the freedom we have in Christ.

The Collect:

Merciful Lord,
absolve your people from their offences,
that through your bountiful goodness
we may all be delivered from the chains of those sins
which by our frailty we have committed;
grant this, heavenly Father,
for Jesus Christ’s sake, our blessed Lord and Saviour,
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,
whose blessed Son our Saviour
gave his back to the smiters
and did not hide his face from shame:
give us grace to endure the sufferings of this present time
with sure confidence in the glory that shall be revealed;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Additional Collect:

Merciful Lord,
you know our struggle to serve you:
when sin spoils our lives
and overshadows our hearts,
come to our aid
and turn us back to you again;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Collect on the Eve of Lent V:

Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
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.

Yesterday: Lanfranc of Canterbury

Tomorrow: Saint Osmund, Bishop of Salisbury

The River Liffey at Celbridge, Co Kildare, near the site of Saint Wolstan’s Abbey (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