Confirmation Service, Sunday 16th July 2017, 6.30pm


Bishop Steven will be coming to our parish to preside at a joint Sung Eucharist with Confirmation service at St Mary and St John Church on Sunday 16th July 2017. We will gather for this joint service at 6.30pm in the evening, and so there will not be a 9.15am service at St Alban’s nor a 10.45am service at St Mary and St John that morning. There will, however, be an 8am Said Eucharist at St Mary and St John, as usual.

We will be joined by candidates and supporters from the neighbouring parish of Cowley St James. Bishop Steven will also preach the second sermon in our series exploring the nature and purpose of the church through St Paul’s letters to the first Christian communities.

Following the service, we will have a bring-and-share supper in the Richard Benson Hall next door. Do join us to witness and celebrate the step of faith which our candidates are taking, to go deeper into the life of God through Christ our Saviour and by the power of the Holy Spirit.


What to Do When We Hate Each Other: First Sermon on St Paul’s Letters

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Sermon Preached by Fr Phil on Romans 15.1-14, the first of a sermon series reflecting on the nature and purpose of the Church through St Paul’s letters to the first Christian communities


When Paul writes the letter to the Romans he is staying in Corinth, he is probably in his early 50s, he has already written a lot of letters. Paul, is turning his energy to a city which is the centre of a world super power. This isn’t Trump’s America, its Nero’s Rome and in many ways it’s a frightening place for Christians. Paul has always tried to focus on starting new communities of Christians in some of the big urban centres but here he is writing to a church which he didn’t found and which is not under his authority.

This is a letter which tries to explain a lot of complex stuff – justification, salvation, reconciliation, atonement, redemption, sanctification. A lot of people love it because it tackles these big theological issues. But the bit we chose to read this morning is all about everyday living, about living together in the midst of our difference.

In the Greco-Roman world letters were important. Just as we still struggle with e-mail etiquette, the Romans thought carefully about the form of letters. You can see the influence of Rhetoric in Roman letters, many having the structure or style of a speech, with an exhortation to get the attention, a statement of the facts, a proposition to be proved by a list of proofs and refutations and an epilogue summarizing the arguments. But letters were also about sustaining or deepening relationships. Christian letters drew on all this but they were also rooted in faith, they began and ended by invoking the blessing of God or of Christ. And although the writer often wrote from a position of authority he also recognised his equality with the Christian Brothers and sisters he is writing to.

Romans is an exciting letter NOT because it’s a timeless compendium of Christian teaching but because Paul writes into a maelstrom of difference and disagreement about what it means to be a Christian in a huge and important city which doesn’t really care either way about Christianity – sound familiar? A Church tearing itself apart in the midst of a huge and powerful non-Christian culture that isn’t interested – welcome to 21st century Britain, welcome to Romans.

In some ways Christianity maybe felt safer when it was still part of a Jewish religious world view, and still lived out in a place and a community where it had roots and from which it gained inspiration. But how does one live as Christians in Rome. in the diaspora – circumcision, Sabbath observance, food Laws – how do we live by these rules in a place which doesn’t understand them. And you might think, wow that must be what it is like for Muslims in East Oxford or for Hindus or Sikhs – having to live by religious rules others ignore or don’t understand, but increasingly this is our situation. Christians in a society which is confidently post Christian. And if you look at the church in Oxford – divided between Liberal, Catholic or Evangelical, fundamentally divided on the position of women in ministry, LGBT rights, Biblical inerrancy, the nature of conversion and of salvation, then you see a mirror image of what Paul saw when he wrote Romans. A tiny community which society as a whole didn’t really rate as important – many people had never heard of this new religion and it had all the down sides of being vulgarly nouveau. The Roman Christian community – if you could call it that – didn’t think lets work together, they thought instead – he’s in and he’s out.

The big division in Romans is between the Jewish and Gentile Church but there were also lots of other smaller divisions. In particular there was the division between what Paul refers to as the weak and the strong. The weak, mostly from the Jewish Christian community abstained from meet and wine and saw some days as more important than others. The Strong were meat eating, wine drinking all days are the same to me kind of people. Some think that Paul is merely re-running his argument at Corinth about whether Christians can eat meat that Pagans have sacrificed – Paul would see himself on the side of the gentile Christian community who felt they could eat most meat put in front of them.

This might seem a rather unimportant argument to be having and you might be wondering how relevant this is today. Well, firstly, we’re not sure this was the big division and most likely it was just different house churches arguing with each other about who was best but secondly, and more importantly, Paul is not about taking sides but about mutual flourishing. The point for Paul is that one group must not judge or belittle the other. God has welcomed both groups into Christ’s house. Paul wants people to live in harmony with one another but this does not mean a single solution to a problem but a single ‘mind set’. If we want to grow as a community following Christ we need renewal – this isn’t the avoidance of conflict at all costs but it is a focus on Christ not on our petty divisions.

In some ways the translation we heard lacks power. It says ‘We who are strong should put up with the failings of the weak’. A better translation is ‘the strong must support the weakness of the weak’. Weakness is not to be tolerated but rather supported and even celebrated. Weakness is not an added annoyance that we bear in order ‘to be nice’ it is the whole Gospel, revealed to us in Christ.

God welcomes Jews and Gentiles, those who abstain from meat and those who don’t – inclusion is doubly emphasised. We might say at this point that we can pat ourselves on the back – we are a church which has a particular desire to reach out to those in distress or need and we consider ourselves inclusive. But Paul seems to want to push us further: to be a community that not only acts inclusively in favour of the weak but which defines itself, in Christ as a community of the weak. That means putting the voice of the weak at the heart of community.

The real scandal of the Christian life is that it passes through, and has to pass through our relations with other human beings. The first properly Christian attitude when we arrive at church is not to turn inward focusing on ourselves and God (that comes later), the first thing is a kind of de-centration – a deliberate taking cognisance of others, recognising them as our brothers and sisters (Chauvet).

Why does the Church exist? To be the place where we meet Christ in each other no despite but because of our differences.

How can we ‘be’ the Church? By living with fundamental disagreements and deep divisions about religious practice in a way which still points to the love of God

What are we to ‘do’ as Church? Support the weak not because we are better than them but because the heart of the Gospel about weakness. Weakness, hope, perseverance and love.

Other people won’t receive the Church if we can’t ourselves; receive the community of the Church as Grace. And in looking for the heart of the church seek out those who fall short of your vision for this church, those who you dislike or disapprove of for whatever reason and find Christ in them. A renewed vision of church life based on Paul’s letter to the Romans is a call to be not passengers but participants, it is not just about what we believe but rather about how we live out that belief in our relationships with others. Not avoiding conflict but living together in love so that all can flourish in a Church which lives like Christ for the weak and those in need.

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Fr Phil's Weekly Message

Fr Phil’s Weekly Message: St Alban’s Patronal Festival and Trinity 2

SEE YOU ON SUNDAY FOR ST ALBAN’S PATRONAL FESTIVAL – 10AM Eucharist followed by fizz and nibbles!

This Sunday we celebrate the Patron Saint of our Church, St Alban. He is the first recorded Christian Martyr in England and as such a reminder that being Christian used to be a dangerous thing, and still is in some places. Alban was clearly passionate about his faith in a way which has inspired many others.

Over the summer we are going to have a series of sermons looking at Paul’s letters to the earliest Christian communities in the New Testament. These were often tiny communities of people who, like Alban, often lived in fear of their lives because of what they believed about Jesus Christ. The sermon series is called “Writing Home: Paul’s letters to the first Christian Communities”. I hope you will come and hear the sermons but we will also post them either on the website ( or on my blog page (

The dates are as follows: 9th July: Rome, 16th July Corinth, 23rd July, Galatia, 30th July Ephesus, (then a break for the Transfiguration and the Assumption), 20th August Philippi, 27th August Colossae, 3rd September Thesolonica. We’re having this sermon series to try to look at the answers these communities might give us to three questions: 1) Why does the Church exist? 2) What are we to ‘be’ as a Church? 3) What are we to ‘do’ as a Church?


First Sunday after Trinity: In the Midst of Tragedy What Does it Mean to be ‘Sent Out to Heal’


Preached by Fr Phil, written on the day we remember Jo Cox MP.

The news this weekend has been difficult to watch – how can we can best respond, best offer support, best understand what we can do?

But in today’s Gospel the disciples are sent out and the whole dynamic of the passage is a sending to heal, to proclaim the Kingdom of peace. And the first thing that strikes you sitting here in this church building that we come to every week on a Sunday is that Jesus sends the disciples out.

The Gospel today is a bit of an inbetweeny place, it spans chapters 9 and 10, but it is also the meeting place of two larger narrative tectonic plates in Matthews Gospel. We are in transition from Chapters 5 to 9 to the mission focused chapters 10 and 11. In the earlier block we have the sermon on the mount and Jesus healing and working miracles, in the later block the disciples are sent out to do the same; to teach and to heal.

Matthew has a very tidy mind, it’s a well organised Gospel. There is clarity here. But for the length of this mornings Gospel reading we are in transition, moving from one place to another, from receiving and learning to giving and acting.

The very first words of todays Gospel – chapter 9 verse 35, are almost exactly the same as the words of Chapter 4 verse 23, just a few lines before the beginning of the Sermon on the mount in chapter 5. It is a beautifully crafted thing – Matthew introduces Jesus the teacher and the miracle worker, Now he sends out the disciples to do the same things.

Throughout Matthew’s Gospel there is a sense that ‘knowing the story of Jesus’ is not enough, but that we, like the disciples are called to live it. We become disciples of Jesus not because of what we know but how we live out what we learn from Jesus. And we need to be able to make mistakes, to try things and get them wrong. We only really share the Gospel when one person embodies for another person the story of Christ.

To be honest I am not set on fire by todays Gospel, by this slightly editorial neatness of moving sensibly but steadily from the teaching to the sending, it all feels a bit organised – but what is dramatic or eye catching about it is that Matthew shows Jesus saying – Go out and get on with it, you are sent to heal and to teach.

For it is true to say that Jesus is the answer, the embodiment of the truth of God, but this is a truth which runs through the whole of God’s creation. God’s love is revealed in Jesus, but then we discover it is everywhere present in creation, in our living and loving.

In the next section of Matthew’s Gospel he will explain further what he wants them to do, to travel light, to tell people the kingdom has come near. Often our concern for the status of the church tempts us to employ desperate measures to ensure that the church remains socially significant or at least on people’s radar. But the church is not called to be significant or large, it is called to be apostolic – sent out! Indeed some have suggested that it might be the case that God is unburdening the church so that we can travel light again (see Hauerwas on Matthew).

The 12 disciples reflect the later Matthean community of the church but they also reflect us and our calling. Yesterday the national atmosphere, that potent mix of grief and anger, felt febrile, disturbing and unsettling. It is, I think right that as a nation we begin to ask questions about the closeness of multi-million pound houses to the poverty of some of the residents in North Kensington. But there is an anger about injustice which avoids some of the scape-goating of particular political figures on the Left or the Right.

The Queen this weekend called the National mood ‘very sombre’ but there are signs of hope in communities across the country. In our own community Monawar Hussein was honoured with an MBE, someone who has worked tirelessly for good community relations here especially between faith groups.

It seems to me strangely co-incidental that yesterday the nation celebrated Jo Cox – across the country, (and in our own community with Pat Green down at Tescos on the Cowley Road), people remembered that we had more in common, remembering Jo Cox’s great speech in which she said of her Batley and Spen constituency:

‘What surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us’

Remember her speech supporting the Dubs amendment in which she said:

“Who can blame desperate parents for wanting to escape the horror that their families are experiencing? Children are being killed on their way to school, children as young as seven are being forcefully recruited to the frontline and one in three children have grown up knowing nothing but fear and war. Those children have been exposed to things no child should ever witness, and I know I would risk life and limb to get my two precious babies out of that hellhole.

But what can we do? And how do we understand ourselves as sent?

It’s the very small things but this week this community purchased all the stuff for the parents bedroom of a family who have escaped war in Syria. This last Tuesday I was in the Benson hall after the Syrian Foodbank at 9.30pm as they broke fast. Food never tasted so good. Later this week I am going to meet with Jon at the porch to see how we can be more involved with helping the homeless here on the Cowley road especially next winter. Alice’s work creating the tea party for those with mental health issues and Bridget’s work setting up the dementia lunch. These are all signs of a community which recognises we have more in common than divides us.

Grief and anger still feels very close, the national mood is sombre, but today in our Gospel reading, we make the transition from receiving, receiving the message of the sermon on the mount and the healing and miracles that follow, to being sent, a call to action and to a new way of living.

(Originally posted at The Iron Church, the vicar’s blog)

Fr Phil's Weekly Message

Fr Phil’s Weekly Message: Corpus Christi and Trinity 1

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever.”

“To enjoy God is to take complacency and delight in him for being what he is, and doing what he does, loving what he loves, requiring what he requires: it is to rest in him, as the compleat and satisfactory Object of all our desires…”
Thomas Traherne

It seems to me that Corpus Christi, which we celebrated on Thursday at St Alban’s, is all about gazing on the wonder of God’s love for us revealed in the sacrament and wondering how it is that we can ‘rest in him, loving what he loves and requiring what he requires’.

The north Derbyshire superior of the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield used to tell us that the sacrament, was “for eating, not for waving around”, but Corpus Christi has always involved a good deal of waving around and of prayerful contemplation of the real presence of Christ in the sacrament. And what we notice in this contemplation is that distance between us with all our contorted desires, broken promises, half baked plans and the peaceful, loving completeness of God represented in this sacramental bread. Rowan Williams in his wonderful book on Augustine says: “I know myself as an act of questioning, a lack and a search, perpetually unsatisfied in this life, yet not frustrated.” The wholeness we seek comes ultimately from God and we meet it gazing on the living bread that came down from heaven.

Fr Phil's Weekly Message

Fr Phil’s Weekly Message: Trinity Sunday

“A good that ‘transcends human flourishing’.”
How (Not) to be Secular, James K. A. Smith

“Humans possess an ineluctable natural destiny for the beatific vision.”
The Suspended Middle, John Millbank

‘Human flourishing’ has recently been a very popular concept, ranking alongside words like ‘mindfulness’ and ‘resilience’ as part of the key to successful human living. Trinity Sunday reminds us, slightly unfashionably, that to speak of God is to speak of goodness which is not only human but ultimately divine.

We live in an age which, in the West at least, is powerfully driven by the immanent rather than the transcendent. Jesus is seen as a good man who showed us how to flourish as humans, someone we can learn from about human living. On Trinity Sunday, we are offered a far larger vision, in which humanity is both part of God’s creation but also the recipients of God’s Grace.

Trinity Sunday has often been the time when brighter men and women than me have explained the complexities of the relationships between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But for now it seems enough to suggest that Trinity Sunday invites us to find the source of human flourishing in Divine Love. That we seek the source of the love we see in the God who loves us, who came to us in Jesus and who continually pours his Holy Spirit upon us.


Trinity Sunday 2017: Jesus’ Final Orders to his Disciples


Preached by Fr Phil Ritchie

The Gospel today is often referred to as The Great Commission and it is not a passage that I have ever felt drawn to! Maybe it’s my taste for drama but I have always preferred Marks final lines (before the later addition) which just say: They went away afraid and said nothing to anyone – Now that sounds like an event or the beginning of something worth investigating. By contrast Matthews ending reads like Conservative Party conferences of old or the cricket club AGM – well organised with all the controversy, the fear and the rage written out to avoid arguments. You get the feeling that Matthew felt Mark bungled the ending and he, Matthew, is sorting it out.

Jesus meets his disciples on a mountain – as he did earlier in the Gospel in his famous sermon. You have to hand it to Matthew, he gives us a bit of narrative tension, the disciples worship him – but some doubted. Maybe Matthew knew there was uncertainty, ambivalence, doubting in his own community? However, Jesus’ response is part enthronement hymn and part commissioning. Standing on the mountain before his worshipping disciples he tells them ‘All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me’ and then that well-known commissioning ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit.

That’s the section where a community like ours often starts to feel squeamish – we don’t want to tread on anyone else’s toes, our faith is personal and even maybe private. A lot of us may feel more Mark than Matthew, and in fact, we might actively disapprove or dislike Matthean evangelists.

As part of my attempt to break out of my own cosy English bubble of ritualistic, social Justice orientated, evangelism phobic liberal Catholicism I have been reading Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven church – It is quite scary, kind of the Great commission on acid. But it is good on this passage. He points out that the Greek text of Matthew 28 – contains 3 present participative verbs: going, baptising and teaching. And that Baptism features so strongly in the passage because it symbolises one of the purposes of the church – fellowship, identification with the body of Christ. As Christians, we are called to belong not just to believe.

So on this Trinity Sunday I want to talk briefly about Going, about baptising and about teaching.

Going. Go therefore and make disciples. It’s a strange thing but I think it is actually true that we have become terrified of what this might actually mean for us, and that we have created this frightening binary opposition between Christians who help people and Christians who make disciples, we stay in the first and we leave those others to do the second. Often in rather disparaging way we say that they can convert them and then we pick them up when they want something a bit deeper or a bit more socially engaged. The great medieval mystic Meister Eckhardt says that even those who are given to a life of contemplation still cannot refrain from going out and taking an active part in life, those who are given to a life of contemplation and avoid activities deceive themselves and are on the wrong track. Contemplation and action are part of all our callings. And surely part of action is the business sof making disciples. Go, therefore…but how?

Jesus tells us to Baptise people. Our translation of that sometimes seems to miss the point. I have baptised a small number of people at the font at the back of church, not many of those people are still here. But maybe we need to back up a little to look at what it means to re-imagine what Baptism is. That in Baptism we become one with Christ in his death and resurrection, that by this grafting into Christ we become part of the divine dance of God as Father Son and Holy Spirit. That Baptism is both an invitation to live in the mystery of God’s love and also an invitation to not only be a new creation but to live a new kind of life. When we live that life we become a beacon for a different kind of living. The ‘Go, therefore’ bit becomes easy. The problem is we have made too much of the faith about learning how to behave, as if what we told people about the Christian life was just what they can and can’t do. Herbert McCabe writes:

“Ethics is entirely concerned with doing what you want, that is to say with being free. Most of the difficulties arise from the difficulty of recognising what we want”.

To journey ever closer to living through Christ in the dance of the Trinity teaches us true freedom – it reminds us of what we most deeply desire.

Go, Baptise, teach. If we thought Going to make disciples was bad, and Baptising a bit of a tall order, then teaching is in another league! And our fear is, like with the ethics, that it will be rule bound, that it won’t be about freedom, that it will pen us in. For me this is partly because in a society obsessed by immanence we are terrified of speaking about transcendence. One American writer has spoken of the process of ‘immanentization’ in our society. Basically what he means is that we have ditched any notion of the transcendent – of a God out there. There is the material world, the natural world, and humans in charge of it trying to flourish. This secular world view has also taken over sections of the church with a singular focus on the incarnation, on the good man Jesus with an associated fear of the otherness of the supernatural, of a God who exists outside of creation.

Mark Vernon in his lovely little book about Love says it comes in three movements: First we love ourselves, but this is just a preparation for realising that there is another in the world whom we might trust to love and be loved by too. Romantic love tries to tell us that love ends there in that second stage, that love is fulfilled in the one who loves us back. But there is a third kind f love which brings with it the possibility of sharing in circles of love, family, friends, community – and the more subtle capacity to stand back and reflect on life and love itself. But a few pages later he goes on to talk about a fourth shift, an awakening to the transcendent. He ends by saying:

‘It seems as if a final barrier has been dissolved. The most basic truth in life is not that we yearn for more when clumsily we love, though we do, but that the constant unclouded love of God yearns for us. The revelation is summed up in the formula: God is love.

Go, Baptise, teach this simple truth, this is the heart of the great commission, the love that is revealed to us in the mystery of the Trinity.


Vacancy: Caretaker for Richard Benson Hall


The parish of Cowley St John, Oxford seeks to appoint a part-time caretaker for one of our church halls (Richard Benson Hall). 6 hours a week minimum with flexibility. Salary: £10/hour.

Click here to download the full job description (PDF)

Application by CV and covering letter to the parish administrator:

Closing Date: Monday, 26th June 2017
Interview Date: Wednesday, 5th July 2017


Pentecost Sunday (Following Terror Attacks in Manchester and London 2017)


Preached by Fr Phil Ritchie

Another horror in London last night, sitting in the late evening watching a film suddenly news pops up of another terror attack and Twitter, Facebook and all the online media channels are full of news as it happens. Last week it was Manchester, today our thoughts are with London praying for the dead, the injured and all those who were and are still involved in helping.

I wrote my sermon for today on Thursday and I suppose it was an attempt to talk about faith as personal relationship, about my journey from politics to personal faith. This is because on Pentecost Sunday I felt the need to return to basics. In the last days of the election campaign in an atmosphere of fear or at least anxiety about violence then is a space for the Spirit, the consoler, the comforter. I suppose I wanted to show that the Spirit of God is active in our political and social passions but that she is also at work at a deeper level in our hearts.

In the late 1980’s my family all attended Holy Trinity Church in Coventry. At the time it was going through a charismatic revival – truly spirit filled – but we were not really part of this and our family tended to represent the people who wanted to remind all these spirit filled charismatics that there was a world out there! For us the Christian faith meant Liberation Theology, Socialism, caring for the poor and needy and lots of CND marches – I loved it and it imbued me with a deep love of the church! In my younger days Jesus was concerned with social justice and living authentically as a human being. The incarnation was everything – it was all about God being with us and in solidarity with us. The cross was ok as showing God’s solidarity with our suffering but the main thing was the resurrection which was about liberation and love and freedom even in the worst of times. We were horrified at the idea of ever inviting anyone to share in the love we had discovered in the church and the Christian faith – and we certainly never suggested that repentance was anything that our friend should concern themselves with – that was just for Capitalists and war mongers!

Pentecost was always a little bit suspect because it had been hijacked by the Charismatics and that was far too much about personal engagement rather than global politics. We liked it being about languages being understood- that seemed to be a sign of multi-culturalism and global understanding – although we were nervous that it might have an element of the supernatural about it! Something which made us feel uneasy.

Over the years I began to feel that what I had wasn’t enough, or maybe, rather, it wasn’t little enough – it was too concerned with its own personal political integrity. The idea of letting go has become increasingly important, letting go into God. Pentecost reminds us of the importance of re-discovering the possibility of giving voice to God in our own lives, in our own community. And that’s difficult when it can feel like we are the last remnants of the generation that de-bunked everything, that put questioning and ultimately a hermeneutics of suspicion at the heart of everything they did. Is there really a Jesus who wants to know Phil Ritchie outside of politics and being nice to people? I think that fairly early on I discovered that there was but it has been a bumpy ride.

When we look on this community in the power of the Spirit we maybe see different things. We see an inclusion which truly welcomes whatever our struggles with mental health issues, with poverty, with a sense of being marginalised by society. But we mustn’t forget that the loving inclusion we celebrate here is born not from the values of 21st century British Liberalism but from a love that was revealed to us in Jesus and poured upon us in the Spirit.

There are a couple of people here who most often seem to give voice to this – and they suddenly bring me up short by talking quite naturally about Jesus, they talk with enthusiasm about people coming to know the life of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.

London Bridge and borough market became last night the site of unspeakable acts of violence. And there is shock and silence in the face of such horror but there is also the holy spirit, the comforter and consoler.

I am not saying that we all need to go around telling people about Jesus or raving on about the Holy Spirit. But I know I am practised at a particularly English evasion, a focus on the importance of silence, a passion for identity politics, an ability to see the invisible link between the Christian faith and High Culture. I am deeply suspicious of those who claim to have a simple faith. But despite all of this I feel the need to keep returning, keep waiting for this gift of the Spirit, keep hoping that I might be able to live in simple faith. To the notion that Jesus is not just for me but for all humankind – and that part of our role might be sharing the Good News with those we meet.

The Dominican Geoffrey Preston writes:

“Stop thinking and acting as though God and yourself are related chiefly as law-giver and subject. Stop thinking that the relationship between God and humankind is primarily a matter of justice in some ordinary sense of that word. Believe the altogether extraordinary and unlooked for and well nigh unbelievable news that God has freely chosen to be God in a quite different way to this world, to be God as he who forgives and loves and accepts.

This involves a genuine change of heart and mind. It’s a free gift but we have to open ourselves to it. Do we live as people who believe they have received the Holy Spirit? Do we understand ourselves as forgiven?

To answer those questions might take a very long time – a lifetime perhaps. But what is clear is that much of our journey will be a journey of iconoclasm, tearing down the false images we have made of what God is like or maybe sometimes returning painfully to images we once judged false but now shine with a strange beauty. The Christian life is centrally concerned with what Timothy Radcliffe calls ‘entering that Freedom which is God’s own gift’. I am going to finish with a poem written by another Dominican, Paul Murray, called ‘The Space Between’:

The Space Between

What happened was for me
A kind of miracle

Like being suddenly able
To breathe under water

The astonishment at finding
It possible again to believe

And at finding the space
To breathe and breathe deep

Between the word ‘Freedom’
And the word ‘God’


(Originally posted at The Iron Church, the vicar’s blog)

Special Services

Holy Week and Easter Services 2017



10.00pm Procession with Palms and Eucharist: Begins at St Alban’s, processing to St Mary and St John where the service will continue from approximately 10.30am.

Other Eucharists: 8am & 6.15pm at St Mary and St John


7.30pm Eucharist: St Alban’s


6.30pm Eucharist: St Mary and St John


7.30pm Eucharist: St Alban’s


11am Eucharist of the Chrism: Christ Church Cathedral.

7.30pm Eucharist of the Lord’s Supper with foot-washing, followed by Vigil until midnight: St Mary and St John.


10.15am Stations of the Cross along Cowley Road: Meet at Cowley Road Methodist Church, walk along the Cowley Road, and finish at St Mary and St John, at 11.30am for hot cross buns and tea.

12 noon – 3pm The Three Hours (Good Friday Service): St Mary and St John. Meditations 12 noon – 1.45pm. The Great Liturgy of Good Friday 1.45pm – 3pm.


8pm Vigil and First Eucharist of Easter: St Mary and St John.


Sunday services at the normal times:
St Mary and St John: Eucharists 8am, 10.45am
St Alban’s: Eucharist 9.15am