A group of ordinands under the leadership of Erik Sidenvall visited Oxford Diocese at the beginning of June 2011.
The party arrived on Wednesday 1st June and were taken to their accommodation at the Harcourt Hill campus of Oxford Brookes.
Thursday – Ascension Day – the group had a taste of the archaic traditions of Oxford, joining with the folk of St Michael at the North Gate in the centre of Oxford in the annual ritual of ‘beating the bounds’ (click here for a press description of this event), visiting Marks and Spencers and other significant landmarks en route. Afterwards, lunch was provided at Lincoln College, washed down by ivy beer.
During the morning, the crowd of bounds-beaters were met by folk from the Church of St Mary Magdalen, who hosted the Växjö group later on at an evening Ascension Day High Mass. The Rev Dr Peter Groves has provided the following account of that event:
“Our friends from the diocese of Vaxjo visited Oxford towards the end of Eastertide, and were able to join in a variety of styles of Anglican worship. On the evening of Ascension Day, they were warmly welcomed to St Mary Magdalen’s, in Oxford city centre, a church firmly in the Anglo-Catholic tradition, for the festal High Mass. The parish priest, Fr Peter Groves, discovered an unexpected personal link through Dr Erik Sidenvall, the Director for Ordinands in Vaxjo. Erik and Peter go back some time as academic colleagues with a common interest in nineteenth century theology. More than ten years ago, Erik had visited the extensive Oxford Movement archive at Pusey House to further his research on John Henry Newman, and Peter was archivist there at the time.
The High Mass provided an opportunity for the Vaxjo ordinands to experience something of traditional style Anglo Catholic worship in a parish with a celebrated liturgical and musical tradition, which rejoices in large numbers of ordinands of its own, both male and female. The group stayed afterwards to meet the parish priest and other members of the church, and the great feast of the Ascension of the Lord was fittingly celebrated in fellowship across our two dioceses.
The following day (Friday), leaving behind the rituals of Oxford, the group travelled to Slough.
Here is an account of that day provided by Allen Walker:
“Twenty-Four people from our link diocese in Sweden arrived from Oxford ready to visit the sights of Slough. We began the visit with refreshments at the Kingsway United Reformed Church in the centre of Slough. This is where I, as Community Chaplain for the Burnham & Slough Deanery and Linda Hillier, our Faith and Work Development Officer work out from. It was good to let our guests hear of our Sector Ministry team here in Slough and the work we do, on behalf of the Church, in this very urban and deprived part of our diocese. They were also introduced to a very innovative project here at Kingsway – Art Beyond-Belief (Slough). This project works at the cutting edge of ministry working with the most disadvantaged in society using the arts and media. This project is well worth looking up on the Internet for details (click here).
After the presentation and some brief questions and answers the guests then split into three groups, each visiting one of our churches in the area. We thought this the most productive way of the visit being spent as each could then recall their experiences from one another.
The first group went off to Britwell, one of our most deprived wards in Slough, to see a newly built church with all the recent high tech installations to make it, not only our most environmentally friendly church in the diocese, but also the most up to date in terms of its facilities.
Another group went off to St. Laurence Church here in Slough. This medieval church is one of our most historic churches which lays claim to having the famous William Herschel buried in the church and a newly commissioned stained glass window depicting his achievements.
The last group went to St. Mary’s Church, Langley Marish, which is not too far from the centre of the town but far enough away for it to be seen as perhaps a semi-rural parish. Again it is a very historic church and still houses the one of the oldest libraries around in the highly-ornate room provided by Sir John Kederminster in 1623.
After a well-deserved lunch (pub & oriental depending on choice) all the groups came together again for a visit to Stoke Poges Mosque. It was “Friday Prayers” so our guests were able to experience this first hand. We have very good relations with this particular Mosque, as we do with most other faiths in the Town. The Chairman of the Mosque made us most welcome, as did others who were present, including the Imam, who stayed for a while during our discussions. These were mainly around the importance of dialogue but also about matters of faith. I think we all though this was the highlight of the visit as a majority of our guests had not been in a Mosque before. Hjabs were provided for the Mosque visit by a colleague of mine and they were kindly subsequently offered to our guests for them to take home on completion of the visit, which the majority did.
Sadly the final part of the programme could not be completed as our time together had run over slightly and our guests had to catch their train back to Oxford. After a quick dash through the rush hour traffic we all made it to the station just in time for them to catch the train.
This is the second visit I have arranged since becoming area dean and it was, like the first, a very pleasurable experience. I’m sure all enjoyed themselves – especially those who experienced the pub lunch at Langley.”
For the Saturday, the hope had been for there to be a session with a parish in Oxford Deanery which is actively engaged with “Living Faith” but, being the end of half-term week, no one was available to arrange this. A free day!
The group returned to Sweden on Sunday 5th June.
For pictures taken by the group from Sweden, click here.