At S Thomas's we are grieving for the death of the senior member of our congregation, Audrey Bates; I ask the charity of your prayers and - those of you daily offer up the Immaculate Lamb under the visible tokens which he has ordained - of your suffrages in sacrificiis.
Audrey, for many long years the schoolmistress of the parish, has left a remarkable archive of pictures and newspaper cuttings of our history; particularly in the 1930s and 1940s. This is a unique parish; the use of wafer bread at Mass continued for generations after the Reformation; in the reign of Queen Anne it was clearly a hotbed of the late-Stuart patristic high-churchery which we find in figures like Bishop Kenn and the Non-juring Fathers who, expelled from the Church of England after the Dutch Invasion (as all right-thinking people call the 'Glorious Revolution'), developed the work of Laud and Cosin to recatholicise the worship of our Church and negate the negations of the sixteenth century. On the eve of the nineteenth century Catholic Revival, Mass was still being said here some fifteen times a year; and under Fr Thomas Chamberlain we became the first Oxford parish church to put into practice the academic thinking of the 'Oxford Movement'.
Audrey's archive recalls the glory days of the 1930s; the Anglo-Catholicism of slum priests and nuns in liturgical processions around the streets of the parish; when it for a moment it seemed possible that we might take over the C of E; when
...under the Travers baroque, in a limewashed whiteness,
The fiddle-back chasubles a-glitter with morning rays,
Our Lady's image, in multiple-candled brightness,
The bells and banners - those were the waking days
When faith was taught and fanned to a golden blaze;
that wonderful middle third of the twentieth century when a band of distinguished theologians, including my predecessor Dr Jalland, called the bluff of the 'We are anti-papal Catholics' brigade by establishing the centrality to the Christian Faith of the Petrine Ministry.
Why should we let the Enemy rob us of our heritage and drive us out? And - to be down-to-earth - if you find yourself in Oxford, make sure it is in S Thomas's that you worship.