Uniting science and religion

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SCIENCE and religion are being imaginatively brought together in the Diocese of Oxford. the Door reports on events and initiatives that are making this happen in schools, churches and science centres.

by Berry Billingsley

“How do we know what’s true?” “How do know what’s real?” “Can robots ever equal or surpass us?” When we were teenagers some of us enjoyed science fiction as a way to escape with some of the big questions of life, the universe and everything. Inside each story there seemed to be coherence and logic about what was taking place. lasarconf2016-photo4

Meanwhile, at school, lessons followed lessons in a jumbled, disconnected series of subjects and, at the end of the year came an exam. Once the exams were over you could put aside everything you’d learnt. Today, schools, and educationalists more widely are realising that it’s not enough to help children pass individual exams in science, English, maths and a language; we also need children who can be insightful and critical about what is presented to them as truth and knowledge.

To develop this kind of insight, young people need opportunities to work across disciplines – and also to learn about the natures of our disciplines and their different strengths and weaknesses.
In this new field, those teachers and educators who have given thought to how science and religion relate, and to how those relationships can be best explained to young people are arguably leaders among those grappling with this issue.

Perhaps this helps to explain why a conference held at the end of October in Oxford on “Science, Religion and Education” drew a capacity audience of more than 90 delegates and featured presenters from eight countries (pictured right). The event was organised by the LASAR (Learning about Science and Religion) Project at Canterbury Christ Church University and the Department of Education at Oxford.

A common theme was that the teaching of science and religion are kept very separate. Science teachers – even if they have faith – are not comfortable with bringing or addressing questions that relate to religion into their lessons as they fear they would go beyond the scope of the subject. Meanwhile teachers of the humanities subjects often don’t feel at home with scientific concepts and language.

So how do we convey ideas about how science and religion relate to children – and are some analogies and metaphors more helpful to them than others? One metaphor that stood out is the metaphor of the kettle – and the question, “Why is the kettle boiling?” One answer is that the element is heating the water. Another is that I want a cup of tea. Those aren’t the only answers – and once we start to think there could be lots of answers which don’t necessarily compete and which indeed add more richness to the answer in one discipline alone. A similar question for younger children is: why did my doorbell ring?
This event was the beginning, we hope, of more collaborations and international discussion.

Professor Berry Billingsley is a Professor of Science Education at Canterbury University and the lead investigator for LASAR. Email or go to The Revd Mark Laynesmith, Chaplain at Reading University, and Dr Keith Chappell, a lecturer at Reading whose own research has included ecology and science and society, particularly science and religion, are involved with LASAR.

Starting with a bang – the big one – at Christ Church Cathedral

by Jacqueline Holderness

Christ Church Cathedral Education Department recently hosted God and the Big Bang (GTTB). Magdalen College School and the Oxford Academy visited the cathedral for the event. This national initiative originated in Manchester in 2011, motivated by the findings of LASAR (see above).

Youngsters experiment with science at the Christ Church Cathedral LASAR day.

Youngsters experiment with science at the Christ Church Cathedral LASAR day.


GTBB is now being led by Michael Harvey, who launched Back to Church Sunday in 2004. Michael now works with scientist Stephanie Bryant from the Faraday Institute, Cambridge, and enjoys encouraging Christians to care for the natural world. GTBB is now being led by Michael Harvey, who launched Back to Church Sunday in 2004. Michael now works with scientist Stephanie Bryant from the Faraday Institute, Cambridge, and enjoys encouraging Christians to care for the natural world. GTBB is funded by the Templeton World Charity Foundation. The project involves schools across the UK and supports teachers of science and RE to help students grapple with current ideas surrounding science and faith. GTBB inspires young people to embark on their own journey of discovery, creating a generation of excited, curious thinkers who will remember the event for many years to come.

Earlier this year, more than 120 students from the two Oxford schools gathered in a marquee for a full-day, conference style school event, which started with a keynote talk by Andy Fletcher, the President and CEO of “Life, the Universe and Everything” – a non-profit organisation dedicated to working with international schools and communities, offering seminars on 20th and 21st century physics. His talk was challenging, entertaining and inspirational and certainly started the day with a bang – the big one.

The students were then divided into four groups of 30 for workshops on topics including quantum mechanics, fractal geometry in nature and building earthquake-proof structures. Speakers included Tim Middleton and Anna Pearson (University of Oxford) and Naomi Brehm (University of Durham).

They explained their own journeys through science and faith and covered questions such as: “Why does God love science?” and “Where is God in an earthquake?” The workshop sessions were interactive and involved resources, from marshmallows and skewers, to flowers and one penny coins.

The students engaged well with the complex content and asked very profound and intriguing questions. In the final plenary the discussion was so lively and meaningful that a few students lingered on, reluctant to relinquish this opportunity to consider the big questions of life.

As well as the staff from each school, we were joined by Professor Allan Chapman of Wadham College, Edmund Newey, Sub- Dean of Christ Church, and Samantha Cragg, Director of the Oxford Schools Chaplaincy. Everyone was so impressed by the quality of the event it is hoped that GTBB will return to Oxford next year.

If your school is interested in hosting GTBB in collaboration with Christ Church, contact the Cathedral Education Officer:


‘Cosmic Chemistry’ with ‘Crossing the Gap’ in Harwell and Chilton

AS the Door went to press, the organisers of a project that attracted national Church funding were getting ready for an event that would see Professor John Lennox talk on whether science and God can mix.
John is an Emeritus Professor of Maths at Oxford University and an internationally renowned speaker on science, philosophy and religion. He was due to speak at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory on “Cosmic Chemistry” as part of the “Crossing the Gap” project organised by the Harwell and Chilton Churches. Funded by the national Scientists in Congregations initiative, “Crossing the Gap” is a project with three strands.
Dr Carina Lobley, a protein biochemist and one of the organisers, said: “On the last Friday of every month in term time we meet for Family Science Club. We have already met twice and spend time doing some hands-on science followed by reflecting on how this helps us understand a passage from the Bible in a new light. On alternate Thursdays we run a science discussion group which is a space to explore the relationship between science and the Christian faith and understand how a variety of people view this interaction. Each term we will have one keynote lecture, which is the opportunity to hear from well-known speakers to underpin our confidence in the compatibility between science and Christian faith.”

Dr Carina Lobley, a protein biochemist and one of the organisers, said: “On the last Friday of every month in term time we meet for Family Science Club. We have already met twice and spend time doing some hands-on science followed by reflecting on how this helps us understand a passage from the Bible in a new light. On alternate Thursdays we run a science discussion group which is a space to explore the relationship between science and the Christian faith and understand how a variety of people view this interaction. Each term we will have one keynote lecture, which is the opportunity to hear from well-known speakers to underpin our confidence in the compatibility between science and Christian faith.”

The Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey, the Rector of Harwell with Chilton and a practising GP, said: “We live in an area that is famous for cutting-edge science and technology, and many of our church members are practising or retired professional scientists. We realised, though, that many people, both church members and in the wider community, are uncertain about the relationship between science and faith – there is so much in the popular media about how they are supposed to be in conflict. We strongly feel this is not the case – science is a very Christian activity to be involved in, exploring and stewarding God’s wonderful creation, and discovering more about God in the process. Many leading scientists in history today are full of faith, and convinced that both the discoveries of science and the Christian faith as revealed in the Bible are true. Through our ‘Crossing the Gap’ project we hope to help people of all ages and levels of knowledge to explore how this can be.”

Professor John Lennox speaks at 7pm on Tuesday 29 November. Admission is free but book at There will be a buffet from 6.30pm. The Laboratory is on the Harwell Campus, OX11 0FA.

Congratulations to our new Licensed Lay Ministers


Lindsey Baker, Margaret Davison, Janet Keene and Rosalind Steel are our new Licensed Lay Ministers.

Our new Licensed Lay Ministers are celebrating today (Saturday 5 November 2016) after their licensing service at Christ Church Cathedral. Read a short biography of each of them.

Margaret Davison (St Peter’s, Woolhampton):

“I was brought up in a Christian family, attending the village church and Sunday school most Sundays, but it wasn’t until much later in life that I realised the power of prayer and the real presence of God. I’m looking forward to continuing my ministry as a Licensed Lay Minister.”

Ros Steel (Christ Church, Abingdon):

“I became a Christian in my teens, and have always had a sense of God’s call upon my life. At different stages this has led me in various directions, from teaching and music to, more latterly, counselling and spiritual direction. This call to Licensed Lay Ministry feels like both an affirmation of the work I am already doing, and permission to step more fully into the role of a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. What a joy and a challenge.”

Lyndsay Baker (Carterton):

“I was shocked when I felt Jesus was urging me to step forward for lay ministry. Fortunately, my husband, two children and Carterton church family are very supportive. And, when I have trusted and obeyed Jesus he has proven what a faithful and awesome God he is.”

Charles Howlett (St Mary the Virgin, Amersham):

“I moved to Amersham in 1983 to work at Chilterns Crematorium, where I’ve been ever since. I married a local funeral director’s daughter, Annie, and we have two children and a grandson. I soon started singing in the local church choir and gradually got more involved and found God blessing me with the gift of faith.”

Janet Keene (SS Michael & Mary Magdalene, Easthampstead):

Janet is married and has three children and a granddaughter. When Church @ the Pines started up as a Local Ecumenical Partnership church plant from St Michael’s and the Methodist circuit in Bracknell, Janet and her daughter went to the first service. She was confirmed there, and continued to worship there. She works full time as an official for the National Association of Head Teachers.

Bishop Steven takes up his staff

Inauguration 30 September 2016

Bishop Steven outside the Cathedral

THE beginning of Bishop Steven’s ministry as Bishop of Oxford has been marked in a series of services, starting with the formal inauguration at the Cathedral.

Around 700 guests formed the congregation at the Cathedral with more than a thousand tuning into the service via Facebook Live.

Among the congregation were representatives of the civic life of the three counties, as well as Bishop Steven’s friends, family and colleagues from the Sheffield Diocese.

Inauguration 30 September 2016

Bishop Pushpa presented the Oxford bishops with shawls

Senior clergy from each of the three overseas dioceses linked to the Diocese of Oxford took part in the service. The Rt Revd Pushpalalitha Eggoni, the Bishop of Nandyal in India, the Rt Revd Fredrik Modéus, the Bishop of Växjö in Sweden and the Very Revd Reginald Leeuw, the Dean of Kimberley in the Diocese of Kimberley and Kuruman in South Africa, gave their blessing to Bishop Steven.

The service combines the traditional with the modern, and includes music led by the Cathedral choir and also the Worship Band from St Andrew’s, Linton Road.

The new Bishop of Oxford blesses the City of Oxford (photo:KT Bruce)

The new Bishop of Oxford blesses the City of Oxford (photos:KT Bruce)

During the service Bishop Steven took a formal oath to the Archbishop of Canterbury, represented on the day by the Acting Archdeacon of Canterbury.

It ended with Bishop Steven pronouncing a blessing over the city of Oxford and the Diocese as a whole. Services of welcome follow in each of the four Episcopal Areas.

Leaflets handed out at Bishop’s inauguration

Some of those who attended Bishop Steven’s inauguration at the Cathedral were greeted by two men handing out leaflets at the entrance to Christ Church with the aim of raising awareness of sexual abuse within the Church of England. The leaflet – which has also been posted to some clergy in the diocese – refers to a safeguarding issue. The complainant suggests that senior clergy mishandled a case in Sheffield.

Bishop Steven said:  “I am not able to comment on the details, as some aspects of the cases are still subject to police investigation and church disciplinary procedure. The situation is complex.

“However, child sexual abuse and exploitation are serious crimes and I recognise the profound and long-lasting impact such abuse has on survivors.  There are always lessons to be learned about how we respond to survivors and I am committed to working with the National Safeguarding Team and House of Bishops to strengthen policy and practice.”

As he arrived at Tom Tower, Bishop Steven stepped out of the procession to shake hands with one of the pair, ‘Joe’. He praised Joe for his courage and said he would pray for all survivors of abuse.

Before the service, the Dean of Christ Church, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, said that he had been in close conversation with the protesters and would continue to engage with them “with seriousness, empathy and compassion”.

Afterwards, ‘Joe’ wrote to thank those from the Cathedral and the Diocese who made the men welcome. “I hope we matched your courtesy with our own,” he said.




Advent Sleepout a huge success

An Advent nativity Tableux at Christ Church

An Advent nativity tableux at Christ Church

AROUND 25 people took part in the Church Urban Fund Advent Sleepout at Christ Church Cathedral. Clergy and students took part. The sleepout raised £4,654 and most of those who took part also got involved in a nativity tableux.  Read more about the sleepout here. Student, Tim Wyatt’s account of the night can be read here.

An Advent Sleepout at Christ Church


THE Archdeacon of Oxford, the Ven. Martin Gorick, and his colleagues at Christ Church Cathedral are joining in the national Church Urban Fund Advent Sleepout challenge. Martin said: “I used to be the vicar of an Urban Priority Area parish in Birmingham and CUF supported us at an early stage of a project to provide a healthy living centre in Smethwick. They were the first charitable trust to get on board and gave us £25,000. It was for a project that cost £750,000 and it came at an ideal time as we found out talking to other organisations that they are a really respected funder.”

Preparing for a cold night in the cathedral are, from left, the Revd Canon Edmund Newey, the Sub Dean; the Very Revd Prof Martyn Percy, the Dean;  The Ven Martin Gorick, the Archdeacon of Oxford and Christ Church student Frazer MacDiarmid. Photo Jo Duckles.

Preparing for a cold night in the cathedral are, from left, the Revd Canon Edmund Newey, the Sub
Dean; the Very Revd Prof Martyn Percy, the Dean; The Ven Martin Gorick, the Archdeacon of Oxford and Christ Church student Frazer MacDiarmid. Photo Jo Duckles.

Martin said: “They are professional, capable and believe in the potential of the local church to transform lives in some of the most deprived areas.”
Martin said that he felt living at Christ Church, which is also a college of Oxford University, was an ideal opportunity to take part in the sleep-out, and hoped others would join him. Across the country, groups will be taking part in the challenge to raise funds for CUF so the charity can continue to support people struggling with issues such as debt, homelessness, isolation and addiction. In 2014 an estimated 2,744 people were sleeping rough on any one night in England, a rise of 55 per cent since 2010. As well as this, there are 8.8 million people who are struggling with problem debt, CUF statistics reveal.  To help tackle these issues, groups are being encouraged to get imaginative in the run up to Christmas as they turn spaces in their communities into stables to sleep in. Church halls, back gardens, sheds, and garages will host the sleepouts.
Paul Hackwood, CUF executive chair, said “Advent is a unique time for Christians as we remember that God chose to walk among us in the most truly humble of circumstances. The Advent Sleepout Challenge is a way for us to respond to that by placing ourselves in our very own ‘stables’ so that we can support the most vulnerable in our country.”


New Lay Ministers licensed in a special service

Here are our new Lay Ministers after their licensing at Christ Church Cathedral on Saturday, November 7. From the back left are Peter Flory, Estelle Fourie , Roy Tarbox, the Revd Dr Phillip Tovey, Deputy Warden for LLMs. Next row, from left are Ian Fordyce, Karen Goff and Margaret Ibison, front row Tish Bird, Pam Davey, Bishop Andrew and Ian Smith.

Photo: Jo Duckles.LLMuse

Hundreds of children at Year Six ‘Love Is’ services


HUNDREDS of Church of England school pupils from the Oxford Diocese were treated to celebrations of the four different types of ‘love’ in two events. The special services one at St James Church, Gerrards Cross in Buckinghamshire and another at Oxford’s Cathedral at Christ Church, took place in July 2014. At each event a morning of activities, including decorating crosses took place before a special services, in which the crosses were placed on the floor to form one big cross. The crosses highlighted four different types of love; brotherly love, family love, romantic love and God’s love. 2014 is the second year the event has been held in the Oxford Diocese. For a video of last year’s service click here.  The Rt Revd Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham, preached at the Gerrards Cross event and the Rt Revd John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford, preached at Christ Church.

Bishop John at the Christ Church service. Photo: Oliver Bingham.

Bishop John at the Christ Church service. Photo: Ollie Bingham.

Children process to create the large cross mosaic at Gerrards Cross. Photo: Jo Duckles.

Children process to create the large cross mosaic at Gerrards Cross. Photo: Jo Duckles.

New Deacons take up posts in Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire

THE Bishop of Oxford ordained 19 new clergy at Christ Church Cathedral on Saturday 5 July 2014.

The Deacons have now taken up their posts as curates in the Diocese of Oxford.

From left, Ben Drury, Jo Ellington, Patrick Gilday, Janet Wales, Sam Cross, Ben Topham, Hannah Brooks, Sally Bottomer, Nigel Richards and Dominic Meering with Bishop John.

From left, Ben Drury, Jo Ellington, Patrick Gilday, Janet Wales, Sam Cross, Ben Topham, Hannah Brooks, Sally Bottomer, Nigel Richards and Dominic Meering with Bishop John.

From left, Jonathan Jong, Simon Potter, Rob Glenny, John Goodman, George Moody, Peter Hill, Mather Simpson, Janet Radford and Michael Lakey.

From left, Jonathan Jong, Simon Potter, Rob Glenny, John Goodman, George Moody, Peter Hill, Martha Simpson, Janet Radford and Michael Lakey.

Sally Bottomer to serve in Aston Clinton
Sally says: “I’m married with four children and I have two dogs. I used to live in Tenerife and am bilingual in Spanish. I like to go running in my spare time not only to keep fit but also to spend ‘quality time’ with God.”

Hannah Brooks to serve in Finchampstead and California
Hannah says: “I am 24 years old. I have felt called to ordained ministry since about the age of 12. This year is very exciting because as well as getting ordained, I am also getting married.”

Sam Cross, to serve at St Giles, Reading
Sam has just completed his BA in Theology, studying at Ripon College Cuddesdon for the past three years. Prior to ordination Sam worked in the entertainment industry as a performer, running his own business from the age of seventeen. He has a particular interest in pilgrimage, which his dissertation explored.

Jo Ellington to serve in the Cookhams
Jo says: “I am married with two children and two step children. I was not a churchgoer as a child. I was baptised and confirmed at 17. I studied Chemistry at Leeds University. I worked in the USA for two years. I love walking, skiing and eating with friends and family.”

Patrick Gilday to serve at All Saints, Ascot Heath
Patrick says: “I first came to Oxford as a music student in 2002, where I was for a little while a member of the cathedral choir. Coming to Christ Church always feels like coming home now. Since graduating I have worked for the NHS and taught undergraduate musicians at Oxford.”

Dominic Meering to serve in Hazlemere
Dominic, a former Maths teacher from Bristol, is married to Crystal with two young children. For three years they led a week long annual residential water sports and exam revision holiday in the Lake District. He has also helped with various other short-term mission trips in the UK and overseas.

Nigel Richards to serve in Bracknell
Nigel says: “Years ago there was a popular game show called ‘What’s My Line?’, in which panellists would guess a person’s occupation by given clues. Looking at my Facebook profile – apart from a few obvious ‘likes’ – it would be difficult to see a priest among my interests of rock music, street art, tattoos and festivals. I hate all forms of injustice, and remain passionately in love with God, the world and everybody in it.”

Ben Topham to serve at Chalfont St Peter
Ben says: “I graduated from Cliff College in 2005, and since have been engaged in full-time youth ministry. I love to tell stories and explore scripture with others. My pre-ordination ‘retreat’ was a 112 mile pilgrimage in 5 days which joined my love of challenge, the great outdoors, deep friendships and active spirituality.”

Janet Wales to serve at Stoke Mandeville and the Kimbles
Janet was born in South Africa but moved to Zimbabwe when she married David now Rector of Weston Turville Parish. She has two adult children, Christopher and Roslinn. Janet, a former History teacher, now teaches piano and plays the organ. She is interested in Art and Inter-Faith matters.

Ben Drury to serve in Stony Stratford with Calverton
Benjamin grew up in Richmond, Yorkshire. At Worcester College, Oxford he read Ancient and Modern History, and Byzantine Studies; then continued exploring his vocation as Pastoral Assistant of St Michael’s and St Paul’s Church in Brighton. Benjamin was then Course Assistant at St George’s College, Jerusalem before returning to Oxford to read Theology at St Stephen’s.

Rob Glenny to serve at Marston and Elsfield
Prior to training at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, Rob read theology at the University of St. Andrews, writing a dissertation on the theology of Johannes Brahms. He has a keen interest in both sport and music, and a moonlights as a part-time composer. He is soon to be married to Beth.

John Goodman to serve at St Francis, Banbury
John Goodman’s background is mission work in schools, parishes and street outreach as a youth worker as well as in media and internet based ministries. He trained at Trinity College Bristol. Together with his wife, Camilla, and children, Miriam and Samuel, they are excited to serve in St Francis, Banbury.

Peter Hill to serve in Emmanuel, Bicester
Peter works two days a week as a cover supervisor at Wheatley park Secondary School. He says: “I have done this for nearly three years and it is totally different to my previous job which was as a Senior Officer in the prison service, working at Grendon Prison. Grendon is a therapy prison, helping offenders change through psychotherapy. I also keep ferrets which I have taken to church on occasion to illustrate sermons, and I am known to my grandson and his friends as ‘Grandad Ferret’.”

Jonathan Jong, to serve at St Mary Magdalen, Oxford
Jonathan Jong grew up in Malaysia before starting university in Dunedin, New Zealand, where he first discovered Anglicanism. He then came to Oxford to be an experimental psychologist, specializing in the evolutionary and psychological underpinnings of religious belief and behaviour, and found himself training for ordination on top of that.

Michael Lakey to serve at St Peter and St Paul, Dorchester
Michael Lakey is serving a part-time title post at Ss. Peter and Paul in Dorchester. Alongside this, he is New Testament Tutor at Ripon College Cuddesdon, a post which he has occupied since 2008. Prior to this, he assisted +Tom Wright, the then Bishop of Durham, on a New Testament translation project, published with SPCK in 2011.

George Moody to serve at Grove
George says: “I am married with four children, the youngest with special needs. I am a full time teacher, running a busy Religious Studies department and the school’s athletics club. I try to keep fit and healthy by running. If I had any free time, I would sail or windsurf, go out, or even worship Jesus.”

Simon Potter to serve at St Andrew, Oxford
Simon says: “I’m delighted to join the St Andrew’s team having been a teacher and chaplaincy worker for 13 years. I look forward to seeing how the truly great news of God’s invitation to know him in Jesus Christ might be combined with my love of good curry, coffee, music and travel!”

Janet Radford to serve at St Matthew’s, Harwell and All Saint’s, Chilton and Oxford University Trust
Janet says: “I am coming to ordination after a 37 year career as nurse. I am currently working as a Hospital Chaplain. I enjoy travelling and walking on the beach, (preferably a hot and sunny one) scrapbooking (holidays) and eating, but definitely not cooking! My favourite food is chocolate.”

Martha Simpson to serve in Chipping Norton
Martha says: “Before I started training to be a vicar I worked for the National Trust as a Press Officer. I did mostly wildlife and countryside press so spent a lot of time in some pretty amazing places. My favourite experience was probably spending the evening recording natterjack toad noises at a site near Liverpool.”

God in the life of Matt Power


MEETING the Queen last year has to date been the highlight of Matt Power’s career. The Head Verger at Christ Church Cathedral told Jo Duckles his story. matt moving hundreds of chairs mm MW5A0236

Matt (pictured right putting out chairs before the Queen’s visit in 2013) and I chatted in the sacristy (verger’s office) tucked away at the back of the medieval building. As we talk clergy, volunteers and staff wander in and out, some with information, some with queries about the day to day life of Christ Church.

Matt, who has a love of art history and music, is clearly in the perfect job. “I was brought up in a typical parish church,” he says. “It was a Wiltshire village where my father was the organist and also a local teacher. It was a small but lively parish and our family were pivotal in the church. I was in the choir, a server and when I was six or seven I remember holding the incense for the Bishop of Salisbury. This all happened by default, I grew up with it,” says Matt.

“Music and art were very much part of my childhood and I ended up doing a fine art degree in London. All the time music and church architecture interested me.” He tells an old joke about the question you ask a person with a degree in fine art: “Could I have a burger and fries please?”

“Most people with fine art degrees wonder what they are going to do afterwards. This job came at the right time. I wasn’t sure what I would do. I wasn’t interested in the new modern art movement that was going around in college. I took a gamble in applying for a job that would immerse me in my own interests. I thought it would give me the space to decide what I wanted to do,” says Matt, who was 21 at the time and the youngest of a four-strong team. He is still there 19 years later, loving being at the heart of Cathedral life. One highlight that stands out was the Queen’s visit for Maundy Thursday in 2013. It was Oxford’s turn for the Queen to come along and hand out Maundy Money to selected pensioners in honour of their work for the Church.
“The event was so carefully put together with meetings and strategy documents so nothing could go wrong,” says Matt, who loves the careful ‘stage management’ that ensures that all Christ Church services run smoothly. “At 5am I would have been cleaning the toilets, at 11am meeting the Queen and later in the evening washing altar linen. It’s an incredibly varied job where one phone call can take you all day to sort out.”

A combination of clever marketing and the Harry Potter connection (many scenes from Hogwarts were shot in Christ Church) mean that the cathedral and adjoining college has become a lot busier since Matt started to work there. “When I first started you could sit and read a book at times, it was calm. It’s now on the map of Oxford as one of the places to visit and is open 365 days a year,” says Matt, who worships in the cathedral but also takes time out to go to Evensong in the Merton College Chapel in term time.

At Cathedral services the vergers may not take centre stage but they have an important role. “I don’t want to be in the limelight but I get a quiet sense of satisfaction from helping the service to enhance someone else’s faith,” says Matt. “I’ll be sitting in the corner with a wry smile at the end of a service knowing that it’s gone well.”
On a typical day, a verger will start at the cathedral at 6.30am, ready for morning prayer at 7.15am and 7.35am. “It’s the nicest time of the day. There’s a sense of calm and there are some wonderful effects with the light coming through the building, it’s magical.”

Those early morning services attract between two and 12 people before 8am when the choristers from the cathedral school arrive for a practice. From 10am tourists begin to arrive and the calm turns into a busy chaos.  “You meet lots of different types of people. It’s not like being in an office where you report to one person,” says Matt. “You are mixing with the public and different types of cathedral staff and volunteers. We deal with a huge number of people throughout the day and each of us has our own responsibilities for preparation of services,” says Matt, who sees ironing the altar linen as a welcome retreat from the crowds. “Ironing time is thinking time and it’s important to take pride in what you do.”

“I like to think of this as the equivalent of preparing for your great aunt who is coming around for tea. There’s a reason for doing it and showing that you have made an effort.”
The verger’s role includes concert management and the newest member of Matt’s team is Christopher Waterhouse, who used to work as the stage manager of the Sydney Opera House.

“Christopher sees everything like a theatrical performance. It has to be polished from start to finish with the blessing being like the final curtain in a show. People expect that from a cathedral service,” says Matt.  Back in 1998, Matt’s interest in art history came in useful when he found forgotten fragments of stained glass and began to piece them together. They turned out to be a window depicting a story from scripture that had been destroyed in the Reformation.

“The windows were put in just before the Civil War by Van Linge in the 1630s. We have spent a long time piecing them together. It’s like doing a jigsaw without the lid and without all of the pieces. It’s like delving back into the history of the building,” says Matt, who is proud that some of his prized ‘jigsaw’ has been displayed in the Tate.
He pointed to an ancient record book with an entry for 2 June 1651, asking for the picture to be taken down. “Later one of the Canons appointed by Cromwell was responsible for stomping up and down on it. This is real history, written down in our records, it’s not assumed. I have been researching the poems that go with it. I was a bit like a hermit for a few years putting sky and limbs back together.”

Matt lives in Christ Church but is far enough from the cathedral to have a sense of leaving for work in a morning and going home again.


Four new Honorary Canons at Christ Church Cathedral

FOUR new Honorary Canons were installed at Christ Church Cathedral in January. Honorary Canons are clergy selected because of their work within the Diocese of Oxford and the wider church.

THE Revd Mark Dearnley, Area Dean for Wendover and Vicar of Wendover and Halton, was celebrating with his wife Ruth, who had been awarded the OBE for her work as CEO of Stop the Traffik when he got the letter from Bishop john inviting him to become an honorary canon. Mark, who is from London, was ordained in 1987 and did two curacies in Southwark before a post in Surrey. He came to Wendover and Halton in 2002. He said: “Parish ministry is my bread and butter. I love being connected at the heart of the community, being part of the joined up way the church has a ministry and mission in this place. To be installed as an honorary canon is a real honour. I appreciate how Bishop John has a sense of supporting ministry at all levels and feel very privileged to be part of the Oxford Diocese.”

The Revd Dr Michael Beasley is Director of Mission in the Diocese of Oxford. This involves oversight of the team in the diocese responsible for supporting various aspects of the life of parishes including recruitment and training of clergy and lay ministers, youth and children’s work and social responsibility activities. Michael was previously Vice Principal of Westcott House Theological College, Cambridge; a residential community that trains men and women for the priesthood. An epidemiologist by background, he combined work in Cambridge with the post of director of a research group in the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College, London. Michael is married to Lizzie who is Deputy Head of one of Oxford’s secondary schools. They live in Abingdon with their children Charlie and Connie.

THE Revd Dr Edmund Newell is Principal of Cumberland Lodge, Windsor and former Sub Dean of Christ Church Cathedral. When Edmund arrived in Oxford in 1983 to study at Nuffield College he was a Roman Catholic. Becoming an Anglican in the mid-1980s, Edmund was involved in Oxford’s University Church as a PCC member and churchwarden. He trained to become a priest on the Oxford Ministry Course and at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, serving his title in Deddington and the Barfords. His high profile ministry has included being Chaplain to the former Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries and Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, where he was the founding director of St Paul’s Institute.

THE Revd Linda Green, Vicar of St Mary’s, Banbury and Associate Area Dean for Banbury has been in the diocese for more than 20 years as a vicar’s wife, parishioner and a vicar. Linda lived in Princes Risborough until the death of her husband Nick, who was the vicar of St Mary’s. She stayed in the Buckinghamshire town so her children didn’t have the upheaval of moving. She then moved to Headington Quarry where she was a curate, before taking up her post in Banbury. She says: “I Just love enabling people and helping them to see their potential.” Linda is trained to coach clergy to help them give the best they can in their ministry. “I couldn’t do any of it without my great team of clergy and LLMs in Banbury,” says Linda. “They are a real blessing.”

Playing at the Cathedral

by Jessica-Louise Hallionjessica and the boys 3B2A0840

THE idea of a discovery or an extraordinary game is the most powerful, memorable and spiritual experience for anyone of any age. Christmas offers the perfect time for a playful journey into wonder-land.

In our Journey to Bethlehem at Christ Church, history, theology and fun mix together to allow all ages a new route to the true meaning of Christmas. Starting from the first prophecies and travelling through the narrative, you will collect gifts to take home and let your playful side sing. Roman soldiers will send you travelling and angels will fill you with hope. The Journey will give you wonders that you will be thinking of for a long time to come.

Journey to Bethlehem takes place at Christ Church Cathedral at noon on Saturday, 21 December. It is suitable for all ages particularly families with small children.

Jessica-Louise is the Canon’s Verger at the Cathedral.

Headteachers and governors gather for service

The Seer Green CE School Choir raise the roof at the annual headteachers' service.

The Seer Green CE School Choir raise the roof at the annual headteachers’ service.

NEW Church school headteachers were commissioned with special Bibles at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford.

The commissions took place during the annual Diocese of Oxford Service for Headteachers and Governors on Thursday (October 24th). Representatives of Church schools from Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire were part of the event. The service began with a welcome from Diocesan Education Director Anne Davey, who invited the choir from Seer Green CE Combined School, who were singing at the event, to look up at the high ceiling of the cathedral. “This is to help us remember how high God’s love is,” said Anne, who later handed out around 15 Bibles to new CofE school headteachers.

The children from the Seer Green choir sang during the Eucharist service and enjoyed the experience of visiting the cathedral. Katie, 10, said: “It was really good because it was really interesting watching the headteachers get their Bibles.” Nikolas, nine, said he was struck by how big the cathedral was when he walked in. He said: “I liked seeing all of the pictures and statues on the walls and ceilings.” Morgan, 10, said: “It was nice to see how all of the headteachers got together.”