Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 2 July 2010

St Thomas Oxford and Thomas Chamberlain

This weekend is the patronal feast of St Thomas the Martyr Oxford, the Anglo-Catholic church near the railway station in Oxford, and where from 2002 -5 I had the privilege of being Churchwarden.

St Thomas' keeps the feast of the Translation of the relics of St Thomas on July 7 as its principal patronal, a tradition going back there to the late nineteenth century. Indeed St Thomas was one of the few post-apostolic saints to have two feast days - those of his death and translation - in 1170 and 1220 respectively. Another to have such a double commemoration is St Cuthbert.

I retain enormous affection and regard for St Thomas', for its faithful parishioners, and for its redoubtable p-i-c and blogger, Fr Hunwicke. Living just across the churchyard from it I see it everyday and keep it and all associated with it in my prayers.

In 2003 I published a history of the church and parish as a festschrift to the last Vicar, Robert Sweeney, and in so doing realised what a special place St Thomas has in the history of the Catholic revival in the Church of England.

I still have a place there as Archivist, and by a happy coincidence Forward Plus, the free newspaper produced by Forward in Faith, has in its latest edition an article about Thomas Chamberlain, the great and remarkable vicar who established St Thomas' as one of the very first Anglo-Catholic parishes in the country. Chamberlain's fifty year ministry there from 1842 to 1892 links the era of the Tractarians to that of the Lincoln Judgment. Modesty almost forbids me to name the author of the article, but I think being a blogger is not that modest, so I will own up to having written it. You can find the article online at the website of Forward Plus by scrolling down to the article, or you can, no doubt, pick up a copy in right thinking Anglican churches.

Thomas Chamberlain, by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), spring 1860 - NPG P7(3) - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

This photograph of Chamberlain which illustrates the article was taken in the early 1860s by one of his colleagues from Christ Church here in Oxford - the Rev. Charles Dodgson - Lewis Carroll.

Please pray for all at St Thomas' and for its future both as a community and as a place of worship.

Anyone interested in obtaining copies of my book on the church should contact me at jrwhitehead2000@yahoo.co.uk

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