New Road Baptist Church, Bonn Square, Oxford
This morning I attended the 10:30 worship service at New Road Baptist Church. The student in the room next to mine, James Webber, from Wales was to be baptised and invited the students here at Regent's Park College to come. The service was very nice, and everyone was very, very friendly. Regent's Park college is the theological college in Oxford for training of Baptist ministers, so several of the students, faculty and the Principal, Prof. Fiddes are all members of New Road. In fact, it was Prof. Fiddes' turn to help out with coffee hour, and when I left, he was elbows deep in the sink washing up...an excellent example to the students of Christian humility.
It has been nice to be able to attend church and not have to worry about it. (Though, this morning, my liturgical observer's eye was on for just a minute or two...as with most free-church congregations, there were things done in the liturgy that I suspect have not been well thought through as to why they are there in the liturgy...remnants of either anti-papism, or older memories than that of liturgical custom that have been retained as tradition and not reappropriated or reexamined for usefulness and appropriateness for today.) Nevertheless, the service was very nice, the singing was robust...(English hymnals have words only, no music generally!) A nice mix of traditional and contemporary, more than we do at Marsh Chapel. The minister's sermon was quite good, though it is clear that he is more conservative theolgically than I would be comfortable listening to for any length of time. Nice enough fellow, and gave me lots to think about.
Yesterday, I attended Pusey House, the Anglo-Catholic chapel attached to St. Cross College just next door...also beautiful in its own right and frankly, more to my liking than the Baptist service I attended. Excellent choir sang a Missa Brevis by Walton and the Parsons Ave Maria, one of my favourites that the Marsh Chapel Choir often sings. I will be attending daily prayer there as often as I can, since it is so close.
Oxford was the center for liturgical renewal and the Anglo-Catholic movement in the 19th c. (the Oxford Movement and the Tractarian Movement) so it is quite wonderful to experience that style of worship in the very chapels where it started off. I will be attending Christ Church Cathedral at some point while I am here. I also will be attending Wesley Memorial Methodist Church at some point while here...the Wesleys were both educated here at Oxford. It is really quite amazing the amount of religious change and fervour that has come out of Oxford, and continues until today. Walking to the church this morning, I heard no fewer than ten different churches ringing bells, some with quite complicated change-ringing, calling the faithful to prayers and worship, and the fairly crowded streets of people doing just that.
This evening, I am going to go to Choral Evensong at St. Mary Magdalen which is also nearby.