ST MARY AND ST JOHN One of the joys of living right next to St Mary and St John Church is the amazing views we have over the churchyard which is frothy with spring growth at the moment! The good news of the resurrection is always reflected in the profusion of flowers and new growth at this time of year but the Cowley road gives us a very different picture with businesses shut down and the normally bustling pavements, quiet. Times are hard for many of us separated from our everyday interactions with others. However it has been a real joy meeting such a mix of people at the Sunday morning parish 'virtual coffee' meetings or seeing the comments and hearts floating up the screen during the Face book service usually in the vicarage garden. Speaking to many of you on the phone (or dropping off Sunday sheets to those who don't have internet access) has given me a different and bigger picture of life in the parish. The great profusion of community activity to help those on the margins has been heartening but all of us have come to terms with finding new ways of relating and being together. Despite the pain that many have suffered there has also been deep expressions of compassion and a new sense of our common life together. I miss seeing you all face to face and yearn for the day when we can be together again in prayer and fellowship. Holding you all in prayer. FATHER PHIL RITCHIE

ST ALBANS NEWS It seems more than six weeks since we last had a service at St Albans. All members of the congregation are very much missing the services, and seeing each other, but we are looking forward to the time when it is possible to meet, worship and sing together again. St Albans Hall has been used by a fabulous team from Oxford Mutual Aid to back up boxes and bags of food for vulnerable residents. DAVID GIMSON, CHURCHWARDEN This magazine is designed and edited by Lorna Robinson. Please email lostgelfling@gmail.com if you'd like to submit an article.

A VIRUS CREATED THESE BEAUTIFUL FLOWERS Dan Emlyn- Jones expl or es t he ar t ist r y of nat ur e

Seventeenth century Netherlands gave birth to some of the greatest artists who have ever lived: Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Dijk to name but a few. It may come as a surprise to many to learn that one of the greatest artists to arise at that time was not human. It was not even living. It was a virus. Viruses are miniscule particles, some ten thousand times smaller than a millimetre. They are the ultimate hitchhikers, with an astonishing facility to multiply in living cells and infect others. At the moment, viruses understandably have an extremely bad press, but in seventeenth century Netherlands, the Tulip Breaking Virus, a virus which infects tulips, gave rise to some of the most beautiful tulip flowers to have ever existed. The virus disrupted or ?broke? the natural pigmentation in the flowers, so crimsons were gorgeously fragmented into delicate feather patterns. The Dutch at the time wowed at these living masterpieces, and owning one became the ultimate status symbol. Prices rose until single bulbs sold for far more than any of the paintings of the time. One of the most famous tulips from this ?Tulipmania? period, Semper Augustus, sold for more than a house! Sadly, or perhaps not so sadly, this economic bubble eventually burst. The virus which had created such beauty also gradually weakened the tulip plants of these famous varieties, and over the years they died out. Having said this, there are one or two varieties from this era which have managed to survive down the centuries, thanks to some very patient and dedicated gardeners. The tulip Zomerschoon (1620), which is the Dutch for ?summer beauty?, is one such survivor. No one is quite sure why it has survived so well for four hundred years. It may be the virus has been somehow weakened in this tulip, or that the plants for some reason have better resistance to the virus? weakening effects. This tulip is still offered for sale in specialist garden shops, and I purchased a single bulb for £70 a few years back. This isn?t quite the 13,000 florins it would have sold for in seventeenth century Holland, but it?s still a hefty price for a single bulb! These true broken tulips are still preserved in Holland?s Hortus Bulborum, a place well worth a visit in the future, but commercial growers of tulips keep more than a social distance from these flowers. The Tulip Breaking Virus they carry could cause devastation of modern tulip varieties. Indeed, in the Netherlands it is now illegal to grow the true broken tulips without special license. Zomerschoon is a temperamental and slow growing diva of a tulip, but one sunny spring day last year, my Zomerschoon delighted our East Oxford neighbours during the Divinity Road Area Open Gardens. Local photographer Paul Proudman was even kind enough to capture the blooms (see photographs). May the true broken tulips of seventeenth century Holland continue to bloom and delight us for many years to come!


During the lock-down The Porch has had to re-invent itself. It is no longer possible for ?Members? to come into the building as they normally do. Instead the staff and a wonderful cohort of volunteers are working 7 days a week to prepare, cook and deliver 200 meals a day. About 50 people come to the door for their take-away, 50 are delivered to those who are too frail to come or who have underlying conditions, 23 are delivered to Matilda House, 25 to Connections and about 50 are distributed at Bonn Square. At the end of each day the staff and the volunteers are still smiling, laughing, singing!

And where is Jesus, this strange Easter day? Not lost in our locked churches, anymore Than he was sealed in that dark sepulchre. The locks are loosed; the stone is rolled away, And he is up and risen, long before, Alive, at large, and making his strong way Into the world he gave his life to save, No need to seek him in his empty grave. He might have been a wafer in the hands Of priests this day, or music from the lips Of red-robed choristers, instead he slips Away from church, shakes off our linen bands To don his apron with a nurse: he grips And lifts a stretcher, soothes with gentle hands The frail flesh of the dying, gives them hope, Breathes with the breathless, lends them strength to cope. On Thursday we applauded, for he came And served us in a thousand names and faces Mopping our sickroom floors and catching traces Of that virus which was death to him: Good Friday happened in a thousand places Where Jesus held the helpless, died with them That they might share his Easter in their need, Now they are risen with him, risen indeed. Malcolm Guite 2020


As you might expect of a church within five miles of three theological colleges, St Mary and St John has seen plenty of ordinands come and go in the past few years. Some join for a few weeks in the summer, others come as chiefly observers in their first year, and some take the opportunity to preach and get involved in the serving team. SMSJ is also very excited to welcome a curate for the first time in a while this year. I can?t speak for all the others, particularly as my experience as an ordinand at SMSJ was a little idiosyncratic: I met the love of my life there and, lockdown situation permitting, we hope to get married there on August 1st. However, I can share something of what it feels like to be going through such a practical and existential transition in such an uncertain time. The global pandemic has, perhaps without precedent, disrupted the lives of almost everyone in the world. For hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people, this disruption has come in the form of bereavement, sickness or acute financial distress. As NHS and other keyworkers are run off their feet, and Rev Sabina brings us news of the situation in developing countries across the globe, it seems crass- self-indulgent and maybe even irrelevantto turn my thoughts to ordination. What difference will a dog collar make, in a world that needs more and better distribution of PPE equipment? What can my spiritual and academic formation in a theological college possibly contribute to such a hurting world? I hope and pray that, as I move to my curacy, I will quickly find practical ways to help people in physical, emotional and spiritual need. I hope I will be able to pray for and with those who are too busy, too anxious or too sick to pray themselves. I hope I will be able to contribute as we find new ways to worship when we cannot be together. Please pray for us ordinands as we approach ordinations which may be delayed, or behind closed doors, and when we enter virtual retreats online and perhaps meet our new congregations from the distance of a screen. I know your prayer lists are very long at the moment, but we would appreciate it! And please be assured, of course, that we will continue to pray for you all as well.

A NEW ECOTHEOLOGY CENTRE IN OXFORD MICHAEL BARRETT In the last twenty years or so, with the rise of awareness around the world of the threats to humanity and to other species of the consequences of man-made climate change, environmental pollution, and ecological breakdown, the field of ecotheology has moved mainstream, from its former position on the fringes of academic religious discussion, to being a subject of current interest at a time when religious organizations are struggling to be seen as relevant in an increasingly secular world. On 28 June this year the official launch will take place of Oxford?s newest academic body, the Laudato Si? Research Institute (LSRI) which takes its name from the 2015 papal ?encyclical? Laudato Si?: On Care for Our Common Home. As its name implies, this document is the Vatican?s formal response to the current ecological crisis, in which Pope Francis sets out his radical vision on a range of environmental issues for the billion or more Catholics around the world, putting ecological and social justice at the heart of the church?s faith and practice. LSRI?s stated mission is to undertake multidisciplinary research ?for societal transformation, at the intersections of theology, ecology, and the social and natural sciences, on the most pressing environmental issues of our day?.

Its research programmes will aim to develop an ?integral ecology?that responds?to the cry of the earth? and the cry of the poor?, and provide resources both for academics and practitioners in fields such as development, and for influencing government policies and decision-making at national and global level. Established under the aegis of Campion Hall, LSRI will have Jesuit traditions as a defining element of its research identity while being open to insights from other faiths, including indigenous traditions, and collaborating with other religious and secular traditions. In the spirit of Pope Francis? encyclical, LSRI research will pay particular attention to the insights of marginalised people on such crucial issues as sustainable development goals and international climate agreements. The recently appointed director of LSRI is Celia Deane-Drummond, until last year professor of theology at Notre Dame university, Indiana. With a background in natural sciences, having specialized in plant physiology at Cambridge, Reading, and Durham universities, Celia Deane-Drummond holds a doctorate in systematic theology from Manchester university. At Notre Dame she taught systematic theology in relation to biological science (evolution, ecology, and genetics), and bioethics (including sustainability and ecotheology). Her many books and publications include:Genetics and Christian Ethics(2006),Ecotheology(2008),Christ and Evolution: Wonder and Wisdom(2009),Creaturely Theology: God, Humans and Other Animals(joint editor) (2009),Religion and Ecology in the Public Sphere(joint editor) (2011), andA Primer in Ecotheology: Theology for a Fragile Earth(2017). LSRI is based in Albion House, Littlegate Street, (below St Ebbes Street), OX1 1SG. After some 800 years in which Oxford has been one of the western world?s great centres of academic religious study, the ambitious aims of the Laudato Si? Research Institute will help position the city as a world-leading centre of contemporary religious research in the context of the current global ecological crisis.


For many of us, including me, religious faith and practice are of enormous significance in helping us to live with the realities of living with mental health problems. Prayer, the structure of services (especially the Eucharist) and the sense of being part of a community where we are all loved and valued; these things have real meaning and power when struggling with intrusive thoughts, and sometimes despairing ones. In the knowledge that these times are hard for everyone everywhere, here are a few suggestions about how to live through lockdown while dealing with mental distress. First of all, Oxfordshire Mind (which has been in continuous existence for over 50 years, a remarkable feat for a voluntary organisation) is still providing advice and support services for anyone with a mental health problem, and for concerned families and friends. Their Information and Line is open Mon-Thurs from 9.30 to 4.30, and on Fridays from 9.30 to 4 pm. The number is 01865 247788. The full Mind Guide to mental health services in Oxfordshire is available online atoxfordshiremind.org.ukAnd the wonderful Safe Haven crisis service (personally checked out by Alice Hicks and me at a user-only open event last year) is open Fri, Sat, Sun and Monday evenings from 6 - 10 pm. The phone number is 01865 903037 and the line is open from 5 pm each evening of operation. For myself, I have found following a familiar routine to be helpful during these strange times. I?m under the mild form of lockdown where I?m allowed out for daily exercise, and I value my walks. Prayer, music and reading comforting or inspiring books - nothing too heavy or bleak! - help to ground me. I aim to make one phone call a day to a friend or family member who is on their own, or struggling. I love the Codeword puzzles in the papers (the Independent?s is online, but the Guardian?s only appears in the print version) and the crosswords. Clearing out cupboards and filing cabinets doesn?t fill me with enthusiasm, so I?m avoiding those tasks for now, but I quite like cleaning and it makes sense to do it when we are all trying to avoid infection. Like most of us, I?m concentrating on staying well through this crisis. I remind myself that God is always present and the Church still exists, even when so much has fallen silent. The weekly bulletins are helpful, although I?ve not been tempted to Zoom yet!


It seems another epoch now but only two months ago Oxford housing issues seemed so unsolvable that the very best on offer for some would be a camp bed in a temporary night shelter, a different one each night, open only at night. What was offered was a safe environment, a warm welcome, hot drinks and a snack on arrival, a warm bed, and breakfast the following morning with a further option of a coffee club at the gatehouse. For some guests this was a respite from a life lived out on the streets and camping, for others it was a pause that allowed them to explore the very few options and wait for vacancies, still others were too unstable to accept the beds offered and every night we waited for the neediest guests who wouldn't come or only came in occasionally. Some of the guests wanted to talk, some were in despair, other delighted to be there, others stoical, most calm and polite most of the time. Most looked through the clean clothes, socks ,toiletries and underwear on offer taking what was needed for the week ahead. By the second week of March it was clear that however impossible these guests had to be housed and by in no dormitory accommodation somehow for almost everyone that is what has happened. In Oxford four hundred trained volunteers manned the shelters supported by a valiant project worker and assistant. At the eleven St Alban's Thursday night sessions shift volunteers included parishioners neighbors, members of the other Oxford churches, students with essays to write, people who had never set foot in a church before, overnight volunteers who would get up and go to work, an eighteen year old who volunteered for his eighteenth birthday, at least one monk and one wheelchair user. Each morning the laundry would find its way to St Stephens house to be done by the their wonderful housekeeper. It also felt as if the entire parish was supporting us in some way: there were lots of cash donations, a fantastic carol concert that raised the rest of the budgeted cost: then the goods in kind donations of maintenance services, fresh baked cakes and bread weekly, hotel shampoos and soaps from some very unexpected places, anonymous bags of warm clothing, job lots of porridge, pot noodles, new underwear and a lot of other supplies especially for women. We had food left most weeks that went to the Porch, we had clothes bounty to gift to the Emmaus project, we had supplies left over which went into the OWNs pool and onto the expanding food banks to supported the newly housed guests, we had money left over which has gone to the Porch Covid operation. We all learnt a lot and where that takes us in the future is up to us.

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