Today we leave the beautiful oasis that is the Royal Foundation of Saint Katherine. None of us wanted to leave because this was such an amazingly perfect place to stay and we just didn’t want it to end. But just as all things must come to an end, so too does our time in London. I know that many of the pilgrims will leave this place looking forward to coming back when they can. My advice to all of you reading this, if you are ever staying in London stay at the Royal Foundation! You will not regret it. So we said goodbye to the wonderful staff and the Master and began our trek west to Oxford.
Oxford is an important site for us as Anglicans for two reasons: the first being it is the site were bishops Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, and Nicolas Ridley were burned at the stake during the reign of Mary Tudor; and secondly because it is the site of the Oxford Movement, the great 19th Century revival of liturgy and urban mission that gave birth to what we know call Anglo-Catholicism. Though these are important stories to hear about how Anglicanism continued to be shaped, we wanted to offer this day as a bit of a free day for the pilgrims.
On the bus Fr. David told us the stories of the martyrs and the Oxford Movement so that we could explore the sites on our own. We were dropped in the center of town right by the Martyrs Memorial and after a short orientation we all went our separate ways.
Since it was nearly lunch time Fr. David and I took Clarissa Gordon out to lunch and decided to humor me and have a meal at the Eagle and Child pub, which was made famous as the regular meeting place of the Inklings who were a group of professors and authors that included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien…you might have heard of them. We were lucky to have arrived when we did because we had no problem finding a table, but not long after we arrived and were seated the pub filled up and there were people lining up outside trying to get a table. This might be just as much a pilgrimage site as the Martyrs Memorial and even more so than Pusey House.
For the next two hours I just completely nerded out; taking pictures and soaking in all the fun photos and posters that hung on the wall as a monument to these iconic authors. As I reveled in it I could also not help but feel a little sad as this is some place my father would have loved to visit. My love for all things Tolkien came from my father and though he died far too soon and could not take the pilgrimage himself to this wonderful place, I know he was with me while we were there.
After a filling meal and sufficient time spent in the midst of a classic pub we gave our table to another group of visitors who were clamoring to get in. From the pub we walked back towards the Martyrs Memorial and came upon Pusey House, the center of the Oxford Movement that was named after one of the movement founders Edward Pusey.
I will not go into too much depth about the Oxford Movement, but simply put a few men from Oxford felt that the church had become too evangelical and devoid of ritual and deep spirituality. So they decided to reclaim some of the former Roman Catholic rituals and practices that were part of the church before the reformations. As such they were not allowed to serve in choice parishes but were instead “banished” to the urban slums. Taking this as an opportunity to further their vision of high liturgy and deep mission, these priests gladly took their message to the people who had otherwise been neglected by the church. Out of their efforts arose what we know call Anglo-Catholicism which captures a lot of our Roman heritage while also reinvigorating mission in the cities of England. We at Saint James have been affected by this movement and as such have become a broad church, expressing both our Roman and Protestant heritage.
After leaving Pusey House we stopped in one more church dedicated to Mary Magdalene. We then split up and I wandered around Broad Street taking in the university city with all its bookstores and shops. I did a bit of shopping myself.
After everyone had their fill of shopping and exploration, of which each pilgrim will have their own story to share of this day, we boarded the coach to head to the tiny village of Cuddesdon where we will spend the final two nights of our pilgrimage. In this tiny village is one of the Church of England’s seminaries, Ripon College Cuddesdon. Fr. David visited the college as a possible place to do his training and I too almost spent a year here because Cuddesdon has a long relationship with my seminary, the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) in Berkeley, CA. I, however, did not participate in the exchange because my relationship with Lauren was continuing to grow deeper and richer and the thought of being a further five hours time difference away and thousands of miles did not seem like a good idea. During my time at CDSP I did have the pleasure of studying and serving alongside one of the Cuddesdon students who stayed at CDSP for a year.
The ride to Cuddesdon was nearly thirty minutes but as we pulled into the village I wondered just how far the coach would make it because the roads were so narrow and clearly not made for coaches. We nearly took out several houses, but Bill our driver was excellent as he had been throughout the pilgrimage and we made it to the seminary without a problem. A few gasps were heard from the pilgrims, but otherwise we arrived in one piece. We unloaded the coach and were directed to our rooms as all of us were scattered across the several campus buildings.
I was blown away again at just how beautiful and serene was the campus. We were quite literally out in the middle of nowhere Oxfordshire, but it too captured that feeling of an oasis of prayer and quietness. We gathered for evening prayer, then dinner in the refectory and then a group walked to the nearest pub for a pint and fellowship. I stayed behind to work on the blog. During a break in my work I walked outside and sat down and said Compline while the sun set in front of me. I leave you today with this video.