An update from the Vicar

The Revd Dr William Lamb

An Update from the Vicar

The Revd Dr William Lamb

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3.16-17

Public worship will continue!
Given the recent announcements in the media and the uncertainty which followed, it is perhaps important to highlight the fact that there are no changes to the arrangements for church attendance in the recent government guidance. We have worked hard with our staff and stewards to ensure that the church remains a safe environment for public worship and we will continue to invite members of the congregation to register their attendance by signing up through Eventbrite for both our 8.30am and 10.30am services each Sunday. We will also continue to offer Morning and Evening Prayer via Zoom until the beginning of the Michaelmas Term. For many people, the reading of scripture in the Daily Office has been a real discovery in recent months, as we allow the word of Christ to dwell within us. University Sermons will take place this term at St Mary's, and we will continue to cultivate a 'mixed-mode' offering of worship with our weekly recordings for online worship. 

When Michaelmas Term begins, we will again be able to enjoy the Choir. It has been wonderful to have a Cantor with Organ during the vacation and their music has enhanced our worship considerably. It will also be important, while congregational singing is not allowed, to have the Choir singing again. We will do this initially by creating a number of smaller choirs for four voices. This is to ensure social distancing and to make sure that there can be continuity if one of the choirs has to self-isolate. 

I think the experience of recent months has made us all aware of the vital contribution that music makes to Christian worship. In Colossians 3.16-17, Paul reminds us of the fact that from the earliest beginnings, music has played a central role in the life and witness of the Christian Church. It is a commonplace that music touches something vital in the human heart and draws us more deeply into the mystery of God. As George Steiner suggests in Real Presences, music enables us to acknowledge and celebrate our intuitions of transcendence: ‘In ways so obvious as to make any statement a tired cliché,……music puts our being as men and women in touch with that which transcends the sayable, which outstrips the analysable’(George Steiner, Real Presences (Chicago, 1989), 218). 

Daily Worship
We also hope to resume the daily celebration of the Eucharist during Michaelmas Term. At this time, we are not convinced that it would be right to bring back Evensong or Organ Vespers on Sundays. These services were established at 3.30pm to cater principally for tourists and visitors. We may have to wait a bit longer before these numbers begin to recover. We will also live stream Morning Prayer so that people can join us in church and at home. Evening Prayer will continue on Zoom.

Plans for the Future
We also have some exciting plans to discuss with the Parochial Church Council about the development of our work with children and young people, and I am conscious that this is an aspect of our life together which has needed some attention in recent months. The PCC will also need to look carefully at our finances. Given that 80% of our resources come ultimately from tourism and our commercial enterprises, the situation at the moment is demanding. We are making every effort to address the issues we face. I will be able to speak more about these issues at the Annual Parochial Church Meeting which will take place on Sunday 25 October at 12noon.

A Listening Ear
In the meantime, we have Tori Venmore-Rowland and Hannah Grivell, two ordinands from Ripon College Cuddesdon, with us for the next couple of weeks. One of the things that I have asked them to do is to spend some time listening and chatting to members of our community about our different experiences in recent months. The purpose of these conversations is to contemplate the role of the church in providing spiritual support during the months of lockdown, and the ways in which our relationship with God may have changed over the past few months. It is also to think about what we might have done differently. If you would be willing to chat to one of them, please get in touch with Sarah Ockwell ( and Sarah will put you directly in touch with them so that you can have a conversation either online or face to face.

Finally, St Paul speaks of ‘gratitude in your hearts’ and I want to take this opportunity simply to say 'Thank you!' for everything you contribute to our life together (and a particular word of thanks to all those who helped with the Gardening Day at Holywell Cemetery last weekend!) We are blessed in the energy and commitment that so many people bring to the life of the University Church. 

We look forward to seeing you back at St Mary’s Sunday by Sunday and we also look forward to extending that ministry of welcome as a new University year begins.