Monday 13 October 2008

End of an era

Yesterday I attended the last ever service at St. Cross Church, Oxford. I say last ever - it may still be used for the occasional service, but it was more or less the last one to be held there. St. Cross was my church between 2004-6, and I've been back to visit a few times since then - it's a beautiful old Anglican church (some parts 800 years old) which has a very villagesque feel to it, and a similarly rural-feeling graveyard and cemetery which (not to sound too morbid...) I quite often go and sit in. Had my lunch there today, actually. It's one of my favourite places in Oxford.

Anyway - the area around St. Cross is now almost entirely offices and businesses, with very few residential properties, and the congregation for the church had shrunk to the point where double figures for a service was an achievement. But despite, or perhaps because, of this, it has the warmest welcome and friendliest congregation of any church I've ever been to - it was a very difficult decision when I moved to the larger, more student-orientated, much less attractive Oxford Community Church, but even with two years' absence I welled up during the farewell service. It was lovely to see fifty people there, saying goodbye - and, as the vicar pointed out, the church is not a building, it is a group of people. Even so, as the small attendance numbers made the running of St. Cross unfeasible and expensive, it was sad to think that people have been meeting there to worship God for centuries, and that was coming to an end. Its next incarnation (if plans go ahead) will be as an archival space and reading room for Balliol College - who will restore the chancel and do much-needed work throughout the church.

As I sat there, I thought of all the people who had encountered Jesus and praised God in that room, some perhaps for the first time, some spending their whole lives attending St. Cross, and I was pleased that I could join them all in a long line of people who have loved St. Cross Church.


  1. Thanks for writing about this; I didn't know it was going to happen.
    I'm glad the building will still be there - it always seems such a lovely contrast to all the things that have grown up around it, and a reminder of what that part of Oxford would have been like.

  2. It sounds like a lovely church - full of love and special memories that span the centuries.

  3. It is very sad to hear of another church's decline. Particularly when this one had such a vibrant history. Have they decided what they are going to do with the building? When one of our local churches was forced to close our church converted the building into a youth centre.

  4. What a lovely, sad post, Simon, but how wonderful that you could be there to say goodbye. I don't think eating lunch in graveyards at all odd, but then I am an offspring of clergy too. In fact, with the new babe my preferred route down to town is now through the Canterbury graveyard (all two city blocks of it) rather than on the noisy and bumpily pavemented main road. Let's hope that whatever happens to the building, you will still be able to enjoy the grounds.

  5. Simon - take heart from the fact that it will be used by people who will care for the building and treat it with respect. It could have been worse - it could have been demolished or, even worse, turned into an All Bar One. Yes it has happened..

    a lovely post.

  6. What wonderful pictures. How sad the Church is not to be used as such anymore. I had no idea (did the Oxford Times feature this?)

  7. Just to let you know that St Cross will be open to the public 14-15 Sept 2013 (12-4 both days) as part of Oxford Open Doors for the 3rd time, and joining in the OHCT's Ride & Stride event (same date) for the first time this year. Come by and say hello! There will also be public opening hours at the church for a major Balliol exhibition and the patronal feast will be celebrated in the chancel - as it has the last 2 years - *I think* on the 16th, translated from the 14th, but that hasn't been confirmed, so check with St Mary's (University Church) office to make sure.


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