There are many different points at which we could begin the story of St Barnabas Church, but perhaps the best place to start is with the cross. The cross to the left is a small version of the great Latin Cross that hangs over the chancel-gate in the church. This cross draws together some of the threads of the story of our church:
Firstly, it was a gift from the men of Lucy’s Ironworks, hard by the church, when the church was founded in 1869. Many of the men lived, with their families, in Jericho. The Oxford Canal and the Ironworks were both established at the end of the 18th Century, creating a junction in Jericho which now connected London to the Industrial Revolution in the Black Country. Jericho grew up as the first Victorian industrial suburb of Oxford, with much ironworking and bookbinding. St Barnabas was built to serve the spiritual and practical needs of those who lived here.
Secondly, the cross is described evocatively by Thomas Hardy in Jude the Obscure. The tragic heroine Sue Bridehead is to be found lying beneath it. Hardy himself worked for a while for Sir Arthur Blomfield, the architect who designed St Barnabas for the founders, Thomas and Martha Combe. The Combes were disciples of the Oxford Movement (Tractarians) and were indeed married by John Henry Newman. Combe was the Printer to the University (living in the Printer’s House at the University Press, on Great Clarendon Street), and also a generous patron of the Pre-Raphaelites.
Thirdly, the cross is a copy of the tiny golden cross that Fr Montague Noel wore on his cassock, to indicate his membership of the Society of the Holy Cross (SSC). SSC was founded in 1855 to promote and support a disciplined and prayerful pattern of life amongst the clergy of the Church of England. The parish remains true to its SSC origins.
Fourthly, when you enter the church, your gaze is drawn through the open-work of the cross to the figure of Christ, seated in glory, but with the nail-marks still visible in his hands. In ways that are…hard to put into words…this captures the heart of the Christian faith and journey.
The bells that you can hear are some of our ring of ten, distinctive, tubular bells, and the hours and quarters are sounded on them.