2 August 2004

One of the wonderful things about our stay in Oxford is that we keep having adventures without really trying.

Since we were so rushed Saturday, we decided to let the kids sleep in Sunday and miss 9:30 mass at the Priory of the Holy Spirit (Blackfriars). Instead, we decided to visit a Church of England family service at 10:30. We went to St. Michael at North Gate – it's just up George Street from here, and it has a tower that is the oldest part of all of Oxford. Unbeknownst to us, St. Michael is the City Church of Oxford, and Sunday was "Llamas Day" – a celebration of the first fruits of the harvest.

When we got there, we saw all these people in robes and fancy dress. And a tractor. It seems that the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire (in a large black hat with a huge white feather) had rode in on the tractor up Cornmarket Street as part of the celebration. We snuck in past the officials and took our seats.

I guess this is what happens when there is NOT a separation of church and state – the government becomes part of the service! The procession in started with two Churchwarden's carrying staffs, then the high sheriff with her hat, then the Mace of the City of Oxford, then the Lord Mayor and Sheriff and City Councillors, all wearing long red robes edged with fur and long gold chains. The verger (I looked it up – person who looks after the church) came after the choir, and then the priests. During the service, we prayed for the Queen and for the rural economy – not standard Catholic fare. The high sherrif gave part of the sermon and offered the llamas rolls for offertory to be used in communion.

Everyone was most welcoming. We were told that we were invited to communion. One of the chuchwardens came up and invited me personally for refreshments after church (but our girls were already out the door). The mass had mostly the same elements as a Catholic mass, but in different orders and often with different words (some that I'd never heard before and had to look up, like "propitiation").

After mass we did some grocery shopping (as always) and had lunch. We walked over to the Oxford Ice Rink (about a half mile) for the 2-4 pm session. It was packed with kids – who didn't speak English! Turns out that one of the English as a Foreign Language schools brings all of its kids over there, so there were perhaps 60 kids there, and only about 5-10 were speaking English. Matt did great – fell only twice, once by a kid going way too fast who slammed into him from behind. The girls did quite well. Each fell several times (on the unfortunately quite damp ice), but without serious injury.

We came back via the Gaming Shop for Matt to buy more things to paint, then came home before the 5:30 dinner. After dinner, Barb and I walked up to the Priory to hear Evensong with the friars, which we've been wanting to do all summer. It was nice, but surprisingly participatory. We thought that we'd mostly be listening, but it was all echo-and-response.

After Evensong, we had another of our fast-paced soccer games for a couple hours. Exhausted, we came home, put Jenny to bed, and played Uno until bedtime.

Barb was reading a book last night about Alice, and the girls were thrilled to find that they were doing the same things as Alice. The books says that Alice used to play in Christ Church meadow (check) and fed the ducks in Worcester Lake (double check)! Supposedly, she used to play hide and seek on the roof of Tom Quad at Christ Church, which the kids haven't done – but they've been to Tom Quad!

Barb just left with the kids for London. They're planning on the British Museum, Regents Park for the zoo, and they have reservations for the London Eye tonight.

(I just got pictures of the Christ Church tour on 29 July 2004, thanks to Ben Hill – I've uploaded four of them there.)