WE ARE approaching Holy Week and Easter, vitally important days for Christians, with most churches holding special services to remember the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.

In Bicester, one of those events brings the different denominations together – the walk of witness held on Good Friday, the most solemn day of the Christian year, when Jesus was crucified.

When it began in 1981 it was a silent procession through the town, but has evolved over the years, now sometimes including music, singing and drama, and it can be a very powerful witness.

Inside St Edburg’s Church building, the crucifixion is marked by a carved figure of Jesus on the cross as part of the reredos at the high altar. His mother Mary and apostle John stand either side.

Nearby, on the south side of the chancel, his joyful resurrection is celebrated by a three-light stained glass window showing Jesus walking with his disciples on the road to Emmaus, the angel speaking to the women at the empty tomb, and Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene.

The Oxford Times:

It dates from 1878 and, like several of the other windows in the church, was made by Franz Mayer & Co. of Munich. It was given in memory of Sir Edward Henry Page-Turner of Battlesden Park, Bedfordshire, by his sisters.

Sir Edward was born in October 1823 and succeeded to the title of 6th baronet of Ambrosden at his father’s death. He married Mary Ann Otway but they had no children so when he died, aged 50, in March 1874, it was the end of the direct line and the family’s position at Ambrosden.

The Turner – later known as Page-Turner – family had been influential both in Ambrosden and Bicester. Sir Edward Turner had been created the first baronet of Ambrosden in 1733 and he had a huge house built with a landscaped park created around it, but his grandson, Sir Gregory, had it demolished in 1768.

The Oxford Times:

By 1930 the whole estate had been sold. Members of the family are buried in the family vault in St. Edburg’s Church and several of the windows are lasting memorials to them.

Easter can also be represented by a simple empty cross, like the one on the wall in the Lady Chapel, which was given in memory of Revd. John Smith by his widow Jean. This is far more recent, Fr. John having died in September 1997.

He had retired to Bicester six years earlier after a 40-year ministry in various parishes, along with hospital work and with the Samaritans. While his time in Bicester was relatively short, he was highly valued by both church and St. Edburg’s School, where he served as a governor. He is fondly remembered by many today, as is Jean, who also played a very active role in church life.

Historically Easter has been linked to baptism, and to new life. One way this is shown in the church is by decorating it with flowers. Easter lilies are symbols of the resurrection and have traditionally been used to decorate the chancel.

Easter being late this year, along with our Spring-like weather, should bring an abundance of colour and life to our flower displays this year.

Falling this year on April 21, the date of Easter varies quite widely. The latest it can be is April 25, which last happened in 1943 and will not be repeated until 2038. The earliest possible date is 22nd March, but this is extremely rare, having not occurred since 1818 and not due again until 2285. None of us will experience that.

On whatever date it falls, it is a day of great celebration. All are welcome to join our services. A very Happy Easter to all.