A Guidebook to St John in the Oaks Jersey – Part 5
7. The Chancel (former North Chapel)
Above the Vestry door hangs the White Ensign which a previous Rector managed to acquire. In the narrow case below, the flag is the ceremonial drummer's sash of the Royal Hampshire Regiment, now disbanded. It was presented to the army after local subscription in memory of Drummer Colin Clifford, who was killed in Northern Ireland and who now lies buried in St. John's Parish cemetery. "God stills not the drumbeat of sacrifice".
The broken holy water stoup is somewhat of a mystery, for these were normally positioned to the right of the main door. Perhaps it might have been a piscina from a side-chapel for a confraternity during the Middle Ages. The magnificent oak choir stalls were put in by the Rev. Raymond Hornby in the years immediately before World War II. The screen behind the console of the electronic organ spent five years unassembled on Southampton docks.
The Romeril Window, installed in 1946, features the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan, Christ's Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Noteworthy points are the 1946 dress style of the mother and children at the confirmation service and the descending Pentecostal tongues of fire, which are very rarely shown in stained glass.
The Valpy Easter Window, generally an excellent design, has three examples of "artistic licence" or perhaps lack of attention to detail. Christ, it would seem, is both left-handed and right-handed in giving the benediction, his toes are almost the length of fingers and Mary Magdalene's pony-tail has a distinct colour-problem!
The silver processional cross was given by the congregation to mark the end of the Occupation in 1945. The Bishop's chair is in memory of Captain B. M. Peck, RN.
The reredos of the high altar was designed by the Wareham Guild, a leading English firm of church furnishers. It stands to the memory of Ernest St. John Nicolle, Rector (1891-1937), and it's beauty is best appreciated when, during a late winter's afternoon, its illumination conveys an almost ethereal atmosphere to the gold and blue of the decoration, highlighting the figure of Christ in Majesty.
To the left of the high altar is a blocked-up door. The date on the outside is 1622 but the door is about 250 years earlier. It cannot be a priest door for these were always on the South side of a chancel. In all probability, it is a mortuary door leading to "God's Acre", the churchyard, which was sited on the North side.
The latest addition to the Church buildings is the purpose-built vestry block erected in 1970 and providing a welcome amenity and meeting place for groups, including the Parish Church Committee and Mums and Tots.
On 9th May 1995, the 50th anniversary of the end of the German occupation of Jersey, a "Peace Candle" was presented to the Parish Church of St. John by our friends at Sion United Reformed Church in Jersey. It has been lit at every service since then to remind us of the peace it is intended to evoke.
The significance of this particular gift lies in its history. In 1986, a group of American Christians were visiting Russia and after one particular service in a Russian Orthodox Church, an elderly woman pushed three roubles into the hand of the minister who was leading the party, Dr. Blair Monie, and asked him to buy a candle and light it at services in his church as a symbol of peace.
When he returned home, Dr. Monie duly bought a candle in a glass holder and placed it on the Communion Table in his church, the First Presbyterian Church, York, Pennsylvania, and this is lit at every service of worship. Later that year, the church decided to buy a supply of candles and holders inviting members of the congregation to send them to other churches with whom they had contact. A chain of peace candle distribution began and continues to this day.
In recent years, we have been privileged to add to the chain:
On 8th July, 1996, the Beaulieu Convent School, Jersey held a Quiet Day for year seven students, whose theme was "living in community", concluded with the gift of a Peace Candle.
On Sunday 1st August 1999, in the Cathedral Msoro, Zambia, the Jersey Overseas Aid Team, led by Dave and Betty Ellis, presented a small gift of a lighted Peace Candle, in a simple, yet beautiful heart-shaped holder.
As the chain of peace spreads yet further, so may that old Russian woman's hope for peace spread far and wide, as churches and worshipping communities in many parts of the world receive these reminders of the vital task of working and praying for peace, a crucial task in which we must all play our part: "Peace in our hearts and peace in our world"
Of the eight chandeliers in St. John's Church, three are the work of George Fenton of London and almost certainly came from St. Thomas' Church, Portsmouth (now the Cathedral), in which event they date from 1806, cost £69. 1 s. 7d (£69.08) and were disposed of in 1850. Two of the chandeliers were the models for three of the four chandeliers that were added by the Tudor Art Metal Work Co. Ltd., of London in 1925.
Information gained in making those three chandeliers explains the presence in St. Alban's Cathedral of a "replica of a Cromwellian candelabra from a Church in Jersey". The eighth chandelier was made in London around 1780. It would have come to St. John secondhand, but the original setting has not been identified. The chandeliers at St. John, originally candle-burning, are a remarkable collection in themselves.