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OCMS is housed in the Church of St Philip and St James in Oxford, a truly beautiful and unusual 19th-century parish church. It was built to serve the people of North Oxford which began to be settled in the early 1800s. Construction began 150 years ago on May 1, 1860 with the laying of the foundation stone by Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford. The church was designed by G.E. Street, the Diocesan architect, and built by Joseph Castle.

Consecrated on Thursday, May 8, 1862 by the then Bishop of Oxford, the church experienced declining church attendance in the latter part of the 20th century, and was finally declared redundant in 1982.

In 1986 OCMS purchased the church and refitted this Class 1 listed building for its new role in as a place of study for Christian leaders from all around the globe. The interior retains all the original church furnishings to this day which is Gothic in style and has the traditional cruciform shape.

The interior consists of a broad nave four bays long, flanked by two small aisles. The columns are made of Aberdeen granite and are topped with capitals carved with foliage and small figures. The floor is laid with tiles that continue up the walls of the apse. The south transept houses the Mary Chapel, which is separated from the Chancel by a carved oak screen. The altar and fittings were provided by members of the congregation named Mary. On the north side of the nave is the little Advent Chapel (1905), which is now the office of the OCMS Executive Director, Dr Wonsuk Ma.

The reredos dates from 1862 and was designed by the architect G.E. Street. Originally it consisted of three panels, with figures of St. Philip and St. James on the side panels and Christ in Gethsemane with two sleeping disciples in the middle. It was considerably altered in 1884: the center panel was raised up and the background was filled in with carvings from a print of Albert Durer. On the left Judas and the soldiers enter the Garden, behind them is a glimpse of Jerusalem. Above the altar is a Latin verse: "By Thy agony and bloody sweat, Good Lord Deliver us."

Modern facilities are fitted to accommodate the new use of the building. Folk gather at lunchtime in the communal kitchen and an internet cafe, housed in the former choir stalls, is provided for those with no laptop. There is a library of 12,000 items, a seminar room made of fine English oak and glass, and twelve individual study carrels. The large lecture area holds 70 for conferences, as well as the weekly Montagu Barker Open Lecture, Chapel, and Wednesday Lunch.

OCMS has a beautiful town garden enjoyed by generations who, under the generous shade of the now tall trees, have rested and laughed and shared picnic lunches.


NB: For a more detailed history of the church building, see the pdf file attached to the bottom of this page. A hard copy can also be made available to you should you wish, by sending a request to ocms@ocms.ac.uk, and if asked, we will also notify you of special open days when these become scheduled.


OCMS Building - a history.pdf

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