St Mary the Virgin, Longcot

Revd Norma Fergusson tells us what St Mary’s Development Fund award will enable them to do

St Clement’s, 5th round Development Fund award

St Clement’s Church, Oxford

Tier 2

Flourishing Life, one of St Clement’s Church’s social initiatives, has been awarded a Tier 2 grant of just over £14,000 from the Development Fund to help support the mental and spiritual health of the young people in their local community.

Using prayer, engagement with the community and recent research looking at the affects of COVID-19 on young people, the team from St Clement’s hope to bridge the gap between their social initiatives and the way they explicitly seek to grow and nurture Christian faith. They have discerned a need to engage at a deeper level, moving beyond the purely social, but without imposing a Christian agenda. By providing structured opportunities to reflect together on meaning, purpose and human flourishing, this project seeks to open new pathways for people to explore faith and for the church to grow in confidence through sharing life-giving faith, in more relevant ways.

Initially, the project will focus on the 18-30 age group as they make up more than 50% of the parish but have historically had weak links with the church (although this is changing). St Clement’s has also noted anecdotally that this group has been increasingly drawn to questions of meaning, purpose and just relations, especially since the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created a set of very real, specific challenges in terms of mental and spiritual wellbeing.

Bethan Willis, a member of the St Clement’s PCC and an Oxford Pastorate staff member, will lead the programme, and tells us how she hopes the initiative will unfold and develop;

“We’re planning a series of events focusing on art, music, film and media, which will help to open up conversations around what attendees love in life, what makes for a good life and how we flourish in our lives. We expect to focus our discussions around aspects of character such as humility, wisdom, gratitude, service and joy – qualities we believe are rooted in the character and person of Jesus. Discussions will be open to those of all faiths and none to explore their own sense of meaning, purpose and flourishing within a welcoming community.

“Alongside this core programme we hope to widen our focus to the 11-18s age group who also have been so deeply affected by the last year. We will host conversations during existing youth drop ins and youth groups.”

St Clement’s will be drawing on its strong relationship with the Oxford Pastorate (a chaplaincy within the diocese, serving Oxford University postgraduates and researchers) to help support and promote this project. In recent years, the Oxford Pastorate began a successful project engaging multiple cohorts of students in similar conversations around character and leadership, establishing world-leading programmes and resources.

Bethan concludes,

“It will be so wonderful to be able to work with both the Pastorate and the church to find creative, sustainable ways to help guide our community in our own context. This will be a learning experience, which will forge a new pattern of mission within our parish and given wider impact through sharing programme materials, printed resources and guidance with church across the diocese.”

The project will run for 18 months from September 2021 – March 2023, and the time will be spent in three phases, with a focus on learning and discernment in phase 1, creative missional development in phase 2, and ensuring the project is sustainable in phase 3. They hope to begin their pilot conversations in autumn 2021, the first full programme of conversations in spring/summer 2022, and the second full programme of conversations in autumn 2022/spring 2023. To keep up to date or find out more about the project, please visit the St Clement’s website.

St James, Downley

St James Downley, tells us how their Tier 1 grant will help them set up support clinics for families of children with special needs

Round Five Development Fund Awards

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12 projects across the diocese to receive funds from the Development Fund in the fifth round of awards.

Parish of Penn Street & Holmer Green awarded Development Fund grant

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Revd. Ruth Atkinson tells us how the Development Fund will enable the Parish of Penn Street with Holmer Green engage more effectively with young people and their families.

Fourth round of Development Fund awards announced

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The Diocese of Oxford has announced that they will be supporting fifteen churches across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire as part of the fourth round of Development Fund grant awards.

New Digital Congregations


Two parishes in the Diocese have seen a growth in their online church community since the start of the pandemic. Read about the experiences of St Mary’s, Hitcham and Winslow Benefice, and their efforts to connect with new online visitors going forwards.

St Marys Banbury awarded Development Fund grant

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St Marys Church in Banbury has been awarded c.£90,000 over three years to help support a stipendiary Chaplain for the Arts, Rev. Sarah Bourne.

Over £500,000 awarded by Development Fund


The Diocese of Oxford has announced that they will be supporting eighteen churches across Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire as part of their third round of Development Fund grant awards. The Development Fund is a grassroots project which was launched in 2019 to enable missional creativity and to help churches with practical ways to become more Christ-like. Since its launch, it has donated nearly £1.5million to over seventy local church projects across the Diocese.

Projects awarded in this round of funding fell into four key areas: ministry (social action, children and youth), buildings and resourcing hubs as well as a number of smaller awards. Grants to create diocesan-supported resourcing hubs saw the largest share of awards with two projects being awarded six figure sums to help build thriving new congregations in both established and new areas of population.

Growing new congregations is a vital part of the Diocese of Oxford’s work in becoming a more Christ-like Church for the sake of God’s world. A population at least the size of Edinburgh will move into the Diocese over the next fifteen years and the New Congregations programme is the diocesan response to this change, centred around the aim to grow 750 new congregations over the next decade.

The Revd Simon Kirby, vicar at St Mary’s, Cogges and Associate Area Dean, Witney, along with volunteers and local staff, developed an application to the Development Fund to help them become a Market Town ‘resourcing hub’, planting fresh expressions of church, equipping rural church mission and supporting church and congregation planting in the Cotswolds and beyond.

Revd Kirby goes on to say,

“A Christ-like Church has to be outward looking demonstrating compassion to its community and beyond. Christ gave himself for others and a Christ-like church will demonstrate a willingness to give its resources away, to build the kingdom of God. We are resolved to invest the resources we have been given boldly for the sake of the kingdom of God not hoard them in fear, recognising that this means we may develop people of faith and send them out from us, with our support and prayer.

“The grant from the Development Fund, which we will receive over six years, will be transformational in terms of being able to help and share our experiences with other churches and communities not only through local initiatives but also through working with the National Church and their Greenhouse Development Cycle, to design, grow and cultivate new expressions of church.”

Other recipients of grants include Buckinghamshire based, holiday youth club, Lighthouse, who run non-residential weeklong holiday clubs for children in many different locations across the Diocese, run entirely by volunteers from local churches. They worked in close partnership and were sponsored by Wycombe Deanery and the funding that they receive will support their online ‘continuity’ experience at key points throughout the year (Halloween, Christmas, Easter) to extend the reach of their existing high energy summer holiday club experience.

Speaking of the impact of the grant, Director of Lighthouse, Patricia Reading, said,

“Lighthouse Central is very excited to be able to launch our new continuity project, a series of ‘as live’ TV shows at key times of the year: a Light Party, Christmas and Easter, thanks to the very generous grant from the Development Fund.

“This project will be the glue that keeps the Lighthouse family together throughout the year, between our fantastic physical events each summer, delivering the fun, faith and engagement of Lighthouse both locally and those further afield.

“We are so grateful to the Development Fund for supporting this project and to Wycombe Deanery for sponsoring and supporting us through the application process”

The amount of money available to parishes and benefices in the Diocese of Oxford is c.£1million per year over the next three years. Grant applications must support local projects that are missionally creative, reflect where God is at work in the community and encourage wider learning across the Diocese.

Janet Rogers, Programme Manager, said of this cohort of applications,

“We have seen such innovative projects being mooted and it has truly been a difficult task to decide who will receive funding but ultimately, those who succeeded really demonstrated their understanding of, and desire to work towards a more contemplative, compassionate and courageous church for the sake of God’s world.

“We know that there is some incredible work going on across the Diocese, in both large and small parishes and we would encourage anyone with bold, new ideas, to apply to the fund. We have supported a range of projects from the provision of improved audio-visual facilities (including a loop system) to grow the connection between churches and community groups, to expanding social action projects such as meal provision and domestic abuse support, to developing an outdoor prayer garden with the children of local schools – if you have an idea, we’d love to hear about it and support you on your journey.

A full list of projects we have supported can be found on our website as well as useful guidance on how to apply”

The Development Fund is open to all parishes/benefices in the Diocese of Oxford, but it is likely to be most helpful to those that have limited financial resources to invest in missional activity. We know that even modest grants can make a significant difference in such parishes. Applications for the next round of funding are now open and close on 31st January 2021.

COVID inspires speedy launch of Church project to provide ‘spaceforall’ in Wokingham

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The Covid-19 crisis has inspired All Saints Church, Wokingham to bring forward the most vital elements of its £3m transformation project.