New clergy for Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire

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A FORMER professional scuba diver along with teachers, lawyers, and youth workers are among the 22 people ordained deacons in special services on Saturday (June 30).

New Pilgrim routes around scenic Cotswold villages


LOOKING for something to do this summer? Why not try out some of the Pilgrim Paths in the Chipping Norton Deanery in the picturesque Cotswolds?

During 2017 the churches in Chipping Norton, Hook Norton and Charlbury developed the 10 paths, varying in length from three to seven miles. Professionally produced booklets accompany each path, including suggestions for prayer and meditation reflecting the surrounding landscape. There is also a Walking the Beatitudes pilgrim companion and an Adventure Notebook containing creative ideas for families and children to enjoy. These can be used on all the paths.

The walks are designed to be enjoyed by independent groups, but a series of guided pilgrimages will be taking place throughout the summer.

From a sending a cow to Uganda to staging an opera in a church


BACK in 1992 dairy farmer and member of All Saints Marcham, Neil Rowe walked Grace the cow into church one Sunday, with a suitcase and a map.

He challenged the congregation to raise £2,500 as a Lent project to send Grace to Uganda with the newly formed Send a Cow. In those days, the charity was literally sending cows to Uganda to lift families out of poverty and members of Marcham’s tiny village church probably all thought he was crazy! They must have wondered how they could raise that sum while having enough to pay the Parish Share.

But two weeks later, £2,500 was raised and Grace left for Uganda. Years later she was tracked down and she had provided milk and many calves which in turn provided many families with a way out of poverty.

This led to the formation of Marcham’s Mission Partner’s team which worked with Send a Cow among other charities, including one in Moldova and one in Mozambique. Most recently the church has worked with Didcot’s Balsam Family Project.

The Mission Partners team have put on many events including an opera in a cowshed

Kate Jackson, a member of Mission Partners team who is organising the concert with Neil Rowe, founding member of the Mission Partners Team at Marcham.

, a talents for talents challenge that grew £4,000 out of £400 and relationships have been built with four charities which have also included many trips to Moldolva, Mozambique & Ethiopia.

The fundraising projects have seen relationships grow with the charities, businesses and volunteers. Neil says: “Each time we set ourselves a challenge to do something difficult or big and thought we had taken a step too far, God has intervened and blessed our slog.”

On Friday 22nd June at 7.30pm Marcham Mission Partners are planning their fifth event with Opera Anywhere, a company founded in 2000 to provide accessible entertainment for all ages. This time they are putting on Gilbert & Sullivans’ Pirates of Penzance, in Marcham Church to raise funds for the Balsam Family project. Tickets here or by calling 0333 666 3366.

A Lent reflection with a difference


THE Revd David Meara reflects on the creative way Kidlington Christians have creatively used Lent as a time of preparing for the mystery of Good Friday and Easter.

Christ’s seamless robe. Photo: Kidlington Church

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Try a taster day at a convent


THE Community of St Mary the Virgin, Wantage, in Oxfordshire is offering the chance for women to come and spend some time with them, to have a taste of the daily life of a Sister. Read more

Lottery grant to help stop St Mary’s roof falling in


AN initial £30,300 Heritage Lottery Fund grant has been awarded for the next phase of work to save St Mary’s, Banbury, Oxfordshire, the largest parish church to be built in England in the 18th century.

Vulnerable families enjoy festive cheer with the Balsam Project

AWARD winning Christian charity, The Balsam Family Project, laid on a two-course Christmas lunch for 43 vulnerable and isolated families at the Didcot Civic Hall in Oxfordshire in early December.

Sophie Wilson (centre) receives a Balsam College Course award for personal growth and development. On the right is Alex Walker and right is Sophie Billington.

Participants enjoy the festive fun.

Trustees, volunteers and staff cooked and served turkey with all the trimmings to around 175 people from Didcot and the surrounding areas. Balsam teamed up with other charities and businesses to ensure the families they work with had a day to remember. Secret Santa Oxfordshire handed out wrapped gifts and the Didcot Foodbank ensured families went home with festive hampers. The total cost of the hampers was between £2,000 and £3,000. Bright Horizons Nurseries gave a book to every child.

Alex Walker, Balsam founder and Project Manager, said: “We’re so grateful to our friends at Secret Santa and Bright Horizons for their support and to Rabbits Vehicle Hire for providing much needed transport so we could get the hampers to where they were needed. For a charity that aims to bring families – and family members – closer together, nothing could be more rewarding than looking out on a sea of happy faces and watching people enjoy being with and around loved ones at Christmas time. We believe in the value of every adult and child and seek to encourage a sense of worth and value that parents can pass on to their own children.”

Didcot Mayor Jackie Billington was among the volunteers who waited on tables. John Hobbs, lead singer and guitarist with local band The Gangbusters, performed a Christmas set with daughters Julie and Joanne, while a children’s entertainer from Oxford Entertainments ensured the kids had plenty to do, and laugh at.

The Balsam Family Project recently won two awards at the Didcot First Business & Community Awards (BACAS) 2017, scooping prizes for Best Volunteer Development and for Partnerships and Collaborations.

At the Civic Hall event, certificates were also presented to graduates from Balsam’s own college courses. Single mum Amanda said: “I’m overwhelmed with the kind words said about me and I’ll be volunteering for the charity after I complete my course.”

Alex added: “We currently work with more than 90 families in Oxfordshire and it is so rewarding to see people grow in confidence and flourish. Our belief in the importance of family is at the heart of everything we do.”

Children enjoy reading on a new library with a difference

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CHRISTMAS came early for staff and pupils at St Laurence’s CE School in Warborough as their new library with a difference was literally driven into the school grounds.

The wheels on this bus don’t go round but it does provide a great library for children from St Laurence’s CE School, Warborough. Photo: Jo Duckles

Children enjoy reading their favourite books on the new bus library at St Laurence’s CE School, Warborough.

Previously, a large bookshelf in the multi-purpose hall at the village school in Oxfordshire was hidden behind the stage. It was the only library facility.

Now pupils are excited as they board the brightly decorated bus, which has been decked out with bean bags, to read their favourite books.

“It gives us a new learning space as well,” says Nic Cooper, the headteacher, who spearheaded a fundraising campaign to buy the bus. “The Parents and Friends Association went out to the community to leaflet drop every house, asking people to buy a share in the bus. The fundraising really took off, everyone put their hearts and souls into it.”

Pupils are already enjoying the bus. Libby, nine, said: “I like it because it is bright and colourful.” Libby says she enjoys reading Jacqueline Wilson books because of the comedy in them.

Taylor, eight, says: “I like that you can come here and enjoy reading.” Arthur, eight, added: “I just think it’s great and different that our new library is a bus.” Arthur says his favourite books are the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.

Refurbished buses are proving a popular way of increasing learning spaces at CE schools. In April 2016 the Door reported on a new library rolling into St Francis CE School in Oxford:

In October 2015 a learning zone on wheels was driven into Earley St Peter CE School in Berskhire. Watch a video here

Has your school found an innovative way to create a new library, gym or learning space? Contact Jo Duckles on or 01865 208227.

Eco-classroom completed

THE Rt Revd Colin Fletcher, the Bishop of Dorchester, officially opened the new eco-classroom at St Peter’s CE Infant School recently. The new classroom will allow the class to transform into a full primary school, with the admission number rising from 75 to 105 over the next four years. Photo: Jo Duckles.

Service marks a century in England for “miracle” French statue

STANDING among the ruins of a French village in 1917, Wilfred James Dashwood spied a man lying in the rubble of a church.

The Christ figure on its new cross in St Mary’s.

The Christ figure can be seen high up on the left hand wall, over the third bed from the left, in the Manancourt church.

As the Grenadier Guards Lieutenant moved to help, he realised the figure was a wooden statue of Christ, which, although missing His cross, had survived the devastation.

Lt Dashwood took the 17th Century statue home to Wootton-by-Woodstock in Oxfordshire as a memorial to his brother Ernest, who had fallen in the carnage of the Battle of the Somme in 1915.
Ernest, a Captain in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, had farmed in the village and the statue was hung above the pulpit of St Mary the Virgin. But the residents of modern-day Manancourt – the village which had originally housed the figure – remained oblivious to the figure’s fate.

Nicholas Tomlinson, the church warden of St Mary’s, traced its history and contacted the mayor of present-day Étricourt-Manancourt, a new community built from the devastation.
In August, 100 years since their community was annihilated, a party of French villagers travelled to Wootton to be reunited with what they regard as their ‘last refugee’ at a service of re-dedication.
“We assumed everything had been destroyed…”

Jean-Pierre Coquette, the Mayor of Étricourt-Manancourt, said: “We assumed everything had been destroyed and, as a result of the war, the population of our village had been displaced. The ones that returned had to start from scratch, so to experience this is very emotional.”

Lt Dashwood returned to the front before the statue was re-dedicated at St Mary’s. He was fatally wounded at the battle of Passchendaele – the fifth Dashwood brother to be killed in battle.
Canon Frank Ransome Marriott, the Rector of Wootton for 45 years, dedicated the Christ figure and His new cross of English oak. But, just three weeks later, his 19-year-old son, Second Lieutenant John Douglas Marriott, was killed near Ypres.

In a ceremony of re-dedication, the present Rector of Wootton, the Revd Stephen Jones spoke of the miracle of this delicate figure being virtually unharmed in the midst of the destruction all around. After the service the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Étricourt-Manancourt, who were staying with Mr Tomlinson, showed 600 photographs which demonstrated the devastation and regeneration of the French village.

During the German occupation the church had been used as a field hospital and Mr Tomlinson spotted the Christ figure on the wall. He said: “It was an incredible moment. Our French visitors were quite overwhelmed as no-one alive today who knew of its existence.”

Aimé Langleterre, an 83 year-old representative of the French church said that his first thought had been to take the figure home to install in one of the two new churches in modern-day Étricourt-Manancourt. However, he said that as it had been here for 100 years it now ‘probably only understood English and therefore it would be wrong to take it back to France’.
Framed photographs of the figure now hang in both the French church and town hall after being presented by the Wootton villagers.

Mayors and Chairs at Dorchester Abbey


The Rt Revd Colin Fletcher and the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, Tim Stevenson, hosted an evening at Dorchester Abbey this week with the newly elected Mayors and Chairs from the Dorchester Archdeaconry.

Here are a selection of photos from the evening.

Educational partnership blessed by the Bishop of Oxford

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Steven Croft blessed a new partnership between the Community of St Mary the Virgin (CSMV) at Wantage and the Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust (ODST). At a ceremony in CSMV’s St Mary Magdalene Chapel yesterday, representatives of the two organisations signed a commitment to co-operate in supporting education in the Diocese of Oxford.

From left, Alastair Hunter, Chair of Trustees at CSMV, Kathy Winrow, Chair of ODST, Bishop Steven and Sister Stella.

The covenant offers ODST an additional office, meeting and conference space at St Mary’s Convent in Wantage. The alliance is bringing back into use a house belonging to CSMV as refurbished flats for new teachers working with ODST. They will be available at a significantly low rent. This is part of the of the Community’s charitable aims of supporting the education of children. The Sisters of CSMV have made a significant contribution to education since the Community’s founding over 150 years ago. Bishop Steven, making his first visit to the Community will be present at the signing.

“The Sisters are delighted to be able to offer accommodation to ODST,” says Sister Stella, Sister in Charge of the Community. “Their presence and their work help underline the importance of high quality education for all in our society, something the Community has worked for throughout its long history.”

Speaking on behalf of ODST, Chair of Trustees Kathy Winrow said: “The housing for new teachers marks the start of an innovative partnership between ODST and St Mary’s Convent. As we work together, for the benefit of young people and staff in the Trust our hope is that we are able to support excellence in education.”

A new reception area forms part of the plans for the future of St Mary’s Convent. A planning application for this exciting development will be made later in the year.

This is the latest in a series of developments underlining the CSMV continuing commitment to Wantage. Last year the Sisters took the decision to stay at the Convent. The partnership with OSDT follows the recent announcement that later this year the Vale Academy Trust’s central staff team is to move into office space on the convent site from its current base at King Alfred’s Academy.