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.

DAMASCUS Parish – Half Time Stipendiary Associate Priest

, ,

To serve in the DAMASCUS Parish (Drayton, Appleford, Milton, Sutton Courtenay and Steventon) situated between Abingdon and Didcot.

Are you looking for an exciting opportunity to work collaboratively within five growing semi-rural villages, with five churches, as we begin life as a Single Parish?  We are seeking an individual with pioneering and pastoral heart, who is prepared to embrace change and work with us to fulfil our mission of “nurturing faith, bringing hope and sharing love”.

One Half-time Stipendiary Associate Priest (3 days plus Sundays)
Based in a modern family house in Steventon and sharing the ministry of the five villages with a focus on pioneering work in new housing developments.

We offer centralised administrative support; a committed laity and an active ministry team.

We would love to hear what skills and gifts you could offer for the post you feel called to, and look forward to applicants discussing our mission and vision priorities with us.

Informal visits welcome.

The Parish profile can be found here

Person Specification for the Half-Time Stipendiary Associate Priest (3 days plus Sundays) can be found here

The application form can be found here

Completed applications should be sent to: Tanis Brookes, PA to the Archdeacon of Dorchester, Church House Oxford, Langford Locks, Kidlington, OX5 1GF. Tel: 01865 208245. Email:

To arrange an informal visit, please contact The Rector: The Reverend Helen Kendrick, The Vicarage, 3 Tullis Close, Sutton Courtenay, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4BD.  Tel: 01235 848297.  Email:

DBS Enhanced Disclosure is required

Youth Worker and Children & Families Worker (2 posts) in the Parish of Cumnor


Only four miles from the centre of Oxford, the Parish of Cumnor combines rural life with an expanding urban population. It’s a great place to live and work. We are a lively and flourishing parish of three churches with great facilities, including a multi-use games area. We have a strong history of youth and children’s work which we want to build on. We are looking for the following to join our team as we embark on God’s great adventure together as a community on mission:


37.5 hours a week

To lead our mission among young people.

We are looking for someone with a passion for Jesus and open to the Holy Spirit to join our team. You will work with young people aged 11 and up, helping them to discover Jesus for themselves. The post holder will work closely with the Vicar, Children & Families Worker, volunteers and the Children & Youth Working Group.



18 hours a week
£20,000-£24,000 pro rata

To lead our outreach work to children and young families.

We are looking for someone with a passion for Jesus and open to the Holy Spirit to join our team. You will work with children from birth to age 11 and build relationships with them and their families as you share the gospel. The post holder will work closely with the Vicar, Youth Worker, volunteers and the Children and Youth Working Group.


Closing date for applications: 7th August 2017

Interview dates: 5th and 6th September 2017


Job Description can be found here

Person Specification can be found here

Background information on the post can be found here

An application form can be found here

For more information about the parish check out our website or phone Rev Jonathan Widdess on 01865 863702 for an informal conversation.

Applications to be returned to Sarah Evans at by the 7th August 2017

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.


International award for village school


BLEWBURY CE Primary School is the first school in the world to be awarded the prestigious British Council International Award six times in a row.

Headteacher Marion Mills (centre) and children hold up the school’s awards.

News about this village school, with 150 students, has travelled far and wide, and it is currently receiving requests from schools around Europe to visit and set up partnership arrangements.

Recently nine teachers and 24 pupils from Finland, Germany and Spain spent a week in the school as part of an Erasmus Plus Programme. The week included the school’s third Global Partnership Network Event, where UK teachers can visit Blewbury to learn about developing a global emphasis in their own schools.

Headteacher Marion Mills, who is working to secure a seventh British Council International award for the school in 2018 said: “Young people today live in a global village and we want to offer them a rich experience to help them understand the challenges that face them in their future lives. Our children and teachers gain a great deal from receiving visiting teachers and pupils. They can also travel themselves, so that they can explore other cultures more deeply. We are very proud that this work has received recognition, and even prouder of the children and families in our community who support us year on year with these highly successful programmes.”

Westminster to Islip to cycle for church and school funds


PEDAL power will be used to raise funds for Islip’s village school and church in the annual Westminster-Islip Bike Ride.

Cyclists can choose between a 70-mile or slightly easier 65-mile route from Westminster Abbey back to the Oxfordshire village. There is also a 15-mile ride from
Thame to Islip, with a later start time so that as many riders as possible finish together.

The event raises funds for both Dr South’s CE Primary School and St Nicholas Church.

Ministry for the Deaf

, , , ,

The Door tells the stories of some of those involved with churches that cater specifically for the deaf and hard of hearing in the Thames Valley.
by the Revd Ben Whitaker

Martha’s Vineyard stands out in Deaf History. Through a mutation of a recessive gene brought about by inbreeding, a form of hereditary deafness existed for 250 years in this place in Massachusetts in the United States, following the arrival of the first deaf settlers in the 1690s.

Scarcely a family was unaffected and one in four people were deaf. In response to this, the entire community learnt sign language and there was a free and complete communication between hearing and deaf people. Deaf people were scarcely seen as deaf. The writer Oliver Sachs gave his impressions of Martha’s Vineyard when he visited the island: “My first sight of this indeed was unforgettable. I drove up to the old general store in West Tisbury on a Sunday morning and saw half a dozen people gossiping together on the porch. They could have been any old folks talking together – until suddenly they all dropped into sign. They signed for a minute, laughed, then dropped back into speech.”

In sharp contrast to those people in Martha’s Vineyard, sign language users in this country who are deaf, are largely separate from the hearing world. There is very little of the integration which Sachs describes. British Sign Language is a language which is clear and visual so most appropriate for deaf people. Church members have been using and teaching BSL for many years, believing that everyone is a child of God and should have access to the Gospel and to the ministry of the Church. Many clergy, including myself, learnt sign from deaf people themselves.

I have been a Chaplain with deaf and hard of hearing people for 21 years. Before then I worked in two parishes in different parts of the country. What drew me to deaf chaplaincy was that it was different to other forms of ministry I had experienced. I relished the challenge of learning a new language, and getting to know deaf people, to see their slant on the world. It has been a challenging and deeply rewarding experience. At the moment I work part time for the Oxford Diocesan Council for the Deaf. This is a charity and works with deaf and hard of hearing people to meet their spiritual, social and general needs, and to help give them a voice in the Church and in society.

The work I do is not of course limited to sign language users. There are many more who experience hearing loss who lip read to a greater or lesser extent. Some lip read as an alternative to BSL. These people may be profoundly deaf and manage to integrate into the hearing world. Others experience hearing loss due to their age.

Some people use hearing aids which are a great help. However their usefulness depends on the degree of hearing loss. They do not, for instance, help the user detect the direction of a particular noise. And they not only amplify particular sounds but all sounds around the user so that in large gatherings, as with many church meetings and services, holding conversations and hearing people properly can be difficult. Another barrier to using hearing aids is the perception that they are something to be ashamed about. Some people just like to complain that “people are mumbling” and cope as best they can.

There are an estimated 2,000 people in the Oxford Diocese with a total or severe hearing loss, and up to 70 of these are currently active members of the deaf worshipping communities. One in seven members of the population are reckoned to have a significant hearing loss, and their needs and potential contribution are not generally recognised in the hearing communities.

I work within a team of lay and ordained persons. And I work across the Diocese. In the same way as parochial clergy have oversight over people in a particular geographical area, so I think of myself as having concern for deaf and hard of hearing people who live in the Oxford Diocese. I take services in BSL, and support deaf people through pastoral problems. I take funerals in BSL, as well as being with deaf people at happier occasions like baptisms and weddings.
I would very much like to encourage clergy to get involved in the Deaf Church, to come and work with us, to get involved in this unique form of ministry.

The Revd Ben Whitaker is a part-time Chaplain to the Oxford Deaf Church.

Being part of a church signing team

George Chapman from Milton Keynes describes his journey from college to work and how he enjoys volunteering as part of the BSL team at the Cross & Stable Church.

George signs at a wedding at his church.

I’m 23 and live with with my parents. I have a younger brother and younger sister. I spent 10 years in a mainstream school, learning English, Maths, History and Geography as well as taking special lessons in BSL which I passed at Level 1 and 2. I enjoyed learning new things and I made a lot of deaf friends, and some hearing friends as well. I wasn’t very happy after my move to secondary school but I concentrated on my lessons as I wanted to make progress and get ready for my future.

I was at Milton Keynes College for about four-and-a-half years. In the first two years I did English and Maths and Life Skills (like money and community and how to get a job). Then I moved on to two years doing IT. That was excellent. I really improved. I did several work experience placements while at school and college: Newport Pagnell Library and the Co-op in Newport Pagnell, and an office work placement at the college. They helped me to learn how businesses work and to decide what job I’d like to do.

When I left college I started looking for work. It took me about a year. I did volunteering while I was looking, helping at signing classes and at the Job Centre. I did work experience at Morrisons and learned about health and safety and how a supermarket works. Then the Shaw Trust helped me get a job in Sainsbury’s café. That’s a real-life job and it’s been brilliant for me. I was nominated for a ‘Best Colleague’ award and while I didn’t win the national prize, I enjoyed the experience of the award ceremony in London in February.

I help at Cross & Stable Church, an ecumenical Church in Milton Keynes, as part of the signing team. I sign hymns and readings as well as the Lord’s Prayer and the responses. At Christmas I will be doing carols and I’ll help people feel welcome.
I first came to the church when I was young, but I got involved again about four years ago when Sue Baines (a BSL teacher) told me about the signing team and persuaded me to join. I love it.

In the past I’ve been part of a drama club. I was involved for 10 years. I’ve done sign acting as well as BSL interpreting for the Christmas panto. There were some changes at the club and since starting work I’ve needed to concentrate on that, plus saving money and hopefully getting ready for living independently.
At times I find it hard to join in the deaf community, as some deaf events happen in work time and that takes priority. These days I’m concentrating on work, and enjoying being part of the signing team at Cross & Stable.

No limitations for Elizabeth

Elizabeth Payne is deaf but refuses to be limited by other people’s ideas about what she can acheive.

Elizabet Payne

Elizabeth is a member of the Cross & Stable Church, Downs Barn in Milton Keynes, which she attends with her husband Les. She was born and grew up in Kenya, part of a big family, with three brothers and sisters and lots of half-brothers and half-sisters.

Elizabeth learned to sign at her primary school, which was a boarding school for the deaf started originally by Dutch missionaries and an hour’s journey from home. Kenyan sign language has a number of differences from BSL. The alphabet, for instance, is in a one-handed, American style. Elizabeth is multilingual in all sorts of ways, including signing.

Her secondary education was at a deaf vocational school where Elizabeth did a nursing and caring course connected to a local hospital. There she met Les, who came from England to work as a volunteer teacher at a boys’ polytechnic. One of his friends was a volunteer matron at the hospital, and Les and Elizabeth met at a birthday party.
They began their married life in Kenya, but moved to England where their children, Christopher and Joanne, were born. Chris is in the throes of university applications and hopes to do Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford. Joanne is in Year 9 and is starting her GCSEs. They are both hearing but good signers. “Joanne learned to sign very young,” says Elizabeth. “One of her first signs was ‘ice-cream’.”

Elizabeth is a determined learner. When she told her family in Kenya she wanted to be a copy typist, they said, “You can’t do that”, but she points out, “I went to a hearing teaching college and succeeded in qualifying.”

Here in England she has learned to swim and to cycle, and passed her driving test on her first attempt in 2005. Her biggest driving challenge was to track down a driving instructor willing to take a deaf pupil. Elizabeth’s priority is her home and family, but she likes to be busy and in the mornings and evenings she works as a cleaner. She enjoys opportunities to meet up with deaf friends and has a number of craft skills. She was once part of a deaf sewing group.

It was a woman at Homestart that told Elizabeth about the Cross & Stable Church and the signed services there when Chris was a toddler. Like many mums, Elizabeth has known the isolation of caring for infants at home while her partner is having to be out at work. But she still describes one of her greatest joys as family and seeing the children grow up and thrive.

Being deaf has had its frustrations, like people who tell her she can’t do things which she knows she can, or the lack of understanding by Government departments at times (DVLA included) but, says Elizabeth, there are advantages like being able to switch off sometimes.

And new technologies can be a great help in communicating with friends around the world – by text, Skype or Facebook. They’ve helped Elizabeth to keep in touch with her oldest son Kenneth, who’s doing development studies at university in Nairobi, and catch up with friends in Germany and the USA. For Elizabeth it’s ‘total communication’. She is used to living with hearing people and is a good lip-reader, but she loves the chance to be part of a signing community.

Pat Chandler’s story

I am in my 60s and live in Slough.  I am now retired, but worked for more than 25 years with disabled people, helping them on work placements, teaching them how to use the bus, how to shop, how to find work and other ‘ordinary’ life skills. Now retired, I am doing voluntary work in Slough, and volunteer at Oxfam.  My hobbies are doing cross-words, computer games, and learning about different religions from documentaries. I also like to travel.

I am a member of the Roman Catholic Church and I regularly worship at the monthly Cox Green Deaf Church Service run by ODCD.  My local Catholic Church has a link with the Church of England. The reason I come to the Deaf Church, is because it is easier, because it is in the sign language I understand.  The Catholic Church only gives services in spoken English, with no interpreter, but I have very little hearing, and so I do not know what they are saying, especially in the sermon. I just recite the rosary to avoid daydreaming. I did have a friend who interpreted a little bit, but she died some years ago, and no one else is available.  I have asked but my local church only provide signing during the mass. There is no sign language when the mass is over. That is why I like to come to the Deaf Church. All of the service and the preaching is signed in BSL, and I can get a full picture of what the priest or lay preacher is signing in the sermon.

My Christian faith means a lot.  When I go to church, I feel an inner peace within me.  I understand God better every time that I come to Deaf Church, because I can understand better: it helps me to improve and gives me strength and confidence.  I feel much better when I come to Deaf Church: it is really good.

I would like a chaplain who could sign BSL, and make me feel comfortable without worrying about being a Catholic, but would accept me as I am, so I could come and take communion.

I would like to say to other Christians, “Respect each other, respect that we’re all one church.  Whether we’re Jewish, Hindu, Catholic, Church of England, we are all equal.  The church should welcome anybody.  If they believe in God, that’s fine, we’re all equal.  It doesn’t matter if they don’t believe in God, as they are all welcome to God.”

Ken Dyson’s story:

I retired six years ago, and now volunteer for church visiting, and I am a Licensed Lay Minister with the Oxford Deaf Church. I am also a member of the executive committee of the Reading Deaf Centre, and its secretary.

 My main hobbies are sailing and cycling. I have two adult children with three grandchildren between them.  They live between North Oxfordshire and Essex, so living in Reading, I have to do a lot of driving backwards and forwards, visiting. Within the deaf community, I enjoy all the talking we do in our own sign language: sign language is good for telling stories, and they can be very funny. The difficulties of being deaf are those of communication.  For example, when driving to north Oxfordshire, I stopped off for food, and was asked what I wanted, but because of the background noise, people could not hear me, and I could not speak above the noise.

As a Christian, I believe that my life comes from God. I owe God everything, and I have to give something back: it saved me from depression when I was young, so it is important to me. I would like the hearing church to take more interest in the deaf church. Before, we tried to go to a hearing church, but we stopped, because we could not understand what was being said.

 I would like to see more chaplains to the deaf, especially chaplains who are deaf themselves. We need a chaplain who would welcome young deaf people and bring them in to church.

I also believe that a lot of people don’t understand what Jesus said. They need more education and the to read about him for themselves. I recently heard some deaf people arguing over whether or not Jesus was a Jew. Religious education, both in deaf and hearing schools is declining and this is a problem deaf churches and deaf schools need to address.

What can your church do?

Essential for all churches
• A high quality sound system of microphones and loudspeakers to be provided throughout the worship area; ideally bring in a sound engineer to advise you.
• A hearing loop available throughout the church worship area and meeting rooms. (ODCD and other charities can often provide contributions towards the cost.)
• A clear view of the worship leader and preacher.
• Good lighting, falling on the worship leader and preacher.
• A written service with clear responses, produced either clearly on paper, or visible onscreen.

Good to have
• Intercessions: written or on screen.
• Sermon: written and full text or summary points on screen.
• The provision of monitors in church “blind spots” such as behind pillars or in overflow rooms or chapel areas so that the worship leaders or preacher may be seen.
• A high quality sound system of microphones and loudspeakers to be provided in all meeting rooms.
• Avoid speaking over music.

Ideal, in addition to the above
• To provide a BSL interpreter within sight of the worship leader/preacher during services, and at meetings, especially public meetings.
• When available, provision of speech to text software projected onto a visible screen.

And now…
If your church already provides some or all of these facilities, let ODCD know so they can be added to the list of ‘deaf friendly churches’ on the website. Email:

Spiritual guidance for older people

, ,

BISHOP Colin was among the gathered clergy, writers and other guests at a special choral Evensong and drinks reception at Christ Church Cathedral to launch the new Bible Reading Fellowship’s Bible Reflections for Older People series.

Acting Bishop of Oxford

The Bishop of Dorchester, Rt Revd Colin Fletcher

The Revd Canon David Winter, a regular contributor to the Door, was also among the guests. He is one of the contributors to the series, written by older people for older people. In the central section, Debbie Thrower of BRF’s The Gift of Years ministry offers interviews and ideas to encourage and inspire. Debbie spoke at the launch at Christ Church about the Bible study notes as well as the wider work of the Gift of Years programme which tackles the loneliness of old age by supporting people in this generation in practical ways.

As part of the work, there are Anna Chaplains to older people who deliver spiritual care services and provide a way for churches to draw alongside older people. These ecumenical, community-based chaplains are promoting older people’s spiritual welfare. This approach was pioneered in Alton, Hampshire, and is now being used in a variety of contexts in other parts of the UK.

Anna Chaplains frequent clubs and groups where older people gather. Such chaplains also create opportunities for two or three people to meet and talk, over books, poetry, crafts or other shared interests. They also make time to meet with people one to one.

Fight poverty with soup this Lent

, , , ,

PEOPLE across the Diocese are being urged to support Christian Aid by eating soup this Lent.

For example, in the Hambleden Valley, there will be a series of Lent Lunches to raise money for Christian Aid’s work.

Organiser Penny Mcleish said, “Over the years we’ve raised thousands of pounds to help people in

Michael with his grandson

need.” The money raised is used to help people like Michael, who lives in South Sudan, where 6.1 million people urgently need humanitarian aid as a result of the conflict that erupted in December 2013. Ongoing fighting has displaced 2.4 million people, and up to 5.3 million people are at risk of severe food shortages.

Michael, who is in his 70s and has gradually lost his sight during the past five years, fled alongside his family when government forces came to his village. Soldiers killed people and stole cattle, forcing Michael to flee to the swamp where he resided with his family for two months. When they returned, most of their belongings were gone, and they were left with next to nothing. With the help of fishing hooks and nets from Christian Aid, Michael is now able to take the younger generation to the swamp to teach them how to fish so they can continue to feed their community.

Phil Evans, of Christian Aid’s Oxford office, said: “We are asking you to reflect each day on the blessings in your life through Count Your Blessings, inspired by daily opportunities to give, act and pray for communities like Michael’s, helping them to find a safe place to call home.”
Christian Aid is working with people displaced within South Sudan, who are living in some of the hardest to reach places, to provide much-needed food, safe water and sanitation facilities and essential household items, including sheeting for temporary shelters, as well as fish hooks and nets so they can start to rebuild their lives and become self-sufficient.

Just £15 could provide fishing gear for a family like Michael’s; £8.50 could provide two cooking pots so they can eat a hot meal; and £3 could pay for two plastic jerry cans so they can store safe drinking water.

Hambleden Valley Churches are holding three Lent Lunches on Saturdays 18, 25 March and 1 April in the Hambleden Parish Hall and at St John the Evangelist Frieth on Saturday 8 April noon to 2pm. For details contact Penny on 01491 571288 or

God in the life of cadet chaplain Mark Newman


THE Revd Mark Newman tells Jo Duckles about his career, from being a car mechanic and a builder to studying theology at Oxford University and recently becoming a Chaplain to Oxfordshire’s Army Cadet Force.

The Revd Mark Newman in his padre’s uniform. Photo: Thomas Newman.

The Revd Mark Newman in his padre’s uniform. Photo: Thomas Newman.

Oxfordshire born and bred, Mark’s family moved from Blewbury to Grove when he was very young, and then to Wantage, where he attended King Alfred’s School. Mark, who was an Army Cadet himself as a teenager, married his wife Julia in 1997.  Before meeting Julia and her family, Mark admits he had very little experience of Christianity. “There was little mention of faith at school but when I met my wife-to-be I was very open to spiritual things. It was the mid 1990s and there was plenty of New Age spirituality around, but I had never met a genuine group of Christians.”

As he dated Julia and got to know her parents, Mark learned what a genuine Christian faith could look like, which was different from anything he had been taught at school or experienced elsewhere. “It showed me that I could have a very real, living faith. Julia was going to church and it was awkward because I wasn’t, but through her family’s prayers I came to faith,” he said.
“As far as the cadets are concerned the whole of Oxfordshire is now my parish.”

Mark’s path to ordination was unusual as he left school with no GCSEs due to undiagnosed dyslexia and worked as a mechanic and later a builder. “Those jobs never stretched me academically. However, one of the gifts of dyslexia is to be creative and artistic and to think illogically. You solve problems in a different way,” he says.

He was finally diagnosed when he was 40 and at Wycliffe Hall Theological College. “I did a diploma rather than a degree. It wasn’t easy but my experience of getting support at Wycliffe was completely different from what I had experienced at school. Wycliffe was an amazing time of academic testing, being with some extraordinarily clever people as a mature student, where the other students were half my age. I was going through the whole Oxford experience of matriculation and lectures while reflecting on the town and gown element of the city.

“We had always come to Oxford to either go shopping or go clubbing and this showed me the other side of the city, which was interesting. It was a stretching time, but even though I wanted to give up at a couple of points I kept going, got lots of help and got through it.”

Pleased with the grade from his diploma, Mark was ordained into the St Alban’s Diocese in 2012, and served his curacy at St Mary’s, Eaton Socon. “It was a really great training parish. I experienced every age group, ran school assemblies, conducted baptisms, funerals, marriages and everything in between,” he says.

Mark was aware that 95 per cent of curates go on to become incumbents while some teach at theological colleges and/or write academically. Also aware that the Church of England needs younger priests to replace those who are retiring, Mark began applying for parish posts. “From January to April last year my wife and I prayed more than ever and I found myself pushing on doors that weren’t opening,” says Mark. Before he was ordained, Mark had been part of a team from St Aldate’s Church in Oxford, who ran an Alpha Course at the Dalton Barracks.

“That’s when I met military chaplains and began to think about ordination and some kind of call to military ministry.During that Alpha Course I was introduced to the Armed Forces’ Christian Union,” says Mark. The AFCU approached Mark in 2015, asking him to join them for a week at New Wine, praying for the organisation and Mark’s future plans.

This led to a number of conversations and lots of prayer. He joined them in June 2016 as a non-stipendiary staff member. “My ‘nine to five’ job is supporting military Christians, in particular chaplains. At the weekends, in the evenings and for two weeks in the summer I’m the chaplain for the Oxfordshire Army Cadet Force,” he says. “I may have given up the house and the stipend but I haven’t left the Church of England. I have just taken a sideways missionary role that happens to be in the UK. As far as the Cadets are concerned the whole of Oxfordshire is now my parish.”

Mark describes a chaplain’s role as offering pastoral care and Christian support to everybody on their patch. For him that means the Army cadets and the adult leaders, regardless of whether or not they have a faith. Oxfordshire Army Cadet Force comprises 560 cadets, aged 12 to 18, and around 180 adults. About half of those attend the annual summer camp where they are given a fictional military scenario and spend their time involved in training, tactical exercises and adventurous training.

“I work very closely with the welfare team. You, of course, get problems from home cropping up, problems on camp, problems with friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, all of the issues that come up when you put a group of teenagers together for two weeks. We have the GCSE and A Level results coming through during the camp and I have teenagers who haven’t got the grades they wanted coming to ask me “Padre, what am I going to do? These are young people wondering what their place in the world is. They bring all of these issues to the camp and you are in a position of locoparentis responsibility to take care of them.”

The adults on the camp will also look to the Padre for help and advice. “For those two weeks I’m effectively their parish priest. They can come to have a conversation with me about anything at any time. I’m available outside of those two weeks as well, but while on camp that is the main time when I’m available from 6.30am until 10.30pm. They are long hours but very rewarding. What’s extraordinary about working with the cadets is watching young people do wonderful activities together while growing and maturing, not just as individuals but as groups.

“The camp brings together young people from places as diverse as Blackbird Leys, Burford and Henley, from across the social spectrum, so it is an interesting social experiment and is about expanding horizons. My role is to be roving eyes and ears and to be constantly thinking in terms of pastoral care and support.”

Mark also presents the Padre’s Trophy each year to a detachment for their efforts during the previous year where they go out and help people in their community. This year he awarded it to the Blackbird Leys Detachment in Oxford. He enjoys seeing young people from a range of back-grounds gain life skills. “It’s not about them joining the Army; we are not a recruiting agency. It’s about giving them an experience that helps to shape them with outstanding life skills. We have a set of values and standards that are the same as in the military; selfless commitment; respect for others; loyalty; integrity; discipline and courage.

“It’s amazing to see the adults give up their time, many of them giving up their holidays for the cadets. I’ve come from a parish role leading a communion service three to four times a week to a post that’s so different in its context. This is about meeting people where they are, which is what I love. Coming from a background as a builder and a mechanic, they were not industries where you met a lot of Christians. The Army is similar.”

In his AFCU role, Mark’s role is to support Christians who are constantly moving, every couple of years, as the Armed Forces post them to different locations. “They are having to change church every couple of years and we try and provide a constant presence in their lives, by visiting, by Skype, email and Facebook, and all the time supporting them in prayer. We have weekends and conferences to give Christians in the military the chance to keep in touch and grow in their faith.”

Mark is looking for opportunities to share his work and his role with the Army Cadet Foce and AFCU. For more call 07585 446034 or email