Church honours lay people for distinguished service


Five people who have served the Diocese of Oxford and the community at large have been admitted into the Order of St Frideswide at a special service at the Cathedral in Oxford.

The new members are Mary Bayliss from Swallowfield in Berkshire; Peter Bridges from Oxford; Jo Saunders from Burnham in Buckinghamshire; Robin Birch from Oxford; and Geoff Strutt from Steeple Claydon in Buckinghamshire (biographies below). The Order of St Frideswide – named after the patron saint of the City of Oxford – was founded in 2001 by the then Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Richard Harries, as a way of giving recognition to lay people who have given outstanding service to the Church over many years.

The new members were admitted to the Order at a special service of Holy Communion at Christ Church Cathedral on Thursday 22 October 2015.

The Acting Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher, said: “I am delighted that we are able to announce today the names of these five new members of the Order of St Frideswide. Each in their own way has made a distinguished contribution to the life of the Diocese and it will be good to recognise that in our Cathedral later this year. We also look forward to continuing to work with them long into the future alongside the other 15 members of the Order.”


For more information contact Jo Duckles on 01865 208227 or Sarah Meyrick on 01865 208224.


New people admitted to the Order of St Frideswide in October 2015. From left, Robin Birch, Mary Bayliss, Peter Bridges, Geoff Strutt, Jo Saunders and the Acting Bishop of Oxford the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher.

New people admitted to the Order of St Frideswide in October 2015. From left, Robin Birch, Mary Bayliss, Peter Bridges, Geoff Strutt, Jo Saunders and the Acting Bishop of Oxford the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher.



Mary Bayliss: I was educated at St Mary’s, Wantage, and came to live in Berkshire after we married, and our three sons grew up at our home in Swallowfield.  I served for 32 years as a Magistrate on the Reading Bench.   I was appointed High Sheriff of the County in 2005, and also appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant in 2007, and then as Lord Lieutenant in 2008 until early this year.  During my Lieutenancy I have been involved with many charities, with the statutory services and many other organisations.  The Lieutenancy has held several multi-faith Services in the Minster in Reading, the faith leaders having been invited to read prayers.  These have included a Service to commemorate WW1 and Solemn Evensong on 4 August.


Robin Birch: I was invited by Bishop John in 2009 to serve as Chair of the Diocesan Committees concerned with Buildings and Glebe. Both committees are widely representative of all parts of the Diocese, the former being concerned mainly with the care, upkeep and development of clergy housing and the latter with the major contribution made by Glebe to Diocesan resources for the support of clergy stipends or parish share. Aged 75 and married to Jane for 52 years with two sons and five grandchildren, I was a Whitehall civil servant for many years and since retirement 20 years ago have made a new life in Oxfordshire doing voluntary work and as a Deputy Lieutenant from 1996 to 2014. Jane and I have been lifelong worshippers in Christ Church Cathedral, as my College Chapel, where I was Secretary of the Friends for 28 years from 1978, and I am honoured to be admitted to the Order of the Patroness of Oxford and of the Cathedral.


Peter Bridges MBE Born and brought up in Oxford my career was in the city’s retail motor industry. I have been a Justice of the Peace and a Deputy Lieutenant of the County. I serve on the Planning and Budget Sub-Committee and also Chair of the Diocesan Trustees (Oxford) Ltd, having also been on Bishop’s Council, The Oxfordshire Archdeaconry Pastoral Committee, Diocesan Synod and Secretary and  Lay Chairman of the Oxford Deanery. I have worshipped at St Peter’s Church, Wolvercote, Oxford since the late 1950s and served in a whole variety of roles including that of churchwarden, recently chairing the fundraising committee for our buildings development and currently looking after the serving team of 20 young servers.


Jo Saunders Originally a Methodist, I first worked in the diocese as a Girls Friendly Society Industrial Chaplain in Slough from 1984 -1995, working with Anglican and ecumenical ministers. I was confirmed as an Anglican in 1985. I headed the diocesan Industrial Mission team for a year in 1993. From 1995-2003 I was Diocesan Social Responsibility Officer working with over 300 volunteers on social issues, ethics and practical theology.  Since retirement I chaired PACT (Parents and Children Together) for four years, Oxford Diocesan Council for the Deaf for three years, and served six years as Deanery Lay Chair of Burnham and Slough. My husband Bob, a Licensed Lay Minister, was a great support; I have three sons and two grandchildren. Recently widowed, I minister locally in Burnham, and co-ordinate Oasis, the deanery spirituality training project.


Geoff Strutt    I was born in Nottingham, as well as meeting my future wife, Hilary, there when we were both at University.  We began our married life in South Ruislip as I took up an Air Traffic Control job at London Heathrow.  Further postings took us around the country before ending up in the Oxford Diocese working first at London HQ and then in France with Eurocontrol.  I finished my career commuting weekly to Southampton. I have been deanery lay chair and still am a member of both deanery and diocesan synods.  For several years, I have been a member of the Diocesan Board of Education, now serving on the Board’s Finance Committee as well as the Human Resources Panel for DCH.


Members of the Order of St Frideswide


Philip Giddings                                  2001

Penny Keens                                     2002

Tim Russian                                        2003

Brian Smith                                         2005

Elizabeth Higgs                  2005 RIP 2013

Maureen Beadsley                          2006

Hugo Brunner                                    2006

David Wright                                      2006

Chris Burley                                        2008

Judith Scott                                        2008

Martin Mays-Smith         2008 RIP 2014

John Winnington-Ingram              2008

Philip Wroughton                             2008

Mary Saunders                                 2009

William Benyon                 2011 RIP 2014

Owen Jewiss                      2011  RIP 2011

Brian Newey                                      2012

Rosemary Green                              2012

David Jefferson                                                2012

This is an older post. Please note that the information may not be accurate anymore.