Churches join forces on an expanding estate

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Tim Stead

A PARISH on a deprived estate on the edge of Oxford is joining forces with a packed city centre church.

St Mary’s Headington, is based just outside the ringroad, on the Barton estate, an area where hundreds of new homes are set to be built to combat Oxford’s chronic housing shortage. The church will be partnering with St Aldate’s, to share resources and unlock its ‘mission potential’. The Area Dean for Cowley, The Revd Tim Stead said: “We had a vacancy and didn’t just want to throw an incumbent in on their own in a difficult place and looked at a number of ideas for a partnership with a much larger church.” Tim said there is currently a small congregation at St Mary’s, and with the new estate of up to 1,000 houses in the pipeline and the possibility of further expansion in the future, the parish could double or even triple in size. The Revd Eric Bossward will be moving to Headington from Preston in Lancashire, with his wife Lynn to take over at St Mary’s. Eric will be part of the leadership team and attend weekly staff meetings at St Aldate’s, a church that holds three services every Sunday and is often so full there is standing room only.

The Revd Charlie Cleverly, the Rector of St Aldate’s, said: “We have enjoyed very much the beginnings of a partnership with the people of St Mary’s. St Mary’s is a great community that will have a greater responsibility as new housing is built. We look forward to seeing what happens in the future as this exciting project develops.” Trevor Jones, Chair of the PCC at St Mary’s, said: “Over the past few months both churches have begun to embrace the idea. It’s too early to make a judgement on success but we at St Mary’s look forward to this exciting opportunity of working with St Aldate’s to extend God’s kingdom.” The Archdeacon of Oxford, the Ven. Martin Gorick, described plans for the partnership in a short film about the wider work of the Diocese. He said: “Barton is one of the five most deprived parishes in the whole diocese. There will be up to 3,000 new people moving to the area over the next few years and this is a once in a generation opportunity for the church.”