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.