A journey towards a common vision

by Jillian Moody

AROUND 120 people from across the Oxford Diocese met this week to start the formal process of exploring the future direction for the Church in Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire.  It builds on Bishop Steven’s year of listening  The group is made up of people from across the leadership community within the Diocese and from specific areas of the church such as minority ethnic groups and larger churches.

The conference, called Towards a Common Vision, started with worship. The Archdeacon of Berkshire, the Ven. Olivia Graham told the group: “For these three days we will form a temporary group of pilgrims. Together we will pray, listen, laugh and exhibit compassion and courage from a contemplative bedrock.” In his opening address Bishop Steven asked people to consider what God is doing in the Diocese at this time and said he had seen a huge amount of good happening.

Over the three days delegates took part in discussions and workshops, with the Bishops keen to hear people’s views on how the Church should move forward. Bishop Steven also shared some of what he’s heard since his deanery visits started in December. The Bishop has so far made 21 deanery visits, with another eight scheduled before the end of June. The visits have taken in schools, churches, foodbanks, businesses, a therapeutic gardening project, farms, a brewery and a community shop.

Bishop Steven preached on the themes of contemplation, compassion and courage and talked of how the church was at its best when it is a community of the vulnerable. He said: “The more we dwell in Christ and are contemplative, compassionate and courageous, the more positive and hopeful the future looks.”
Bishop Steven said: “It’s going to be a privilege for me to listen to what people think about the Diocese and how we can build on the huge amount of good that’s happening across our three counties.

“During my deanery visits I have asked two questions: what kind of Church is God calling us to be and what are we therefore called to do together? Our call is to be a Christ-like Church, a Church of the Beatitudes. I hope together we will be able to build on the legacy of Living Faith to find good ways forward for the future.”

The process of discerning the direction of the Diocese for the next few years will take place over the next six months or so and will include opportunities for clergy, laity and others to help shape that direction.