Continuing with his visits around the diocese, Bishop Steven joined clergy, lay leaders and PCCs in Aston and Cuddesdon Deanery at the beginning of February for a day of listening and learning.
The day started with a Eucharist at St Mary’s Church, Thame. The service was led by the Revd Mike Reading. Bishop Steven preached from Genesis 1 and highlighted the importance of rest and the similarities between the time taken for creation and the time for rebuilding and recreation now.
“The high point of creation is the sabbath. This is what marks out humanity from the rest of creation. We have the ability to rest, give thanks and enjoy the good things in creation… Rest is our destination not something we do in order to keep going.”
Over lunch, Bishop Steven heard from deanery clergy as they shared honestly about their experiences of ministry and mission during the different stages of the pandemic. Clergy spoke about what they have lost as a result of the pandemic, including meeting with their parishioners, providing regular pastoral support, and a sense of community.
Bishop Gavin also joined the conversation and shared insight as the Bishop of Dorchester on a number of key issues for the clergy. The discussion ended with a time of open prayer.
The first community visit of the day was to Meadowcroft residential, dementia and nursing care home in Thame. It is the largest care home in the area, housing 70 residents and is founded on Christian values.
Bishop Steven met with the new Anna Chaplain, Ann Midwinter, who was formally a local mayor. The Anna Chaplain has played a vital support role to the care home staff and residents. During the pandemic when visitors were restricted, Ann spent time with each of the residents, chatting to them, praying and helping them to find a space of comfort spiritually.
Bishop Steven also met with the care staff, heard about their experiences and had the opportunity to give a blessing to those who wanted it.
“The key to it is making them feel loved. Sharing God’s love and helping them to know that they are valued.”
- Ann Midwinter
The second part of the afternoon saw Bishop Steven meet with staff and volunteers from the Oxfordshire charity Asylum Welcome, for which he is a Patron. Asylum Welcome provides support to asylum seekers, refugees and vulnerable migrants in Oxfordshire, including language learning, employment support and housing advice. Bishop Steven had the opportunity to spend time with a group of Asylum Welcome's Afghan clients living in Oxfordshire and hear their experiences.
An evening with Lay Leaders and PCCs
Bishop Steven joined a group of lay leaders from the deanery for an evening meal and discussion. The lay leaders shared their experiences during the pandemic and the adaptions they have made to accommodate new people in their churches and reach out to their communities.
The day ended with a service at St Leonard's Church, Watlington, led by the Revd Daniel Thompson and including a Q&A session. Bishop Steven thanked all of the lay leaders and PCC members for their dedication and commitment to their churches during the past couple of years. Bishop Steven spoke about what it means to be the church together, being with Jesus together and being sent out, to be stretched and developed as disciples.
“Our being with Jesus needs to be deeper and our being sent out needs to be braver, both individually and together. In these two directions we will find renewal and recovery.”
Bishop Steven is travelling to each deanery in the Diocese of Oxford this year to meet with and hear from local people and church leaders. Bishop Steven will be visiting a range of community projects, schools, charities and more to hear about their important work and the growing mission and ministries of parishes across the Thames Valley.
The next visit is to Deddington Deanery in north Oxfordshire on Wednesday 16 February.