Bishop Steven travelled to the Henley Deanery on Wednesday 18 May to spend the day with clergy and lay leaders and visit a local elderly care home.
Beginning in Whitchurch Hill, south Oxfordshire, Bishop Steven joined a Eucharist for clergy led by the Revd James Leach at St John’s Church. Speaking during the service from one of his favourite Old Testament passages from 1 Kings on the story of Elijah, Bishop Steven shared a reflection on a deep need of the church for spiritual and theological renewal. “We need it not because of our failure but because of the demands of the times we live in.” Bishop Steven showed his appreciation for clergy and their efforts over the past two years.
“Thank you for the example you have given, the love you have shared, and the perseverance you have shown.”
Clergy gathered for a buffet lunch in the Goring Heath Parish Hall, an opportunity to spend time together in person after many online meetings. Bishop Steven encouraged the clergy to share their experiences of ministry during the pandemic. The Bishop of Dorchester also joined the discussion offering opportunity to ask both bishops questions.
Clergy shared their growing concerns about the economic situation and the rise in the cost of living and the levels of exhaustion they are feeling. They also shared their hopes for the future and the creative ways they have sought to reconnect with their communities after the heigh of the pandemic. Many spoke about the joy of being able to worship onsite with their congregations, eating together, and spending time in fellowship.
Bishop Steven paid a special visit to the residents and staff at Coombe House Residential Care Home in Goring, a 24-bed home supporting independent living run by Marian and Clive Windebank and their dedicated care staff team.
Joining the residents in some of their daily social activities, including crosswords, an afternoon tea break and arts and crafts, Bishop Steven had the opportunity to answer a range of questions covering politics to young people in the church, to the role of religion in society. Bishop Steven also had the chance to ask one of the residents about her experience as a code breaker at Bletchley Park during World War II.
An evening with lay leaders
The day ended in nearby Shiplake, just outside Henley-on-Thames. Bishop Steven joined lay leaders for an evening meal and a service led by the Revd Robert Thewsey at St Peter and St Paul’s Church.
Bishop Steven is nearing the end of his visits to each deanery in the diocese. You can read more of what he got up to on the visits and save the date for your deanery.