Oxford and Kimberley & Kuruman

A summit between the linked dioceses of Oxford and Kimberley & Kuruman in South Africa has ended with both dioceses committing to expand their work together.

During the 5 day conference, held in Kimberley, around 50 representatives from churches  in England and South Africa met to share worship, reflect on Scripture and discuss how the two dioceses could work more closely in mission ”journeying together within the Body of Christ” This involved discussion both about key mission issues and  about how best to take the link forward and strengthen it in the future. Currently there are 9 official links,  some of which have been running for over two decades. They all work in slightly different ways but have a common theme of working as equal partners and journeying together in faith.

The four mission themes were discipleship, care for creation, advocacy on inequality, and the role of young people in the church. For the first three, speakers from both South Africa and the UK offered presentations; the session on young people’s role involved about 60 young people, who shared their hopes and concerns. Conversations about the future followed, which resulted in ideas about how churches in each diocese can take the work forward in their own context and support the work of their link partners. Representatives in the care for creation discussions, for example, identified environmental objectives they’d like to achieve by the end of the year with delegates from K&K proposing to create guidelines on key topics like energy use, include sessions on the environment at major diocesan events, and identify areas where they could advocate, such as pushing for a ban on plastic bags. The Oxford group plans to present material from the summit to their parishes, identify champions for key issues, explore ways of influencing wider church policy on the environment, and lobby MPs and local councils. Delegates from both dioceses will be joining an online group to keep each other updated on their progress.

Delegates talked about the depth of friendship at the summit and many commented that the length of the time together, coupled with the variety of discussions, worship, and activities, offered  a great opportunity to pick up where they’d left off with their link partners, as well as to build relationships with people they hadn’t previously known. One described it as being “spiritually one in God”.

Canon Carol Starkey, chair of the Kimberley and Kuruman link committee, said:

“I think delegates got a better understanding of not only the link or other links but also personal interaction.”

In his closing speech to the summit, Bishop Steven said:

“The link has my full support and I will bless it and be the bishop for the link. It needs cherishing, nurturing and taking forward and I will commit to doing that. We are the yeast for this link – we can do a power of good as we release the power of what we learn together.”

Bishop Ossie, who oversees the Diocese of Kimberley and Kuruman said:

“For a glorious few days we were on really, really, really holy ground as we looked back a little, but mainly cast our view forward as we contemplated possibilities for our future partnership. We received new energy for our care of creation, a new awareness of our calling to fight injustice and inequality, to seek fresh ways in our proclamation and nurturing the next generation. We pray for a continued sense of the transforming power of God as we descend to the plain – to the coalface. Together we can do so much more as we encourage one another.”