The aim of the Development Fund is to encourage church communities in five areas:
1. To become a more Christ-like church
We are called to be a more Christ-like Church for the sake of God’s world: contemplative, compassionate and courageous. You’ll find further information in Signs of a more Christ-like Church, available to download from our how to apply page.
Other resources are available too: Four study guides written by Bishop Steven explore what this means for us, our families and the wider Church, and the Parish Planning Tool will help your church recognise where God is already at work in your community and how you can join in.
According to the gospels, Jesus often withdrew to spend time apart with God (Mark 1.35; Luke 5.16). Jesus calls the twelve disciples to be with him before they are sent out (Mark 3.14). In the great image of the vine, Jesus calls his disciples to abide in him so that God’s life may bear fruit in our lives.
To be a contemplative Church means:
- To be deeply rooted in Christ as a branch in the vine, through prayer and worship, word and sacrament
- To be sustained in joy and hope in the midst of a suffering world
- To seek the continual grace and renewal of the Holy Spirit in our lives
- To value deep wisdom and offer meaning
- To take our theology seriously as dialogue with God as well as talk about God
- To live in healthy rhythms of prayer and rest and work and be fully human
- To be good news in an over active and busy world
- To offer the gift of silence, still places and moments of encounter with the living God
- To listen deeply to ourselves, to the world in which we live and to one another
- To discern God’s call to us as individuals and communities
- To wrestle with God
- To surrender our doing in order to make space for stillness and dwelling, that God might be free to do and act within us.
“Contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit. To learn contemplative practice is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly. It is a deeply revolutionary matter.”
The compassion of Jesus is evident from beginning to end in the gospels. Jesus is deeply moved in his encounters with the sick and bereaved. His compassion shapes his priorities from beginning to end (Mark 1.41, John 11.33-35).
The Church is called to demonstrate this same compassion: to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, care for the sick and visit those in prison (Matthew 25.37). Churches are called to be communities of kindness, gentleness and love.
To be a compassionate Church means:
- To listen to the communities around us and to the wider world
- To identify especially with the lost, the least and the last
- To live out our faith as Christian disciples in acts of kindness and generosity
- To act together to serve the poor, feed the hungry and welcome the stranger
- To mourn for the suffering in the world and take that suffering seriously
- To be tender and gentle with one another, bearing one another’s burdens
- To find together a radical new Christian inclusion in the church
- To provide places of hospitality and welcome for all in our church buildings
- To offer to all, in love, the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ
- To nurture children in school communities marked by compassion
- To steward and care for the earth
- To take action for peace and for justice.
“Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life . . . the Church’s very credibility is shown in the way she shows mercy and compassionate love . . . Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instils in us the courage to look to the future with hope.”
Jesus walks towards difficulty and suffering and takes the way of the cross. He sets his face towards Jerusalem out of love for the world (Luke 9.51; John 11.14-15).
Jesus calls his disciples to follow in this way of the cross (Mark 8.34, Matthew 16.24). The Church is a community of missionary disciples, gathered and sent to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5.13-16). We are called to make a difference through courageous lives of love.
To be a courageous Church means:
- To deepen our vision of what it means to be human, of a just and peaceful world: to dare to practise hope
- To seek to live our lives to the glory of God
- To make a difference in our local communities through seeking justice and working for peace
- To seek reconciliation in the Church and in the world
- To be bold and consistent in our evangelism and witness to our Christian faith
- To bear the cost of our discipleship through the whole course of our lives
- To imagine and bring to birth new Christian communities in many different places
- To work in creative partnership with other Churches, faith communities and organisations
- To teach the Christian faith clearly and with confidence to children, young people and adults
- To invest the resources we have been given boldly for the sake of the kingdom of God not hoard them in fear
- To reshape our buildings continually for the sake of God’s mission in the present and future
- To seek to reverse the decline of the Church in this generation.
“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.”
2. To encourage discernment
We want to encourage our ability to discern God at work in the world and our own lives, and to respond by joining in. Ways of thinking about discernment include:
- What makes this a ‘God idea’ rather than a ‘good idea’?
- In what way are you doing something different because you are listening to God?
The Parish Planning Tool, created by the Diocese of Oxford, is a great way to discern where God is at work in your community.
3. To be missionally creative
Finding imaginative solutions to missional challenges doesn't require new ideas every time: being missionally creative might be how a congregation adapts an existing idea to their own community. We take our definition of mission from the Anglican Communion’s five marks of mission:
- To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
- To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
- To respond to human need by loving service
- To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation
- To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the Earth.
Missional creativity should shift our sense of what’s important: that may mean re-prioritising tasks and laying down some of what we already do.
4. To learn together
We want to encourage learning across the diocese. Groups will learn as they discern and then carry out missionally creative work.
We want to encourage groups to:
- reflect on what they have learned (this helps us recognise what we have learned and what we could do differently in the future) and;
- share what they have learned with other groups facing similar challenges elsewhere in the diocese.
We also want to encourage diverse experimentation. Addressing missional challenges inevitably involves experimentation with new ideas: some will work, others will not. By supporting a variety of experimental ideas we will achieve a broad range of learning.
In sharing our learning and hearing what others have learned, we can better discern our next steps.
5. To support initiatives that are sustainable
We want to encourage sustainable initiatives, underpinned by:
- Planning which seeks a balance between:
- realistic levels of input (people, resources, time and money), and reasonable expectations of hoped-for outcomes;
- short-term ‘quick wins’ and longer-term sustainability and viability
- Flexible approaches which allow for adaptation along the way in the event of unexpected opportunities and challenges;
- Reasonable expectations of an ongoing legacy of benefits after the Development Fund grant(s) end.
Many parishes commit much of their income to Parish Share with little remaining for missional activity, so the Development Fund aims to encourage such parishes to undertake imaginative work that would not otherwise have taken place.