Over £250,000 awarded to 12 projects across the Diocese of Oxford in fifth round of Development Fund grant giving

We are delighted to announce that 12 projects across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire have been awarded funding as part of the fifth round of awards from the Development Fund. The Development Fund was launched in 2019 to enable missional creativity and to help churches with practical ways to become more Christ-like. Since its launch, it has donated over £1.5million to over 100 local church projects across the Diocese.

Much of the funding will be used to support children, young people and their families, who have been so affected by the events of the last year and a half, with three of the largest grants (£50,000 respectively) going to churches who hope to engage more effectively with the young people of their parish by hiring experts in youth ministry and engagement, as well as working more closely with their local Church of England schools. The award of these grants continues to put our work with children, young people and families at the heart of diocesan life, something which we committed to with the publication of Disciples Together, which was a significant moment for the diocese; we all know that there has been a growing gulf between our work and the reality of life for young people and in the culture at large. This groundbreaking report explored how we can embrace the key shifts we need to make for the benefit of God’s world and outlines steps for future ministry.

Growing new congregations is also a vital part of our common vision, and two projects were awarded funds to support their work in finding new expressions of church, be that through in person services or, by developing their digital capabilities. A population at least the size of Edinburgh will move into the Diocese over the next fifteen years and the New Congregations programme is the diocesan response to this change, centred around the aim to grow 750 new congregations over the next decade.

Revd Norma Fergusson, vicar in the Shrivenham and Ashbury Benefice, applied for and was awarded a Tier Two grant which will be the last step on a road which they started to travel down in 2010 when they began to upgrade their church to create a safe, sacred and welcoming space within St Mary’s Longcot.

Norma says,

“We believe the church and its buildings should be a resource for all people, every day and not just for a couple of hours on Sundays. By completing our restoration and building project, St Mary’s will become a much needed and sustainable gathering place for people of all ages and backgrounds. We will provide (either directly or through partnership with other groups) a variety of services (in all senses of the word!) and activities in a welcoming space where people can meet, talk, discuss, plan, dream, play, create, worship – all the things which make life better, especially for those who are new to the village, or have become isolated or anxious or whose ability to travel to the nearest shop or post office is limited.”

The award of a Tier 1 Development Fund grant (£2,500) will allow St James, Downley, to set up Growing Hope High Wycombe, working with other local churches to provide a local clinic for families of children with additional needs. Growing Hope is a national charity that provides free therapy for children and young people with additional needs in partnership with local churches.

Revd Heather Graham, who applied for the grants, says,

“St James already has a real heart for the community and are involved with other local charities such as the One Can Trust, Wycombe Homeless Connection and Lighthouse and we are discerning that God has already laid the foundations for this project to take root and flourish.

“Whilst the service will be open to people of all faiths and none, it will provide us with an opportunity to share our faith with the community and we believe will be another vehicle to show God’s love, helping to shape the future of the people of Buckinghamshire.”

Flourishing Life, one of St Clements Church’s (Oxford) social initiatives, has been awarded a Tier 2 grant of just over £14,000 from the Development Fund to help support the mental and spiritual health of the young people in their local community.

Speaking about the project, Flourishing Life’s Team Leader, Bethan Willis, a member of St Clements’ PCC and an Oxford Pastorate staff member says,

“We’re planning a series of events focusing on art, music, film and media, which will help to open up conversations around what attendees love in life, what makes for a good life and how we flourish in our lives. We expect to focus our discussions around aspects of character such as humility, wisdom, gratitude, service and joy – qualities we believe are rooted in the character and person of Jesus. Discussions will be open to those of all faiths and none to explore their own sense of meaning, purpose and flourishing within a welcoming community.

“Alongside this core programme we hope to widen our focus to the 11-18s age group who also have been so deeply affected by the last year. We will host conversations during existing youth drop ins and youth groups.”

You can read these church’s stories in full and discover other Development Fund applicants’ journeys here.

Janet Rogers, Programme Manager, said of this cohort of applications,

“This was yet another tough round of decision making as there were so many wonderful applications, demonstrating the amazing work that goes on across the diocese, in both large and small parishes. I would encourage anyone who has been inspired by this round of awards to get in touch with the Development Fund team and find out how they can apply to the next round of funding (which closes on 31 July).

“A full list of projects we have supported can be found on our website as well as useful guidance on how to apply.”

The Development Fund is open to all parishes/benefices in the Diocese of Oxford, but it is likely to be most helpful to those that have limited financial resources to invest in missional activity. We know that even modest grants can make a significant difference in such parishes. Applications for the next round of funding is now open and closes on 31 July.