Growing new congregations is for every type of parish tradition, size and location within the Diocese of Oxford. As a diocese with a rich diversity of rural parishes and expanding urban centres, we recognise the importance of supporting churches in both these settings to meet the different challenges they face and bring God’s kingdom to all people.
We are therefore delighted that the Common Vision Development Fund has supported two new Resourcing Hubs in the diocese that reflect the need to work in both rural and urban areas. These Resourcing Hubs are committed to giving themselves away to bless others, to share the good news of the gospel with those outside our normal Sunday services, and to grow new congregations of new Christians in new places.
St Mary’s Cogges, Witney Deanery
St Mary’s Cogges is a vibrant church on the edge of Witney, with a desire to become the first ‘market town’ Resourcing Hub, planting fresh expressions of church, equipping rural church mission and supporting church and congregation planting in the Cotswolds and beyond. Their vision is that in the next ten years, the deanery will have lots of Fresh Expressions of Church of all sizes, sorts and shapes, bringing life to their community. Investing in younger leaders and looking outwards will ensure an ongoing pipeline of new Fresh Expression opportunities.
Their approach will be to equip their congregation to take personal steps into mission and develop their leadership skills, establish new missional communities in the parish and wider deanery, and send teams out to plant new worshipping communities alongside developing online church. They have a heart to share their time and resources with others – particularly through developing youth projects, and convening the first ‘Greenhouse’, which is a support environment for small teams wishing to take their mission initiative or idea into a new worshipping community.
Despite the uncertainties caused by the pandemic, the Greenhouse is beginning to flourish and the team at St Mary’s are planning for their route out of lockdown, thinking about Reconnecting, Recovering, Replanting and Reaching Out.
North Aylesbury Team, Aylesbury Deanery
The second Resourcing Hub will be working in an urban context, drawing on the skills of a number of clergy to create a new team, which will build thriving new congregations amongst both the deprived estates and ever-expanding communities of the town. Attendances in the Team area have risen from around 150 to more than 300 over the last three years, and this project is the next step: enabling more growth in the area, including a series of identified Church plants, and the extension of this work into new areas of potential beyond our boundaries. Following the confirmation of the funding, the churches in North Aylesbury are working to see what collaborative ministry looks like for them.
The revitalisation of St Peter’s, Quarrendon will continue under a full-time Team Vicar, bringing new people to faith through innovation missional outreach work such as a community garden, breakfast church and exercise classes. Three potential church plants have been identified in the area, and the Resourcing Hub will not only be giving itself away in this context, but through sharing and learning. The North Aylesbury Team will offer experiential learning through teaching days and encouraging the development of learning communities that engage in shared reflective practice; and further asynchronous/ blended learning resources through online, small group or even one-to-one coaching sessions. Learnings will be shared through the Deanery Greenhouse model, local experience of Messy Church, café Church and options for online worship; as many as three of the Team parishes were operating busy cafés when lockdown began.
So there are exciting times ahead! We will be hearing more from the Hubs over the coming months and look forward to seeing their work. Please join us in praying for these Resourcing Hubs alongside our others; St Frideswide’s and St Mary’s in Milton Keynes, Greyfriars in Reading, St Andrew’s in High Wycombe and St Paul’s in Slough.
But equally, growing 750 new congregations by 2030 cannot happen through these churches alone. They will be sharing their experiences, knowledge and lessons to anyone who wishes to learn. Every parish has a role to play in considering how mission can work in their context, to reach more people and share with them the love of God. We are hearing of new initiatives every day, even despite the challenges of the pandemic, and we are encouraged by the way God is shaping his Kingdom. If you need support, have an idea or a story to celebrate, then please get in touch with the New Congregations team.
You don’t need to be clergy or consider yourself a pioneer to get involved. This is for everyone – and however you do it, we’re here to support you. Watch a short video and get inspired.