St Clement’s, 5th round Development Fund award

St Clement’s Church, Oxford

Tier 2

Flourishing Life, one of St Clement’s Church’s 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.

Using prayer, engagement with the community and recent research looking at the affects of COVID-19 on young people, the team from St Clement’s hope to bridge the gap between their social initiatives and the way they explicitly seek to grow and nurture Christian faith. They have discerned a need to engage at a deeper level, moving beyond the purely social, but without imposing a Christian agenda. By providing structured opportunities to reflect together on meaning, purpose and human flourishing, this project seeks to open new pathways for people to explore faith and for the church to grow in confidence through sharing life-giving faith, in more relevant ways.

Initially, the project will focus on the 18-30 age group as they make up more than 50% of the parish but have historically had weak links with the church (although this is changing). St Clement’s has also noted anecdotally that this group has been increasingly drawn to questions of meaning, purpose and just relations, especially since the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created a set of very real, specific challenges in terms of mental and spiritual wellbeing.

Bethan Willis, a member of the St Clement’s PCC and an Oxford Pastorate staff member, will lead the programme, and tells us how she hopes the initiative will unfold and develop;

“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.”

St Clement’s will be drawing on its strong relationship with the Oxford Pastorate (a chaplaincy within the diocese, serving Oxford University postgraduates and researchers) to help support and promote this project. In recent years, the Oxford Pastorate began a successful project engaging multiple cohorts of students in similar conversations around character and leadership, establishing world-leading programmes and resources.

Bethan concludes,

“It will be so wonderful to be able to work with both the Pastorate and the church to find creative, sustainable ways to help guide our community in our own context. This will be a learning experience, which will forge a new pattern of mission within our parish and given wider impact through sharing programme materials, printed resources and guidance with church across the diocese.”

The project will run for 18 months from September 2021 – March 2023, and the time will be spent in three phases, with a focus on learning and discernment in phase 1, creative missional development in phase 2, and ensuring the project is sustainable in phase 3. They hope to begin their pilot conversations in autumn 2021, the first full programme of conversations in spring/summer 2022, and the second full programme of conversations in autumn 2022/spring 2023. To keep up to date or find out more about the project, please visit the St Clement’s website.