Confirmations in Charlbury

THE congregation of people of all ages was very happy at St Mary’s Charlbury when the Bishop of Dorchester, the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher took a service, and confirmed two young people, Charlie and Ben. Three of the younger children also took Communion for the first time. They were Andrew, Edie and Ewan. Photo by Paddy Gallagher. 



Worship without walls?


CHILDREN from church schools took part in an RE contest e encouraging them to explore whether worshippers need buildings.

Cropredy  CE School in Oxfordshire, and Hazlemere CE School in Buckinghamshire, were the prize winners and were visited by their bishops to be awarded with plaques and cheques.

The acting Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher led an assembly at Cropredy, which gained the Key Stage One award. Teacher, Heather McIlwaine, said: “We started off looking at what the pupils already knew about worship, looked at what worship meant and compared our local churches.”

Pupils wrote poems, walked a labyrinth and designed a questionnaire for village parishioners as well as thinking about what makes spaces special, writing poems, creating stained glass windows and taking part in Forest Church style sessions. Bishop Colin presented the school with a plaque and a cheque for £250.

The Bishop of Buckingham, The Rt Revd Alan Wilson, presented a plaque and cheque at Hazlemere CE School, which won the KS2 award. There, a curate, a Hindu and a Muslim talked to children about worship. Pupils were given postcards for parents to give their views on worship and they looked at Church Without Walls in Milton Keynes and Open Doors, an Oxfordshire based charity that serves persecuted Christians.

Download a longer report by Susan Brice, the RE leader at Hazlemere.

Watch tree planting at Oxfordshire’s newest Church school building

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ALMOST 1,600 homes, a sports pavillion and playing fields, a hotel, more schools and a host of other developments and facilities were still being built when St Edburg’s CofE School opened its super-modern new building on the Kingsmere Estate in Bicester. Hear from the head teacher and watch the tree planting ceremony here:

Modern new offices for the Diocese

by Sarah Meyrick

THE diocesan office is moving to new premises next spring. A date is yet to be set, but the intention is that the relocation will take place at Easter 2016.

The new Church House Oxford at Langford Locks, Kidlington. Photo: Simon Williams.

Car park use2

The over crowded car park at Diocesan Church House in North HInksey. Photo Jo Duckles.


Dave Mitchell working on the plans for the new building. Photo: Sarah Meyrick

The Oxford Diocesan Board of Finance (ODBF) has bought modern offices in Langford Locks, in Kidlington, near Oxford airport. The new offices will be known as ‘Church House Oxford’. At the same time Diocesan Church House (DCH) – a converted former vicarage in North Hinksey village – is on the market.

The decision to move was taken by the Bishop’s Council in February this year after 18 months of careful deliberation. Simply put, the organisation has outgrown the original building, meaning that staff are working in cramped and unsatisfactory working conditions.

This has come about for a number of reasons. In particular, because of the changed political landscape, the education team has expanded to ensure that the Church can continue to deliver its vitally important historic mission to serve the community through its schools. Other staff, such as the Archdeacon of Oxford and the Diocesan Director of Ordinands, also now have office space at DCH which was not previously the case. The Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust (ODST), a multi-academy trust supporting a growing family of academies across the Diocese of Oxford, needs an increasing amount of office space.

Furthermore, there is a significant shortage of meeting space at DCH to hold events and training, and insufficient car parking space around the site. “The building has served us well, but like many organisations, we have found that our needs have changed over time,” said Rosemary Pearce, the Diocesan Secretary. “While we try to be good neighbours in the village, our visitors frequently end up parking their cars all along the narrow North Hinksey Lane and on the grass verges, which is clearly less than ideal and we often have to hire external venues for meetings, and that is both inconvenient and expensive.”

Bishop’s Council charged the diocesan staff to look at a range of options for the future, which included building on to DCH. The buildings team drew up some plans for extensions, but it soon became clear that this would only exacerbate the parking problem. And costings showed that this would almost certainly be more expensive than purchasing a modern office building, not to mention the huge upheaval for visitors and staff during the building and refurbishment works.

“This is a decision that the Bishop’s Council has taken only after a great deal of careful thought and soul searching,” said The Rt Revd Colin Fletcher, the Acting Bishop of Oxford. “We’ve had to think about the long term strategy of the Diocese, not just the immediate squeeze on space. We are planning for the next 15 years. Our vision is that we will provide a place of hospitality and service, a resource centre for the parishes we serve. We also believe that developments such as open-plan working will offer significant advantages in terms of working across teams.

“The project team is now working hard on the fit-out of the new building, to ensure that we make wise decisions about matters such as the best use of space and 21st century IT. It’s been a very big decision, but I’m delighted that we are now in a position to move forward with confidence.”

Sarah Meyrick is the Director of Communications for the Diocese of Oxford. 

Why Kidlington?

Bishop’s Council asked the diocesan team to bring forward proposals to provide a fit-for- purpose office building. The options were limited: we wanted to buy a freehold building, to avoid the costs associated with renting. A number of possibilities across a range of locations were considered. Given the size of the area served by the ODBF staff, no single location is perfect for everyone in the three counties. However, Bishop’s Council members overwhelmingly supported the Kidlington option because of the facilities on offer. The location is accessible by road and public transport. A brand new railway station, Oxford Parkway, has just opened, linking Kidlington to London and Oxford via the Chiltern Line. Because there is sufficient space, Church House Oxford will also house the Dorchester Area Office. A bonus factor is that this will be a convenient location for our new Bishop who will be living in Kidlington.

Won’t it cost a lot of money?

Every move costs money. However, we will be selling DCH, and the good news is that changes in planning laws mean that it is worth significantly more than it was 18 months ago. By buying another office, we have also invested in another asset. Until DCH is sold, it is impossible to give a precise figure for the cost of the move, but the costs are being monitored extremely closely by the diocesan team and the Planning and Budget Sub-Committee of the Bishop’s Council. Because it is modern, the new building is more energy efficient. Ongoing maintenance costs are also expected to be proportionately lower, bearing in mind the number of staff and visitors the building will cater for.
So how will it be paid for?
We will take out a long term loan once DCH is sold and the cost of the move is known. Servicing this loan has been factored into future budgets. But all the calculations have been done on the basis that it will not have a significant impact on the parish share.

What about the DCH staff?

Any such move involves change for our staff and that can be challenging. Members of staff are involved in working out the best options for the layout and fitting out of the offices. There are statutory processes for consultation in such circumstances and HR colleagues are working closely with staff to ensure that the move goes well.

See also the Presentation on office move 14 Nov 15 given by David Mason, Director of Glebe and Buildings, at the meeting of the diocesan synod in November 2015.

Church honours lay people for distinguished service


Five people who have served the Diocese of Oxford and the community at large have been admitted into the Order of St Frideswide at a special service at the Cathedral in Oxford.

The new members are Mary Bayliss from Swallowfield in Berkshire; Peter Bridges from Oxford; Jo Saunders from Burnham in Buckinghamshire; Robin Birch from Oxford; and Geoff Strutt from Steeple Claydon in Buckinghamshire (biographies below). The Order of St Frideswide – named after the patron saint of the City of Oxford – was founded in 2001 by the then Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Richard Harries, as a way of giving recognition to lay people who have given outstanding service to the Church over many years.

The new members were admitted to the Order at a special service of Holy Communion at Christ Church Cathedral on Thursday 22 October 2015.

The Acting Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher, said: “I am delighted that we are able to announce today the names of these five new members of the Order of St Frideswide. Each in their own way has made a distinguished contribution to the life of the Diocese and it will be good to recognise that in our Cathedral later this year. We also look forward to continuing to work with them long into the future alongside the other 15 members of the Order.”


For more information contact Jo Duckles on 01865 208227 or Sarah Meyrick on 01865 208224.


New people admitted to the Order of St Frideswide in October 2015. From left, Robin Birch, Mary Bayliss, Peter Bridges, Geoff Strutt, Jo Saunders and the Acting Bishop of Oxford the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher.

New people admitted to the Order of St Frideswide in October 2015. From left, Robin Birch, Mary Bayliss, Peter Bridges, Geoff Strutt, Jo Saunders and the Acting Bishop of Oxford the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher.



Mary Bayliss: I was educated at St Mary’s, Wantage, and came to live in Berkshire after we married, and our three sons grew up at our home in Swallowfield.  I served for 32 years as a Magistrate on the Reading Bench.   I was appointed High Sheriff of the County in 2005, and also appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant in 2007, and then as Lord Lieutenant in 2008 until early this year.  During my Lieutenancy I have been involved with many charities, with the statutory services and many other organisations.  The Lieutenancy has held several multi-faith Services in the Minster in Reading, the faith leaders having been invited to read prayers.  These have included a Service to commemorate WW1 and Solemn Evensong on 4 August.


Robin Birch: I was invited by Bishop John in 2009 to serve as Chair of the Diocesan Committees concerned with Buildings and Glebe. Both committees are widely representative of all parts of the Diocese, the former being concerned mainly with the care, upkeep and development of clergy housing and the latter with the major contribution made by Glebe to Diocesan resources for the support of clergy stipends or parish share. Aged 75 and married to Jane for 52 years with two sons and five grandchildren, I was a Whitehall civil servant for many years and since retirement 20 years ago have made a new life in Oxfordshire doing voluntary work and as a Deputy Lieutenant from 1996 to 2014. Jane and I have been lifelong worshippers in Christ Church Cathedral, as my College Chapel, where I was Secretary of the Friends for 28 years from 1978, and I am honoured to be admitted to the Order of the Patroness of Oxford and of the Cathedral.


Peter Bridges MBE Born and brought up in Oxford my career was in the city’s retail motor industry. I have been a Justice of the Peace and a Deputy Lieutenant of the County. I serve on the Planning and Budget Sub-Committee and also Chair of the Diocesan Trustees (Oxford) Ltd, having also been on Bishop’s Council, The Oxfordshire Archdeaconry Pastoral Committee, Diocesan Synod and Secretary and  Lay Chairman of the Oxford Deanery. I have worshipped at St Peter’s Church, Wolvercote, Oxford since the late 1950s and served in a whole variety of roles including that of churchwarden, recently chairing the fundraising committee for our buildings development and currently looking after the serving team of 20 young servers.


Jo Saunders Originally a Methodist, I first worked in the diocese as a Girls Friendly Society Industrial Chaplain in Slough from 1984 -1995, working with Anglican and ecumenical ministers. I was confirmed as an Anglican in 1985. I headed the diocesan Industrial Mission team for a year in 1993. From 1995-2003 I was Diocesan Social Responsibility Officer working with over 300 volunteers on social issues, ethics and practical theology.  Since retirement I chaired PACT (Parents and Children Together) for four years, Oxford Diocesan Council for the Deaf for three years, and served six years as Deanery Lay Chair of Burnham and Slough. My husband Bob, a Licensed Lay Minister, was a great support; I have three sons and two grandchildren. Recently widowed, I minister locally in Burnham, and co-ordinate Oasis, the deanery spirituality training project.


Geoff Strutt    I was born in Nottingham, as well as meeting my future wife, Hilary, there when we were both at University.  We began our married life in South Ruislip as I took up an Air Traffic Control job at London Heathrow.  Further postings took us around the country before ending up in the Oxford Diocese working first at London HQ and then in France with Eurocontrol.  I finished my career commuting weekly to Southampton. I have been deanery lay chair and still am a member of both deanery and diocesan synods.  For several years, I have been a member of the Diocesan Board of Education, now serving on the Board’s Finance Committee as well as the Human Resources Panel for DCH.


Members of the Order of St Frideswide


Philip Giddings                                  2001

Penny Keens                                     2002

Tim Russian                                        2003

Brian Smith                                         2005

Elizabeth Higgs                  2005 RIP 2013

Maureen Beadsley                          2006

Hugo Brunner                                    2006

David Wright                                      2006

Chris Burley                                        2008

Judith Scott                                        2008

Martin Mays-Smith         2008 RIP 2014

John Winnington-Ingram              2008

Philip Wroughton                             2008

Mary Saunders                                 2009

William Benyon                 2011 RIP 2014

Owen Jewiss                      2011  RIP 2011

Brian Newey                                      2012

Rosemary Green                              2012

David Jefferson                                                2012

Brewing up for Faitrade Fortnight

Fairtraders are ready for a Big Brew with Bishop Colin in Yarnton, Oxfordshire. Photo: Maranda St John Nicolle.

Fairtraders are ready for a Big Brew with Bishop Colin in Yarnton, Oxfordshire. Photo: Maranda St John Nicolle.

AROUND the diocese, churches are planning to put the kettle on so that Traidcraft’s Big Brew can mark its 10th year with an “extra strong” celebration.

The Big Brew takes place annually in Fairtrade Fortnight. Churches and other groups are invited to hold an event with Fairtrade refreshments, raising awareness of the range of Fairtrade products available and how Fairtrade helps small producers worldwide.
Churches can also raise money for Traidcraft Exchange, the organisation’s charitable wing, which funds research, supports projects and engages in advocacy that helps some of the world’s most marginalised producers.

Over the past decade churches in the Oxford Diocese have hosted some memorable Big Brews – highlights include events like the “Any Brew Will Do” celebration at Purley, featuring Fairtrade fruit kebabs and a Fairtrade puppets show, and Crowthorne Mothers’ Union’s “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” and Fairtrade film night. In 2010 there was even an episcopal “Big Brew,” gathering together Oxfordshire Fairtrade reps at Bishop Colin’s.

This year is no different: in churches like All Saints, Loughton, in Milton Keynes, which will be holding a Big Brew after the service on 1 March; and Garsington in Oxfordshire, which is planning a soup lunch and Fairtrade stall for the previous Saturday – the creative juices are flowing. There’s an added incentive to make this year special: the UK Government has said that it will double all money raised by Big Brews and sent to Traidcraft by 3 April. The doubled money will enable Traidcraft Exchange to help small farmers around the world to grow crops more efficiently, earn more money for them, and have the resources to feed and raise their families.

A Bishop’s Chaplain: ‘A unique position’

graham-sykesA Bishop’s Chaplain is in a unique position in that it is very much focused around supporting one person in their mission and ministry. I have often joked that to be a bishop’s chaplain means that you have to have the skills of being a human coat hanger and book stand, bag carrier, bishop’s memory, shadow and general factotum.

The job is of course much more complicated than that involving support for the clergy, an interface with the Registry over legal issues, dealing sensitively with people in distressing situations sometimes where the Church has hurt them. One of my roles is to be a prayerful sounding board because like every minister the Bishop needs confidential support.

I would encourage all Christians to pray for all ministers including clergy, LLMs and bishops.

What gets me out of bed in a morning is the knowledge that if I do my job well the Bishop is liberated to do the things that he is particularly gifted in, meaning that he can play to his strengths and the bishop’s chaplain’s work strengthens his weaknesses. In my year of service so far I particularly enjoyed the planning of worship at the clergy conference, the planning of logistics of the Thames Pilgrimage, planning the worship for the Grand Day Out and for the Bishop’s farewell service.

During the vacancy my role is to support Bishop Colin and Archdeacon Martin in maintaining all the functions of the Office of the Bishop of Oxford.

Churches reshaped

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Bishop Colin (right) pictured with Basil Eastwood, Chairman of the Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust and Becky Payne who wrote Churches for Communities.

Bishop Colin (left) pictured with Basil Eastwood, Chairman of the Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust and Becky Payne who wrote Churches for Communities. Photo and words by Jo Duckles. 

CHURCHES are being reshaped to once again become the central hubs of communities across the UK.

And some of the best examples have been highlighted in a book published as part of the  50th Anniversary of the Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust.

Post offices, village shops and community centres are relocating into churches as they are redeveloped to retain their authenticity as sacred places of worship while becoming useful on a more practical level. Churches for Communities highlights 25 of these projects. The book, written by Becky Payne, formerly the Policy Officer at the Church of England’s Cathedral and Church Buildings Division illustrates changes taking by focusing on places of worship in the towns and villages of Oxfordshire. The very significant reshaping of these historic churches has been undertaken to meet modern worship needs, to enable the buildings to be used for a wide range of community activities and, increasingly, to deliver vital community services. These projects reconnect the churches with their communities and provide them with a more sustainable future.

Here are stories from the incumbents and the teams, largely of volunteers, who have given their time and energy to raise millions of pounds and to work through the challenges involved in adapting an historic place of worship. We hope that other churches embarking on similar projects will derive inspiration and benefit from the achievements and experiences described here.

In his foreword, the Bishop of Dorchester, the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher, says: “My hope is that this book will help Church Councils and others catch a vision for how their church can best serve its community – and how it can be adapted for doing so where that is needed.” The book was launched at the prestigious Blackwells Bookshop on Oxford’s historic Broad Street on Wednesday, February 19th 2014