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Bishops and church leaders lend support to Give Hope campaign

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The Rt Revds Dr Steven Croft, Alan Wilson and Olivia Graham join other bishops and church leaders to help combat misinformation about the national vaccine programme.

Bells for those lost in the Cataraqui shipwreck of 1845

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St Nicholas church, Tackley, commemorate the 42 souls lost in the Cataraqui shipwreck of 1845 by tolling the funeral bells.

Islip tribute to local heroes

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The community of Islip are brightening up people’s lockdown walks by handmaking models in tribute to their local key workers.

Prayer for the Nation

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As the UK’s Covid-19 death toll sadly passes 100,000, the bishops from the Diocese of Oxford reflect on how we can pray for our nation.

Festival of Interests, St Peter & St Paul, Great Missenden

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Members of St Peter and St Paul’s congregation have been continuing to arrange a series of online activities to keep members of the community in touch during the pandemic.

St Marys Banbury awarded Development Fund grant

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St Mary’s Church in Banbury has been awarded c.£90,000 over three years to help support a stipendiary chaplain for the arts, Revd Sarah Bourne. Sarah, a musician and classics teacher prior to ordination in 2015, will develop and lead a range of church-based transformational and creative activities to help the local community cope with the restrictions of COVID-19 and to rebuild shared lives in an increasingly fractured society.

St Mary’s is among the top 15% of the most deprived neighbourhoods in England and in the top 10% of areas most affected by health deprivation and disability, where people are at risk of premature death or an impaired quality of life through poor physical or mental health. It is hoped that this project will provide the opportunity to build on what Sarah and her team have been piloting for the last 18 months. Through a dedicated outreach programme, Sarah has established strong links with local state and private schools, Banbury College, North Oxfordshire Cultural Education Programme, Oxfordshire County Music Service, TEDx Banbury, Rotary clubs, local supermarkets, care homes and assisted living residences. It is hoped that these links will continue to flourish, reaching a broad range of the community and beyond, improving their wellbeing by using arts and creative opportunities. As Sarah says,

“The vision is not about overt proselytization, but about transforming the community.”

Having worked closely with the choristers in both the boys’ and girls’ cathedral choirs during the second part of her curacy at Coventry Cathedral and having been exposed to reconciliation ministry (the Community of the Cross of Nails, or CCN), Sarah knew that her next calling would be focused on arts and pioneer ministry; finding different ways of engaging with people and helping them to discover how God is at work in their lives through additional, non-traditional means.

Up until the onset of COVID-19, Sarah had initiated various workshops as part of her pilot project including art workshops (which included cake!), music workshops, which led to the establishment of a group of occasional singers called St Mary’s Festival singers, and a Meet the Author session in a local restaurant. Obviously, COVID-19 has put paid to a number of these in-person events, but this hasn’t stopped Sarah, and after a whistle-stop training session on social media and livestreaming, she moved online, establishing weekly livestreamed compline, followed by a lively discussion group.

Sarah explains,

“We’re particularly blessed with the online discussion groups, which have begun attracting visiting speakers. This week, we will be joined by a university student CCN partner, who currently lives in Germany and will be discussing their understanding of reconciliation ministry and what life is like in Germany now.

Yes, COVID-19 has caused some technical and practical bumps in the road, but we are beginning to establish a core group of participants – usually about 16 join us, which is far more than we would get for an in-person compline service. We even attracted 25 people for the Ministry of Healing session!”

Perhaps most excitingly is how far reaching, geographically, these sessions are becoming, with speakers and participants hailing from all over Europe, including Norway and Germany, helping to demonstrate that Sarah’s role reaches far beyond parish and county boundaries.

Sarah concludes,

“The beneficiaries of this grant are wide ranging; they will be the people of Banbury area – local school pupils, the socio-economically disadvantaged unable to afford leisure activities, elderly people and those living with dementia, people suffering with mental health issues (especially caused by the pandemic), and St Mary’s congregation, as well as those outside our community. The distinctive nature of this project is that it crosses boundaries of parish and county, engaging people of all faiths and none, embodying the idea of an inclusive church.”

If you would like to find out about the arts at BSM, please visit their Facebook page or website.

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 are now open and close on 31 January 2021.

Curate takes worship digital to help support the children of his parish

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The Rev. Kevin Colyer has discovered a great new way to engage and get to know the younger members of his congregation through digital worship and the computer game, Minecraft.

Maidenhead curate joins the battle against Covid-19

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Revd Phyllis Sopp is spending two days a week delivering Covid-19 vaccines, alongside her curacy with St Luke’s Church, Maidenhead.

Revd Phyllis says, “Hospital staff are exhausted and at breaking point. It was almost like a weight lifted when I realised there was something positive I could do for the cause, which is to try and improve the situation before people get sick.”

Read the full story in Church Times.

St Paul’s Wokingham provide local NHS staff with practical and spiritual support

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Examples of donated food

As a congregation, St Paul’s Wokingham have been praying regularly for the staff at their local hospital, the Royal Berkshire Hospital (RBH), but wanted to do more. So, their vicar Revd Richard Lamey and his team put out a call to see what more could be done to support the incredible efforts of their local NHS staff.

As it happened, two members of St Paul’s congregation were RBH staff and were able to provide real insight into what would make their colleagues’ working days a little brighter. The first, much more practical solution was to donate high-quality food and drink, such as squash and individually wrapped cakes and biscuits, as this would help to lift the spirits and energy levels of staff during their long shifts.

The second suggestion was a much more personal one. It was the idea of keeping the NHS staff in the congregation’s thoughts; as the RBH staff member said, “Just knowing we are being thought about would be brilliant – notes and cards would be a real boon in the darkest moments.”

A thank you card to RBH staff from a local school child

So, the community around St Paul’s, including some of the local schools, rallied round and very quickly notes and letters began appearing for the staff at RBH. Some were emailed directly to the RBH Chaplaincy, whilst others were delivered to St Paul’s, where they were quarantined and then passed onto the hospital.

Whilst it is still early days, about 50 notes have been delivered and £220 worth (the equivalent of 12 Bags for Life) of refreshments have been donated by the community, which have been shared around at least eight different wards, including ICU and Elderly Care.

And it seems that their efforts have been much appreciated, with one matron writing in a thank you note,

“I am a matron in surgery at the RBH. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to your church for their very thoughtful and generous donations. They have been distributed to frontline clinical areas within the hospital and staff have been so touched by this kind gesture. It is so nice of you all to think of us. Hoping that you are all keeping safe and are looking forward to brighter days ahead. Many thanks.”

If you are local to the RBH and would like to help, please email Revd Richard Lamey. For more information, visit the St Paul’s website.

Read more of the story on Wokingham Today.


Bletchley curate makes social media waves

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Using Tik Tok to reach people and share the good news of God’s love, Rev. Steve Hallet, a 2nd year curate at St Frideswide’s church in Bletchley, is bringing words of comfort to many during these difficult times and his videos seem to have hit the mark as he has gone viral, with 180,000 followers.

Church on Berryfields Wins Proud of Bucks Award

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An Aylesbury church’s compassionate response to the coronavirus crisis has landed them a Proud of Bucks award for local impact.

How to smile this Christmas

This is a message from Bishop Steven for all the children in the Diocese of Oxford: in our churches and in our schools. There are more than 60 thousand of you – that’s a lot – and all of you are very special. He needs your help…