New Digital Congregations

Two parishes in the Diocese have seen a growth in their online church community since the start of the pandemic. Read about the experiences of St Mary’s, Hitcham and Winslow Benefice, and their efforts to connect with new online visitors going forwards.

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Many people are asking deep questions of faith. “Come and See” is an invitation to take the first steps in exploring faith.

Over £500,000 awarded by Development Fund

The Diocese of Oxford has announced that they will be supporting eighteen churches across Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire as part of their third round of Development Fund grant awards. The Development Fund is a grassroots project which 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 nearly £1.5million to over seventy local church projects across the Diocese.

Projects awarded in this round of funding fell into four key areas: ministry (social action, children and youth), buildings and resourcing hubs as well as a number of smaller awards. Grants to create diocesan-supported resourcing hubs saw the largest share of awards with two projects being awarded six figure sums to help build thriving new congregations in both established and new areas of population.

Growing new congregations is a vital part of the Diocese of Oxford’s work in becoming a more Christ-like Church for the sake of God’s world. 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.

The Revd. Simon Kirby, vicar at St Mary’s, Cogges and Associate Area Dean, Witney, along with volunteers and local staff, developed an application to the Development Fund to help them become a Market Town ‘resourcing hub’, planting fresh expressions of church, equipping rural church mission and supporting church and congregation planting in the Cotswolds and beyond.

Revd. Kirby goes on to say,

“A Christ-like Church has to be outward looking demonstrating compassion to its community and beyond. Christ gave himself for others and a Christ-like church will demonstrate a willingness to give its resources away, to build the kingdom of God. We are resolved to invest the resources we have been given boldly for the sake of the kingdom of God not hoard them in fear, recognising that this means we may develop people of faith and send them out from us, with our support and prayer.

“The grant from the Development Fund, which we will receive over six years, will be transformational in terms of being able to help and share our experiences with other churches and communities not only through local initiatives but also through working with the National Church and their Greenhouse Development Cycle, to design, grow and cultivate new expressions of church.”

Other recipients of grants include Buckinghamshire based, holiday youth club, Lighthouse, who run non-residential weeklong holiday clubs for children in many different locations across the Diocese, run entirely by volunteers from local churches. They worked in close partnership and were sponsored by Wycombe Deanery and the funding that they receive will support their online ‘continuity’ experience at key points throughout the year (Halloween, Christmas, Easter) to extend the reach of their existing high energy summer holiday club experience.

Speaking of the impact of the grant, Director of Lighthouse, Patricia Reading said,

“Lighthouse Central is very excited to be able to launch our new continuity project, a series of ‘as live’ TV shows at key times of the year: a Light Party, Christmas and Easter, thanks to the very generous grant from the Development Fund.

“This project will be the glue that keeps the Lighthouse family together throughout the year, between our fantastic physical events each summer, delivering the fun, faith and engagement of Lighthouse both locally and those further afield.

“We are so grateful to the Development Fund for supporting this project and to Wycombe Deanery for sponsoring and supporting us through the application process”

The amount of money available to parishes and benefices in the Diocese of Oxford is c.£1million per year over the next three years. Grant applications must support local projects that are missionally creative, reflect where God is at work in the community and encourage wider learning across the Diocese.

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

“We have seen such innovative projects being mooted and it has truly been a difficult task to decide who will receive funding but ultimately, those who succeeded really demonstrated their understanding of, and desire to work towards a more contemplative, compassionate and courageous church for the sake of God’s world.

“We know that there is some incredible work going on across the Diocese, in both large and small parishes and we would encourage anyone with bold, new ideas, to apply to the fund. We have supported a range of projects from the provision of improved audio-visual facilities (including a loop system) to grow the connection between churches and community groups, to expanding social action projects such as meal provision and domestic abuse support, to developing an outdoor prayer garden with the children of local schools – if you have an idea, we’d love to hear about it and support you on your journey.

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 are now open and close on 31st January 2021.

Climate emergency


Schools, churches, parishioners and families will have to work together if we are to achieve net zero.

New Associate Archdeacons ready to help

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The leadership team that serves the Church in the Thames Valley is supported by three Associate Archdeacons. As parishes begin to emerge from lockdown and focus once again on our common vision to become a more Christ-like Church, our three Associate Archdeacons will have their sleeves rolled up and ready to help. Read more

A Christ-like Church

In September it will be three years since we set out our common vision. A wealth of resources are now available.

The chance to develop your gifts

How did a Personal Discipleship Plan help Paul with his everyday faith? Could you benefit from a PDP? Find out more…

Helping churches discern God’s call


The Revd Emily Davis explains how how the Parish Planning Tool has helped her parish to become more Christ-like

First grants from new Development Fund to help local churches

The Development Fund panel discuss grant applications


First grants made from new £3m Development Fund to help churches become more Christ-like.

Mission projects in churches across the Diocese of Oxford are set to benefit from £3m worth of grants over three years. The first round of grant-making saw 60 applications from parishes, benefices and deaneries from across the Diocese of Oxford. The amount of money requested was for £1.6m, far exceeding the initial funding pot.

The cash is from the diocese’s Development Fund, launched earlier this year to enable missional creativity and help churches with practical ways to become more Christ-like. The Development Fund is a grassroots approach that asks local churches to discern God’s call in their area.

Projects awarded in the first round of grants include establishing and developing Café and Messy Church, strengthening links with church schools, encouraging baptisms, staging a ‘Narnia’ exhibition, new loos and kitchenettes in churches, a shower and washing machines for homeless people, help for areas where there has been substantial population growth and much more. With a number of grants supporting or match funding larger schemes, the Development Fund monies of £295,000 represent an overall investment towards local church projects with a total value of £5m

John Sykes, Diocesan Synod Lay Chair and Chair of the Development Fund Review Panel said, “Not every new initiative to become more Christ-like needs funding to get going, but some do. The Panel had the challenging but rewarding task of deciding which projects would be successful in their bids for the first round of funding. We were delighted by the high standard and thoughtful nature of the applications we received.”

Janet Rogers, programme manager for the fund, said: “Some projects may not have been given a grant, but we’re supporting them in other ways. For example, parishes who were looking for help with their websites and social media will be invited to training workshops to form a learning community.”

Other parishes will receive support and advice for youth and children’s initiatives and help to set up new congregations.

“It’s been about much more than just the funding,” added Janet. “We’ve been able to help parishes with creative and practical approaches to their projects and we’re excited to see what the second round of funding applications will bring.”

The deadline for the next round of applications is 31 January 2020. Information about the Development Fund together with guidance for applicants is available online at:

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Notes for editors

Images of the Development Fund panel meeting to discuss and agree the first round of applications are available here (credit: Jo Duckles/Diocese of Oxford)

Specific grants awarded

• St Mary’s Church, Chesterton – helping the Café church to run for a second year
• Ivinghoe with Pitstone – extra resources for Messy Church
• Loddon Reach Benefice – funds to extend the parish magazine to reach out to the new housing in the area.
• St Luke’s, Maidenhead – creative resources for baptism families
• Dorchester Abbey – support for the acclaimed ‘Narnia’ exhibition, returning in 2020
• North Bucks Deaneries – provision of the “Rest-a-While” marquee for visitors at the Bucks County Show for three years
• St Mary’s, Bloxham – tables for Care Church and help for Messy Church
• Ladygrove in Didcot – funding for welcome activities for people from two new housing estates with 2,500 new homes
• St Clement’s, Oxford – set-up costs for new monthly “Shared Space” event
• St Joseph’s, Newton Leys – a laptop for a small but fast-growing church
• St Michael’s, Horton – establish and stock a community food cupboard to help people in the community
• Benson – A ‘Stations of the Cross’ sculpture exhibition in the churchyard with links to the Thames Pilgrim Path
• Reading St Luke with St Bartholomew – Extend the parish garden project with a new greenhouse to enable activities to run all year round
• St John’s Stone – new toilets and an improved kitchen to allow greater community use of the church
• Wallingford Deanery – A conference for all churches in the deanery to develop joint mission initiatives for the new housing in the area.
• Emmanuel Church, Woodley – Neighbourhood Centre building project to increase support for community outreach
• St Mary’s, Ashbury – toilet and kitchenette facilities to make the church more welcoming and hospitable to visitors
• St Mary’s Cogges – an associate minister to develop Cogges as a resourcing hub for the Witney area
• North Leigh – to build and develop links between churches and schools in Witney and Woodstock
• St Andrew’s, Dean Court, Oxford – Redeveloping a wooden 1960s building to reach out and serve the community in new ways
• St Michael at the North Gate, Oxford – an additional part-time minister for three years to establish the future mission and growth in city centre ministry
• St Barnabas, Jericho – funding for a youth and children’s community choir
• All Saints’ Sutton Courtenay – key contribution to upgrade church facilities
• Eton Wick – work with families and the school to serve new unchurched families
• All Saints, Dedworth – a shower and washroom with washing machines for the homeless
• St Michael’s, Sandhurst – to extend the existing family worker’s remit to the local school and the new housing close to the church
• The Claydons – improve the visitor facilities for the church and graveyard

Serving to Build Community in Thatcham

Making a bigger difference


The need for social justice is fundamental to our Common Vision to become a more Christ-like Church.