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Hundreds flock to the first Festival of Preaching

by Sarah Meyrick

FOUR hundred and fifty clergy and lay preachers came to Christ Church Oxford this month to take part in the first ever Festival of Preaching hosted by the College, the Cathedral and St Aldate’s Church.

The Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford, preaches at St Aldate’s.

The 48-hour festival was organised by the Church Times and Canterbury Press, part of the Hymns A&M group, and featured a top line-up of internationally respected speakers. These included the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford, and well known in the Diocese of Oxford from his time as Bishop of Reading, and the Revd Dr Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields in London, who spoke at the last diocesan clergy conference in 2014.

Bishop Stephen spoke with passion and energy about the craft of preaching and the importance of being heard. One comment he often hears at the church door is, “Thank you. I heard every word, Bishop.” Either, he said, this meant it was a terrible sermon, and the listener couldn’t think of anything else to say; or the comment suggested that being able to hear every word was a novel experience. He also stressed the importance of storytelling, and debunked the idea that congregations had short attention spans. “Just think about stand-up comedians,” he said. “They fill arenas and sometimes talk for two hours.”

Other speakers included Nadia Bolz-Weber, an ordained Lutheran pastor from Denver and the author of two New York Times bestsellers; Paula Gooder, Director of Mission Learning and Development for the Diocese of Birmingham; Canon Mark Oakley, Chancellor of St Paul’s; the Dean of Christ Church, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy; and the Revd Dr Joanna Collicutt who is the Oxford Diocesan Adviser on the Spiritual Care for Older People as well as a lecturer at Ripon College Cuddesdon.

Palestine unlocked

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OXFORD’S first Palestinian festival takes place from 4 to 21 June 2015.

The city will be filled with Palestinian creativity and life. The festival will be showcasing Palestinian theatre, film, food, music, art, photography, craft and dancing, as well as ‘unlocking’ the realities of life in Palestine.

Events will happen across a range of city venues from Pegasus Theatre in East Oxford to Barefoot Books in Summertown including the Phoenix Picturehouse, several Oxford churches and colleges, the Town Hall and Bonn Square.

For more information www.palestine.unlocked/about.

Report praises the distinctive identity of St Stephen’s House

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THE Ministry Division of the Church of England has expressed confidence in St Stephen’s House, Oxford, in an inspection report which praised the college for its “clear and distinctive identity which informs all aspects of its life”.

The report published today spoke of “a community at ease and comfortable with embracing a variety of perspectives and traditions on numerous issues whilst situated clearly within a distinct theological and spiritual tradition.”

St Stephen’s House received 12 out of a possible 16 ‘confidence’ outcomes, covering a range of criteria including practical and pastoral theology, teaching, and ministerial, personal and spiritual formation. The report also made 20 recommendations, noting that “the majority of these are for making good practice better rather than highlighting substantive problems.”

Responding to the findings of the report, The Revd Canon Dr Robin Ward, Principal of St Stephen’s House, said: “We are delighted to have received a verdict of overall confidence from the inspection team.

“It is a strong endorsement of the importance of residential formation for the priesthood in the catholic tradition, as offered here at St Stephen’s House.  This is very important at a time of change and renewal for ordination training in the Church of England.
“I would like to thank the inspectors for their work, and the staff and students of the college for their dedication and enthusiasm.”

The full report is available here. 

 

ENDS

Notes to editors

The review framework for Theological Education Institutions

On behalf of the sponsoring churches, review teams are asked to assess the fitness for purpose of the training institution for preparing candidates for ordained and licensed ministry and to make recommendations for the enhancement of the life and work of the institution.

Within the structures of the Church of England, this report has been prepared for the House of Bishops acting through the Ministry Council.

In coming to their judgements, reviewers are asked to use the following outcomes with regard to the overall outcome and individual criteria:
Confidence

Overall outcome: a number of recommendations, none of which question the generally high standards found in the review.

Criteria level: aspects of an institution’s life which show good or best practice.
Confidence with qualifications

Overall outcome: A number of recommendations, including one or more of substance that questions the generally acceptable standards found in the review and which can be rectified or substantially addressed by the institution in the coming 12 months.

Criteria level: aspects of an institution’s life which show either (a) at least satisfactory practice but with some parts which are not satisfactory or (b) some unsatisfactory practice but where the institution has the capacity to address the issues within 12 months.

 

No confidence

Overall outcome: A number of recommendations, including one or more of substance which raise significant questions about the standards found in the review and the capacity of the institution to rectify or substantially address these in the coming 12 months.

Criteria level: aspects of an institution’s life which show either (a) generally not satisfactory practice or (b) some unsatisfactory practice where it is not evident that the institution can rectify the issues within the coming 12 months.

Help prevent the spread of Ebola

CHURCH members are being urgently asked to pray, give and act to support people working non-stop for an end to the deadliest ever Ebola outbreak.

Medical staff from the UK are particularly being called on to consider whether they could join teams to staff treatment centres in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Janice Proud, the Relief and Programmes Manager of the Anglican Alliance, reported that there have been nearly 5,000 reported deaths from the virus so far.

“The epidemic is critically serious,” Janice said. “Despite the current international response the number of people infected is expected to continue to increase. Other countries are preparing in case Ebola spreads further afield.”

Janice, who is married to the Rt Revd Andrew Proud, the Bishop of Reading, noted that the UK is not at risk because we have strong health care systems compared to the under-resourced areas affected.

Churches take action

Churches in the affected countries are already taking action. They have strong grassroots links, and church leaders are working to spread correct Ebola-prevention messaging, to promote safe burial practices, to help people deal with grief in communities when traditional funeral rituals are not possible, and to prevent stigmatisation of survivors.

In addition they are supporting medical work. Janice reports that the Bishop of Freetown has provided land for the construction of an isolation unit; the Diocese of Liberia has provided food for patients at a clinic in Monrovia; and the Diocese of Guinea, with the support of Anglican mission agency Us, has been distributing protective kits and equipping church clinics.

Milton Keynes based World Vision is one of many charities working to combat Ebola. Justin Byworth, its Chief Executive, noted: “World Vision have been working to educate people and tackle the stigma as well as providing thousands of sets of protective gear to front line health workers.”

To illustrate the scale of the issues, he told the story of Sarah from Sierra Leone who went to a clinic with her four-year-old son. “Sarah was unconscious for three days but when she came round she learned her child had died. ‘I don’t know what happened to him or how his body was buried. They gave me a certificate to say I was Ebola free, and I came home but my neighbours have told me they don’t want me here,’ she said.”

Justin said World Vision teams were also working non-stop to provide burials for victims. He quoted a member of one team, who said: “It is heartbreaking to watch these families but all we can do is ensure people are buried safely and with some dignity.”

Meanwhile Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood launched an appeal for young reporters in Liberia to save lives through the Children’s Radio Foundation. The President and Executive Chair of the Foundation is the Revd Charlotte Bannister-Parker, who is a priest in Summertown in Oxford. Colin said: “The Children’s Radio Foundation has a unique network of young radio journalists and radio stations across five African countries including Liberia, the epicentre of the disease. These young reporters can play a vital role in the fight against the epidemic – helping to bring life-saving information to their communities. Radio is the best way to get through to people.”

 

Around the Deaneries: Oxford

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THE Oxford Deanery is a varied one with a range of traditions from St Ebbe’s and St Aldate’s at the low church end, through to St Mary Magdalene at the high church end.Deanery Map Oxford for front page

Within those churches there are associated colleges, chaplains, ministries to tourists, students and the homeless. There are parishes that attract 1,000 people every Sunday and those that attract a dozen.

The Revd Mark Butchers, Area Dean, said: “There are rural parishes like Wytham and suburban parishes like Wolvercote and St Margaret’s in Summertown and parishes in city centre ministry. The variety is phenomenal and that presents lots of challenges.”

At a recent deanery meeting the Revd Graham Sykes, Bishop John’s Chaplain and chairman of the Door’s Editorial Support Group, gave a talk on maps of mission. Meanwhile the Revd Jane Sherwood, from St Luke’s, Cold Harbour, presented on the amazing transformation of the building into a community facility. (See the Door, April 2014 for an indepth report on this).

“We had a third presentation about the work in Cutteslowe undertaken by the Cutteslowe Church Partnership. This is a joint partnership between St Peter’s, St Michael’s, St Andrew’s and Summertown URC. One of the things they discussed were the great strides that were made in establishing new work and outreach.”

In Wolvercote itself, where Mark is the Rector, the church is coming to the end of a £700,000 development project to renew the buildings for community use. “We have just come close to finishing the building work. We have a lovely new set of buildings connected to the church and they are being well used by the local community,” says Mark. “We also have the Wolvercote Church Partnership with Wolvercote Baptist and we organised something called the Living Love, Loving Life course which attracted 35 to 40 people. We are hoping to repeat that in the autumn and we are hoping people will say to their friends ‘that was a good course, why not come along.’”

“All deaneries developed a deanery map about 18 months ago and we have set up a communications group to take some of the recommendations forward and as a result we have carved out funding for 12 hours per week for a deanery mission enabler to work with the communications group to take things forward. We got the agreement of every single PCC and I’m delighted abou that,” said Mark.

Enabling mission

by Paula Clifford

Oxford Deanery Mission Enabler. If you think the job title is a mouthful, just imagine how challenging the job itself is. Contrary to what I’ve heard said, it’s not about telling people how to do mission. The clue is in the word “enabler”.

Paula Clifford

Paula Clifford

We all know that the Oxford deanery is rich in resources of all kinds, allowing us to plough our own furrows pretty effectively. We reflect every conceivable church tradition and we rejoice in our differences.

The challenge, I think, is twofold. First, there’s the challenge of communications. All too often we reinvent the wheel, partly because we can, but partly too because we’ve little idea what our near neighbours are up to. So one priority is to set up ways in which information can be shared quickly and easily, through a website and through social media.

Secondly, there’s the challenge of working together. When it comes to mission, some churches are doing pretty well on their own. But we could do more and do it better together: together as Anglicans, together with Christians of other denominations, and of course working alongside our neighbours in Cowley.

Back in the 1980s, the bigger Oxford churches ran a three-term course called Christians in Oxford Lay Training (the COLT course). There were lectures, group work and the experience of going out on mission together to towns and villages far and wide. The course ran for a few years and was attended by people from across the Oxford and Cowley deaneries. Now any one of those organising churches could have put on something good on their own. But they did it together, and as we listened to and learned from one another the course became special, very much more than the sum of its parts.

Enabling mission isn’t always about the big projects. It’s about following our passions more effectively because we are in it together. And above all it’s about offering residents and visitors alike a lively image of the kingdom of God in our city.

The Revd Dr Paula Clifford is Oxford’s new Deanery Mission Enabler.

Free singing lessons

TODDLERS learn music theory at a free music event run by the Revd Sally Welch and Liz Holmes at St Margaret’s Church, Oxford on Saturdays.

Up to 30 children from babies aged less than a year to seven-year-olds are split into two groups, the under threes and the over threes. Sally, who takes the under threes, said: “For the small children we use jigsaws with the first line of a nursery rhyme. They make it up and then sing the low notes and the high notes.”

After an hour of musical theory, the children play while the adults eat cake. “It’s been going for about two-and-a-half years and it attracts people who want to introduce their children to singing. The group happens three times every month, with one Saturday being dedicated to a different event, with coffee, croissants, newspapers and arts for children. “We get people who don’t go to church at all, people from St Margaret’s and different churches.

“It’s not about a religious agenda and the music we use is secular. It’s simply a gift to the community. We just want people to come along and enjoy it,” added Sally.

The Cutteslowe Partnership

CHURCH leaders are looking to the next steps in a successful inter-tradition partnership in north Oxford.2013-02-17 Messy Church Feb 2013 010

The Cutteslowe partnership is an ecumenical group of churches, including St Andrew’s and St Michael and All Angels, both in Summertown, that is currently considering establishing a worshipping community on the Cutteslowe estate.

The Revd Gavin Knight, of St Michael’s, said: “We have different ideas of how this might be achieved but we are listening and working together. In the next few months, St Michael’s will be commissioning a parish audit to examine the areas of greatest need and spiritual deprivation in the parish. We have some very exciting plans but would like to defer these until we are confident that our vision relates to God’s mission in this part of his world.”

St Andrew’s began to work in Cutteslowe 12 years ago, at the invitation of David Trebilcock, a community worker who is now the pastor of Woodstock Road Baptist Church. A restorative justice scheme was among the projects launched. The Revd Andrew Wingfield Digby, Rector of St Andrews, said: “The work has developed over the years and we have always been conscious that for there  to be a long term impact on a very needy community it needs to be made in cooperation with parishes in which the estate lies.”

Three years ago the Cutteslowe Church Partnership was formed which included the three Anglican churches and the Summertown URC. A formal agreement was signed in which we agreed to respect each other’s traditions and seek to work together for the transformation of the community.”

Andrew says: “Of course we have our differences but there is great respect and we are united in our desire to serve a community which has been marginalised and treated unjustly for generations.”

Prayer drumming during Holy Week

PRAYER drumming and a labyrinth were among the attractions at St Mary’s Kildington during Holy Week. Prayer took place every day throughout the week, starting with morning prayer at 9am and ending with Compline at 9pm. The Rector, the Revd Felicity Scroggie said St Mary’s joined forces with Methodists, Baptists, a free church and two other Anglican churches for the event.

“We had prayer stations set up, daily newspapers to encourage people to use them as a daily prayer sheet, had a Taizè service and prayer drumming. One woman said to me she’d love to get into prayer drumming.

“It was the most amazing week. Members of the public came in. One little girl aged seven came with her grandfather. She walked the labyrinth three times and when they left she turned to her grandand and asked if she could go back in because there was so much to do.

“We had a tragic funeral at the start of the week and people asked how we would cope with a prayer event. We said it was okay, because that is what churches do. We said people could light a candle for the young man who died. The family were able to come back and be in the church surrounded by people who were praying, which is exactly what we should be doing as a church.”

Pentecost lunch

The next event will be a Pentecost lunch in the High Street with Christian street theatre, entertainment and family fun. There will be a 10.30am ecumenical Pentecost service at St Mary’s and at noon The Big Lunch Event in the Village centre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Floods hit Diocese

FLOODING looked set to continue to rise across the Oxford Diocese over the weekend.

Oxford had been badly hit, with two of the main roads into the city closed due to the water. In the middle of the floods, St Luke’s Church, off Abingdon Road, had been offered as a refuge for those homes in the surrounding area. Vicar, The Revd Jane Sherwood said: “Our church building is built 18 inches higher than the previous one to prevent flooding. We’ve offered the church as a shelter for the last few days.” Jane said St Luke’s is also working with vulnerable people in the community as they clean up homes that have been flooded. Meanwhile at St Frideswide’s on Botley Road, the electrics were not working as flood waters entered the building.

Have you been hit by the floods?Roads are closed due to flooding in Oxford If so contact Jo Duckles on jo.duckles@oxford.anglican.org or 01865 208227.