The Rt. Revd Olivia Graham, Bishop of Reading, speaks at vigil for Reading school boy


10 January 2021

The Rt. Revd Olivia Graham, Bishop of Reading, spoke today ahead of a vigil held for Oliver Stephens, who was murdered last week.

Bishop Olivia said,

“Thank you all for coming. It is so heart warming and comforting to see a community gathered together at a time like this, and Olly’s family feel very supported by the love, care and sympathy which you and many others have shown them.

“Olly’s death has been a huge and tragic shock to this community, and far, far wider. It has spotlighted the devastating effect on a family of losing a child, and the devastating effect for other families of realising that their child may have been involved in an appalling act of violence. This event has changed many lives forever.

“But more than that, it has spotlighted a culture, a sickness which exists in the world that many of our young people inhabit. The reasons for it are complex. The results of it are appalling. But we have to ask ourselves why our young people are carrying knives? What is it telling us about ourselves and our society?

“We are going through a time of heightened anxiety, fear and uncertainty as we deal with the COVID pandemic and all that it has meant for us. There has never been a time when it is more important to hold together and stand strong as a community and to look out for one another. The compassion which this community has shown in the aftermath of this tragic murder has been wonderful to see. Let it not end here. Let’s continue each day to work to make things better; to look out for and look after each other; to bless each other with random acts of kindness. And let’s hold onto the light of hope in the midst of this darkness.”

If you are worried about a child, there are organisations that can help;  The Ben Kinsella Trust has a lot of helpful information.

A new neighbourhood centre for Woodley

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Builders are getting ready to start laying the foundations of a Neighbourhood Centre at Emmanuel Church, Woodley, Reading.

Celebrating World Book Day


FAMILIES enjoyed a delicious breakfast while getting to enjoy the pleasure of reading books together at Christ the Sower Ecumenical School in Milton Keynes today. Read more

Children enjoy reading on a new library with a difference

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CHRISTMAS came early for staff and pupils at St Laurence’s CE School in Warborough as their new library with a difference was literally driven into the school grounds.

The wheels on this bus don’t go round but it does provide a great library for children from St Laurence’s CE School, Warborough. Photo: Jo Duckles

Previously, a large bookshelf in the multi-purpose hall at the village school in Oxfordshire was hidden behind the stage. It was the only library facility.

Now pupils are excited as they board the brightly decorated bus, which has been decked out with bean bags, to read their favourite books.

“It gives us a new learning space as well,” says Nic Cooper, the headteacher, who spearheaded a fundraising campaign to buy the bus. “The Parents and Friends Association went out to the community to leaflet drop every house, asking people to buy a share in the bus. The fundraising really took off, everyone put their hearts and souls into it.”

Pupils are already enjoying the bus. Libby, nine, said: “I like it because it is bright and colourful.” Libby says she enjoys reading Jacqueline Wilson books because of the comedy in them.

Taylor, eight, says: “I like that you can come here and enjoy reading.” Arthur, eight, added: “I just think it’s great and different that our new library is a bus.” Arthur says his favourite books are the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.

Refurbished buses are proving a popular way of increasing learning spaces at CE schools. In April 2016 the Door reported on a new library rolling into St Francis CE School in Oxford:

In October 2015 a learning zone on wheels was driven into Earley St Peter CE School in Berskhire. Watch a video here

Has your school found an innovative way to create a new library, gym or learning space? Contact Jo Duckles on or 01865 208227.

New Church led schools trust aims to work for excellence in education in Reading

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A PARTNERSHIP between an ‘outstanding’ Church school and its neighbour that had previously been judged by Ofsted as failing led to the formation of a new Multi Academy Trust.

When New Town Primary School in Reading was placed in special measures by Ofsted, the local authority asked for support from St John’s CE Primary School, which is nearby. Angharad Brackstone, the Headteacher of St John’s, became Executive Headteacher of both schools. She led a joint staff-team which has worked to see St John’s remain outstanding while New Town is now out of special measures and is continuing to improve. The leadership of New Town school was judged good at its recent inspection.

The success of the partnership has spearheaded the launch of the brand new Royal County of Berkshire Schools Trust. The new trust, with strong links to the Diocese of Oxford, (the Church of England for Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire) launches today.

It is based on the successful model of the Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust (ODST) which launched in 2012 and now boasts 18 schools. Like them, RCBST will help schools pool resources to provide the best possible education to pupils. It will also continue to secure some support services from Reading Borough Council and to draw on the expertise and experience at the Oxford Diocesan Board of Education which is responsible for more than 284 Church schools serving a total of 60,000 pupils.

Anne Davey, Diocesan Director of Education, said: “We were delighted to see the success of the joint working between these two schools in Reading. We hope this is the start of another successful Multi Academy Trust that will help us to offer an excellent, inclusive education to more children of all faiths and none.”

David Langshaw, Chair of Governors, said: “This is really good news for both schools as it allows us to continue working together to provide a great education for the children in our neighbourhood. Our partnership has shown that we work very well together and we are looking forward to continuing with this work.”

Angharad said: “Becoming part of RCBST is great news for our community. It will enable our schools to go from strength to strength allowing the partnership between New Town and St John’s to continue to develop and flourish.”




Love Is service at Greyfriars, Reading

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CHILDREN from Church schools across Reading took part in craft activities, singing and drama, at the annual Love Is service for Year Six pupils at Greyfriars Church, Reading. The event culminated in a service in the church on Wednesday 8 July. Services have also taken place at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford and in Bucklebury. IMG_8540 IMG_8548 IMG_8563 IMG_8628 IMG_8648 IMG_8673

Around the Deaneries: Reading


Opening up Reading Minster and even making plans to incorporate a temporary skatepark into the historic church are all the work of the new Rector Stephen Pullin.

The Revd Stephen Pullin outside Reading Minster. Photo: Jo Duckles

The Revd Stephen Pullin outside Reading Minster. Photo: Jo Duckles

Stephen was inspired to make the historic church of St Mary the Virgin more open after an interview with a Reading Post journalist who commented that her impressions were that the building was frequently closed. Since then he has hired the verger, Richard Ashfield, who looks after the practical aspects of the building as well as welcoming visitors, answering questions and offering pastoral support.

I met Stephen at his offices near the Minster. He took me over to the historic church to show me around and introduce me to Richard. The verger was busy moving pews following a memorial service that had attracted 500 people the previous day. Richard, who clearly loves his job, said that the church now attracts 550 to 600 people each week, with more than 1,000 in the school holidays.
“People come in, have a look round and might sit and light a candle and pray. Others have a walk around the church for about 20 to 30 minutes. Some say they have never been in a church like it. Some read the Bible on their iPad while others read a newspaper.”

The Minster is not a residential parish and on Sundays congregation members drive in from miles around for a traditional sung Eucharist. So Stephen is looking for innovative ways of expanding the Minster’s ministry, including Sanctuary for clubbers on Saturday nights into the early hours of Sundays. (See the May 2015 edition of the Door for more details.) Over Easter, The Passion of the Christ was projected onto the Minster walls. “It was like the film was part of the fabric of the building,” said Stephen. “We are getting repeat visitors and more and more people are being struck by the atmosphere.”

For the regular worshippers, who can’t get to church for weekday morning prayer due to traffic, they are looking at providing virtual prayers on a Lectio Divina basis. This includes asking the congregation to reflect on what the future ministry of the Minster might be. Meetings are taking place with Reading Borough Council and Bishop Andrew, looking at how the church can support the community.
Stephen, whose first degree was in chemical engineering, comes to Reading from Bristol, where he served a curacy and spent seven years as the incumbent of a couple of parishes. Before that he worked for Tate and Lyle for 12 years, where the company sponsored him to complete an MBA. During that time he was involved with a church plant of Holy Trinity Brompton in London.

As Area Dean he is working strategically to help the benefices and parishes use the Living Faith vision positively. The Reading Deanery is one of the largest in the UK and can easily be split into thirds, with a suburban/rural patch at the top, Reading city and its suburbs in the middle and a rural area in the south, beneath the M4.

When we met, Stephen was preparing for the next Deanery Synod meeting with the Rt Revd Andrew Proud, the Bishop of Reading. He was planning to ask the Deanery Synod members and Bishop Andrew for their views on how their ministries could develop going forward.

Vital statistics:

Area Dean: Stephen Pullin
Lay Chair: Peter Jeal
Clergy: 37
Churches: 31
Benefices: 24

Newly energised in Southcote

WHEN he joined in 2011, Pads Dolphin decided to make families a priority at St Matthew’s Church in Southcote, Reading.

Members of the intergenerational church get together on a Sunday morning. Photo: Don Somner.

Members of the intergenerational church get together on a Sunday morning. Photo: Don Somner.

“We introduced contemporary music to connect with a new generation for whom traditional church has not addressed their natural spiritual hunger,” says Pads. A Nutty Professor’s Holiday Club saw 200 children learning about the Christian faith as well as enjoying games, sports, crafts, drama and singing. Kidz church, which started in 2012 sees between 20 and 40 children attending on Sunday mornings at 10am. As the older children are reaching their teens, St Matthew’s has recently appointed a new Youth Pastor.”

St Matthew’s boasts a lunch for older people at noon on the third Monday of every month and and a coffee shop on Saturdays from 11am to 2pm. It also runs a bereavement support group once a month and several church members visit isolated and lonely elderly people through the Engage Befriending Scheme.

Pads says: “Hopefully the community is seeing a newly energised church in Southcote. I love that all three Southcote churches, St Matthew’s, The Grange URC and Southcote Mission all work together under the banner of Southcote Alive on many joint community initiatives such as the after-school Café Alive and a youth drop in called Alive and Kicking on Friday nights at Southcote Mission as well as annual events like Carols in the Square and participating in the May Fair. “And it’s great to be part of the Southcote Community Association, working together with other community groups to serve the people of Southcote.”

Business networks

Photo: Dale Strickland-Clark

Photo: Dale Strickland-Clark

AN invitation to the Berkshire Business Group, a business networking breakfast in Wokingham, has given the Revd Neil Warwick the chance to connect with a range of people who run enterprises in the local community. At the group, small businesses learn about each other so they can refer potential customers.
“Lots of people from small businesses go along,” says Neil, who has met all sorts of professionals at the group, including a plumber, a photographer, a mechanic and a mortgage advisor. “It’s a way of networking and we’ve found someone who has helped us develop our website, one person is joining our pastoral care team. It’s been a good discipline to explain the work and purpose of the Church in plain English. Neil says the group has introduced him to lots of people he’d not have otherwise met. “What’s important for me is being relevant and making connections between the church and business that can benefit the wider community. It’s working ‘outside our building’ and meeting people where they are.”


Thames Path Pilgrimage – the journey continues

By Steve Jenkins

Express trains passing through are an unusual response during morning prayer but it worked for Bishop John and two dozen fellow walkers on stage 7 of the Thames pilgrimage; journeying was the obvious subject of prayers. Thursday 25 September saw the pilgrims start out after worship on the overbridge at Tilehurst station and head for the busyness of Reading, followed by the still small voices of calm at Sonning and Shiplake. Trains were left behind as the Thames and its path veered a little north between the fields and open country again. Here, the pilgrims enjoyed the sight of herons feeding, their nests in the trees, the occasional black shag flying by and even the flash of a kingfisher.

The pilgrimage entered Reading in the late summer sunshine beside the Rivermead site of the Reading Festival, now silent, and with the riverfront houses of Caversham across the water. The tower of St Peter’s, Caversham, appeared through the trees of Caversham Court; long ago, the rector’s garden. To the south, in the middle of town, lay the ruins of Reading Abbey, founded by Henry I, who was buried by the high altar but the pilgrim path beckoned onwards.

Passing under Caversham Bridge, the path passed between the residential riverfront of Reading and the town’s very own Christchurch Meadows on the other bank. Beyond Reading Bridge was a short break at Caversham Lock before crossing the River Kennet on the Horseshoe Bridge and heading on, between the wide open spaces of the Pinsent Redgrave rowing lake and the silicon valley blocks of Thames Valley Business Park, towards Sonning – and lunch. After a well-earned picnic, Bishop John and the pilgrims crossed Sonning Bridge to walk the other side of the river, in open countryside once more, to Shiplake, dominated by St Peter and St Paul’s Church, where Alfred Lord Tennyson was married.

The walkers enjoyed an opportunity of an exhibition of Janet Duncan’s watercolours in the church, as well as tea and discussion in the Ark and the church. After a short service, Bishop John closed the day with a blessing.

For more on the Thames Pilgrim Way see the dedicated website.

A heron takes off as the pilgrims pass through King's Meadow, Reading.

A heron takes off as the pilgrims pass through King’s Meadow, Reading.

The pilgrims take a break at Caversham Lock.

The pilgrims take a break at Caversham Lock.


Singing for fun commemorates World War 1


by Jackie Rix Brown

PARTICIPANTS of a regular event in Purley, near Reading, enjoyed a good old wartime sing-song to mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War. 01 Lead singers plus chorus P1080598

Singing for Fun is a social gathering that provides the chance to meet and sing for villagers every Thursday. It provides the chance to socialise for older people who may be less able to get out.

To mark WW1 they offered a full concert of rousing tunes reminiscent of 100 years ago. Barry Maskell, pianist accompanied eight singers, backed by a chorus of other Singing for Fun regulars. Quiet reflections were interspersed with music, with an account of research into one relative who had been “missing presumed killed”, along with poetry readings and stories. Cadets in uniform greeted the audience with a poppy and showed them to their seats. The lady singers were dressed as World War One nurses for the first half, then changed into elegant Music Hall attire for the second.

Project Purley had a display in the lobby with biographies of Purley men lost in the war. There was a raffle, bunting in the hall and Union Jacks given for everyone for the patriotic songs. Everyone was given a packet of poppy seeds and encouraged to plant them as a reminder of all those who have died to give us the life we enjoy today. Profit from the evening is going to The Royal British Legion.

An army of reading volunteers

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by Sarah LawrenceHelenforweb

READING is vital, especially in the first few years of school.

That’s the view of everyone at St George’s CE Infant’s School, Amersham. This term the school is highlighting an army of volunteers who listen and support young readers.

When asked about the volunteering scheme and what it meant to him David Breingan, of GE Healthcare, an international firm with premises in Amersham, said: “I  live close to the school, so I like to offer as much support as I can. The school values the time we can provide in helping the children read.”

Headteacher Toby Long said: “We have very strong links with our local community and it is vital that children at this early age have as much opportunity to practise reading aloud to adults. Our volunteer network, made up from parents, neighbouring businesses and local Churches are incredibly valuable.

“St George’s is lucky enough to have one very special volunteer Helen Fowler, who has been listening and supporting children to read for the last 15 years, starting when she was a mere 74 years old.

“Mrs Fowler is everything that is great about this country, she is passionate about the freedom learning to read allows children and dedicated to her role of helping them achieve this goal.”

Mrs Fowler said: “It’s surprising how many children don’t have access to a dictionary at home these days. I feel it’s important to check children understand the meaning of the words they are reading (I’m always honest if I don’t understand it either) we make a pact to go away and hunt out the definition and share that with each other the following week.”



Crowd gathers for ‘IF’ launch


THE Bishop of Reading, the Rt Revd Andrew Proud, the Mayor, Jenny Rynn and MP Alok Sharma officially launched the ‘Enough Food For Everyone – IF’ campaign at St Laurence’s Church last month.

The crowd celebrate the 'IF' launch at St Laurence's, Reading.

The crowd celebrate the ‘IF’ launch at St Laurence’s, Reading.

A crowd of people gathered as students from Leighton Park School played an especially composed tune for the local launch of the national, multi-agency campaign.
The idea behind IF is that the world produces enough food for everyone, but not everyone has enough food. It is estimated that almost 900 million people, about one in eight human beings on our planet, suffer from chronic hunger. IF brings together more than 100 charities and faith groups (including the Church of England) and is asking for change in four areas, some directly related to food production and distribution and some where the general improvements made could help improve people’s access to food as well.
At the same time, the Oxford Diocese’s Food Matters campaign was launched in an event at New Road Baptist Church in Oxford.

Read a full report on the launch of Food Matters.