Contemplative, compassionate and courageous for the sake of God's world
Our world is changing in unprecedented ways; we must think afresh about inequality, our communities and human identity. We need to be the best Church we can be in this time: a more Christ-like Church for the sake of God’s world.
We are not the society for the preservation of old buildings (important though our heritage assets are); a church is the community of God’s people, not the building. We believe that becoming more Christ-like is about who we are called to be, not what we’re called to do.
This is our common vision for every Christian in every church and school across this diocese. We want to discern what God is doing in our communities and figure out how best we can join in.
The call to become more Christ-like is not the work we need to do before a new corporate strategy and a five-year plan. It is the response we are called to make. We are continually adapting and reshaping our common vision as, together, we discern God’s will.
- The Diocese of Oxford (serving Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes) is the fifth largest diocese in the Church of England by land area and the fourth most populated diocese in the country;
- Our 284 church schools educate around 58,000 children;
- Over 1,000 clergy and 300 licensed lay ministers serve 52,000 regular Sunday worshippers at our 815 churches. At Christmas, our churches welcome over 150,000 people from across the diocese;
- ... but there are major conurbations where the church lacks strength, and 27% of people in our congregations are aged 70 or older;
- According to the British Social Attitudes Survey, 52% of people in Britain now declare they are of no religion. That proportion is growing. With every decade that goes by, people understand less and less about the Christian faith;
- Massive new housing and population growth in this diocese will mean that another half a million people are living here by 2026 (210,960 more homes and 475,000 more people);
- Reading has a higher number of looked-after children than the rest of the Thames Valley and more than double the rate of Oxfordshire and some other parts of Berkshire;
- Oxfordshire has high levels of teenagers not in education, employment or training and high levels of emergency hospital admission for injuries in young people (more than twice the rate of Reading);
- Barriers to housing are high: 122 neighbourhoods in this diocese are in the 10% most deprived access to housing and services.
We are continually adapting and reshaping our common vision as, together, we discern God’s will.
We seek to continually recognise where the energy is at a local level and to discern where the Spirit is leading. We do not believe that our common vision can embrace every part of our common life: we want to celebrate and bless and work well in a range of other areas of ongoing work and excellence while developing new priorities in a creative and sustainable way.
Messy, untidy and iterative
... but very energising!
The climate emergency is one of the most pressing issues of our age. We also see a deepening mental health crisis among our young people, growing inequality across society and, in this diocese, a huge influx of new buildings and new communities (see Key Facts).
We know that there is a hunger in our communities for purpose and love. Some of the key facts are challenging, but we have substantial resources that we can draw on and a willingness to act.
We have listened with God to the big questions, the challenges and opportunities we have as a diocese and are responding in specific focus areas. You can find out more about the work of each focus area below:
- Environmental action
- Christian formation and discipleship
- Growing new congregations
- Schools, children and young people
- Addressing poverty and inequality
What does this mean for my parish?
There are already as many as 1,700 community action projects in this diocese and myriad stories about churches living out and spreading the good news. So what are we called to do together as the next part of this journey? How do we share in this common vision?
God’s Spirit is one of infinite variety and creativity. Parishes should explore the areas of focus and consider what they mean in their local context; our vision is one that gives people, parishes and benefices the permission and opportunity to do things differently.
We want to avoid the 'McDonaldisation of the Church,' and, instead, value the God-given creativity, diversity and gifts that are already present in each local church. A number of tools and resources are available to support local mission.
More people spending more time with God
Signs of a greater sense of humility
Listening more and saying less, to ourselves, our world and one another
More time spent with more people
Signs of a greater sense of forgiveness, grace and nurture
Gracious welcome and hospitality; taking action for peace and justice
Taking steps of faith, commitment and endurance
Making a difference in our local communities
Signs of reconciliation; resolving conflict and working together for peace
"The only person in the life of the Church who is able to call the Church to mission is Christ. It is when the local church hears the call of Christ that we will let down the nets.
"That is why the process of renewal begins and continues and ends in encountering God in Jesus Christ and setting Christ again at the centre of our common life."
The Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft
Bishop of Oxford