The Diocese of Oxford has announced that it has awarded grants of over £200,000 to support projects in 15 churches across Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire, as part of their fourth round of Development Fund grant awards.
The Development Fund was launched in 2019 to enable missional creativity and help churches with practical ways to become more Christ-like. Since its launch, it has donated over £1.5million to over 100 local church projects across the diocese.
Grants to support Church of England schools in the diocese, and children, young, people and families, saw the largest share of awards, with two school-based projects being awarded £60,000 and £66,000 respectively. The grants awarded continue to put work with children, young people and families at the heart of diocese life.
The awards are in line with the commitment made by the diocese following the publication of Disciples Together. A significant moment in life as a diocese, this groundbreaking report explored how the diocese could embrace the shifts they need to make for the benefit of God’s world and outlines steps for future ministry. It highlighted that there has been a growing gulf between the diocese’s work and the reality of life for young people and in the culture at large.
Growing new congregations is also a vital part of the diocese’s common vision, and two projects were awarded funds to support their work in finding new expressions of church. 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. It is centred around the aim to grow 750 new congregations over the next decade.
The Revd Canon Dr Geoff Bayliss, Area Dean of Cowley, submitted an application to the Development Fund to recruit a chaplaincy team leader for The Oxford Academy and the surrounding and supporting primary schools and was awarded £66,000.
Revd Canon Dr Bayliss said, “Over the last couple of years, there has been some wonderful ecumenical work in the schools of our deaneries using local clergy and partner organisations to help fulfil the schools’ commitment to their Church of England foundations. However, this support was limited, and so the financial support from the Development Fund will help us to grow this area of work by appointing a full-time chaplain.
“The money will be spread over the next five years to support the post holder’s salary, and it is our hope that by the end of the five years, there will be other funding in place. We heard just before Easter that we had been successful, so are now starting the process of recruiting and hope to have someone in post by September.”
Other recipients in Oxfordshire include the Icknield Benefice, who was awarded £600 to help develop pastoral care, and bereavement support by providing Cruse bereavement training to a lay-led team.
Revd Daniel Thompson, Rector at Icknield, said, “Pastoral care can be complicated at the best of times due to the size of our benefice as we are spread across 4 parishes, but with the onset of the pandemic, we were mindful of those who might fall between the gaps due to isolation and illness.
“Several volunteers began working with us to offer ‘in person’ support (in line with Government guidelines), and they were incredible throughout the lockdowns, but we wanted to empower them and help them grow in confidence in the often-delicate area of bereavement support.
“Cruse offers excellent training, but at £600, it was beyond our budget, and we didn’t want to ask people to pay for it themselves as they had already done so much. Thankfully, the Development Fund has allowed us to pursue the training without having to draw on other funds, and we will be able to support 10 volunteers through their training.
“This will be beneficial in a number of ways, including helping the community to reconnect after a period of turmoil and trauma and allow us as a church to engage more with our community, not just the congregations of the parishes. The grant really will allow us to open up a raft of possibilities that previously were impossible.”
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 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, innovative ideas, to apply.
“The two examples from Oxfordshire show that we support a range of projects, from the very large, to the small, and demonstrate that no matter the size, the Development Fund really can make a difference – whether that be helping to provide improved audio-visual facilities in churches or expanding social action projects such as meal provision and domestic abuse support, to developing youth-focused ministry – 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 is likely to be most helpful to those with 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 is now open and closes on 30 April 2021.