Churches awarded over £100,000 for community projects

The Development Fund has awarded grants to eight churches, across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, to support a range of local church and community projects including a healing garden and youth work to help combat knife crime.

The ninth round of the Development Fund will support projects including the recruitment of a Children and Families worker in Wolvercote, a healing garden in Redlands Parish in Reading, new worship and music materials in Manor Park in Slough, a new kitchen and baby changing facilities at St Mary’s, Charlbury a new community hub centre to support the homeless in Windsor, and a new youth worker in Caversham, Thameside & Mapledurham to help combat knife crime among young people.

The Development Fund assists churches across the Diocese of Oxford to provide vital support for their communities and meet the needs of the growing population in the Thames Valley. Churches are encouraged to explore and engage with their local contexts to be a more Christ-like Church for the sake of God’s world, to discern where God is at work in their communities and be missionally creative and sustainable in response to local challenges.

In Redlands parish, a healing garden is being developed as part of a year of wholeness and healing at St Luke’s Church to celebrate its 140-year anniversary. Inspired by St Luke, the patron saint of doctors, healers, and arts, the garden will be an open space for the church and community.

The Revd Ross Meikle, Vicar of Redlands Parish Church, shares the vision for the garden:

“Our churchwarden, Jane, has used her experience to design a peaceful space with a sensory garden, seating area, sun dial and biodiverse pollinating plants of sweeping rainbow colours as a sign of hope and inclusion.

“At a time when the world is suffering a climate crisis and recovering from a pandemic, we hope that the garden will offer a peaceful space for local people to enjoy nature, reflect and find healing. As is said in Revelation 22, where the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations, we hope to be part of that tree of life, filling the community with the hope and love of God.”

In Charlbury, St Mary’s Church plans to build a new kitchen, and accessible toilet with baby changing facilities to provide better amenities for the congregation and many tourists, visitors, and concert goers to the church.

Paddy Gallagher, Churchwarden at St Mary’s, speaking about the background to the new facilities, said:

“St Mary’s is a very active church and used widely by people in the town including a weekly cafe and music and choir concerts, but at present our facilities are limited and don’t meet the needs of users of the church. This grant from the development fund will mean the church is more accessible to people in the local community as well as enabling us to host more events and church groups to reach out to more people in the town.”

A new youth worker based in Caversham, Thameside and Mapledurham in Reading will be working with young people in the parish to nurture their faith and encourage outreach to other young people in the community. They will also partner with local organisations to create safe spaces for young people which will help tackle youth knife crime, in response to the murder of local teenager, Olly Stephens, last year.

The Revd Penny Cuthburt, Associate Vicar of St John the Baptist, Caversham shares the background and aims of the project:

“We have a growing cohort of young people who deserve support and time invested in them to help them flourish and become confident in sharing their faith. There is also a real need to tackle the alarming rise in knife crime and violence among young people. So, in working with organisations across the area, we hope to be able to offer young people safe spaces where they can spend time with their friends and find support from good role models and mentors.”