Over £200,000 awarded to 15 projects across the Diocese of Oxford, including churches in Bierton and Holmer Green, in fourth round of Development Fund grant giving.

The Diocese of Oxford has announced that they will be supporting fifteen 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 to 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 award of these grants continues to put our work with children, young people and families at the heart of diocese life, something which we committed to with the publication of Disciples Together, which was a significant moment in our life as a diocese; we all know that there has been a growing gulf between our work and the reality of life for young people and in the culture at large.  This groundbreaking report explored how we can embrace the key shifts we need to make for the benefit of God’s world and outlines steps for future ministry.

Growing new congregations is also a vital part of our 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, centred around the aim to grow 750 new congregations over the next decade.

Revd Daniel Beesley, vicar at St James the Great in Bierton, applied to the Development Fund to support their new Connect family service, online worship and community connections by improving their audio system and were awarded £2,500.

Daniel says, 

Whilst we are an ancient church in terms of heritage (the church dates back to the 1200s and is Grade I listed) we certainly aren’t when it comes to engaging with our local community!  Our old sound system was coming up to 20 years old and wasn’t allowing us to explore new ways of worship.  So, with the help of the Development Fund, match funding and a private donation of £1000, we were able to buy a free standing sound system which will allow us to really grow our family services (Connect) through things like worship band.

“During the pandemic, our family service congregation (online) grew from about 12 people to 60, so we want to make sure that we continue to offer exciting ways to work with these people and the new, improved sound system is just one way of doing that.   Whilst it has been a large financial commitment at the outset, it has allowed us to future proof our work and also shows that by researching and really understanding what your community needs, you do not need to spend a fortune to provide a first class worshipping experience!

“Having a new sound system also means that the church can be used more effectively by community groups and events – really bringing the church back into the heart of the community.”

Other recipients in Buckinghamshire include Holy Trinity Penn Street with Christ Church, Holmer Green, who applied to the Development Fund to help engage with young families by establishing monthly open air Woodland Worship services and were awarded £2,500.

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 Buckinghamshire 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 it is likely to be most helpful to those that have 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.