Do Something Kind Today

Taken from the Diocese of Oxford website

From tiny hamlets to our biggest cities, people across the Thames Valley may be feeling unsafe. Those who for weeks, months, years, decades, or a lifetime have made their home here, now feel unwelcome. Those of us who belong to minorities – particularly ethnic and religious minorities – feel a sense of heightened visibility and enhanced vulnerability. The recent escalation of verbal and physical violence in the wake of the EU Referendum is clearly implicated, and must be challenged.


We come together as people of all faiths and of no particular faith, to stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with one another, and with a clear message: in diversity is life; in diversity is growth; in diversity is transformation and creativity. We celebrate the multiple communities of faith and ethnicity that vitalise and enrich our civic, commercial and political life, our arts and our culture. We rejoice in our European identity, our wider international links and our global citizenship. We recognise too that much diversity, especially in our rural areas, is hidden, and will remain so whilst insecurity is allowed to have the upper hand. This is the case even though individuals from minority communities may feel a sense of heightened visibility and risk in rural contexts.

With the power that we have, and the resources at our disposal – we commit to meet hatred with love, confusion with hope, anger with peace and fear with joy.

The ‘love your neighbour’ campaign is owned by us all and seeks to draw people together and to believe the very best for our region.

So go… know your neighbour… love your neighbour.

Concerned? What are you doing? Contact Jo Duckles to share your story.

A Prayer for #loveyourneighbour

God of diversity,

We are fragile, insecure. We doubt our loveliness and our worth. Conflicted within ourselves, we compete, imposing our will on others, trying to outdo and to put down. We fight, creating outsiders and insiders – us and them.

Lord, we confess our part in creating conflict; our collusion with abuse; our failure to challenge the principalities and powers.

But we know that you meet us in unexpected places. That you invite us to find you in the people we write off; In places we fear and reject; in experiences we shy away from.

When we avert our eyes in discomfort, you fix our gaze. When we flee in terror, you invite us to return – to fear not. When we grow cold and inert, you touch us and bring the warmth and energy back.

Ignite in us a love for our neighbours and a passion for justice. Give us hearts that listen, souls that attend to you, minds that reflect, constantly, on your ways and your will. Help us to know you, forever, anew.



Church takes stock of its trees 

Chadlington Churchyard – a haven for nature

No-one knows just how many trees the Church of England has on its land.  It has some 10,000 churchyards, and many often provide the only, ‘green lung’ within a community and rare habitats for a wide range of biodiversity.

The Church is responsible for a large number of trees which, like churches, need managing. The often great age of churchyards, and the long term protection they offer, means many of these trees are particularly important, and others have the potential to become so. The longer protection offered by churchyards means they often contain ‘veteran’ trees – those with ancient characteristics – and as such hold particular importance ecologically and culturally. This natural heritage is often managed by people with little specialist arboricultural or interpretation experience.

Yew tree in Heythrop Old Churchyard

Whilst churchyard yews are well known for their great age, there are many other species which provide a wealth of value to local communities. They may hold the secret to fighting threats to trees such as ash dieback and those affecting chestnuts, elms and oaks suggests David Shreeve, Environmental Adviser to the Archbishops’ Council. “If you’ve a variety of elm for example, which has not been affected by disease, perhaps there is something special about them that make them resistant,” he explains. “Churchyards may be the Noah’s Ark for trees.”

Two free churchyard trees conferences supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund are being held this autumn. Aimed at archdeacons, clergy, churchwardens, DAC Secretaries and Diocesan Environment Officers, friends groups, tree officers and all those involved in the care of churchyard trees. They will promote greater awareness of the importance of churchyard trees and encourage maintenance, future growth and interpretation with the support of the community.

The conferences will be held in Liverpool Cathedral on 6 October 2016 and St John’s Waterloo on 2 Nov 2016 and feature leading churchyard and arboriculture experts who will discuss the support and management churches can use to protect the future of churchyard trees.

Both events are being organised by The Conservation Foundation in association with the Church of England’s Environmental Working Group, Mission and Public Affairs, Cathedrals and Church Buildings along with Caring for God’s Acre and The Charter for Trees, Woods and People.

Those interested in attending for the free conferences can register at:

And if you do go, please let us know!

With thanks to Nigel Winser of Chadlington for informing us of this event

Oxfordshire Credit Union


David Soward, a member of Ascott Church, has recently become Chair of the Oxfordshire Credit Union, having spent the last two years as a member of the Board in a marketing role. In 2014 and 2015 he oversaw the development of our new website and the move into social media, along with our rebranding exercise and the fresh new look on our banners and leaflets. He has a background in project development and has worked at several Citizens Advice branches to build projects in financial inclusion, volunteer training and consumer empowerment. He is also an economist and a musician and runs the Wychwood Circle

His vision for OCU is to transform its profile from a local Oxford community bank to a county-wide savings and loans organisation reaching out to ever more of the people in Oxfordshire who most need us.

What is a Credit Union?

Credit Unions exist to foster a habit of saving and to enable people to borrow from their own community.  While some of us are both ‘financially included’ and indeed financially capable, many of our neighbours are not:  they may have had bad experiences with banks, had loan requests rejected, have slipped into debt when their benefits were ‘sanctioned’, etc.  Or they may simply never have saved because they didn’t like the institutions they would have had to entrust their money to.
Oxfordshire Credit Union is open to anyone either living or just working in Oxfordshire (Cherwell Community Bank is also available to people in the north of the county).  We don’t have ‘branches’ since the cost would be prohibitive but we offer a Paypoint card (for paying in at your local corner shop or garage) and a pre-payment Visa debit card for paying bills or shopping online.  If members need to borrow we offer an affordable, ethical and locally generated alternative to commercial lenders: our loans will never be as cheap as the best high street rates nor as criminally expensive as the worst ‘payday’ lenders, but members know they will be given a chance and treated fairly.  They will also be helping their community.
For wealthier and financially astute members there are also opportunities to support us through subordinated loans and grants.
Contact us by email (, by phone (01865 777757), or online (

Prayer is good for you


‘It is said that in times of great uncertainty people pray more, so we can assume the lines are jammed right now.  And with a recent report, from the thinktank Theos, suggesting that praying together is good for us whether we believe prayer ‘works’ or not, maybe we should all be looking for somewhere to pray and someone to pray with.’

You may have heard Rhidian Brook beginning his ‘Thought for the Day’ with these words (29 vi 16).  When I consulted the report I’m assuming he refers to (Religion and Wellbeing), I found only that it spoke of studies showing ‘a limited positive effect of private religious practice (which is mixed with the effect of public practice)’ on mental health. However, it won’t be the first or the last time that the psychological benefits of prayer or religion are evidenced and the reactions from theists, atheists and sceptics will no doubt be varied, extensive and even colourful.  Nowadays you’ll get fewer funny looks and pitying glances if you talk of meditating rather than of prayer and there must be as many ways to meditate as there are to pray.

A conversation of the spirit

Nothing new here: the desert fathers in the 4th and 5th centuries certainly seem to merge prayer and meditation in their writings, having themselves reached a stage where ‘the intellect is concentrated, words are suspended’(Olivier Clement on early Christian mysticism). Evagrius of Pontus (who was responsible, indirectly, for the Seven Deadly Sins – so he should know) said that ‘in our prayer time’, we should ‘banish all tricks and devices and behave like a child just weaned from its mother’.  Prayer, he also said, ‘is a conversation of the spirit with God … without any intermediary’.  And John Chrysostom told his listeners that ‘prayers that come from the bottom of the heart, having their roots there, … are not knocked off course by the assault of any thought.’  The psalmist (s) had a few quotable quotes on the same theme.

The current interest in mindfulness harnesses just one way of stilling the mind and communing with our deeper selves, and – who knows? – with God. Professor Mark Williams told us in answer to a question at Wychwood Circle in March that it is suggested that Jesus was pretty ‘mindful’ and showed its positive effects on character and attitudes most strongly.  The best book I’ve come across on ‘Meditation and modern life’ (its subtitle) is The Wilderness Within by Nicholas Buxton (Canterbury Press 2014).  It doesn’t devote more than a few sentences to how to meditate. The right technique, the author says, is whatever works for us:

‘Meditation is less about technique than attitude: an attitude of openness and humility.  After all, the point of our practice is not simply to become good at meditation, but to wake up.’

He is equally dismissive of shopping lists. Prayer is not ‘something we do for the sake of the results and benefits that will accrue to us’ but should be ‘an end in itself’.

As elemental as breathing

One way of bridging the gap between pray-ers and others is to create a space where believers can pray, others can meditate (or practise mindfulness), others again can just pause for thought, reflect quietly, enjoy sharing a period of silence.  We try and provide such a space on the third Wednesday of every month at Ascott Church, but for some the need for others, let alone ‘another church’ with its ‘tense, musty, unignorable silence’ ( Larkin) or other sacred building, may not be so important.  It may just be a question of making time for our inner life – and not just on holiday or in retirement.  As Rhidian Brook also said:

‘In its widest sense prayer is a universal activity, as elemental as breathing.’

We don’t need church and we don’t need priests, though both might help.  We don’t need a bible or a prayer book or a missal. We just need to acknowledge, and maybe reflect, the persons we were made to be, for whom silence out there and silence ‘in here’ are vital elements of being human and essential to what the Archbishop of Canterbury likes to call ‘human flourishing’.

David Soward

Latest news from CRAG

Below is an update from our friends from the Charlbury Refugee Action Group

How you have brought more help to refugees here and in Calais


First some brief bad news. (Good news is in the remaining paragraphs!)

👎 Refugees in camps in Calais are running out of food, at the same time as their numbers increase daily. It’s partly donor fatigue, but partly that needs are becoming increasingly acute elsewhere.

☀️ But the good news is that we have been able to help, thanks to your fundraising and contributions. One member found £30 in the street and gave it to CRAG! Another member has set up a standing order to CRAG for £25 a month. While the Strings and Pipes group at Charlbury baptist church very kindly donated the proceeds from their recent concert. As this was given through the church, it was possible to add gift aid, with the result that £375 came to CRAG.

☀️ All this has replenished our funds, so at the weekend we shall be sending £500 to Calais Kitchens, who distribute food packages to people who self-cater, in particular mothers and children, as well as supplying food to the several free kitchens in the camp. It’s a drop in the ocean, but many drops do make an ocean.

☀️ This week local refugee support groups were asked if anyone could help arrange an emergency trip for a father and his two children to visit his wife and a third very sick child in hospital in Southampton. CRAG came up trumps. Thank you Sophie!

☀️ The Adopt-a-Room scheme to furnish homes for a further four refugee families arriving in Witney this summer was an immense and immediate success, thanks to stalwart work by Luci Ashbourne and the Witney group. Thanks also go locally to Charlbury Quakers; Liz Soar and friends; Brigid Avison, Angela Gwatkin and other members of three local meditation groups; and Churches Together in Charlbury. Groups and individuals in Hook Norton and elsewhere played a major part too. It is wonderful to see so many caring people contributing in so many ways to help make these families feel truly loved and welcome.

☀️ One of you has asked if he can add gift aid to a donation to CRAG of £500. The short answer is no, as we are not a registered charity. But we have suggested several charities working in Calais and Greece to whom payments can be made online and where the donor can add gift aid. This is invaluable, as his £500 immediately grows to £625. For more details, see our last newsletter.

Another answer to this question is that subject to certain restrictions, churches are able to claim gift aid on money given to them, and then donate that money to other causes which are not themselves charities (such as CRAG).

👉 That’s all for the moment. Please keep in touch at and remember — your help is always needed! Email us at with your ideas and suggestions.

Angela and Jon

Letter from Bishop Steven

Posted on 6th July, 2016

To the clergy and people of the Diocese of OxfordSteven-for-enews-cropped-300x262

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Thank you for your various messages of welcome and for your prayers following the announcement of my nomination as the Bishop of Oxford. It’s an enormous honour and privilege to be appointed to this role and I look forward very much to serving the communities of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire in the coming years.

My Confirmation of Election as Bishop of Oxford will be held on 6thJuly. I am due to pay homage to Her Majesty the Queen later in July and resume my place in the House of Lords.  I will continue to meet with the senior team in Oxford and plan for the autumn.

Ann and I hope to move to the new See House in Kidlington at the end of August and I will be working to a normal diary in the diocese from early September.  My inauguration is set for Friday 30th September in the Cathedral.  There will then be four Welcome Eucharists at which I will preside and preach, one for each Archdeaconry:

Episcopal Area Date Day Time Venue
Reading 5th October 2016 Wednesday 19.45 Reading Minster
Dorchester 9th October 2016 Sunday 15.30 Dorchester Abbey
Oxford 12th October 2016 Wednesday 19.30 Church of the Holy Family Blackbird Leys
Buckingham 13th October 2016 Thursday 18.00 All Saints High Wycombe

I would like to meet as many people as possible over the first few weeks in post so please put one of these dates in your diary and I look forward to seeing you there.

I hope to visit the parish clergy of the Oxford Area in October and November.  I am also planning a series of Deanery Days from November to July to begin to get to know and to listen to the whole Diocese.  During those visits I look forward to engaging with lay people and clergy and getting to know the wider community as well as the church.  I also look forward to being out and about across the whole Diocese Sunday by Sunday.

You can discover something about me in advance from the Diocesan website, should you wish to do so.  I was formed as a parish priest in Halifax.  I was shaped as a thinker and writer in Durham and through travelling the country as Archbishops’ Missioner.  I have been forged as a Bishop in Sheffield and South Yorkshire, seeking to recall the Church here and elsewhere to the mission of God.

I’m conscious I will have a much to learn in my early years in Oxford.  Please pray for me: for the gifts of humility, wisdom and gentleness for this new ministry.  Pray in the words of the ordinal that my heart may daily be enlarged to love this great Diocese to which God has now called me.

I’m looking forward very much to working with Bishop Colin, Bishop Andrew and Bishop Alan in the coming years and with the rest of the senior team.  I’m conscious that the Diocese owes a particular debt to Bishop Colin for his care and leadership during the long vacancy.

Based on the listening I have done so far, I will focus my ministry across the whole Diocese in three areas in the early years: on engagement with children, young people and young adults; on enabling lay discipleship in the world and on engaging with the poorest communities across the Diocese. These priorities are not a new Diocesan strategy.  That may emerge over time.  They are initial themes for my own engagement with the whole Diocese and I look forward to taking them forward with you.  .

I believe that the Christian faith and the Christian church will become ever more central in the life of our nation and the world in the 21stCentury as people seek again for meaning, for values, for purpose and for hope.

God has called the Church to be a community of mercy and kindness, reflecting the nature of Jesus Christ and telling the good news of his love.  Together we are called to be a community of missionary disciples: faithful, united, hopeful, creative and rejoicing in God’s grace.

I look forward very much to meeting you, to knowing you and being known and to working with you,

In Christ

+Steven Oxford

Twitter: @Steven_Croft

Lead thieves strike in Chadlington

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Sometime between Sunday 3 and Tuesday 5 July, lead thieves stripped three-quarters of the lead from the south aisle of Chadlington Church. It was clearly a highly professional job – not only did they smash the security lights around the church they were also very neat! Mercifully, the weather has been kind and the roof has been made weatherproof whist we make arrangements for its replacement.

Please be very vigilant around all our churches and report anything out of the ordinary.  Chadlington is the fourth church to be hit in this Deanery in recent months.

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