Bishop Steven spends a day with clergy and laity in the Witney Deanery, visiting the hosts of the diocesan youth weekend away to plant a tree.
Starting with a Eucharist service at St Denys Church in Northmoor, Bishop Steven met with deanery clergy to break bread together and discuss the ups and downs of ministerial life today. The Revd Margaret Dixon, area dean, presided over the service, with Bishop Steven preaching on Genesis 1.
The Bishop echoed his sentiments from previous deanery days, encouraging the clergy;
"You have done magnificently. It has been awesome to watch but I also acknowledge the cost. Thank you."
Bishop Steven also touched on tohu wa-bohu, a Hebrew concept of the ordering of time mentioned in Genesis.
The clergy gathered in the village hall for a delicious lunch, where they shared openly their experiences over the pandemic and how they were feeling looking forward. One member of the group shared a poignant metaphor of a milk maid balancing two buckets - holding people's expectations and disappointments on one hand and trying to ensure they top up their own spirit enough to balance it out on the other.
The afternoon saw Bishop Steven shown round Adventure Plus in Clanfield, the new host venue for Yellow Braces, the upcoming diocesan weekend away for young people. Bishop Steven was given a tour of the site by Jeep, before a cup of tea and slice of cake in their new catering cabin.
A huge site with big plans for the future, A+ is an A Rocha partner and many of their newly planted trees have been donated by local organisations looking to offset their carbon emissions. The site will soon hold an adventure lake, complete with what will be the country's largest inland coasteering wall, a zipline and an ever-growing woodland area for bushcraft.
The ethos of Adventure Plus is summed up in one phrase;
"Out there, in him."
Recently, A+ completed the build on a series of timber yurts - the accommodation for Yellow Braces attendees. Each yurt is named after a different species of tree. Behind the Silver Birch yurt, Bishop Steven and Revd Margaret planted a silver birch each. The yurts are specially designed to suit every eventuality - the beds are specially made to be sturdy and adaptable by their own carpenter.
The team regularly run a huge range of events, from men's and 'with dad' adventure weekends, canoe marathons from Witney to Westminster, and youth activities. Every event is kickstarted with a moment of quiet prayer, but the rest of the day is light-touch, designed to suit people of all faiths and none and help them connect with the world around them.
An evening with the Bishop
Bishop Steven shared a meal with lay leaders at St Mary's Church in Witney before being joined by local PCC members and other laity for another time of questions and sharing.
The Bishop's visits continue this week with a trip to Bicester & Islip Deanery as he starts the second half of his journey round each deanery in the diocese.
There's still time to book onto Yellow Braces and check out Adventure Plus for yourself.