In the rapidly expanding town of Didcot, Bishop Steven joined clergy, young people, and leaders of other church denominations for an afternoon of listening, learning, and even a game of table football.
The day began with a Eucharist at All Saint’s Church, Didcot, led by the Revd Andy Lord, Vicar of the church and Bishop Steven shared a message from the beginning of Genesis.
During an extended time of listening, clergy reflected on their experiences, both positive and negative of the past two years and the future of serving the growing needs of the population of Didcot - it is set to increase by over 40% by 2030, and in certain parts of the town, with new housing developments, it is expected to double.
Clergy highlighted that in recent days, many people have turned to the church so easily to support Ukraine and the significance of church and Christian presence in local communities, especially in times of need.
The Revd Polly Falconer, UKME Development Enabler, joined Bishop Steven for the day and shared insight on the importance of clergy looking after their health and wellbeing for their own sake but also as an example to their congregations and communities.
Engaging the younger generation
In a flurry of snow showers, Bishop Steven joined the team from the Greater Didcot Christian Children and Youth Work Trust and known as ECHO. An ecumenical partnership organisation established, in 2021 and funded by the Development Fund, bringing six local churches together to serve the spiritual, social and emotional needs of the fastest-growing pupil population in Oxfordshire.
Bishop Steven had the opportunity to spend time with a group of young people, hear about their experiences and even play a game of table football!
Youth Workers, Hannah Field and Joe Loescher shared the significant progress they have made since joining just one year ago developing relationships with young people and identifying the gaps they can fill forming new after-school cafes, running weekend events, offering sports outreach, and encouraging discipleship.
“God has been walking with us and helping us to step forward in faith, it has been an amazing story of his provision so far...our young people have so much to offer and are excited to continue expanding the work to other churches in the town.”
An evening with lay leaders and PCCs
Bishop Steven travelled to nearby Wallingford, to St-Mary-le-more Church, for an evening meal with churchwardens from parishes across the deanery.
Many shared their disappointment at the decline in the number of young families and young people because of the pandemic, and a desire to see the younger generations flourishing and supported. Despite this, several shared how their Toddler groups have been thriving over the past two years, so much so that they have started offering several groups a week to cater to the demand.
Churchwardens were keen to take action on climate change and reduce the environmental impact of their church buildings but recognised the limitations to this.
Bishop Steven is visiting each of the 29 deaneries in the Diocese of Oxford in 2022, meeting with clergy and laity, and visiting community projects.
The deanery visits form an integral part of 2022; a year which, Bishop Steven says, is a chance "to listen and to encourage the Church to be the best we can be in this time, for the sake of God’s world".
Save your date from the schedule and read the round-ups after each visit.