‘WithIN’ – A Conference on Everyday Faith: Tuesday 8 October 2019

This conference is a Watling Valley Ecumenical Partnership (WVEP) initiative in conjunction with the Diocese of Oxford and HeartEdge/St Martin-in-the-Fields.

The name “WithIN” refers to being WITH God, IN the world.  The keynote speaker will be the Revd Sam Wells.

The day session will start at 9.30am with worship led by the St Martin’s Singers, and will end between 5-5.30pm.  An evening session has been planned for those unable to attend during the day.  This will start at approximately 6.30pm with worship by Testament, and end by 9.15pm.  It is hoped that exhibitions and stalls will be available for folk to look at between 5 – 6.30pm.

As well as having a keynote speaker, there will be a variety of workshops to choose from, looking at the various aspects of everyday spirituality and aiming to be practical, accessible and fun. There will even be a workshop that teachers may find useful.  Workshop leaders include  Barry Lotz, Ruth Maxey, Jonathan Evens (HeartEdge, St  Martin’s), Charlie Kerr (Diocese), and Tina Molyneux (Diocese).

WVEP expects the day to be free, although donations would be welcomed. Tea/coffee/Lunch will be provided, as well as light refreshments in the early evening.  Lunchtime will include ‘Great Sacred Music’ with Sam Wells and the St Martin’s Singers.

Booking is via Eventbrite. All are welcome, and WVEP hopes to encourage a wide range of participation.

Please advertise this event as widely as possible!

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Conducting Occasional Services at HMP Woodhill After November 2019

The Rev Canon Alan Hodgetts (Managing Chaplain at HMP Woodhill) is retiring in November of this year. He is wondering if there are clergy in the Deanery or wider MK area who might have an interest in conducting occasional services at 10.30am on Sunday mornings after this date. If so, he is more than happy for you to email him directly at alan.hodgetts@hmps.gsi.gov.uk with an expression of interest.

There are 2 levels of clearance: A basic clearance will allow 3 visits per annum and the priest/minister would be supervised; A full clearance would allow several visits and more flexibility.

Expenses would be paid and for retired clergy a ‘sessional’ arrangement may be possible.

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Report – October 2018

The Deanery Leadership Team (DLT) consists of the eight Deanery officers, who meet regularly to plan activity and share leadership.

Celebrate and Bless Milton Keynes

The Diocese is working on a Common Vision which includes seven big strands of work. One of these is to “Celebrate and Bless Milton Keynes” – on the basis that it is the fastest growing city in the four counties. A working group was formed by the Archdeacon – and consisted of people from MK and elsewhere.

In July the working group (known as WG6) presented some initial thoughts to Bishop’s Council. These were warmly received, with a specific encouragement to develop a funding bid. Bishop’s Council also encouraged the Working Group to involve more lay people and ecumenical partners.

The report can be found on the Celebrate and Bless page on our web site. 

The big themes of the report were the rapid changes that are taking place in Milton Keynes with further expansion, the Oxford Cambridge Arc and deepening poverty. The report also argues that Milton Keynes is under-resourced for mission.

The working Group made a number of key proposals, including:

  • An Archdeacon of Milton Keynes with a focus on the Oxford-MK-Cambridge Arc
  • Learning Centre for Pioneer Ministry, Community Organising and Mission
  • At least three “resource” churches that are planting and supporting new worshipping communities
  • The provision of new missional posts equivalent to eight full-time ministers (or more)
  • Partnerships for the Common Good
  • Involvement in Milton Keynes University

Many of these will need to be explored further by the Diocese or the Deanery.  Some of them will require external funding, so there will be more work to do.

We have set up a Steering Group and three new working groups to
develop detailed plans and proposals…

The three new working groups will be:

Learning:To create a unique learning environment to equip the church of the future in mission – and draw up plans for how that learning environment will be created.  John Robertson is chairing this group with the help of Keith Straughan and Alison Drury.

Growing: To draw up plans for a programme which will enable us to a) plant or grow new and sustainable Christian communities in Milton Keynes, and b) build up existing churches so that they can plant and support new Christian communities in Milton Keynes.  These plans will need to include criteria for determining which projects to invest in and how they will be assessed.  Paul Oxley will be chairing this group with the help of Ruth Maxey and David McDougall.

Funding:To coordinate the creation of a bid for Strategic Development Fund (or other) investment. This will require input and involvement from the other three working groups.  Steve Snook will be chairing this group with the help of Kevin Lovell.

It’s going to be a long-term project, so don’t expect to see anything happen quickly.  We hope to have a developed plan by summer 2019!! In the meantime there will be lots of opportunities for consultation and conversation.  Please take advantage of these opportunities when they come!

We were visited by Alan Cruickshank, the Senior Strategy Consultant for the Church of England.  He wanted to see what was going on in Milton Keynes, and how the national church can help.

He picked up a conker from outside Christ the Vine Church.  He said it was going to sit on his desk at Church House Westminster as a reminder to pray for the Church in MK – which can often be small and toughened by difficult circumstances – but its waiting to burst forth into new life.  I hope you will keep praying for the growth of the Church in MK over the coming year!

I hope you had a good summer – it does feel a long time ago now!! One of the highlights of my summer was the Greenbelt Festival near Kettering.  I lead a team from Citizens UK to promote the work of Citizens across the country and talk about community organising.  The best moment was seeing a woman from London hear the news that her group was going to receive its first family of Syrian refugees.  It’s great to see words become action!

On a related theme, I had planned to step down as chair of Refugees Welcome following the vote at Deanery Synod.  I hope you don’t mind, but it seems a bit early to step back from this work.  We have now received sixteen families into Milton Keynes, but the journey toward integration is much slower than we’d hoped – and there are opportunities to do more, if we are willing to seize them!

There is work moving ahead as a result of our Deanery Synod priorities. We plan to focus on one of them at each Synod meeting. The November meeting will look at Mental Health.

Every two years, there is a national conference for Anglican Deaneries.  I’m on the steering group for the National Deaneries Network, so was heavily involved in organising the event.  

It was a really good conference and you can see the various talks on YouTube.  There are downloads and links on the NDN web site.  

We are not doing a major Christmas campaign this year, but will be encouraging churches to make use of the resources produced by the Church of England.  This reflects the change in priorities that came from Deanery Synod and the advertising strategy emerging from DMPC.

As always, there is so much else we could talk about:

  • Sanctuary Training
  • LEP Constitutions and Sharing Agreements
  • CLT funding
  • Ecumenical Reviews
  • Church Inspections
  • Annual MOTH service
  • Council of Faiths
  • New Communities
  • and so on…

Please pray for the Church in Milton Keynes, that we would continue to grow in depth of relationships, clarity of purpose, and the fulfilment that comes from making a real difference.

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The Church of England has launched its national campaign for Christmas 2018. It uses the hashtag #FollowTheStar and there is a range of material available for churches to use, including books, apps and images.

“For many of us, Christmas brings up so many emotions, memories and expectations. We have one nativity story, but it can seem like we all have very different Christmases.
“For you it might be a time of joy and togetherness. Or perhaps it’s all about planning and to-do lists. Many others can find it a sad and lonely time – nagged by the feeling that your Christmas is not like those ‘perfect’ ones we see in the media.
“But just like the unexpected assortment of people who were invited to meet the baby Jesus, #FollowTheStardoesn’t ask you to be perfect. It says: come just as you are to take the life-changing Christmas journey.”

Archbishops Justin Welby & John Sentamu

For more resources, see the Church of England web site. They can be used with or without the CofE branding – at the request of MK and Cumbria!


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Advertising Strategy

Milton Keynes Deanery has been an active partner in Christian advertising in Milton Keynes. We have worked with Church.Ads and helped build a network of churches and partners in our city. We have been commended for the number of churches involved, the amount of money raised, and the impact we have had on non-church people.

This reached a peak with the production of professional quality radio adverts in 2017 – recorded in London with the support of a national funding charity.

Our strategy is changing for two big reasons: firstly, the investment in digital communications by the Church of England at national level is resulting in the decline of the ecumenical approach pursued by Church.Ads; secondly, Deanery Synod voted not to prioritise our radio work for the next few years in favour of other projects…

Our Deanery Mission and Pastoral Committee (DMPC) discussed advertising strategies in September. They decided that advertising is best done at local level – although some churches may need support with this. They also felt that cross-city messaging is still worth doing, but may need further thought. They will come back to this at future meetings.

This means that we will not be leading an inter-church advertising campaign this year, but will be encouraging churches to think locally and use helpful resources like #FollowtheStar.

We think this reflects national and cultural shifts, and we hope churches will take advantage of the opportunities they have to reach out.

I hope to run a training session in November.

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If so, you might be able to do something about it by joining your Local Authority committee that oversees religious education in Milton Keynes.

Each local authority has a SACRE (Standing Advisory Committee for Religious Education). More can be found through the following websites:-

Milton Keynes SACRE: https://www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/schools-and-lifelong-learning/information-for-schools/sacre

National SACRE website http://www.nasacre.org.uk.

RE is in danger of being sidelined by government pressure on schools to give increasing attention to the core subjects of English, Maths and Science, whilst other subjects which enrich life such as the expressive arts, other humanities and religious education get squeezed out. However local children are crying out for time given to the more enriching subjects including religious education, ethics and morality. The success of MK Youth SACRE, headed up by an award-winning RE teacher at Denbigh, Shammi Rahman, indicates the importance that children place on spending school time on areas of faith and belief.

MK Deanery is looking for two individuals to join the other two Anglican reps. (You do not have to be an Anglican, just be approved by the Deanery Synod as Anglican reps!) The commitment is to attend our once termly meetings which last for only an hour and a half during “twilight” hours. SACRE is made up of reps from other faiths, teachers and local councillors.

For more information, please contact me, Rev Paul Smith (Chair of MK SACRE). We always invite interested reps to attend one of our termly meetings to see what we’re like before deciding whether to join!

Contact details: Tel: (1908) 606689. E-mail: paul.a.smith.mk@btinternet.com

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Deanery Organising: Priorities

Synod has given some very helpful guidance on the projects that MK Deanery will prioritise over the next two to three years. We have limited resources, so it is very wise to focus. We will have more impact if we concentrate on a relatively small number of key issues.

The top three priority projects are:

  1. Mental Health
  2. Affordable Housing
  3. Domestic Abuse

In each case, we’ll have a project team, a team leader and a member of staff assigned to work with them. We will encourage the team to build partnerships with other groups and organisations, and we will promote this work through our various channels of communication. I think we should be able to make a big difference!

These projects will run alongside a number of parish and deanery “development” projects involving church planting, boundaries, deployment and so on… The Deanery Mission and Pastoral Committee has a very full agenda of its own.

We are also pleased to have a new Deanery Finance Team who will be presenting their proposals for a new Share Allocation Scheme at the July meeting of Synod.

Communication and Young People were raised as issues, but we don’t have the capacity to run big projects at this stage. We will carry out a review of our strategy in both areas over the coming year. Perhaps something big will emerge in future.

The issue of refugees and migrants is an important one for us as Christians in Milton Keynes. We live in a diverse, multi-cultural city at a time of global crisis. It’s important that the Church speaks up for all those who are marginalised, whether they are homeless, hungry or displaced. God calls us to see all people as our neighbours. 

Although we will not have a priority project that focuses on refugees, we will continue to work with Refugees Welcome and the Red Cross. We will encourage churches to engage with refugees – and consider Community Sponsorship as a way of helping families.

On this issue, there will be an act of remembrance on World Refugee Day (20th June) at 6.30pm. More information about this soon…

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Making a difference nationally

The Citizens UK Council meeting on Thursday was very productive, in spite of the snow! We had a record turnout of leaders with all eleven chapters represented in some way. It was a challenging meeting (starting late, finishing early and a delayed lunch) but everyone was disciplined and we got through the agenda (mostly).

Tim was chairing the meeting (which was fun!)

From the MK perspective there are a couple of things to note:

a) Voting Age Campaign: We approved a campaign around lowering the voting age to 16. Some of our Secondary schools will be keen to get involved in this.

b) National Organising: We had presentations from the five National Organising teams: Fair Deal, Welcome not Hate, Refugees and Migrants, Mental Health, and Housing and Homelessness. There will be paper reports from the teams in the next two weeks and local chapters (like CitizensMK) will be asked to look at them. On June 29th there will be a national assembly at which we will be asked to vote to approve the national campaigns. We will also have a public action on one of the campaigns – probably refugees and migrants, since Council voted this as the top priority for this occasion.

c) Refugees and Migrants: The Refugees and Migrants campaign will probably be the focus of the June 29th action. Although Refugees Welcome is not a core campaign for Citizens MK this year, we did set up Refugees Welcome MK (which is now a CIO in its own right). Key themes are likely to be: 1) maintaining the levels of refugees welcome under VPRS and Community Sponsorship, 2) Cutting the costs of citizenship for children to cost price, c) ensuring that ESOL provision is available at local level.

It’s great to be involved in big national issues like these, and MK people are very involved!

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DLT Report: March 2018

Christmas Starts with Christ – and a costume…

We took the lead on the Christmas Starts with Christ campaign in Milton Keynes once again.  The project team included some new partners from the city – and beyond.  This year we raised enough money to spend £2,572.81 on airtime, and were also given a grant from the Jerusalem Trust to write and produce three new adverts – which were used as far away as Shetland! For a brief report, click here.

The radio adverts were linked to a tentative social-media campaign on the theme “Where’s Jesus?” The idea was to create images of Jesus in unlikely places – reminding people that Jesus was born for all – not just the “important” people. Tim was called back from sabbatical to put on the costume. The role required a beard, and a willingness to look very silly!


Setting Goals…

Our Deanery Mission and Pastoral Committee has been working on a set of goals for the next three years. They’re keen to focus on mission and church growth. The conversations have been making huge progress, but they’re not quite there yet. They hope to have something ready for the next Synod meeting in May…


Celebrating and Blessing Milton Keynes

In the meantime, the Diocese is thinking about how they might “Celebrate and bless our largest, fastest growing city” (which is Milton Keynes, if you’re not sure…) There have been two meetings of the working group so far, and various MK people are on it, including Tim Norwood, David Thom, Paul Oxley, Sharon Grenham-Thompson, David McDougall and John Robertson. It’s early days still, but this conversation is vital as we look to the future. In the meantime, the National Infrastructure Commission has published its report into the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc. This new mini-region is going to be a big feature in our lives over the next few decades, so it’s crucial that we start thinking about how we respond.


MK people are also on other Diocesan working groups, including “Making a bigger difference in the world and serving the poor” (Tim) and “Planting new congregations and churches everywhere we can” (David McDougall). It’s great that Milton Keynes is contributing to the wider agenda!


Refugees Welcome

The good news is that we have now welcomed twelve families into the city through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme. This is an amazing achievement, but many of the families are coming to the end of their initial period of support. There’s a need to think about continuing support for language, employment and social engagement. We held a “Do something Big” summit in February which has led to a few significant offers. This is an area we need to keep working on…


New agenda for Citizens MK

Three of our parishes are currently members of Citizens MK and the alliance has set four goals for 2018. These are: 

Members of Christ the Cornerstone have taken a particular lead on “Mental Health” and “Fight Against Hate”. Tim is working with the “House the Homeless” team and is pulling together a campaign to develop a Community Land Trust for Milton Keynes. This is a mechanism for providing permanent genuinely affordable homes and could be a really exciting development. For more about CLTs see the National Community Land Trust Network.

The next big event is the Sleepeazy with the YMCA on March 16th.


And in other news…

  • Ian Herbert is now Rector of Woughton
  • Tim Norwood spent three months on Sabbatical
  • Ross Northing is now on Sabbatical
  • We’re starting a series of three open Synod meetings which will use community organising to turn dreams into action…


Organising Prayer

Tim’s new book, “Organising Prayer” is now available. It can be ordered online from Lulu and will be available for sale at Cornerstone. It costs £2.50 and contains the morning prayer outlines used at Cornerstone at 8.30am from Monday to Thursday.


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