Report of Milton Keynes Deanery Synod

Report of Milton Keynes Deanery Synod
held on 22 February 2017

This was the last Deanery Synod of this triennial and the main thrust of the meeting was to review some successes and outline plans for the next triennial.

There were brief presentations (1 slide – 3 minutes, and they really were that quick) on the following successes;

  • Make Lunch
  • Advertising
  • Church without walls
  • CoMPass
  • Water Eaton

Make Lunch: Did you know that in MK one in five children live in poverty? i.e. in a household where the income is £16,000 or less? Working with the Food Bank, 696 children were given lunch over the past half term break. The initiative is growing and continued support is appreciated.

Advertising: It is important to remember that these campaigns are aimed at people who are not Christians and do not attend church. Whenever questions are raised it is important to use the opportunity to engage in discussion.

SACRE: This is the committee responsible for the delivery of Religious Education in schools, which is one of our primary mission fields. The group meets once a term, now at twilight so that teachers can attend. There are two vacancies on this committee and Paul asked for two people from the Deanery to join this key and successful group.

Church without walls: This was the Deanery’s first pioneer post. MK Deanery provided the house and we should still regard it as “our project”. The church is community-based and uses community spaces for worship and meetings. It is very successful, with 40-50 people attending Sunday services (50% under 10).

CoMPass: This is the vehicle by which Mission Partnership (MP) delivers adult education about faith and mission across the Deanery. More people are aware of CoMPass and some are now coming back for more training.

Water Eaton: After 14 years at St Mary’s, Catherine has been appointed Vicar of St. Frideswide’s and shared the good news about how work on her move is progressing. The mission is to take a small group of people from St. Mary’s Bletchley and transplant them to build up St. Frideswide’s. Both congregations are excited about the future.

The Future

What challenges and opportunities will the next three years bring?

The Area Dean gave a presentation looking back at key events in Milton Keynes’ history since the 1970s, and looking ahead at the future of the Deanery.

From 2005-2014 we were effectively bankrupt and needed to change. We had to re-think ecumenical relationships, and shift focus from maintenance to mission. Tim reminded Synod that those ten years were necessarily focused on sustainability.

We now need to look at ways we can work together, maximizing resources and do something useful. This is about the Deanery, not the churches. We are trying to create partnerships with others not trying to do everything ourselves. ‘Refugees Welcome’ is an example of this, and we helped to kick this off. It’s also about being good stewards of the resources God has given us.

We are now in a good position to take on the new challenges facing the Deanery. This is a really significant time for MK, and we’re now working beyond the original plan for the city. Plans are afoot to develop a whole new region, with 27 different planning districts from Oxford to Cambridge. The Government has already announced plans for a major East/West rail link. Their plan will be ready this autumn, ahead of the Council’s plan in spring 2018. These plans will be shaping our discussions over the next 3-15 years, and Tim has been asked to speak about this to the Archdeaconry Mission and Pastoral Committee (AMPC).

The key messages for the future were:

  • Bishop Steven plans to ‘invest disproportionately in MK’
  • We must learn from the past
  • We need a praying community.

The Agenda for 2017 – 2020 will focus on:

  • Church Growth – the biggest part of the Agenda. Some strategies are already in place, not just for new areas but also existing areas.
  • The Common Good – to grow, but for a purpose – the good of everyone.
  • Developing Leadership.
  • Being a Blessing to others – how we as a city can do this, and look beyond MK
  • Resources for Mission – we will need more if we are to grow (having spent years reducing). These need to be independent of external funding.

One of our key challenges is how to reach the city without vicars (Growing Leaders course?).

Deanery Elections

As always there was a bit of Synod housekeeping.

The Lay Chair reminded everyone that this was the last Deanery Synod meeting of this triennial and that churches need to elect Deanery Synod reps at their APCMs. Candidates must be prepared to serve for three years and be active participants. Information on the election of Synod reps can be found on the Deanery Website. He also commented that MK was one of the lowest contributors of meaningful statistics, and urged everyone to improve this situation.

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Milton Keynes Deanery Synod

Meeting held on 4 October 2016
St. Mary’s, Bletchley

What an evening! Gone are the challenges of “can I stay focused”, this was about “what are you going to do to show your Christian Faith and make a difference?”

The meeting was given over to a series of presentations from Citizens MK. The objective was for members of Deanery Synod to understand the purpose and activities of MK Citizens as an organization and to look at how we can respond as a Deanery, as Churches and as individuals.

Rev Tim Norwood (Area Dean) explained that the reason we were looking at Citizens MK is because we helped launch the alliance through the work of Tim Clapton and have been a key partner since the beginning (bet not many of you knew that). We also do a lot of our work involving Social Justice through Citizens MK and have taken a significant lead on a number of campaigns including the Weaving Trust and Refugees Welcome (and even fewer knew that!).

1. Citizens MK

The speakers from Citizens MK were; Tom Bulman, Alan Bainbridge, Debbie Wilson and Carmel Schmidt.

Tom Bulman gave an excellent overview of how the organization works and stressed the key process is about having 1-2-1 conversations. This is not just about chatting to our friends (in our comfort zones) but actively seeking out key people (leaders) and those impacted by particular issues to identify specific changes needed and those who have the resources (money and/or people) to help deliver the solutions.

Debbie Wilson gave an enlightening (if a little depressing) presentation about the living wage and the issues affecting low paid workers. This campaign started as a result of a 1-2-1 conversation.
Just in case you don’t know; Low wages are earned mostly by women and immigrants. MK has a lot of jobs paying the minimum wage. There are too many parents working two jobs who cannot spend time with family or earn enough to make ends meet. FYI the minimum wage is £7.20 per hour if you are over 25 (set by government) – living wage is £8.25 per hour (outside London).
Not surprisingly, earning a minimum wage causes many problems. So it is right to campaign for, and to pay the living wage.
What can churches do? Those churches that are employers should become “accredited living wage employers” and publicize the achievement to set an example to the community. Churches should raise the issue with parishioners and encourage them to get involved in the campaign.

Alan Bainbridge told us about the weaving trust, a campaign to build better relationships between the diverse communities in MK.
The process is very simple. A meeting is held in a host’s premises. The host gives a short talk on “what it is like for them living here”. This is followed by lots of 1-2-1 conversations (is there a theme developing here?). Alan stressed the need to work actively to build up relationships in order to stop community breakdown that could lead to the tensions we have seen in a number of cities and communities around the world (e.g. Chicago, Northern Ireland and Aleppo).
What can we do? We can get involved by attending and hosting events. Specifically we should support the Weaving Trust event to celebrate the 50 years of MK.

Carmel Schmidt gave an update on Refugees Welcome, and this is where the “rubber hits the road”. Not just talking but actually doing! It is based on the belief that “it takes a community to integrate a refugee”.
The group has been together for a year and they are now forming a charity. They lobby the council and work with all agencies to make this integration happen.
About a year ago, as a call to action, they sent out publicity to churches, met council leaders and the Red Cross. They now have a directory of support of about 250 people.
To carry out the work they have an implementation team. Five houses have been furnished, mostly by churches in MK. They also collect the refugees from the airport and take them to their new home. It is great that the two dads who arrived in April are now on the team to pick up new families from the airport.
Carmel asked if we would go on to the website ( and join the group.

Our response (What will we do as churches?)
These are some of the themes discussed – so don’t be surprised if a challenge is laid down when you next meet your Deanery Synod Rep.

We need to work out how to connect with the diverse cultural communities in our parishes.
Let’s get accredited to the living wage as this is important to show the younger generation that we care. (So who is going to be first?).
Identify what we are already doing (there is a lot going on), focus in on the themes we have heard and drive them forward.
Homelessness is a big problem due to evictions by private landlords. Current government housing policy is making people homeless. Campaign to change the policy (Who is up for this one?).
We are all in comfortable places – how to we get to have the conversations in areas of difficulty? (Now there is a challenge!)
Weaving Trust events are great but there is no follow up. Churches can provide the space to enable the trust to grow. St. Freidswides is a member and has hosted Weaving Trust events. (Who wants to join?)

2. Deanery Share (Peter Green)

We then got down to the thorny subject of Parish share, how it is calculated, how much each parish is expected to pay and more importantly what is being done to make sure it is paid.
The presentation created some discussion, which unfortunately had to be curtailed do to time constraints. However this issue is needs to be resolved and all parishes are invited to propose an alternative (hopefully better) scheme to the finance community.

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DLT Report – October 2016

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

Church Inspections

The summer is always dominated by the annual Church inspections which we carry out on behalf of the archdeacon. Each church has to be visited once every three years, and there is a list of questions that we have to ask the churchwardens. It can be really useful for new wardens, because it gives them an idea of what their role might involve. It’s also a good way of maintaining good links between churches and deanery officers. Our Deanery Administrator, Linda Kirk, spends a lot of time booking the inspections – which often involves finding out who the new churchwardens are. The Area Dean, Tim Norwood, visits roughly half the churches each year – usually with one other DLT member. We’ve just finished this year’s inspections, and are currently processing the results…

Refugees Welcome

Work has continued on the Refugees Welcome campaign. During the summer we welcomed three new families to Milton Keynes through the United Nations relocation scheme. National government provides the money to pay for accommodation, but Refugees Welcome MK has coordinated the preparation of the houses, and is working closely with the Red Cross to help families integrate. Members of our churches donated furniture and money (through the Church of Christ the Cornerstone) and volunteers helped prepare the houses. The next round of arrivals will probably be later in the year…

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Christmas Starts with Christ

We have already started our planning for Christmas. We held a meeting to review the Easter advertising campaign and think ahead to December… This year we have commissioned three radio adverts that will be produced for us by Heart FM. This is a big change on previous years when we’ve used material produced by Church Ads. They no longer have funding for this, so our adverts may well be used elsewhere. Watch this space…

Weaving Trust

The EU referendum was followed by a rapid change in government. We have a new Prime Minister, and are now waiting to see what Brexit will actually look like. One of the unfortunate consequences of all this has been a rise in hate crime and “everyday racism”. There were a few emergency meetings organised by Citizens to gauge the impact on local communities, some of whom feel that their right to be here is being questioned. The language used about immigrants has clearly damaged trust between groups of people in our city.
In this light, the Weaving Trust campaign has become even more significant. We’ve had a number of events over the summer which took place in the Council Offices, the Quaker Meeting House, the Synagogue and Downs Barn Church. This has been a significant project for Tim, but he’s now planning to hand over leadership of the campaign group to somebody else, so he can concentrate on new work.

More about Weaving Trust


By popular demand, we organised a second Churchwardens evening. Our Lay Chair, David Thom, hosted a night of information, discussion and cake. We hope to do another event like this next year, probably soon after the next Churchwarden elections have taken place

Deanery Chapter

There was a Deanery Chapter meeting in July, organised by our Chapter Clerk, Keith Straughan. Over the past few years few years we’ve only had three Chapter meeting each year, because attendance can be patchy otherwise, and people have so many other commitments. There is a desire for more frequent events, so the DLT have been asked to look at a monthly Eucharist and sandwich lunch. This is being discussed and may start in January…

New Start for Water Eaton

St Frideswide’s Church in Water Eaton has been without an incumbent for ten years. It is the most deprived parish in the Diocese, according the Church Urban Fund figures, but it has not been possible to appoint a stipendiary minister. A team of self-supporting clergy have resourced the church through a Local Shared Ministry Scheme, and Tim has been providing interim ministry for the past three years.
After a great deal of work it is now time for a new start. The boundaries have been changed so that the parish will incorporate the new developments in Eaton Leys. The Deanery and Archdeaconry have also agreed to support a new full-time post with a major emphasis on community engagement. Significant changes are underway and we hope to advertise in the new year. Please keep praying for this church and the congregation as they look to the future…

St Frideswide Web Site


The national memorial for the Memorable Order of Tin Hats is behind the library in CMK. Tim once again acted as “padre” for the MOTHs at their national memorial service in September. This is always a moving event.

Watling Valley, Whaddon Way and Newton Leys

In September we welcomed three new ministers. Steve Summerfield was inducted as minister of Whaddon Way Church – in a service led jointly by Tim and the Baptist Area Leader. The new Methodist circuit Superintendent, Dawn Saunders, will be giving half of her time to Watling Valley. Ben Thorpe will be leading a project in Newton Leys. It’s exciting to see new things happening in these places, but keep praying for Woughton, Great Linford and Water Eaton where we hope to appoint new clergy soon…

And also…

There’s so much more happening in MK Deanery, but we can’t cover it all in detail:

  • Tim has been supporting churches with Sunday services, weddings and baptisms…
  • We have a new proposal for the Rector post in Woughton and a new profile is being drawn up…
  • Tim is now covering the “Community Engagement” brief for the Mission Partnership…
  • We have a new Archdeacon…
  • There will be a preaching course in Spring/Summer
  • John Robertson is working on a lay leadership training programme using the methodology of “community organising”
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DLT Report June 2016

The Deanery Leadership Team consists of the six deanery officers. We’ve been missing a Deanery Secretary for some time. We’ve found this difficult because we didn’t have someone who could focus on how we use our processes to achieve our aims. It’s therefore great news that Steve Snook from Bletchley has stepped forward for this appointment. We’ve been working with him over the past few weeks and can already see how he could help us to develop our work…

That’s for the future. Looking back over the past few months, there has been a lot going on…

Church Wardens Evening

David Thom, our Lay Chair, organised a really successful evening for church wardens in February. This provided an opportunity for people to meet each other, and was particularly helpful for new church wardens. There was a challenging quiz about rules and regulations, during which we all learned something! There is enthusiasm for a similar event next year, although there are questions about the best time of the year for this…

Collecting Information

Linda Kirk, our Deanery Administrator, had a lot of work to do to make the Church Wardens Evening happen. It took nearly a hundred emails to work out who all the wardens (and equivalent church officers) might be! This might sound crazy, but it’s a feature of the complexity of Milton Keynes and the speed it takes for information to flow through our various systems. Linda has continued to work hard on gathering basic data during the past few months. It’s tough and often unpopular work but incredibly important. Is there any way we can improve the process?

Daily Prayer

Tim Norwood, our Area Dean, has been praying with ecumenical colleagues each weekday morning at the Church of Christ the Cornerstone. They’ve been using a simple liturgy with space for Bible readings, reflection and intercession. This has been a really exciting experiment and has also created space for useful conversations. Are there other opportunities for similar prayer and Bible-based reflection in local areas across the city?

Refugees Welcomev2_refugeeswelcome

Tim has continued to work with the Refugees Welcome group. We were delighted to say that two families of Syrian refugees arrived in April and are now settling in to life in Milton Keynes. The work is progressing thanks to a partnership between MK Council, the Red Cross and Citizens MK. We are doing much better than other areas in the South East. Two families may not sound much but it has taken a lot to achieve! One of the key issues has been the identification of private landlords willing to rent out their properties to refugees. We’ve also had to look at ways of fitting out houses and providing support. We’re currently reviewing the process after the first arrivals and will be streamlining this for the next round. One church has already offered to kit out one of the houses, while others would like to fund-raise for furniture. How can we encourage other churches to offer help to these vulnerable people?

Weaving Trust

https___img_evbuc_com_http%253A%252F%252Fcdn_evbuc_com%252Fimages%252F15432567%252F98264925971%252F1%252ForiginalTim has also been chairing the Weaving Trust campaign. At Weaving Trust events, ordinary people from different communities meet each other in 1-to-1 conversations. These have been incredibly significant and it’s been great to see a growth in social cohesion in MK at a time when hostility and suspicion have been growing across Europe following terrorist attacks and an ongoing refugee and migration crisis. Over the past few months we’ve held events with Dentons, Q:Alliance and St Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church. There will be a massive Weaving Trust event on the 28th January 2017 as part of the 50th anniversary of Milton Keynes. What can we do to help our church members engage with different communities?

Deanery Lunches

We have continued to run our popular weekly Deanery Lunches at which six “leaders” meet each other for deeper conversations and the sharing of ideas. Over the past five months these events have ranged from first meetings, to major strategic conversations. The only frustration has been that we often have people drop out at the last minute, which is annoying when we’ve had to turn other people away to keep the numbers down. Sometimes there is a good reason, but if people let us know early enough we could invite someone else. We could do more to tighten our management of this, but it’s already a time-consuming task. Do we invest more time in chasing people to achieve a worthwhile result, or trust them to turn up or send appologies as soon as they can?

Deanery Chapter

Keith Straughan, our Chapter Clerk, organised a Chapter meeting with Bishop Alan in March. This was well-attended and gave the Bishop an opportunity to talk to us about the future of ministry. The next Chapter event will be on July 12th at St Mary’s Shenley.

Vocations Team

Our new vocations team is continuing to develop its work and is meeting regularly with Caroline Windley, the Diocesan Director of Ordinands. Members of the team have met potential candidates for licensed lay ministry and ordination. They are also planning another vocations breakfast. We can now respond very quickly to approaches from candidates since there is a team of six vocations advisers. Contact Tim of you have anyone you’d like us to meet.

Vacancies and Arrivals

sharongt-1-e1460381851477It was great to welcome Sharon Grenham-Thompson as Team Vicar in Watling Valley parish. It’s always nice to get to the end of a vacancy and celebrate the beginning of a new era for both church and incumbent. Unfortunately, we failed to appoint a new Team Rector for Woughton so we’re currently having a third round of interviews. We are also awaiting news about the House for Duty post at St Andrew’s Great Linford…

Pioneer Minister for Newton Leys

We did manage to appoint a minister for Newton Leys. Details will be announced soon, but we look forward to welcoming a new “Vicar” for this growing area some time in September. This will be the first of the new Development Posts that the diocese has made available. We hope to apply for two further posts in other large areas of new housing. It won’t be our first pioneer minister of course, since we previously worked with the URC to create a similar post in Walton.

Easter: Where do you stand?


We’ve been working with ChurchAds over the past few years on their campaign “Christmas Starts with Christ”. Our group has been keen to expand the work, so last year we ran our first Easter campaign. ChurchAds picked up on our enthusiasm and this year launched “Where do you stand?” – a campaign focussed on the questions raised by the cross and resurrection. There was a national campaign, but not material we could use. We did however run our own campaign using this tag line, with a radio ad co-written by Tim and Liam from Heart FM. This was a big step forward for us, since it marked a new relationship with the radio station, and makes us a producer of material that other people will be able to use elsewhere… “Where do you stand?” will be a national campaign again next year.

Linda and Tim typed up church events for the EasterMK web site. This is very time consuming, but helps present a united and positive face to the wider world. It also works towards our vision of “MK: A City Alive to God”. How can we capitalise on this work?

Community Asset Transfer: Trinity Centre


As Area Dean, Tim is a trustee of the Trinity Centre in Fishermead. This building is owned by the Borough with a ninety-nine year lease of part of the building to the Oxford Diocesan Board of Finance who then lease it back to the Trustees with an understanding that the building can be used by Trinity Church. The building is then looked after by the Management Committee… Sounds complicated? It’s further complicated by the fact that MK Council now wants to let go of the building under a programme called “Community Asset Transfer”. Tim and the other trustees have now submitted a bid to gain local ownership. If we can pull this off it will safeguard the Trinity Church/Centre for local residents for many years to come. It’s a complicated legal learning curve, but is really significant for the future…

St Frideswide, Water Eaton

For the past few years, Tim has been giving a quarter of his time to the St Frideswide congregation. Our hope has been to use this input to explore a new plan for the development of this high priority parish. Huge progress has been made recently and we’re now exploring proposals to change boundaries and appoint a new Rector. It’s wonderful to have got to this point, and we’re really hopeful that this will be an exciting new beginning.

Deanery Deployment Plan

This is closely related to our work with the DMPC on a new deployment plan. We organised a special meeting to discuss this and a draft has been produced…

Coming up…

There’s no time to talk about other things that are bubbling away…

  • Discussions about a new model for Local Ecumenical Partnership (LEP) constitutions using the Charitable Incorporated Institution (CIO) model…
  • Tim is secretary of the National Deaneries Network which is organising a big conference in October…
  • We’ll be working with Citizens MK on a training course for churches using the model of community organising…
  • Church inspections are underway…
  • The Mission Partnership has a new logo for “A City Alive to God”…

This has been a brief survey of work being undertaken by the DLT. We hope this gives you a sense of what’s going on in MK Deanery…

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