Citizens from across the Thames Valley area will be gathering on the 11th June. This assembly will not happen at the Church of Christ the Cornerstone – as originally planned – but online using Zoom.
This will be a significant event, marking the launch of Thames Valley Citizens – which will link community alliances in Milton Keynes, Oxford and Reading.
This is a high priority for Milton Keynes Deanery, and is supported by the Diocese of Oxford, as part of the “Making a Bigger Difference” priority. The Bishop of Oxford will be speaking, and the agenda will reflect issues that have been agreed by local people.
The aims are to:
- Bring key leaders from MK, Reading and Oxford together to take action together as part of Thames Valley Citizens;
- Enable civil society institutions across the Thames Valley to reflect together on the challenges they face because of Covid-19, encourage solidarity, and begin to envision what a more just post-Covid Thames Valley could look like;
- Celebrate the contribution made by local government, NHS, police and emergency services, listen to the Covid-related challenges they face now and in the future, offer the support of civil society, and seek their support to make the Thames Valley a more just place post-Covid.
We need to get as many people to come to the event as possible, because “turnout” demonstrates our interest. Three of our parishes are members of Citizens MK in their own right, but we have committed to bring a further forty from the rest of the Deanery. Please register here if you want a Deanery ticket.
11th June 2020 from 6:30 to 8:30pm
The Deanery Leadership Team (DLT) consists of the eight Deanery officers, who meet regularly to plan activity and share leadership. The Standing Committee meets monthly to manage the regular meetings of the Deanery.
Without doubt, the biggest thing on the horizon for the Deanery is the Diocesan strategy for Milton Keynes: Celebrate and Bless MK (CBMK for short). This has been developing over the past two years, but is now becoming more concrete. There is now a definite proposal on the table which is out for consultation. Please take advantage of this opportunity, because there are some real opportunities for new mission and growth.
CBMK will focus on growth in depth, impact and numbers. There will be an emphasis on prayer, training for leadership and funds to kick-start new posts. There should be opportunities for most of our parishes to benefit directly in some way, so please don’t miss out.
The key question that is being asked between now and Palm Sunday focusses on the balance between lay and ordained ministry. Where should the bulk of new funding go? These are crucial questions that need careful thought, so please let us know what you think…
The Deanery Mission and Pastoral Committee (DMPC) has been focussing on how we can find a pioneer minister for Eagle Farm. They have put forward a proposal for a new post as part of our existing ministry numbers. This has the support of the Archdeacon, and will now go forward to the Archdeaconry Mission and Pastoral Committee (AMPC). Assuming this is successful, the new post should start in 2020.
The new pioneer will build a new worshipping community on the very Eastern corner of the city, with a focus on St Mary’s School – which is being moved from Wavendon village to Eagle Farm. A team has already been formed to lead this work.
Please pray for the team and the appointment of the new pioneer.
On January 31st Neil Popham was licensed as Interim Minister in the Stantonbury Team. Neil will be serving as the minister of Bradwell Church and leading a review of Stantonbury Ecumenical Partnership. This is an exciting post which will help shape the mission of SEP over the coming years. Please pray for Neil and the team as they start this work…
Revd Martha McInnes has started work as the new chaplain of Willen Hospice. Martha was formally welcomed at a service at Willen church on the 17th January. Please pray for her and the other staff at the hospice.
Work is continuing on our three Deanery Priorities. The “Understanding Mental Health” group has been making huge progress on research and has built strong relationships with key agencies and power-holders. The “Sanctuary” group is developing some ideas about how churches can make a difference. There is no “Affordable Housing” group as such (yet) but Tim took part in a video project which will be part of an exhibit in the new Art Gallery.
There has been an exciting development in our work with refugees. A house has been offered for “community sponsorship” in Wolverton. “Community Sponsorship” is a new approach to welcoming refugees which puts a local community group in the driving seat. It has huge potential – partly because it creates better community links for the family as they arrive. A group from the Wolverton churches has already formed and is working towards an application…
At the time of writing, it’s still not clear when, how, or even if, the UK will be leaving the EU. There are calls for prayer from all the Christian denominations in the UK and materials available. Please pray for unity, peace and a focus on the common good.
Milton Keynes has become a significant centre for work on Community Organising. Since we set up Citizens MK in 2010 we have learned a lot about how community organising can help us make a difference in our city. We’ve brought diverse communities together, welcomed refugees, got businesses to sign up to the Real Living Wage and spoken out about Hate Crime. It’s been exciting to make a difference rather than just talk about making a difference…
Community Organising is good for serving our communities, but there is also a lot of evidence that it can help grow churches – in depth, impact and numbers. In London, there has been a lot of work on “congregational development” and a number of churches have been recognised as “Resource Churches” because of the way they have used organising to grow their congregations.
The Centre for Theology and Community in East London is based at St George-in-the-East where Fr Angus Ritchie both teaches and practices community organising from a Christian perspective. There’s a great YouTube video that tells their story:
One of the important strands that have shaped Community Organising in the UK and US has been the principles of Catholic Social Teaching. These remind us that it is the values that we hold that shape our action. Churches therefore have something to offer beyond an extra pair of hands. The ten principles of Catholic Social Teaching are:
- Dignity of the Human Person
- Common Good and Community
- Option for the Poor
- Rights and Responsibilities
- Role of Government and Subsidiarity
- Economic Justice
- Stewardship of God’s Creation
- Promotion of Peace and Disarmament
- Global Solidarity and Development
Bishop Adrian Newman spoke about Catholic Social Teaching at the National Deaneries Network Conference this year. Bp Adrian was Bishop of Stepney and a trustee of Citizens UK. His parents also lived in Milton Keynes in their later days. His talk is one of the most downloaded videos on the NDN web site:
During the past year, Fr Angus and Bp Adrian have been working with Matthew Bolton (now Executive Director of Citizens UK) to run a series of three symposiums on the three quinquennial goals of the Church of England:
- Serving the Common Good
- Growing the Church
- Re-imagining Ministry
I was lucky enough to be at two of these – alongside people from MK and Oxford Diocese. It was encouraging to hear how churches have been addressing these challenges using the techniques and principles which are at the heart of organising. From my perspective, I am encouraged by the fact we have a model which is rooted in theology, while presenting a radical alternative to the managerial-leadership model often assumed as the only option for growing churches…
In Milton Keynes, we have only begun to scratch the surface when it comes to the potential of organising as a tool for Church growth. I’ve been using some form of organising for over twenty years and really love the insights that I’m learning from the Citizens family. I use the skills I’ve learned every day, and am a big fan. I am struck by the model of “pastor as organiser” and it’s the way I try to operate. Most of the time it wouldn’t be obvious to others but I know how significant it has been for me.
John Robertson has been running a course called “Leading for a Change” which follows the pattern of a two-day course in Community Organising. This course has been specifically designed to equip lay leaders, and the feed-back has been pretty good. A key element to this course is the concept of Salvation History and the way God invites us to join him in a mission of transformation – both within the Church and the World.
I’m really keen that we take these ideas to the next level. Milton Keynes is already a leader when it comes to organising in the UK, but I’d like us to be a front-runner when it comes to organising for church growth. I think this is something that we could excel in – and offer to the wider church.
I suspect some people think this is just another “initiative” or short-lived “fad” but I genuinely believe that there are important lessons from organising which would help us build a more Christ-like Church.
A shortage of genuinely affordable housing means that young people have to stay with their parents until they’re in their mid-thirties, working families need to use food banks and more people are becoming homeless. This leads to greater inequality, reduced opportunities and a whole range of problems for individuals and society as a whole.
The Biblical story has a lot to say about “home” and “hospitality”. The story of Israel is a story of a people who are promised a safe place where they can thrive and prosper – but it is also to be a place of hospitality for the orphans, the widows and strangers – those who are marginalised or left behind.
We have made affordable housing one of our top priorities as a deanery. This could seem like a huge issue that is beyond our reach, but there are things that we can do – particularly if we work with others.
Tim is currently looking for church members who will join the team and embed Christian values of hospitality and social justice at the heart of this project.
The Deanery Leadership Team (DLT) consists of the eight Deanery officers, who meet regularly to plan activity and share leadership.
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
- A 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.
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.
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.