Making a Bigger Difference with Thames Valley

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:

  1. Bring key leaders from MK, Reading and Oxford together to take action together as part of Thames Valley Citizens;
  2. 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;
  3. 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

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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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60th Anniversary of Operation Grapple

Pat is a church member in the Deanery. Sixty years ago he was present when the first British thermonuclear weapon was tested. Many of his friends passed away at a relatively young age. On this significant anniversary, it would be good to remember those who involved in these events and the lasting impact on the islanders. These are his words:

The 15th of May this year it will be 60 years since Operation Grapple when we tested Britain’s first thermonuclear weapon (Hydrogen Bomb).   A grand total of seven Hydrogen bombs were detonated, plus thirteen atomic bombs of various sizes, this was over a period from 1952 until 1958. 

The total number of personal involved over that six years is estimated to be over 26 thousand. I served with the Royal Air Force on Christmas Island in the Pacific 1956/57 when we tested four of the H bombs. At any one time there was the minimum of 2500 men on the island involved, it would be remiss of me not to include  the islanders .

The number of remaining veterans is estimated at less than one thousand five hundred.  Of the fifteen men of my section  only three of us are still alive.  A great number died before they reached fifty, many in earlier years. causes of death possibly due to radiation, Back in 1995 I made a trip back to Christmas Island where I stayed for two months. I found that our activity years ago had affected the health of the islanders and I found hardly anyone from the days we were there.

I feel that I have been very fortunate where others have not, I have a life and a healthy family, which I have found is not so with many veterans. I would so grateful if someone would give a thought at is time to all those men and their families.

Please remember the men involved and their families on Sunday – or light a candle in remembrance.

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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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Deanery Lunches – Building Relationships

Just doing my job…

When I became an area dean ten years ago, one of the first things I did was take all of the vicars out for lunch – I had an expense account in those days! I quickly developed the habit of meeting key people over coffee or a meal. It was really good to do this, since it gave people a bit of affirmation and helped me to get a better picture of what was going on around the city…

Missing links…

I soon realised that there was a gap in the system. The more I got out and about, the more I learned about the people and congregations of the deanery. This was great on one level and made me a classic networker – spreading ideas and making connections…

But the connections were really limited!

I remember meeting two people on the same day. Each of them had the same idea for a project and also felt they could become the hub for that kind of thing in the area.

I tried to get them to talk to each other but they never did – and both projects fizzled out…


When Citizens MK was launched there was a lot of talk about 121s. It took me a while to get this particular piece of jargon, but it basically means a “one-to-one” conversation in which two people meet see if they can help each other to achieve their own individual agendas.

Looking back I realised that some of the most successful projects I had been involved with had happened because of this kind of meeting.

I remembered visiting all of the PCC members in Slough when we wanted to reorder the building. Those 121s helped build a common vision for the project and enabled each person to shape the final proposal…

I also remembered my time in Watling Valley when I met each member of the team on their own. I was thanked afterwards for being pastoral, but it was through these meetings that the biggest changes were achieved.

I realised that the best leadership happens through 121s!

Relational Organizations

There is a tendency to think that efficient organizations all adopt a 1980s style business model with hierarchical hero leaders barking orders and imposing their vision – a model reinforced all too publicly by Donald Trump, Alan Sugar and their various apprentices…

Whether it works or not is a really good question, but it certainly doesn’t reflect the kind of organization that the Body of Christ is called to be. Our values should be reflected in the structure of our networks, how we make decisions, and the way we operate.

Churches are essentially called to be relational communities in which people come first – rather than production lines churning out products.

Deanery Lunches

I spent a long time reflecting on how to crack this one. There was a problem with our model because leaders weren’t talking to each other, and when they did come together it was at ‘fraternals’ or chapter meetings. At these meetings people might have 30 seconds to share news – followed by an opportunity for the more vocal of our brethren to compete about who has the biggest [insert word here] or the worst horror stories!

It took me a while, but I eventually came up with the idea that became Deanery Lunches. The idea from the beginning was to limit numbers, so people could share more deeply, but also keep the guest list wide, to build new links and increase the richness of our community.

What do we do?

The project launched in Autumn 2013 and we soon developed a rhythm. It took a lot of work to organise in the early days and we needed to experiment with numbers, venues and booking systems.

Fairly soon a pattern became established and we have continued in this way…

Each half term I send out invites to a list of around forty “leaders”. The list includes clergy, lay people, ecumenical partners and a few others.

People then book in (these days we use Doodle which works reasonably well.) We limit meetings to six people at a time because anything larger tends to break down into separate conversations. It also allows a small buffer should participants cancel at last minute.

We meet at a reasonably priced venue and people buy their own food. I try to locate events closer to people who can’t drive.

The conversations vary enormously each time. Often people are meeting for the first time – which still surprises me after three years! Sometimes people discover common concerns or come up with new ideas. Occasionally, everyone knows each other really well, and they can talk about long term plans. Once or twice somebody has needed some serious support…

The Future?

Deanery Lunches have turned out to be a really significant – but seemingly insignificant – innovation. They’re still popular and some people feel they’ve really missed out if they can’t get a place. In general, they have changed the culture of our deanery and helped embed a more relational way of working.

They don’t seem to be a big thing, but the important things seldom do…

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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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