Central Region Update
The last year has been a time of tremendous change for the Central Region, especially in the shape of our communities as a whole. Like many churches, we are constantly asking how we can make our fellowship more accessible to people outside our church. Recently, some of us have been learning about the benefit of slightly larger groups (20+ people), which make it easier for us to dare beyond our walls, whilst still being small enough to care. We’ve also been getting the hang of forming each new group around a vision for outreach, we’re calling these missional communities. In Kidlington, the church has formed into three distinct ‘missional groups,’ each providing family for church members, but between them also supporting the youth project, connecting with internationals and meeting young families. In the Leys church, there are now several ‘Life Groups,’ including a new one that focuses around a toddler group in the middle of the estate.In Oxford, we have drawn several groups in the west of the city into one extended family under the name ‘OX2’, ...who are together running a support group for stroke survivors, a toddler group and have people involved in leadership in the local community.. We have also drawn together a new ‘extended family’ in the Cowley area, called ‘East-Side’. Both groups have now seen the fruit of people born again, after years of barrenness. In Bicester, the long-standing women’s and men’s groups are now looking at change, again with the purpose of connecting more readily with the communities in which they live.
Right now, there is also significant leadership change afoot in most of our churches! It’s been nearly a year since Steve Beegoo let go of leading Bicester Community Church (BCC) in order to become Principal of The King's School. After some months of working hard and praying hard, BCC are being asked whether they would receive Keith and Eileen Elmitt as new leaders, on a part-time basis.
Keith would therefore only be able to sustain a few of his existing responsibilities in Oxford, and Oxford Community Church is being consulted at the same time about appointing Al McNicoll as a part-time assistant pastor. Amongst other things, Al and Caroline would take charge of our student team, as long-standing leaders James and Bex Lawton and Dave and Claire Wong step back from involvement.
In addition, we have accepted the resignation of Chipper and Anna Betts as leaders of the Leys Community Church, as they have heard God leading them on to pastures new. The Leys church are together rising in faith to the challenges that this will bring, and we are praying about who should take the helm there too!
After a break of about 20 years, we are delighted that Tring Community Church (TCC) are rejoining the Salt & Light family by joining our region. Tring is the other side of Aylesbury, towards the M1, and is led by David and Andrea Stacey. As our existing churches are changing to become more accessible to non-members, TCC have much to teach us, because they have a good tradition of welcoming people exploring faith and seeing them born again and baptised.
Tyndale Community School
September 2013 saw the opening of Tyndale Community School in Cowley, Oxford. This is a Christian ethos ‘free school’, paid for from the public purse and run by Chapel St Schools in partnership with Oxford Community Church. More on this on page 19.Dean Court Community CentreIn the spring, a new community centre was opened in Dean Court (Botley), owing a great deal to the leadership of one OCC member, Anna Pearson, plus the prayers and willing help of other church members, alongside others in the local community.
Some things are continuing!
We’ve said a lot here about all the new things because they require the most explanation, but that doesn’t mean they are the most important things. It’s also been a pleasure to see existing ministries continuing, such as the Leys Youth Programme and Kidlington Youth Programme, which serve hundreds of young people in their communities, plus our own youth group, BISCUITS. Our preschool in Bicester is as full as it’s ever been, as is Family Fun at the Kings Centre. Edge Housing, which provides accommodation for those in need has enjoyed a healthy second year of operation.
We have continued to gather our churches for regional celebrations. We have also continued to run ‘Learning Communities’ for our leaders every six months, which remain invaluable times.
Matters for Prayer
Amidst all of these joys, there are some things that keep driving us to prayer, including: a £30,000 deficit in the Oxford church funds; the desire to see more people saved, not least the spouses of some church members; a longing for more anointing in our worship; and the continuing reality of local ethnic communities unreached by the gospel.
God has begun to speak to us through a dream given to Mark Eley (Kidlington). He saw a sail with its points in Kidlington, Bicester and Banbury, which spoke of these places being joined together. He also saw a mast connecting the sail to one boat in the city of Oxford, and then the wind of God’s spirit filling the sail and moving the whole boat eastwards.
As this dream has been evaluated, it is leading us to see the importance of unity between the Oxford and Leys churches, the benefit of closer connections between our churches in the north of the county, and also a promise of expansion from the north towards the east. We have therefore just begun talking about a vision for church planting along the M40 and M1 corridors between London and Birmingham.