The Common Vision Process

Over the last two and a half years the Diocese of Oxford has been reflecting and rebuilding a common vision. This is now centred around our vocation to be a more Christ-like Church for the sake of God’s world: more contemplative, more compassionate and more courageous. We have explored this common vision through three biblical passages so far: the Beatitudes of Matthew 5; the raising of Lazarus in John 11 and 12 and the Letter to the Colossians. We believe this vocation and these values are widely and deeply owned.

Issues we want to address
We have prayed and listened carefully to the issues and questions which the Church needs to address in the communities we serve. Alongside the larger questions of what it means to be human in a rapidly changing world and the global ecological crisis they include:

  • the challenges of a more unequal society
  • massive new housing and population growth in our diocese with a population at least the size of Edinburgh set to move into the three counties by 2030
  • a population which understands less of the Christian faith
  • a mental health crisis among children and young people
  • major conurbations where the Church lacks strength
  • massive and untapped resources among our lay disciples
  • growing opportunities and responsibilities in our schools.

We are now in the process of translating this reflection into strategy and action across seven focus areas: making a bigger difference in the world; sharing our faith and growing the local church; planting new congregations; serving every school in our communities; setting the discipleship of all at the heart of our common life; celebrating and blessing the city of Milton Keynes; and engaging in mission with young people and children in new ways.

The Diocese has set aside £7.5 million of its own resources for these emerging mission plans over the next three-year period and will be making at least two bids for national strategic development funding (focussed around planting new congregations in the major conurbations).

The specific plans around each focus area remain in development. They include the renewal of catechesis across the diocese; building new tools for parish renewal and planning; encouraging creation care through energy audits and working towards becoming an eco-diocese; developing school chaplaincy and meaningful connections with every school; planting 750 new congregations by 2030; new resources for developing discipleship and partnering with Citizens UK on social action. We are seeking the right way increase our resources for leadership and care at archdeacon level. We want every minister across the diocese to flourish in their ministry and have recently launched a new initiative to support this.

Our common vision process is emergent and aims to be locally shaped and contextually appropriate for each part of our diverse diocese. It is not a series of top-down programmes. We are seeking at every point to live out our values of being contemplative, compassionate and courageous in every part of our common vision including the way we carry it forward.

The process is messy, untidy and iterative but very energising to be part of and to lead. We are seeking continually to navigate by where the energy is at local level and to discern where the Spirit is leading. We do not believe Common Vision can embrace every part of our common life: we want to celebrate and bless and work well in a range of other areas of ongoing work and excellence whilst developing new priorities in a creative and sustainable way.

The next Diocesan Secretary will need to share these common values and a commitment to working in a collaborative way with the emerging diocesan vision and strategy. There will certainly be room and space for the appointee to bring her or his own priorities to the developing work but there will need to be a willingness to work with what is already emerging.

More details of the Common Vision process can be found on the Diocesan website and our new magazine.

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