This coming Sunday, we will be joined by Rich and Anna Ellwood. Having grown up in Oxfordshire, Rich and his Belgian wife, Anna, have spent 13 years leading a church in Brussels. They have now relocated with their family to the UK. Rich works for Christians Against Poverty, and as of September 2023, now leads Salt & Light Advance.
We fast together as a whole church on particular days. If this is new to you, you might find it helpful to watch the video below where Elizabeth talks about what fasting is, why we do it, and how to fast.
We’ve just completed a short series on Sundays entitled “Renewing our Community Groups”. Community Groups have long been really, really important in the life of OCC! Community Groups are OCC's midweek groups, small groups, house groups, fellowship groups – whatever you want to call them!
“What are Community Groups for?”
Our Community Groups seek to be community in our transient, multi-cultural, 21st Century city. They love, serve, and reach the wider community, which could be those you live and work with, people in your local area, a certain demographic, or a group that you serve through a particular project.
A city like Oxford is for many is a stepping stone of education and early career development, with high population turnover. A city church like OCC will reflect this population turnover of the city. But with our 'apostolic vision' for God's world, we see that turnover as an opportunity, not a threat!
This blog seeks to window into how OCC is approaching questions of racism, racial justice, and ethnic diversity, at this point in time. I'm writing as one of the elders and Assistant Pastors, but also about my own story.
Full disclosure: I’m a white man of a certain age. I grew up in the UK in the late 20th century. This is a tricky subject to get right. It’s not my ‘lived experience’. It's a current, very live, and controversial topic. Writers, commentators and activists use a lot of terminology that you need get your head around.
Let me introduce Rich and Anna Houghton to you. We have known them for many years having been first connected in Kidlington. Anna works as a primary school teacher and Rich works as a project manager for a design agency. They have two children and are fun-loving people that love sharing life with others in Banbury.
There's a church just north of Oxford that we're family with! Although its exciting, being actively part of a wider family of churches may be a new idea for some of you, so we want to tell the story of how we got there, and how relationships are sustained today.
Chapter 1: Oxfordshire
In the 1970s, UK churches were impacted by a new movement that came to be called both the ‘charismatic renewal’ and the ‘house church movement’. It placed emphasis on authentic community, participation in worship, spiritual gifts, and meaningful discipleship.
Recently I came across this tweet, which could sum up pretty much all that needs saying on this topic: "Church is a Spirit-filled family, not a weekly experience."
Assistant Pastor Sanjay Mahtani often puts it this way: "OCC: Community is our middle name!" And I can sometimes be heard to complain, "We don't go to church, we are the church!"