The Church on Oakwood is an ecumenical church within our parish of St Albans. It was formed to serve the incoming residents of a huge new housing estate in the early 1990’s, and was a joint project between the Anglican, Methodist, United Reformed and Catholic traditions. When the church was first commissioned in 1993 two documents were produced:- The first, known as the Sharing Agreement covered the legalities; and the second, called ‘The Oakwood Covenant’, dealt with the spiritual and secular.
This second document promised, on behalf of the people of Oakwood and its Church Leaders, to commit ourselves to Christ in our various ways of worship, and to work toward a better understanding of, and sharing with, each other’s faith. It pledged us to pray and work together to be witnesses to the people of Oakwood of the ‘saving power of Christ’.
In due course a Local Ecumenical Partnership was formed and a contact group of parishioners from each denomination was set up to meet on a regular basis to help drive the movement forward. It was when this group met to plan for the 10th anniversary of the church that we decided to strengthen our commitment to working closer together by producing a covenant, one that would come alive in the hearts and minds of our present day congregations. It would be written in everyday language that could be understood by all.
Our first task was to define the areas we wanted to cover and these were eventually broken down to:
Learning, Worship, Prayer, Social, Practical, Witness.
Once completed the covenant was presented at our 10th anniversary service and each member of the joint congregation was asked to sign a specially prepared book, as a sign of their commitment to living out the promises contained in the new document. This book can be seen on the wall in the church porch, and is available to any new members of the congregations to sign if they wish.
So how have we kept our promises…………….?
Firstly ‘Learning’ – We have come together to hear speakers from different denominations and different World faiths and we have discussed openly, and at times passionately!, our thoughts and fears and hopes for the future. We have explored the Holy Scriptures together during Advent and Lent, which again has led to much debate and a little more understanding of our different ways of following our Christian faith.
In our ‘Worship and Prayer’ – We meet as an ecumenical congregation to plan and pray, for Christian Unity, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Pentecost and we celebrate Christmas together with a joint Carol Service. We create opportunities for praying together, such as the one organised to investigate different types of praying – The Quaker Way, The Jesus Prayer and The Ignation Way. Each session led by an invited guest, who explained to us the basis for the method of prayer and then helped us to participate. As Catholics we have also invited our fellow Christians to join us at Mass, as a way of showing our love of the Mass and why it is so important to us.
‘Social’ activities are also planned jointly, our annual Harvest Festival Bash is always popular, as is our ‘frugal supper’ of bread and soup following our ecumenical service for Ash Wednesday, and more often than not we finish our joint services with coffee and biscuits, in an effort to get to know each other that bit better.
The ‘Practical’ section has two quite distinct branches – looking after the fabric of the building and looking after the well-being of the people. The building is managed by our property committee, again a joint effort and covers maintenance, cleaning, gardening, in fact, whatever is needed ! Our fellow Christians together with our own Eucharistic ministers visit the sick and housebound of our parish. There is a monthly lunch club and also a regular coffee morning at the church, which attracts not only parishioners but also weary shoppers from the precinct nearby.
Which leads us neatly onto the final section – ‘Witness’ – This is a difficult one, as it means different things to different people. Some members are much more hands -on, and regularly meet for house groups and private bible study. To others it is just a case of making witness to their Faith by their way of living and dealing with those around them. We have, however, held an open air ‘Songs of Praise’ on the recreation ground opposite the church.
We worked hard in producing and making known The Oakwood Covenant, and to ensure that we don’t get too complacent we have also agreed to review its progress every five years – to make sure that we are still on the right path.
In a nut-shell, our opening declaration sums up everything that the Oakwood covenant represents:
We believe that God is one
and that there is One Lord,
One Faith, One Baptism
and that He calls us to be
One in Jesus Christ
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We believe that Jesus Christ
revealed to us, on the cross
and through His Resurrection, Gods love
and the mystery of reconciliation.
We believe that the unity of Christ’s followers
is both a gift to be enjoyed and a task to be pursued.
We covenant together to serve our Lord, our church
and our area, with the intention of making visible
the unity of Christ’s people in Oakwood
For further information about the Church on Oakwood, please contact:
- Sandra Endsor by email; Click Here