Just imagine an Oxford where revival has come in the universities and schools; where Christ is made known. Imagine a city where the poor are helped; a city which is a light to the nations. Imagine buildings bought and reclaimed for their original design: for the glory of God and to train a new generation of leaders for our needy continent of Europe. This is our dream; this is our hope and we believe that it is worth investing in with all our heart. But we are facing challenges—at this time, particularly financial challenges—in the fight to see this dream realised!
I recently wrote to the St Aldates congregation about the daunting but exciting possibility of the purchase of the Salvation Army building in Albion Place. Our vision for this place would be to serve the poor and to train leaders. Since then, the Senior Leadership team has been busy preparing plans, consulting with possible investors and meeting with banks to discuss financing options. We want to share with you this significant financial challenge, with the strong conviction that together we can meet this challenge before God.
The sales document for the Salvation Army building has just been issued and the headline guide price is £1 million. It is hard to assess how realistic this figure is or how much competition we may face for the building. We have had constructive discussions with the banks and we anticipate being able to access a competitive mortgage facility. However, we must assume a deposit requirement of at least £250,000 which may need to be paid within a few weeks. (The sales process is imminent, but not yet fully defined.)
At this point, we must simply confess that we do not know how we will meet these financial demands: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12). However, we know that God is faithful and we know that He provides. As Gordon Hickson wrote recently to Pastorate Leaders:
“Last Wednesday, we had quite a moving evening at the Hungry prayer meeting… We realised that we are in the best possible position—no money, no staff, no actual school yet…but a clear sense that God is calling us to open up the Oxford Centre for Church Growth so that young European ministers can come and spend a year on placement with us in Oxford…”
It is in the light of this that we ask you to join us in prayer, fasting and serious reflection on the resources we may be able to release for God’s work in this city. With this letter, we are asking you to partner with us and to help to broaden the base of those carrying the ministry of St Aldates.
Here are some specific areas we ask you prayerfully to consider regarding the Salvation Army building project which we see as unique opportunity to resource future generations:
· Could you give a one-off lump sum gift towards the deposit on the Salvation Army building?
· Could you help with a substantial lump sum as a long-term investment in the Salvation Army building—or do you know anyone who might want to do that?
· Could you provide a loan (perhaps interest-free) towards the deposit?
To be honest, I am always a bit reluctant to discuss financial matters—but I do know that God is in charge of this area of our lives too. I would like us to face this challenge together in faith. Please feel free to talk to us, to any member of the Senior Leadership team or to the Churchwardens about this challenge. The ‘Giving’ page on the St Aldates website has full bank account details and practical information on how you can get involved in this way.
Let me finish with an anecdote. This week, I was taken up to the bell tower of St Aldates. Believe it or not, I had not been up there before in eight years’ ministry here. I saw a plaque to former Rector Keith de Berry and was reminded that in 1965 (when I was 15), my aunt brought me to St Aldates to hear him and I asked her what she thought of him. “A great man”, she said, “but always talking about money for some new project or other.” It was, in fact, Keith who bought the land and built the original Catacombs building and then bought some of the buildings in Pembroke Street before then inventing a new charity: Commonwealth House. We benefit from all of these sacrificial investments to this day—and all because a Rector was not ashamed to ask for money in order to take ground for the Kingdom of God in central Oxford.
So I am not ashamed. First of all, I am not ashamed of the gospel; and second, I am not ashamed of saying: “Come on, St Aldates: let us arise, let us give and let us build!”
Our Senior Leaders join in sending love to you as ever at this time,
Charlie & Anita Cleverly