Graven Hill

Building a ministry for the future

The Rev Helen Baker built more than just her home on the Graven Hill estate in Oxfordshire – she’s also building a ministry there. Graven Hill is an ambitious self-build village – the first of its size in the country which will eventually contain 1,900 new houses on hundreds of acres of disused land bought from the Ministry of Defence by the local council.

Helen, co-minister at Orchard Baptist Church in nearby Bicester, moved into her wooden-framed ‘kit house’ there two years ago. The idea was to establish a Christian presence on the estate, and Helen specifically designed her home with a room big enough for community meetings.

‘There is a real mix of social housing and quite grand homes at Graven Hill, and people of different ages, interests and lifestyles,’ said Helen, ‘and what I was very keen to do was to get to know the other residents as individuals, and to try to unify what could otherwise be quite a disparate community.

‘So we’ve set up things like a gardening club, a toddler group, and a community choir, and because there’s no actual church here, and no community centre, we tend to meet at my house.

‘We also focus more generally on bringing people together at special times like Christmas, Easter and Remembrance Sunday, and on more mundane aspects of life – such as helping people to deal with the issues with builders which inevitably arise on a huge project like Graven Hill.

‘I have a motto which I think sums up the overall approach – Building Kingdom Values into the Foundations of the Community.’

The house itself and the plot it sits on was paid for by a mix of funding from Orchard Baptist Church and loans from the Baptist Union; the grants from Baptist Insurance have gone towards supporting Helen in her stipended role.

‘I’m pretty sure I’m the country’s first self-build minister,’ she said. ‘But putting a stipended minister here full-time is not something that every church could do, and we certainly couldn’t have done it without the support from Baptist Insurance. I’m tremendously grateful.’

Over the past ten years alone, Baptist Insurance has given over £2 million in grants to Baptist-related causes, and we're keen to give more.

'We're delighted to see the way Helen is able to bring God’s love and presence to this new community,' said Anne Bishop, Chair of the BIC Grants Committee. 'It is a privilege to be able to support this important work.'

Learn more about the Baptist Grants Programme.

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