Special Newsletter

The Besom in Witney Newsletter - November 2021


“We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour produced by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."

1 Thessalonians 1 v.3

Welcome to a Special Edition of our Newsletter!

After starting The Besom in Witney way back in 2005, Gilly Simmonds is stepping down as a Trustee, and this Newsletter aims to honour her contribution over the past 16 years.

We caught up with Gilly to ask her a few questions about how it all started.

What led you to start up The Besom in Witney?

Put simply - God spoke, but it took me a while to catch on!

I’d been aware of Besom through

our time at Holy Trinity Brompton

where I’d become a Christian and

had heard James Odgers speak,

which challenged me every time!


Our home group generally did a

Besom project on a Bank Holiday

weekend but I could never go and

would be back home praying for it. 

I felt quite cross about missing out,

not realising that this praying was

in fact the Lord’s training for me. 

When we came to Oxfordshire I mentioned Besom to people quite a lot and wished there was one here. In the end, one of my lovely praying friends said to me ‘Gilly, do you think you might be part of God setting up a Besom here? He is clearly putting it on your heart’.

I spent almost two more years praying until the Lord brought Paul and Judith Ledden to Cogges Church (Witney), and from that The Besom in Witney became a reality. 

Can you give us a few Bible verses that uphold the work of

The Besom in Witney?  

"Each of you should give what you have decided to give, willingly and not under compulsion."  2 Corinthians 9 v.7


"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance." Ephesians 2 v.10

It's this personal obedience to God asking us to give something - a thing, our talents, our time or some money - and His response to that obedience. 

Can you outline a few instances of God's goodness and grace during your time with The Besom in Witney?

I think for me it is every time you see a match happen between what is given and what is needed. One of the early ones was a bag of curtains that the giver was hesitant to offer because they were quite strange sizes. Not only were they the exact sizes needed in a lounge and a bedroom, but the colours matched the existing, unusual wallpaper colours in the new home too. 

Now that you're stepping down as a Trustee, what are you plans for the future?

At a personal level, I'm looking forward to a renewed focus on family and friends and to opportunities for travel. Also, I'll be waiting on the Lord to reveal His plans for what comes next.



"Farewell Gathering" - Sunday 14th November

The Besom in Witney trustees organised an informal Gathering on Sunday 14th November at St Mary's Church (Cogges, Witney) as an opportunity to honour all that Gilly had achieved. 

James Odgers, the founder of The Besom,

was unable to attend, but he sent a long

message to Gilly which was read out by

Paul Ledden, one of the Trustees.

There were also tributes from Roger

Crossley (Trustee), Julia Morgan,

(leader of the food team) and Steve Winks

from the Besom in Sheffield.


All three speakers touched on Gilly's

remarkable vision, leadership and her

trust in God's word. Julia also offered

a Bible verse for Gilly and Chris, her

husband, as they look to the future:

"Speak Lord, for your servant is listening."

1 Samuel 3 v.9



You can read extracts from James' message below.


"I could not possibly have seen the growth of Besom without her, and she was always so very ably supported by Chris through plenty of thick and quite a bit of thin.


Gilly is simply the best sort of person to have around: she is compassionate, kind and gentle; she dares to take risks that others will not take and she has extraordinary courage; she is a prophetic figure, prays with astonishing persistence, hears God so very well and clearly, and encourages others to do the same."


Here's a photo of Gilly speaking to thank

everyone, with Steve and Joy Winks 

from the Besom in Sheffield 

alongside her.

Gilly reflected on how, with God's 

guidance, the Besom in Witney had

developed over the past 16 years.


Although she was stepping down as a

Trustee and planning to spend some

time relaxing, meeting up with friends,

and so on, she didn't rule out being

involved with the Besom at some 

future date!



Some Messages and Tributes

Gilly received lots of personal messages in a Leaving Card, and it would be impossible to display them all - so here's just a few:

Messages from two folk involved with The Besom in Witney

from its early days

"Gilly must be one of the most hard-working people I have ever met! She has amazing skills, knowledge and capability, and does it all so cheerfully and with such good humour.  Her constant faith in God's goodness and mercy were always a huge encouragement to me."

Judith Ledden, Former Besom in Witney Trustee 

"Gilly reminds us of the triad of faith, love and endurance referred to in 1 Thessalonians 1 v.3.  She has qualities galore, but her endurance coupled with the apostolic gift of 'showing mercy with cheerfulness' are just two that immediately come to mind. Gilly is a much loved lady, admired by innumerable friends who wish her well in the wonderful years to come."

James Pringle, Former Besom in Witney Trustee 

A message from Gilly's fellow Trustees

"Gilly is a pioneer, she has played a pivotal role in the formation of the Besom in Witney since 2005. Her desire to follow God's prompting, her faith, energy and wisdom have been a blessing to us all. Gilly will always find a way to say 'Yes', which shows the heart she has to serve and the compassion she has for people. Gilly has been our Besom 'compass', keeping us true to the core values, and  ensuring we are a 'Bridge' that is fit for purpose."

Trustees of the Besom in Witney

A message from the current Friday prayer group

"We really honour you (and Judith) for hearing God and having the faith to set up the Witney Besom in 2005.  Your unwavering prayer, zeal and commitment, as well as your business experience, have been used by God to enable the charity to expand and flourish over the years. It has blessed many people across West Oxfordshire, and we pray it will continue to do so. May you and Chris enjoy your new season and benefit from a well-deserved break."

The Friday Prayer Group

Messages from two external care professionals

Finally, here are some amazing tributes from two care professionals, showing the difference the Besom in Witney can make, thanks to Gilly's leadership and vision.

"I first met the lovely Gilly when I came to Witney 16 years ago; Gilly was extremely proactive with trying to meet the needs of all the people I supported and more besides. I can honestly say I don’t know what we would have done without Gilly and the team."

Maureen Bobby, Oxfordshire Mind

"I have worked with Besom since becoming a Family Nurse seven years ago. I have asked Besom for help with many things for my clients – from vouchers for clothing, to complete sets of nursery furniture and numerous food boxes.


The wonderful team have delivered to homeless clients in temporary accommodation, often with a pretty tenuous Witney link. The atmosphere of kindness and generosity meant I have always been able to turn to you when I am trying to give my clients - teenage parents and their babies - the very best start I can.

It has been a special privilege to work with Gilly and breathe in her compassion and kindness."

Jane Martin, Family Nurse, Oxford Health

From the team at The Besom in Witney