First Day Reflections

Today was my long-awaited first day as Youth Minister at Spurgeon Baptist Church, Bletchley (my home Church for 18 years). Having completed my Degree in Youth and Community Work & Applied Theology at the Centre for Youth Ministry in June, I’ve had a relatively quiet summer whilst waiting to be appointed and then reach the start date.  But I made it – eventually.

My first appointment in the role was a visit to the Oakhill Secure Training Centre; a facility which accommodates 80 young people from 12-17 years old who are serving custodial sentences.  The visit was to meet with the new Chaplain, Rev. Andrew Gale, find out more about the centre and discuss ways we can support his work.  As a result I’ve been invited to join the Community Forum, to speak at small groups and services, and will be inviting our musicians to provide music for the larger monthly chapel services.

During the visit I was invited (along with my Senior Minister) to join a special small group session which had been organised for two ‘trainees’ who are not permitted to attend regular sessions in the chapel as they cannot mix with other trainees.  During the session we share communion together and Andrew presented the Gospel, and we closed by praying for each other.

The visit also featured a short discussion of the rights and wrongs of wearing Lycra in church:

‘the people who wear Lycra in church are the people who should never wear Lycra; the people who could get away with wearing Lycra are exactly the people you don’t want wearing Lycra in church’ {paraphrase}

But seriously, it was great to learn about the work going on at Oakhill, both by the Chaplain and more generally.  As we toured around the site, trying to avoid the mad ‘movement of trainees’, I was thinking about the ‘final judgement’ passage in Matthew 25.

‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ – Matthew 25:35-36

Whilst today’s visit was fleeting, I look forward to the ministry opportunities present at Oakhill, and pray that as a Church we would assist Andrew and his team in this important ministry.

The rest of the day has been spent ploughing through the to-do list I’ve been writing over the last month ;o) But it’s going to take more than a day to slay that monster.  So glad to finally be in post and looking forward to getting my hands dirty!  I particularly enjoyed working outside the Church – I didn’t expect to be so far outside the Church so early.  Long may it continue.

Praise the Lord!

Youth Ministry Bookshelf

During my Degree at the Centre for Youth Ministry I’ve collected a large number of  related books, with thanks to the Central Baptist Association for a generous book grant.  I expect I’ll make good use of them during the next few years, but would like to loan them out to others who may find them helpful.  I couldn’t face compiling a list of all the books, so instead decided to set-up a Youth Ministry Bookshelf on Amazon which features most of the books I’ve bought or found useful during my course.

So if you’re studying, or just interested in learning about Youth Ministry, take a look at the virtual bookshelf.  You can buy the books directly from Amazon, or make contact if you’d like to borrow them.

My CYM Degree Stats

  • 3 years
  • 9 terms
  • 20 modules
  • 1 dissertation
  • 18 assignments
  • 24 reflective journals
  • 12 directed tasks
  • 106,000 words
  • 18 fieldwork meetings
  • 18 professional formation group meetings
  • 108 journey’s to/from Oxford
  • 12,024 miles
  • countless laughs/tears/loving insults

Feeling now it’s all done = PRICELESS!!

Life of the Beloved – Henri Nouwen

Life of the Beloved - Henri NouwenToday I started reading Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen for the Worship & Spirituality module at CYM.  I’m half-way through which for me is a record (ok, it’s a short book and fairly big text) and so far I’ve found it really inspiring and challenging.  I’m looking forward to getting my head around it when brain-capacity allows. I don’t have time to write a review just yet but here are a few quotes which struck me:

‘Over the years, I have come to realise that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can, indeed, present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are a part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection.’

‘Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved”. Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our experience.’

‘What is required is to become the Beloved in the commonplaces of my daily existence and, bit by bit, to close the gap that exists between what I know myself to be and the countless specific realities of everyday life. Becoming the Beloved is pulling the truth revealed to me from above down into the ordinariness of what I am, in fact, thinking of, talking about, and doing from hour to hour.’

‘When our deepest truth is that we are the Beloved and when our greatest joy and peace come from fully claiming that truth, it follows that this has to become visible and tangible in the ways we eat and drink, talk and love, play and work. When the deepest currents of our life no longer have any influence on the waves at the surface, then our vitality will eventually ebb, and we will end up listless and bored even when we are busy.’

‘The movement of God’s Spirit is very gentle, very soft – and hidden. It does not seek attention. But that movement is also very persistent, strong and deep. It changes our hearts radically. The faithful discipline of prayer reveals to you that you are the blessed one and gives you the power to bless others.’

‘There is little or no neutral territory between the land of the blessed and the land of the cursed. You have to choose where it is that you want to live, and that choice is one that you have to keep making from moment to moment. […] I must tell you that claiming your own blessedness always leads to a deep desire to bless others.’

‘As the ‘blessed ones’, we can walk through this world and offer blessings. It doesn’t require much effort. It flows naturally from our hearts. When we hear within ourselves the voice calling us by name and blessing us, the darkness no longer distracts us. The voice that calls us the Beloved will give us words to bless others and reveal to them that they are no less bless than we.’

You can purchase the book from the Youth Ministry Bookshelf, along with all the other booksI have found useful from the reading lists throughout my degree.

Retreat Day

Last week as part of my end of term activities I took part in a retreat day at the Carmelite Priory at Boars Hill in Oxfordshire.  The day was led by Ian Adams, one of the CYM Chaplains, who used the story of Elizabeth, Zechariah and Mary to introduce us to some meditative practices.  I arrived early to avoid the traffic and was able to enjoy the sun as it rose over the crisp, frosty fields.  I rarely travel without my camera so was able to capture a few shots before everyone else arrived.

Boars Hill Sunrise

The day was divided into three sessions, each providing space for reflection and time to listen for God.  During one session I felt inspired to draw (something I never do, and have no talent for) and was moved to reflect on what I’d drawn.  A new experience for me, but one which I greatly appreciated and will continue to ponder the notes I made.

We divided into two groups for the final session and were encouraged to use Mary and Zechariah’s example and write either a magnificat or a benedictus based on our context/experiences/feelings.  Here’s what we produced in our group:

Thank you God that everything is upside down;
that you don’t see things the way the world sees them.
You accept this generation, though others reject it;
others want to put them down, but you desire to raise them up.

Where the world leaves young people empty, only you can satisfy.
Through your love there is so much more.

As you draw them near to you we see them longing to be valued and eager to serve;
to accept others in the way that you’ve accepted them.

We see your hope rising through this generation.
Thank you for the momentum which flows from and is sustained by your Spirit.

Amen

It proved to be a really valuable time of reflection and refreshing – much needed preparation for the two mad weeks which have followed.

Seize the Moment

A Christlike Ministry

Jesus was only ever able to seize the moment because He spent so much time in prayer and in the presence of His Father.  Jesus spent hours every day in personal spiritual preparation.  Then, when He had a relational encounter, He was spiritually aware enough to see straight into the heart of the situation and maximise that moment.  The same is true for all of us involved in Youth Ministry.  The hard work is not taken up in face-to-face contact with young people.  The hard work of Youth Ministry is taken up in the small, quiet hours of daily prayer and Bible study. – Steve Griffiths – A Christlike Ministry: YTC Press

Ready to Follow?

“God isn’t looking for people of great faith, but for individuals ready to follow Him.”
Hudson Taylor –

“It is the duty of every Christian to be Christ to his neighbour.”
– Martin Luther –

“It is not my ability, but my response to God’s ability, that counts.”
– Corrie Ten Boom –

“It seems that what is required of us is not new ideas, but obedience to those God has given us already.”
– John V Taylor –

Flushed With Mercy

Exiles - Michael FrostFor my Culture, Society & Mission module I’m currently reading Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture by Michael Frost, and thoroughly enjoying it. I’m a slow reader and a quick forgetter – so here, partly for my own reference purspose, are some of the quotes which jumped out at me:

“The Christian movement must be the living, breathing promise to society that it is possible to live out the values of Christ – that is, to be a radical, troubling alternative to the power imbalances in the empire. In a world of greed and consumerism, the Church ought to be a community of generosity and selflessness. In a host empire that is committed to marginalising the poor, resisting the place of women, causing suffering to the disenfranchised, the Christian community must be generous to a fault, pursuant of justice, flushed with mercy.” – p15

“Responsibility cannot be preached: it can only be borne, and the only possible place to begin is with oneself.” – p17 (quoting Vaclav Havel)

“Not all [oppressed and faithful Christians] are rescued from the lions, but somehow, under God’s great grace, their faithfulness eventually will elicit praises from the mouths of their oppressors.” – p17

“By imagining himself to be autonomous, Pilate demonstrates his own folly, and Jesus calls him on it. Like Jesus, exiles must avoid such phony and seductive autonomy. Allhuman life is at the mercy of God and is expected to yield to God’s sovereignty and carry out the diving purposes of justice, love and mercy.” – p20

“We have imprisoned Him [Jesus] in a stained glass cell, and want only to worship Him, never to follow Him.” – p52

“The key to building missional proximity is frequency and spontaneity.” – p62

“God’s presence charges all our activities with glory.” – p67

“We must never tire of doing little things for the love of God, who considers not the magnitude of the work, but the love.” – p68 [quote Brother Lawrence]

“Jesus called us to take up our cross and follow Him. And it’s important to note that for all the discreet medieval art of the Vatican Museum, Jesus died stark naked, covered by nothing but His own dried blood. His hands held no mitre, no staff, no symbol of power. They were empty but for the nails, as big as our thumbs, that anchored Him to that cross.” – p71

“By living expansive lives of justice, kindness, hospitality and generosity, we model the life of Jesus to those who would never attend a Church service or read the New Testament. […] We will, like Jesus, go naked and empty-handed to others, with no motive other than to show them grace and practice mercy.” – p74

Theologically Reflect on that!

The title of this post is a phrase we frequently quote both during and between lectures – and is usually said with tongue firmly planted in cheek. The phrase was my first thought when I read the quote below:

“I wanted a bike, and asked God to give me one. But then I realized God doesn’t work that way. So I decided to steal a bike and ask God for forgiveness. It worked.” – Emo Phillips [via Marko]

I might throw that one into the mix during our Ethics lecture on Tuesday…