10k Success

On Sunday 4th March I ran in my first 10k race as part of the Milton Keynes Festival of Running. Primarily I did it to raise funds for my role at Spurgeon Baptist Church – more of that here. But it has also been a personal ambition to complete a 10k, for about the last 10 years! So, to quote the esteemed President George W. Bush: Mission Accomplished!

At the start of January when I decided to start training for the 10k, my biggest fear was that I’d be training though the winter. I worried that if it was raining (or worse) I wouldn’t stick to it. But I’m pleased to say that apart from a couple of days of snow, we’ve enjoyed almost spring-like weather since the start of January. Oh what an irony then to wake up on Race Day to discover that it was raining heavily. People said ‘don’t worry – it will soon pass’ – but it didn’t. It rained heavily throughout the race. By the time we were just 3k into the race I’m confident that I could have gone swimming and not got any wetter. It was grim! [but at least it wasn’t snowing – which it was by the time the runners finished the MK Half Marathon about an hour later!]

The start of the race felt a bit slow for me, so I jostled to get a better position and soon settled down into a good rhythm. I was passed by a steady stream of fitter runners who had started further back & who were travelling past me at a good pace which was quite disheartening. The cold from the rain was making my leg muscles tighten, which was a bit of a worry so early on! I found myself following a guy with a silly hat and a woman in an orange jacket who both seemed to be paying great attention to their watches and sticking to a predetermined pace. As the pace felt comfortable for me too I decided I’d stick with them for as long as I could. Before I knew it we were at the ‘feeding station’ and then at the half way marker. At this point (still raining, of course) I decided I still had a bit of pace left in me and decided to over-take the ‘orange lady’ (no idea where the guy with the silly hat had gone by now) and pulled away a little bit. Shortly after that someone ran up behind me and patted me on the back and gave some encouragement: it was Rev. Andrew Gale (Chaplain at Oakhill STC). We had been together on the start line but had separated. He pulled about 20 yards ahead. Then at the 7k mark we were at the lowest point of the race and the finish line was at the highest! So we hit the hills…

I’ve always thought of Milton Keynes as being particularly flat. Which sounded great because all of my training had been alongside the canal, with a total elevation of about 5m at the lock. But at the start Angie Horn asked me if I’d been ‘training for the Fishermead hill?’ To which my reply was a very definite ‘no’! She looked a bit worried for me.

The first hill wasn’t too steep or too long – but it took a lot out of me. I had managed to work hard and pulled back a bit of distance from Andrew. Then it was flat again for a little while before another hill – worse than the first: longer and steeper (a bad combination). Then immediately after that we turned a corner and hit the Fishermead hill – which is slightly shorter and not as steep as the last, but coming on the back of the others it felt like hell! I tried to power through it and nearly killed myself in the process. At this point we were only 1k from the finish line, but that final kilometre felt like five. There were two encouragements for me amongst the hills, the first was that I managed to over-take and stay ahead of Andrew, the second was the supporters I saw.

I had encouragement from Andrew & Angie at the start line, and it was great to see Keelie Lingard who was there to support her Mum, Yvonne, who was also running. Then at about the 2k mark I noticed Neil McGill at the side of the road – although I appreciated his support, his shout of ‘come on, keep going, you can do it!’ felt a bit premature as I was still feeling comfortable at that stage. Then there was a long stretch with no personal supporters, and only a few ‘randoms’ who were clapping anyone who passed. But at the top of the first small hill (the hardest part by that point) it was a real encouragement to see Gareth Chapman & Dee Stevens standing there, looking like drowned rats (as we all did!) and cheering me on enthusiastically. Then at the point which was without doubt the hardest point for me, the top of the Fishermead hill, I saw Terry Horn waiting. I shouted to him before he saw me and his surprised smile lifted my spirit no end – enough to see me through to the final corner almost 1k later. At that point a crowd of supporters had gathered. The first people I noticed were Simon & Nicci Bradley, accompanied by Keelie & her grandparents; they were quickly followed by Gareth & Dee again who had magically appeared at the finish.

I picked up my pace a little as I rounded the final corner, at which point Andrew Gale passed me with another message of encouragement. I decided to sprint (I say ‘sprint’, it was intended to be a sprint, but I was limited by the inability of my legs to respond to what my brain was saying). So my first 10k ended with some friendly competition and honours even as Andrew and I crossed the line together before shaking hands on a race well run. Most people rushed to get out of the rain, but I figured I wasn’t getting any wetter so I decided to welcome in the other runners I knew: Angie Horn, Yvonne Lingard & John Kennedy.

Before we started Angie said she expected me to finish in 57 minutes. I said I’d be delighted with anything under 1 hour 10 minutes – especially as I knew I’d struggle with the hills. For me the 10k was never a competitive endeavour; my aim was to run it all and to finish it. But I can’t deny that I was delighted with my official time: 57 minutes 02 seconds. According to the official results I finished 182 out of 461. I’m happy with that – but Andrew has suggested we aim for the top 100 next time. [next time?!]

On medical advice from the Senior Race Steward I decided to have a quick change of clothes then grab a coffee at Costa and warm up before heading home. Believe me – he didn’t have to tell me that twice!

A massive thank you to everyone who has supported, sponsored & encouraged me! But fear not! Because there’s still time to sponsor me if you haven’t already. You can do it online here (have currently reached 68% of my online target) or if you’d like to increase your sponsorship through Gift Aid, get in touch and I’ll send you a form.

Simon Bradley took a photo of me rounding the final corner and tweeted it in the afternoon:

You can take a look at my stats online at RunKeeper which will also let you check out the route, elevation & my pace at each stage. If you have a particularly strong stomach, you can check out my official ‘finish photo‘ [you have been warned!].

In All Comes From Here*

Last Saturday the second Youthwork Summit took place in Manchester. I attended along with about about 750 other youth workers/ministers, paid & volunteer, full & part time, along with 20+ speakers, the Rend Collective Experiment, Mark Yaconelli, and the amazing team who put the event together and served us on the day. It will take a while to properly reflect on and process all that was said, all that happened, and the conversations which took place. I met some amazing people – some I’ve been chatting with on Twitter for some time and felt I knew them, but met them in person at #yws11, others I met for the first time.

I spent Friday with 150 other youth workers/ministers on a Retreat day led by Mark Yaconelli – that too will take a great deal of processing and putting into practice what was learned.

At the end of the conference we shared the following powerful liturgy which written during the day by one of the attendees, and is shared here with permission:

It all comes from here*

From an extraordinary God,
capable of ALL things.
From His unfailing love
for ALL that we are.

From a purpose and calling
that He placed on our lives.
From a passion and desire
to change young lives.

We give our time, our energy,
We share our ideas, our lives,
We offer our teaching, our advice.

But we give, we share, we offer
Because we do not love alone,
but with the help of God’s heart.
Because we do not stand alone,
but with the strength of God’s Spirit.
Because we do not fight alone,
but with the power of God’s will.

From a God who loves
all which He has created,
From a God who guides
all who seek His face,
From a God who welcomes
all who come in His name.

It all comes from here*

[written by Julia King (@xjewelzx) // used with thanks…]

Blessed, Refreshed, Resourced & Encouraged

On 21st March we held an event, in partnership with the Milton Keynes Bridgebuilder Trust [MKBT], which aimed to ‘bless, refresh, resource & encourage’ Christians in Education across Milton Keynes.

We were joined by 18 attendees, representing 9 Churches & 11 schools/institutions/organisations. Delegates included teachers (current, supply & retired), teaching assistants, deputy headteachers, assistant principals, administrative officers, KS3 coordinators, a reading recovery teacher and private tutors. We were also joined by the MKBT Office Manager and a Trustee.

The evening started with refreshments (yummy cakes, freshly brewed tea & real coffee and the option of apples, of course) and time for delegates to introduce themselves and chat. We then assembled to introduce the plan for the evening and the presenters (myself & Rachel Foster, Primary Schools Worker for MKBT). The primary audience for the evening was those involved in teaching, but the event was also intended to bless the whole range of roles involved in the Education Sector. We wanted to say a big ‘thank you’ to Christians involved in Education, for the long days and late nights, for their hard work (blood, sweat and tears) and for enduring stress and occasionally despair.

I shared some of my reflections from my school days, the adults who stood out among the many I encountered. Some for the right reasons (tailored teaching, excellent personal care and attention) and others for the wrong reasons (because I was a hormonal adolescent – but enough about that).

I included this video by Taylor Mali, which seemed to catch the mood of those present:

In preparation for the event I had been asking friends, family, colleagues and, occasionally, strangers about their experiences at school and what made individual adults stand out to them when they look back now. Their reflections helped to shape part of the evening. I shared two testimonies with them:

Lauren (pseudonym)

  • The person she reflected on was her 6th form tutor and A-level Psychology teacher.
  • ‘she understood that I didn’t want to talk about the issues I was dealing with, but realised that I was depressed and self-harming’
  • ‘forced me to sit down with her and organise an action plan – helped me stick to it’
  • ‘took walks with me during lunch breaks just to chat about how things were going’
  • ‘treated me more like a daughter than a student’
  • ‘was concerned with my welfare as well as being an awesome teacher’
  • ‘she let me take naps in her office when I had insomnia’
  • ‘she stayed in touch with me for a few years after school to see how I was doing’
  • ‘generally took care of me when I was unable to take care of myself’
  • ‘I definitely wouldn’t have made it to Uni without her support’
  • ‘and may not have even made it out of A-levels alive’

Alison (pseudonym)

  • She reflected on her secondary school RE teacher
  • a ‘consistent presence during six years at secondary school/sixth form
  • ‘an amazing teacher who knew and loved her subject’
  • ‘she genuinely cared for the young people in her class
  • demonstrated personal care and support during a key crisis point in Alison’s life
  • above and beyond what was/is expected
  • long term support, care, encouragement – two years after the crisis
  • ‘two of the toughest years of my life’
  • ‘she helped me to believe in myself, because she believed in me’
  • ‘her constant encouragement and reassurance enabled me to achieve my A-levels when they seemed to be impossible’
  • ‘she inspired and encouraged me to follow the path of higher education’
  • ‘I will always be massively grateful to her for that’

I followed up by reflecting on my own experiences of pastoral care & support at school.  But then pointed out that simply providing great pastoral care isn’t what makes a Christian teacher distinctive from any other teacher. We would be pursuing that later.

We moved on to briefly introduce the resources which we’d provided around the room which delegates were free to browse and take away as they wished. Rachel started us off by explaining the role of the Bridgebuilder Trust and detailing some of its projects, then I introduced the following resources:

Then we broke for further refreshments and delegates had time to chat together and browse the resources.

When we reconvened we spent some time considering what makes Christians in Education distinctive by exploring Ephesians 2:12-18. I summed this up with the phrase ‘I AM @ work’ – that God is at work in each one of us, through all our interactions & relationships. [Further notes on this section can be made available if desired.]

Then Rachel led the part of the evening where we commissioned the delegates to go in the name of Jesus and continue their ministry in the Education sector and prayed for them. The evening closed with further chat, and delegates completing feedback forms about their impressions of the evening. They were overwhelmingly positive, and have given us a great deal of food for thought about future events. Plans are already in motion…

‘If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 30 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job.’

Here are a few images of the set-up – I didn’t get any once the delegates arrived as I was busy chatting…

Worshipping Together: Theory into Practice

This is part six of the series looking at the inclusion of Children & Young People in Worship. I’ve updated recently on my presentation to and the outcome of the Church meeting in relation to the changes I proposed. Now I want to start updating on the progress which has been made so far and where we’re going next.

With the review in mind, following the Church meeting a number of us attended a training session by Doug ‘Duggie Dug Dug‘ Horley. The following is a brief summary of the sociological challenges, theological reflections and some practical tips which we felt were pertinent to our process of change:

He set out the imperative for children’s work – that children represent the greatest opportunity for evangelism:

  • moral and spiritual foundations are set by the age of 9
  • world view is formed by 13 years
  • 66% of Christians accept Jesus before they are 18
    • over 50% before they are 13

He explained the conflicting pressures which shape children’s worldview; the things we’re battling against as we seek to define their worldviews with Christ’s values:

  • media: TV (celebrity), age-inappropriate video games
  • family status: divorce & separation
  • drugs
  • peer pressure
  • internet: pornography

Theological reflections:

  • Deuteronomy 6:5-7 – ‘Impress [the commandments] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up’
    • the importance of relationships in our work
    • parents share the responsibility to teach their children about the Lord
  • Joel 2:16 – ‘Make sure that everyone is fit to worship me. Bring adults, children, babies…’
    • everyone is to be included in the act of worship
  • Psalm 8:2 – ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’
    • the innocent but heart-felt praise offered by children is powerful & valued by God
  • Psalm 78:4 – ‘tell the next generation of God’s power and the wonders He’s done’ [paraphrase]
    • it’s important for us to share our experiences together (young & old)
    • drawing young people into worship
  • Mark 10:13-16 – ‘Let the children come to me! Don’t try to stop them.’
    • children are not to be excluded from the Lord’s presence – not even by those who ‘know better’
  • Matthew 18:6 – ‘Doom to the world for giving these God-believing children a hard time!’ [Msg]
    • we are to encourage children in their relationship with the Lord, not hinder them

Headline points:

  • follow Jesus’ example
  • teach children well
  • build friendships & relationships
  • must encourage questions
    • never shut down a child who is engaging with faith
    • encourage an atmosphere of questioning
    • genuine inclusion vs tokenism:
      • ‘children will feel included not because they have been told they’re included, but because they have experienced it for themselves’

There were few practical nuggets of wisdom shared verbally about how to engage children and young people well, but many were modelled by Doug throughout the session (and the evening event):

  • simple language
    • even though his target audience for the seminar had an average age of 40+
    • genuine enthusiasm in delivery
      • don’t fake it – with children you might get away with it, but young people will spot it a mile off!
      • energy in ‘performance’
        • moving around, rarely standing still
        • short bursts
          • no one segment was more than 10 minutes before moving to the next
          • style & approach of segments contrasted

Next I’ll outline the outcome of our meeting to start making the practical changes needed, then let you know how it’s been going. Thanks for sticking with it – I hope you’re finding it helpful.

How to Not Mess Up the Great Commission Too Much

I’m not a Children’s worker: it’s not my particular gifting. But I’m being increasingly challenged about the importance of work (particularly evangelism) with children.  More on that later…but for now my mantra will be:

Aim Lower
Think Smaller
Give Up
Go and have a cup of coffee *

And here’s why:

* to be fair, this has always been part of my personal mantra ;o)

Worshipping Together: Update

You may remember some months ago I started a series entitled ‘worshipping together‘. I was reviewing the inclusion & engagement of children & young people in our services at Spurgeon Baptist Church, and the posts were a chance for me to air my thoughts and discuss them before proceeding. Here’s a quick précis of each of the posts:

Well, that was all before life got incredibly busy, and the posts stopped, but rest assured that the review and implementation didn’t. So here is a quick update of how the Church responded to my review & suggestions, before I share some of the progress we’ve made and include some details & practicalities in the hope that they may be helpful to others.

Using the posts above, and some of the helpful discussions had along the way, I set out a brief overview of the background, issues and possible options to our Church members’ meeting (‘cos that’s how it works in the Baptist Church).  Although I outlined ‘option 3’ (that children and young people worship separately from adults), I immediately discounted it due to practical issues with our church building (although I also had a big theological concern). So the members had the choice of:

  • option 1: tweaking what we do now in the present slot, some other minor changes
  • option 2: change the start of the service all-age worship: new songs, activities, engaging all senses
  • other: of course the meeting had the right to go for neither option

There was a lot of discussion around the issues I’d presented, clarifying some areas which weren’t clear and correcting some misconceptions, but on the whole it was a very positive time. The meeting recognised some of the issues, but admitted that their eyes had been opened to others which they’d not detected. The conclusion was that the meeting agreed to implement option 1 (tweaking the status quo) with immediate effect, but then working towards the implementation of option 2 (recognising that it would take a significant amount of time, planning & preparation).

We called a meeting of the people who were involved in the ‘children’s talk’ slot, and invited any others with an interest, and we set about agreeing the necessary tweaks and what would be required to make them. From October 2010 the newly renamed ‘YourSpace’ slot came into being.

In the next post I’ll share some of the findings from our initial meeting and how we’ve been getting on so far.

Ten Commandments Rewritten

Just seen this version of the 10 Commandments, rewritten for kids:

  1. Put God First: God is number one, everything else comes second.
  2. Nothing else is more important than God
  3. Don’t say ‘God’ when you don’t mean it
  4. Have a restful day – chillaxing every week
  5. Respect. Treat adults how you would like to be treated.
  6. Don’t hurt anybody
  7. Stick together/look after your friends
  8. Don’t take from anyone without permission
  9. Always tell the truth. Don’t lie
  10. Don’t want something others have got.

There’s another version posted there too.

Prezi Reflections

I put this short presentation together to assist & encourage the Amicus members to reflect on the last year. If you’ve not tried Prezi, give it a go. It’s a simple yet sophisticated new approach to presentations. Don’t take my word for it though, check out some of the popular presentations which have been created using the tool.