Last Saturday I attended my first Engage Day Conference at Cowley Road Methodist Church, Oxford. I’d been looking forward to it for months and was just pleased that the day had finally arrived. I didn’t think too much about what to expect – I just went along with an open mind, and open Bible and lots of enthusiasm (cos it told me to in enrolment literature).
The information I received from the Centre for Youth Ministry [CYM] advised taking the Park and Ride into Oxford. I know it sounds like the sensible thing to do – but I like to drive, and much prefer it to taking the bus. So I reluctantly boarded the bus and, as advised the CYM paperwork, I asked the driver to tell me when we arrived at St.Clements. She helpfully said, “no problem – it’s the stop at the corner before the roundabout”. Call me stupid – but when you don’t know the area, how are you supposed to know that there’s a roundabout just round the next corner? I decided not to argue and took my seat.
I sat patiently, looking out of the window and trying to remember the landmarks for future journeys, and waiting for the driver to indicate that we’d arrived at the stop “at the corner before the roundabout”. She remained silent. Thankfully, the lady sitting opposite me on the aisle had overheard my request and pointed out that “erm, I think this is St.Clements”. I thanked her and made my way to the front of the bus. The driver looked at me and acknowledged her oversight by saying, “yes – this is St.Clements”. So I got off the bus and headed off to Cowley Road.
The directions provided were excellent and I found not only the Church at the first attempt, but even the correct door. I was greeted by Simon “thingy” (I’m not good with names) and directed to the main worship/teaching area upstairs. There were a number of chairs set-out in front of a screen and whiteboard, and on some of the chairs were packs of plasticine [shudder]. I grabbed a cup of “black coffee with milk” and introduced myself to some of the other students.
There are 12 people on the course from various parts of the UK (London, Bedford, Southampton & Swansea) and two from Uganda; we represent a number of different denominations (Baptist, Anglican, Seventh Day Adventist and “tambourine bashers”) and have anything between 15 years and six months youth work/ministry experience.
The tutor for the day was Ben Holloway of Oxford Youth Works. He had a friendly and engaging style and encouraged us to make good use of the plasticine. He drew out his life tree, and life map – and revealed that he’s dyslexic – and that when he doesn’t know how to spell a word, he’ll just say the word and draw a squiggle on the board. When he was drawing out his life map he revealed something rather shocking – not the fact that he used to be a professional musician, nor his experiences with pot, but that he’s the same age as me(!). I’d figured he was much older than that (if you ever get to see this – sorry Ben).
Simon explained the admin side of things (poorly – by his own admission) and then Ben explained the Module, the Workbook and the additional requirements. We covered four main areas during the day:
- What is Christian Youth Work
- What is Youth Work
- History of Christian Youth Work
- Brief History of the Youth Service
- Applied Theology and Reflection
I found both the teaching, and the time talking to the other students, really useful. I’ve made good progress so far on the workbook and have started some additional reading. I’ve written the first entry in my Course Diary, and am keeping a separate personal journal to aid with my reflection. I’ll be back in Oxford early in the New Year for Module Two.