Last week Paul and I attended the International Association for the Study of Youth Ministry Conference in Durham. The opening address was given by Paul Butler, the Bishop of Durham who is a fellow trustee of the Child Theology Movement. He is the Bishop who advocates on behalf of children and young people. He shared from the life of Aidan, Cuthbert and Bede and drew his talk to a conclusion looking at the Apostle John, reminding us of the importance of our call:
John and his brother James leave the family fishing business to become followers of Jesus. I take it that the testimony of Polycrates, Irenaeus and Jerome is to be trusted and John remained alive to a very great age and died in the early days of Trajan; that is around 98-99AD. This makes him a very young man as one of Jesus’ first disciples. It would appear that at least he, possibly others amongst the Twelve, were what we would now call teenagers. Jesus called and trained young men as his disciples. John heard Jesus teach, saw Jesus’ miracles, experienced Jesus’ friendship and himself went out proclaiming the kingdom during the three years of Jesus public ministry as a very young man. So when the mission post Pentecost begins he is still a young man. Leadership of the early church did not lie with the older generation, at least not alone. Jesus it appears deliberately placed his work in the lives of those who were young. Perhaps this was with an awareness that at least a small number of them would live to a ripe old age so that the continuity of apostolic witness was guaranteed for a good long period. Yes, here I speculate a little as we do not have written anywhere with certainty the mind of Jesus on this. But I think it is speculation worth considering. Investment in the young for their own sakes, and for the longevity of a purpose makes sense. This after all was always the vision of Moses instruction to the Israelites about passing on the story to their children. It is the vision of Psalm 78 with its fourfold generational vision of transmission if the faith story. Our calling today is to both invest in young people for their present, and for the long term future. It is not the divide of ‘now and future’ but the connectivity and continuity of ‘now and future’.
John the Apostle potentially stands as an example for us about calling young people here and now with a long term vision in view.
You can download the full address here
The M25 on a Friday afternoon is not a great place to be. As we saw the time creeping up we had to make a call – could we get to Southend in time for Paul to get a Rossi’s ice cream? Yes we could and memories of a four hour journey evaporated. Southend holds happy childhood memories for Paul and an annual pilgrimage enables the reliving of some of them as most of those he shared the memories with are no longer around to reminisce with. Places have a power to evoke memory and emotion and in this instance good ones that nourish and replenish.
This is a slide from a Trustee meeting I was at yesterday for Frontier Youth Trust – what a privilege. I first encountered FYT possibly 30 years ago and they have always been at the forefront of looking at youth work with those on the edge or at the margins. I have been involved for something like 20 years probably and seen many changes in that time. What is most exciting now is that a new generation of leaders is taking on the movement, operating as a team and doing that in creative and exciting ways. They support many youth workers and projects that perhaps don’t always feel understood in many other places. FYT have been formational in the work of many and have invested into the wellbeing, the theology, the practice, the vision of such a diverse group of people over the years. They describe themselves as the home for pioneer youth workers – check them out here. If you are a pioneer youth worker then consider linking up!
At the end of our writing week we treated ourselves to afternoon tea in a local hotel. Sitting looking out at the window and what looked to me like a fairytale picture left me reminiscing of the fun I had playing in my wendy house when I was a little girl. But this was much more exciting! But there was a reality when we got up close that we couldn’t see through the window – it was an abandoned wedding scene blown over chairs, table cloths on the ground and everything still at risk of more damage from the wind and the rain. We need to try to look beyond the superficial sometimes.
I am mindful at this time of year that there can be a bit of pressure for a fairytale Christmas that we need to do our best to resist. I have had several conversations with people about the challenges that Christmas brings and I am leading another blue Christmas service on 19th December for those who want a space where they can acknowledge the bits of the season that are hard. But I am reminded too that the Christmas story is not a fairy tale, it is about Jesus, God who came to dwell among us and who has changed my life forever.
I am on a study break trying to turn my PhD into an accessible book on shame and ministry. Every now and then I come across something I have written that I had forgotten about but want to spend some more time pondering…. This is one of those things, it may not make it into the book but is a helpful insight as I also think about formation:
In a fascinating Jungian hermeneutic of this parable Veliyannoor identifies the concepts of “Christic potential” and “Christic differential” suggesting that the latter “refers to the differential between where one is now and the centered position of the Self/Christ/Imago Dei that is one’s Christic potential” (2009:246) and the importance of realizing that the Imago Dei has always been present.
Veliyannoor, P. V. (2009). The Parable of a Father and Two Sons: Jungian Hermeneutics and Therapeutic Applications. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 28(4), 338-349.
Train journeys are often for reading and I take a tablet with lots of books on so I can choose what level of reflecting I am up for. I came across this quotation from the wonderful Paula Gooder’s book Body. It resonated because I was coming back from a meeting that was soul making for me – Child Theology Movement Trustees:
Intentional soul-making involves paying attention to those events, activities and relationships that animate is and seeking to engage in something that brings life to as many aspects of our being as possible, as regularly as possible. Then we will begin to see that we are not ‘just’ keeping body and soul together but living out of a richly animated, integrated existence that brings life and refreshment. (P42 in my version)
Words I need to revisit regularly?
This bench is outside one of our favourite breakfast places, sadly in Cornwall so don’t get there often (Little Bakehouse Launceston home of sourdough croissants that you may have seen on Facebook or Instagram!). I like to let things sit a while as I ponder them. I find the Ignatian exercise of imagining different outcomes helpful and seeing how my Spirit responds and I like to play with ideas and concepts in my head. If something sits a while with me that helps me not to make an impulsive decision but to give God a chance to speak and for me to be more aware of the different implications of possible outcomes.