Catacombinate initiation

I had a great time at the official opening of the crypt at Marlow yesterday, transformed as it is into a really cool Youth venue. I only had my phone with me so subterraneous photos were not really going to work, this however is a rough idea of what the venue itself looks like (but it’s much more decked out now):
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It was great to meet the young people and hand over them for the official balloon stomp through the arches opening of the Crypt Cafe. It was such a blast to be at the culmination of a vision that by any standards was a BHAG (Big hairy audacious goal) involving as it did finding enough money to employ a youth worker and transform the Crypt (including the myriad of regulations, permissions and practicalities that involved). Impressive stuff.
I was asked to do the opening ‘speech’ and so found myself in the graveyard surrounded by loads of people including the young people, Mayor and someone from the press. The young people were understandably keen to mash the balloons and get in so I needed to be really brief. I decided that the line about the crypt being somewhere you wouldn’t be seen dead in before might not work, bit too black humour maybe. I did say though that I come across a lot of churches that say young people are foundational to their church community, Marlow it seems have taken this the most literally!
Many congratulations to Stewart (the youth and community worker) and to an incredible bunch of people from the Methodist and Anglican churches that prayerfully, creatively and energetically pursued a vision.

Being Cryptic about my weekend

One of the things about my job is no two days are ever the same and I’m constantly doing new things. This weekend I’m opening a Crypt!
This is not some bizarre piece of grave robbing to make up for a shortfall in Diocesan funds, it is in fact an ex crypt that will henceforth be a Youth venue. Marlow churches have put together a fantastic youth and community project and part of this has been changing the Crypt from somewhere you wouldn’t be seen dead (*laughing*) into a great youth venue.
I think I’m on ribbon cutting and speaking duty alongside young people from the project.

Tuesday 21st

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As part of the youth strategy I am working on, my colleague Yvonne and I are hosting a day in 2011 that we hope will bring together all sorts of Churches whether they have lots of young people, some or none. The aim being to encourage, eqip and enable the work to develop or start. The date is June 18th.
On Tuesday at 10am we have our first meeting and I’d love a Youth worker to join us on the planning team. Expenses paid and coffee provided! Let me know if you would like to invest some energy in this. Thanks 🙂

The diminution of Spirituality

I was forwarded this great blog piece on children’s and young people’s spirituality.
Dave Csinos examines the way that creativity is educated out of young people losing innate gifting and appreciation that they already posses. He then explores the same principle and effect regarding spirituality:
” …. So, spirituality isn’t something that we achieve–it’s a gift from God that is woven into the very fabric of our innermost being. That is why we speak of spiritual formation and not spiritual creation. We can’t create a spiritual capacity in anyone. But we can help to form it. We can provide opportunities for children and youth to have spirit-to-Spirit connections with the One who gave them the gift of spirituality. Spirituality is something that can change, grow, and form. But it can also wither and fade away. To paraphrase Robinson’s words “We don’t grow into spirituality. We grow out of it. Or rather we get educated out of it.”
We can be educated out of our spiritual capacities. When we focus on memorization, doctrine, emotionalism, and just getting things done, we can actually eclipse our innate spiritual capacities. When we do nothing but teach our children about God, we can actually hinder them from having genuine experiences of God. Knowledge about God is certainly important; but when it becomes the sole purpose and focus of our ministries with young people, we might actually be educating them out of their spirituality. They leave Sunday school knowing all about the Bible, doctrine, proper practices, liturgy, and evangelism–but they can also leave without experiencing a life-forming encounter with the God who transcends our knowledge and reason. When we do nothing but teach about God, it becomes easy to forget that God is the unknown knower …. “

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for the full article see Daves blog, Such as these
This is a great summing up and analogy of modernistic approaches to spirituality that inadvertently swung to a “It’s not who you know, it’s what you know” reversal of what the expression AND spirituality is … and should be.
A youth worker I know has recently written a dissertation exploring a thesis that young people outside of the church have more spiritual experiences than those within. (I’m still trying to scrounge a copy)

Reflecting on a visit to church

murr church.jpgOur trip to Germany was over two Sundays and hence two trips to Teutonic approaches to Church.
The first attempt was not very successful!
With everyone still groggy from a 400 mile drive from Paris it was left to H and I to hit the pews as we were the only ones up, dressed and functioning. The advertised service must have been at a different location that morning because we found we had gatecrashed a private Baptism service! This was hilarious as we could not escape given the noise our late arrival had made (it clearly started before the advertised service time), we couldn’t explain our presence adequately given the language barrier and we couldn’t quite join in. Eventually escaped without the need to dig a tunnel or employ any sort of vaulting horse, phew!
The second was more interesting. Down in the mountains I struggled to comprehend the local dialect but was determined to make it to church regardless of how incomprehensible it might be. We picked an Evangelische church not far from the guest house and trotted along to morning worship. Interestingly I could understand a lot of what was said and the choruses especially were very accessible, the whole thing being more ‘High German’ than dialect, the difference between the language inside and outside the church being markedly different.
It was overall actually incredibly similar to an independent Evangelical church in England (especially the sermon length!!!!). It was good to be part of a worshipping community.
Interestingly too no one spoke to us apart from once during the service when the Sunday school leader asked if S wanted to come and join them. Even staying for coffee afterwards elicited no greetings or conversations and we wandered back to the Guest house as we felt a bit awkward.
As a visitor it was easy to spot the difference between the Church culture and the culture of the people and town it was in. It left me wandering how similar that experience might be to an auslander visiting our church(es).
I was also interested in the fact that we were not greeted or spoken to at all. Now I know this happens in England too so my point is not to judge but it did leave me reflecting on the fact that encountering faith through church should make us more fully human, not less. What is it in our own culture or especially a very hospitable culture like the Germans that turns church into a less welcoming place not a more welcoming one? Is the fear of difference greater in a place that theoretically believes their is neither greek nor jew, free nor slave? What does successful discipleship look like?, what should church community be and live?
This is mainly thinking out loud and was actually a hugely useful perspective at looking at our own church(es) rather than any intended critique of the German one.


Had a cracking day off yesterday but sadly no kayaking. There was no way Jo and I could make it to the coast and still be back in time for arrivals home from school. Instead we drove out beyond Marlborough and went hiking on the downs followed by a cuppa and a picnic in the van. Middle-agedom in shedloads I feel, but great nevertheless.
Time pressures dictated driving back through Swindon to find the M4 and I was amazed to find we drove past Legge House where I shall be on a youth residential next month. (but I now know a great walk nearby which might form an activity, result!)


“The time will come when Winter will ask you what you were doing all Summer”
Henry Clay
I have a random day off tomorrow, yay and am considering my options:
1. Rip up carpet and lay new flooring in hall at home
2. Work on the van
3. Go kayaking in Studland bay
4. Give the garden a pre-leaf deluge sort out

Letter to Network of Employed Youth Workers

Greetings from the desk of the Diocesan Youth Adviser to all in the Network
(This is the blogged version of the letter I have just sent so you can access the links quickly)
It’s been good to catch up with quite a few of you over the summer, particularly when I’ve had the privilege of handing over large cheques from the Youth Evangelism Fund to the young people you work with.
I hope you’ve had a good summer and the equipment from Residentials/Camps/Soul-Survivor/Greenbelt/Walsingham is mainly put away by now
Anyway I wanted to let you know some stuff that may or may not be useful ….. you decide:
October 23rd sees the Youthwork Summit happening in London. It’s organised by Chris Curtis, Matt Summerfield and Martin Saunders and aims to be a dialogue and exploration across the spectrum of Christian Youth work. I’m definitely going and it’d be great if others wanted to come to, especially if we could meet up and travel together.
Our Next Diocesan Network meeting will be on Novemeber 22nd here at Church House in Oxford. A chance to get together and eat, laugh, pray and think alongside other Youth workers and youth ministers in the Diocese. In agdition we’ll be doing some particular work around boundaries and abuse of trust. Flyer: network return form Nov 22nd 2010.pdf
February 1st and 2nd (with the option to stay on until 3rd) will see Depth 4 (The retreat for Childrens workers and for Youth workers in the Diocese). We’re going back to Douai abbey for the great space, tranquillity and superb food. Info to follow
Other events:
The Kirchentag is a massive gathering of Christians from Europe and beyond and will be in Dresden next year from the 1st – 5th June. I’m keen to take some of the youth workers from the Diocese and make some links with German Youth work and Ministry. Debbie from St Sebastians has expressed an interest, anyone else?
Taize 2011: Bishop John and myself are heading out to Taize from July 23rd – August 1st and would love you to pass on the enclosed flyer to any young people or young adults who would be interested in the opportunity and challenge this presents.
Flyer and information is available from this previous entry
Free Stuff
I have aquired a large box of purple T shirts that each have the word ‘Team’ written on them, if you have a project that could use some then let me know how many you need.
I’d be delighted to hear any news that you have before or at November 22nd and I’d also really appreciate a photo of you! My attempts to pray for you all would be much easier with a photo as a focus I think