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Keeping in Contact September 14, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Families.
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As I was perusing the Sunday papers I noticed a gadget for sale which is a child’s digital watch with a GPS locator in, so that parents can keep tabs on where their offspring are. But more than that, if the strap is undone by anyone other than the parent it sends a text to the parent letting them know that this has happened.

Now as someone old enough to remember growing up in the days when we went off playing for an hour or two with our parents knowing roughly where we were, this all seems a bit odd. I know we parents can worry but where does this all end? When do we equip children to be out of contact?

I wonder if we are in danger of creating a very infantile culture. It seems to me that babies need to be in constant contact, and we want to know where babies are to make sure they’re safe. But isn’t part of maturing the ability to be out of contact and be able to negotiate life safely? But as we are constantly connected either by GPS watch, or mobile, or Facebook… when do we mature?

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Youth Stats September 1, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Young people.
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The BBC has got an interesting report by the OECD which finds that 15 year old girls in the UK are more likely to get drunk than in any other developed country and more so than 15 year old lads in the UK. This makes for a good shock headline for the article, and whilst it is a serious issue that youth workers need to be aware of, right at the end however are a couple of sentences to celebrate some of the good work going on here in the UK.

It states that ‘children in the UK enjoy a high quality of school life and enjoy school much more than many of their international counterparts. Also bullying is less frequent and teenage suicides are less common in the UK than in most other industrialised countries’.

Heroes August 31, 2009

Posted by Richard in Uncategorized.
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As another rugby season begins and my boots are being laced up for another year I start this season the most disillusioned I can remember. This is not due my age and decreasing fitness nor the Lions losing but how rugby has filled the newspapers this summer. The stories at Bath rugby have been one and the other has been about\’Bloodgate\’

A hero of rugby has ruined his reputation and it is hard not to look back at all he has achieved before Harlequins and question what and he has done. Dean Richards has long been looked up but not any more.

As I return from leading on two Scripture Union residentials and think about starting another term I am challenged about how people see me. I am challenged to be real and authentic so people do not have misconceptions about me but also to have good friends who give good advice and being wary about choices I face to ‘succeed’

Dean Richards

Pakistan blasphemy legislation petition August 26, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Justice.
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I often get asked whether Christian-Mulsim dialogue is a worthwhile activity. People want to know whether it actually achieves anything, do we tackle difficlut issues or just sit round having a nice time.

Well I hope the following link gives some indication of the fruits of our labours. It’s a petition to the Pakistani governement asking for the repeal of the Blasphemy laws in that country. These laws have been used by some Muslims to legitimise attacks on christians and this happened in a particularly viscious way recently.

This petition has been written by a Muslim and a Christian and has come about in part due to the discussions we’ve had at dialgue events where we’ve been able to highlight the plight of Christians in Pakistan in a way that doesn’t blame the Muslims here but enables them to see the injustice of what’s happening.

Do take a look, sign it if you can, and if you’re unsure about the value of dialogue I hope this inspires you to see its worth and get involved.

Pakistan blasphemy legislation petition

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A Cross Cultural Gathering August 25, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Entertainment.
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I’ve just got back from a very nice trip to France with the family. We visited a variety of interesting places: castles, caves, towers, cafes etc. During our 2 week stay there was one moment when I realised I was in a truly multi-cultural setting. I was surrounded by Muslims Sikhs, Hindus, Christians and secular people from a wide variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds. All of us joined together with a common purpose… to see Mickey Mouse come past in the parade at Disneyland Paris! For all it’s glitz and commercialism Disneyland was a truly global, multi-cultural and multi-faith gathering, much more so than any other tourist sight we visited.

Now I do try not to spend my hols reflecting on work, but it did strike me as interesting, and perhaps a challenge to those of us engaged in bringing together young people of different faiths. I’ve always resisted taking young people to visit churches or mosques as I’m not convinced that’s what they want to do. The new charity a few of us have set up is called The Feast to reflect our ethos of celebration and enjoyment at bringing people together. But here it was writ large, not perfect, but an interesting challenge.

More to Learn August 14, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Youth Work.
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The other day I spent some time with the Faiths Act Fellows . This is a group of 30 young leaders spending a year with The Tony Blair Faith Foundation. They came from the UK, the USA and Canada and included Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Athiests and Bhuddists. Whilst I was providing some training for them on dialogue with young people it also gave me some great insights into the diversity one encounters when working on a wider scale. They raised issues of concern to their communities and in their situations. Some of the guys from the States and Canada brought up concerns that I haven’t encountered here in the UK.

I have to say that they were a group of enthusiastic, passionate young people committed to doing something towards building peace and understanding. And in doing so taught me, once again, that however much I might think I know there’s always plenty more to learn.

Makes you think August 4, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Young people.
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There was an interesting contrasting piece in the Times on Friday. Two articles – one reporting on Camp Quest – an atheist camp helped financially by Richard Dawkins (Britain’s first atheist camp) and a CPAS Venture Christian holiday (helping children keep the faith). The two articles offer an interesting contrast especially for someone devoting two weeks to running such events this summer. Ruth Gledhill sums up the two articles quite well on her blog here

I have long felt that there is nothing particularly Christian or even spiritual about the residential experiencs. The former Soviet Union used Pioneer Camps as part of their strategy for training youngsters in their ideology. But there is something about the what happens when you put a group of young people together. However in that atmosphere we can create space for open honest questioning and investigation – that is what I experienced most last week.

Of course – I believe God was at work but i counted it a real privilege to be with such a great group of people on holiday with God as a natural part of all we did. I was again struck by the relevance of the Bible for all time.

Is it Just me? August 4, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Young people.
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There is, what I think is, a rather worrying report on the BBC website today about the increasing numbers of teenagers ‘sexting’. Sending intimate or sexually explicit images by ‘phone. The report highlights the dangers of this and in the middle of it there is this quote from Helen Penn from CEOP The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, which I’m sure is an excellent organisation. However, she says “We can completely understand why young people want to post these images to each other.” Perhaps it’s just me being prudish or old fashioned but given all the inherent dangers or problems associated with this … I can’t.

Real Friends? August 3, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Media, Young people.
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There’s been 3 items about social networking that have caught my attention in the past few days

The first was the report written by 15 year old Matthew Robson claiming that few of his friends ued Twitter and wanted stuff for free off the internet. It seems to challenge some of the previously held views about the way teenagers use the internet

Second was Archbishop Vincent Nichols reflections that over use of soical networking leads to young people not being able to form authentic friendships

Finally was Thought for the Day by Giles Fraser that argued that too often church was only interested in ‘thick communities’ ie the traditional close knit community. Whereas for young people who were different, either through ethnicity, sexual orientation, faith, fashion or whatever then the ‘thin community’ on-line provided a place for them to find genuine community.

Different views, different ages. No real conclusions but a discussion that youthworkers need to keep up with in the coming years / months / weeks depending on how fast all this changes!

Respect July 24, 2009

Posted by Richard in Uncategorized.
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I watched Death of Respect last night. I have only just realised that it is part 2 and so will have to watch part 1. As it was looking at broken Britain it was not an upbeat portrayal of soceity but this morning a few thoughts from it linger in my head.

A key question was where does a sense of community come from. This is a tough question as the last 40 years have seen a quest for individual gain. We all know our rights and what we can get but few people know how to or have been shown how to contribute. How can we lead the way and create community where people feel they want to contribute, invest time, energy and therefore resepct where they live and forge local community?

There was a great example where a primary school was doing a fantastic job in the education of its pupils. It also happened to be an area of huge poverty where the headteacher wanted these children to be educated, have skills and remain in the community and thus being the agents of change. Poverty cannot be an excuse for poor education.

How we help create community in our local areas where we find our neighbours living and working is vital. As we do this we will help bring God’s Kingdom to our local neighbourhoods and this may be tougher and more relevant than getting people to attend our courses in church or come back to church.