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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.

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Youth of Today 2 July 23, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Young people.
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Best quote from the feedback form

Something you’ve done for the first time on this holiday…
‘Crossed an international boundary on foot’.
(We walked from England to Wales – and back)

Genius

The Youth of Today July 20, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Young people, Youth Work.
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Just got back from a  great weekend. We took 4 Christian and 4 Muslim lads off to The Quinta Centre in Shropshire and had the rather wonderful guys from Adventure Plus running acivities for us.

Just been looking at the feedback forms and to my astonishment several of the lads have requested more soap in the bathrooms! What are young people coming to, we never washed on weekends away when I were a lad.

Christianity in the digital space July 14, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Bible, Media.
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digitalsymp3I am spending three days this week at St John’s College Durham at a symposium – ‘Christianity in the Digital Space’. Today has been full with a presentation by Mark Brown available here. Then 4 groups looking at Bible, Spirituality, Community and Mission in the Digital Space. This mornings discussion raised on Mission raised some very interesting questions around how we might actually create neutral, safe or sacred spaces on the net as part of our approach to evangelism. This afternoon we talked about on-line religious or missional orders. There’s loads of stuff to look at on-line videos on YouTube here and you can follow the live video feed here 7.30pm this evening

War and Young People July 13, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Young people, Youth Work.
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There’s been lots in the news over the last couple of days about the deaths of British soldiers in Afghanistan. What makes the stories of these, and other soldier’s, deaths seem so poignant is how young many of the soldiers are – 18 or 19 quite often. Now I happen to think that the death of others of all ages on both sides is just as tragic, but I happened to be speaking to a Brigadier from the British army last week and he was telling me about what it’s like in Afghanistan. One of the things that stuck with me as he talked was the situations that young soldiers are being put in on a regular basis. Having to make snap life or death situations in incredibly stressful situations.

For those of us doing youth work here in the UK at the moment the chances are we are working with young people of that age currently making all sort of choices. Perhaps it would be a good moment to pause and pray for their peers currently fighting in Afghanistan. Whether you think the war is justified or not,  the ages of these soldiers seems to me something for us as youth workers to reflect on.

Addicted to shops July 12, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Consumerism, Media.
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Interesting article in the Times on Saturday. A review of two new studies on the psyschology of shopping. Nothing very startling really – but useful reminders.

all consumingNeal Lawson writing in ‘All consuming’ suggests that a consumer society can’t allow us to stop shopping and be content because then the whole system would die. This ‘turbo-consumerism fosters a ‘new selfishness’. (I’m not sure what was wrong with the old selfishness and wonder if the biblical word for it all is still sin!)

Interestingly he suggests that young people are sidestepping consumerism by using social networking sites – relying on their own (or perhaps their created) personalities and wit.

I need to read the book but it seems to me that the social networking sites are fuelled by this same narcisstic consumerism and financed by those who want the world to remain consumerist. What would it really mean to challenge our addiction and to help young people to do the same?

Torchwood – the impact of story July 12, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Entertainment, Media.
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torchwoodI have just finished catching up with Torchwood this week – a highle enjoyable series for sci-fi fans. It was fascinating to see some really interesting issues being raised through the programme. In many ways this is how issues are raised in contemporary society

Some particular issues were

1. Live forever – Capt. Jack Harkness can’t die and comes back to life. In the end this ability means that he sees hundreds of lifetimes and in the end he can’t cope with what he sees

2. Worth – when requested to give up 10% of the world’s children, the UK chooses its 10% by taking the bottom 10% schools from the league tables. So do we think that children who are more academic are worth more than those who don’t achieve in this way. Even if we don’t think that do we treat them differently?

3. Sacrifice – the government have to choose between sacrificing millions of children or the whole human race. Jack has to choose between the death of his own grandson and the death of the children. It seems that one being sacrificed for the manyis a theme in contemporary story. Of course we have the ultimate example of that in the death of Jesus

But these themes (and others including friendship, family etc) are raised in these stories. How do we help young people develop the tools to think critically about these issues and engage biblically? If we don’t then they will remain passive consumers of the entertainment industry and their lives will be shaped by those many stories

Challenging Lessons July 8, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Education.
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On Monday I was at a conference organised by The Interfaith Network. The theme was on young people and inter-faith work. It was great to hear stories of what folk are doing and to catch up with some friends.

In the workshop I ran we got to discussing RE lessons. I made the point that for some children or young people brought up in a strong faith family to be in RE lessons listening to different beliefs can be quite spiritually challenging and cause some inner-turmoil.

The point I was getting at was not that shouldn’t teach different faiths in RE but that:
a) as faith communities we need to help children and young people grow up in their faith engaging with other faiths early on, rather than introducing other faiths later on
b) RE teachers ought to be trained to help think through the impact of RE on pupils.

The response from folk in the session (including Christians, Jains, Muslims, Sikhs) was very warm, but recognised that they (including at least two members of SACREs) had never considered the spiritual impact of RE on pupils.

My experience is that learning about other faiths can really deepen ones own faith if done well. But it can be really challenging.

Given that people of other faiths are settled in the UK and that RE is here for the forseable future, helping young people grow in this context seems vital.

Making an Impact July 3, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Entertainment, Media.
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michael jacksonI have not really known what to make of the news relating to the death of Michael Jackson this week. Given that we are almost the same age he (or at least his music) was part of the soundtrack of my life when I was growing up. I’m not sure I would call myself a fan but I have been very aware of the impact of his work through his iconic albums like Thriller. In recent times I have found myself saddened by the stories about his relationships with children. Sad to see his life seemingly in such a mess. The child who wasn’t allowed to be a child when growing up, simply seemed to revert to childhood when he became an adult.

But this morning footage of some of his rehearsals for his forthcoming tour have been released and watching them I was struck by how well he looked and reminded of his talent. This week his music sales have shot through the roof and it looks like he will be more succesful in death (good thing given his debt) than Elvis or Lennon.

That set me thinking – as someone who believes that the good news of the kingdom of God is the most significant news in the world, what do I need to do to allow that good news to make a similar impact on the lives of children and young people today. I realise that the entertainment indistry is superficial and commercial but here is someone who used their talents to make an impact. How do I live my life for God so as to make an impact on those I am called to serve? Makes me think!

Does God Get Angry? 2 July 2, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Bible.
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A colleague of mine lent me a book called ‘Show Them No Mercy’ Which is a great title (It was published by Zondervan in 2003) . It’s a series of articles about the Canaanite Genocide and how we respond to the passages in the Bible that attribute this genocide to God. It’s not always comfortable (or easy) reading. But I’ll quote for you a story one of the writers recounts:
‘A former student shared with me the sad story of his father, a dedicated lay leader of an evangelical church, who in mid-life set out to read the Bible through for the first time. He was first surprised, then shocked, and finally outraged by the frequency and ferocity of divinely initiated and sanctioned violence in the Olt Testament. About half way through the book of Job, he shut his Bible never to read it again and has not set foot inside a church since’.

Now I kind of want to scream ‘ What do you mean he was only just reading it for the first time? He was a lay leader!’ But how many times do we read or wrestle with these passages? do we try to hide them or skip over them so that young people we work with won’t be put off.

They’re not easy but they are there, and if we want to avoid future leaders who are in our care having a similar experience to the one described above, I suspect we’ll need to think through how we help them engage with these texts rather than ignore them.