Sunday, 25 December 2011

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Phone boxes and libraries verses theology and mission

After five days at college my mind is boggled with so many questions I think my mind might explode. I've found that since I've returned from the tranquil settings of the Peak District my mind is writhing with questions. What is church? Should we tell children about Jesus and what does the Bible say? Are children just a blessing or are they born holy, or even are they born sinful? To name but a few queries. Then there's those cheeky little theologians who HUNDREDS of years ago made statements about children, then everyone had disagreements about each others thoughts. The reaction? Not to talk about if for a few hundred years, then someone else brings up the theology of childhood and the whole cycle begins again. Frustrating - YES! Inspiring - YES!

If I'm honest I was quite scared about going to college. Lots of feelings were plaguing my mind. Believe it or not I get a little apprehensive about new environments. Firstly because I get quite nervous meeting new people, mainly because I am not sure if I'm going to get on with them and those hideous insecurities set in, which I remind myself are stupid. Secondly I am approaching this MA feeling slightly out of my depth. I am not sure that I have the ability to express myself clearly. As you'll probably notice I can often sound quite colloquial and that's basically how I write essays. You can get away with it in classes but writing to this level I am not sure it's totally acceptable. Therefore this means I am actually, somehow, going to have to get my head down and get this assignment written, checked, re-write, check... This is when mum's come in useful.

First of all I'm going to have to secure what I am going to write in this assignment! We had some brilliant lectures this week, some mind boggling lectures and some I'm not sure what happened lectures! We had a few special guests including Mark Griffiths the writer of One generation from extinction. He was motivating, challenging and inspiring. I'd arrived at the week a little fed up to be honest and wondering how God was fitting into life in general and after Marks lecture I felt like not only had my work been challenged but my personal attitude as well. Next up is Bishop Steven Croft whose opening line was "Please don't call me bishop", a refreshing change from bishops who push their status in your faces, another moment at which I was proud to be Anglican ; )! He was positive about the future, enthusiastic about mission - particularly towards young people. When you've got to a point where you're not sure if it is worth telling young people about Jesus because of ethics and other peoples opinions Steven Croft came as another encouraging boost. After reviewing my biblical world view, shaping my visions and getting frustrated with ancient monks who have effected our views of young people and the bible today it was time to have fun!

Now when you live in a small place like Aberystwyth it is very hard to get up to mischief unnoticed so I tried my hand at some antics. Going on exodus' to the 'library' and trying to break world records in phone boxes! We managed a grand total of 9 people in one of those little red boxes. The record seems to be 12 so I guess we were close. There were people on shoulders, people on the floor, all in the name of fun! Unfortunately and ironically on the return to college we did get asked by a local to keep the noise down as there were children sleeping - imagine it 9 youth and children's workers in a peaceful country village being asked by a parent to be quiet!

The most descriptive picture of us all in the box and the box its self!

So, some of this theology stuff might take a while to process but here are some of my initial learnings from the week away. I really admire the college for their rhythm of prayer and the way they encourage it to be part of routine, this is something that I was to take on board more and secondly a challenge to continue to think about why I believe what I believe. I'm sure there'll be more to come!

For now let's just say a good time was had by all...

Friday, 28 October 2011

The long awaited return

After months of not blogging, I'm returning and wondering where to start. I am beginning that my life is not interesting enough to blog about. As you yawn and reach for the mouse you're also thinking the same!

This weekend sees my return to college, which scares me quite a lot. Some how, somewhere along the line I got accepted for, wait for it an MA! I have of course already managed to make a fool of myself by filling a form in wrong. I nearly had to commute from Aber to Derbyshire everyday as well as preparing all my own meals. Thankfully I spotted the mistake when the room list came through and I realised I wasn't on it. Now have this horrible feeling that the entire admin team at cliff college are wondering how on earth this girl got this far!

So basically I am going to college to study an MA in Children's and youth mission. I'm scared by the intensity and the work load, I'm scared that I might not understand what the lecturers are actually talking about. One thing to bring relief though is that I have been to Cliff College before. Althought I have a feeling there might be a difference between spending a week with 30 Children's workers studying for a Diploma and 10 MA students.

On the other hand I am excited. In theory this is going to help me to be a better Children's worker. And I've already been thinking about my dissertation which I would like to do on 'All age worship'. I want to look at how possible it to help a whole variety of people worship God together and encounter Him. Also I want it to have a special focus on how men/boys can encounter God in this setting.

One of the advantages of the college is that I do get to spend the week in the beautiful English countryside and may even have a little visit from some family members who live down the road.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Here comes the Summer...

It's that time of the year as the festivals and holiday clubs kick in I hold my breath and check my event list for the summer
SU Beach mission - TO DO
Soul Survivour -TO DO
What is slightly concerning me currently is that I am sitting in bed at three in the afternoon not long after having got up! And as an unknown lurgy leaves my body my brain starts back into action with a slight sense of panic but a great sense of excitement.

SPREE this year was once again a joy. Yes I have to admit there were quite a few hitches getting there, confused parents, homesickness, lack of electrical link up and perhaps my biggest foe pa to date putting petrol in a diesel minibus - which had children in, along with a convoy of another minibus and a car! But incredibly, and by no suprise (complete with a longer story) God got us there. Our group were amazing, they were so well behaved and seemed to have so  much fun. We had incredible cooks with our group in the form of the Skinners and super-duper helpers. We will forgive SPREE for their website because their variety of activities, their heart to see young people know God, the safety etc was great. Yeah of course in true Hannah style there were things I'd change, but what struck me was a conversation I had on the last day with a guy who for the whole weekend had been managing the site logistics. This man gives up his time (and a weekends worth of sleep) to make sure that young people find out about God, he deals with any manner of practical thing and a variety of tempered people so that others don't have to. And do you know what this man does normally... he's an evangelist! What impressed me the most about him was that in my experience evangelist want to be right out there telling people about Jesus and this man chose to do his evangelism in a different way, he chose not to do it so that others could. I don't really know how to put into words the amount of admiration I have for this man - you're an absolute star Mike. Here's to SPREE 2012?!

But this still leaves a fast approaching Beach mission and Soul Survivor.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

All things sweet...

Feeling a bit frustrated like I was always doing church things I decided it was time to get out and take up an extra curricular activity. No not hip-hop dancing or hand gliding, not drum lessons or a film making class but cake decorating. Yes I know it's an extreme sport and you can't imagine me taking part in such a dangerous activity - joking, it's probably exactly what you'd imagine me doing.

I joined a group of ladies (yes all ladies), of a similar age to each other (and not me),  in a little Welsh women's centre tucked away here in little Aberystwyth. Armed with my weapons, rolling pins, knives and cutters galore I set about moulding and kneading, spreading and smoothing various pieces of icing into shape. and the result, well see for your self...

...And after consumption...

And what followed was a frenzy of cake making, even more than I had ever done before

And so now I wait for the next class, hopefully in September.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Children's Pastor turned model

A few weeks ago I spent my day off sampling the delights of Aberystwyth's charity shops, for three reasons.
1. It seems like the new thing to do with the credit crunch and all that stuff.
2. There is a little of bit of me that would love to master this whole customising clothes.
3. A friend of mine was getting married and she is so good at getting fantastic bargins in charity shops that I thought I should pay homage to her skills and dress 'vintage' for her wedding.

After trawling through several I finally came across Beacon of Hope, a relatively new location for the shop, but it has been a big hit with the students because it has promoted it's clothes as 'vintage'. Whilst sifting through the rails I of course was asked what I was looking for and did I need any help. I'm sure a little glint entered the eye of assistant at the mention of the word vintage. Before I could whisper Versace 1950's I was locked in the shop and ushered down stairs to the cellar. What lay before me I can only describe as a vintage dream, dresses your gran would have worn, hats someone probably died in and shoes that had survived the war. But something about it all seemed to sparkle in the dull light and the musky charity shop smell suddenly smelt like a spring garden. Ok maybe that is all a little bit of an over exaggeration, but it was exciting. As I stumbled my way through the rails and suitcases the assistant excitedly talked about a fashion show that she was organising and did I want to be part of it. No was my swift response.

We ascended the stairs and I made for the changing rooms, sampling my options and discussing them at length with the assistant. Her comments seemed to be interspursed with "Are you sure you don't want to be part of the fashion show?", "You really suit vintage" ( I hope she wasn't implying that I looked old). Basically I ended up leaving with a dress that looked a totally different colour in the light of day (and I didn't wear it to the wedding), a rather cool air hostess like hat (pictured below with the actual wedding outfit) and a new job, for one night only, as a model.

What I had originally imagined as being a small fundraiser, with a couple of old grannies in a scabby hall somewhere seemed to become a 14 model promotion of Edinburgh woollen Mill, Polly's, some flower arranging man, The Body Shop at Home and Beacon of Hope charity shop. All hosted in Llety Parc lodge one of the nicest hotels in Aberystwyth, complete with raised catwalk, practices and hair do's (which of course had to be trialled) by a local hairdresser - Headlines. So, ok maybe I went into it a little delusional!

What a comedy evening, but all in the name of charity. There were some questionable moments, some embarrassing moments, times when I just wanted to go home but actually by the time I got to the end of the evening I was thoroughly enjoying myself. The vintage stuff was definitely my favourite part simply because you could just have fun with it and there was this element of half serious, half fun.

Would I do it again? Yes! But for now I think I will continue to trail the charity shops for vintage items or perhaps I'll enter the world of customising...

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Children and church?

So the big thing that is so often is on my mind is children in Church, how and why? I love this topic but once you enter into it it is so easy to open a can of worms and watch them explode over the room as Churches come to logger heads over what should happen to children in Church.

Seriously lets face it they're a nightmare, children in church. If you are not a parent then they are annoying, they ruin your church experience, they're a distraction and they should be in crèche or shipped off to Sunday School immediately. If you're a parent, it is probably one of the outings in the week that you dread, trying to get your children to sit still and be quiet in church, not being able to listen, always having to keep an eye on your child and just generally struggle to know what to do. They make a mess, they disrupt life, you can't talk to them, they ask too many questions... Yes I totally see it, I understand what you are saying, I feel for you totally and utterly. Yet as I have been thinking, reading and starting to research this I've begun to see another side. No, as a children's worker I am not going to sit with all the church children around my feet and see them behave perfectly, because one, that's not my job, two they won't sit perfectly and do exactly what I want them to do, they're children, they love exploring and experimenting. But I think we need to seriously consider exactly what they are exploring and experimenting during church or corporate worship.

The question I have been asking my self on a regular basis is why and how do we parent children through corporate worship? Should we even bother? I am not going to pretend that I know everything, I am not a parent and in ten years time I will probably change my mind about the ideas I have now, but as a member of a church I want to turn my mind to considering this and examine what we can do to help parents through what they probably often see as their worst nightmare when it should be their biggest joy to be at church with the church family worshipping God. There's not much around to help people really. I did a course on children's work recently and my final research project/mini dissertation was on parenting in the church and I struggled to to find much helpful stuff, three texts stuck out to me the most 'Parenting in the pew', an old faithful leaflet from the Mothers union ( which you just email and ask them for) and believe it or not, the Bible.

Before I say any more I am going to think and you can expect installments on this as I unpack it in my own head...

Monday, 28 February 2011

Blogging 'In the Jungle...'

My rather limited blogging needs to regain some momentum...

So last week was holiday club, definitely an event of the year. I just love holiday clubs, my whole work life is just about building up to the next holiday club. This half term was entitled 'In the Jungle', based on the theme of exploration. Exploring key Christian thoughts from the Bible, fitted around Paul's life story of exploring the world with the sole purpose to tell them about Jesus.

Say sanctification to most Christian adults and what reaction do you get? Shock horror, confusion and fear sticks to their face as they feel that because they are a Christian they should know what it means but it's a big word. So try telling adults wh
o are doing your talks at holiday club for children and you want them to talk about Sanctification, redemption, adoption and Salvation. Tell you what it was worth it for the reaction. The thing is I feel that we do a child an injustice when we don't tell them things, in fact I read in a book by a guy called Keavan that:
“Teachers of religion have become possessed by the notion that young people do not have a readiness for complete catechesis in Christian doctrine”
And it's not just me that thinks this, one of my lecturers from college described it as 'us belittling children's view of God under ours'. We spend so much time protecting our children from the knowledge of drugs, drink and sex, does God come into the same category?

So with my hopefully God inspired theme I set about explaining to the children key Christian doctrines. I can safely say we had fun, despite gorilla tears, but all doctrine covered - oh of course I didn't actually use the jargon, e.g. Sanctification, just explained the concept - memory verse taught, Bible read, songs sung, drama done, tree houses made and my conclusion is...

I survived the first holiday club I've run properly on my own, with no co-worker to bounce ideas off, I did it. Yes, there are things that I would change straight away. The leaders didn't have name stickers on, I wanted the parents to have cards at the end of each day so they knew what we'd done but they didn't get done, I definately didn't give those leaders enough leaders challenges.

I guess one thing I found hard were the lack of time I have with the leaders and the fact that some just don't turn up at all with no excuse, no text, call or email. This isn't helpful when you have a church hall full of children that need entertaining safely. Plus there is not enough time to prepare the leaders for every eventuality. How can you give the kids (and the parents) the best possible experience, learn lots about God, are safe and generally enjoy the experience. The conclusion is that it is actually impossible. No amount of organisation and preparation can realistically prepare you for what happens when you get a bunch of adults with a large variety of gifts together with 60 plus children who are all different from each other. Basically all you need to do is trust God, without making it sound flippant, that is actually what you have to do. Therefore running a holiday club and being a control freak and Christian is, well, interesting.

The other thing I find hard is knowing that there are hundreds of children bouncing of walls in homes in Aberystwyth and an equal number of parents tearing hair out because it's half term and they have nothing to do with their kids. HELLO, free holiday club! I am actually willing to take on crazy children, that's fine with me, that's what I here to do. Although I often wonder if God not only gives us what we can cope with but what our resources can cope with. I am not totally sure we could fit any more kids into our hall so until we magically grow or gain a new space that's it.

There were so many encouragements from holiday club this year. We had incredible answers to prayer in the small and big things:

1. Craft. I knew which craft I wanted to do on the last day, something which I am going to attribute to God. I was certain, snake pen holders, I just knew it. The only problem was how? I mean ok, kitchen roll tubes would work, yoghurt pots, all fine but they would look soooo rubbish. Kids just don't do craft in the same ways these days, they don't take time over them and they are just never really good enough and they are never really bothered by them. So I waited. Then came phone call from a friend of mine who works for the welsh assembly wanting to get rid of some old promotional material like Frisbees, keyrings and pens because it was old and had incorrect details on it. So I trundle down to the Aberystwyth industrial estate to see the assemblies more recent glasshouse to go in search of Frisbees, pens and keyrings - cause that's what you do as a Children's Pastor! Just in case you think I've acquired a plane and flew there (from the picture below), I haven't, it's false advertising.

After locating the office and the correct people I was loaded up with Frisbees, pens, keyrings... and there's more...mouse mats, and wait for it... Pen holders (which I stupidly haven't taken a picture of). Incredible, flat pack pen holders, the main part of which is a rectangle of plastic that wraps around a base and a rim, one side is promotion the other just black, plain, perfect for my idea and suitable to curl a snake around.

2. Answer to prayer number two was the amount of children. Usually our holiday clubs attract around sixty plus children. On the Friday before we only had 30 children registered. So I got people to pray particularly our Friday night prayer meeting. I wanted sixty at least! Tuesday morning came and I was ready for sixty but still only had 30 registered - but full of hope I opened the doors and let the little sproglets in. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7... after 40 minutes of registering - twice as long as it normally takes - we had... 60 kids. Oh yes, prayers answered.

There are so many more answers to prayer that week, leaders offering to help more because they'd enjoyed it so much, new friendships made, kept safe but of course the main joy of the week was seeing 6 kids decide that they wanted to become friends of Jesus, what more can I say!