Monday, October 29, 2012

Reflections from Missing Generation Conference 13th October 2012

I recently spent a day with my favourite sort of people – young people.  True they were a little older than the young people and children I usually work with but they were mostly under thirty, so younger than me.  I love young people for their energy, their passion and their desire and commitment to changing the world and making a difference.

Today’s group were no exception; I was very challenged by their ability, their passionate love for God and their giftedness.  They are from the generation that is often missing from our churches, the 18-30s and I have to tell you that if you don’t have people like these in your church you are the losers.  (This is their website in case you're interested)

I was also personally challenged; we were invited to ask God what we were being called to and what our dreams were and today was a step towards me gaining clarity about my next steps in ministry.  About six years ago I felt called into ordained youth ministry in the Baptist church.  I was, and remain, committed to the church, with all its failings, and particularly to the Baptist corner of it.  I’m also committed to the place of young people in it; all my work and study for the last ten years has deepened that sense of commitment. 

The call was founded on several things, but today I was reminded of one of them.  It was this passage from the Old Testament Prophet Zechariah, Chapter 8:

Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath. Thus says the Lord: I will return to Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts shall be called the holy mountain. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of their great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Even though it seems impossible to the remnant of this people in these days, should it also seem impossible to me, says the Lord of hosts? Thus says the Lord of hosts: I will save my people from the east country and from the west country; and I will bring them to live in Jerusalem. They shall be my people and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Let your hands be strong--you that have recently been hearing these words from the mouths of the prophets who were present when the foundation was laid for the rebuilding of the temple, the house of the Lord of hosts.

For me it’s a vision of what God’s plan for his people is.  It’s a place where all can be themselves, where all can be safe, can play a part, where young and old (slave and free, greek and jew, men and women) live together and where God makes his dwelling place.  It seems like an impossible dream, but in verse 6 God acknowledges this and remind us that it will not be impossible for him. 

The vision reminds me that I need to “Let my hand be strong”.  For me this means to keep on speaking to whoever will listen, about the need to be including young people as the church today and not losing out on what ALL God’s people have to offer.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Does Theology Matter?

I’ve just been thinking about a situation where I had reservations about what the underlying theology of a course of action was, and indeed, whether there even was an underlying theology.  I was in conversation with some other Christian people about an aspect of social action and I was reflecting to myself about whether it matters what the underlying theology is if there are good results.  I was thinking about social transformation and a desire to transform the world from the way it is to the way it should be. 

It’s a bit like motherhood and apple pie isn’t it?  Who in their right mind would speak against transforming the world from its current state into something better?  But as I started to think about that idea I realised that theology does matter.  Theology tells me what is actually wrong with the way things are and tells me how it should be, and that will be different to someone with a different world view.  That doesn't mean that we can’t work together to tackle social issues, but if we do, then I think we need to understand where we’re coming from otherwise we might find ourselves at odds somewhere down the line.

For me theology does matter because it underpins everything I do.  It shapes who I think I am, who each young person I work with is, and what it is I am trying to do with them.  It also tells me what the transformation I’m wanting to bring about and the hope that I’m holding out are.  Without that foundation I’m not sure what my work would be.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Young People take another beating!

I’ve just seen the new advert encouraging participation in the elections for the new Police Commissioners.  See here for a news report including some of the ad:

It makes me so mad; it’s mostly images of young people being yobs!  Is this all that the new Commissioners will be responsible for?  Where are the images of white collar crime?  The credit card fraudsters?  The MPs claiming expenses? The bankers doing dodgy deals?  The newshounds bugging people’s phones?  In other words where are the images of adults committing crime?
Basically, the government want people to vote for another layer of elected officialdom, and because they can’t encourage us any other way they try to make us so scared of unruly yobs we’ll rush out to vote thinking we might make a difference.  To do that they turn yet again to the usual scapegoats – young people!  Young people do commit crime, but so do older people and actually David Cameron I’m more concerned about the level of criminality and corruption in government and financial services which goes unchallenged and unchanged than I am about anti-social behaviour by a minority of young people.  Show me an ad about a Police Commissioner that arrests those types of criminals and you might get me excited.

Perhaps if the budgets for youth work, family services, education and health weren’t being slashed all over the place, something could actually be done to remove the reasons why young people end up in some of the situations they do without trashing them as human beings.  Instead our taxes are being spent on elections for a totally unnecessary layer of government while ignoring the real problems that divide us.

I despair!  But not of young people…of the adults who govern us.