Jun 152008
 

Not long back from Crossover.

Although the numbers were well down this year, there was still a great atmosphere and most things went well. Interestingly, even though the numbers were down, the activities were still very busy. It was just that there were fewer groups simply hanging around.

The labyrinth we ran was good, with only one ‘dissenting’ voice. It’s fascinating to hear youth leaders comment on their ‘hyperactive’ kids as they watch them sit through fairly lengthy ‘meditations’. And the reaction from the kids themselves is always encouraging. Even the ones that you’d perhaps label as being ‘uninterested’ come out saying how great it was.

Highlight of the weekend? Quite possibly the thrashy, rock version of ‘How great Thou art’.

Will comment more later after I’ve had some sleep. Although it was a great weekend, there were still a lot of points worth chewing over.

Apr 182008
 

It’s the church youth club fundraiser tonight – an overnight games marathon. 12 hours of games and mayhem and tired teenagers. What’s this got to do with me you ask? Well you might. I ‘retired’ from the youth club leadership a while ago, but they’ve been left in the lurch a bit for this event. It’s the usual story – pleas for help have fallen largely on deaf ears. It’s not helped by the fact that one of the leaders (who helped organise it) has since pulled out of leadership and isn’t going to come. So that’s what it has to do with me. I’m going to be helping out overnight. Great joy! Mind you, it’ll not be the first time I’ve done one of these, but I did hope that the last one would be just that. My wife has it worse though. She had offered her help as an extra adult body (but not a leader) when the other person quit so she’s having to help as well. Unfortunately she also has a major Girls’ Brigade fundraiser tomorrow which she can’t avoid. Prayers for all events and those involved would be much appreciated.

Just to add insult to injury – actually the other way round – one of my teeth broke today. The corner of a back molar came adrift when I was eating a ‘healthy’ cereal bar. I phoned my dentist and the next available date for a treatment appointment is the 26th of May – 5 weeks away. However, if I’m in pain, they’ll ‘see’ if I can be fitted in any earlier. I’m trying not to think about it because it doesn’t actually hurt at the moment but I’m convinced that there’s a dull throbbing starting to develop. I’m pretty certain this is just psychosomatic and certainly not helped by me poking around with a toothbrush to work out if it is sensitive at all. I really dislike going to the dentist, though I do go for my regular checkups. But I’ve never had particularly ‘healthy’ teeth. My mouth is a bunch of gaps, fillings and crowns. Oh well! Grin and bear it and hope that 5 weeks passes quickly.

Feb 052008
 

Duct tape, duck tape, gaffer tape. Call it what you will, it provided me with a ‘theme’ for the youth club last Friday. I had been asked to step in since the regular leader had a prior commitment and the other leaders weren’t too experienced. Not long before a ‘youth leader email’ had dropped into my inbox extolling the virtues of duct tape for silly games. Now the interesting thing about duct tape is that it can fix just about anything, has a million and one uses but it’s rubbish at the one thing it was designed for – sealing ducts. Apparently the adhesive dries out too quickly and it starts to leak. There are now better products on the market for sealing ducts, but duct tape is still a huge seller. Anyway, duct tape was my theme for the night. And here’s how it went…

We started off the ‘themed’ part with a silly game. The group had to get themselves into three teams. Each team had a roll of duct tape. I scattered lots of small squares of paper on the hall floor. Each team member in turn had to have a single wrap of duct tape round them, sticky side out, and then had 20seconds to ‘catch’ as many of the paper squares as possible. The team that collected the most were the winners and got to be first in the queue for the tuckshop. (The losers got to pick up any paper still lying around.)

Next up was the ‘God-slot’. I spoke about the million and one uses of duct tape, how good it was at so many different things and explained to them why it was rubbish at the one thing it was intended for. I then spoke about creation and how humanity was made ‘in God’s image’. We spoke a bit about what that meant, always nudging towards the idea of ‘relationship with God’ being one of the key things it means (God, as Trinity, is the perfect relationship of grace). And, of course, like duct tape, we have many talents and uses, but generally speaking, we’re pretty hopeless at the one thing we were meant to have – a relationship with God (and for that to be reflected in our relationships with each other). However, unlike duct tape, we haven’t been replaced by something better (skimming swiftly around the flood story at this point). Rather, God seeks to reconcile us to Him, imperfect as we are, through Jesus. There endeth the lesson.

I then set them another duct tape challenge. Back in their teams they had to see who could build the highest tower using only newspaper and duct tape. As they were building them, they were intent only in making their own tower as high as absolutely possible. Of course, they started to keel over and had to be propped up or guyed to try and get them to stand. At this point I had a burst of inspiration. During the chat about what it meant to be made in God’s image, someone suggested that we should have been perfect. I pointed out that in the creation narratives, God doesn’t declare creation to be perfect, but ‘very good’ – good enough, fit for purpose, just as it was intended to be. After calling time on the tower building (2 of the 3 had collapsed by this stage) I called everyone together and pointed out that what I had asked them was to see who could build the highest tower – that is, the highest of the three – which didn’t mean that it had to be a towering edifice, just higher than the other two – good enough, fit for purpose. We so often strive for perfection, driven by a false sense of what perfection is – fastest car, slimmest figure, biggest house, most money. We forget that we haven’t been made perfect, but we’re often good enough. It doesn’t quite fit with the highest tower analogy, but it did give me a chance to slip in another message.

So, there’s the gospel according to duct tape. Contrived, I’ll agree, but it sort of worked.

Nov 292007
 

Planning for Crossover 2008 is now officially underway. The dates are confirmed and the website has had a revamp (and no apologies for it looking familiar – it’ll get properly ‘themed’ when the graphics bods have had a go).

The theme is ’10’ or ‘X’ (think Roman numerals) since this is Crossover number 10 (well, duh!) and there’ll be a bit of a party atmosphere, we hope.

Sep 162007
 

Today was my second Sunday at KHR Grangemouth. I was delivering the children’s talk and today was also communion. So, before I comment on both, I also want to note that I also spent a lot of time blethering over tea afterwards. They’re a very friendly lot at KHR and it’s great how welcoming they’ve been. My big problem is keeping track of names. So, if anyone has any tried and trusted name-remembering techniques, I’m all ears.

Anyway, on to my observations for the day.

The children’s talk went well (I thought) but then it helps when you’ve got a very responsive group of young people. It especially helps when they don’t get stumped when the stock answers of ‘God’, ‘Jesus’ and ‘the Bible’ aren’t the expected answers. I got a lot of very perceptive answers which showed that they understood my questions and were giving it some thought. My theme was ‘meeting’ since that was the first time I had properly met any of them. We moved on to ways of meeting God and that tied nicely into the idea of communion being of particular importance as a way of meeting God. Someone noted that I didn’t use any sort of script while I was speaking. I think with a children’s talk I like to know where I’m starting and know where I’m aiming for. Everything else in between is pretty much up for grabs because you just don’t know what sort of response you’ll get. The knack is to guide any apparently tangential comment back on course (and know when to give up when it just isn’t working).

Communion was pretty much to formula but with one aspect that I do think merits looking at. In KHR, like a number of churches I have been in, the elders who will be distributing the elements get served first. Then the rest of the congregation is served. I quite like having the elders served after the congregation. One church I was in used a particular formulation of words that, paraphrased heavily, said, “We have tasted, it is good, now you can have some.” It wasn’t intentionally ‘elitist’ but that’s how it struck me at the time. That has stuck with me and perhaps now I’m a little over-sensitive to the impressions given during communion. One communion service I did like was one where the bread was distributed and everyone ate as they received it but when the wine was distributed, it was kept until everyone had some. Then everyone took it together. I enjoyed the more ‘communal’ feel to that approach. That said, it obviously wouldn’t work where a common cup was used. I’m also going down to the evening communion service which, I’m told, is different, so I’ll add another entry later about that.

Sep 082007
 

We were at a concert tonight in St John’s Church in Hamilton. The African Children’s Choir were playing.

[simage=168,288,y,left]

When you hear some of the stories of their early years it’s quite heart-breaking. But listening to them now it’s great to hear the hope that is in their voices. We were remarking that their globe-trotting is obviously influencing future career ambitions. There were a fair few wannabe pilots and air stewards. I don’t doubt that many of them will go on to achieve some of these ambitions and it’s a testament to the hope that they now have that they can set their sights on such careers.

[simage=176,288,y,right]

It would be easy to be cynical and suggest that it’s a slick promo for fundraising – albeit for an excellent cause. But beyond that it’s an investment in the future for the countries and peoples these kids represent and that has to be worth supporting.

Oh yes, and they’re very good too. The concert was excellent.