New Wine: Team, Tears and Triumphs

So I’ve done a bit of reflecting about the children who were present at Rock Solid last week, but what about the Team?

The Team who led the 650 kids consisted of 125 people, youngest aged 15, with an average age of 17. They did jobs ranging from gunge tank fillers, to small group leaders, to sound engineers, to teachers and worship leaders on the stage. There were long standing team members who have been with Rock Solid since New Wine took place in Newark, people who were New Wine and Team newbies, and everything in between.

Both my mid childhood and late teens were particularly tricky times of life for me. Early on in the week I found myself looking round the room and wondering what a difference an event like this would have made, either as a child delegate or as a young Team member. I will never know the answer to that question, but I can say what a privilege it was to have had the chance to make a small difference to the people I met last week.

Upon arrival, there were lots of nerves, my own included, if I’m honest! Some people didn’t know if they could do it and needed prayer and cheer leading to get them to step out into the unknown. The next day, some were unsure again, and some might have been nervous the next day too. But bit by bit, confidences began to grow as God worked in the Team as they served and helped to look after his children. Some who began the week with great difficulty had blossomed and flourished by the time it came to pack down on Saturday night.

Although we had ‘Team time’ before each session, with worship and teaching from the Team Pastors, I really think that people grew as much through their work with the children as they did in the time for reflection. For example, the most powerful moment of the week for me was when I felt filled by the spirit during a conversation with a brave Team member. I learned more about God’s love and grace through the course of that conversation than I would have done by sitting and listening in one of the main meetings.

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I don’t think that God can speak to us any less when we are doing his work than when we are in a two hour long worship session!

I often had a good view of the whole room during worship and it was clear that the kids engaged as the leaders did. There were Team members who gave buckets of energy into worshipping, despite significant personal challenges, and therefore the kids worshipped with energy too! The week was tough going on many as little sleep was had, roles were demanding and the campsite was almost permanently soggy! But the triumphant feeling of finishing the week in one piece was worth the tiredness, the struggle and the occasional tear!

One particular area of the Team who I was so impressed by were the people from Our Place. These volunteers work to help the children in the venue who need a little bit more support than others. These people had buckets of patience and made helpful ways for children to engage with the activities, which meant they were as included as any other child in the venue. Their example was not only inspiring but useful as many Team members learned how to communicate with children in a more useful way. Their presence meant that we could welcome children who would otherwise have been a bit more tricky to handle. I think this is what church should be like, completely inclusive. It was fab!

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One afternoon the whole Team was invited to the workers celebration in the main venue, which was brilliant! Each venue team came in chanting and singing, clearly having bonded as much as we had over the week! We were thanked for our work and worshipped together. I think we all felt really valued and appreciated! I don’t know how many people volunteered overall but the energy and dedication of all those people was amazing!

I’ve never volunteered at a festival before, but I’m certainly keen to do it again! I really enjoyed my interactions with children and team alike, and I loved watching people grow and flourish as the week went on. By the end of the week, I felt that we’d formed a real community which only an intense and God-filled time can do!

New Wine: Preteens, Prayer & Praise

On Sunday I got back home after a week camping in Somerset at a Christian gathering called New Wine.

Despite what felt like none stop rain (Nathan’s reaction when I got back was: ‘you smell damp’), we had a wonderful time.

So, at this gathering there were 14000 people who worshipped, prayed, listened, reflected and connected with God for a week. 650 of these people were aged 8-9 and so they came to our venue, called Rock Solid.

20707714_10154950480176089_1923957680_n.jpgThese 650 children were looked after by 125 volunteers, who in turn had a team of ‘Pastors’ to teach, encourage and keep an eye on them. This is what I was up to. I was ‘Team Pastor’ for a week with 4 others, including my TI (vicar boss).

The venue was essentially a cow shed which had been carpeted and decorated, with a stage, lights and a sound system. The venue was also complete with coffee station for the Team, office for the admin volunteers and a gunge tank!

When I arrived I found myself setting up the prayer tent, which I absolutely loved. This space was a gazebo with beanbags and prayer stations. We had a world map with sticky note prayers, glitter mason jars to meditate with and luggage tags tied on a washing line which thanked God for the gifts he has given us. As my Mum said, ‘That gazebo is my kind of Church!’

20624349_10154937992731089_1368416784_nThe tent was a place reserved for God, yet it was accessible and it provided a good view of what was going on outside. I loved watching the same children visiting regularly and seeing them grow in the way they prayed and engaged. One particularly lovely moment was when a little girl came in and said ‘I really want to get to know Jesus better, can you help?’ I asked her if she had made new friends at Rock Solid, and if so, how? She told me that she had, and she smiled and talked to them. I said it was exactly the same with God! The more you talk to him, the better you know him. I prayed with this little girl and she went on to use the prayer stations in the tent. I had lots of amazing conversations like this every day!20732996_10154950480396089_786143609_n

Alongside the prayer and worship, there was also silly games and gungings! Brave volunteers would get a tank of gooey stuff over their heads every night after losing a game of some kind! The balance between daftness and serious God moments seemed to have been struck really well, and yet God was definitely present in all of it! Each volunteer worked, despite awful weather, exhaustion and in many cases, illness, to ensure that the 650 kids had a week to remember.

The theme of the week was Jesus’ ‘I am’ statements in the Gospel of John, which can be difficult for the most long standing Christians to get their head around! And yet, when the children heard a talk around Jesus saying ‘I am the Gate’, 450 children responded by getting up and walking through gates placed around the room. They knew this meant that they were making Jesus their ‘forever friend’, and it was just the most wonderful thing to see. I even spotted two girls going through several gates due to excitement! Although Jesus is the Gate, rather than Gates, their enthusiasm to go through more than one gate can only be a good thing!

Over the week children could be seen to grow in confidence in the way they prayed, and in joy when they worshipped. I feel full and I know that I will be fuelled for months to come from my experiences last week. I feel like I can talk to children about God and prayer better than I could before, and I definitely know not to underestimate what is going on in a child’s mind! They are often insightful little sponges who need to know God’s love in their lives just as much as any adult!

I started back at work today, fighting a cold, but happy and really encouraged. I’m even more excited than ever to see what God is doing in Formby, having recently been reminded of his love, power and grace.

Surprise!

So, I’m nearly a month in and I’ve been making a list of all surprising things/surprising moments! I find myself with 10 minutes to spare at New Wine and so I’ve written a list of my top 10 surprises of curacy so far.

1. When we left Durham on 10th June the first thing that struck me was how Nathan had gone from being the loveliest person in the world to the most annoying person in the world, seemingly overnight. I honestly wondered if someone had flicked a switch somewhere in his head. In the midst of moving house houses (as we moved from 4 different locations), it did seem like he had had a personality transplant. ‘Sorry, you want to keep the condiments in which cupboard?’ ‘You think that is a productive use of time?’ and ‘Why don’t you just follow the instructions for the Ikea bookshelf?’ are just three of the many thoughts I had. Nothing had prepared me for how difficult setting up home with another person would be, and I haven’t even moved in yet! However, things, as we could have predicted, improved immensely when the house began to take shape and we started jobs with proper routines (and mostly when I got some more sleep!) So surprise 1: Nathan.

On my first evening in Formby I made my way to my new landlady’s house. I immediately managed to not only lock myself out but also double lock the door so that the handle wouldn’t even turn. Thankfully, my new housemate has a great sense of humour and the lock was quickly sorted! Surprise number 2.

Onto number 3. So it’s my first week and I’m nervous and desperate to say the ‘right thing’. I got home for lunch after a morning in a community cafe and it transpires that Nathan and I had made the same pastoral blunder that morning. In response to people telling us their troubles we both said words along the line of:

‘well, at least you’ve got biscuits’.

We were both so frustrated that we seemed to have lost all competence upon entering Parish life. But I think, and hope, that since relaxing a bit we have improved a bit. (Apologies to Cranmer Pastoral Care tutors Jenny, Kate and Joss! You are fab, we just lost the plot slightly for a morning!)

Surprise 4: People notice stuff. I mean, more than I thought they would. They notice when you’ve accidentally put on navy socks with your new black shoes and when your grass gets too long.

Number 5 is possibly my favourite. There was an amazing moment when I was told that I might be asked to turn the Christmas tree lights on… on local hero’s shopping trolley!

6: lodging with a parishoner is excellent! Not only have I made a new friend, but it is also extremely useful. My landlady has a wisdom and knowledge of the Parish, the people and the area which is such a valuable resource. She fills me in on the history of the area and helps me make links between different groups of people. She’s also happy to remind me of people’s names again… and again… and again!

Surprise 7: There are five Sunday services across three churches in my curacy. Four of these services take place in the morning. On my first Sunday, I read my assent (legal vicar document) at all 4 services and the flying between churches where in 3 we wear robes and 1 we don’t, reminded me of quick changes in a musical theatre production.

Number 8: When I have a conversation with a group of people and I’m wearing a dog collar, I think that I get interrupted much less than I would do if I wasn’t wearing a collar. Didn’t expect that.

9: On a completely different note, I am really surprised at how much I am enjoying cycling! It’s good for me, it’s faster and it’s super easy to stop and chat to people!

10: Finally, I am surprised to find how quickly I no longer care about academia. Now I’m in the job ‘doing’ the stuff, I realise how little the people I am ministering to care about what I got in this essay, or that essay, or even my degree overall!

So that’s it! My top 10 surprises/surprising moments of my first month in curacy.20642225_10154942541076089_487518417_o

‘Hello, are you Poppy?’

A couple of months ago I would have found strangers in the street saying “Hello, are you Poppy?” rather unerving. But walking around a town, sorry, village, in a dog collar changes things. It changes how a person is seen.

I am beginning to adapt, and I now find comments like “excuse me, are you the new curate?” to be really rather lovely. The dog collar makes a difference, because rather than it bein weird that a stranger knows who I am, it’s just very lovely!

When people catch my eye and say “Oh! Are you Nathan’s wife to be?!”, it has lead to a warm and friendly conversations with people who want to know how I am, and to welcome me.

Having just moved to this town, sorry village, from a tight knit theological college and the area where I grew up, thus has made a big difference. When we arrived I think we probably knew about 10 people. But the smiles and warmness from Formby residents, including, “so you’re the new curates!” has made me begin to feel at home.

Wearing an item of clothing which clearly states both my faith and my profession has made that welcome easier because we are more noticeable! Don’t get me wrong, wear that same item of clothing in Weatherspoons and you will be stared at when you go to the loo, but that’s for another time.

So even though I think I may have met somewhere in the region on 400 new people in the last month, and it is definitely going to take some time to learn all those names, I feel very welcomed and valued. Chatting to people in church, in the pub, in the community and in the street has helped this. But so has people going out of their way to say hello to me, even though they don’t know me.

I’m quite excited about having a few years in Formby, I have to say, and I’m ready for it to keep feeling more and more like home.

New home, new blog!

Hello!

Throughout Vicar School I really enjoyed blogging occasionally, so I thought I’d get a new page to do a bit of blogging alongside my ministry!

I’ll be moving from writing about the school part of training (theological education) into the apprenticeship phase (curacy), as it were. You’ll be very welcome to have a look from time to time should you like to!

Here is a picture of me last Sunday:

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I got ordained! I, along with 15 others, was made a deacon in Liverpool Cathedral. It was a beautiful, powerful and very overwhelming day spent with some of my favourite people alongside a lot of very welcoming, new faces.

I then started work the next day and I cannot believe that a whole week has passed already! From meetings, to toddler groups, to communal crosswords at a coffee morning, to leading services, I have had a full on but brilliant week. Today I am feeling a little more steady and used to the rhythm of things, but no less excited about joining in with what God is doing in Formby!

So welcome to my new blog page, more to follow!

(Photo credit, Rosie Hosker).