Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Where I'm at

Realised that I'm not being very regular with the blog updates and need to just let you know what's going on and what's happening in my head.
There's loads going on in work: every day stuff plus the additional sexual health work and training that I've been doing. I am doing a DeMontford University course in supervision which is very good but very intense. With this course I am under taking and giving supervision which is quite metally tiring.
I am still on the Brunel University degree course and this semester's topic is "Drugs and Young People".
Church is following "40 Days of Purpose" by Rick Warren over the Lenten period.
And now I'm off to Birmingham...


Friday, February 23, 2007

The joys of youth work

Today must have been a text book day in youth work. Meetings in the morning, straight into a schools project and then two youth clubs in the evening. Child protection issues, verbal abuse and criminal damage all reared their ugly heads today. Sometimes being in an office from 9-5 really appeals but strangely enough, not today. What kind of masochistic freak am I?


Friday, February 16, 2007

Society in "deep trouble" shocker

A few days ago Unicef released a league table of the well being of children and of the 21 industrialised nations that were surveyed, Britain came bottom.
Unicef looked at 40 indicators from the years 2000-2003 including poverty, family relationships, and health.

One of the report's authors told the BBC that under-investment and a "dog-eat-dog" society were to blame for Britain's poor performance.
(click to link to story)

Child well being table:
1. Netherlands
2. Sweden
3. Denmark
4. Finland
5. Spain
6. Switzerland
7. Norway
8. Italy
9. Republic of Ireland
10. Belgium
11. Germany
12. Canada
13. Greece
14. Poland
15. Czech Republic
16. France
17. Portugal
18. Austria
19. Hungary
20. United States
21. United Kingdom
Source: Unicef

All in all, this is pretty grim as I'm supposed to be working directly with young people to increase their opportunities and sense of well being. I guess it's back to the drawing board...

David Cameron according to BBC news
is to call on society to restate its authority over the young, following the shootings of three London teenagers.
I must be honest and say that I found this particularly disappointing especially as DC has been quite pro young people and displaying a youth work approach in handling them so far. To be fair to DC, I think he's been the victim of some poor journalism as the rest of the report reads:
"We urgently need to encourage a culture of intervention. In a healthy society, children are the responsibility not just of their parents, but of the whole community," he will say.

"I'm not talking about taking on a gang of dangerous thugs. I'm talking about treating children and teenagers with respect - with the expectation that, if they are spoken to as reasonable people, they will respond as reasonable people."

It also talks about him consulting young people in his constituency.

I promise to make my next post cheerier and shorter...

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Authenticity (again)

There is a climate in the media of a desire for authenticity. I blogged on this about Bonfire of the Brands and Wanderingscribe. Being authentic means having a tragic childhood and recounting it graphically, having genuine class based angst as a child (Vanilla Ice anyone?) or living life with no human contact or food to get in touch with your latest movie role. Lynne Truss in this article comes up with something else for authors: imagination. It could catch on...

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

"Being religious"

In the world I notice that people whisper about their dislike of "religious people" before saying something that they feel may be offensive. This is true of comedians: "If you're religious, you'd better leave now [because what is to follow will offend you...]"
I went to see a comedian called Tim Minchin last night who obviously has atheistic tendencies. He was really talented and funny and I really enjoyed the show. He of course had religiously offensive material and used the leave now line. I didn't leave and it didn't offend me.

I hate the term "religious" and if people say "You're not religious are you?" I say "No, I have a faith and a deep spirituality". Am I in denial?

It made me think whether "being religious" is the spiritual equivalent of being a traffic warden?

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Sung Worship

Quite an interesting debate has opened up in a few blogs that I read about using songs and music to aid worship in Sunday services. It started with Joolian talking about a church having a service with all chart/secular songs. Then Heather picked up the baton thinking a little about the point of sung worship during services especially when it becomes a "hymn sandwich". The comments from Sparkles and Benvolio based on that post move the debate on further to "worship sets"- a 20 minute or more block of sung worship. Monty as a worship leader has interesting points to make here and on his own blog too.

Why do we have songs? In the bible we find singing and I'm sure I could find lots of examples but I'm currently reading Exodus and this passage was last night's reading:
Exodus 15: 1-3
The Song of Moses and Miriam
1 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD :
"I will sing to the LORD,
for he is highly exalted.
The horse and its rider
he has hurled into the sea.

2 The LORD is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father's God, and I will exalt him.

3 The LORD is a warrior;
the LORD is his name.

It would seem that singing in some way expresses praise. If I had the time and the inclination, I would also pick out bible passages that show that singing expresses sadness, intimacy and exuberance (but I don't!). Singing in some way taps into our emotions and I would say straight to the soul.

Thinking specifically of using songs not written as an overt songs of praise to God, can these be a form of worship to a variety of people? There are a range of options in this complicated arena. Firstly, the people who wrote the song could be Christian or not. Secondly, the audience could be Christian or not.

It would be foolish to suggest that non-Christians couldn't write music that isn't spiritual or could be used by Christians, in fact historically, it has happened. Because it isn't dedicated to God in its conception doesn't mean that it isn't God inspired. Neil Walker used to constantly remind us that there is nothing "sacred" about some of the traditional hymns we sing as they are the old pub tunes/popular music of the Victorian era, grabbed by Christians to appeal to the masses and entice them to church.

Not all tracks composed by Christians are taken in a worship context. There are several examples but I remember a track by Plummet called Damaged that became a big dance hit a few years ago. The track was originally by Plumb but went "mainstream" when Plummet remixed it. I do believe however that clubbing is actually worship although the participants probably don't realise that! When Jesus talks to the woman at the well he says "You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks." (John 4: 21-23) So it is possible to worship and yet not be in tune with the Creator.

I do understand however that for some reasons, singing may not connect with everyone as a method of expression of worship. I think sometimes these reasons are to do with a lack of singing ability and I think that anything that causes people to disengage with corporate times of worship can be damaging. There should always be an alternative so a service shouldn't be all about singing and they aren't (usually). Maybe this is why "hymn sandwich" services have arisen.

I find this quote from Joolian interesting: Being spiritually uplifted by something familiar may not be worship. Music has that power and we just need to exercise some caution not to manipulate with it.
Does music have the power? Or is it the power of God reflected in the piece that stirs our soul, even if we do not know or proclaim Him? If something touches us spiritually, do we have to analyse that sensation? I am interested in this lack of trust for the way we feel things. I tend towards trust but after seeing a programme called Messiah by Derren Brown I am aware that maybe I should be a little more cautious in response to my feelings. (Derren took a group of self confessed atheists and using a series of techniques, induced a spiritual state in them that they attributed to God) I guess comparisions with the Toronto Blessing in evoking a hysterical response to certain stimuli are understandable.
If music has the power to manipulate us into a state of euphoria that may encourage us to believe that we are communicating with God, does this mean that we are not worshipping God? Is it possible to suggest that music does make us susceptible and this is why we use it? Then surely ANY music that puts us into that state is relevant to bring us to that point. So long as we reach that state, does it matter how we get there?

I realise that it's taken me some time to think about all these things and the post is already long and rambling but my conclusion is that sung worship engages the soul at a level that is unseen and in some respects unknowable. This is not however a universal experience and sung worship can be a struggle for some but I believe is a skill that they can aquire over time with patience. I think that the origin of the music is irrelevant mainly and we shouldn't be afraid to use "secular" music as an aid to worship.

Hope some of that makes sense...

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Saturday, February 03, 2007


I love the Sacred Space site which is run by Irish Jesuits and I link to it in my side bar. I find that the prayers that they have there are really insightful, not necessary speaking into my situation but they just have a weight and wisdom that makes me catch my breath. Here is the thought that they have on the site, leading into the prayer of the day. I liked it, I hope you do too.

The Holy Spirit gives us the confidence to be where we find ourselves, possibly depressed, old, sickly. Ancient trees may have rotten branches but they have a beauty that comes from all the years they have lived. If we live in the Holy Spirit, nothing is lost to us, not even our failures, immaturities or sins. When you are fifteen, you do not want to know about when you were ten. You are looking ahead, hoping to be something else. But true growth comes from knowing: I am fifteen, which means that each of those 15 years has added something to me. My successes come from what I did with my failures. I have survived some sufferings, and have learned from them. The Holy Spirit would have helped Saint Peter to think about the denial of Christ and crowing of the cock. He would rather have forgotten about it, undone it. Instead he learned to make it part of the Lord's dealing with him, as much a part as Jesus' tender words to him after the Resurrection: Feed my sheep.

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Friday, February 02, 2007


I like birthdays. They give you a chance to celebrate and chat. A very dear friend celebrated her birthday this evening with a meal at Zizi's. It was nice. A chance to catch up with friends and eat some nice food. Conversations that stick in my mind include:
Strangling cockerels
Book clubs
Alternative education programmes
Interviewing and redundancies
Damaged children
It sounds heavy but it was really quite pleasant!

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