Author: Scott P

1000 – a reflection.

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I have been blogging for 1000 posts, I have sent 8457 tweets, add this to my recent birthday, and I have been alive for 14247 days on this earth, so probably a time for reflection.

I have learned a lot, but no where near enough. I am pretty sure i am good at somethings, and terrible at others but I probably know enough about stuff to have muddle on through.

I feel old. I know I am not old But I am probably in the 2nd half of my life. But not really taking care of myself in the first half or putting my body at risk is taking its toll. (Eating too much is one example of this. Time to do the hard thing and change that and some other things).

I don’t communicate enough. I know sometimes I struggle to communicate, and to say stuff. I want to change that, and going back to academic studies has helped me to one be more confident when I speak. (Yes I know a low bar) but also to feel like I have something to contribute and say which is worth while.

I like who I am and who I have become. I don’t think I have always been right or done the right thing, but I am here, and i think here is a pretty good place. I think there are some things I need to do differently, but I like that.

I like that.

Categories: small news

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Sunday Schools and Government Inspections. #politics #religion

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There has been some discussion over the English Department of Education policy for Out-of-school education settings: The policy is part of the UK Governments counter extremism policy. You can read the call for responses to the policy which includes the policy proposal and some questions the Government are wondering about here. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/480133/out_of_school_education_settings_call_for_evidence.pdf

What is this policy about?

That’s a great question. It’s a policy which fits with the UK Governments wider PREVENT strategy, (that’s a policy to tackle terrorism and extremism). As part of that the government is going to “work to reduce the risk that children and young people are exposed to harm and extremist views in out-of-school education settings “ (p6).

Why target out-of –school education situations

Well schools are regulated, and harmful practices are ways to get the school closed or teacher involved barred from working with children and young people, and out-of–school provision is not (p6).

And they are dangerous?

The government is saying OFSTED (the English schools inspection body) and Local Government bodies are making the case that they need to be checked out. Highlighting concerns over the Health & safety of premises, also “There have been reports of unsuitable teaching materials being used, and evidence that no suitability checks are being conducted on staff to ensure children are safe” (p6). The make an example of the so-called Trojan schools in Birmingham, UK.

That sounds Bad. What are unsuitable teaching materials?

While discussing good out-of-school settings they say:

We want these settings to continue to provide children with learning opportunities whilst putting in place a system which enables intervention in those cases where out-of-school settings fail to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. It is right to expect children to be in a safe environment and somewhere which does not teach children views which undermine our fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs (p7).

So an unsuitable teaching material would be something which is undermining our fundamental British values. Democracy, the rule of Law, Individual Liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. Do we get to vote on those fundamentals are the British fundamentals, or are they just decided for us and put into law by the government?

They are decided for us by the government. In a very democratic way which we should respect.

Quite. So okay I think what we do at our thing like Sunday school just about gets through, how does the policy work when and if it comes into practice.

As you are in Scotland and it is a policy for England, you do nothing.

What if I live in England. (this is on the world-wide web, and some people in England could be on the internet).
Two options.
1 – go rogue. (I will refrain from outlining the consequences of this, but suffice to say that would be viewed dimly.)
2 – the government will make a way for you to register your out of school setting.

Every Sunday school setting ?

When referring to out-of-school education settings, we mean any institution providing tuition, training or instruction to children aged under 19 in England that is not a school, college, 16-19 academy or registered childcare provider.

(p6)
So that includes churches Sunday schools.

Hold on all of them? that sounds like the state is going to register all Sunday school style events and all Sunday school style event staff in England.

Not quite

we propose to focus resources on where children receive intensive tuition, instruction or training out-of-school, which are closer in nature to other regulated settings and which potentially have greater impact on children, and might pose a greater risk to children (p10)

further

Intensive Education could be considered anything which entails an individual child attending a setting for more than between 6 to 8 hours a week, bearing in mind that this could be over an hour every day after school or on one or both days of the weekend … [or] might establish themselves to provide ‘intensive’ education but less frequently, or for a fixed period of time, for example during school holidays or in the run up to exams (p10).

(check the first few minutes of this house of lords video where Lord Nash assures Lord Storey that Sunday Schools are anticipated as being under the time limit, as are one-off residential events.)

So closer in nature to a school type education model, and over 8 hours a week per child. Phew, I think I am safe.

Phew indeed.

So whay are people so upset.

Well on Thursday, this man, The head of OFSTED, said that every religious learning setting in England would need to be registered, (at around 11.22 on the video).  This would seem to contradict the Lords comment above. Although this ambiguity is perhaps indicative of the fact this is proposed policy, not enacted yet. If he is right though, the Sunday schools of any church in England would be registered and also could be a target for inspection by OFSTED, the results could be their staff could be barred from working with children or the entire thing shut down. of course OFSTED may also find them to be Outstanding and commend them on their practice.

yes it could be ok I suppose, but I am not sure i like the idea of the government have a register of people who believe things, is there anything we can do about it.

YES – these people want you to write to your MP and ask them calmly and politely to go and listen to the debate in parliament about it. As I live in Scotland and my MP cannot vote in this matter I am not going to write to mine about it.

Ok. But doesn’t it concern you at all?

Not really. The church where I help with youth work is registered with the government as a licence entertainment venue for concerts, and for gift aid already. All leaders with children & youth work are registered through child protection systems with the governments child protection check system. Registering that we have a Sunday school and who the staff are is not really an issue as the government already has access to all that information. Also I think this type of move fits into the ongoing narrative within Scottish youth work of the professionalization of the youth work staff. Youth work staff are encouraged to voluntarily become members of the CLD Standards Council for Scotland.

Where it does raise some issues for me is around how much of the youth work I do within the church which is learning (i.e. similar in nature to school based learning) and secondly How I feel about being externally validated / approved for this work. That is something to think about, not be feared I would guess. What should a Sunday morning event for young people look like in nature and is an educational lens the best way to view this work?

#Bestof2015, musical albums, the Long List of Long Players.

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So in 2015 i got some music and liked a lot of it. here is the long list from which my top three albums of the year will be chosen in some order. As always all musical albums I heard for the first time in 2015 are eligible for consideration and the selection decision is my own.

What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World by The Decemberists
Stranger Kings by Stranger Kings
Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Think by Courtney Barnett
Short Movie by Luara Marling
The Shakes by Herbert
The Scene Between by The Go! Team
Growing up is for Trees by I’m From Barcelona
Goon by Tobias Jesso jr
Apologues by Masatoshi Fujita
Song Spells, No. 1: Cedarsmoke by Sea Wolf
Hello I Feel The Same by The Innocence Mission
Eas by Iain Morrison
Amor Supremo by Carla Morrison
Depression Cherry by Beach House
Currents by Tame Impala

and in case you missed it, below is volume 10 of my mixtape series Laconic Hegemony, “20fifteen” containing some of my favourite songs of 2015

20fifteen (Laconic hegemony volume 10) by Sch3lp on Mixcloud

20fifteen (volume 10) by Laconic hegemony, a #mixtape for you

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The new Laconic Hegemony “20fifteen (volume 10)” is now out. Laconic hegemony is a small mixtape i put out with my favourite songs of the past year. you can listen to all, some or none of it. it is your choice. All these songs have been songs which have accompanied my over this year and mean something to me in some way, but I am aware they do mean anything to you. so feel free to have a listen and let me know what you like of the mixtape. think of it as a c60 (roughly of goodness to accompany your work rest and play!

20fifteen (Laconic hegemony volume 10) by Sch3lp on Mixcloud

Technically my mixtape are hosted by mixcloud.com who provide the free widget above, an app for listening on your smart phone or even using a website, (A website, can you imagine!) The reason I use mix cloud is they are free, (which is important) and also they use their advertising income to pay royalties to the featured artists. I guess it is not a lot of money but I like the idea that the artist will make something from this randomly being played on the internet.

what are you listening too? (two)

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This is a brief half-year report on some of the new music I have heard and enjoyed over the last 6 months (July to December 2015). Some are famous, some are not, some you have heard of, some you will not. I hope it is interesting to try to gather them together for your information and delight. If you wish you can let me know what you have been listening to in the comments section.
(you can find the january to july selection here.)

The High County by Someone Still Loves you Boris Yeltsin – File under Indie Rock.
Chances by Minipop – File under Indie Rock.
The Fire Inside by Luke Sittal Singh – File under Indie Pop.
I Love You, Honeybear by Father John Misty – File under Indie Folk.
Totally Mild by Down Time – File under Indie rock.
Lodge by Lone Wolf – File under Singer songwriter.
The Great Divide by Andrew Howie – File under Indie Pop.
Beneath the skin by Of Monsters and Men – File under Pop.
Silverball by Barenaked Ladies – File under Pop.
Sleep by Max Richter – File under Classical.
Trapped in amber by Jonnie Common – File under Electronic.
Wild Knights by Aqueduct – File under Indie Rock.
Simple Songs by Jim O’Rouke – File under Pop.
Surf by Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment – File under Hip Hop.
February 15 Ep by Nao – File under Electronic.

The curious absence of teenage body theology for Christian youth work

BODY PART

It struck me today that there is very little work within christian faith based youth work literature which dealt with the changing bodies of young people. While there is a helpful focus on body image, as youth work which is focused on 12-16 year olds primarily sees the best and worst of body changes for the young people we work with! The absence of considering the changes inherent within a teenage body has a knock on effect for the way we think, consider and write about God, (theology). There has to be some thought and work done on this, as any theology which engages with young people has to be able to reconcile “being made in the image of God” and the seemingly randomness of a voice dropping which radically alters their communication with people. It has to consider the awkward phase where you accidentally knock things over as your limbs are longer than your body remembers, asking how does that inform and help us reflect upon our knowledge of God?

Perhaps someone has done this and I have just missed it, (this is very possible, there are so many words, and so little time!) I know Pope John Paul II had his theology of the body, but I suspect it missed the focus on the change of the body which the teenage life throws significantly in our face. His considerations of the anthropology start with humans created (adult) male and female in the garden of Eden. You could see the loss of innocence after eating the apple, (hold on, we are naked!) as the entirety of puberty, but I think that would be trying too hard to fit it in.

Have you read anything like this? I assume it is out there as someone intelligent will have thought of this before and worked on it?

On “How Will Our Children Have Faith?” a resource from @churchscotland

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(Click photo to learn more)

On Saturday I had my first read through of the newest of the Learn series of publications from the Church of Scotland, titled “How Will Our Children Have Faith?”.

‘How Will Our Children Have Faith?’ is a short discussion guide which explores the reasons for working with children and young people. It also works through developing a successful model in each local church setting.

It is encouraging churches to stop asking the “How?” questions of children and youth work, instead ask “why?”. What follows are some general and hopefully constructive thoughts and opinions based on my first read through.

General thoughts.

– I am glad this exists. I think a small approachable resource material for youth workers and children workers is necessary within the Church of Scotland and is useful.  It does feel quite small.  The first thing I noticed about the publication was its size. It is a pamphlet, (12pages), as opposed to a booklet, (The booklet on eldership is 72pages). Does the role of working with children and young people on behalf of the church require less exploration than being part of the church management system?

– I wonder why is a pamphlet exploring “why” we do youth work in churches, is titled with a “how” question? I realise that it maybe a reference to Westerhoff’s 1976 book “Will Our Children Have Faith”, one of the classic critiques of Christian education, but this book isn’t referenced or pointed to in anyway.

– This text is for childrens work and youth work specialities, the absence of the voice of the Young People’s Development Worker employed by the Church of Scotland is strange. Likewise there is a lack of young people’s voice.

– There isn’t a lack of resources which deal with children and youth work, yet there is no recommended further reading for any of the sections.

Chapter one is an attempt to get provide a biblical basis to the question why we work with young people written by Barbra McDade of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland.

– I like a lot of what she says. I like the biblical basis of “family” and “body”, questioning of what it means that be a family, to worship inter generationally. I have for years wondered what would change if instead of having family services, we had church for everyone. Family service implies talking down to the level of the children, for the sake of the children. Church for everyone asks very different questions and reveals a very different way of thinking.

– I felt there was a missed opportunities to to examine what it means to become a child of God, McDade refers to this and then doesn’t go anywhere with it, also opening a thought about the practice of baptism, asking deep questions of a denominational sacrament that is primarily, within the Church of Scotland, practiced with young children. Yet this line of thought doesn’t get developed, which is unfortunate as the discussion about the practice of baptism has been recently illuminated by Bård Nordheim’s 2014 book, Practicising Baptism. This issue could have allowed this publication to be sited and engaged within a wider active conversation.

Chapter two suggests that the needs of children and young people can be indentified statistically using the Church of Scotland’s “statistics for mission” data analysis, arguing that statistics should provide a direct link to any work you want to do with YP and children while also ensuring that duplication of services is avoided.

– I like the idea of using the stats to inform mission. But wonder if people will surrender to stats rather than keen observations and local knowledge.

– the text is very short.

Chapter three helps us to consider the importance for reflection, evaluation and wise feedback on current work and future plans, these skills are also useful while establishing what the needs of the children and young people are. This should also be spiritual, including prayer and seeking Gods face.

-I felt the explaination of the importance place that reflection and evaluation inhabits was too short. I would have preferred maybe a briefer introduction, and an expanded guide to the questions provided.

Chapter 4 is a practical chapter providing a way to develop a successful strategy.

– Part 4 is the part I had real trouble with. It seems a bit strange that in trying not to be a “how to guide”, it finishes on a note of “go write a 3 year strategy” and while your there, work out what your training and development needs are. (How do you write a 3 year strategy for a churches youth work? Well, you just write a 3 year strategy for youth work.) There seems a lack of how the “why” corresponds to the concrete “how”.

concluding thoughts

A couple of days after reading I am still glad it has been written. I think this is a useful resource in what it is trying to do and I am looking forward to facilitating conversations within my local church on its points over the next month or so. I think a lot of the strength of this material will be due to the way conversations are facilitated.

(If you want me to come and facilitate the discussions upon this material, drop me a line. and we will see what we can do. scott(at)schlep(dot)co(dot)uk)

A weekly service?

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Do we do church too often?

Recently I was thinking about why I really enjoy concerts. At the Barenaked ladies gig I looked around as a lot for people were singing along with almost every song, from the oldest song to the newest. As I did this I wondered about the whole idea of going to something and wanting to participate. Wanting to partake in something bigger. (there are many better people to read on the links between big concerts/nightclubs and religious experiences than myself, thankfully.)

While thinking about this I wondered about how we learn to cross the road, it is through the small boring repetition of crossing roads everyday with our parents that we learn this skill and it comes naturally. (a practice I am currently going through with my children.) In the context of the concert it is the small daily practices of listening to the CD, nodding, humming, and singing along, which makes these songs something we own and live with. It is a practice of nurturing and embodying what we believe, until when faced with the question what would you do if you had a million dollars?, you answer without missing a beat, “If I had a million dollars, I’d by you a green dress, but not a green dress that’s cruel.” or finish an answer with “…and Hello to Jason Issacs” or whatever embodiment of the daily practice is appropriate.

I wonder if by placing a church service at the centre of the community of faith and then making its rhythm as regular as weekly, we have given permission for the abdication of the personal daily disciplines. The daily practices of bible reading, praying. The Barenaked Ladies come to Glasgow once every 1-2 years and I wonder if part of what makes the yearly concerts good less to do with the skill of the band and are the personal time and discipline put into learning, retaining and embedding the knowledge of in this case the songs. (Again, I don’t want to get caught up in a discussion of are festivals like spring harvest, autumn soul or creation good for the local church better minds have and will discuss this.)

Does church do its congregation a disservice by meeting on a weekly basis? How would the church change if we only met once a quarter? I think i already know that’s not the answer, but I wonder if this is the cause of an issue that needs some thought. I wonder if the regularity of church services have devalued the church event itself. Or I wonder if a weekly church service isn’t enough to get to the level of the boring regular repetition, as within the crossing the road example. I am not sure.

(PS I am pretty sure that Bigger and Better minds than Mine have already tackled this and will have written great books on this issue but that I just haven’t found/read them yet…)

Barenaked Ladies 1/oct/15 at o2 ABC glasgow

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on Thursday evening, I accompanied my wife to see one of here favourite bands in the big town, 4 Canadian middle-aged men in a band called Barenaked Ladies. The gig was great fun with plenty of crowd interaction and making everyone laugh. It was a good show. they played a good range of new and old stuff and people generally seemed to be having fun.

musically the change from a 5 to a four piece has taken a while to settle down. the shows have been good and fun, but this time it felt more confident as a four piece. maybe confident is the wrong word, perhaps comfortable is closer description, in many ways it felt stronger than it had before.

perhaps this feeling has to do with the songs on the new album Silverball. It simple when you know that as a band you will be getting royalties from airplay of “One week” or other american chart single successes, or of course the royalties from the theme tune of TV series “the Big Bang theory”. Yet the writing on the 3 albums since 2010 have been getting stronger, 2010’s All in Good Time is a good album, “Grinning Streak” from 2013 is a very good album, and the current album Silverball is also a very good album. and part of the comfortableness I think I detected was a band who were confident with who they were and how they were doing things and that came across well.

anyway a really good show with Colin Hay of off Men at Work as the support act.