Category: events

I can only imagine

I got the opportunity to see the film called “I can only imagine” in a the cinema this week. I can only imagine is a faith film, its entire reason for existing it build up the faith of the viewer. I hadn’t seen many faith films but I was open to see what it was about. It was sold to me as the movie about why the guy had written a famous song. I have watched a number of documentaries which deal with one song or one artistic life, (Glen Campbell: The Rhinestone Cowboy comes to mind), but for this movie I didn’t know the song the film was dealing with.

Watching the movie, the acting was solid, and the story was reasonable. The film felt coherent with moments of comedy and moments of darkness beings solidly balanced. I felt the film was enjoyable without living with me afterwords. It showed relations in families are not easy, and that living without success is a hard slog. As I watched I wondered who is this film for? People who knew the song, was the answer, but this is a limited audience not including me. But it should be me. I knew christian music of the Era. I am inside Christianity and know a wee bit about Christian music of the Era contained in the film, but the film didn’t really affect me.

The problem with a faith film is if I am not asking the question the film answers (why was a song written?), how does the film build up my faith. Any type of testimony speaks of God’s reconciliation, the message that Christianity carries, humans can be reconciled to God, is a good one. The problem was the film wasn’t content with this message. As a bio pic of very successful band detailing a song which sold millions of copies, the film ended with the story of reconciliation with God of the father, the father mending his relationship with his son and then reconciled, his son was successful (writing a song and selling millions of records). That story of sucess does not build up my faith, nor does it speak of how I think of God.

There was a moment in the movie where the father, played by Dennis Quaid, says

“Dreams don’t pay the bills. Nothing good comes from them. All it does is keeping you from knowing what is real”

What is real is being honest about our experience and film details real life well, but it says that worship music is space where we can be real. The film hints at the moment that Contemporary Christian Music stopped being about music which was similar to normal music but had christian lyrics, music as entertainment, (perhaps best exampled in the history of Tooth & Nail Records) to becoming music as worship. The moment where DC Talk, Newsboys and PFR were having records simultaneously released in “normal” shops and also in the “christian music” shops to the moment were the Newsboys were issuing worship records to christian shops only. There is a story to be told around that time, but this film only hints at this issue.

As I watched the movie I wanted it speak more and to explore the story more. Like a trailer I had seen for a small film that mixes up real life, intermingles it with religious life, it seems to say something about faith and real life that was missing. “Parallel Love“.

I was thinking of what it means to struggle outwith the Christian world as a christian artist, the movie that tells the story of Daniel Smith and the Danielson Famile from a while ago.

Danielson: a Family Movie from JL Aronson on Vimeo.
In many ways the faith based film sector does not speak outside of itself. This was this a story well told and solidly acted. But did its target market go outside of faith community, did it even go outside of American Christianity, that is debatable.

So I left the cinema thinking. The film was ok, and if you like the song, the film is something that is decent and tells a story you may be interested in.

Feedback to my session and questions from others at the celtic IASYM colloquium. #cIASYMc2015

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After my session on Wednesday the group had a wide-ranging 30mins discussion throwing about some of the topics of my talk, here are some of the notes I took of that discussion the session was on play within christian faith-based youth work as resistance to the socioeconomic commodification of young people (or something like that.) A big thank you to everyone who took part in the discussion, I found it very valuable. Anyway here’s the notes –

How and where does youth work discuss outcomes vs outputs?
– resistance – is youth work selling young people?

What is a good life?
– how do we judge what is a successful life for the young people we work with?
– economic view of young people contrasts with a life of purpose and fulfilment.
— How do we teach to young people, when the two agendas seem at odds?
— Within youth work what change do we want?

Could Social Pedagogy be a fruitful avenue for investigation?

Play can be misread as hedonism, buying out of the system, which is ultimately a hollow experience.

What is the difference between productivity and commodification?

Viewing young people with instrumental value vs viewing young people with intrinsic value.

Bringing back sabbath and eucharist to youth work.

Are there Post Christendom readings of the book of Romans that feeds into the topic.

Notes taken by Charis Robertson - thanks Charis
Notes taken by Charis Robertson – thanks Charis

There were 5 other session through out the conference some questions which the other sessions raised for me included –

Do we try to supply a fully formed theology when actually young people live with a fractured, unsystematic theology?

How self-perpetuating is youth ministry, as young people become too old to come as young people they move to planning groups to ensure the event stays true to their memory? (youth ministry as tradition reinforcement).
How do we encourage change in young people’s christian faith experience?

How much youth work is dealing with the issues of the parents & community?

Who are the invisible young people within my context. Where could I learn to see or work with them?

Invest in relationship, create a culture, allow an encounter. (the simple things…)
The ethics of praying for young people and issues of their consent?

How do we tell a good story without controlling it?
How do we ask good questions without controlling the question?
How do we record young people’s movement, growth and change in ways that are significant? (How does this change our relationship with funders?)

Ask volunteers to physically picture what play looks like.

Criticism of Youth Ministry by Christian Youth Work helps to clarifying the difference between the two approaches.
– can this be heard by Youth Ministry or is it too close for comfort?
– does faith need defending? has faith ever been helped by an attack/defence apologetics conversation?

Digitally native needs to be assumed as digitally naive. (just because the stuff is there does not mean we know how to use it well.) Who teaches us this skill or are we left to our own devices, literally?

Thoughts from the Celtic IASYM colloquium. #colloquium

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I went to the inaugural Celtic IASYM colloquium on Wednesday and Thursday this week. It was generally good, and I enjoyed being there, so here are some thoughts on the event.

It was held in a halls of residence for students at Belfast’s Queens university. So it was basic accommodation, but that’s fine. It had wi-fi, power and was warm, single rooms with thick enough walls so you cannot hear the person next door is always a bonus. (of course I mean for those who have to sleep in room joining mine, I am not the lightest on my feet!)

Around 20 practitioners from churchy youth work turned up and that was good number of people form a variety of backgrounds, roles and viewpoints. Maybe another 10 would be useful to round it out.

There were six sessions over the two days some were 30/30 sessions, with 30mins presentation and 30 discussion and questions. Others sessions were 60/30 sessions with 1hr presentations and 30mins discussions. A third form of session was 30/30/30 with two 30mins presentations and 30mins discussion. I felt the 30/30 sessions felt sharp.  The 30/30/30 sessions also felt right. Of the two 60/30 sessions one felt very long the other felt a wee bit long. In future I would drop the 60/30 sessions I don’t think the event needed that length of presentation. I thought most of the sessions were good and I thought was caused to reflect on my own practice and youth work as part of being there. There was one presentation I didn’t get a lot from but i don’t know that was as yet.

Session discussions.
The dominant themes in conversation were what is church? Yet I felt there was a significant underlying theme of the space between youth ministry and youth work. There were some dominant figure in discussion, and I think that possibly skewed the chat onto the related topics.

I wonder if the discussions needed a bit more steering to discussing the presentation and asking questions/responses of the presenters rather than the general sharing of the groups mind. I don’t know if this is right but I was struck that very few questions were asked of the presenters after their presentation.

Food was good and plentiful.

I felt that there was time for possibly two more presentations without it feeling busy. this could be achieved by giving 45mins for lunch and cutting the 60/30 sessions to 30/30 sessions. and 15 minutes extra on the finishing time would have been fine I think.


All in all it was fine I think. well done to Graeme and gramme for putting it together.

Hi, My Name is scott. Today I want to talk about…

Last night, I was getting ready for bed when I had something approximating an epiphany. It was a thought that popped into my head and made sense of something I had been thinking about

“what does the Scottish Government policy document say about this?”

I admit that not often have the words epiphany, Scottish Government and Policy document met in a sentence but there you go. I cannot control my epiphanies.

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This thought was important as I am taking part in a couple of small gatherings over the next few weeks. On Wednesday and Thursday I am at the inaugural IASYM Celtic Colloquium gathering in Belfast. This is a gathering of churchy youth work type people to discuss practice etc. The aim is to gather those who are about masters level or thinking doing a masters and have a mix of full papers, outline papers, and subject explorations for those thinking of starting something. I am first on the programme. That is right “headlining” the first morning. Looking the world of socio-economics, Christin Faith Based youth work (anything to push up the word count(!)) and Play. It has been interesting how much this new study has come out of my masters study when I have started preparing for this thing. Anyway two days in Belfast, it should be fun.

Secondly on saturday the 12th of September I am doing something on at the Youth Work Summit Nano Scotland. Which is a snappy title kinda. I will be talking about volunteering and my own experience trying to put into conversation how my thoughts and feeling about volunteering changed from being a volunteer – to being a part time worker – to being a full time worker – to being a part time worker – to being a volunteer again. I have hit upon some great stats on church volunteering.
“In England and Wales, 31% of the population contribute 87% of the total hours volunteered, and a more concentrated 7.6% of the population provide 49% of hours volunteered (Mohan, 2011). This “civic core” is a generally middle-aged, well-educated, religious, owner- occupying section of the British middle class, who dominate civic participation.”
Jings 50% of all volunteering in England and Wales is done by 8% of the population. Thats bonkers.
I also am planning to introduce the world premier of “the curve of awesomeness and goodness” which is a lovely thing to see and work with. Anyway tickets still available from he website above if you do christian based youth work type stuff and fancy being at what looks like it could be a fun day.

N.B. No word on which headlining slot I will be getting. I am hoping for the prestigious post lunch slot (Snoozetime) or the equally prestigious pre lunch time (hurryuplunchissoontime) but don’t think i have the weight to carry off either of those slots so who knows.


A wee trip to the fringe.

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I have an enjoyable day out at the Edinburgh fringe on friday with the wee ones. We kicked about Edinburgh and its 3D nature while taking in 4 shows from the fringe programme.

First we went to see the magnificently titled Princess Pumpalot, the farting princess. (subtitled) – She’s a Princess and she farts. What more do you need to know? Based on the book of the same title by Robin Mitchell, it tells the story of the King and Queen and Wihffyville and their daughter, Princess Pumpalot. as she turns 18 she has to use cans of beans to the solve many different storyline based capers. It is a great wee show,face paced with an crazy storyline, likeable characters and lots of fart jokes. It made both the children laugh, it also made me laugh which was even better.

The second show we saw was the Remember Doctor Bubble – The Bubble Magician, where a gentle and slightly dramatic narrative, is a way to get through the different ways and stages of delighting with bubbles. Bubbles are amazing and the show does a good job of bringing different ways of making bubbles to the audience. The star attraction is the opportunity for children to actually be put inside a bubble. It works well and we left happy.

We left with enough time to get to see Harry Bakers show The Sunshine Kid at the Banshee labyrinth. the show is great and reviews are awesome. Unfortunately I had missed the fact that the venue was over 18’s only and the wee ones were clearly not over 18. I was stopped at the door, and as such we had to find something else to do. Using the fringe app, I checked was on nearby for children. It recommended the show, called “Funz and Gamez Tooz”

Funz and Gamez Tooz is the return to the fringe of a children show which has been converted to an iPlayer pilot, apparently being screened in September. Well I say it’s a children show, the first hint that it may not be was when the 20-year-old student giving me a leaflet for the show told me how much it was a show for her. This Daily Record piece actually gives you the feel of the show. I wonder about recommending this show. It is rude, it is crude, there was at least one audience wide sharp intake of breath with a communal thought of “you can’t give that to a child!” (While the three students in the audience were wetting themselves). We had jokes and risky sexual practices, drugs references, insurance fraud, lap dancing, pedophilia. It is a packed hour. Most of these jokes went over the heads of the wee ones I was with. Yet it was very funny and the biggest wee one thought is was amazing and brilliant. They both laughed and enjoyed it, but could I recommend it. I don’t know.

It strikes me that really great comedy doesn’t need to get its jokes from some of the subjects there. and take the market leaders in children comedy, horrible history, the Simpsons, Pixar films, they manage to deal with life in a way which is real and at the same time absent of the need to push the limits of whats children entertainment is. Currently I consider the former BBC series “Sorry I have No Head” to be the best comedy for children of the last few years, Its key was being funny, genuinely funny in ways that adults find funny without having to make jokes like above it taped jokes which were subversive and multilayered. I left unsure about this show. Anyway I did laugh a lot and also saw richard from pointless in the queue, he is very tall.

jay-foreman-JVB-CMYK-236x300 finally we went to see “Jay Foreman’s Disgusting Songs for Revolting Children (and Other Funny Stories)” 50 minutes of songs which made us laugh it was good, with more than a hint of the surreal running through it. Highlights included the songs “Caterpillar sick”, “I hired my Cleaner” and “Stealing food”. It was a great way to round off a good day of laughter, songs, bubbles and farting.

I am a graduate. #graduate


So today I graduated. This is the third time it has been considered academically that I have done enough to be returned to society as someone who can do something vaguely useful. (Does that make it a habit yet?) I didn’t go to the ceremony, took the car to the garage instead. 

Many congratulations to those who also graduated today. I hope all your wildest dreams come true. 

Nativitymageddon #nativitymageddon

For immediate release to all editors —
Miss Paget reprises legendary role as Mary for the sold out 2014 nativity season at ROMps.

Miss Paget, the actress whose portrayals of Mary the mother of Jesus, were acclaimed by audiences and critics alike at concurrent productions of the nativity story by both 2013 GYC productions and 2013 Greyfriars Parish Church Players, is reprising the role as Mary for the 2014 ROMps production. “I’m always Mary, and I only want to be Mary.” Miss Paget was quoted as saying, continuing, “my favourite part is lifting the baby jesus and holding him, before putting him back down again.”

Some critics have questioned if at her stage in life, Mary is a role which can be reprised in 2015 or beyond. “Once you reach the age of 6 or 7 the mix of innocence, world weariness and being cute which the role of Mary requires is very hard to pull off”, said Bob Jamieson, nativity reviewer for  the Lanark Mirror.  Miss Pagets career is reflective of this with both Miss Paget and Miss Small, (Miss Small’s performance of Mary for GYC in the 2014 was also lauded), are next to be seen in the role of Angels in the 2014 Greyfriars Parish Church Players upcoming nativity production. 

“I’ve been Mary everywhere, so I think I am ready for a change” Miss Paget opined. “I think I am going to be an angel. Angels are girls and get pretty dresses and sparkles.” Although when pressed about a long term move to the role of narrator, this was viewed with distain. “Narrator, NO! I don’t want to learn all those words.” 

Miss Paget’s final nativity performance of the 2014 season can be caught on Sunday 11am at Greyfriars Parish Church Players, Greyfriars Parish Church, Lanark where she will perform in the role of an angel, a performance to be broadcast live on the Internet to a world of inquisitive onlookers.

Categories: events Family

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#IndyReF songs 11 (for the moning after) – Friends by Adam Buxton

F-R-I-E-N-D-S, do you really need them? Yes!
If you haven’t got a friend, then you’re just you.
There’s half as many things that you can do.
Who’s going to tell you that you’re not a brat, if not your best friend?
Do you recall when we did that? Yes!
Sharing – the brilliant jokes we’ve had throughout the years (good times together).
It’s not the same when you’re not there.

Clearspace cinema programme for this week coming.

This work I am working with Greyfriars church Lanark on their holiday club, Zefi’s Zoo. We have 125 children over the week, I am mostly dealing with the primary 6&7’s.

In the afternoons we convert the church into a family cinema. Each afternoon we will be showing a free movie. The movie is for everyone in the community, and not just those who are at the club in the morning. Bring your whole family! Doors open at 2:15pm for a 2:30pm start each day.

The movies planned for this week are:

Monday 7th – Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs 2
Tuesday 8th – Furry Vengeance
Wednesday 9th – The Lion King
Thursday 10th – Smurfs 2
Friday 11th – Frozen

If you are free over the week and fancy watching a film on a big screen with 100 other people drop in.



The day is past and gone.



Yesterday brought the news that International Christian College (ICC) will be ceasing operations.

I am a former student of ICC and I am glad I went there. When I left school with no highers and only 1 standard grade at level 3 (C+ equivalent). I never thought I could do academic work. I never thought University of any sort would be something I could achieve. I had an apprenticeship and I was going to work.

Yet 7 years later with 2 night school highers, I was in on the BA Youthwork and Applied Theology Course. A new course at that point with 30 other bright eyed 1st years. (only eight of us finished three years!) I made some good friends, and I gained a lot of respect for people who perhaps weren’t my close friends but whose qualities have been borne out over time and are people who regularly challenge me. The experience of ICC prepared me for further study at Strathclyde Uni, and now Glasgow University. I learned a lot about youthwork and about theology. I seems wrong to make criticism or speculate on why things turned out like they did. Criticism is easily made and detracts from the sorrow I am expressing.

I am sad about this news. I am sad for the current staff and students.

This has fitted with some wider thoughts about my past and my future. Its a bit scary. With the passing of friends, and institutions time shows no mercy and the hope for grace seems to get harder. Yet when worked on the opportunities to grow and develop seem to be open to me. The chance to get something right and then work on something, to develop a larger project seems to be eminently doable. The problem with this thought process is the danger of loosing the now. and not acting while time and momentum is with me.

But that’s scary, a wrong turn seems immensely likely, but who knows. life has a funny habit of dealing with the future in a surprising and interesting way. (as a side note i read an article yesterday where someone attempted to use game theory to work out the Implications of God’s Omniscience. apparently its all one big game of chicken predicated on the knowledge that – 1 God knows everything. 2 The human knows that God knows everything. 3 God knows that humans know that God knows everything. I think I may need to re read it.)

Categories: events friends youthwork