I dont live in a globalised, commodified, consumerist society to shop local and seasonally, I want everything cheap and available now. As for taking vegetable selection advice from a chef who is backed by the big potato lobby…
Anyway, this put me in mind of one of Daniil Kharms stories from “Incidences”.
(22) What They Sell in the Shops These Days
Koratygin came to see Tikakeyev but didn’t find him in.
At that time Tikakeyev was at the shop buying sugar, meat and cucumbers.
Koratygin hung about by Tikakeyev’s door and was just thinking of scribbling a note when he suddenly looked up to see Tikakeyev himself coming, carrying in his arms an oilskin bag.
Koratygin spotted Tikakeyev and shouted: — I’ve been waiting for you a whole hour!
— That’s not true — said Tikakeyev — I’ve only been out of the house twenty-five minutes.
— Well, I don’t know about that — said Koratygin — except that I’ve already been here a whole hour.
— Don’t tell lies — said Tikakeyev — you should be ashamed to lie.
— My dear fellow! — said Koratygin — Be so good as to be a little more particular with your expressions.
— I consider … — began Tikakeyev, but Koratygin interrupted him:
— If you consider . . . — he said, but at this point Tikakeyev interrupted Koratygin and said:
— A fine one you are!
These words put Koratygin into such a frenzy that he pressed a finger against one of his nostrils and through his other nostril blew snot at Tikakeyev.
Then Tikakeyev pulled the biggest cucumber out of his bag and hit Koratygin across the head with it.
Koratygin clutched at his head with his hands, fell down and died.
That’s the size of the cucumbers sold in the shops these days!
The new Laconic Hegemony “part 2(016)” 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 not currently mean anything to you. Think of it as a c60 (roughly) of goodness to accompany your work rest and play!, and is so inclined, let me know what you like from the mixtape.
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 mixcloud.com 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.
In all my busy-ness I realised I needed to sort out my best albums from 2016.
the long list is, (in no particular order). Human Performance by Parquet Courts
Is The Is Are by DIIV
Bitter Charm by Dunes
I Had A Dream That You Were Mine – Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam
Heavn by Jamila Woods
Walls by Kings of Leon
Visions Of Us On The Land by Damien Jurado
Good Grief by Lucius
Vitals by MuteMath
Ballard Of The Broken Few by Seth Lakeman
Front Row Seat To Earth by Weynes Blood
Light Upon The Lake by Whitney
Wow to the Deadness (EP) by Steve Taylor and the Danielson Foil
Colouring Book by Chance the Rapper
Yoncalla by Yumi Zouma
A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead
This is great wee album of post punk beauty which borders on dream pop. Yip possibly my favourite sound in the world. although they are knocked off a point by only releasing the album on cassette.I don’t mind vinyl, but I am not returning to the world of cassettes. Link to the SFsonic review
On the plane to Australia I had the chance to catch a few films, including the recent film “Sing street“. The film centres on a group of young people being young people in Ireland, during the nineteen eighties.
As I watched this I thought this is a great film. Then I wondered if this would be a great film to use in a youth work setting. I think so, and at the end of the film I started a small list of films that say something about being young that I would show a group of 12-15 year olds.
Generally, the quality of youth workers has gone down dramatically. I love the Anglican Church but lots of our best youth leaders are now getting ordained and I begged the Archbishop – I went and saw him, and asked: “Please could you establish a diaconate for youth leaders?” We’ve just got to raise the profile of that, otherwise it’s like you do youth work for three years until you’ve practiced with the little people and then you do the proper ministry. We’ve got to break that.
Honestly, loads of youth leaders don’t even know what they believe. And they’re petrified of looking at certain issues – especially sex and sexuality. The numbers of youth leaders after we did a series of talks on sex and relationships who said: “Thank you for doing that because we can’t talk about it”. Really? I asked this years’ Soul61s, which is our discipleship year – there are 25 of them and they’re the ones that raised £6,000 each to spend ten months with us so they’re pretty committed – I asked them back in January: “How many of you have never talked about sex and sexuality in your youth group?” Half put their hands up. Half!
Mr Pilvatchi goes on to lament the lack of bible teaching in the early days of Soul Survivior, wishing they had less funny stories, and more bible stories. Concluding with the observation that the church now has a biblically illiterate generation. You can read the interview here. The sense I get is this is a big questions on the end of a promo interview for a book, I am not sure Mr Pilvatchi had time to consider his answers as if this was the subject of the interview. But I think this is an observation which needs to be considered seriously. I wonder if this is true for Scotland, and specifically for the Church of Scotland.
So as I have been involved in youth ministry for 25 years this year (I know I don’t look old enough!), and as this is National Youth Work week 2016, I thought it would be good to consider this issue a bit more. th achieve this consideration I am writing 3 blog posts on the topic. This is post one entitled – 10 questions for Mike Pilvatchi.
10 questions for Mike Pilvatchi (a series of questions to try and tease out a bit more of what this is all about.) 1 – What is the point of youth ministry?
Looking at the answers in the interview, I am guessing you consider the point of youth ministry is primarily christian education i.e. to teach bible stories and principles to young people. But I think I need to check that assumption with you.
2 – Why do workers move on from youth ministry to ordination?
What are the issues that being a youth worker poses, that becoming a full time Rev. answers? What is stopping quality people from working in youth ministry long term? Have you seen where this is an instinctive move from youth work to work with all people within a congregation, and as such can viewed as an extension of an existing ministry rather than a change from a lesser ministry to proper ministry? What does it mean for a worker who hasn’t been ordained after 25 years?
5 – If the quality of youth workers has gone down dramatically, was it always high or is this a regression to the normal level?
I wasn’t around in the 50’s or 60’s, but I have read some of the literature of the time, I am curious to know if you think the youth ministry of the 60’s was better than the youth ministry of 80’s, and if they were both better than youth ministry in the 00’s, this would establish if this is a steady decline or if the identified decline is an unexpected drop off.
6 – How do you judge quality?
You seem be talking about the quality of person available, (as a youth worker still working within youth ministry for 25 years, I already have a healthy view of my own limited skill set!), then later you lament the practices of the current workers in talking about sex with teenagers or doing bible teaching. I am unclear if you are talking about people or practices primarily, (although I realise they are inherently linked).
7 – What data are you measuring this criteria against?
How do you judge if something is better now than it was a while ago, usually you would look for an evidence base of some sort, so I am also interested to consider what evidence or data sources you would point to when making this judgement about worker quality?
8 – You were invited to comment upon youth workers, what other things do you consider influence youth workers and how would you consider these influencing others have shifted over the last 25 years?
No youth worker is an island, so in thinking about the quality of youth worker, how much strength or affect would you ascribe to developments in parenting, childrens ministry, education policy, theological thinking, the professionalisation of youth ministry, cultural changes, social changes, economic changes, government policy, and other factors that all influence and shape youth ministry?
9 – Sex and sexuality is an interesting focus, why choose it?
Within the church of Scotland, there are ongoing discussions, that have resulted in sex and sexuality being something to discuss very carefully (going so far as to prevent ministers from commenting upon sex and sexuality debates for a period of time.) The Church of Scotland is and has changed its position on this and various ways forward are being discussed and put in place by the CofS nationally. Given this is a live issue where church ideas are/can be controversial, a reticence to lead discussions on the topic would be understandable. Within such a context of whole church review is it fair to consider sex and sexuality as the primary example then of quality youth work?
10 – What shifts within youth ministry have been positive over the last 25 years?
I don’t believe you are inherently negative about youth ministry, what are the good things you have seen as it has developed and changed in the last 25 years?
Over the last few days, Monday and Tuesday, I have been involved in two similar efforts be two different organisations. Both efforts tried get a similar outcome while using two different processes. The aim of this post is to try and consider both processes and critically engage with them. I am not trying to comment upon the content of both conversations as this is not public information, and it is not my place to reveal that content.
Effort 1 – Format
Effort 1 was on behalf of the Church of Scotland, the effort was to answer the challenge given by General Assembly 2016 to the Mission and Discipleship Council.
Instruct the Council to report to the General Assembly of 2017 its initial outline of a proposed theme(s) for the following five years from 2018 onwards to focus the worship, witness and work of the Church on every level throughout the Church of Scotland’s parishes, congregations and communities.
The process used was to widely invite representative stakeholders from the Church of Scotland to a one-day conference. This conference would enable conversation and an emerging set of themes to answer the challenge. The conference was well attended (around 50 people) and seemed to have good participation.
The format used was a form of the World Café method. Having read about world cafe as a method within my academic research I was keen to see it in action. At a basic level it is a way to get allow large groups to divide into smaller groups and allow for the group to split up and form new groups regularly. Functionally a volunteer “Host” stays at each table in order to anchor the conversation at that table and allow others to join in and build upon the previous conversation strands.
When I say a “form of “above, my brief reading of world cafe had informed me that the world cafe method works with tables of 4 people and 20-minute conversation sessions therefore it should be short and sharp chats. The format we used yesterday was tables of 6 with 50 minute sessions which surprised me as going about 5 people seems a non-negotiable for the world café people.
Our facilitators facilitated us. The facilitating seemed a bit awkward during the introducing to the world café and the presentation of the café etiquette, although I wonder if it was just me, it felt hesitant and unsure, rather than calm, confident and paced. During the introduction section there was a deliberate and conscious repetition of words like “purposeful” I wondered about why this was emphasised, I guessed it was an attempt to emphasise that we as participants had made a participation agreement with ourselves and everyone else in the process, but at the time I heard it as a warning rather than an encouragement to participate
In the conversation groups there were times when I felt they had got too large to keep focused. The questions in section two were too big. The conversation times were too long. In one group there was a couple of times where the conversation seemed to draw to a close naturally or conversely go too far down side alleys. When we came to the third session as a group we started by sitting in silence as trying to sum up the wide ranging conversations all six of us had been party too was overwhelming for all of us. This seemed to have a detaching effect. There was a dissonance between the conversations we had and the way we were attempting to summarise and reflect back.
I had to leave before the final session so I am conscious I have only a broken form of the model to reflect upon. I am not sure it worked well to achieve the aims of the day. I think it did allow for lots of different conversations to happen and I am positive about that although I wonder where these conversations go after the day. I am also hopeful for the results which will come from the day. I left with a feeling of dissonance, of being unsatisfied.
Effort 1 -future development
The facilitators will write up a report which will go the Mission and Discipleship Council. The Mission and Discipleship Council will then report back to General Assembly 2017 on these themes.
This is a reasonably clean method of getting a result with participation and consultation with stakeholders in a defined timescale.
Effort 2 -format
Effort 2 was in response to an open request from the primary school my children go to. The school sent a letter inviting parents to a consultation upon a set of values for the school. The session was attended by 4 parents who all contributed.
The format was in 2 stages the head teacher introducing the context from a policy and educational background which was motivating this development and the second section was the parents discussing and working on a vision statement for the school and motto, aims and objectives which would support this vision and an initial list of supporting values. This section was unstructured. (I am unsure if a larger attendance would have been handled in a different way.)
Effort 2 -reflection
The slideshow introduction was helpful in clarifying what was wanted as an outcome.
There was a lack of guidance as to how to go about the task of writing vision statement for a school. This was the first consultation in the process and as such we (the parents) didn’t have a guiding foundation to work from. That stumped us for a few minutes, the head teacher waiting with us in the struggling to work out a way forward without imposing or suggesting a method. for a process which was absent. as soon as the group took control to get the job done it was done quickly with agreement and contributions from all. (thankfully amongst us was a parent who had a background in facilitating meetings within large multinational companies. Our wee group flew with skilful facilitation, producing a solid set of answers for the Head teacher to work with.
It was notable that half the group had a professional background in business where achieving tasks within timescales is a key skill. This maybe a key skill but I am not sure we got to actually converse about the issues before getting to the task. I felt that was an absence from this effort.
I felt like this had something substantial and that we got something achieved as we walked out the door
Effort 2 -future development
The group asked the head teacher to take forward the future development in a specific way. The head teacher accepted that, and outlined a larger process that would now take place including, a full consultation with all other stakeholders of the school, including a wider internet survey open to all parents, as such the process has a long way to run. In some ways that is frustrating as our effort maybe amended beyond recognition when actually it is ready to go tomorrow should it be wished. as the facilitator at effort on emphasised “Hold your ideas lightly during this process.”
It has been an interesting two days and the contrast between the methods significant. One is big and varied and felt too long, the other is small, focused and fast. I really enjoyed the space of effort 1’s big conversations are fabulous, and effort 2’s tightly packed let’s get this done now attitude.
For the positives effort 1 left me with a dissonance between conversation and outputs while effort 2’s brevity and ability to reach a quick conclusion may turn out to be pyrrhic in the long term.
The highly guided form of world café method seemed to not give the outputs the focus it needed while the method of an absence of guidance seems dangerous while the outcome is possibly as important and long lasting as a school vision statement could be. As methods for working with groups to achieve specific outcomes I am not sure I would want to use either of them again in the forms they were presented over the past two days.
I wonder how I will feel about both efforts in May 2017 as the results from both are made public and put into action.
My phone is dying, I have used iPhones since the iPhone 3gs, I loved the 4s and I still use the 5s, (yes my phone is 3 years old). I had wanted to wait to see if the iPhone7 was the stunning leap forward is design and shape and deliciousness for mobile phone design. Perhaps it would be slither of glass resplendent with all the advanced tech for futuristic pop culture. Alas we got an iPhone6s-s, a refinement and incremental change on the 6s which was a refinement and incremental change on the 6. Given this I wonder about changing off apple for a year. My wife is very happy on android and her phones are good quality, shiny and attractive. So borrowed one to see how it compares.
Why not consider microsoft?
Microsoft devices are good generally, with Apple and Google both taking inspiration (while being legally different) by Microsoft design. For this test I do not have a Microsoft device to test so I cannot include it.
The test subjects, Samsung galaxy IV running android 5.0.1 iPhone 5s running iOS 9.3.5
the reason for picking these older phones are
1- that iPhone is what I currently use.
2- that Samsung is what I have available to test and they are both about 3 years old.
3- all the hardware and software should work at the best it has ever been, right? (after three years testing, development and refinement.)
The Samsung is big. much bigger that the 4.7inch iPhone, it is also lighter, much lighter, the iPhone feels like it has some heft to it. The iPhone feels better out of the case, while the Samsung feels plastic-y out of the case. When in the case they both feel like cases. The Samsung has a bright screen, due to a water incident a year or so ago the iPhone screen is permanently darkened.
Test task one – perform a factory reset.
iPhone – plug it in to computer, iTunes launches. On the iTunes page for your iPhone, you have the option to restore iPhone, click the button and a couple of confirmation boxes and it resets the phone.
Google doesn’t have the same software interface for the phone, so reseting the phone was trickier. I looked under settings in the phone menu with no success. A google search revealed the reset is achieved by booting into the equivalent of safe mode on your phone,
(Turn off phone. Press select button, volume up and power button at the same time and hold until after the Samsung logo appears, then let go of the power button while holding the other two.)
The problem with this is the screen is massive but the text on the screen in this new menu is tiny. I struggled to read what the options were. In this mode you use the volume up/down buttons to navigate and the power button to confirm. As a user experience, it is hostile and it clearly places the android phone as a computer in your pocket. After performing this reset I then had to update the Android software on the phone. While iTunes handles this as one process with the factory reset if you wish, the android has a separate download and then update time. I took a good 30min to download and install all the updates on the phone.
task two – add apps to the phone
Both iOS and Android start you with a number of default apps on the phone with varying degrees of usefulness. iOS has considerably less of these default apps than Android. Both software platforms have shops where you can buy or download new apps. You do this by making an account, storing credit card details and a password, and then downloading apps. Both have search facilities and google play store search is better than the apple store search.
On the google play store I downloaded some of the key apps I use on iOS currently: Lastpass – password vault Runkeeper – exercise tracking Spotify – music streaming Podcast addict – podcast downloading and management Hootsuite – twitter client Dropbox – document cloud storage Dropbox paper – note taking app (in beta, so trialing to see if it will take the place of Evernote long term.) Evernote – notetaking app
On iOS the apps all run, but last pass does not offer to fill in the passwords within other apps login screens. You have to cut and paste which isn’t a very joined up experience. On Android the experience was generally good, with the exception of the Dropbox app, which stopped working and crashed on opening over a 24hr period, until I ran a software update. Secondly Spotify refuses to accept my password of let me log in (seven days now). I struggle to remember when a big high profile app that I use regularly behaved like this iOS over the last 6-7 years for me.
task three – add music to the phone
The iPhone plugs into your computer directly. As I have iTunes installed, it launches asking what you want to do with the phone, using tick boxes you select which music you wish to load and click the sync button, loading music is through the iTunes user interface. This requires a wire, a computer and your phone. With the advent of streaming services (including the purchase of the beats streaming service a year or two ago, Apple has introduced Apple Music, a subscription service where for a £9.99 monthly fee you can stream all the music you could want over the internet, including every piece of music in your iTunes library..
Googles preferred method of putting music on your phone is to upload all your music to their Google music service in the cloud. Then stream the songs from the cloud as you want or need them. This is great if you live with a reliable fast internet connection. (I don’t so this option is less great for me). The free layer of Google Play Music gives you streaming and 50000 song uploads, but song downloads for offline playback are only available as part of the £9.99 monthly membership.
So how do you get the music onto the android phone using a cable rather than the cloud. Google guides you to download a programme called “Android File Transfer”. On opening this I was slightly shocked at how paired back it was. I dislike iTunes, but its graphical user interface is a graphical user interface. The AFT programme is a barebones file transfer manager. It felt like a computer thing which required a repertoire of computer knowledge to use. (I didn’t find a How to guide, and the lack of a empty music folder into which to insert files was disconcerting.) Having used file transfer programmes before I had an idea what i was doing and managed to get the stuff on the phone. But is was not intuitive to navigate a hierarchy of files to find where the files are and then create new folders within the phone or SD Card to place these files in. (and how do you handle playlists?)
Task four – general life.
in general life the battery lasts about the same for both of phones, the back button on the android phone is kinda handy and the screen is big and shiny. The iPhone does well and survives most things I put it through. In comparison the android feels slightly slower and less responsive than the iPhone. The only major black mark against the android was its refusal to connect with the Bluetooth in the car. this is unfortunate as I use this Bluetooth connection to listen to music and podcasts when I drive. The phone reception is significantly better on the iPhone. Phone call sound is clear and the microphone seems to be of comparable quality.
I could live with android and be mostly happy. I am sure the Bluetooth issue and the Spotify issue would resolve themselves over time. These problems are problems I have never had with iOS. The difference between Google as a cloud services company and Apple as a hardware company comes through in this small test, Google want everything in the cloud, (although, I object to the idea of upload all your music to the cloud and we will charge you to download it to your phone as I have already bought it once), as Google have a clear advantage in search and cloud services. Searching the Google Play Store gets you the right result. Uploading your documents to google drive is smooth, with a nice 15gb to fill, and the reports of google photos are very good.
I am reasonably clears I am not buying a new phone for its cloud services. This is perhaps because I am too aware of Apple, as a company’s failings in this area. I don’t trust the cloud of one company for too much, I tend not to use googles cloud services, I don’t use the Facebook app or any of its associated suite of apps as I am wary of using too much from one company especially when that companies main income sources is analysing my data to provide me with tailored advertising. I use different companies for specific cloud based services like, Lastpass for a password vault, Backblaze for hard drive back ups, Evernote for notes, Dropbox for files and sharing.Perhaps it is also a result of living in a borderline rural life where the idea of cloud computing is laughable when it rains.
So to buy the samsung s7 edge would cost an extra £475. the iPhone 7, an extra £600. At the moment the iPhone has clear advantages for me but £125 is a significant figure.
“A Swedish footballer was sent off for passing wind during a match – with the referee dismissing him for “deliberate provocation” and “unsportsmanlike behaviour”. (Sport Bladet)
I clicked the link to Sport Bladet – it is a newspaper in Swedish. I so not speak the Swedish so I looked at the picture and decided the referee was correct to send off this player.
I then copied the text of the article into google translate. An internet tool well known for its hermeneutic skills. What proceeded from Google was I believe a word for word translation of the article. (note to self, Swedish newspapers may not prove a long term reading source.)
Adam Lindin Ljungkvist offered lead after smoking.
It ended with a red card.
– I was bad in the stomach and in the last minute I put a fart. Then the judge came and gave me a yellow card, then a red, said left-back.
The strange expulsion occurred in Division 7 match between Järna SK’s reserve team and Pershagen SK, which Länstidningen Södertälje was the first to draw attention.
In the final stage was Pershagen SK’s Adam Lindin Ljungkvist, 25, sent off after receiving receiving his second yellow card. Adam Lindin Ljungkvist, playing left back, saw the red card due to a fart.
“It was heard properly”
– It was a strange penalty, I can hardly believe it myself. I was bad in the stomach and in the last minute I put a fart. Then the judge came and gave me a yellow card, then a red card. It was my second warning and I had no track of my first at all. I had no memory at all. Then I was a little angry at the judge, I could not quite believe what had happened. All around stood asgarvade says Lindin Ljungkvist.
– That I can suspect is that he thinks I did it against an opponent. But to provoke anyone with a fart is not particularly smart or normal. No, but I added just a fart and I got the red card. The judge said it was unsportsmanlike behavior.
It must have been a fabulous …?
– Haha. Yes, it must have been. I saw that they had asked one of Järnas law and he said it was heard properly. Sometimes one can not see whether there is the small or large. It is believed that the little comes out, but it still allows.
You broke up with the judge afterwards?
– No. I asked him in a bad way, but there was no bad words. I was annoyed, while I could not believe I was sent off.
Was it a fisförnämt verdict?
– I think it was a crappy judgment. Now I just laugh about it. There is no one else who has heard of this before, I’ve never heard of anyone who has been sent off to be farting.
“Said something about that I was a spray launcher”
No, exactly. But what is the spontaneous gut feeling in the situation?
– My spontaneous feeling: “huh, are you kidding me?”. Then I questioned him before I went away.
You cleared the air?
– He said something about me being a spray-makers. There was no such thing. It was not that I stood there for several minutes. I said he was a “buffoon” and then I went to plan …
… It was just to let it go.
– Exactly. Yes, it was the last thing that happened. It was in 93 minutes.
Have you got any shit for this?
– For fart? No, haha. People have laughed at that. Nothing negative. I do not care that much either. It’s natural to add a fart and then.
How do you see the rest of the season for myself – it’s just that the gas on?
– Yes, ha ha. Just to drive on. We lost 2-5. But it will probably be better the rest of the season.
You are a player with a lot of speed and excitement …?
– Yes it’s me.
But you have to hold tight back …
– Yes. And thunder down the cross in from, haha.
Pershagen SK lost the match by 2-5.
This is a review of a recent academic conference I attended for researchers in Youth Ministry, (In general Youth Ministry means the way the church works with young people). It is a long read at 2500 words.
Recently, I attended the Biennial European Conference of the International Association for the Study of Youth Ministry (also known as IASYM) in Amsterdam. (Yes, I did buy Tulips for my wife!)
I wanted to get down on paper some stuff from the event for future reference so this is it. apologies to anyone who’s paper or thought I miss represent. My fault for not understanding properly!
We started in a protestant church on one of Amsterdam’s many canals. It was a magnificent building and location to start from.
We started with a liturgical moment. I am constantly interested by the ecumenical nature of these gatherings. With, Reformed and Catholic and sometimes Eastern branches of Christianity represented in one moment these are always interesting, causing questions of what is normal, acceptable and of worthy. (So far all good). One of my favourite parts was when a friend from the Presbyterian Church of Ireland leaned over and asked “Is this song in Latin?”
Professor Marcel Barnard of the Protestant Theological University, Amsterdam, delivered the first keynote of the conference Youth ministry in Everyday Life. I loved his turn of phrase where he described youth ministry when leaving behind ecclesiastical basis would find itself “nestled in the fault of everyday life.” And he diagnosed the reformed tradition as “noise rather than distinction”. Slightly harsh point, but beautifully made. His main metaphor based around the Netherlands constant fight against being flooded. That means the land needed both protection (in the form of dykes) and also to use the power of the water. A system of simultaneously both resisting and utilising the threat. For Barnard the key point was how do we achieve this balance point, going too far one way or the other cannot adequately deal with the issue, which Barnard tied into youth ministries response to the secularisation of society.
We had two further sessions on the evening of day 1. Tim Leeson had a session on Theological Explorations Around Identity, as Shaped by Popular Culture. In this session Lesson considered society using the mimetic theory of Rene Girard, the concept of the collapse of structure and the overwhelming tyranny of choice leaving us with a society that renders young people into the space of Tillich’s nonbeing. The paper suggested that Popular culture is the new structure, giving a sense of community. For Leeson this analysis led to a radical suggestion that the aim of the youth minister/worker was about personal faith, as they develop their own personal faith they step forward in peace (which is that faith.) This sidesteps youth ministry as a ministry to others as much as it is a ministry to the self. This view has a number of questions attached to it. Not least what does this mean in an era of accountability and measuring outcomes, as youth work (and youth ministry) seeks to professionalise. While it seems strange to deal with the internal private faith of the worker rather than the defensive, public, “its all about the kids.” I like the honesty of this move, I think it can be liberational in terms of refocusing what we do as youth ministry outwit previous touchstones of Christian Education or evangelism. Youth Ministry becomes about living out life in a Godly way and in the way providing more significant care for the young people based on this internal change.
This session was back to back with a session by Dickson OgidiLived religion in Christian Youth Ministry: A pragmatic African reflection. Ogidi presented some of his research into youth ministry in Nigeria. The presentation wrestled with a basic disconnect between the identity of person X – who on Sunday is the church going religious leader, involved in teaching the young people at church, and on Monday is a business man whose faith doesn’t impact their life. Ogidi picks up the idea of christian caregiving as a key aspect of lived religion, if this lived caregiving expression is absent from christian youth ministry then the youth ministry is irrelevant to the lives of the young people. (Caregiving is defined as actions which engage with a pragmatic, social meeting of needs of the young person). This picked up on Lesson’s thoughts about the role of the personal faith development of the youth minister. For Ogidi the answer lies in the youth minister making use of reflective practice methods.
These sessions made me think about move to professionalism that Professional Youth Work has made. Both the sessions questioned how youth ministry affects the lives of the youth minister, and suggest that the space for improvement and response is within a coherent professional response to the “ministry” they practice, perhaps this is an echoing of that professionalism move?
While I like the professionalism move, I see danger inherent to this professionalism of youth ministry. One of the key aspects of christian youth ministry is its reliance and strength in volunteerism. Volunteerism does not automatically preclude being professional. Just as being professionalism does not automatically act as an introduction to the cult of the expert, and by default, a learned helplessness of others. I think this stuff is dangerous ground that needs a lot of carful and deliberate actions, but the flip side is that these risks can bring us to a space of an engaged and switched on volunteer base. (I agree with Andrew Root that one of the failures of the reformation was in its lack of ability to bring about its promise of the priesthood of all believers into reality. Instead we got another class of priests.)
Started with a form of worship led by one of the students at PthU. It was mostly sung with calls and responses, I really liked that, it was very good.
The morning continued with two sessions, first Anita Cloete spoke about Films as a site of meaning making: A Practical Theological reflection. I found this session hard to engage with. I blame jetlag.
Then onto Mark Montgomery’s session Youth Ministry and the everyday life of church. His session was based on an autobiographic theological reflection and some initial research. Mark questioned if youth ministry is a pillar of the church rather than pioneer of the church? This struck me as important as many early voices in youth work/ youth ministry are now either involved in denominational churches as minister or priest, and/or emerging church as church planters/missional people. Montgomery gave the opinion that Youth Ministry is now the most powerful structure of the church. It is a bold claim, and I am not sure how much I agree with that, but the evidence within the CofE seems persuasive. The session did make me question the role of youth ministry as an ordained ministry within the church. What would an ordained youth ministry look like for the church. Would the church hierarchy accept youth ministry ordination as defensive move to buy a few more years of the existing church power structure (arguably what the Church of Scotland’s Youth Assembly has done for the CofS head office) and if youth ministry ordination was used this way, could it herald a different way of being church? (a move that arguably the Church of Scotland’s Youth Assembly has not achieved, yet.)
Our second Keynote of the conference came from Sarah Dunlop Paradigms for mission: London Youth Ministers, reporting on an AHRC funded research into some London megachurches and social engagement. Interesting study, using missional paradigms to provide analysis of the churches and their way of working. For me the key question was why these massive churches with thousands of members seemed to have such a tough time getting alongside the young people of the local estates, while attracting hundreds of students from around the greater London area to come to their services. This division seemed to be present in all the case studies Dunlop reported on. A lack of young people living geographically close to the church location, and plethora of students and young adults coming in from miles away to church. This session led me to reflect on my experience working in a small church in the west end of Glasgow. Every year various students would come to our church to try it out, they would try the other churches until they found a home in one of the churches utilising a form or worship similar to the case study churches. These churches were deliberately opened geographically very close to the church I worked at, but had a large gathered student congregation based mostly on contemporary worship music.
In the afternoon we visited 2 churches. One was a church ran by the Sant’Egidio movement in the Jewish quarter of Amsterdam. Sant’Egidio is a Roman Catholic Public Lay Association which sprung up from a group of young people after Vatican 2 in the late 1960’s. It reminded me a lot of the Salvation Army only with less uniform and much more ornate church furniture. http://www.santegidio.org/ The movement is based on prayer, a welcome for the poor and working for peace.
The second church was a Presbyterian church with possibly the largest glass bowl font thing in the world. It was very big and beautiful, and led to lots of speculation as to how to fill it with water, and how to empty it! We then had a wonder around east Amsterdam, before heading back for our final session for the day.
Stephie the-Mertens presented on The (Theological) Language of Young People and Organizers in New Ecclesial Movements. The presentation looked at how the Franciscans had carefully considered and challenged their own use of theological language within their work with young people. The response to this consideration was carefully and deliberately making small changes which would allow all young people to participate and engage fully with what was going on. Empowering the attending young people to be welcome and invited within the theological language and actions of the weekend. I loved the simplicity of this approach and how it worked. Very simple yet very effective.
A brief child friendly europop interlude.
Started with worship which was based on Songs from the Wild Goose Resource Groupwhich was a nice thing, and the use of a singing bowl.
Andrew Root opened the mornings sessions with the third conference keynote, Faith-Formation in a Secular Age. Root took Charles Taylors Secular Age analysis, to question if current youth ministry faith formation programmes, (such as sticky faith and others), are philosophically dealing with the right problem. For Root keeping young people in the church is not the real problem, the real problem is around the plausibility of belief in the first place. This change of problem allows for different questions, and different ways to support faith. This really pivoted some of the themes of the conference. In particular the anxiety of church being a main motivator of Youth Ministry, of Youth Ministry being a supportive block to the power of the church as it exists rather than youth ministry being how the church engages where the everyday lives of young people are, and seeking to join God in the work the Trinity is doing to change things in that space. The value of Christianity is in the rejection of the commodification of young people within the church.
I then went to hear Mark Scanlon speak about Ambiguous Ecclesiology: Exploring the church in conversation with youth leaders, young people and the youth groups they form together. On the way there I passed the venue for Jouko Porkka‘s sessionReligious Orientation and Prejudice: Does Believing in Christ Enhance Tolerance or Racism?As Mark’s room filled up and people were struggling for seats, I sat there I thought “you know I should go hear Joukka’s paper, he had a small but interesting group of academics in his session”. So I gave my seat to someone else and went to Porkka’s session. The paper provided a glimpse into the confirmation programme of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church. This programme takes in 85% of 15 year olds in Finland, and in part this formed some of the results of the larger research study by the International Network for Research and Development of Confirmation and Christian Youth Work. It was a fascinating session and posed the questions for me around the way the Church of Scotland practices baptism and further the way the church engages with confirmation for Scottish young people. In light of the morning session it was also interesting seeing how confirmation was then followed by a huge drop off of involvement of church life for the confirmation group. Perhaps this is something around a feeling of “now I have faith, I will go live it out.”
František Štěch presented Nova et Vetera! Who are “Youth” in Youth Ministry?Štěch’s paper is a move to work out what “youth” is and place that understanding of youth within a systematic theology framework for research. In practice separating youth from a conception of a time period, bringing youth into a theological workspace where youth is not left behind when you become older, it is still a part of the human being. The question I wanted to ask was if we experience life in this state of being, not becoming, how does this then apply to faith? Should faith be a process of being, rather than becoming in faith? The outworking of the answers to this may change the perceptions that effect the way the church, both in forms of youth workers and hierarchy, deals with young people.
The final session I went to on day three was David BaileyLiving amongst the fragments of a coherent theology. Youth ministry, worship and everyday life. Bailey presented some analysis of Christian worship songs based on trying to read the meaning behind the songs. For Bailey there is a disconnect between the songs and ordinary life. More than this, there is a disconnect between the songs theological shorthand and the knowledge of the young people who are singing the songs. In this understanding, the songs act as icons. The young person may not be able to open up whats behind the icon. To solve this Bailey suggests that the role of the youth worker is as storytellers of the story behind the songs. I liked the icon idea as religious icons are also full of fragments of theology should you know where to look. (Although it should be noted Bailey used icon in the smart phone sense rather than the classical religious icon sense.) All through this session I asked myself if this fragmentation is a bad thing? How many people actually practically live with fragments of theology as our everyday understanding of God, and is a coherent systematic theology something to be aimed for? For the young person dealing with all this, I guess it is an issue if the role of youth workers as dialogue partner, (Oi, Youth worker, what’s all this nonsense about?), maybe missing as the worker presumes knowledge from the young person and therefore does not engage deliberately with this task.
day four. (yup the last day)
Worship on day 4 was the liturgical moment I didn’t get, but that’s ok.
Reggie Nel gave us the final keynote Everyday life, everyday connections? Theological reflections on a qualitative comparative research project on marginalised youth in South Africa and specific Nordic countries. Nel’s paper challenged youth ministry research to position itself within the stream of youth studies research, developing cross discipline links. For Nel this was already being done by young people, and the research he reported on. The two thoughts which occurred to me during this session were 1 does the church, and by extension youth ministry want to formally contribute to the secularising project which is youth work? (and would youth work represented in youth studies actually allow us too contribute?) 2 Do the churches have the right people in post to represent views at policy level?
The final session of the conference was by Margunn Serigstad Dahle presenting on Worldview Formation and the Disney Universe: A Case Study on Media Engagement in Youth Ministry.
Dahles’ paper outlined the media effects on society and young people, media is dominant and speaks values to young people, and Disney is the prime example of this. The response Dahle favours to this issue is the development of a skill of double listening to these values. Being able to build up the espoused values when they align with the Christian values of the worker and to challenge content when the expoused values challenges the workers’ values. I enjoyed this session Dahle was an excellent presenter. I did feel like Dahle had missed a step and a valuable dialogue partner for the worker and the young person that is provided in the resource of the disney fan community.
It convicted me that I hadn’t tried to convert my master project into an article or two yet. Also I did worry that as we sat a chatted in the discussion afterwards I was coming across as a “know it all” as I answered all the questions of my conversation shoulder buddies, I need to improve at that.
Anyway a good conference which was filled with questions and good sessions.
A new study by Hall Aitken published today has put the value of youth work at around £656 million, with a return of £7 for every £1 of public cash spent
which then featured in several Scottish newspapers including the Herald in Glasgow, The Scotsman in Edinburgh, (see picture below), the national and other news outlets.
What was striking about this coverage is the certainty with which the claim is made spend £1 of public money and you get the worth of £7 back. I believe there is a value to youth work, but something around the 7 to 1 figure make me curious. How do you get the 7 to 1 figure, and how certain is that number? The reason for asking is that this figure will be significant to securing youth work funding from the Scottish Government in the future.
The total value of youth work in Scotland is probably at least £656 million – a return of £7 for every £1 of public cash
(Hall Aitken, 2016, p7)
please note – Probably is the key word here, not the at least they put in italics. This claim isn’t solid. Secondly it is primary referring to public spending. Public spending is term used for the cash spent by government so this figure is based on government cash invested in youth work.
How do you get the 7 to 1 number?
You find out how much it money it costs to do youth work in Scotland, add the value of all the volunteering hours across Scotland, multiply this by a SORI number, then divide by the money cost to get your return.
Fortunately YouthLink Scotland has the figures for how much it costs to do youth work in Scotland thanks to research into the youth work spending of Local Government bodies. The youth work budget of local authorities was £35.5million wth an additional 4.73million from external sources. And local authority youth work uses 2683 volunteers delivering 20,077 hours of youth work. Hall Aitken specify that these figures came from YouthLink but I couldn’t find the documents or figures on the YouthLink website. It is important to note that only 28 of the 32 Scottish local authorities provided information towards this data.
That gives us a total of £40million youth work spend by local authorities.
Next you try to cost the youth work of voluntary youth work organisations across Scotland.
By using the figures from the National Voluntary Youth Work Organisations Scotland report (NVYWOS). We see there are a total of 3551 youth workers in paid and part-time employment, with a support staff of 315, and a total number of youth work volunteers as 73,004 providing 12.8million volunteering hours per year. – It is important to point out this survey only covers national agencies linked to YouthLink Scotland (YouthLink, 2012, p8), not local independent projects.
– Also not every agency responded. The 73,004 figure for volunteers is from subset of these national agencies. 29/33 respondees (YouthLink, 2012, p5). The 12.8million figure came from 26/33 responds
– Further CLD workers in Scotland were excluded as Youth work not the main focus of the CLD provider that employs them (Hall Aitken, 2016, p41)
There are 3850 paid staff in voluntary organisations. The report assumes 2000 of these employees are FTE (full time equivalent) with an average salary and employment cost total of £25,000
Add this to the local government total and we have a new total of £90million spend on youth work in Scotland.
The Local government spending figure is reasonably solid. I suspect the problem is the voluntary agency staffing figure. It is low in terms of not including any costs associated with accommodation, training or resources for the youth workers. Also I suspect that the figures would be increased by the missing agencies and local governments actually filling out the form and giving the data. Depending which agency or local government body it is that could substantially increase this figure. Also I suspect the spend by local youth agencies (not national agencies) is also significant but not included here.
The Second number you need for this calculation is how many volunteering hours support youth work across Scotland. Looking at the data gathered above that is 12.8million hours annually. In Youth Link Scotland in the NVYWOS values each volunteer hour at £10 so do the sum and you come out with a value of £128million.
The total cost to do Scottish youth work of £218million (£90m + £128m).
I dislike this figure significantly. I like the idea of a replacement costing for insurance purposes, (if all youth workers were stolen today, what would it cost to replace the entirety of youth work from scratch including paying everyone instead of volunteers?), but that replacement value is not the actual cost of youth work in Scotland today. It does not value or reflect the gift that is volunteering. I think it is wrong to say volunteering is a cost based on replacing volunteers with sessional workers. Philosophically if someone gives you a gift, you cannot count it as a cost to you to accept that gift, that just nuts. Yes count the admin, training, supervision costs, but there is doubt that figure comes to £10 per hour of youth work. Add to this ignoring vibrant and significant local youth work projects and agencies from this figure, that is a practical decision, (how do you gather that data easily?) but also a significant omission.
How solid is this £218million number? as a replacement cost for Scottish youth work probable, as an actual cost of Scottish youth work, we are building on sand not rock.
The next figure you need is a SORI number. SORI stands for Social Return on Investment. At a basic level, (my own viewpoint) this is how much money you can say you get back for the money you spend. So how do you find this number, Well you engage in a piece of research based on the SORI research methodology
The key question it asks is “what is the impact of this” rather than “did it meet its goals”. Inputs include cash spend and other resources, with volunteer time being particularly relevant to youth work. The results or outcomes are explored from the perspectives of all stakeholders – including beneficiaries and anyone who could experience negative outcomes (such as the neighbours of a new noisy youth music venue)
Unfortunately Hall Aitken are not able to do this. “This study is too limited to use original research to explore this so we have relied on reviewing existing studies.” To do this Hall Aitken reviewed 20 other SORI studies. They rejected some as not being relevant to Scotland leaving the 11 studies they detail within the report. (Aitken Hall, 2016, p43,) They assess that a study in Sunderland which details a social value return on every pound of youth work spend at £3.56 (Hall Aitken, 2016, p41) and an Irish study which gives an economic return of £2.22 (Hall Aitken, 2016, p41) are particularly relevant to Scotland although the researchers provide no reasoning as to why these studies are relevant to the Scottish youth work context in order to make the comparison.
This gives a SORI number of around £3 to every £1 spent.
This figure is the most troubling. The problems are rooted in the lack of research to find this number. It all hangs on this number. We have to look to YouthLink Scotland and what they commissioned Hall Aitken to do, questioning why was this central piece of the puzzle not researched? This is a significant piece of research, with high level governmental backing, launched at a large conference with newspaper coverage, yet the researches are saying the study is limited and unable to research the actual number for Scottish youth work (Hall Aitken, 2016, p8). Later in the report Hall Aitken start a section by saying,
In a larger scale and better-resourced research programme we would aim to …
If YouthLink Scotland aren’t listening other readers of the report will pick up on this. I guess the number would be in the range specified, but given this document is all about the value of Scottish youth work to the Scottish economy to not have done the research to enable us to know the number seems unhelpful.
We have to use the best guess at 3
The Calculation is
1. you add your actual cost to the volunteer cost
2. multiply this new figure by your SORI number
3. then divide this number by the actual cost number and that’s your figure
(90,000,000 + 128,000,000) x3 = 656,000,000
656,000,000 / 90,000,000 = 7.29 which is rounded down to 7
The total value of youth work in Scotland is probably at least £656 million – a return of £7 for every £1 of public cash
(Hall Aitken, 2016, p7)
yet leaving us with some problems.
The figures are probables turned into definite by the press release and news coverage. thats inaccurate. I think this is the wrong way to portrait youth work in scotland. If we want to put out a figure which reflects the benefit of youth work in Scotland, we need to research and find the full picture of Scottish youth work. Here we are basing our work on incomplete data from local government and national voluntary agencies then estimating the effects of this incomplete data with an educated guess number. Thats good not enough to turn a probable into a definite.
The costing of the volunteer hours is a significant issue in this number. Turning a benefit someone gives you into a cost is move I am not sure I am comfortable with, philosophically or practically. If the benefits of volunteering are accounted for in the SORI number then it should cancel itself out in both the cost and benefit column. If you remove from both sides this looks a very different calculation.
The headline quote from Hall Aitken and the YouthLink press release counts the whole £90million cost of youth work as public spending (Public means Government spending). How can this be when they specify Local Government funds youth work at £35 million of the £90million? (they fundraise the other £5million from external sources). Why is this 7 to 1 return crouched in public spending language? I don’t think that is accurate, and misrepresents the role of the voluntary agencies and their majority role in Scottish youth work provision.