The forgiveness being given in one story after 3 years contradicts the outcry to the second story. I am not involved with their situation so it is easy for me to forgive, or conversely it is easy to condemn their past action and hold their views as stationary. But I find myself thinking… How long is long enough to hold people to account?
Can people really change?
Are Christians more likely to give forgiveness?
Is forgiveness given to easily within the Christian community?
Apologies requires two parts, the first person to say “I am sorry” the second person to say “I accept”.
Being the first person to apologise is tough. I do not like that I am human and this means I am changeable and fallible (often). Life changes. I have changed. But I am constantly here. I am not a journey, as that implies my views are always changing and if I do not change then I am not journeying. I am here and have experienced life as best I can. I wondered what I would do in each situation, would I apologise and mean the apology.
It also needs the other, the second person. The other includes whoever was directly affected by these actions. The politician was talking about others in her blog, and the Bookman convinced others that what he was doing was correct. You cannot apologise if you do not know what you are apologising for. Perhaps an apology will make things ok with who they were wronging. Perhaps this represents an acknowledgement that what they did was wrong and a commitment to do the future differently. I don’t know an apology would demonstrate a changed belief, at a basic level by not having affairs or not writing blogs they would demonstrate a change. It is challenging to forgive but it is what I am called to do.
So how long is enough? What do people have to do to be forgiven? Perhaps the third person the in the situation needs thought about. The third person is wider society. We ask both people to hold office (in church and in parliament), we then hold both to an additional standard of behaviour. Where there is abuse of power or the possibility of this behaviour we say “NO” to appointment. We judge the situation and the person as we see fit. We are comfortable with the operation of a public court system where people are tried publicly, although the public most times were not offended against. But the legal system is not as important as social media and the court of public opinion. The both are guilty. Apologies may have been said, but still I judge them. I am uncomfortable with the three years in case one, as I do not think it is long enough. I am also uncomfortable with 11-year-old blogs being used as an example of the politicians views. But this doesn’t tell me anything about the people; it doesn’t tell me whether they have changed, or whether they have unrepentant carried on. I judge them based on the worst part of their existence that we know about. I was criticising Donald Trump recently, when an American youth worker told his story of asking the Trump organisation for help to make a good night for a group of young people. He was asked to Trump tower in New York and surprisingly, ended up meeting with Donald Trump. Come the night and the Trump organisation really did a great job in making the night awesome, going above and beyond for the young people. While I am not a supporter of President Trumps policies or presidential reign, neither was the American youth worker, I am aware that the picture is more complex than I see. Humans act as humans, frustratingly inconsistent.
I have many different playlists across various services. On iTunes I have about 60 different playlists currently. I have about 20 playlists on Spotify. Some of these are functional collecting a genre or artist together, some are something more life giving. I have a playlist filled with songs I like driving to called “driving”. I have one filled with songs of that help my think about faith called “Worth”. I have a playlist of fragile songs called “fragile”. On the more frivolous side I have a playlist called “six” that just has the sixth song off of a load of albums and one playlist called “way” that only has songs with the word way in the title. I even have an entire history of a band, the blue nile, or list build from the a set list of a concert I have seen, Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil.
Tonight I have been listening to one of the playlists called “40”. The playlist aims to draw together one album from each year I have been alive that means something to me. (The albums don’t really need to be one a year but roughly so). They start with the music of my father and mother, Cliff Richard, the Beach Boys and John Denver. The music of my brother including the band he sang in. The music of my teenage, my Contemporary Christian Music leanings through to today and the dream pop leanings. I don’t often listen to this list, but tonight it has been on. The Boy has enjoyed it being on.
I have always known that the power of song is significant but tonight it struck me just how much of my belief is informed and reinforced by song. How much I am uncritical of songs but adopt them as my own and have a view of faith I have found through song. I learned and identified with song. In listening to this playlist I have been revisiting my initial thoughts about my theological worldview and discovering how much it has shaped me. I don’t quite know what to think but in the meantime I will enjoy.
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.
Graciousness is a quality of mind that does not separate truth and beauty. Talk of truth always makes it sound as if truth were the cardinal virtue. yet without beauty, truth becomes blind and can be turned into a blunt and heartless imperative. When we hold beauty and truth together, truth will always have a sense of compassion and gentleness. Sometimes the so-called facts of a situation actually tell us little or nothing about the heart of an experience. Only in the light of beauty can we come to see what is really present. This is true also of the way in which we view our own life. If we were to describe our life strictly in terms of its factual truth, most of its interesting, complex, and surprising dimensions would remain unmentioned. The gracious eye can find the corners where growth and healing are at work even when we feel weak and limited. It is no wonder that Jesus said; the gentle shall inherit the earth.
I am thinking through so stuff for Third Sunday and reading some books. mostly theology on the trinity.
What I want to say is that God is a social being. The way that the three in one (or) one in three can be understood in in a relational way. the meet and talk and know each other by being with each other. This way of understanding God is not the only model, it is a social trinitarianism model based on a economic trinity. (economic trinity= God as God is in relation to creation, God’s self revelation)
“The unity of the trinity subsists in the shared, homogeneous substance of the three divine persons. they are a single divine Being. They are one substance but not one Person”…”Both ways of thinking presuppose that the unity of the Trinity precedes the threeness of the divine Persons, and is not, therefore, itself first constituted by these three persons. ” Moltmann, experiences in theology p321
also see Volf & Welker, God’s Life in Trinity p3-12
“love, therefore, that is, the reciprocal self dedication of the trinitarian members builds the unity of God. There is no God but the Father, Son and Father bound together throughout eternity.” Grenz – Theology for the community of God p71
When you become a christian, enter into a relationship with God and in a mysterious, cool and awesome way you enter into part of the social trinity. not as a god. we are human beings and not divine. We enter not in a full way, but through our relationship with Jesus and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
‘Jesus high priestly prayer, that his disciples might become one “as you , Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us (John 17:21), presupposes communion with the triune God, mediated through faith and baptism, and aims at it’s eschatological consummation.’ Volf – After Our likeness.p195
“That is the mystical dimension of the felloship of the church. It does not merely ‘correspond’ to to the trinitarian unity of God; it also exists in the Tri-untiy of God, which is open to the world; for through the operation of the father, the son and the spirit it has been taken into the innermost mystery of God.” Moltmann, experiences in theology p330
This means Christians are invited into a perfect relationship. this should change us. it does.
One of the ways this changes us is in relation to the other. (The other being a Philosophical term for that which is seperate and distinct from.) How we treat others and how we seek to deal with others. Looking at the story from genesis 18-19 of the destruction of Sodom and Gamorrah.
“it is a human beings personhood as constitued by by God that results in a person’s not just being determined by the surroundings, but also being able to encounter both societty and nature in freedom precisely as a socially and naturally determined entity”, (personhood being the state bestowed on human beings by God in relation to faith and baptisim) Volf after our likeness p186
“the will to give ourselves to others and “welcome” them, to readjust our identities to make space for them, is prior to any judgment about others, except that’s of identifying them in their humanity.” Volf , Exclusion and Embrace p????
“As the working of together of repentance and faith, conversation marks a great turning point. It is our personal break with the old life and our entrance into the new. … Linked to this turn towards God is a turning towards others. In repentance and faith we leave behind the old self centred way of living and deicate ourselves to follow the example of Jesus, the man for others. We seek the good of all persons, knowing that acts which minister to people in their need are acts of service to Christ (Matt 25v40). …Conversion consitutes a turning to creation as well. Implicit in repentance from our living strictly for ourselves is a new concern for everything God has made. … In all these aspects, conversion also means a turn towards oneself, that is, towards one’s true self as intended by God. Through repentance and faith, we commit ourselves to live out in our own lives the divinely given design for us as humans.” Grenz – Theology for the Community of God p 410-411
At a school club i attended on tuesday (6th nov 2007) i was asked several questions, – is there a God – How can you prove God – How can the bible be true if it has contradictions the usual stuff, you know. This was expected and good, but not what got me thinking. The club was based around guy fawkes or that was what i was expecting, it didn’t actually deal with the issue in any detail. In the ened to guy fawkes part leader made two points about guy fawkes. it was the first of these which I thought about.
Guy fawkes was brave to be killed for what he believed in.
really? is that bravery? My potted memory of the guy fawkes saga was that he was watching the gunpowder and got caught there. no bravery really, just getting caughtery. (it make me chuckle)
But is being killed for what you believe in really that good? While i thought about this more I considered the converse. Is it good to kill for what you believe in. Guy Fawkes was there to kill people. make no mistake. His aim was the end of the government in england. As a Catholic the governemtn were oppressing the people of his belief. the way they came up with to deal with the issue was to destroy the government.
He was prepared to kill and destroy something that threatened what he believed in. i don’t know about that. This was the first time i had considered this angle to the story.
If there is an object which is causing a structural sinning against a group of people is it justified to sin against them to stop the sinning.
I wondered about this as a catholic Guy and his mates would have known killing is a sin, but is sin ever justified due to the nature of the larger sin it is stopping?
I can’t get my head around the fact sin is sin. jesus said something about turning the other cheek, about going the extra mile, about suffering to follow him. He was a guy who was decisive and and deliberate. but he never used violenece to acheieve his aims. He opposed violence, oppresion, injustice, and inequality, several times in the stories choosing to expose the hypocrisy and self satisfing nature of these pursuits.
This kinda puts me in a pickle though in regards to sundays Remberence service. I know people have died to shape the world we live in. People have literally died for what they believed in and because of that I my life is as it is.
But i can’t believe killing those who disagree with us is ever justified, as at a basic level, killing is sin, therefore wrong.
so what do you do.
people killed so i can be who i am. because of who I am, I can now object to the killing that allows me to ojbect.
If i was to retire as a youth worker,in 35 years time, and i have only worked with one group of 20 young people. would I be satisfied.
my response was yes, if I had done good work with the young people.
my questioner told me that they found my attitude disgusting. how could I be satisfied when there are so many other young people to work with.
I guess my attitude is based on an understanding of youth work being relational, challenging and life changing. If I can affect the lives of twenty young people in a good and positive way encouraging reflections, critical analysis of themselves, the bricks to enable the young person to construct their own world vew, and how to change and build a new view when the world breaks down their pervious viewpoint. then yeah I will be happy with twenty young people.
This doesn’t mean I only ever want to work with twenty people. but if I look back and I only have done good work with twenty then I am happy.
My attitude also reflects a belief in the other.
God in my understanding is different to the boxes, conceptions or understandings I seek often to put God in. He works within me, outwith me, inspite of me, without me, in mysterious ways. If i don’t work with someone, on behalf of the church. I have to trust that God can work with those people without my help. Perhaps using someone from another church, perhaps using a voluntry agency, perhaps through a council service.
Perhaps an angel will visit. I don’t understand God fully. I never will, thankfully, if i did my head may just explode.
I work with young people who want to engage with me. for what ever reason there may only be a few people want to deal with me. Youth work is voluntry. If young people don’t want to engage or work with me, that is there right and decision.
If twenty young people want to come, work with me and be in a relationship, and thats all i get in all my life, in 35 years, I will be satisfied.