Over the last 48 hours or so, (and unfortunately i missed the second day of it) i have been privileged to share considerable time with 30-40 other youth worky type people at the Streetspace gathering 2013. We shared, we chatted, we cried (over the rugby) , we asked questions, we ate and we drank together at a conference centre in Wales. As i reflect upon this occasion i wanted to write a few things that stand out for me, that have and will help in the face of the sometimes questioning of the practice of christian detached youthwork.
1. That I believe in the founding story, that God is a Triune Community of Persons, that Redemption and Salvation are a three fold reconciliation of man, man to God and God and the whole of creation ( and i summize…). That God in community, became in our community, dwelt, lived, and gifted us the Spirit to stay, and that we might act as though every step is moment on the grand stage of the ongoing play, the realisation and eschatological reality of Shalom, the return of the King.
What i realised this weekend, is that is was of great relief to not have to spiritually or quantifiably justify the often fluid work of detached youthwork. In a land of numbers, impacts and outcomes, it was great to be amongst others who told similar stories of struggle, of heartache, of anger, of frustration, of alone ness, not because they didnt believe in their work, not because of the young people, not because of the people in their communities. But in the main because it was too difficult for their churches and/or line managers to see value in what they were doing, in the relationships that they had with schools, with young people, with partnering agencies. It was great to be in a place where we didnt have to compete to have the best youth club, most attendees, loudest speakers, newest worship songs being sung, but where, even though we didnt know each other much beforehand, we all kind of knew how and what it was like being often misunderstood on the edge. To feel the injustice of our young people, to walk alongside them in their pain, to encourage them, learn from them and be with them.
As someone commented, Being on the edge is a lonely place. Maybe, if it was too comfortable it wouldnt be on the edge? maybe if it was too accepted we wouldnt strive to reflect, learn and grow, maybe we would stop and try and fit in somewhere where we don’t fit so well anymore.
I guess it comes down to something very basic, we believe in being with young people and embody being with young people in the way Christ became with us. We want to create communities of church that stem from being with young people, in their context, with young people. This will naturally be subversive, missionary and critical, yet we value relationship, community, faith, trust and integrity, and seek to act in a way of reconciliatory practice in our communities, that bring about and recognise Kingdom and shalom.
So i come away with encouragement, with energy, with purpose, even though some of the stories were challenging, the honesty between us, and the sharing of reality in this way just awe inspiring and so i thank all of you whom shared with me, and i hope that i was able to help you as you were able to help me.
The local church will become masterpiece theatre only to the extent that its focus is on living out the drama of redemption and on rehearsing the Kingdom of God, that is its raison d’etre (Vanhoozer 2005)
Is this the shape of the church on the edge? Is this edgy at all? or just being performed in the context with young people? a strange new world?