Weekend dog-walks usually take me, either down to the beach, around the Burn Valley, or up through family wood, and around Summerhill park, on the western edge of Hartlepool. Summerhill is a myriad of paths, through recently populated woodland, with added facilities like a climbing wall and BMX tracks hidden within, either to be avoided or found depending on your perspective. Summerhill is also not far from a liveries of Stables.
Around the park there is one route, split at times in three paths, other times two, and on rare occasions one.
When separated they keep apart the walkers, cyclists and horses. Other times they’re together. Why are the separated? mostly for safety, to stop the deterioration of the grass, or for the Horses to keep them on grass for their shoes (however, horses are often on roads, so at this point im slightly out my depth)
I noticed at different points there were edges and boundaries between the paths, some took a shorter route, but interaction and conversation could occur from walker to horse rider, bmx’er to walker. And all could voluntarily cross between them
As i walked i had two thoughts, two metaphors came to mind; one about being a youthworker, the other about the church and young people.
In terms of the youth worker, i reflected upon the nature of connecting with a young person through youthwork to walk along the same path. Ok not a hugely significant statement. But actually what would it mean to walk along the path of a young person with them? what kind of privaldge would it be for them to let us be on the same path, not some invader, interrupter, but to be with them on the path, walking, listening and learning together. Sounds too romanticised, and maybe its not possible. Being on the streets on detached gives me the chance to walk the same situations as them, be in amongst the physical path that they tread. A distinction perhaps against the youthwork that occurs on the youthworkers physical path.
But how might the journey unfold in front, who directs and follows, by sight, by path, and who holds the map, or is it guided by the trees, the signs or the concrete already laid.
What kind of person would a young person want to walk with them, and how long for?
Secondly, might this image be a good one for thinking about people and the church.
The Church is the route and the process and the paths, people are on the paths walking, or running or riding.
Yet why do the paths separate between people and who decides who is on what path and for what reason? should all the young people be on the BMX path? what if they’re walking a dog- should they then? or adults on a mountain bike? or parents pushing buggies? should these boundaries be less set and more determined, as her by nature, by choice, by interruption (of puddle, verge and post)
The paths all have the same trajectory, destination, and yet why might it seem that young peoples trajectory and destination is different in the church, is it because they are on separated paths, an especially designed path thats not of their making.
Does a youth ministry path lead to a vastly different destination than the local church? How might a messy church path interweave within the paths of church? Where is there dialogue and conversation across the paths? Where might new paths be furrowed and paths that bring other people to start walking too?
Just a few metaphors for walking with young people, and for the church as a series of paths, whilst i was out walking the dog yesterday afternoon.