The pressure was on.
After raving about it every year, writing blog pieces on it each year (including this post, my second most popular in 2017), This year, I, as part of the staff team was part responsible for planning the FYT Streetspace gathering, The national gathering of pioneer youthworkers. The pressure to make it work, or make it better, or make it more original, more radical, more provocative and be what people needed, wanted and would want to come along to. Before as a punter, a project leader i could come along (and bring my son) for a ‘ride’ take part and enjoy it. This year, it was going to be different.
This year, the gathering was also different, for me at the end of challenging month, with the job itself ending, my wife having an operation, and then also at the same time the dog getting ill. Head and Heart space was severely distracted away from doing the last minute, stuff, (and I am so thankful for John and Dan for picking up alot of my slack on this) , this year i struggled to want to go to the gathering, because I knew it occured at the end of a month that i was already shattered, being practical all day every day in the house, and trying to do work, and even apply for new jobs. I neednt have worried. But i was, worried too about the awkward conversations like, so what are you going to do be doing on monday? when theres nothing in the diary. The pressure, though, to make something good, still good, make something meaningful, still meaningful, was kind of on.
The themes of the weekend were to reflect on the current strategy of FYT, create a Home for pioneer youthworkers, improve practice and encourage risk taking with practice and be prophetic raising a voice to challenge structures, oppression and stand up and stand with those in the margins. It had also been agreed, and pushed that we wanted to continue the conversations that had started in 2017 (and before) on gender, sexuality and inclusion/participation, pinning the colours of FYT to the rainbow coloured flag both metaphorically and literally.
Thats the background. The reality was that everything, and more that was good about the previous weekends happened again and more.
A place of home was stated and created, with cushions and lights, and coffee and comforts. Like crumble and custard, and board games and mealtimes. Yet that held a space of challenge, of hurt, and reality. We should be sick of pretence, when the real is far more beautiful. The pretence might want to be bouyant and hopeful, but it is false hope. Real hope is found in the ditches of the margins. When compassion meets determination. The cross is where hope is found, and that cross was dug deep into the ground. In the dirt and soil and mud. Hope goes deep. Starts deep. Foxes have homes, ‘I have friends’ said Jesus. His friends were his home. Friends make homes.
A place of family was created, as the home had practical things to do like cooking, and washing up, outdoor spaces, the sound of babies, toddlers, children and a couple of teenagers. Not grumpy sullen teenagers, but people who raised their game for the occasion where they were given the space in the home to be able to. Space to raise their game, space to try and fail, space to take a risk. Not excluded, given something ‘instead’ teenagers. But young people given the chance to be youthful and adult, to dream the possible. Space to share a personal story, a personal prophetic challenge, or to play the comic at the evenings entertainment and hold an audience. Teenagers who could raise their game, and at 15 weren’t barred from a youth workers conference. (fancy that) A place of home where toddlers has space to be free, and parents kept a long ish lead and a watchful eye was maintained, by 35 other surrogate aunts and uncles for the weekend. But the noise of a joyfilled toddler filled the room that they occupied.
The real got shit real
The youth participation cranked up considerable notches.
The provoking came from the young people.
The needs of the oppressed was told by their voices
The provoking came from being present.
A session to learn about LGBT and diversity, wasnt enough.
For ‘theyre’ not a token. ‘Theyre’ not an ‘other’.
they needs to become we.
It was a place to cry and dream
A place where the magic happened in interactions
Where the movement took off its masks
and was served by those used to being pushed down.
The young, the queer, the female, the new
but that wasnt enough. no it never is.
For the movement of friends is not service and served
and many are missing, who we want to include
in the home of the movement, the pioneer dreamers
make the movement not ours, but yours to be part of.
Im not sure I could do emotional this weekend, friends. Many did. And many who grieved, and wept, went deep. A movement of pioneer dreamers, with feet in the mud. With hearts made of soft stuff, the clay of the earth. A group of youthworkers whose default chip wasnt frustration or angst, or pie in the sky. But dealing with tough stuff, the stuff to ignore. The stuff to push down on and hope it goes away. So the corks were opened. The bubbles emerged. Shit got real.
There was just empty space. No music or drums. No carrion call or manipulation. But silence and space. A place to grow up in, to grow out in, to grow deep in.
Just space, silence, food, light. Growth happens. In the dark, with light poking through, and warmth.
From the deep came the song, the poem, the voice. The margin spoke, and not spoken for, and it felt.
The movement was felt.
Step up was the call.
That rose from the deep.
Step was was the call, the rose from experience
and called us do better.
And say that we mean it, and take risks and challenge, ourselves to a new place.
And as we tidied away, the yurt was folding down. The kitchen was a mess of left overs, and the plan for take away lunch was crusting at the edges (though i dont think anyone went hungry all weekend, just death by midgie bite). Nature came knocking, reminding, provoking. As from the distance, one by one, three Red Kites started circling above us.
So over that yurt was a pocket of air, that was thermal and warmed. Where Kites came and played. For a while, then they soared. Stopped off for a breather, then went back on duty. Our eyes looked above, we stopped all the rushing. And paused. Again.
Our path from gathering was not feathers and flight. Though step up to the plate is the task that we might. The kites did not land, for their task was too great, to stop off too long.
They felt the movement, the warmth in the air. And us on the ground. Our flight path all wonky, and broken and beaten, But homes are all messy. And risks can be taken.
I write this on Monday, and life does not stop. The future still blank and open, uncertainty raging. But back to the living and dealing and busy of coping. May was a tough one. But im not alone. Our kites felt the movement, and are now soaring away. And Jesus, he washed the feet of his friends, their feet full of sand, taking the mud and the dirt with a cloth, and making them free, clean and able. To step up to the challenge. Yet its love that cleanses.
And this love is not selfish. It gives it away, and away and away. It gives and it gives. It loves from the deep, and the tough and the real. It loves in the risk.
What is Frontier Youth Trust? and what does ‘Frontier’ mean? lets not get stuck in the wording, stuck in that mud, but be a movement of dreamers who love to the depths – of our faith and our being.
Thank you all, in the small, in the significant and stupid.
Now to Step up.
To read of Streetspace gathering 2017 click here: Gathering 2017 , and FYT click the link above.
To buy Gemma Dunnings resource on Pastoring LGBT teenagers click here: http://www.gemmadunning.com/p/4-views-on-pastoring-lgbtq-teenagers.html?m=1 as a way in to start thinking about LGBT and young people, the language and develop understanding, start here. Step up might be your call too.