Wednesday, May 28, 2008

ice-breakers or heart breakers?

I had a great time at the DYO conference last week meeting many of my fellow DYOs* (though not all - missed you guys!). Lots of time for fab discussions and networking as well as setting up discussion groups to meet throughout the coming year.

There was, however one moment which made me reflect on all those youth events where there was an icebreaker. Right near the start we were asked to get ourselves in height order. Now, some readers may not know but I am not the tallest person in the world and, to be honest my heart sank just a little as I made my way to the end of the line (actually I am only the THIRD shortest DYO in the country!). Conversely Youthblog said he made his way to the middle of the line and ended up as officially the SECOND TALLEST DYO in the UK (if we excluded Wales, which we would hate to do, he'd have been the tallest!). It was a great mixer and we all got to chat and, despite my deeply buried comedy fear that they might divide us in to two groups for a game of basketball - tallest v shortest, it worked out fine. The progression of heights, far from being drastic was a really smooth line of increments.

However it did make me think about the impact of what might seem an innocuous activity on someone who's a little sensitive about things. I'm not really hung up about being short anymore but I was when I was younger and it would not have been fun.

It's that important difference between enabling people to laugh at themselves and laughing at other people who might not find it funny.

We also had a caricaturist on the last night who drew each of the DYOs and it had a mixed effect on peopel. Some were very excited but most had a fear in their eyes which was quite unifying. Almost everybody thought that everyone else's was great but their own was hideous/inaccurate/scary/goofy. I haven't yet seen one appear on anyone's site and, despite encouraging words from my best beloved that it looks fine, I don't think mine will be coming up here!!

We were also privileged to hear from Helen Tomblin on the topic of laughter, comedy, depression and the church. It was fabulous. It really opened up discussions about Christians facing tough times and not always being "smiley smiley". Because "God loves us", there's sometimes a temptation to think that we should always be happy but, as Helen said, in John 10.10 Jesus said he came to bring life in all its fulness. That doesn't mean just joy but sorrow too.

During the conference then, we were brought together through laughter and and fellowship and brought together more deeply by talking about less comfortable things. It really was a good few days.

*insert alternate acronym here, DAVE...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sign of the way forward

There is a petition for lay members of the Church of England in support of the consecration of women as bishops. If you are interested in signing it, the wording is as follows:

We, the lay members of the Church of England, call upon the House of Bishops wholeheartedly to support legislation for women bishops that is free from discrimination.

We are confident that acceptable non-statutory arrangements can be made for those who remain opposed to women's ordained ministries.

We urge the bishops at General Synod strongly to support having women as bishops without further delay.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Social Networking

Panorama had a follow-up programme tonight to their previous programme - One Click from Danger.

I know people, especially parents, worry about the use of social networking especially by young people. I'm also a great fan of social network sites and see the value of them for myself and for teenagers. I love staying in touch with my friends (even if I have only just spent the afternoon with them!) and I know there are young people who feel the same and consider online networking a central part of their lives. Because of this, I think it's really important to balance concerns over safety with staying in contact with friends. We don't keep teenagers safe from road traffic accidents by keeping them of the streets and away from traffic. Instead we teach them safe ways of crossing the road, initially with adult support and later on their own. We also allow them to mature and learn to ride bikes and drive cars safely in time. So what is the equivalent of the green cross code for the internet?

The Panorama programme highlighted the excellent site CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) site.

The site gives guidance for Parents, Teachers/youth leaders and young people themselves. Social networking should be a great tool for young people to chat to their friends but it can have a darker side as the progamme showed. To help keep social networking something wonderful for young people, parents should talk to their children about social networking and consider the following:

  • Know what your children are doing online and who they are talking to. Ask them to teach you to use any applications you have never used.
  • Help your children to understand that they should never give out personal details to online friends—personal information includes their messenger id, email address, mobile number and any pictures of themselves, their family or friends—if your child publishes a picture or video online—anyone can change it or share it.
  • If your child receives spam / junk email & texts, remind them never to believe them, reply to them or use them.
  • It's not a good idea for your child to open files that are from people they don't know. They won't know what they contain—it could be a virus, or worse - an inappropriate image or film.
  • Help your child to understand that some people lie online and that therefore it's better to keep online mates online. They should never meet up with any strangers without an adult they trust.
  • Always keep communication open for a child to know that it's never too late to tell someone if something makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Teach young people how to block someone online and report them if they feel uncomfortable.
  • There are people who can help. Report online child abuse, or for more advice and support.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Christian Heroes

I was invited to chat to BBC Hereford and Worcester Radio this morning about our new Spirit Mark award for Child and Youth Friendly churches which we launched on Wednesday with a presentation to the first four churches that have qualified for their bronze awards as part of a pilot scheme and received their first "Worcester Spirit Mark."

They were talking on the programme about heroes in literature, film or TV who were members of the clergy or religious people. People phoned in about Father Brown, Brother Cadfael, Father Dowling, Dom Camillo Paolo Baldi and others (I then found this site dedicated to clerical detectives!). Michael also mentioned Daredevil and Dan Dare was apparently a priest originally. It was interesting that I found myself struggling to think of any overtly fictional Christian characters who were "heroes" as such. Characters like Miss Marple were certainly Christian but not in a very obvious way. Medieval Literature has many religious characters (Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Boccacio's Decameron are chock full of em!) but not always in a flattering light which would make them heroes. More often than not they were ridiculed, caught out in compromising positions with young ladies or drunk. The Nun's Priest and the country Parson in the Canterbury Tales do go against this slightly but they are in the minority I suppose there is Christian in Pilgrim's Progress but I really was struggling.

Of course there is an element that books are often about adventures and murders and this isn't the usual place to find clerical types (except some of those above!!). What is it about holy people that might not make them central characters in novels. In the Middle Ages, the stories of saints were central to literature as they travelled around, preached, healed and performed miracles.

Any ideas people?

On the theme of detectives - I loved Dr Who last night with all the subtle references to Agatha Christie titles (They do it with mirrors, Sparkling Cyanide, The Secret Adversary, Nemesis and best of all Why didn't they ask.. Heavens!). I think I may have to watch it again to spot them all! It reminded me of Shakespeare in Love.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

All because you never learnt Latin

Those were the words of Chris Tarrant to a contestant that missed out on £10,000 even after as Catholic nun had told him that the Latin phrase meaning "in a set manner" was Pro Forma (not in toto, ad infinitum or nota bene!)

Just goes to show folks!

Nota bene - you should learn Latin so that you can consider your education, in toto, to be adequate and if you don't - I'll be going on about it ad infinitum!!!

Sorry for whacky post I think it must be the result of being excited to have played croquet in our garden this evening. Predictably Michael won - even though I played mean!

Monday, May 12, 2008


So life has been a little busy lately, what with settling in to my new job. My desk is still all rather tidy (unlike its previous incarnation) and I have the possibility of moving to a desk nearer the window this week as one of my colleagues is moving on. So do I go for the distractions of the river Severn and some rather lovely trees or stick to my old desk? hmmm... tough one I know! Well it will give me a chance to have a look at all the things in the youth office and work out what I no longer need and what we could do with buying and also get a handle on what we can offer to parishes looking for resources. So I shall be thinking this week about where it all goes and taking Dave Walker as the beginning of the inspiration!

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Taize explained

The Taizé Community has put up a short video explaining the history. Some of you who have been before will recognise the blue bus and maybe even a familiar face on the bus!