Friday, 27 June 2014

Crucible Newsletter - June

[This is the editorial text of my monthly Crucible Newsletter, with information, resources, links and training for youthwork in Essex and East London. You can sign up here if you'd like to receive direct or just sign up to receive posts from here which include this editorial each month]

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”

Earlier this month, I heard of the death of Maya Angelou. 'I know why the Caged Bird sings' was a formative book for me in my teenage years, speaking as it does of identity, culture, racism and how society treats women. It opened my eyes, upset and inspired me, made me intrigued and drawn to issues of injustice and the marginalised.In later years, I have often referred to her book 'Hallelujah: The Welcome Table' with it's mix of recipes, stories, anecdotes and great wisdom. She was a wonderful, tenacious and challenging example of triumph over adversity and of great courage and character whilst not bowing to the prevailing culture or stereotypes. Working for Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X, and before that as a dancer, a waitress, an actress and in later years, a writer and poet. What a life. Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory Maya! The quote above, from Maya in one of her later autobiographical books, sums up the sense of change going on at the moment in many places. For many, this is a time of transition as we look towards the end of the school year; perhaps changing schools, new teachers or completing exams and looking to the next stage. It's a good opportunity to finish well and to begin to look ahead to the new season, making plans for the summer and September onwards. Much to look forward to and hopefully some of the ideas, links and resources below will help you with that - keep this email to refer back to in moments of panic! Change isn't always easy - we each deal with it differently. Some thrive, others shy away. But we can't avoid it, that's for certain! Within our lives, situations, work, family, churches are sacred echoes which perhaps we don't always align ourselves to hear. In times of change, as our perspective moves and shifts, we see and hear something new, realise more of what we can do, be, offer. Change is good, hard, painful and part of our journey with God. Change is a wonderful, inspiring and exciting thing but it is also challenging and painful, requiring loss, departure and vulnerability. In it all, He is good, He knows what He's doing, His timing is perfect.(I'm reminding myself of that as much as I'm telling you all!) Within this season of change, there is also lots happening within the Youth Advisory Team in the Diocese. As some of you may have picked up, Andy Poultney, my colleague in the Barking Episcopal Area has recently been appointed as the Young Vocations Champion for the Diocese, overseeing a new residential gap year programme, 'Encounter' beginning in September. He begins on 1st July officially, but there is much to be done in preparation so we said goodbye to him properly at a lunch on 20th May to which many youthworkers and others were able to come and give their thanks. Please do pray for Andy, his wife Linsey, his children Joel and Keziah and for those who will join them on this amazing adventure exploring God's call! Change is also happening at some pace in the Smith Family. We're preparing for my husband Andy's ordination on 28th June in Chelmsford Cathedral and then a move to St Andrew's and Holy Cross as a family on mission as he begins his curacy. New schools, childcare, home, job, a whole new world and yet just 10 miles up the road! As part of that process, I'll be keeping my schedule in August and September much lighter, working mainly from home rather than being out and about and ensuring the children settle well and we find our feet and can be present fully in our new context from the beginning. So bear with me! and please pray for us too! So we head into the busy summer, with the hope of some sun, long evenings and time outside. Change is all around and I was challenged and encouraged by the words of Nicholas Henshall, the new Dean of Chelmsford Cathedral the other week who spoke of 'the gift of tears and the discipline of praise.' Both these elements, aspects of our discipleship, call out to God who hears and holds us in whatever circumstance. He lifts our heads, focuses us on Him once again and spurs us on into mission, being with those God has called us to. (Psalm 3)Enjoy the sunshine in the meantime and look forward to seeing you at SOLID perhaps?With every blessing, be blessed in all you do, Alice x @youthworkmum

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Standing on the brink....

of a new stage of life!
This morning I waved Andy off on his pre-ordination retreat at Pleshey - 3.5 days of morning and evening prayer, legal oaths, silence, food, cycling (not for everyone) and maybe a trip to the pub.
It's been an incredible journey over the last 5 years or so since this all began (you can read more here and a more recent, less positive post here!).
On Saturday, Mr. Andy Smith will become Rev. Andy Smith in a very special service in Chelmsford. We are being joined from all over the country by people who have been with us on different parts of the journey and have prayed for us, encouraged us, cried with us and laughed with us. There are many others too who can't be with us and I know will be cheering us on, praying and looking forward to social media photographs!
In a month we will pack up St Peter's House here in Hutton and move, just 10 miles up the road to Basildon where Andy will (as from Sunday) be Assistant Curate at St Andrew's and Holy Cross.
We leave behind an amazing community of friends and neighbours here who we never expected to have - we were never meant to live in Hutton! We have also been so blessed by the church families at Emmanuel and Deeper over these 3 years who have welcomed us, challenged us and enabled us to prepare for this next stage.

I haven't blogged properly for so long (the number of tags for Isaac against the ones for Matilda show why my blogging activity may have slowed down!) so it feels a bit odd to pour out too much here but I am incredibly grateful to God for all he has done in our lives these last 3 years. We could never have known how much it would hurt but we would never had understood the depths of his faithfulness and love to us without that. He has held us and stretched us indeed - through all the studying that Andy has done, the youthwork we have led, the people we have met and the stuff we have learnt. About ourselves, about who we are in Christ and about his plans for us. He's never let us down and he won't start now. But I am terrified and excited - the unknown is a hard place for a planner to embark on! I'm only glad that as Andy has been called to be ordained in God's church, so he has also called me to love my husband, to love people, to parent well and to see the church inhabit the places where there is need, particularly amongst young people.