Thursday, 30 April 2015

Departure Time

Today, through my email networks and other avenues, I've announced that I'm leaving my post as Area Youth Ministry Adviser for the Bradwell Episcopal Area and Basildon Deanery at the end of July.
You may have come to this extended post via social media or have read my more formal announcement elsewhere and clicked through. Either way, you're very welcome!

In case you haven't seen it already, this is the 'formal' announcement that has gone out to my Crucible mailing list and to other groups of colleagues:

An Announcement

I’m writing this morning to let you know that I'll be leaving my role as Area Youth Ministry Adviser at the end of July.  After nine years in this privileged role and in this great Diocese, it’s time to move into some fresh challenges whilst also focusing more on family and local priorities.

I am incredibly blessed to have worked with so many inspiring people in that time - namely YOU!! but also Bishop Laurie and Bishop John, the wider Area Team and my Youth Adviser colleagues Ray Gibbs, Andy Poultney and Rachel Brett as well as youth officers across the country. It has been my privilege to serve such incredibly faithful, committed and passionate youth workers, clergy and leaders across Essex and East London, all looking to see young people flourish and grow in our churches and wider communities. 

I’ve worked full time for the last fifteen years, with two brief breaks to have our children, now eight and three. As our youngest begins pre-reception in September and full time school in 2016, it's become clear that God is leading us towards a change of gear for this next academic year,  affording me the opportunity to change the speed setting and to further invest in our family life and local mission.

Yet my calling and passion for youth work will not cease! This is a deep calling for me, first acknowledged in the early months after coming to faith. So I’ll continue leading youth work locally in Basildon and our Falcon Camp in Tollesbury each summer, as well as exploring a variety of freelance possibilities and partnerships, ranging from coaching, leadership development, training and retreats.

There have been many highlights and unforgettable moments – recently, the Celebration of Youth Ministry and the launch of the Authorisation scheme have been big projects with moments of great joy. Developing the Encounter: Young Leaders programme has been amazing, journeying with young adults full of such potential. The Deanery Youth Champions Network across the Diocese has enabled huge growth in the profile of Youth Ministry. But amongst all those key projects and initiatives, important as they are, the greatest joy is the day to day parish support of youth workers and clergy; the mentoring of leaders; the monthly Hub gatherings; the regular youth group visits and the training sessions which are the bread and butter of the role. In these I'm reminded that youth ministry is about community and friendship amongst all ages - being significant adults to young people is a privilege and in this privileged position, we are afforded a glimpse of the fullness of the kingdom which we look towards.

"1 Timothy 4: 12 Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young but be an example to the believers in your speech, your life, your love, your faith and your purity."

There will be further updates as time unfolds so keep an eye out for future Crucible editions (sign up here if you don't receive already.)
I sincerely hope that I'll be able to catch up with many of you in these next three months of transition. 

Andy and I, along with Matilda and Isaac hugely value your prayers and support as we step forward in trust and thankfulness.

Nine years in any one place, job or role is a long time and many of you reading this will be both co-workers and friends. Whilst it won't interest everyone (!) I thought it might be helpful to unpack a little more of the process of decision making and some personal thoughts at this stage - for those who are interested and for those who have journeyed with me/us and want to know a bit more. As always with these type of announcements, you can't always tell people personally in the right order - so hopefully this will serve to give some more detail and answer some questions about the what next for us and for the role I leave.

Unusually for me, this is certainly not, at this stage, a well formed plan! Our priorities in making this decision have been about recognising what is best for family life, sustaining sanity as well as acknowledging where my call to youth work and church leadership fits in to the new world of a curacy family. 

At this point, all I'm certain of, in this initial academic year, is that my time will be spent primarily with Isaac who is 3.5 years and starts pre-Reception for 3 hours a day in September. Alongside that and as appropriate, I'm looking to develop a number of possible avenues in a self employed capacity. I've recently completed my training with 3dm Europe in leading online Coaching Huddles and I'll be exploring some avenues into delivering training and leading retreats as well as volunteering with charities whom I presently serve in other ways. Through all that, I'm open to what God presents in this path within the parameters we've set for the family. It allows for flexibility and being able to say both yes and no to whatever may be offered in terms of future work.  I will need to earn some money at some point, but all in good time!

For me, this shift is a progression which makes sense in this season. It's a shift we've considered at a number of junctions over the last 9 years - when Andy began discerning ordination; when he was selected and training; when I had Isaac and was considering my return to work; and most recently as we considered the curacy offered to us in Basildon where we are now. 
The stability and income of my role is not as crucial now that Andy is ordained. That offers different choices to us and the restlessness I've felt for about a year, particularly around God's call to us to be embedded locally, feels resolved in choosing this 'extended sabbatical'.  Along the way, when I previously considered moving on, other events took over - Andy Poultney's appointment to Young Vocations Champion meant that it was not timely for me to go as well - and I wasn't ready to go either! Various projects within my job description kept momentum going too - all the changes with SOLID, the new Authorisation scheme, Deanery Youth Champions, training commitments, all the good stuff, involving brilliant people, which makes this role so varied and fulfilling. Again, as a family, the stability of my role in the midst of moving house, new church, settling children into schools etc. was very important. Sometimes, it is better to continue doing what you've always done when everything else seems to be rapidly changing and because I love my job and enjoy (nearly) every aspect of it, it wasn't a hard choice to stay at all!

But in a number of ways, it has been confirmed to us that now is the time for me to move on. This being the last year with Isaac before school kicks in has been a big factor, as well as recognising how hard it is for two parents to both be in full time, anti social hours, ministry focused roles in a paid capacity. I'd love to be the one who is able to say 'we managed it!' but the effect on the children, on our marriage and on our sanity is not worth it. It would really be 'just managing' rather than being the fullness of what God has for us. Our priority as parents is to one another and the children - and our commitment in covenant to the Order of Mission has also helped us to process what our vows of 'simplicity, purity and accountability' really mean in this context.
The reality is that, in a year's time, with two children in full time school, the season shifts again. But for now, this season is to be invested in, enjoyed, cherished and offers a foundation for the way we now do family life as we see the ways that God is shaping us and go with that. 

I'm leaving my current job, but I'm in no way leaving youth work or ministry! From the day I came to faith, I've always been involved in youth and children's ministry of some sort or another. During my year out ('96-'97!) when I was discerning the next steps and whether to continue with the plan for University, I sensed a very clear call to youth work as a full time ministry, through a sermon at my home church and confirmation through a letter from a spiritual mentor. It's also given me an expectation - I know what it is to hear God's call and until He says otherwise, I'll stick with it! Alongside that, I'm passionate about enabling longevity in youth ministry in others - having been so fortunate in all my employment to have great supervision, line management, stability and support I want to make sure that is available for others. Sadly, youth work is often the cinderella ministry in our churches and amazingly gifted and servant hearted, creative individuals move on all too soon, because the money runs out, they have damaged with ill treatment or because of unrealistic expectations. I wonder where that passion will take me in the future, but it certainly hasn't gone and I'll be praying about how I can continue to support youth workers without treading on future toes! 

So, as I'm writing this post I'm feeling such a mix of emotions. Looking back on the 27 year old Alice who moved from Newcastle upon Tyne to Essex back in 2006, I am amazed by how much I've learnt, how many people I've met and friends I've made and how far we as a family have come. I have had 2 Bishops for bosses, 4 Area Deans as supervisors, lived in 4 different houses and gone through 4 different cars (and probably done, I reckon, about 7000+ miles a year!), worked with 3 brilliant Youth Advisers plus the wider DYO Network and lost count of the amount of youth workers who have come and gone and stayed (I intend to work out how many before the end of July!)
Obviously, I'm sad to be going and will hugely miss my Youth Advisory Team colleagues and the many friends I have made across the Area and Diocese and beyond. But friendships endure and I'm looking forward to remaining in touch and continuing to support from the wings and in different ways.
Bishop John has already confirmed that he will be seeking to reappoint a Youth Adviser as soon as possible so watch this space for more information about the recruitment process.

It would be dishonest for me to say I'm not daunted by the 'what next'! I'm hugely excited about what might happen but I'm definitely battling my need for plans and fixed structure and going with the flow! I'm looking forward to space, but worried I'll be bored! Above all, I know God is faithful, his promises are good and he's holding out a new and exciting challenge. I've just got to follow.

One Life Conference with Young Leaders programme
National TakeOver Day with Bishop John
Bishop John visits The Hub

Colossians 3:13-17: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Thanks for getting this far - and for being part of the journey. See you soon.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Bye bye Daggy

On Thursday 5th March, I received a phone call to tell me that my dear Daggy had died, earlier that morning. I cried. It wasn't a surprise that she had passed away, I knew that she'd been ill and struggling to shift a chest infection. But it was a shock none the less.

I'd just returned from a 2 night residential with a bunch of youth workers and it took me a while to get my brain back into home, kids, family life that evening.

When Grandad died, back in August 2013,  it took me a while to gather my thoughts enough to write anything and I've found it to be the same this time too.

Daggy (my sister and I struggled to say Granny and Grandpa as toddlers, so the names Daggy and Bompa just stuck, much to the amusement of my cousins!) had been in a specialist home for a while, but had suffered a nasty fall leading to broken hip just before Christmas. Whenever we used to visit she would be especially pleased to see the children and would enjoy the way they interacted with other residents and staff. Matilda once joined in with a circle catching game, to their great delight!

As younger children, my sister and I used to stay quite often at Daggy and Bompa's home, as they lived just round the corner from both our home and our primary school. I remember when my parents went to Rouen for an anniversary and Daggy made us ham and ketchup sandwiches - one of her many interesting food combinations! I'd often pop in on my way to or from church, sometimes timing it well and getting a cup of tea, other times interrupting Daggy watching Wimbledon or snooker and less hospitable!

I have fond memories of the double bed in the spare room where my sister and I would sleep; of games of Beetle of an evening or Gin Rummy; of the biscuit tin usually containing shortbread; of a cupboard in the kitchen which had a tin of buttons and a box of colouring pens, the like of which we wouldn't be allowed at home!

Her driving was hilarious - in a white Mini and a white Micra. I never quite knew whether she loved driving or hated it!

Daggy had strong values and strong opinions - faith wise she was pleased when I started going to church but less impressed with the modern style of the church I chose! Her traditional views were firmly held, some of them focused on tradition but underneath it all was a firm faith too. Her fascination and interest in Andy's journey to ordination was something she enjoyed discussing and it is fitting he was able to take her funeral, with elements of the 1662 graveside service as she requested! 

Daggy leaves behind 4 wonderful daughters, 8 grandchildren (Justin and Sarah Phillips, Alice and Eleanor Hodson, Amy and Elizabeth Crosthwaite, Angus and Isla Parton) , 9 great grandchildren (Kaelyn, Emily, Bailey, Matilda, Isaac, Freddie, Thomas, Owen and Max) and many happy memories I will treasure. Rest in peace and rise in glory. X