November 20, 2014

Walls to dust 15

The other day on a detached session, I found myself parked in a car chatting out through the window to some of the young people parked alongside us. The conversation was fine but stilted by the rain and consequently the windows were only half open. After the initial hellos and catch up the conversation stalled, and my colleague suggested we move on. It felt right to stay and just chill, which in end opened a conversation with one the young people we have found hardest to reach opening up and discussing volunteering with us. This young person would barely acknowledge us for the first 18 months we met, but slowly through the process of being around regularly he warmed to us, opening up, all leading to this conversation about possible volunteering.

The connection between regular faithful contact and building the platform for solid relationships cannot be underestimated. Equally this presence in a place itself will not bring the walls to dust between us and those young people who have been consistently let down by adults and systems so are wary of engagement. It will require working at the relationship, deliberately preserving (appropriately) with the young person who wont give you the time of day. (People + Place) x Relationship = Space. Yes, we needed to be in the right place, with the right people, but the relationship enabled the space to be created for a young person, excluded from school, shunned by much of the town and isolated from many traditional avenues of support, to offer his gift of service and volunteering, on a rainy detached evening.

This item was posted by Richard Passmore

posted to Uncategorized @ 12:51 pm

November 17, 2014

Walls to dust 12, 13, and 14

Part of the balance and walking the road that rises to meet us is about finding the rhythm of creation and the creator, as Lewis might say the “deep magic”. The seasons help by bringing with them their own sense of timing and rhythm, mirroring the great consistent narrative current, we see through the bible and history. This current of birth, life, mistakes, redemption, and rebirth, is echoed in the seasons. Perhaps in the westernised world where food is no longer attached to seasons, and we have lost touch with the soil, we have have become too dislocated from this narrative. We live in a society that shields and sanitizes death, sees it as something to be dealt with quickly, hidden from children and disconnected from life. Christ broke the wall between life and death, and it no surprise that when Jesus sent out the 72 in Luke 10 they could proclaim the good news before the crucifixion had even happened. Sayings like ‘life goes on’ although true, are meant in way that suggests the wall between life and death is still there, rather than seeing death as a part of the great redemptive story that connects us all; living, present and resurrected, a world beyond the walls that christ already brought to dust.

As we reconnect with the seasons the reality of the great redemptive rhythm and drumbeat of (re)creation is brought to bear. The small differences in weather, in festivals, in short or longs days can help us be embraced by the consistent narrative current of God, swept up by the swell, and carried beyond the walls that divide us. We can use them practically to helps bring the type of balance I was trying to convey in the previous post, as signposts and staging for the deeper magic that lies beyond. The seasons help us connect with one another, in ways that call the walls to dust, they can become sledge hammers in our hands that help break through, or like water dripping slowly wear away resistance, so we can embrace one anothers humanity. The road that rises to meet us is this redemptive current, and the seasons play a part in alerting us to its possibilities.

This item was posted by Richard Passmore

posted to Uncategorized @ 10:07 am

November 11, 2014

Walls to dust 11

The move towards a more wholistic approach to youth work has been helpful, and thankfully most people I encounter see the breadth of the gospel,(the social, structural, personal, ecological, community etc) which brings with it, a balance to peoples approach to mission and life. However too often this has to be a conscious balance, where people think they have focused to much on one element and so try to redress it by bringing in another aspect. In StreetSpace we seek balance, but it is not an imposed balance that arises from a theoretical or theological need to make sure we encompass all the breadth of the gospel. It is balance that comes from doing what is in front of us as well as we can, and reviewing what is happening on the ground. When we move from doing life together with those around us, to being a “missionary” to young people we build a wall between us. We often talk of the need to feel our way forward rather than think our way, and in many ways this is what brings a real balance. As we walk the narrow path, the breadth of the gospel itself can become baggage that unbalances us, but by doing what is in front of us one step at time God supplies what is needed at that moment, or in the words of an old celtic prayer “the road rises to meet us”.

This item was posted by Richard Passmore

posted to Uncategorized @ 10:24 am

November 5, 2014

Walls to Dust 10

Too often we feel hemmed in by the people, structures and systems around us. These walls can be high, and seem impenetrable. To challenge the structural issues young people face and undermine their power creatively, to inspire change we need to recognise that fun and laughter (to be a trickster) for example we offer young people alternative ASBOS. When they have done something positive for the community we will get the mayor to present them with and alternative ASBO . The christian tradition is full is creative peaceful ways of standing with the marginalised, we borrow from christian peacemakers to turn up at council meetings to turn up en-masse to silently witness the discussion about issues that affect our community, sometimes wearing Hear My Voice.

This item was posted by Richard Passmore

posted to Uncategorized @ 10:39 am

October 28, 2014

Walls to Dust 9

After years of christendom and being the centre of so many things I often wonder if we have forgotten the death/redemption narrative cycle and fail to link this to our eccelesiology. We have become happy with the temporary, but when you set this within the context of faith journey, the paradox is that traveling is constant. So this means we are very relaxed when what others may see as fresh church emerging to fade and die. For example the Flow church approach lasted for a season was helpful and had fixed points where the community would come together intentionally to explore a story, serve the wider community or connect with g-d through Tai-flow. Unless a seed falls….

This item was posted by Richard Passmore

posted to Uncategorized @ 9:07 am

October 23, 2014

Walls to dust 8

There are lots of issues around how we use the bible with young people. Particularly in my work which is predominantly with young people from a non book cultural context. This does not mean that the young people cannot read, but either choose not to, or engage written text in a very different way. Most written text is very linear, it is a series of words building on one another, and the layout of the bible is much the same. We approach the bible as products of our own culture, and for me and most people involved in mission I know that means we can cope with the linear context.

We have captured and caged the text but releasing it is about more than contextualization. Good contextualistion is not the startpoint. The startpoint is about recognizing the life and breath in the story and not allowing our bias and approach to the text and truth to come before the value and worth of the community we serve and how they may free the caged bird for us and themselves. (check this out for an example).

Good contextualisation can help move from linear to a patterned culturally relevant telling of the story, but it must not over step its remit and enter into explanation. Instead we need to let the story speak for itself and hearers to become participants and step towards inculturalation. This means we need to let go of our bias, and allow the caged bird to sing to liberate us all.

This item was posted by Richard Passmore

posted to Uncategorized @ 9:47 am

October 20, 2014

Walls to dust 6B

If we fail to recognise the connection between people and place we will miss something. So as well as taking cues from the space we need to be mindful of how young people interact with the space. In our case it was this mindfulness that led me to ask a young person how he felt when he skated and opened up the whole Flow conversation and subsequent church of flow.
People often ask me how do you know what to say, how do you perceive the way forward missionally in a group or context? The truth is I dont really know, it just happens. It is rooted in developing a missional spirituality and calling the walls to dust in our own lives is definitely an important contribution to developing a missional spirituality. We need to loosen ourselves from the binary dualist way we are conditioned; for example a move beyond a prayer time towards a more all embracing spiritually that takes seriously they call to pray constantly. There is also something about the recognition that newness has to happen elsewhere, so we need to be in the spaces (conceptually and physically) that can give birth to this, and an important step for me in this was a move away from traditional expressions of church. When we call these walls to dust in ourselves, we are far more able (recognising our own blindness) to feel our way forward with the young people we serve and stuff seems to just happen with a lot of mistakes, bumps and scrapes along the way.

This item was posted by Richard Passmore

posted to Uncategorized @ 11:25 am

October 19, 2014

We call the walls to dust 6

If (People+Place) x Relationship = Space then we need to develop a synergised response to the Place and the People. This is more than simply a redevelopment exercise of a place, it is about a recognition of the interconnection of people and place. It is more about nuances rather than grand plans (although these maybe a part), so I think in terms of taking cues from the space. Taking a cue is the term taken from drama, and in Here be Dragons we explore the idea of youth work and theodrama. James picks up a connection with this theme and the hide and seek G-d HERE

Lugi suggests “Mission is a relational and improvisational process in which each actor(s) respond to the questions and personalities of the guests” I would want to push this to include the improvisation and change of the place. Like any theater space there is a certain amount of fixed space, but by responding to the questions of the space and running with cues it gives you, the physical space takes on personality. Our work at the skate park started with the cue of redeveloping the skating area, it expanded to include a shift (improvisation) in games area next door, playing with the green space around it, and providing extra lights and power to set a stage for future developments. As the space was opened up and young people and the wider audience (the community) were consulted on pathways and changes. It the end what was created, although a fixed space, has the feelings of stage, that can be interacted with and in. It provides a place from which we can look for other cues from the young people as we seek to improvise with young people and discover the hide and seek G-d.

This item was posted by Richard Passmore

posted to Uncategorized @ 5:16 am

October 16, 2014

Blog Action Day – Justice

Today I am posting as part of the Blog Action Day with over 1300 other bloggers around the world, adding my voice to the 1000s of organistions that campaign and work daily for a more just world. As a youth worker I am all too aware of the injustice that young people in the UK have faced in the past few years. They have been on the receiving end of worst of the cuts in services, politicians have openly spoken how they have been more penalized as they don’t affect the vote enough, and the support structures that many of the most vulnerable young people in society rely on have been eroded.

In 2011 I first started blogging about the cuts (here) in response to what I was seeing I shaved half my beard. What hit me was that as I wore this half beard around town, out in public was how few people noticed. This is still the issue for young people, the public still seem unaware how badly this generation has been affected by the cuts.

Photo on 2012-12-31 at 05.06

StreetSpace part of Frontier Youth Trust has grown rapidly to engage many of the most marginalised young people in the UK, and the lived experiences of these young people over the past few years has often been heartbreaking. However these are not my stories to tell, and so whilst the media loves a good hard luck story we refuse to play by those rules. So this leaves us in a predicament, how do we draw attention to injustices we see around us when even wondering around town with half a beard fails to raise eyebrows. So I am left with my story and simply trying to respond to the injustice in front of me as well as I can…

I wept this morning. I cried for young people who have been have been vicitimised, marginalised and oppressed by the governments response to the recession of cutting services, I cried with the young people who will continue to be the ones who suffer most as we enter economic recovery which the government wants to promote with further cuts. The latest government proposals on young people, demonstrate a society that has lost its way, a society of selfishness, greed and power.

I wept this morning as friends responded to my post on facebook about my own situation as a NEET (not in employment, education or training) 16 year old. I left home, not willingly, not out of choice but out of necessity after my father who had been sober for 5 years started to drink again. My sister helped, the state helped, I was not stigmatized, I had time to get my head together, I had time to start to find out who I really was, out of the shadow of my father, I survived, I flourished. As I write the tears start again for the young people I met this week on the streets who do not have the same opportunity I had, I see them in my minds eye and I am simply distraught at what the future holds if current government plans continue.

Out of the shadows of my childhood, I began to explore my vocation, and pathway into youthwork. Unsurprisingly I left school with no O’levels but at 17 I was accepted to do a further education City and Guilds course in Leisure and Recreation. A course I started late because it took a while to see if I could get a grant and benefit to live and study. I moved onto to do Social Care and an A level, with a student grant and working nights in a printers and the fabulous support of my sisters family who let me live in the caravan in the garden, I began to mature and come to terms with who I was. At 19 I thought I was ready, but quickly realized I needed to go to Uni if I was going to do the youth work stuff properly, and that meant I needed more grant support. At that time automatic vocational grants (the first to go) had been cut and I remember sitting around an appeals table in County Hall in Exeter explaining my case to a panel of 15 adults, and making a simple promise to come back to the county for at least a year once graduated to help other young people.

Two years later, JNC youthwork qualification in hand, I returned to my sisters garden to live in her shed (the caravan was rusted away) and make good the promise I made in County Hall. At 21 I established my first detached youth work project in Devon, I worked part time and received housing benefit that helped make ends meet. I remember the young people I worked with 23 years ago, I remember them coming to the shed (my house) to plan how to establish a youth centre for the area, I recall the youth centre that was built on the basis of these proposals, and I still hear occasional stories from my sister about the work in the town. For those of you who know me, you will be familiar with the rest of my story, my long history with Frontier Youth Trust. My first paid post working and living on a difficult estate in the Midlands as part of YFC,(which incidentally encouraged my dad to shake my hand before I left Devon as he thought I had a proper job!) It was on this estate where I met real need first hand in my neighbors and began to learn what it means to be real community from them. Leaving to work for Worth Unlimited, with a job brief to make it work or close it down, but who now do an amazing job under a great CEO in Tim Evans in so many difficult areas across the country. Then more recently into StreetSpace who now meet over 8000 young people a month on the edge a month. I recall these stories, not to say look at me but to simply ask would the 16 year old me survive today. Asking this simple question causes the tears to return again as I know the answer would be no. Tears of gratefulness to my sister’s family and to the state without who I would not have survived. So the tears of thanks turn to a weeping that flows freely for the 1000s of young people I still hear about as youth worker, who share elements of my story, or far worse circumstances, growing up in a society that has lost its way…

This item was posted by Richard Passmore

posted to Uncategorized @ 7:36 am

October 14, 2014

Walls to dust 5

To call the walls to dust we need to recognise the power issues. As a detached youth worker often when we first meet a group we say something like, “we are around every week but you don’t have to chat to us if you don’t want, you can tell us to get lost if you like” at which point some likely lad usually says ‘fuck off then” and so we immediately turn to leave” 9 times out of 10 they will say “I didn’t mean it mate, come back”

The issues around power are very embedded in our psyche and relate to approaches to truth, need, and value systems, how we semiotic fluid of culture that we all swim in and that we are drenched in a binary either or system, but relationship calls us beyond these dichotomies. So whilst kenosis is a helpful concept it is easier said than done, and that our ability to embrace kenosis is in itself a paradox.

This item was posted by Richard Passmore

posted to Uncategorized @ 5:47 pm

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