Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Discipline

Sometimes the small actions we choose to do, when we don't want to do them, begin to change our heart and refine our lives. That is the essence of some of the message I proclaimed to around 30 11-14 years olds over the last two weekends. At the moment, I tend to feel uneasy about sharing advice or testimony as I feel that my life doesn't necessarily live up to it. There is a basic format in sharing our faith journey - I was...then ...(this happened)...so now I..... But my thoughts tend to be stuck in some ways at stage one, but I've come to realize that we are not perfect yet and we still are on a journey of faith. The fact that I know I have more to go is a work of God in of itself. Despite having previously accomplished some degree of self-mastery in one area but now I don't feel that is the case, is surely a cause of hope to those going through the same situation themselves and is a testament to the human experience.

I do feel undisciplined at the moment. I often oversleep, or change the hour I appoint to arise based on my feelings in the morning. Though there is nothing wrong with sleeping in, there is a certain degree of good that comes from being able to decide to act as planned - a small step of freedom. I feel undisciplined in keeping my room tidy or looking to the future or maintaining this blog. And I know those things are important, and I am happy to have a updated blog or a tidy room or a plan, but I lack the motivation to get on with it!

In terms of those two weekends, I was once again inspired by the young people. Much like Celebrate these were joyful and enthusiastic individuals, but with a genuine openness, What do I mean by genuine? In schools, sometimes when we ask students what they enjoyed or about their experiences and I get the sense that they tell us what we want to hear. They might say it felt very peaceful or spiritual, or even that they know God better. But there is a unnaturalness about this - many are truly touched - perhaps this is that they lack the experience to articulate precisely in their own manner, or maybe they have a deep desire to make progress on the journey of faith and so, for instance, know that their aim is to know the Father's love and therefore the danger exists that they 'tick that off the list' before God fully reveals this to him.

The weekends are known as D (for discipleship) Weekends, and there is one for the north and one for the south. They ideally serve as a follow up to recent missions in schools to help young people stay passionate about their faith and to support them; however there is a trend that a large proportion of the young people come to these events simply as another Christian youth event so many of the people we meet have gone to celebrate. This is good, in that it provides a mixed group and those more 'advanced' on the journey of faith help to encourage those less familiar. For instance, if we are singing praises together those from Celebrate will have experienced this more so are likely to be more confident and this means those who have not encountered this form of prayer can enter into it quicker. The community has sort to encourage more mission follow-up through offering 10 reduced-price tickets to each school for our main summer camp, Festival Sanctus (See: www.sionyouth.org.uk/festivalsanctus.html ).

I had the privilege to be a small group leader for the 3 boys during D-North and we had a great time together, I think/hope. On the first day, we had time together to play games and such so after playing a game of tig and then stuck in the mud, we sang a story each making up a line at a time. This activity proved useful on Saturday night, as we created a 2 minute dramatization of a story found in the Acts of the Apostles. My group choose the shipwreck on Malta (I must confess I did not know the story so took some time to find the text to have full context for drama) in honour of one of the other males leaders, Nathan, who is 1/4 Maltese. After each group had presented, we then watched them again with a twist for each group - one did it ninja style, another  in reverse and finally my group did it opera style. This was most amusing to watch, especially one moment when the person playing St. Paul prays over a sick man and he jumped up...well tried to but found that he had lied down with his head beneath a table...'I'm healed! ouch!'. I really enjoyed the time we had together as a group and even though the age range was very spread out they seemed to bond really well.

My key inputs came in the form of leading night prayer on Friday, and giving the final talk on the Sunday. Night prayer I encountered the struggle to share my faith journey relating to prayer, knowing my inconsistency in prayer at the moment; while the final talk lead me to call for them to live out their Christian identities when I am aware of so many areas in which I slack. To counter this, I decided just before leading night prayer to speak about my current struggles and experiences of prayer before sharing about an occasion in which I felt very powerfully God at work in a simple recitation of the Lord's Prayer. We then reflected on St Luke's account of Jesus teaching us that prayer before singing the Nunc Dimmitus. The final talk was an encouragement to continue the joy of the weekend through 4 tools of Prayer, Sacraments (Confession and Eucharist), Fellowship and Service.

I never know how to write this blog. I want to communicate what we do here by giving you examples of content. I also want to share a little about my own feelings and experiences. I also want to interest you as a reader, because good writing should do that and I know I'm fully capable of writing skillfully - if only I would make a little more effort. I could go into great details, or give lengthy reflections on the greater significance of our work, but I shall resist in favour of simplicity. Let me just say that there are signs of hope in our Church today, but more importantly I am seeing that we have incredible structures in place already. Structures God can use to bring radical conversion. We are starting to get courageous men entering the episcopate, we have many orthodox AND spirit-filled young people emerging and young people have a deep sense of unease about the mainstream worldview.  Alongside this, as a Church we have a network of parishes in communion with each other, commissioned for the purpose of proclaiming the Good News. We have programs of catechisis (Anchor, Evangelium, CaFE, Didiache series, etc.)  to take people on the journey of faith to such a deep level. We have programs for different stages in life (marriage prep, pre-baptism catechisis, sacramental preparation for young people). Organisations like Sion are raring to go with expansion, ensuring that we can support young people after mission through events and mentoring schemes before calling them to serve with us in various ways. Structures exist to allow ecumenical work to go on, to allow people to enter into the faith, to find fellowship, to find spiritual direction. There is so much here, and faith is sometimes hidden. I found myself rambling, for I know I cannot fully see the hope I sense, and want to try and let you see the veiled beauty here with us. I want to go on, and talk about the hidden faith idea more, but I shall resist and end simply with an extract from a poem found in the Divine Office by Henry Vaugham called The Morning Watch.

When I lie down. That pious soul by night.
Is like a clouded star, whose beams, though said
To shed their light
Under some cloud,
Yet are above,
And shine and move
Beyond that midsty shroud.
So in my bed,
That curtained grave, though sleep, like ashes hide
My lamp, and life, both shall in thee abide.

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