- and that’s ‘culture’ as in petri dish – growing things – not ‘Culture’ as in NDUBZ or Plan B (am I ‘on trend’ there? Oh, sod it, who cares?)
I mis-spent a fair slice of my middle years helping with, and eventually running, our Church’s junior youth group. Every Wednesday evening, including school holidays so that the poor dears wouldn’t be bored, 7 – 9 pm, age 9 to 13, but if they wanted to stay past 13 that was OK too.
As if I didn’t have enough to do with a full-time job, a house full of kids and a weekly food bill to rival the National Debt. (who said “always ask a busy person…”? Shoot him!) I was caught off-guard by our very sweet, young curate (beware sweet young curates) and his partner-in-crime who were re-starting the youth club and really wanted, no, needed, a female of parent age to support them. Look around the congregation for potential candidates…. that’ll be me then. To be fair, they both became life-long friends so, with hindsight, it wasn’t an entirely stupid thing to do.
And, to be even fairer, we did share a vision. We all accepted the futility of trying to get teenagers into church on a regular basis. They have far more important things to do on Sunday mornings like sleep, eat and talk to their mates. But, we thought, if only we can get them at least to be familiar with the place and the stories, then there will be fewer barriers to their return, should they want to come back later. That was 27 years ago.
Our group was roughly equally divided between the children of ‘church’ families and those from families who did not regularly cross our threshold. (Let’s not call them ‘unchurched’. That’s another post for another day when I need a rant.) We used to treat them to a few minutes’ ‘teaching’ and then let them loose on the snooker table and tuck shop. One dad once told me that, although he didn’t go along with all that religious stuff himself, he could see that it kept the riff-raff out. That’s OK then.
I came across some photos the other day, which prompted me to do a ‘where-are-they-now’ exercise with interesting results. No less than three of them are police officers (how did that happen?), one is a nurse, one a midwife. One is a professional singer, one has created a big (really big) family. One got a degree in Geography and went off to teach in New Zealand. One late arrival eventually became a Roman Catholic and is now a monk. One is a priest in the Church of England (nothing to do with me – God did that all on his own!)
Those from the ‘church’ families still pitch up at the old place now and then; some have children in today’s choir, most drop in when they are visiting the wrinklies at Christmas. But we can announce a significant achievement and for this I claim my Indulgence please. Thank you. (That was such a good fund-raising idea until that German bloke messed it up.) One quiet little thing came from a family that never ever crossed our threshold. They didn’t even pick her up from club; she just came and went with her mates. Miracle of miracles, she reappeared last year – in her 30’s now - with a couple of littlies of her own. They go to Sunday School, she comes to Church and sometimes helps with the Sunday School herself.
You see, the strategy works – we did it, we got one!