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Walking the Way News

NW Youth rYouth work is all about relationships, but how can youth workers maintain those relationships when they can’t meet with young people physically? Leo Roberts, Children’s and Youth Work Development Officer for the URC’s Northwestern Synod, explains how online gathered youth groups have helped him, and the young people he works with, maintain their connections…

It’s important for young people to have the opportunity to talk about how they feel, what they’re experiencing and how they’re coping, especially during the current pandemic. Without being able to see young people physically, this can be done with phone calls, texts and internet messaging (ensuring you comply with Good Practice guidelines, of course!) But it’s also important that they feel connected to each other and the Church, and that they are able to have some fun.

Gathered youth groups are pretty much what they say on the tin. A place, date and time are advertised,  and young people gather together to spend time with whoever shows up. Normally, in Northwestern Synod, we hold a gathered youth group session in a different area (known as a missional partnership) of the synod each month so that young people can have a chance to attend a session without needing to leave their own geographical area.

Read more: Gathered youth groups continue thanks to Zoom

panshanger messy chruch rTwo churches in Thames North Synod have been working hard to keep their work with children alive and active during lockdown, as Panshanger Ecumenical Church and Grange Park URC have each found creative ways of keeping groups together safely.

Panshanger Ecumenical Church has developed a group which have evolved from its Messy Church, both of which feel exciting and challenging, with a real sense of God guiding them as they step out. ‘Mini Ministers’ meets via Zoom, fortnightly. This is group of children who feel they have outgrown Messy Church, but still want to go deeper. Sessions start with a catch up, including what’s been good, what’s not been good, where is it easy to see God at work, and where is it has been harder to recognise God’s presence.

Read more: Children cared for during lockdown in Thames North

letherhead rEarlier this year, whilst youth clubs in Leatherhead, Southern Synod were closed due to Covid, youth work moved online. Video calls and Minecraft became a lifeline, both for groups and one-to-one calls with young people, but some protection from spiders and crocodiles has been necessary. Here are anonymised examples of how this has helped two young people in particular...

Read more: Youth leaders protected from spiders and crocodiles in Leatherhead

dare rFor Darwen Asylum and Refugee Enterprise (DARE) in Blackburn, Christian mission isn’t complicated. All you need is an idea, and the kind of love that may seem small to us, but is, in fact, huge in God’s eyes. They look to scripture for inspiration, reading in John 12:34: “And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

In the face of Covid-19, the project has had to find fresh ways of supporting the community, especially asylum seekers and refugees. Has closing the doors of the building to protect people against the spread of the virus stopped this important work? No!

Read more: Christian mission 'not complicated' says Darwen Asylum and Refugee Enterprise (DARE)

halesworth rRegulars of Messy Church groups across the globe know that sharing food plays an important part in Messy Church sessions. Without the ability to share food in online sessions, would people still come to Halesworth URC’s Messy Church?

Lucy Moore, one of the original founders of Messy Church, describes eating together as “one of the main aspects of Messy Church that gives it identity”.

Food brings people together in a way nothing else does. It's central to all cultures and traditions, especially those expressed the Bible. Jesus feeds a crowd which is following him, when his disciples tell him they're hungry. He informed his disciples of his impending death during a Passover meal and appeared to his disciples, after his resurrection, ready to cook a meal for them.

It's hard for those involved with Messy Church to imagine coming together without sharing food, and so the Messy Church team at Halesworth URC in Eastern Synod was worried, as they moved sessions online, that people wouldn't come along if they couldn't eat together.

Read more: Lack of food doesn’t get Halesworth Messy Church down!

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