Sunday, August 21, 2005

50 + years on

I have come to the formal end of a ministry of over 50 years among young people with my resignation from the Air Training Corps well in hand, and all the papers handed over to my nominated successor. I had served the Corps for some sixteen years or so in all. The new chaplain is taking post, and once all the necessary clearances have been undergone, will be in full spate, we hope, later in the year.

The feeling is strange. Most of the ministry I enjoyed thoroughly. It started helping with the Band of Hope attached to Doncaster Parish Church in the early 1950s. The Vicar described this as the only organisation at the church which served those who lived in the parish as against those who merely came to the church for worship and fellowship.

Much of that time I was also an organist and choirmaster. These activities were to resurface throughout my ministry both as a layman and when ordained. A feature of this work is that it entails work among all ages, including children and young people as well as adults of every age. The Royal School of Church Music used to call church choirs "the oldest youth movement in the world." I have one or two recordings to remind me of those days and the smooth silvery sound that some of our choirs made.

That is all in the past as I am reminded at this time of year when my young friends go off to various events, often under canvas, to study the faith and to enjoy each other's supportive company.

In Cologne today the Pope himself is presiding over one such event. He looks to the future as I did so often with the young people over those many years. I hope, too, that the young people challenge him. Work with this age group always seems challenging to me. Adolescence and early adulthood is a time of awakening awareness of the possibilities in life. Those who work with this age group will be confronted with their short-comings; that's for sure! I guess that is why so many good church people avoid it. The view-point of this age group is better-informed these days because of the Internet, or so it seems.

Let's hope Benedict listens. Those young people whom I know to have been under his wing tell me that he is a very good and perceptive listener! A good day, I hope, and one which will produce much fruit in the future, as do so many other of these summer camps and festivals for young people!