North Western Synod – end of season report

May 27, 2014

So another season has come to an end … but how well have the teams in the North Western Synod of the United Reformed Church  fared?

Well, because nobody else is prepared to do the research (or in the least bit bothered) I have prepared this short report.

The Premiership.


We won it. (Well, Manchester City did). The only other Premiership team from the Synod (and they shall deservedly remain nameless) came a miserable 7th and were lucky to get that high.

The Championship.

Burnley_2888330bWe (Burnley) came second and got promoted to the Premiership. Blackburn came 8th, Bolton managed only 14th and were the highest placed team in the division with a negative goal difference. None of our teams got relegated though so all is good.

Division 1. Preston North End came a creditable 5th – but didn’t make the play-off final. Oldham managed 15th place to stay in the division but, sadly, Carlisle finished in the bottom 4 and were relegated. So, next season, they’ll be in ….

Division 2.

rochdaleWe (Rochdale) finished 3rd, and gained automatic promotion. Fleetwood finished 4th and were in the play-offs where they beat Burton Albion  in the final at Wembley to gain promotion to League 1. Bury finished 12th, Accrington Stanley (who are they?)  got as high as 15th and Morecambe stayed in the division by finishing 18th out of 24 teams.

Football Conference. Macclesfield finished  comfortably lower mid-table at 15th but, sadly, Hyde were relegated due to  finishing none from the bottom of the table (24th out of 24 with a goal difference of minus 81)

Nothing much is happening, football-wise, between now and August when the leagues kick off again.

A High Priority?

June 4, 2011

Most churches, when I visit, tell me that youth and children’s work is extremely important, and they would like nothing more than to have loads more children and young people in the church on Sundays and during the week. Youth and Children’s Work is a top priority.

Many Junior Church staff tell me that, having worked voluntarily for many years, they’re ready to take a break but, if they do, the Junior Church will close because there’s no-one to take over from them. And it’s not just Junioor Church staff, it’s Pilots Officers, Uniformed Organisation leaders and voluntary youth leaders, too.

Surely, if work with children and young people is such a high priority, volunteers would be forthcoming to fill the roles vacated by the good and faithful servants as they take a rest? And, if those volunteers are not forthcoming, then maybe the church should re-assess what its priorities really are …

Can we work out where a church’s priorities lie in purely monetary terms?

I received an advert yesterday for a church in Geneva which has 2 posts currently being advertised:

1.  A Youth Minister – 25hours per week, payment CHF 20,000 per annum

2.  A Director of Music -20 hours per week, payment CHF 34,000 per annum

I wonder where THEIR priorities lie?

History: ancient, modern and future

February 21, 2011

I love new technology … but, for the most part, I’m useless with it. By the time I’ve gotten to grips with my new phone, my contract id up for renewal and there are other, shinier models available.

I’m reminded of the bloke that goes into a computer shop and says “I have money to spend on the latest, best computer you have. I don’t want anything obsolete, mind” … to which the salesman replies, “Sir, if it’s in stock, it’s already obsolete.”

I’m not as good at keeping this blog up to date as I ought to be, either!

Recently, I’ve been spending a bit of time looking at the blogs that other people have written and wondering why mine isn’t as professional looking (or even as interesting looking!) as many of them. The blog used for the recent FURY Assembly is a case in point. Clear, easy to navigate … unlike mine which was all just one long post!

Well in the song, Ringo reminds us that we can do with a little help from our friends and, since it was with his encouragement that I set up this blog in the first place, I had a gentle word with my friend and colleague Stewart Cutler (actually, I sent him a message on Twitter – how socially networked am I?)

Stewart being Stewart he responded almost immediately to say he’d be happy to help and so I sent him an email outlining my frustrations to which he replied (again; almost immediately).

Following his advice, I’ve done a bit of a tidy up … yes, I know there’s still things to do (sub-categories and a more aesthetically pleasing scheme spring to mind) but I need to Shype (oh, yes, I’m on a roll!) with Stewart about them and, like all the CYDOs (Children and Youth Work Development Officers) he’s a busy chap.

So, until we can have that chat, I’d be grateful if you could have a quick look around and tell me if you think I’m moving in the right direction

Take it away, Ringo …

Young people, breakfasts and hobos

May 20, 2010

A very early start this morning for a breakfast meeting (along with about 60 others!) with the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police and Andy Hawthorn of the Message Trust in Manchester Town Hall.

There is no doubt that the Message Trust do some fantastic work around Manchester (and they are expanding into other areas of the country) with their Eden Projects, partnerships and buses and their latest project “Shine Your Light” provides a real opportunity for young people to change the way they are perceived by, and in, the local community.

The stories that young people have of how their lives have been changed for the better by engaging with the Message Trust projects in Manchester are inspiring, I just wish that the Message Trust would work more openly with the mainstream denominations. But, a free breakfast is a free breakfast, especially as it turned out to be a full English breakfast – something I usually only get when I’m staying in a hotel!

Walking to the meeting at 07:30 (that’s how committed I am to free food) I passed a number of street sleepers. It had been a warm night in Manchester but I still wouldn’t have wanted to be in that position. I was, perhaps, a little more aware of them than I would normally have been because, when I usually go in to Manchester, it is at a time by which they have normally disappeared off the streets or, at least, are not still asleep in their sleeping bags/cardboard boxes – they are, for the most part, invisible, and, for the last 2 days, I’ve been looking after a homeless young person.

Now, let me tell you straight away that this has been ‘virtually’ looking after a homeless young person. I downloaded an application for my iPod called “iHobo“. It’s an application written by a charity called Depaul UK and your task is to look after a homeless young person for 3 days.

For want of a better analogy, it’s a little like having a virtual pet (remember Tamagochi?) and can be really intrusive at times. It also doesn’t help when your ‘iHobo’ tells you he needs money for a warm drink and then promptly spends it on drugs (I was quite surprised by this aspect as it seems to reinforce the view that all young homeless people are on drugs and I quickly lost sympathy with my hobo as he threw away the food and sleeping bag that I offerred him because he wanted drugs instead)

But it is a reminder that there are young people out on our streets who need looking after by charities like Depaul and Centrepoint … if you have the technology, download iHobo and give it a go. If nothing else, it will make street sleepers more visible to you.

Using t’ interweb..

February 20, 2010

So, here we are in Leeds (Hinsley Hall)  for a weekend of training with Stewart Cutler (the CYDO for the Synod of Scotland)

Stewart is something of a techie and this morning’s session was all about the relevance, or otherwise, of the internet to our roles. Needless to say, every now and again the wireless signal dropped and we lost all connection to the web, most of the time it was a slow connection, but we all got there.

Stewart talked about Tim Davies and his 5 reasons for using the internet to develop your youth work. I failed to take notes, but hopefully Stewart will post something!

For those who are not as technically competent as others the session was quite challenging. but it was clear that the internet (and its social networking applications) can be a useful tool in our support of young people, and those who work with them.

so, a question … what is your favourite resource site for working with young people?

Keeping Young …

February 2, 2010

When I first started working for the United Reformed Church I was told about this event called “FURY Assembly” – a weekend where young people got together and discussed issues and challenges facing them (and the Church). It was, allegedly, a weekend at which young people took the lead and any adults were there purely to support.

The reality turned out to be something quite different. Whilst, for the most part, young people ran the weekend they didn’t do much of the planning or organising; that was all handled by the Youth Office in London. It was a weekend at which, the young people didn’t get much sleep and, as a result, as an adult you didn’t get much sleep either – patrolling corridors, offering support and advice, doing the things that needed doing.

I’ve just come back from FURY Assembly 2010 and have had the opportunity to reflect on the experience of the last few years. How times have changed! FURY Assembly is most definitely planned, organised and run by the young people themselves (a worthy group called the FURY Advisory Board made up, for the most part, of young people elected AT FURY Assembly, do all the hard work of planning the event itself). The event is chaired by the FURY Moderator (young person) and Moderator Elect (young person) with assistance from the aforementioned FAB. There is, of course, still adult involvement (particularly from the denomination’s  Youth Development Officer) but nowadays it tends to be in the form of workshop leaders and special guests. The young people ‘police’ themselves – both nights I was in bed shortly after midnight!

As many of my colleagues attend FURY Assembly as we can. Some have specific roles (AV Maestro, workshop leader, etc.) but most attend because we’re asked to. I think this is as much because there is a certain comfort for the young leadership team in knowing that we are around than for anything else and, as the last 2 Assembles has shown, they really don’t need us all – if any!

So, congratulations yo Josh and his team for this year, and to James and HIS team for the year before … and for everyone who has been involved in the development of FURY Assembly to what we see today.

I’ll be very sad the year I’m told that I’m not required, though. Not because it’s always nice to feel wanted, but because this weekend in January proves to me, time and again, that the future leadership of the United Reformed Church is in good hands. And I’ve been a part of that development. And that makes me proud.

Online learning

June 18, 2009

So, here we are at Offchurch (near Leamington Spa). By ‘We’ I mean my colleagues from around the United Reformed Church who are members of the Youth and Children’s Work team.

We meet three times a year – to look at business, undertake in-service training and try and get creative to produce a resource.

My colleague in the Synod of Scotland ( is leading a session for us on ‘technology for communication’; I’m not sure that’s the title for the session – but it’s what he’s doing. At the moment, we’re looking at Blogging. I already have a blog (inspired by Stewart’s) so I thought I’d just write a few things whilst .

One of the issues we’ve been discussing at the team meeting is ‘e-learning’. Given the geographical breadth of the areas we cover as a team offering folk in local churches the opportunity to learn online – maybe meeting for a day at the beginning and then completing the rest of the course online with us acting as virtual tutors would seem to be a good move.

But is it? are we in danger of making training too sterile? One of the advantages of face to face training is the swapping of ideas and the encouragement of a support network – the gossip factor, if you like. Does e-learning stop this?

do people have experineces of e-learning (positive or negative) that they would be willing to share?

Studying the Bible

March 9, 2009

How do we engage young people with the Bible? Is it important that we do? What is the point?

This weekend I was away with a group of young people from Bolton (and their excellent leadership team) looking in more depth at the Bible (a follow on from last year’s event). It was a great weekend – we had hailstones, horizontal rain, gale force winds and snow – and we were miles from anywhere (well, actually we were about 5 miles from Sedbergh but it FELT miles from anywhere!). Self catered, and in a converted barn with dormitory accommodation (and 4 leader’s rooms) the Tarn Centre is a terrific venue and lends itself well to this sort of programme with this sort of group. But it was interesting to see how the various age groups responded to the various methodologies. The group ran in ages from 11 through to 20 and planning the programme was a little like organising the world’s longest all-age service – with the same concerns about compromises and content! Do I aim for the lowest common denominator,; knowing that this would mean that the older ones got really bored? How about only using material (Bible stories) that I was fairly sure they would all know (and the massive assumptions that THAT makes)? In the end, I offered a pick and mix approach that , hopefully, allowed everyone to engage at some level with the activities. I can’t pretend that it worked perfectly, but no-one rebelled (they’re far too well mannered for that) and they all engaged in everything. So, was it a successful weekend? Well, in some ways yes (for the reasons above) but it left me feeling as though I hadn’t quite got it right. In the evaluations at the end it was clear that the younger ones had enjoyed the ‘getting crafty’ bits whilst the older ones had found the ‘research and review’ aspects more satisfying.

What was most gratifying about the weekend was that the group had chosen the Bible as the theme for their weekend in the first place! There is sometimes a feeling that young people aren’t interested in the Bible, that they consider it meaningless, irrelevant and a waste of space. In my experience, this is just untrue. They know that it is an important book for them and they want to know more. When they are provided with the opportunity to engage with the material in a way that is relevant to them and is sensitive to their abilities they not only get a lot from that involvement, but so does the person leading them. In fact, it would be truer to say that I was not leading them in Bible study – I was a fellow explorer.

The Bible and Young People

March 5, 2009

This weekend I’m working with a group of young people from Longsight in Bolton. It’s a residential weekend up in the Lake District at the Tarn Centre ( The venue is really good – earthy and well appointed – if a bit basic but we’ve been there for the last 2 years and didn’t see a reason to change. This year is a follow-on from the 2008 residential which looked at the Bible. I’m lucky that the URC has produced the Vision4Life materials ( many of which I’ll be using. I was quite pleased that, after last year, the group wanted to look more deeply at some of the Bible stuff – last year was a bit of a rampage through the whole book, just helping them to find their way around it, really. This year we’re going to be looking more in depth at some specific issues and trying to link them back to their own lives/churches today.

I have seen a real interest in the Bible by young people – they are always amazed at how much there is in it – and how relevant it can be if they just look behind the historical headlines. Obviously, there needs to be sensitivity in the way we deal with the subject – we have people who think (some even believe) that the Bible is a literal account of everything – and some who think it was all just made up to subdue people to the will of The Church. I guess the truth is somewhere in between that …

Leading School Assemblies

March 2, 2009

I’m leading the second session of this course tonight in Bolton. I wonder how effective school assemblies are? So many last for just a few minutes (one of the participants tells me that they get “12 minutes and not a second more!” Are school assemblies really about passing on a message or are they just one paving stone in the road to creating a community which includes school, faith centres, secular organisations and the like?