Day 1 – afternoon and evening

September 3, 2010

Having walked the Mount of Olives this morning, we left the hotel mid-afternoon to visit the Garden Tomb near the Damascus Gate. It is a peaceful contemplative place – particularly as we had reached the Damascus Gate just afternoon prayers finished – it was a bit of a scrum and the tranquility and space afforded us in the Garden Tomb enclosure was very welcome!

We continued up Nablus Road Street (sic) and spent some time playing “hunt the URC kneeled” in St George’s Cathedral before walking back up to our hotel. On the way back we were stopped by a couple of young western women who told us that they were “looking for a demonstration” did we know where one was? The last Friday of Ramadan and the start of Shabbat meant that the Old City was pretty much wall to wall demonstration (which is why we avoided it today) but we pointed them in the right direction and wished them the best!

My good friend Miral was waiting for us when we got back. She has been to all of the Youth4Hope training camps and had agreed to come and meet with our young people to share a bit about herself. Unfortunately this included revealing that her favourite band is Westlife! It was lovely to see her again.

After tea, Khalil Abdinnour came to speak to us about Jerusalem Ark and, in particular, the kids and youth programmes they run. I was delighted that they were able to spend time with us.

Tomorrow is an early start for some – I’m taking anyone who wants to go down to the Holy Sepulchre at 06:30 – before it gets too crowded. A few have said that they want to come – we’ll see 🙂

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FURY visit to the Holy Land

September 3, 2010

Apart from my work with the Jerusalem Arc organisation, the other joy I am lucky enough to experience in the Holy Land is bringing young people to visit the places if which they have heard in the Bible.

This visit was originally intended to follow the chronological life of Jesus – start in Bethlehem, go to Galilee and end in Jerusalem but the hotels weren’t able to accommodate us in that order so we’re doing it in reverse 🙂

This morning, we got a lift from our minibus to the Church of the Pater Noster and then walked down to Gethsemane via Dominus Flevit.

A stop at the Cave of the Olive Press and the orthodox Tomb if the Virgin Mary before skirting the walls of the Old City (dodging the stone throwing child – or trying to!) up to the Dung Gate where we found time to visit the Western Wall – once we’d got through security!

Lunch was in the Jewish Quarter before walking back to our hotel through the Armenian Quarter.

It was good to be able to do the ‘Tour Guide’ stuff again – probably bores the young people rigid, mind you!

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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.