Fifty schools workers from around East Anglia gathered on Friday in Stowmarket for the first of what may well turn out to be a termly day of networking, inspiration and encouragement.
The day was a co-creation of Gill Marchant from SU, Bob Molton and the team from CYM in Ipswich and Amy and me from CYO. Our aim was to create a day that gave people a chance not only to meet each other socially, but also to learn from one another without making it feel too much like a conference – a delicate balancing act. We kicked off with with some devotional thoughts about being learners from Bob and I led a reflective worship time around the theme of ‘limits’ and about being real about how God has made us and what he’s called us to be.
Three sessions through the day provided some basic input coupled with lots of opportunity for discussion.
Steve Whyatt of Genr8 opened up a valuable discussion about Chaplaincy in schools based on his research and experience in Australia and now with SU’s pilot Chaplaincy project. Among us were those who had been working in a chaplaincy role for a number of years (including us in Colchester), some who were in a kind of transition phase and others who had exactly this kind of opportunity opening up and wanted to find out more about what it could look like.
Amy spoke about teenage girls and self-esteem based on ‘Beloved’, a project she runs in Colchester schools. This wasn’t about how to run a ‘Beloved’ project, but more about how we live out and support positive self esteem among young people in schools. Again there was much valuable discussion drawing on the experience of many in the room. We all identified the need for a similar project for boys and one of the positive outcomes of the day was that three of us plan to meet to begin thinking of ways we could develop this.
Finally Simon Barker of SU spoke about resources for running a sports themed day in primary schools linking with More than Gold, the project to help churches link with the Olympic Games this year.
As with all good gatherings of schools workers there was a plentiful supply of tea and coffee as well as a most excellent lunch. There were also resources and info from a range of schools work ministries. Did the day work? Well, I chatted to quite a few people who said they wished they could get to meet up with others more often, so that’s promising. There are so many people doing such excellent and often pioneering schools work in this region that I’m convinced there’s loads we can learn from one another. So I hope we can do this again.