A joint day out (finally!) for Kensington Area youth
Rachel Burnell from St John’s with St Mary’s Isleworth shares some highlights from the first Kensington Area Youth away day since the pandemic.
Last weekend, 70 excited young people, with their 17 leaders from 12 churches, descended upon Oakwood Climbing Centre in Bracknell. After months of social isolation due to the pandemic, we were able to once again gather the Kensington Area youth, so that they could take part in a day of adventurous activities and enjoy some collective worship.
Even the weather obeyed the word…
The weather forecast looked bleak, and it was a bit of a calculated risk in holding almost everything outside, but the elements were a small price to pay for the enormous reward the day ended up being. In fact, the blustery conditions tied in perfectly with the theme of the Archdeacon’s talk around “Jesus being in the storm with us”. Up on the high ropes, I marvelled at the tenacity of the young people who seemed oblivious to the all the swaying as they valiantly completed the course, abseiling down the climbing wall at the end. The archery was a hit with my own foster son who struck a gold on his first try!
“I loved the team building activity of the low ropes where we all had to get across. We couldn’t touch the floor, so it was a lot of fun and it made us make new friends.”
New challenges, new friends
Throughout the day the young people completed 4 different sessions led by Oakwood instructors within their groups of 12, as well as an escape room created by youth leader Jacob. The most impressive observation was the way that the young people worked with each other on completing challenges with such fantastic teamwork that you would think they did this every day. In my group we had 5 young people from our church and 6 from another local church, yet by the end it was as if they had known each other for years. They supported each other brilliantly on the low ropes and showed such determination (or competitiveness) in the crate stacking that they came first for the highest stack of crates, managing a staggering 14 crates high! A couple of our youth leaders were even brave enough to go up themselves and show their own courage.
One of our young people Gloria, said, “I loved the team building activity of the low ropes where we all had to get across. We couldn’t touch the floor, so it was a lot of fun and it made us make new friends.”
Another young person said, “My favourite bit was the breaktimes because they had a really nice field and facilities to run around, play tag and kick or throw a ball in.”
Towards the end of the day, there was an excellent talk by Richard Frank where he gave examples of times in the past year when we might not have realised that Jesus was in the boat with us, when feeling alone or scared, as well as then looking at the message behind the feeding of the five thousand. The take-home point was that God can use whatever little we have to give and multiply it. A couple of other church leaders then gave powerful testimonies of their own about God’s faithfulness in difficult times. Then the young people were invited to write post-it note prayers and place them in an inflatable dinghy, as a way of reflecting on Jesus being there with them in the storms of life.
Renewed joy, starting with BBQs…
Finally, the day concluded with a yummy barbeque and free time, where many of the young people then chose to swap phone numbers so they could stay in touch with one another. It felt like there was a sense of koinonia created by the day’s events and as lockdown eases it will be wonderful to maintain these relationships between the churches because it was such a joy to see the young people work together and enjoy something new. It also felt like a perfect start to Mental Health Awareness Week, as they could actively connect with nature and each other after so many months apart. Joanna Jones, the Bishop’s chaplain, did an amazing job of organising everything so the day ran smoothly. Hopefully next year, we can make it a whole weekend away again as the day was a huge success and many of the young people said they would definitely go back again.
If your church would like to know about future events for youth in the Kensington Area, email Jo Jones at Joanna.Jones@nulllondon.anglican.org