We had a family for dinner tonight (not literally - that would be cannibalism which is illegal) but we had a couple and their four children round to eat a Chinese (meal, not person as that also would be illegal). As they have three boys and a girl to our three girls and a boy - the ages aren't quite right but not to worry - I've cooked up the idea that fifteen years from now or so they can all marry each other at a joint quadruple wedding. This will save lots of money. Also, it would be unusual enough to merit press attention, so we could sell the story for enough to pay for the wedding. Sorted.
Meanwhile back in 2008, the dad in this family works full time for Scripture Union Scotland. This is an organisation for which I have a huge respect, and for which I hope for lots more support in terms of volunteered time as well as gifted money in years to come.
Although I grew up in a Christian home, for which I am immensely and permanently extremely thankful, God has no grandchildren and Scripture Union had a huge part to play in my moving from a kind of inherited faith to a personal one that was real for me too. At thirteen I went to a Scripture Union camp in St Andrews and I reckon that as the time when my faith made the transition from what I'd grown up with but didn't really understand or think about much, to something very very real and personal. I understood about the cross for the first time that week and my life has never been the same since. My "testimony" is kind of boring - people love to hear the dramatic story and mine just isn't, so I don't get asked to tell it, but I fiercely insist that God is worthy of just as much praise and glory for bringing me, in spite of my folly and failings and foolishness, through 29 years of this faith journey, rescuing me from many a blind alley and wrong path and putting me back on the right road.
Being a Christian at school these days isn't easy but it wasn't much easier in the late seventies/early eighties either because the fact is that adolescence is tricky!
Although I had church on a Sunday, it wasn't overrun with young people, and it was Scripture Union which was church for me then. We had a lunchtime meeting at school once a week, we had camps. I went to four altogether while at secondary school. The week-long one at St Andrews already mentioned. A sailing one at Kinlochard, also a week long - it was a flat calm all week so not much sailing happened - and two weekends at Linlithgow. I also went to a monthly Saturday night youth event in Glasgow, called Interalia. I lived for those nights. We were very unsophisticated in those days and had never heard of multimedia, but bands performed, there was drama, speakers, singing and a tuck shop. What was great about them for me as a teenager (oh, it's SOOOOO long ago...) was that for a couple of hours at that event I didn't feel like such an oddity as I did in my class at school.
Isn't that partly what Church does for us? We go, those of us who do, for all kinds of reasons, but one reason I reckon is that it simply reminds us that there are others of us nutters out there. In our everyday lives we may be in a small minority as believers in our workplace and/or families, perhaps even a minority of one, but when we go to church there are a host of others singing from the same hymn sheet - literally. And that's an encouragement, isn't it? And the odd time when we get to attend a really big praise event, like Prom Praise or Frenzy or whatever, it is such a blessing to look round and see there are lots of other weirdos like us...
Interalia and Scripture Union did that for me, and SU has helped countless other kids. Before I started my current job, when I was a lady of leisure, I helped in a Scripture Union group in a primary school in my parish. Kids' and youth work isn't my thing really - I'm a bit rubbish at it (give me a bunch of bad boys in jail any day) - but I realised the one leader at the time needed support and I was glad to do it. It's really cutting edge stuff, SU work. It's front line. It's not hit and run evangelism (which I don't like). It's relational. It's about loving the kids. In this day and age they know next to nothing about the Christian faith, so there's not much chance more will happen than that seeds will be sown, but that's no small thing. Seed sowing in agriculture is a pretty important task.
Where is this post going? Who knows? I'm tired. It's ten past midnight. I just know I want to record three cheers for Scripture Union, and to acknowledge that, humanly speaking, I can't see that I'd still be going on in my faith, weak and all over the place though I undoubtedly often am, were it not for the wonderful job SU did in my teenage years. Our kids are now beginning to go to SU camp too, and I hope it will be of just as much help to them. Blue eyed boy tells me he's the only kid in his class who goes to church and that sometimes he gets "slagged off" about it. It's hard for a child not to care what folk think. (Wait till you get in your forties my boy - it's most liberating!) So I'm thankful for the big gang of boys his age that come each week to our church (and the girls my daughters' ages) and I pray he'll get the sense from church and SU camps that he's not a freak, but part of a big worldwide family which includes boys his age too...
For anyone who's interested, but who can't be bothered clicking the SU Scotland link above, here's a brief history of the organisation, cut and pasted from their website:
"Scripture Union Scotland is part of a world-wide movement that traces it's origins back to 1868. Then, a gentleman called Josiah Spiers gathered children together on the beach at Llandudno, Wales, to tell them stories about Jesus. He started something which now operates in 130 countries.
Across the globe these Scripture Union movements are linked by their desire to reach children and young people where they are with the good news about Jesus Christ. Josiah Spiers began that mission by helping children to trace out and decorate Bible verses in the sand. Still today, the commitment is to encourage people of all ages to read and engage with the Bible which is described in SU's Basis of Faith as being both authoritative and trustworthy.
In Scotland, Scripture Union formally came into existence in 1902. Holiday Beach Missions formed the core of the work at the start but that soon developed into a camps programme and later, work in schools. These things always sat alongside the production and distribution of Bible reading plans and notes. SU Scotland become an autonomous movement in 1972.Across its history and around the globe, SU’s work has been and remains largely dependent on volunteers. In Scotland each year more than 2000 people of all ages and backgrounds form the core workforce for the ministry.Today SU Scotland has groups in around 10% of Scottish schools and some 4,500 children and young people are involved each year in residential events. The aim is to see the scope of this work expand so that more of the 750,000 plus children and young people in Scotland have the opportunity to explore and respond to the significance of Jesus Christ for their lives.SU Scotland has always sought to work with the church. The aim is to see children and young people giving a life-time of service to Jesus Christ within a local church context."
PS The Chinese meal was delicious and the kids had a whale of a time of course including (mildly) untidying the house we had just tidied, and enjoying each other's company. No marriage proposals were overheard though.
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