the snowdon challenge

31 08 2016

You cannot understand the world without understanding religion. Ok, perhaps some would dispute that. But? Think about it. Probably 90% of the world adhere to some form of religious belief. We in secular Europe like to deny that; we may think the beliefs are wrong; yet, there it is.

Young people are growing up in a world that misunderstands religion. Seen through cynical media eyes it is newsworthy only at times of abject failure, or accidental comedy, or when the Queen does something dressy.

Yet religion changes the way people behave arguably more than most other factors. Yes that can be negative – extremist fundamentalism – and also positive – food banks, youth clubs, debt counselling, schools, hospitals…

Despite being the fastest growing A-Level option, and the one subject that tackles the big questions of life from primary right through secondary, many RE teachers are non-specialist. Many know their stuff, but many, especially in Primary school, have no background in RE at all.

This is why I support Sutton Schoolswork, even enough to run 22 miles over Snowdon! Yes, you may argue I have a vested interest in promoting the good understanding of religion. Yes, I do, as I do in the good understanding of sport and geography and maths. Even maths.

2016 Snowdon Challenge.002

Sutton Schoolswork work in schools, by invitation, to support teachers in the delivery of the RE syllabus; to give assemblies on topics ranging from Christian festivals to anti-bullying; to run i-Wonder Days for primary schools and RE 6th Form Conferences on Human Trafficking; they support teachers and pupils, and work with local volunteers to run lunch-clubs and after-school clubs. They do this across 45 primary schools and 11 secondary schools with just 2 schools workers, a recently-created post of Director, and p/t admin support, alongside local volunteers.

The critics in my head say there are better places for money to go, better charities to support. Yes, there are many good ones. Yet helping children and young people to understand the world they live in is a vastly underestimated value. Thinking deeply, discussing gracefully, learning from a conversation not a textbook… all these contribute to a world in which we don’t just shout statements at each other from entrenched and unknowing prejudice, but we seek to understand each other, to work together.

2016 Snowdon Challenge.001

So on Saturday 3rd September I am taking part in Man V Mountain, to raise money for Sutton Schoolswork. As a Trustee-Director and a local vicar who works in both primary and secondary schools, I think this is a great cause, and if you are able to join in supporting it, then please follow this link above to do so.

Thank you.

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blindspots and horizons

21 09 2015

One of my roles is a Trustee/Director of Sutton Schoolswork, our excellent local Christian schoolswork organisation. This is a spoken word vision of the future I wrote for and delivered at our annual Thanksgiving Service, for which I thought I’d get thrown out, but instead have been asked for copies. Who knew. Maybe it wasn’t provocative enough after all.


blindspots and horizons

we the church suffer from an honesty crisis
and I guess it shouldn’t surprise us
when you think about the average ages
in our congregations
which isn’t something to beat ourselves up about
except to say that if we put as much effort into schoolswork
as we do coffee mornings and playgroups
there’d be more schoolswork

we the church suffer from an honesty crisis
and actually it should surprise us
when you think about all the time spent
in our buildings
compared with time spent at work and in school
by me or you
that we focus so much on what happens in church
when most of us are mostly everywhere else

it’s a blindspot
a dark patch
the part we can’t see
when we plan all our outreach
and where to plant seeds
we think we’ve got kids sorted
because of kids church and the youth group…
yes youth work is exciting because the kids come to us
and they’re ours, our little flowers
it’s not that we’re selfish it’s just
that they’re important
an investment
the future of us
well – the present don’t forget
to be theologically correct
so yes big shout out to kids workers and youth workers
and to old sofas and hoodies

but let’s lift our eyes from the blindspot of inside
to the horizon that is outside
because I’ve seen the future and it’s much more exciting
let the workers out into schools it’s not that frightening

on the horizon I can see churches passionate for schools
so they’re equipping their youthworkers with all the tools
needed for assemblies about Jesus and forgiveness and hope
and lessons about Easter and resurrection and more hope

in the future we all know what prayer spaces are
And RE days and CUs and recognise the far far
reaching nature of teaching about Jesus
from someone who believes it

in the future the PCCs and deacons meetings and leadership teams
are sharing in the excitement of realising the dream
and releasing the potential we like to keep neat and tidy and clean, inside,
for our kids

in the future the numbers become even more astounding
than the fact that we reach nearly all the 35,000
children and young people in the borough of Sutton
which kind of puts into perspective how many people we’re normally preaching too,
doesn’t it

there’s all these kids sitting ready to listen in classes
meanwhile we spend all our time sitting on our…. vases
as most churches spend more on flowers than they do to schools work

now I will confess to you I’ve got a vested interest in sutton schoolswork
and it’s not because i’m a director
it’s not because i’m a dad
it’s not because I do schoolswork and would be glad
of some help
I’ve got a vested interest because I follow jesus
and I know how little kids know about Jesus
or the world beyond their own noses

I see the future when we’ve raised our eyes from the blindspot
to the horizon
when every school and every child hears the message of Jesus
form someone who truly believes it
where we can do more than skim the surface
with a fleeting assembly
but go deeper, and further – that’s the future:
can you see it? will you make it happen?
Will you walk with us from the blindspot
to the horizon?


Photo courtesy of @WarnerPidgeon


Sutton Schoolswork are in our 20th year, and are celebrating this with an exciting plan for growth, which includes the appointment of a brand-new post of Schoolswork Director. See the website for more details, and to find out how you could get involved in supporting us as we aim to increase the knowledge and understanding of the Christian Faith and support students in their spiritual, social and moral development.





top corner second lap

31 08 2014

Top corner second lap. Even the words make me shudder. Or at least, they used to. I regularly do the 5k Banstead Parkrun which is 2 lopsided laps through the woods. And the top corner second lap, about 3/4 of the way around – I used to hate it. It’s just after a long hill, with a steep start. Physically the legs and heart are struggling – but more than that, for me it was psychological. At that point, the self-doubt creeps. The negative voices in my head telling me give up, stop; you’re no good anyway, you’re a rubbish runner, just walk, go home. Did I tell you you’re also a rubbish vicar? And don’t get me started on how you’ll cope with that adoption idea…

But part of maturing is knowing that when things are tough you don’t just give up. And part of being a Christian who writes is knowing that running metaphors are very biblical, so no-one can tell you to stop going on about it. Pushing on through the self-doubt, chronic though it is sometimes, is essential to living fully. When you believe in something, you are prepared to suffer for it. Life as a follower of Jesus is like a long-distance race, just as Paul said it was. Moments of self-doubt, moments of cruising; moments of pain, moments of feeling unbeatable; moments of loneliness, and moments of needing to run together. As the African proverb says, if you want to quickly, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. 

 

Why don’t I fear the top corner second lap anymore? Because I’ve taken on a challenge to run Man vs Mountain, 20 miles over Snowdon, which is further and harder than I’ve ever run before. For this south Londoner, Snowdon is about as similar as Saruman to Neville Longbottom. Why? Because I love a challenge. Yes. But also because I am raising money for Sutton Schoolswork, our local Christian schoolswork charity. So I have been training. Hard. I have run more, and further; I have sought out hills; and my time at the Banstead parkrun has come toppling, culminating in three PBs in a row (17.34), taking a minute off my time in 3 months, and winning it this week (yay to me!). 18 miles over Box Hill no longer scares me. 20 miles over Snowdon? Ok, yes that does. 

Funny how putting the work in gets results though. I firmly believe in Christian schoolswork. It is not about covert evangelism; it is not some sinister underground movement. But it is about putting the Christian faith on the radar for our children and young people, a faith as real and lived, not as taught in books by people who usually just don’t get it. How can you understand the world without understanding faith in God, even if you don’t believe it yourself? We have a lot to say about the things that young people need to hear; and we have ears to listen to what they have to say. We teach on lifestyle and ethics and history and knowing yourself; we open people’s eyes to justice issues like human trafficking and bullying. And we are invited by pretty much all the schools in Sutton, because they trust us: 45 primaries, 11 Secondaries, 35,000 kids. And currently just 2 schoolsworkers. 

If you want to sponsor me and support Sutton Schoolswork, then click here to donate by text, or send a cheque; you can also pray for me on Saturday 6th September, beginning at 8am! And more than that, pray for your local schools. Get involved. Support your local schools workers. Thank you. IMG_3432

 

 





a prayer for rebellion against us

9 08 2014

What’s your 20 year prayer? Because when we pray for young people, that’s what we’re praying. What do you wish people had prayed for you when you were 5? 10? 15? At our annual vision day for Sutton Schoolswork, we were invited to look ahead and pray for the future, and see where God led our thoughts. My prayers got quite big.  And even have a theme song.

My prayer is that this generation of young people will rebel against mine. That they will see our lazy, vacuous and self-interested society for what it is and they will rise up against it. I pray that they will be so filled with the Spirit they will not be able to control themselves from standing up against the lies we have peddled. And yes, we have peddled them, if only by our inaction. 

Where are you values? they will ask. You think that because you have abandoned religion your values are neutral and therefore better everyone else’s. But they come from inside yourself, where there is a greed and insecurity and the human tendency to self-preservation at all costs, and you wonder why your world has gone to hell.

You’ve sold us a lie that my self worth comes from my stuff. That my achievements are worth more than your love. That humans beings are consumers, not communities. That if we turn a blind eye to suffering it does not exist. That laziness leads to poverty and hard work to accumulation of trinkets and shiny stuff.

In a world more connected than ever you have cut yourselves off from any sense of duty, sacrifice and self-giving. You lie to protect your own interests and you do not hold each other to account. You have not shown us love.  

We refuse to follow you.

And when they say this, I pray that we, us, me – that we will not spend all our time defending the castles we have built for the sake of our pride or fear of change, but that we will allow them to challenge us, to change us; that we will see the world with the fresh and radical eyes of youth, and in doing so may be able to offer something to their struggle to recover our world from us. 

This is why young people are important. They will be in charge of everything in 20 years. They are the present and they are the future. Pray for them. And begin to prepare to let go of your castles and trinkets. Invite God to set a fire down in your soul that you can’t contain and can’t control. Do that, and everything becomes that much more scary exciting. And maybe more godly.  

On 6th September I will be running the Man vs Mountain race to raise money for Sutton Schoolswork. This is a gruelling 20 mile race over Snowdon, including abseiling and water obstacles just for extra fun. If you are willing and able to give, please do so through the website. Thank you. 





an ice cube to your soul

1 07 2014

holding an ice cube to our souls
feeling our souls go numb
enjoying the feeling that we no longer need to care
let alone to act

holding an ice cube to our souls
feeling our souls go numb
as our sense of collective responsibility for someone
other than ourselves 
diminishes
fades
disappears

holding an ice cube to our souls
feeling our souls go numb
being concerned only with our appearance
our endless
restless
peaceless
selfie-obsessed world of trivia and micro-dramas 
in which nothing is importance unless
we are at the centre of it

holding an ice cube to our souls for long enough
beginning to feel the warmth of our souls
melt the ice cube of our selfishness 
turning our faces away from the mirror 
to the window and the world out there
finding ourselves asking: world, what can we do to help you?
for you are our neighbour
and to love, is to love you. 

© 2014 Kevin Lewis 

 

 

This was another poem I write during the Sixth Form Conference about human trafficking that I wrote about in the sparkle in primark, featuring Croydon Community Against Human Trafficking, Ella’s Home and Sutton Schoolswork. It was inspired by the change I saw I the students as they heard about an issue many were unaware of, and their hearts softened and were encouraged to think – and act – beyond themselves.





the sparkle in primark

26 06 2014

click
went the lock on the door
as the key turned
and in fear I 
learned
the bridge to my future burned
incandescent 

incandescent
I should have been
would have been
but now I lie passive
accepting
not rejecting
but expecting
this is my life now

this is my life now
I was a wife
am a wife
but now my life is over
as I sleep in a locked room
above the factory floor

above the factory floor
sold to pay a debt

though I wept
I was taken as my
children slept

now I’m kept
inept
in this place 
a debt to collect

a debt to collect
instead of being a mum
I am needle and thread
sewing sequins until my fingers bled
a human trafficking debacle
so your clothes can sparkle
though the light is kept dim I’m still able
to read and re-read the retail label
so while the factory – like my life – is so dark
enjoy my clothes when you buy them in Primark. 

[© 2014 Kevin Lewis]

STT Fashion Victim pegs

This week I was part of a 6th Form Conference at Carshalton High School led by Sutton Schoolswork  a small Christian schoolswork charity, on the subject of Human Trafficking. We were privileged to have speakers from Croydon Community Against Trafficking and Ella’s Home. I led a creative writing workshop, and as the students worked so well I wrote this poem as they worked on theirs.

The students have pledged to raise money for Ella’s Home, and sent Stop the Traffik’s “Fashion Victim” campaign postcards to Zara and Primark asking questions about the fashion supply chain. Many of them were unaware of the issue before. This is why schoolswork matters. 

The Fashion Victim Campaign:

My Dangerous Loverboy – a music video showing the dangers of teenage girls being trafficked within the UK:

 

 

 





elephant pee

22 03 2013

I walked nervously into the lion’s den that is the year 8 RE lesson. I like the challenge, but as the tyre leaves a skid mark under heavy braking, it comes at a cost. You need a certain robustness of faith – and attitude – to handle the questions that range from the serious to the cynical to the silly. I manage to undermine my own faith with questions about 300 times a day, I don’t need any help from 13 year olds talking about elves and that their friend is really a fish.

What struck me though was the mount of questions about the fantastical, the out-of-the-ordinary. I know it’s to be expected from over-stimulated teenagers with their defences up against the weird religious man talking about Jesus, but nevertheless…

  1. do you believe in ghosts?
  2. can you see into the future with ouija boards?
  3. do you believe in spirits?
  4. my friend believes in poltergeists, do you?
  5. what’s the thing about the rapture?
  6. don’t you believe that at the end there’ll be a huge battle between all demons and angels?
  7. can you see angels?

This was interspersed with various “I don’t believe in God I believe in science”, “I believe in Santa Claus”, “Why do you wear the collar thing?” and a general feeling that I had come from the planet Og to talk about believing in a Fairy-Wizard made of elephant pee. It’s quite a different feeling from Sunday church. It’s another part of the front-line. It’s hard. It’s the place to be. 

my fantastical alter-ego

my fantastical alter-ego

Usually I try hard not to be mundane. But here I felt differently. I said that although it can be fascinating to look to the fantastical, exciting to think about angels and demons and battles and poltergeists, what I wanted them to know about Easter is that it means Jesus is with us through the mundane of everyday life. Because most of life is ordinary, it’s eating and sleeping and sitting in lessons, and that is when Jesus is with us because of Easter, because of the resurrection.

One of the boys asked what the point in life is: we are born, we go to school, we go to work and we die. That is the crux of it. That was possibly the most honest question. Where is God when everything is mundane? Where is God when life has no colour and the music is on mute? He’s not far away in a galactic battle of spiritual powers, he’s not busy moving Victorian candlesticks around the mantlepiece when no-one’s looking, and he’s not as remote as a Fairy-Wizard from Og made of elephant pee.

He was raised from the dead and he is here.

I know it sounds loony, I said. It sounds just as loony to me as to you.  So at least we can agree on that. 

Please pray for people like Sutton Schoolswork who do this sort of thing everyday, in primary & secondary schools. 








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