Report on the work of St Mary’s Young People and Families Worker November 2013 – January 2015.
The 14 months since our previous report has been a period both of consolidation for many of the things that were initiated over the first year of the post and also one of significant change. The greatest of these changes has been thedeparture of Claire Wood at the end of August 2014 after two years as St Mary’s (Bramall Lane) Youth, Student and Families worker. She has gone on to full-time ministerial training – for which we rejoice, but we were extremely sad to see her leave and very grateful for all that she brought both to the post and to the wider community of St Mary’s. During mid-September 2014 we appointed Georgia Hoskin to the role, again on a part-time basis of 18 hours per week, funded through grants from the Sheffield Church Burgesses, the Diocesan Mission Development Fund, and through designatedgiving by St Mary’s congregation and the PCC. As this report will show, in the first four months in post Georgia has already established herself as a valuable member of the team at St Mary’s, within the church family, at Messy Church, around the community and the weekday activities of St Mary’s and at Porter Croft Academy.
We are pleased to report onthe consolidation of all aspects of the new mission outreaches which were initiated in the first year of this post and detailed in our previous report.
Messy Church continues to thrive, meeting monthly on a Friday afternoon. The numbers attending have increased with an average of 50 adults and children but with over 80 different people having attended over the last year. Only one quarter of those are families from the Sunday congregation, the majority come through contacts made initially via : our Parent and Toddler group; summer playscheme activities; Porter Croft Academy – our church school; local community and Occasional Offices contacts. In this way Messy Church is proving to be a vital piece of missional outreach and faith development – an accessible path from a variety of social and community activities into the wider worshipping community of St Mary’s. Since September 2014, the experience and dynamics of the team of volunteers who run Messy Church has developed such that the worker is now a member of that team – the planning and co-ordinating roles being shared amongst the group rather than resting primarily with the worker, which had been the case up to that date. In addition, an increasing number of members of the Sunday congregation are now volunteering to help at Messy Church in a variety of roles. In December 2014 we held a “Messy Christingle” Service as our monthly all-age Sunday morning service. This enabled both the usual Sunday congregation to experience at first-hand what Messy Church is and for Messy Church to join with the Sunday congregation. We anticipate that this will happen more often during the coming year and thus continue to build and strengthen the links between the two.
Consolidating and developing the missional work within our church school – Porter Croft Primary Academy has seen the worker’s continuing involvement in the school choir one lunchtime a week and related performances in assemblies, school services and at school and community events. At the end of 2013 St Mary’s co-ordinated a visit of Fischy Music, in partnership with the Diocese, which included a workshop day in Porter Croft as well as a Saturday workshop and concert. Fischy Music is a Christian organisation that works nationally to support the emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing in children through song, and we have been able to build on their visit by including Fischy music in the choirs’ repertoire which in turn can be used in assemblies and classrooms. Additionally we have incorporated their songs both in Messy Church and Sunday worship as well as the Family & Community choir run by St Mary’s (of which more later). The school choir repertoire is varied but input from St Mary’s worker has ensured that appropriate regular and seasonal worship is one of its mainstays. The worker continues to help plan and deliver the fortnightly assemblies and termly church services with St Mary’s clergy team, and since November 2014 has joined with a small team of parents who are now occasionally able to provide an “Open the Book” assembly – a new experience for the children, and an exciting initiative for the school.
A new development in which the Families workerhas been key is the provision of a weekly lunchtime “Wonder Club”. This uses Godly Play to tell a Bible story, gives space for the children to reflect and “wonder” and so explore the story and to respond to it. A rotating team of three trained story-tellers from St Mary’s, together with the Families worker have run this since Easter 2014 and each session has its capacity attendance of 12 children drawn from across the full spectrum of the schools faith and cultural backgrounds.
The strong links between St Mary’s and Porter Croft Academy were recognised in the recent National Society Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools (SIAMS) Report which also concluded that the distinctiveness and effectiveness of Porter Croft as a Church of England school is outstanding. The Families worker continues to be a key person in this area of mission particularly in the networking role they fulfil through their presence in the life of the school, at Messy Church, St Mary’s Families choir and our Sunday services and associated youth groups.
Another area of consolidation has been St Mary’s Families choir which now attracts a mix of families drawn from Porter Croft, the local community and church members. In the past year, in addition to Fischy music they have performed songs from Joseph and most recently accompanied members of church as we sang carols around the streets of the parish.
A new initiative over 2014 were holiday playschemes – over Easter this began by running age-specific workshops in circus skills; baking; bike customising; arts and craft and the like. With limited spaces they were oversubscribed and the worker co-ordinated a team of volunteers to help in their delivery. Building on this success, she prepared for a similar programme over the summer holidays, and in addition worked with community development staff of St Mary’s Centre to run a series of Family Activity Sessions for all ages. These attracted over 70 families and 15 volunteers drawn from both the church and Timebuilders – St Mary’s new volunteering scheme. Crucially the worker also took responsibility for producing all the necessary paperwork for such events: policies and procedures; permission forms; volunteer registrations; record keeping etc. All these pro forma are now in place for ongoing and future use, ensuring best practice in this area of work. Due to the success of this project similar events are already diarised for February, Easter, May and summer school holidays in 2015 – again as a partnership with the community development projects within St Mary’s.
The worker has developed St. Mary’s profile and outreach through social media, contributing to St Mary’s website, setting up Facebook groups for both our Messy Church and “student” work and maintaining the profile of St Mary’s on twitter.
An ongoing focus of this post has been the work with our two church youth groups: FIX for pre and early teens i.e. those in school years 5-7 and a group for teenagers. Parents of these young people have acknowledged that these groups enable them to keep engaged with church and are key in their discipleship – particularly those who are involved in sports teams on a Sunday morning. The groups continue to meet fortnightly and the worker shares this responsibility with the Associate Vicar at St Mary’s. We believe this provision is significant in attracting and retaining families with young teens as part of the worshipping community at St Mary’s. We are currently working with three teenagers to enable them to take up leadership responsibilities in Sunday morning groups for younger children and with one as a regular musician in Sunday worship. In 2014 the worker encouraged and accompanied 8 young people to participate in the Diocesan Youth Day – Breathe Deep and an increased number are booked for this year. She also again facilitated participation in the Greenbelt 2014 programme for a small group of teenagers. The groups currently cater for 10 regular pre-teens, whose numbers are often supplemented as they invite their friends to FIX, and up to ten teenagers. The worker continues to be involved in the rota for Sunday morning young people’s groups.
Student work is another area of growth and development and it is now looking more broadly to provide opportunities for all those in the 18-30’s age group – a demographic which has been consistently under-represented at St Mary’s. By opening up the hospitality offered to students to all those in that age group we have retained good links with the small number of young people who have grown out of the youth groups and remained in Sheffield. In January 2015 the worker has begun a weekly LIFE group for prayer, study and fellowship amongst our growing 18-30’s and has encouraged the participation of a number of them as volunteers at Messy church and the Families choir.
The overall contribution of this role within St Mary’s continues to be of vital significance in our ability and capacity as a church to provide consistent reliable and good quality provision for children, young people and their families within the church, the parish, our church school and beyond. The post-holder is in some areas of work the main instigator and organiser, in others the main support, and in others a team member. As such the time and skills of a wide number of lay people are harnessed and developed and the clergy team is well supported and enabled to focus on a broader range of activities and commitments. The growth of the congregation has been consolidated, but this has brought with it increasing requirements for the care and support of several families with complex pastoral needs. Financially St Mary’s continues provide both its share of the budget for the post as well as meeting the cost of the additional resources – particularly for Messy Church.
We all look forward to the impact of this post continuing on into the coming year and beyond, and remain grateful for the ongoing support of the Sheffield Church Burgesses and the Diocese at this time.
Revd. K. Cribb. (Associate Vicar) January 2015.