By Michael Newlands
This time of year is always a funny one for me. I work with young folk all year round, and it’s at this time that they all return to school after the long summer break. Whilst they’re all looking ahead, this is the time of year where I look back.
At the start of the Summer holidays, that’s when the Fun Week panic starts to kick in. Most other things are finished for the summer and so my attention goes solely to the Fun Week. It’s only after the Fun Week is finished, and everyone returns to normality that I can reflect back on the year. And the Fun Week, and realise, why was I panicking?
I suppose it’s natural to become anxious over a project you really care about. You hope and you hope that the young people will enjoy it. You hope you get enough helpers. You hope that the helpers enjoy themselves so that it’s not a chore, but something they’ll come to help at again. So why do I panic? It always takes care of itself and it’s always a “fun” week.
Interestingly, my reflection began early this year. It started on my way to Fun Week one morning. There was nothing different to the usual. I got up, left the house, and walked the same old walk I had done all week. But what struck me was that this wasn’t just the same old walk I had done all week. It was the same walk I had taken over twenty years ago to go to the Fun Week as a child.
There’s one big difference between those two walks though. Twenty years ago, I was led by the hand, by my granda, so that I could go to the Fun Week. Now it’s my turn to lead others to the Fun Week, whether they be the young or the young at heart.
This year our theme was Razzamatazz Robots. We had a great time building robots to decorate the church with for our Sunday service. We had our usual singing and dancing, which we got to show off in the church on the Sunday. We had our games. We were well fed and watered all week with juice and biscuits, home bakes and a BBQ on the Friday. We looked at the Creation story in Genesis, and like robots made by human hands, we also looked toward our Creator. And this was great. The children had a blast. The adults had a blast.
We all had a wonderful time and I was really touched by the comments parents had given us on how their kids were really enjoying the Fun Week. And by how many kids are looking forward to next year! I had one young lady, when hearing me I wasn’t sure what to do with my time now that Fun Week is over, remark, “Plan next year’s one!”
I had to laugh. The enthusiasm of our young folk truly is infectious and it’s wonderfully motivating. Here was me looking at the past but so many were looking to the future. Probably because they are our future.
As a little digression, I got to thinking about that subtle difference of me looking to the past and the young one looking toward the future, and to be honest I thought to myself that is just part of a wider problem. We do have a propensity to look toward the past, to think of things as they are and have been instead of thinking about how things could be.
I’m sure this train of thought is ringing bells with many and I won’t dwell on this much longer. I just thought that perhaps us older ones could learn this lesson from the youth; to look to the future and not the past.
So, I return to the Fun Week. As I said, we looked at the Creation story and usually the readings at the Fun Week service are the readings we’ve looked at during the week but something about this nostalgia I was feeling was drawing me to choose different readings, something a bit more general to do with the Fun Week itself, to do with the nature of the Fun Week itself.
Through coming to the Fun Week as a child, to helping at the Fun Week as an adult, I’ve seen many changes. As you would expect after twenty plus years. But the core of the Fun Week has remained. The nature of the Fun Week has never changed. Namely, to bring the children of the community together for an enjoyable time and also to learn something about Christianity. This would be the mission statement as it were, but no mission is complete without hard work.
This hard work comes in the form of all our helpers, whether they be out with the young folk or helping in the kitchen. It comes in the form of the people who donated to the Fun Week. And also, the parents for bringing the children and the children for coming.
So, my two readings that I though summed up the Fun Week were Mark 10:13-15, 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. The first reading shows Jesus telling His disciples to let the children come to Him. A passage I think we should always keep in our minds to remind us that children are just as welcome in the church as anyone, and their contributions are just as valuable. Probably more so because they come with such an innocence and clarity we lose as we get older.
The second reading then speaks of how we are all one in the body of Christ, although we all have different functions. To me these two passages are the very heart of the Fun Week. The many come together as one, each with their own contributions, in order to bring the children to Christ. And it’s wonderful. And it’s probably why the Fun Week has lasted for as long as it has.
With the Spirit working through us, to bring the fellowship of Christ to others, we have lasted. We have endured. And I pray that we continue to endure.
I said it in the service, and I shall say it again here. As much as I was caught up in the nostalgia and dreamy reminiscence of the past, my heart looks to the future. It is my hope that in twenty years’ time, one of the young folk at the Fun Week will be walking down the street towards another Fun Week. Either to help or even to bring their own kids to it.
And so the legacy will continue. Not of the people who made this year’s Fun Week possible, or the people we are indebted to for making previous Fun Weeks possible. But the legacy of Christ’s words:
“Let all the little children come to me”.