St George’s Internship 2015-16: The Longer Version

Hi.

Hopefully you’ve ended up here because you’d like to find out a little bit more about what I’m doing this year. If you’d just like the headlines: don’t panic, you can find them here. If you’re confident you’re in the right place, maybe pop the kettle on for a brew. Just kidding, it’s not going to be that long. I hope.

This year I’m embarking on a new and exciting adventure as Alpha* and Young Adults Intern at the church I’ve been a part of since I moved to Leeds in 2011, St George’s. For those of you who know me well, you’ll realise that that’s a bit of a curveball.

I graduated from Leeds College of Music in summer 2014, and after my third and final summer working as a Conference Team temp with Soul Survivor, returned to Leeds in September 2014. (Also a curveball, as the dream throughout my degree was to graduate and move back to either Watford or London.) I honestly had no idea why I was staying in Leeds, but knew 100% that it was the right place for me to be. I moved in with my cousin and her family, signed-on at the Job Centre, and relentlessly applied for jobs. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to be doing, but knew I wanted a job outside of the church where I could live out my faith and grow in my skill areas. At the same time, I threw myself into all of the teams I was a part of at church and got to know a lot of other “young adults” working out that balance of working, studying, being part of a community, staying connected to family outside of the city, and growing in their faith.

Fast forward 6 months and I still didn’t have a full-time job. I had, however, become so much more invested in what God was doing through the church, especially amongst the young adults in the network of small groups** I was leading. The gentle accumulation of little conversations, books I’d read, and talks I’d heard hit me one day with the realisation that actually, I cared a lot about what the church was doing and wanted to be a bigger part of it.

Fast forward another 6 months (involving a 5 1/2 month stint as an administrator in the NHS)  and that bigger part, for the time being, looks like the St George’s Internship. There are 8 of us interning, all working in different areas of the church, but we come together every week for training in areas such as leadership and theology. My individual role allows me to serve in loads of different contexts: from annual events; to our evening 1830 service; in networks; and on the Alpha* course; as well as still being involved on the worship and children’s teams.

12 months ago I never would have imagined I’d be here now, but I’m so excited to see what the year holds. I’d absolutely love it if you want to follow what I’m getting up to. I think it’s going to be fun.

If that is the case and you would like to be kept up to date with my ventures, I’ll be doing my best to keep this blog updated. You can also sign up here if you’d like the blog updates sent to you in the form of an email. If you’re someone who prays, it’d be a huge support and encouragement to have you praying for me and the church over the year. I’ll include some “prayer-points” in my updates.

The church have provided me with a house and training for the year, and are paying my bills, but I need to raise my own living costs as the role is full-time and unpaid. If this is an area that you’d like to support me in, thank you! If you don’t have my contact details, you can let me know here. I’m in the process of registering with an organisation which will allow people to do this in a really easy way, and anonymously. I’ll update the page with those details as soon as I’m able to.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, and taking an interest in what I’m getting up to. I hope you still have some of your cup of tea left. If you have any questions after reading my ramblings, please do let me know!

Emily


*Alpha is an 8 week course which gives the “opportunity to explore life and the Christian faith, in a friendly, open and informal environment”. Fine one near you here.

**Networks and small groups are the framework used at St George’s to keep us connected as an extended family throughout the week. Find out more here.

Visit the St George’s website here.

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St George’s Internship 2015-16: The Headlines

Hello there.

If you’re wondering what I’m going to be spending my time doing over this academic year, you’ve come to the right place. For those who just want the quick facts, these are the headlines. There’s a longer version here, and I’ll continue to update this blog throughout the year.

Having graduated from Leeds College of Music in summer 2014, and spending a year figuring life out as a graduate in Leeds, I’m now really excited to kick off September 2015 as Alpha* and Young Adults Intern at St George’s Leeds. St George’s is the church family that I’ve been a part of during my past four years in Leeds, and has already been an environment where I’ve been able to grow and to serve. I’m really confident that this year will enable me to do the same in a whole new way.

The role as Alpha and Young Adults Intern is full-time. It involves weekly training in areas such as theology and leadership, and allows me to serve in loads of different contexts: from annual events; to our evening 1830 service; in networks; and on the Alpha course; as well as still being involved on the worship and children’s teams.

If you’d like to be kept up to date with what I get up to, learn, and see; I’ll be doing my best to keep this blog up to date. You can also sign-up here if you’d like the blog updates sent to you in the form of an email! If you’re someone who prays, it’d be a huge support and encouragement to have you praying for me and the church over the year. I’ll include some “prayer-points” in my updates.

The church have provided me with a house and training for the year, and are paying my bills, but I need to raise my own living costs as the role is full-time and unpaid. If this is an area that you’d like to support me in, thank you! If you don’t have my contact details, you can let me know here. I’m in the process of registering with an organisation which will allow people to do this in a really easy way, and anonymously. I’ll update the page with those details as soon as I’m able to.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. If you’re still confused, let me know your questions!

Emily

Social Media Lock up


*Alpha is an 8 week course which gives the “opportunity to explore life and the Christian faith, in a friendly, open and informal environment”. Fine one near you here.

Visit the St George’s website here.

Moving to higher ground, and my failed attempts to speak German.

Change when it comes – and it will come – can momentarily shake the ground on which you stand, it can cause you to move to higher ground, or it can cause the ground beneath your feet to completely crumble. Whatever age we are, whatever stage of life, we can feel so completely lost or the just opposite, like we’ve been transported to a place so right we wonder why we never knew it existed before.

A few weekends ago I had the privilege of traveling to Basel, Switzerland to work with some children at a church weekend away. Surrounded by the bliss of the beautiful Swiss mountains, and under the warm sun, I quickly forgot any struggle, uncertainty or worry that I’d left behind me in rainy England. In fact, they were long forgotten as soon as I stepped inside the plane, my little wardrobe to Narnia. We spent our morning off in Lörrach, Germany and all my excited intentions to finally utilise my German GCSE came crashing down as soon as a waitress asked me what I wanted to drink and I stared at her blankly, eyes wide open with horror. My friend came quickly to the rescue and for the rest of our trip in the town I unceasingly translated every single bit of German I could find out loud to prove that I wasn’t completely ignorant.

For one weekend away – always accompanied by my beautiful friend who is fluent in both German and English – my lack of German was no issue whatsoever, but as I started to get to know people after just the first hour at our venue, I realised that I was coming into contact with so many families and individuals who had had to adapt to life in a different country for a lot longer than a weekend. They had to adapt to a new language, new climate, new food, new education system, new selection of shops, new culture…the list goes on.

Then, I discovered a family with three children who had English as their third language. Their third language, and they were talking to me easily and unfazed. My failed attempts at speaking the most simple German phrases suddenly seemed so pitiful compared to what these young children had achieved because they had no other option. Change had come, and instead of letting the ground swallow them up they had moved forward to stand on higher ground. I was humbled and inspired by their adaptability to change.

Back in England it remains fresh in my mind. I’m learning a lot about how we deal with change, but what I’ve realised is that even when it feels like everything is crumbling beneath us and a downward spiral is inevitable, we still have a choice. We can choose to step forwards and move higher and to grow. And when we don’t think we have the strength to make even a baby step, I know Someone who does.

(James 1:17) Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God. He is the One who made all light. He does not change. No shadow is made by His turning.

Choosing colours for your canvas and berries for your cheesecake.

Sitting on my kitchen floor -with the ineffectual yet comforting glow of fairy-lights as all the real lightbulbs have blown – I feel like it’s been a really long day. One of those days where you feel like this morning was actually yesterday. I’ve done some admin in town; had a drink in my favourite coffee shop; met my dad for lunch in London; written some music; had a quiet evening in with good friends; and made a cheesecake. All those things were good things, yet they were painted on a canvas amongst some more difficult situations. Because actually, today I have had to face challenges relating to my family, relationships, finances, and even the making of my cheesecake.

 
From the moment I woke up, at a time I had chosen and not my alarm clock, I felt ready to win. My expectations for Monday’s portrait were high. There was the dull ache of a persistent struggle, but I had it under control, and I had my day planned to be productive and enjoyable. It’s funny how much I was thrown as soon as something caused dirty water to get spilt over my perfect picture. In that moment it became the gloomy water-colour wash lurking beneath the rest of the day’s events, and as it was still wet and fresh it seeped into any other thing I tried to paint over it.

I was majorly distracted, and found myself gravitating towards my favourite coffee shop to force me to stop and think. As I sat with my Egyptian Mint Tea my eyes flickered agitatedly over my piles of paperwork, nervously calculating and stretching my mind for solutions. In my frustration I delved into my bag for another sheet of information; but my hand instead met a battered, leather book.

I opened up my Bible on Daniel 6 and my eyes were drawn to this passage:

“For He is the living God, and He will endure forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and His rule will never end. He rescues and saves His people; He performs miraculous signs and wonders in heaven and on earth.” 

As I read those words over, the power of the truth in them mopped up the dirty mess that was influencing my day; and replaced it with a hope, strength and incomprehensible peace. The problems are definitely still there, don’t get me wrong, but I chose not to let them dominate: because I know there is Someone bigger than the biggest thing I could ever face.

Purposefully putting God back as the foundation colour that I drew the rest of my day upon, and pursuing His peace rather than being consumed by my predicaments, had a huge impact on the rest of my day. When the next challenge came along in the form of some not-so-great news, I looked straight to God instead of dwelling on the disappointment, and remembered that I could trust him. He’s always there. He’s like a paint on the palette that never runs out, never runs dry and never fades. The only thing is, that each day is a new canvas, but that means each day we need to pick up the paintbrush and choose which colour we’re going to spread across as the backdrop to everything else.

After buying most of Tesco’s White Chocolate Buttons due to miserably failed attempts to melt them effectively, I finally made my White Chocolate and Berry Cheesecake. As I stirred semi-frozen fruit into the mixture, no matter how careful or gentle I was, some of the colour and juice from the fruit oozed out and mingled in; decorating the white cheese with pink and purple swirls. That is life for you. There’s nothing we can do to stop things from effecting us, but we can choose how they effect us, and it makes the picture – or the cheesecake – a lot more beautiful in a unique sort of way. When we choose the right things to flavour our cheesecake (berries as opposed to Marmite, God’s peace as opposed to our predicaments), there is a noticeable difference. (If you don’t believe me, I’ll make you a Marmite cheesecake.)

This isn’t meant to be a perfectly written blog, it’s just my thoughts tonight. But it comes with a challenge for me, and for you if you’re willing to take it. I want to remember to let God be the central colour on my canvas, not my struggles or even my good situations. I want to remember to ask Him daily to be the centre of my day. And I want to start today.

The value of waiting.

If you want a decent, home-made Christmas cake: you’ve got to be prepared to wait. Christmas cake is one of those foods – like cheese or wine – that is most delicious when it has matured. The rum or brandy needs time to mingle and seep into the fruit until it all becomes a succulent jumble of festive goodness. In my house, this usually involves an early preparation during the October half term. The smell after my mum has been baking is one of my favourite things in the world, and as the nights start to get longer and the days get colder, any hint of Christmas gets me excited. This is bad news for my self-control when the aroma of brandy and orange peel creeps up the stairs and under my bedroom door. I have considered convincing my mum that there would be no harm in forgetting the waiting process, making the whole cake early and preparing another one for Christmas. Nobody would die, we’d all get a nice slice of cake and it would serve as a good distraction from the bleakness of Autumn. Sounds good to me. But the truth is, if I want the real deal, I’ve got to wait.

We live in a fast-paced society, where a product or service is only deemed good if it can give us exactly what we want, and right now. Admittedly I love it when my food arrives quickly in a restaurant; or I don’t have to wait in a long queue at the supermarket. Sometimes though, in the hustle and  the bustle of life, we forget the value of waiting. Of letting things brew. Of giving things time. When decorators apply paint before the plaster has fully dried, you end up with huge cracks across the wall. A cup of tea is weak and tasteless if you take the teabag out too soon. If we acted immediately on every “great idea” we had late at night, we’d have a lot of damage control to undertake. These things need time for them to reach their potential, or – in some cases – for us to even know if they’re the right thing to go ahead with.

Whether it’s the temptation to rush into a relationship or make rash decisions; or the frustration of not knowing what the future holds, waiting is not an easy game. It goes against everything else inside us to hold back when the thing we think we want is right there in reaching distance. It’s not much easier either when we have no choice but to wait.

Things seem so much more precious when you’ve waited for them though, even when waiting is hard. In his book “Purity – A New Moral Revolution”, Kris Vallotton makes the point that “no athlete is competing for the cost of the trophy, because it is not the trophy that gives the game value; it is the game that determines the value of the trophy.” In other words, things become more valuable to you when you’ve really fought for them, when it’s taken hard work and perseverance to achieve something; and waiting involves a lot of hard work and perseverance.  This is because it’s not wholly about the here and now: there is an eternal, big-picture mindset to be embraced which brings with it a freedom that can’t be found when we’re struggling to rush ahead.

If we want to learn to wait, we need to learn to trust. One of the hardest, but most significant, lessons we can learn is to be able to walk in the unknown and still be at peace. It’s a daily choice, a lesson we never stop learning. Trusting God that if we wait, we won’t miss out. Trusting God that just because it hasn’t happened yet, that doesn’t mean it won’t. Trusting God that even when things are taking time, He has our hearts in mind.

On Christmas Day, when I can finally savor each delicious mouthful of my mum’s Christmas cake, I start to understand the value of waiting. I hope that, within time, I can comprehend its worth on a much greater scale. I’m learning to trust that some things are worth the wait.

I’ll make my home where Your heart is.

What is “home”?

Is it simply a place where you sleep at night? Is it a place where you’re surrounded by a particular group of people? Is it a place you’re still in search of?

For 18 years I could confidently say where home was. Although I moved house a couple of times, I stayed in the same town, the same two schools, the same church. Although I met new people and friendship groups shifted, I still had constant people in my life; and I still have those people in my life. My definition of home was not so much an abstract and flexible concept, but instead formed by the relationships and tangible things that had formed around me, becoming my security.

We all know that change is inevitable. Heraclitus – a Greek philosopher – had it right when he recognised the truth that however much you want to, “you cannot step twice into the same river”. Everything is continually changing. The world is in a constant state of flux. Few of us will stay in the same place our whole lives, so what happens when we move away from that place that has grown to define “home”?

Moving away from home was the biggest change of my entire life. I went to sleep one night in my familiar bed, my family around me and suddenly the next night I was in a strange town, house, bed, and surrounded by people I didn’t yet know. But we are adaptable creatures, built to survive, and thrown into the deep end I started to build relationships with the new group of people around me. I know this is not a unique situation, but one which most of my friends are all too familiar with. The incredible thing we’ve discovered is that within the duration of several weeks, these strangers start to become family. A community is formed. What was once totally unfamiliar starts to…feel like home.

An internal conflict arises. Where is home? Is it the place where you grew up, or the place where you are now living? Is it the place where your biological family live, or the place where you have built new, family-like relationships? Are you “going home for Christmas”, or after Christmas are you  packing your case again and “going back home”?

I worry that if too many places feel like home, I won’t know where home really is. That if home is dependable on the people I’m with, I won’t be able to feel at home whenever I have to move away. That next time won’t be so easy.

When I worry too much I remind myself what Paul told the Phillipians, “Do not worry about anything; instead, pray about everything”. When I start to look to God and not so much at my situation, I remember that not everything is in a constant state of flux. Not everything is unpredictable and ever-changing. There is one thing I know to be the same yesterday, today and forever.

I believe God never changes. His love for us never changes. His plans for us never change. He’s always with us, whether we’re at home in England, India, or Australia.

I want to love in the way I know God to love. That unconditional, steady, dependable, never-changing love. I want my heart to be broken for the things that break his heart. I want to recognise injustice and be moved to do something about it. I want to see a need and my heart be stirred to action.

If God is the one thing I believe to be constant and firm, then he is a pretty trustworthy place for me to build my sense of “home”. Because wherever I am for Christmas, he’s still there. Whichever bed I’m sleeping in, he’s still there. Whoever’s left or rejected me, he’s still there. The wise man built his house upon the rock, and though the rain came down in torrents and the floodwaters rose and the wind beat against the walls, it didn’t collapse.

But where then, geographically, is “home”? It’s been said that “home is where the heart is”. Right now in this moment we cannot know what our whole lives will look like, but this I know: I want to change my world the best that I can. I want to be moved to action by the things that break my heart. I want to make my home where God’s heart is.

Home in Watford.

I’ve been a resident of “sunny” Watford for just over two weeks now – a fact made official

by my newly acquired Hertfordshire Library Card – and so thought it was probably about time that I produced an update about what I’ve been up to and what is coming up in the near future.

I live in a beautiful house (the best on the course) with three high-maintenance girls Katie, Emma and Hollin. Obviously in this instance “high-maintenance” actually means “wonderful”. Our house is a 13 minute walk from the church, which has been tested on a few occasions already when I’ve been late, and is quite central in terms of where the other Called to Lead houses are.  We are blessed with a dishwasher, two bathrooms (they know girls well) and a gas hob which my mum would quite like to steal. I’ll put some photos up at some point for those of you who are actually interested!

On my first Sunday here, our house had dinner with our “house mum”, her husband, and the boys in his house. They are an absolutely lovely Spanish couple who cooked us Paella, an experience for all of us who had never had to dissect and be-head prawns before eating them. It was so nice to have a tasty home-cooked meal in someone’s house and reminded me of the extended family that I have all across the world, wherever I might go.

We are well looked after at Soul Survivor Watford. As a group of 40, we could probably be self-sufficient socially; but the church have done a lot to make us feel welcomed and loved and part of the family, and I know we’re all grateful for that.

I’ve been put on the Kids Team placement, which I knew would be hard work right from the start, but I am enjoying it and getting to know the brilliant team of people that I work with. I’m helping out at the church’s toddler group – Soul Tots – on a Wednesday morning, which has over a hundred children on the register and is a great place to connect with mums and families in the local area. We’re currently recruiting more guys to come and help out as it’s really important for the little boys to have positive male role models, and amazingly that’s currently going quite well! There are more events during the week that I’m involved in, but I’m yet to experience the full extent of my commitment!

The kids’ provision for the 10.30 service on a Sunday is fantastic and I alternate between leading two groups: Soul Explorer (5-7s) and Soul Journey (7-9s). The children are absolutely fantastic: so eager to get involved and to work together. The team have to wear T-Shirts the appropriate colour for the group they’re leading, and hilariously they are all XXL so, as I’m only little, I feel ever so slightly like I’m wearing a tent every Sunday morning.

We’re having the lads from Flat 4 round for dinner tonight, Hollin is cooking Butternut Squash Risotto or something that sounds quite civillised. Our house is starting to feel quite homely, and Watford is definitely feeling like the place I’m meant to be. I can even navigate myself around successfully so far. Rugby is still my home, but “home” is gradually expanding enough to mean that Watford plays a little part. I definitely have the people here to thank for making me feel at home in Watford.

Watford, are you ready?

A few weeks ago, the beautiful Jenny Cook and I embarked on a roadtrip adventure to Watford in her faithful little car “Strawberry”. After an early start; many utterances of the phrase “I’m in the wrong lane!”; and my picnic breakfast, we arrived at Soul Survivor church – just a tiny bit late – for the 10.30 morning service.

Despite having visited lots of churches in the past, it felt slightly strange to be going to a church other than my much-loved and homely CLC on a Sunday morning. We were actually both a bit nervous. I discovered though that, for me, SSW feels like home from home. As my dad described it after my interview for Called to Lead,  it’s like “a slightly bigger CLC”. The ethos and atmosphere of the two churches are so similar, and they serve good coffee, so I’m feeling pretty grateful!

After the service we sought out directions for a good place to eat and were recommended a pub in Chipperfield, a nearby village. It was probably a bit ambitious of us to take up the recommendation, after just having a conversation which had established the fact we had neither a SatNav, iPhone or sense of direction, but we thought we’d go for it anyway. I’d love to say that we had the boldness and audacity to fearlessly navigate ourselves along the alien roads of Hertfordshire, but when the roundabouts stopped looking like roundabouts and we simultaneously realised that we only had directions TO the pub, and not back to Watford, we decided to apply what was definitely wisdom (and not just cowardice) and drive into the centre of Watford. (Mental Note: find a good local pub.)

Soul Survivor Watford hold 3 services on a Sunday: the 10.30 am (“for families, adults and anyone”), the 5.00pm (“for students and 20-30 somethings”) and the 7.00pm (“for teenagers and cool kids”). My dad and a couple of fabulous people from my church were planning to meet us at the 7.00pm (dad considers himself a “cool kid”), so once window shopping in Topshop became too much of a temptation, we found ourselves a McDonald’s near the church to camp out until the 5pm. I wish I’d taken a picture of this McDonald’s because it is like nothing I have ever seen before. It looked like someone thought it might be fun to rip everything out of an old-style hospital and sneakily stick a well-known fast food chain where the Dietetics Department used to be. Oxymoronic much. I’ll try to include a photo in my first official Watford blog in November.

We managed to make it back to the church/warehouse in time for the 5pm which was a really chilled meeting with coffee tables, sofas and a gorgeous acoustic vibe. If anyone went to Momentum this year (or didn’t but is of the Momentum age), I’d really recommend it.

As I mentioned before, Dad, Irenie and Sophie met us for the 7pm, which was a great success. They really loved it and it was brilliant to see so many young people giving up their sunday evening for what is a weekly service, not just an event that happens once a month.

I know so far I’ve taken up a whole 529 words to tell you about my road trip, but the day left me feeling both excited and encouraged about the gap year that I will be starting just 23 days from now. I am confident that I will feel at home in Watford and that it is the right environment for me to learn and to grow and to experience a whole range of new things. Thank you for your support whether financially, emotionally or through prayer – it’s this support that has allowed me to be able to embark on a significantly longer adventure to Watford at the end of this month.

Love love love!

For more info see www.emilyspademan.co.uk

Moving On.

“This is an era that has many ends / So many times to start again / I wish that I’d be less afraid / But I’m never used to facing the change”

I’ve been packing my room this week ready to take up residence in the smallest bedroom before I move to Watford in the Autumn. A room can tell you a lot about a person. Not just from the photographs, but from the things that are kept; or maybe the things that are thrown away. I’ve found a lot of childhood memories whilst clearing out, had a laugh and a cry, but I’ve had to be ruthless. It’s hard throwing things away, starting again, moving on. But it has to be done. If we stayed in the same place we wouldn’t learn or grow, and as obvious as it sounds – we wouldn’t get anywhere.

Now I’ve started to focus on what needs to change in me. What do I need to be ruthless with? What needs to be refined? How do I move and grow and build on the journey behind me?

I think it’s always time for some sort of change.

Chaos.

The state of my room right now reflects beautifully my current mental state. Files and papers representing all the work I’ve done and information I’ve processed in the last year are scattered over the floor, bed and every last inch of space they can find. I honestly tried to control the mess. I mean, that’s why I bought folders and a pencil case in the first place. But sadly Mahler, schizophrenia and the English Dictionary have taken over my life, and my bedroom. Ha, great. Similarly, it feels like my head’s so full of information that I’ve become unable to pin a single thought down.

I actually hate it when my room’s a mess. It makes it hard to focus and makes me feel out of control. Essentially, when my room is unorganised, I become unorganised. Really not the best thing when you’re in the middle of your A2 exams. Whenever I start to tidy though I feel guilty for putting off revision. It’s one of those nasty vicious circles.

There’s usually a simple solution though. Like revising in the garden.

Or having a really good lunch with your mum.

My mind’s slightly less chaotic now from writing. I have an exam in the morning so I’d better sleep else if my room keeps reflecting my mind it’ll become real grumpy.