Summer 2001 End of Term Report
The second half of the Summer Term proved to be a busy one...
The visit of GSUS (pronounced "Jesus") Live to Castle Hill and Chalkstone middle schools was an undoubted highlight. In one week we delivered 18 lessons to around 500 young people. Produced by Counties (a UK based Christian charity), GSUS Live is a 40' lorry trailer which has been converted into a high-tech mobile classroom. Some of the young people literally gasped when they first looked inside. After an introductory 3D video, the pupils work in pairs on computers. As they navigate the specially written software, they must choose to help one of three characters which appear on the screen: Jack is feeling rejected while Ben is struggling with forgiveness and Kylie is afraid. Having made their choice, the pupils can draw on various sources to help them advise the character. These include tracks from Christian musicians, passages from the Bible and excerpts from The Miracle Maker. As each piece of advice is given, the story unfolds a little more. The pupils are asked for their opinion four times. At the end of the lesson every young person receives a personalised printed summary of the advice they have offered. This printout also includes discussion questions which can be used in subsequent RE lessons.
The following extract comes from a letter written by a teacher at one of the schools GSUS Live visited:
"I have spoken to all staff about the GSUS experience. The overwhelming feeling is that all pupils found this absorbing and thought-provoking. Feedback from children has been wholly positive and follow up in RE has generated good responses."
In the penultimate week of term I was asked to take an assembly on the theme of "new horizons". Knowing that all the young people I was addressing would be facing some kind of change in September I wanted to bless them. I found a blessing written by a nine year old. I'd like to share it with you:
"May God keep you safe. May the wind point you in the right direction. May you see all the world and its creatures, and may the flowers open up for you. May the sun shine on you every day, until the next time we meet. May God bless you in every way."
The fun continues at Staying Alive and we begin to make plans for our Annual General Meeting (AGM)...
Please make a note to join us at Haverhill's West End Congregational Church on Thursday 11 October 2001 for our AGM. We shall begin at 7.30 p.m. and close at 9 p.m. with refreshments. It is a great pleasure for us to have Bishop Gavin Reid (President of British Youth For Christ) as our speaker. Apart from the small amount of business the law requires us to include, most of the evening will be spent in thanksgiving.
The Staying Alive group have given us one or two interesting moments! We are extremely grateful to Haverhill Methodist Church (our hosts) for bearing with us. Excellent news is that another member of the group, this time a girl, has become a Christian. Please thank God for all that He is doing and pray for us as we meet on Tuesday evenings.
Summer 2001 Half Term Report
The Summer Term tends to be disrupted by tests and exams, nevertheless God continued to provide opportunities for us…
More than a number
Not surprisingly, I was asked to do an assembly about the census. If you know me, you'll know that I like statistics (sad, but true). In the assembly I used a quiz based on some global figures I found in our church magazine. My point was that even though those facts may be true and even interesting to some people, that's not how God sees us. He has the capacity to look upon our world of some six billion people and to know each one as an individual; you as you and me as me. Not only that, His concern for each one of us is such that Jesus said, "God even knows how many hairs are on your head." (Matthew 10:30 New Century Version)
A light for my path
Over Easter, some of the young people from our lunch time Youth Alpha group took up a challenge to read the Bible regularly. They responded warmly, finding the Bible easier to understand and more relevant than some had anticipated. A young woman who had borrowed a Bible from school to complete the task, asked if she might have one of her own. We duly obliged. Please pray that it will be well read.
Two ears, one mouth
Those of you who have been with us for a while might remember that for some time we have desired to establish a listening service. Well, it looks as if this may be about to happen under a different name and by an unlikely route. We have partnered with about thirty other organisations, some statutory and some voluntary, in putting together a bid to the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) for a grant to begin Haverhill Advocacy and Mentoring Service (HAMS). Not only did DfEE agree to give us the £30,000 we asked for, they were so impressed with our submission that Jacqui Smith (Schools Minister) mentioned it in the House of Commons!
What's all this got to do with a listening service? That's part of what a mentor does. Although Haverhill Advocacy and Mentoring Service is a right mouthful, it's based on a simple idea: Many young people who are finding school difficult would benefit from having someone to listen to them who comes from outside school or home. We've already appointed someone to co-ordinate HAMS, but we need volunteers to be mentors. Being a mentor will not require an enormous time commitment and full training and support will be given.
Think you might be interested? E-mail me to find out more or better still, get in touch with Haverhill & District Volunteer Centre (01440 708444).
It's been an exciting half-term regarding our out of school activities…
At the end of May, myself and Andrew Jenks took two of the lads from the Staying Alive group to Fort Rocky. We had a fantastic time! One of the young men described it as the best weekend of his life. We had a go at canoeing, archery, abseiling and climbing as part of a packed 48 hours. We also got to hear the testimonies of some of the Youth For Christ team leading the event. On Saturday evening, the good news about Jesus was presented in a lively and engaging way. After this, we went on a night walk where, following much discussion, Andrew had the great privilege of leading one of the lads in a prayer accepting Jesus.
Would you like to be part of the team running this exciting group? The young people are aged between 13 and 18 and we meet every Tuesday from 8 to 9.30 p.m. We especially need female volunteers. If you are interested please E-mail me.
Spring 2001 End of Term Report
In the second half of the spring term we were blessed with opportunities in all six of the schools we serve. Here's just a taste of what's been going on.
Man does not live on chocolate alone!
At Samuel Ward Upper School, five of the Youth Alpha group have accepted a challenge. Having spent a session exploring why the Bible is so precious to Christians, they've agreed to read it. Armed with some One Up Bible reading notes (produced by Scripture Union) they aim to read a little of the Bible every day of their Easter holidays. The next time we meet up, they will let me know how they got on and what they made of the Good Book. Please pray that they may be motivated to fulfil this challenge and that as they do the Holy Spirit will bring the Bible alive for them.
I was worried before some recent lessons at Chalkstone Middle School. The theme was Responsibilities, Rights and Values. I had a lesson prepared looking at William Wilberforce and the major part his faith played in the campaign to abolish slavery. To be honest, I didn't know how the material was going to go down and whether it would capture their imaginations. God is gracious. Every class responded enthusiastically. After one session, the RE co-ordinator for the school was busy writing out slips of paper which she explained were merits. Apparently, they were for five young people who had just contributed in an RE lesson for the first time since she had been teaching them.
Arrangements are beginning to be finalised for the visit of the GSUS Live mobile classroom to Haverhill. It will arrive in the last week of June and spend three days at Castle Hill Middle School before moving to Chalkstone for two days. I have had a chance to try the material myself and it is impressive.
Over the last weekend in May, Andrew (Jenks) and myself are taking two of the young men who come to the Staying Alive youth group to Fort Rocky. Run by British Youth For Christ, Fort Rocky is an activity-based evangelistic residential weekend programme specifically designed to challenge and inspire young people. We are thankful that a recent grant from Haverhill Town Council will cover the cost of this trip. Please pray that God may continue His work in these young lives. My desire is that they will come to faith.
During the second half of the spring term, we averaged 21 young people each week. However, numbers are only part of the story... We've had some traumas, including a broken window, stolen car and sprained neck, but we've seen some breakthroughs too. The biggest of these must have been when one of the young men responded to an appeal given at the recent men's meeting held in the Woodlands Hotel, Haverhill. Please pray that that seed may not be snatched away, but that it may find good soil, become established, grow to maturity and produce much fruit.
Spring 2001 Half Term Report
In the first half of the Spring Term we continued to serve all the middle and upper schools in Haverhill and Clare. Love and celebrities featured prominently!
Stars and Leadership
'Stars and Leadership' was the unlikely title of an assembly at Samuel Ward Upper School. In researching this, I came across some interesting statistics: A recent poll found that if teenagers could choose their parents, most would opt for David Beckham and wife Victoria (Posh Spice)! Another survey, carried out by Scripture Union, revealed that more young people associated Robbie Williams with the Millennium than Jesus. The thrust of my message was that I have found Jesus to be the only person worth following. Please join with me in praying that young people will meet the real Jesus and follow Him.
"I've started, so I'll finish"
Clare Middle School asked me to be the question master for the final of their Book Mastermind competition. Four finalists, representing each Year group, answered two rounds of questions. The first, general knowledge and the second on their specialist book. Here again, the Beckhams appeared. One of the contestants chose to answer questions on 'Brooklyn Beckham - The Secret Diary!'
Love, love, love
With St. Valentine's Day falling in this half-term love has often been mentioned. This has caused me to reflect on the following words from 1 John 4:10 as they appear in the Youth Bible:
This is what real love is: it is not our love for God; it is God's love for us...
Up and Coming
News of a couple of things which are coming up between now and the summer...
Belief and Morality
I am excited about going into Samuel Ward in the second half of this spring term. For the first time, the school are using me as a Christian resource in their RE programme. I am seeing five Year 9 classes to answer questions on how my faith affects my morality. Please pray that I may have the right words when the moment comes.
GSUS Live is a touring educational resource which has been put together by the Counties evangelistic organisation. A lorry trailer has been converted into a mobile classroom complete with 16 multimedia PCs. Designed to fit in with the National Curriculum, young people can explore the issues of fear, rejection and forgiveness in an interactive way. GSUS Live is coming to Haverhill for a week in June 2001. One middle school has expressed a firm interest. Please pray for the two other schools who are considering it.
Numbers have increased a little since the New Year. This half-term 27 different young people came to the group with the weekly average being 17. We continue to build relationships with those who come and can see small, but positive, changes in them. Myself and the team (Andrew Jenks and Karen Glazebrook) value your interest. Please pray for us, especially on Tuesday nights, that we may have the fragrance of Jesus.
Council of Reference
Since the AGM there have been a number of changes to the Council of Reference. This is the body which oversees HSI. We said goodbye to Revd Sylvia Bareham and Jo Pelly and welcomed Robin Agnes (Church in the Field), Lieutenants Paula and Stuart Ashman (Salvation Army), Revd Les Shorten (West End Congregational Church) and Paul Turner (River of Life Christian Fellowship). Please join with me in thanking God for the members of the Council of Reference and pray for them as they advise myself and the Executive Committee.
Autumn 2000 - End of Term Report
It was good to be working in all six of our target schools in the second half of the autumn term. There were new opportunities and encouragement...
Two Little Words
In November we received a lovely letter from the Headteacher of a Haverhill Middle school. The Executive Committee suggested that some of it be included in this newsletter:
"As a school we are very appreciative of the support given to us by Steve Watts in assemblies and RE lessons. He has given an added dimension to the morale and spiritual life of the school..." "Long may it (Haverhill Schools Initiative) continue!"
Does God laugh?
I have been asked to prepare assemblies on many topics, but recently Parkway Middle School presented me with a particularly unusual one; "Laughter." As Proverbs 17:22 says that, "A cheerful heart is good medicine", I thought that I would share a seasonable joke with you: How did good King Wenceslaus like his pizzas? Deep and crisp and even!
For the first time that I can recall, we took some History lessons. Year 8 (they're about twelve years old) at Clare Middle School were looking at the Romans. I spent an hour with each class exploring the spread of Christianity and the Roman Empire. Although these weren't RE lessons, some of the questions the pupils raised concerned the existence and nature of heaven and hell, and how Christians know God is there!
Can we fix it?
For the sixth year running, I was asked to host the "Stars in their Eyes" event at Samuel Ward Upper School. This is a talent show which takes place on the last afternoon before the Christmas break. As I watched the nineteen acts perform, representing every Year group, I marvelled again at the amazing ability the young people of our locality possess. One of the highlights of the show was the female staff dancing to Bob the Builder's "Can we fix it?" The audience, of some 450 pupils, rose to their feet and joined in spontaneously with the chorus!
Staying Alive is our weekly youth group for those in Year 9 and above (that is, aged 13 and over). We meet every Tuesday, during term time, between 8 and 9.30pm in the Haverhill Methodist Church hall. The Tuesday before Christmas Day, 22 young people attended our Christmas party. The party featured a non-alcoholic cocktail bar. The cocktails were mixed and served by the volunteers who help to run Staying Alive. Music was supplied by two live DJs, one of whom came up specially from London. Both Christians, they blended gospel music with tunes more familiar to our clientele. Free food was also on offer! Burgers and hot-dogs were generously provided by Andy Merlis who can often be found manning his burger van on Haverhill's High Street. Also in December, four of the Staying Alive group and one of their mums, went with me to see "A Child is Born.' This is a Christian musical which was presented by River of Life Christian Fellowship at Haverhill's Town Hall Arts Centre.
Steve Watts (Director) Tel: 01440 708194 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Donoghue (Secretary) Tel: 01440 762843
Kay Smith (Treasurer) Tel: 01440 704075
Autumn 2000 - Half Term Report
In the first half of the Autumn Term we worked in five of our six target schools. Here are a couple of snippets about what's been happening.
"Get into pairs and form a line!"
Does that phrase ring any bells for you? It's one I've heard, and used, a lot lately. You may have seen me traipsing through Haverhill followed by thirty or so blue sweatshirted eleven year olds, all clutching clipboards. This was because Chalkstone Middle School asked me to take each of their Year 7 classes on a guided walk to see some Christian "special places". In the hour that each class had, we managed to look at four or five of the Christian meeting places in the town centre. This lead on to discussion about why there is more than one and what the buildings suggest about the beliefs and practices of the people who meet there.
Youth Alpha group continues
At Samuel Ward Upper School a group continues to meet under the name Youth Alpha. To clear up any confusion, we aren't actually doing the Youth Alpha course anymore, but the name has stuck. Over the half-term fourteen different young people have attended, five of them new, with the average weekly gathering being ten or eleven. We have tried to tailor the content to the group. So far, we have considered how we can know Jesus and what it is to follow Him.
The future's bright
The final details are being worked out for a couple of new projects due to start between now and Christmas. Please pray that the most may be made of these opportunities:
"Lights, camera, action!"
We will be hosting a film club at Castle Manor Upper School. This is in direct response to requests from pupils. We plan to watch and discuss videos one lunchtime every week. This may also be supplemented with occasional trips to the cinema. I see this as a tremendous opening for us to serve the school and build relationships with the young people there.
"It's good to talk"
Something we have spoken about for a long time now is an independent listening service. At last this seems to be coming about under a new name; 'mentoring'. I am going to mentor three Year 11 pupils at Samuel Ward Upper School in their final year of compulsory education. The idea of mentoring is for an adult, who is distinct from both home and school, to come alongside a young person and through regular dialogue to empower them to fulfil their potential. Mentoring can benefit an enormous range of young people including those who lack confidence or motivation and those who find the school environment difficult. Volunteers Some of you will know my dad, Brian Watts and Henry Wilson, both of whom are on our Executive Committee. You may also know that for some time they have been leading assemblies in local schools. This year they have become accredited volunteers of Haverhill Schools Initiative. Please pray for them as they give up their time and energy in this way on our behalf.
A hectic week at the end of September saw our AGM quickly followed by a weekend away in London...
Annual General Meeting
Many thanks to those of you who attended our AGM. It was a pleasure to have the Mayor of Haverhill with us. Positive feedback has been received about the evening.
Sue Fanning and I took five young people, including some from the Staying Alive youth group, to a national youth event based at the London Arena. There were sports, bands, DJs and a worship service on the Sunday morning. Overall, it was a pleasant weekend although some of the young people did find parts of the programme boring. I must admit, that I thought it was trying too hard to be trendy at the expense of substance.
The second half of the summer term continued to provide opportunities for us in all six schools. Some were familiar; others new...