Reflection: Dialogue: Action: – “Expressions of faith in Youth Work”, November 18 in Derby


Reflection: Dialogue: Action: – “Expressions of faith in Youth Work”

18 November from 9:30–14:30 in the Britannia Mill, DE22 3BL Derby


An opportunity and reflective space for youth work practitioners of all faiths and none, to gather in exploration, dialogue and recognition of the positive & diverse contribution that faith makes to working with young people in their communities of faith and place.

Through workshops, group discussion, reflective activities and keynote input we will explore key themes including:

The importance of interfaith dialogue with young people in their communities

The spiritual development of young people & practitioners

The tensions and opportunities faith values in professional practice


It is our hope that as delegates we will commit to learning from each other through sharing our journeys and narratives, recognising our blockages and thinking beyond our own known faith communities and reference points.

The day will be facilitated by members of the D2N2 Youth Work Alliance Core Group, including Ian Tannahill, ‘Director of Young People’s Services’ at Blend Youth Project and Angela Brymer, ‘Youth Ministry Adviser’ for the Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham.

Workshop Facilitators

We are pleased to welcome the following workshop facilitators, whose knowledge and experience will help to root our reflections and discussion firmly in models of practice:

Jill Appleton: – ‘Development Worker, Birmingham & Schools Consultant’ for ‘The Feast’.

The Feast is a Christian charity based in Birmingham, working to promote community cohesion between young people of different faiths and cultures.


Ruth Richardson: – ‘Director’ at the Multi-Faith Centre in Derby.

The Multi-Faith Centre exists to promote mutual understanding between people of different faiths/beliefs and none and to build respect between people as fellow human beings across cultures.


Additional useful Information

On-site parking is available.

The event will be held in Rooms: BM 115/116

Lunch will be provided


A short D2N2 Youth Work Alliance AGM will be held during the lunch break.

Book your free place at


Chaplains or Youth Workers : Tensions in Queensland and Beyond?


Whilst at the Queensland Youth Affairs conference I had a brief, but fascinating chat with Steve Forward, the representative of the Scripture Union Queensland [SU QLD]. His presence at the event was a touch controversial, given that his organisation is the leading provider of school chaplains or ‘chappies’ in the state. SU QLD has placed ‘chappies’ in 56% of all Queensland state primary schools and in 87% of all Queensland state high schools. Its web site explains:

SU QLD chaplains, or ‘chappies’, provide spiritual and emotional support to school communities. They are in the prevention and support business: helping students find a better way to deal with issues ranging from family breakdown and loneliness, to drug abuse, depression and anxiety. They provide a listening ear and a caring presence for kids in crisis, and those who just need a friend. They also provide support for staff and parents in school communities.

This might seem standard fare nowadays in rationalising the use of youth workers in schools. I say ‘youth workers’ as the SU QLD uses this description of their ‘chappies’, affirming that its personnel hold a Certificate 4 in Youth Work or are working to a Diploma in Youth Work. However criticism of and resistance to the Schools Chaplaincy Programe has been witnessed on at least two fronts.

1. Since 2012 a long-running battle has been waged by a Queensland father, Ron Williams against the national funding arrangements for the national chaplaincy programme. He is opposed to religious chaplains in secular state schools, including the one attended by his children. However the challenge to the programme has been fought out on technical rather than political grounds, in terms of the way in which the finance has been delivered to the providers. Indeed, despite winning a High Court ruling, Williams is about to return to the chambers as the government has rushed through amended legislation and paid the Scripture Union of Queensland more than $6.2 million.  Nevertheless a significant body of opinion continues to argue passionately that the chaplaincy programme undermines the secular tradition in state schooling and reveals that the separation of Church and State in Australia is not as clear as supposed. Indeed there has been criticism of the ‘christianisation’ of youth work.

Read the saga in more detail at School Chaplains and the High Court plus Chaplains head back to the High Court

2. In all of this the Conservative government has an ideological agenda, not at all dissimilar to our own Coalition. Hence, in its determination to impose the chaplaincy programme delivered through what we might term an outsourced provider it has decided to remove the option for schools to appoint a non-religious youth worker under the scheme. As the SU QLD underlines its staff are guided as follows:

Scripture Union Queensland (SU QLD) and School Chaplaincy ACT (SC ACT) Chaplains model the compassion and unconditional love demonstrated and taught by Jesus, as recorded in the Bible.  A Chaplain will therefore be a person whose beliefs and lifestyle reflect a Biblical understanding of and a commitment to the teachings, life and person of Jesus Christ. While exercising their role from within this framework, SU QLD/ SC ACT chaplains will be sensitive to, respectful of, and available to all regardless of beliefs or religious affiliations.

Meanwhile the Australian Education Union reports that almost 600 secular school welfare officers are set to lose their jobs as the revamped Chaplaincy program replaces the existing School Welfare Program from the start of 2015. I’m not sure how many of these redundant staff would see themselves as  youth workers or counsellors or pastoral care etc.

Whatever your beliefs it seems a holy or unholy mess! But does this have any significance for youth work here in the UK? Given that our Campaign is committed to organising an Engaging Critically seminar on ‘Faith-based Youth Work’, given that more than a few of our supporters are religious in belief, a number of questions and contradictions are posed.

1. As best I grasp what’s going on the renaissance in faith-based youth work within the UK over the last two decades has grown from below in a diversity of ways. In contrast the Australian Chaplains initiative is clearly imposed from above, which is not to claim there is no support for it at a grass-roots level.

2. The SU QLD’s defence of its practice, Dispelling myths, Answering questions, makes conspicuously no reference to wages and conditions. Whilst the faith-based sector has illustrated its commitment to training right up to degree level, has its ambivalent stance on wages and conditions played into the hands of neo-liberal governments in both the UK and Australia eager to undermine national agreements?

3. The SU QLD stresses repeatedly that its intervention is spiritual rather than religious in intent. It is an argument I have heard often and it seems to bridge the gap between believers and non-believers. It proposes a consensus of opinion that there is something beyond time, the immediate, something beyond material existence, our everyday lives. To put it crudely, for believers this something is God, for non-believers this something is an inner essence, a true self. All of which leaves those of us with little time either for God or our inner essence in a predicament. For myself I can only say I have no desire to find inner peace within a world ridden with oppression and exploitation. However perhaps I protest too much the notion of spirituality is probably most used in the educational context to explore creativity, imagination, intuition, feelings and emotions. So less of my ‘pop’ philosophy there are issues here, often brushed under the rug, that it would be fruitful to tease out and discuss in the coming months – not least to ask how helpful is the very idea of faith-based youth work itself?


Bravo Brother Francis! Pope attacks the tyranny of capitalism!

Thanks to Agence France-Presse

Leave aside his plea to God ‘ to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor’ – a prayer unanswered by the Deity for centuries –  the Pope’s ‘Evangeliia Gadium’, his manifesto released today, is a withering attack on capitalism and its dire consequences for humanity. His heart-felt critique seems to reflect in part his recent meeting with the Dominican friar, Gustavo Gutterriez,, a pioneer of liberation theology in Latin America in the 1960’s and 70’s or perhaps I exaggerate. I suspect Ivan Illich and Paolo Freire, icons for many within youth and community work, would be impressed by the Pope’s forthright views.

As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”

“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

“We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.”

“The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.”

“Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.”

Given the remarkable renaissance of faith-based youth work in recent years  I’m bound to ask, ‘what is the response of Christian youth workers, in particular, to the Pope’s passionate and pointed words?’ Forget your sectarian differences, will his confrontational ‘Joy of the Gospel’ be taken up in discussions with young people?

As an irreconcilable atheist I can but applaud his courage and integrity. Bravo and solidarity with Brother Francis – an injury to one is indeed an injury to all.

La Lutta Continua!