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We’re off to camp in a couple of days. No, we’re not actually camping. But we call it that because it’s always been called that. Maybe because people used tents when they took young people away in the 1950s. Who knows? We’re actually off on a CPAS Pathfinder Venture – taking 76 11-14 year olds from youth groups round the country to a boarding school in Devon for a week of fun, adventure, beach trips, crafts and learning about Jesus. The whole of the Vicarage are going, even the Engineer, who is still too young to be an official Pathfinder, but will buddy along with the rest of us and join in where he can and hang out with the Task Force team (who do all the practical stuff) when he can’t.

Also round the country are about 40 leaders of all shapes and sizes getting prepared. Here in the Vicarage we have our part to play. So what essential things do we need to get done before we leave?

1. Reply to the gazillion emails about transport, bible studies, menus, equipment. The inbox tends to heat up red hot in the days before we land in Devon.

2. Concoct suitable costumes for the theme. (France this year). Personally I’m hoping that stripey t-shirts will cut it. Although I know that there will be a few people dressed as baguettes and the Eiffel Tower – the team is a pretty creative bunch. Me, not so much.

3. Prepare the Bible study for the dorm. Although miraculously this year I have done mine already *smug face*.

4. Receive, check, price up and then repack the bookstall. This will take a day or so. There are a lot of books (I just counted and I think we have ordered 251). It will involve post-it notes and patience. It’s arriving from 10ofthose tomorrow!

5. Acquire all the sweeties, craft items and other bits and bobs I have agreed to bring for our dorm times. After first checking through the email that itemises them. If I can locate the email in amongst the gazillion.

6. Sleep for as many hours as possible. Sleep is in short supply in Devon what with early morning leaders’ meetings and late night dorm patrol. My aim is to arrive there *not* completely shattered.

7. Find my shorts with the capacious pockets. And the flip flops. And a raincoat and a couple of fleeces. Doncha just love a summer holiday in the UK?

8. Fill out all the health forms. For me, for the Vicar, for the children. And possibly for the cat aswell; I’m losing track.

9. Obsessively monitor the weather forecast for Barnstaple, praying that we won’t have to book out an entire cinema for an afternoon like we had to that year that Devon was subjected to sheet rain for the almost the entire week of camp.

10. Pray for the team, the kids, the families who send them, the home churches and the Ventures team at CPAS, who all work together to provide a fantastic week of holiday and happiness that can be so important in the Christian walk for so many. My own faith came alive on a CPAS venture in 1981 and I’m praying that all our Pathfinders will grow in faith in Christ next week.

Thankfully we have people staying in the Vicarage whilst we’re away, so we don’t have to work out who’s going to feed (and clear up after) our arthritic cat. I’m leaving early on Friday with Dreamer and we’ll be with the advance troops setting everything up before the kids arrive on Saturday. Then it’s all go until we land home on the following Friday, filled with tales of faith and fun and starting the plans for next year.

We get to go to a lovely beach on camp. We make it a lot busier than this one though…

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The Vicar planned to take a couple of days off this half term to hang out with the family. Today however, he has been talking to insurance people and building people about a little incident in church on Sunday. In the morning the early birds arrived to a bit of plaster dust on the floor of the chancel. We’d had a problem with ants in the roof last year, so we assumed it was the same thing, and the area where the plaster had landed was taped off. It seemed appropriate timing, since the Vicar and our PCC Health and Safety rep had only just attended a Health and Safety training event on Saturday.

Our Sunday services (10.30am & 6.30pm for us, 12.30am for the other church that shares our building, plus our 4.30pm SOUL course) all went along without a hitch. Then, as the final folk were milling around at the end of the evening service and the organist was playing a closing voluntary, there was a massive BANG. And plaster showered down over the chancel and into the nave. A huge chunk had broken off the decorative plasterwork in the ceiling and it dropped down, breaking into pieces and damaging lights and a microphone in its descent.

We are very thankful that the plaster disaster happened after everything had finished. If it had exploded when communion was happening on Sunday morning, there could easily have been injuries. As it is, the Vicar’s holiday has been a little disrupted, and there’s a bit of work ahead to sort out (and pay for) but otherwise we’re fine. Things falling off our church, inside and out, happens almost annually. We love our old building, but sometimes it gives us a bit of a fright. Who’d have thought they only made the plasterwork to last 173 years, eh?

The hazards of Victorian plasterwork

The hazards of Victorian plasterwork

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As I mentioned the other day, I have a large pile of books that I thought might be suitable for kids on our Pathfinder camp this summer. Being a diligent sort of bookstall person, I’m aiming to read them all. And today I whizzed through the first one, Deadly Emily by Kathy Lee.

Emily Smith is a Christian. She’s still at primary school (I’m guessing Year 5 or 6) and her parents have split up so she, her brother and her mum have moved to live with her gran. Moving to a new place, coping with a new school, dealing with bullies and trusting God when everything seems to be going wrong are all covered.

Kathy Lee’s story is well written with an exciting plot which would especially appeal to girls who enjoy school and adventure stories. I liked the way in which Emily’s Christian faith is portrayed realistically without becoming cheesy. Emily clings onto God’s word in tough times but doesn’t always choose the godly thing to do. She’s a normal Christian girl and I think this makes her very accessible for the readers I’m aiming at. It’s not too long (138 pages), has no illustrations and would not be too intimidating for competent primary school readers or younger secondary school pupils.

Who for: 8-13 year old girls
Genre: School/adventure
Recommended for Pathfinder camp: Yes

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Every year the Vicar helps out on a CPAS Pathfinder venture (known as ‘camp’ even though we don’t use tents) in Devon, and I join him there with the kids. A great time is had by all learning about Jesus and having a fabulous holiday. This year I have volunteered to help out with the bookstall. They have one every year and I noticed last year that the selection of books was tailored more to the upper age of the camp and to the more literate kids.

A diverse range of children come along to our camp, from 14 year old clergy kids from the suburban Home Counties to 11 year old barely literate unchurched youngsters from the inner city. And I think it’s a real challenge to find books that will suit them. I’m currently hunting for recommendations and have bought a small pile of books to review from our local CLC bookshop.

In my review pile are the following:

Fiction

  • Deadly Emily by Kathy Lee (the Queen gobbled this up in a couple of hours and very much enjoyed it)
  • The Shock of Your Life by Adrian Holloway (recommended by the CLC manager)
  • Afterwards I Knew by Christine Farenhorst

Apologetics/Lifestyle

  • Jesus Rose from the Dead by Catherine MacKenzie
  • Friends First by Claire Pedrick and Andy Morgan

Bible/Devotional

  • For Girls Only! Devotions by Carolyn Larsen
  • No Girls Allowed Devotions by Jayce O’Neal
  • The Manga Bible by Siku
  • Esther: God’s Invisible Hand by Helen Clark

I’ve had a couple of recommendations which I’ve not managed to pick up: Hannah MacFarlane’s books and that old classic, The Chocolate Teapot by David Lawrence.

I would love to have an appropriate book for every Pathfinder this year. So I am asking around for recommendations. Have you found any good Christian literature recently? I’m not just looking for books either – how about journals, booklets or dvds?

If you’ve done youthwork, or have kids between the ages of 11-14, give or take a couple of years, or have any ideas at all, I’d love to get your recommendations. Have you run a bookstall on a summer camp? What sells well to younger teens? I’m especially interested in books that will appeal to boys, who I know are often not keen readers. All help gratefully received!

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Last week we got back from the Edgehill Pathfinder venture. We’d stayed in  a boarding school in Devon with our kids, a brilliant bunch of leaders and 65 11-14 year olds. We had loads of fun (3 wonderful beach trips, fantastic crafts, excellent games and some lively humour, which included the consumption of delights such as oven-baked tarantula). We made lots of friends (even us mummies who were caring for kids whilst the dads led activities). And we heard the gospel told afresh. The Queen, the Joker and the Engineer were old enough to attend the sessions alongside the Pathfinders for the first time this year and they (aswell as their teenage friends) were gripped by the lively and faithful teaching.

The head honcho, Tim Ambrose posted this thanksgiving prayer letter on his blog last week:

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We were back late last night after a wonderful week away, mainly in Scotland with the Vicar’s family, but also visiting old friends and godchildren en route.  Encouragement, laughter and sunshine has refreshed us; taking the kids to their first Melrose Sevens was a particular highlight.

Coming back is a bit different: the Vicar spent 2 hours on his email inbox this morning and I’ve been spending a similar amount of time with the laundry. Oh joys.

Our week has been tinged with gratitude and sadness as we’ve been remembering Mark Ashton, and mild panic as we realised that Mark’s memorial service (actually there are two, but we’re only going once), which we hope to attend next week, coincides with a particularly busy weekend here in the parish.

So I’d better get back to the laundry and start writing the evangelistic talk I’m committed to giving that weekend or I’ll be in even more of a panic this time next week. Hope you’ve had a good Easter break.

[Edit: I have just come across this article published in this month’s Evangelicals Now, in which Mark speaks about facing terminal cancer as a Christian]

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Vicarage life was particularly fulltime before half term – one of those frantic seasons that hit you from time to time in ministry. The Vicar was out of the house more than in and even his days off seemed to include aspects of work.

So it was with a great sense of relief that we began our half term holiday with a wedding, followed by a stay with friends – another clergy family who have recently moved to Essex.Make sure you pack it every time

When the Vicar family go away I usually write a list of essential activities to be completed and items to be packed before departure. The failure to do this was my first mistake.

A few miles from home I realised that we’d forgotten sleeping bags for the children. These were needed for our stay with our friends. From the wedding reception we called the EssexRectors and they said they could easily find other bedding. Phew.

One lovely wedding and reception later we headed off to Essex, still in our wedding finery, arriving in time for a late dinner. The Vicar unpacked the bags. ‘But where’s your stuff, Vicar’s Wife?’

Then it dawned on me. The pink bag, with all my favourite clothes packed for holiday, was still on our bed at home. Crippled by my wedding shoes I’d come downstairs with only a few lighter items, meaning to ask the Vicar to fetch my bag…

Mrs EssexRector very kindly took me to a localish Tescos for a forage for emergency knickers, socks, jeans and top. I needed something to wear other than my smart but not exactly comfy wedding outfit.

It was only the next day that we realised that the Vicar too had forgotten his socks, and the Joker (having packed his own bag without supervision) had come away with trousers and t-shirts but no underwear. We spent more time shopping this holiday than we were intending.

Don’t let me pack for holiday without a list ever ever ever again.

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