I write this with the words of Frank Sinatra running through my mind: "And now the end is near." Not because this is a final curtain (I hope!) but because it is the final week for the Animate team of 2014–15. Of course, at the time of writing, our work was due to continue with the Lourdes pilgrimage, but the team who have shared their lives as part of the community here at Lowe House are preparing to leave and take the next steps on their life's journey.
I hope it has been a fruitful year for them. It cannot be easy to join a community such as we have at Lowe House. I often think of my own experiences on joining the seminary community; but even as the numbers declined at Ushaw we were still a large group of people. Furthermore, we also had classes and pastoral work that took us away from the house. For the team here at Animate there is no such parallel.
It is expected that they will meet for a time of prayer in the morning before the work of the day starts. We will then either prepare in the house for a group of young people to arrive for a day retreat, or get on the bus and make our way to another venue and work with young people closer to their homes. The team then cook for each other and eat together and have evening prayer at the end of the working day.
It can be difficult to acclimatise to such an unusual way of living. To come from a family home and have certain freedoms (along with certain responsibilities) and all of a sudden be expected to cook for nine people and be in the chapel at 6am for morning prayer and have the responsibility of making sure certain parts of a very large house are kept clean and tidy can be a daunting prospect.
Yet there is a reason for all of this. Again, I think of my own seminary experiences and realise that living in a community allows for the deepening of a relationship with God. It is through the regimen of prayer times together that we can become accustomed to offering to God our day. In the same way, it is through sharing a life with others that we come to realise that our needs might not be as important as we might have thought and so begin to see the world in a different way.
It is easy to fall into the belief that the work we do with young people is the main function of Animate. Yet I increasingly see this work as a by-product of the community life of the team. It is only through having a vibrant team of young people who live together as a community and share their joys and sorrows that any work done with young people has any credibility and authenticity. Without the community, any ministry with young people will be as shallow as "a gong booming or a cymbal clashing" (1 Cor 13).
And so I hope that this year's living as part of a community has been fruitful for the 2014–15 team. At its best a community can profoundly affect those who are part of it for the rest of their lives. My hope and prayer is that this year at Lowe House will have deepened and strengthened the faith of the team and given extra impetus to their mission to live the life the Lord is calling them to. As they take their next steps, either moving on or preparing to rejoin the community here next year, please pray for them.
Animate team of 2014–15: