A youth initiative
Geoffrey Squire on the origins and development of Youthlink groups, and the launch of Youthfest
Youthlink groups began over forty years ago as a small group designed to take the young servers from the North Devon GSS chapter to Glastonbury and Walsingham and to GSS and other major festivals. The young servers were invited to bring their friends and they liked what they found and began to go to church with many becoming servers.
Then these newcomers brought their friends and the whole thing snowballed with wonderful results. News spread via the GSS magazine The Server, and other groups were formed in other parts of England and Wales. The groups traditionally have age limits of 11–17 inclusive though in recent years there have been some 16–23 groups and several 18–26 groups. Groups are for males only or females only or mixed, though the all-male groups remain the most popular.
Youthlink has its own safeguarding (child protection) and health and safety policies and these are strictly applied whenever young people are involved.
A way of life
Due to the numbers and other complications, Youthlink does not now organize supervised groups of young people but can provide parishes, etc., with considerable help in setting up their own group. Youthlink can provide much information about group formation, leader training, legal matters, funding, routes, events, destinations, accommodation, etc., and we may even be able to supply leaders in some areas. The cost is amazingly low if each event is organized properly.
Events and destinations have included the Walsingham ‘National’ and youth pilgrimages, Iona and the Scottish Highlands and Islands, York, Haddington, the Procession of the Holy Blood in Bruges, ‘twin town’ links, London, Canterbury, GSS and other major festivals. Participants invariably love their groups and they become a way of life, with very few leaving them. Hundreds have found their faith through these groups and the lives of many have been dramatically changed for the better.
Details of the new Youthlink information packs will be publicized in the spring.
Youthfest arose out of Youthlink. It was to have been a one-off event for Anglican Catholics but the first event in Barnstaple, Devon will now be fully ecumenical with a solid Catholic heart and the launch of Youthfest England, as we hope that other Youthfests will follow. We hope also that there will be ‘Youthfest Cymru/Wales’ to incorporate Welsh language and traditions. The involvement of every Christian tradition is due to the fact that all will be fully involved though not always at the same time.
A typical Youthfest will take place on a spring or summer Saturday. There will be a festival Eucharist, a big street parade, a big Evangelical-style evening service, Manned static displays on vocation and holy orders and the religious life (ACS), young servers (GSS),
Youthlink groups, etc., various ‘workshops’, bell-ringing, organ music, time for eating and drinking, bands, fireworks, and much more. The idea is to have the church, hall, churchyard, and streets buzzing with colour and life and movement and sounds throughout the day.
Though of course the Mass is central, it is the big parade that is the great attraction and will bring in the crowds. It is a ‘Church and Community Festival’ so that we are not just talking to ourselves. There will be incense and cross and candles and clergy in copes and banners and mayors and civic leaders and bands and Scouts and Guides and uniformed youth organizations and school groups with flags and Morris dancers and a Walking Bible; the Holy family, the Triumphal entry, the Good Shepherd, Noah, the way of the Cross and others, hopefully with animals. Except for the bands and animals, the destination will be the church for a short service with joyful singing of the rousing Youthfest hymn and Benediction.
If, for a change, Catholic Anglicans are in the lead and then invite others to join in, it will ensure that Catholic faith and order is safeguarded. Don’t dilly dally on the way or it will be hijacked by the liberal happy-clappies. Youthfest events are only suited to city and larger town centres and their cathedral or large central parish church. As with Youthlink, Youthfest information packages will be available for a small charge in the spring.
For more information please contact:
The Revd Geoffrey Squire ssc,
Little Cross, Northleigh Hill,
Devon, EX32 7NR.
Tel. 01271 344935.
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