With wistful darkening days, early November looks back.
All Saints, All Souls, Bonfire Night, Remembrance, and the Church year edging to its close.
But by the end of the month the mood changes, to Advent hope, to new beginnings:
“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning.
"The end is where we start from”. T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding.

Amongst the brightest hopes are our children and young people, something I discover as I meet young people who have heard the call of God and are eager to live out their lives faithful to Jesus.
I love to hear why young people choose to be confirmed.
These days very few of them do it merely out of societal expectations. Their stories are inspiring.
One recently spoke of living out his faith as an ‘anti-stigma ambassador’ in his school.
Others have told how they so often find themselves talking about their faith with their peers.
Some come to confirmation because of the example of a friend or a family member.

What they have seen of God in others, they want for themselves. It seems real.
All of us could be that example, all of us have a part to play in passing on the baton of faith and witness to new generations.

Where members of the congregation can be involved in preparing young people for confirmation the benefit runs both ways – children have much to teach adults, as Jesus himself made clear.

Our new Strategic Lead for Youth Ministry, Revd Aidan Watson, joined us in September, and with Sarah Brown, our Children’s Adviser, is discerning how we can best grow our work with children and youth in parishes and fresh expressions of Church.

Aidan and Ben Martin, who with Sian Kellogg has been supporting our Diocesan Youth Council, led a presentation at Diocesan Synod last month.

Two reps from our Diocesan Youth Council, Rosie Hall and Jacob Blackwell, urged us to take seriously what young people have to say.

Offering pizza and exciting activities certainly helps, but what really makes a difference is where the church really listens and welcomes the young as leaders not only for the future, but for the here and now.

Young Christians are the church now, and not just the future.

In a wonderfully spontaneous moment, Bishop Libby asked if Synod would be willing to co-opt a group of participant observers from the Diocesan Youth Council from now on, keeping our diocesan and national church aim to grow younger at the forefront of our collective mind.

This was enthusiastically welcomed, and we can from now on be sure of young voices helping to shape the future of our diocese.

What a huge step forward!

This winter, when all churches are concerned about heating bills, we have a time of opportunity, when schools – especially our church schools - may be only too pleased to welcome church use of their halls on Sundays.

Our archdeacons have recently circulated helpful information about how parishes can get help and respond to the crisis.

A church I once served had to close for two years for repairs, and we found that worshipping in a nearby school gave us fantastic opportunities for engaging with families who didn’t previously connect with church.

We nearly doubled in numbers during that period – and this was sustained when we moved back into church, opening doors in the wider community.

Early conversations with local schools could be really worthwhile, especially as schools seek to develop their own community engagement.

We can be proud of our 111 church schools in this diocese, working to offer ‘lifegiving, life changing learning through excellent education shaped by a distinctively Christ-like vision and ethos’ (from our recent DBE vision statement).

Through them our parishes have contact with nearly 15000 children. Do pray for your local schools, for teachers and children, as they share with us in building community.

But there are 200,000 children and young people resident across Derbyshire.

Looking forward, don’t we hope and pray that many more of these will have the opportunity to know and be transformed by the love of God, and be part of growing church and building community now and into the future?

Many churches across our diocese are taking up this challenge and being incredibly fruitful in it. In the Synod presentation, Aidan encouraged us a recent initiative by Holy Trinity Dinting Vale.

The church noticed the amount of secondary school children passing by outside on their walk home each day and decided to offer them hot drinks and toast.

Now every Friday roughly 80 secondary school pupils, who otherwise would have no connection with church, hang out in the building, play board games and chat to members of the church. Praise God!

The CofE nationally has set the goal of ‘doubling our number of active children and young active disciples by 2030.’

In seeking to discern how to respond to this, it is to young people that we must listen first of all.

If young people where you are might like to get involved in what we are setting out to do, please contact Aidan Watson – [email protected].

Bishop of Repton