The Norfolk and Norwich Christian community website

Norfolk marriage charity celebrates ten years

Explore2Christian charity Explore Norfolk has been educating young people about relationships and marriage since 2001. A special celebration was held last week to mark the landmark anniversary.

By Helen Baldry

Gavin Struthers
, Chair of Explore Norfolk welcomed around 50 guests to the King’s Centre on Thursday 14 October for an evening which was both entertaining and thought-provoking with guest speakers the Rt Revd Bishop Graham James, Chris Ford, the Chief Executive of Expore nationally and Gerry Batty, headteacher at Hellesdon High School.
Karen Nice, the Explore co-ordinator talked through the highlights of the past ten years from the first Explore session at Notre Dame High School when the group was called ‘Students Exploring Marriage’ through to 2011 having worked with over 3,000 young people in six Norfolk schools over the years.
Explore Norfolk holds sessions in schools where volunteer Christian couples talk about their marriage with the young people – usually aged between 14 and 18. The couples answer questions openly and honestly, giving examples where they can, in order to give the young people a realistic view of what relationships are like.
The most powerful testimony to the charity’s success is the feedback from the young people. Comments include:
“Wow! I’ve never met anybody who has been married more than ten years!”
“I could have never had this conversation with my parents.”
Bishop Graham James has been a supporter of Explore right from the start. He spoke of his own marriage – and of the trends over the years which form our society’s perception of marriage such as it being the prerequisite to getting a council house 30 years ago.
Explore1The Bishop talked about the reasons why marriages split up, sometimes after 25 or 30 years. “It is possible for people to live entirely through their children. When their children leave home they find they have not nurtured their relationship.”
He said that love is not an inert state and that it needs to keep developing.
“Sometimes people move house or retire and then discover it was their work or friends that sustained them. They hadn’t fed their relationship so when circumstances changed they discovered an emptiness.”
Bishop Graham commended the couples who volunteer with Explore Norfolk who are prepared to talk about their relationships. “Marriage isn’t a private thing. It’s something to allow other people to explore. We are married in society and marriage is an act of public worship and witness.”
Surveys frequently link marriage with significant levels of happiness, yet it is hard to convince politicians of this; Christians have to fight for the value of marriage which is certainly not privileged compared to other relationships.
Gerry Batty, Headmaster of Hellesdon High School said that one out of two children come from a home where the marriage has split. There are many where the second or third relationship has split and he is seeing an escalating number of child protection issues. “Each time a new partner is on the scene, the level of commitment to the child decreases.”
He said that his school is careful about not thrusting the Christian dogma through the Explore sessions; the emphasis is on forming lasting relationships and the Christian element is important.
Gerry spoke of the young people’s Disney-like expectations of relationships. “There’s something really dangerous in there. If it isn’t perfect it’s not worth fighting for.” The notion of working hard at relationships is something Explore couples communicate.
The young people like hearing about ‘normal’ marriage and they express a real surprise that marriages can last so long and that they are neither perfect nor like a soap opera.
The message of Explore is about hope; by having a dialogue with young people about relationships we can show them it doesn’t have to turn out the way they fear it might.

For more information about Explore Norfolk contact co-ordinator Karen Nice at explorenorfolk@ntlworld.com or on 01603 470731. 


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