Gorleston youth outreach celebrates successful year
The Gorleston based Identity Youth Project was described as 'a vision which has become a reality' at a recent event which celebrated the successes of the past year and looked ahead to the future. Tony Mallion attended the celebration, and brings his report.
The annual celebration was held at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Gorleston and was attended by around fifty people from churches throughout the area. During the evening, full time youth worker Matt Ashpole described how he had bravely unveiled his plans and dreams twelve months ago while wondering how he would achieve them. But in his report, he explained how with God's help so much had been possible.
Identity was set up eight years ago. Matt Ashpole, right, who had formerly been a volunteer with the project before leaving the area to become a qualified youth worker, returned and was appointed to lead it in November 2018.
He immediately began work meeting with the local churches and planning a re-launch. This built on some of the existing work while also introducing new projects including LYN (Love Your Neighbour). 'This is spreading the love of Jesus to the community with gardening and other projects' Matt explained. One of the youngsters who took part in LYN said 'I think LYN is one of the best things. It is good to go out and help other people'.
Both Matt and the Rev Matthew Price, the Vicar of St. Mary Magdalene and Matt's line manager, stressed the importance of partnership with the local churches, helping to support and create work among people to encourage and build them in the Christian faith. The annual meeting heard how youngsters benefitted from meeting together with other Christians, how it helped them stand up for their beliefs and also run organisations like Christian Unions. 'Talking about faith at school is difficult so it is good to get together with other Christians' said one youngster.
The organisation currently works with six local churches, including ones in Bradwell and Belton, where the projects include supporting and nurturing youth clubs, helping with Messy Church and Open the Book, Bible studies, leadership training, holiday clubs and a school holiday event aimed at providing meals for families and activities for their children. The monthly Central, held at St. Mary Magdalene, brings together around 20 young people from different churches to worship, debate and enjoy food together.
Identity has a group of trustees and a growing number of volunteer workers. Brian Philpot, the Identity treasurer, said God had blessed the work over the years and had always provided. Support comes from local churches and individuals. The regional Methodist Church was particularly generous with a large grant for four years and Sheringham's Lighthouse Community Church also provides some regular funding. But Brian admitted that getting money was a challenge, particularly from major funding organisations, but they were actively pursuing this. He appealed for more regular giving from individuals and churches in order that the work and employing Matt can continue beyond the summer.
Anna Price, the organisation's chair, said they needed 'to make the most of a great youth worker' as they developed young disciples and resourced work in churches using talented volunteers and encouraging churches to do this for themselves rather than Matt having to do it all. She also highlighted the opportunities to build relationships with the top years in primary school and said that talks were going on with the East Norfolk Sixth Form College about possible work there. This was all part of the vision for 20/20 she said, quoting the verse from Proverbs 19 'Where there is no vision the people perish'.
During the celebration, worship was led by the St. Mary Magdalene Worship Band and people gathered round Matt, the trustees and volunteers to pray for the work. Trustee Nick Hewitt said 'A vision has become a reality. We look forward to what God has to offer in the future'. Jan Gwyn from Cliff Park Community Church, which is one of the main supporters of Identity, added: 'It was such an exciting vision a year ago - and in the way it has developed'.
The photos above, showing Anna Price and the St. Mary Magdalene Worship Band led by Mary Ives; and Matt Ashpole reporting on the year's activities, are courtesy of Tony Mallion.
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