After seven years of service to Thames North Youth Executive Jessica England shares her experiences.
Reflections on my time as a member of Thames North Synod Youth Executive (SYE)
Jessica England, aged 22
I was first introduced to Thames North Synod Youth Executive by an older member of the youth at my church, when I was fifteen. Having signed up for Youth Assembly went along with her to a pre-Youth Assembly meeting, not knowing at the time where this journey would take me. At the time I was lacking in self-confidence, feeling disconnected from my faith, and didn’t have many close Christian friends.
After an eye-opening weekend at Youth Assembly, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved in Thames North SYE, barely knowing anything about the United Reformed Church but wanting to make friends and find my voice. I started coming along to meetings and weekends away, and began to form firm friendships with other Christian young people.
Seven years later, and I have been completely transformed by my experiences within Thames North SYE and the wider URC. I chose to be baptised and become a member of the URC in 2014, compelled by my experience of encountering God at my first Youth Assembly. Later, I was given the opportunity to sit as an under 26 representative on the Thames North Synod Resources Committee. While I was certainly out of my depth, it ended up being one of the most valuable work experiences on my résumé- as well as a cherished opportunity to get to know Heather Pugsley, Thames North’s dedicated Children and Youth Work Advocate. In 2018 I stepped up to the role of Convenor for the Thames North SYE, chairing SYE meetings, working together with Tom Howells (the Synod Youth Representative at the time) to organise events, and doing my best to be a reliable source of leadership to other young people in Thames North as we underwent the process of recruiting a new Children and Youthwork Development Officer (CYDO).
My self-confidence came on leaps and bounds as a result of my involvement with the URC. When I first began to get involved I was too nervous to speak in front of crowds, and felt as if my ideas were undeveloped and not worth hearing. Since then I have faced my fears and conquered them, including proposing an amendment of my own design at General Assembly in 2018 in front of hundreds of representatives. Speaking at Synod meetings, leading activities at events like ‘Inside-Outside’ and chairing SYE meetings has helped me to develop public speaking skills and shown me the potential I have to lead. When I feel I have something important to say, I say it with confidence- because Thames North SYE, and the URC Youth, have given me the opportunity to be heard.
Lastly, Thames North SYE has been a valuable opportunity to get to know some very marvellous people. Some have moved on, like our previous CYDO Simon Rudiger and many past members of the SYE, while others have been an enduring source of inspiration and support, for instance Heather Pugsley and Isaac Harvey. We’ve also been glad to welcome Lorraine Downer as our new CYDO, and look forward to more of the transformative work we know she is capable of in Thames North Synod.
My time as Convenor of Thames North SYE comes to the end of its extended run this January and while I still have a few more years left to enjoy being a member of the URC Youth, I’ll be taking a small step back to focus on my burgeoning career. In the meantime, I’ve been reflecting on all of these experiences as I ponder about the future of Thames North SYE, and what it can offer other young people like me. My wish is that Thames North Synod would continue to advocate for the voices of young people, giving them a space to discover skills and capabilities while nurturing friendships with other young Christians. Young people have endless potential, and are the future of the United Reformed Church- we should invest in their learning and growth and encourage them wherever we can.
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