The Lab Newport, in partnership with Frontier Youth Trust’s StreetSpace have developed a new youth work resource enabling young people to explore hands-on spirituality. The Experiments is a series of 10 sessions, each looking at one of the beatitudes, stripped of religious language and presented as five practical experiments that tap into the value and spirituality beneath it.
The Experiments emerged as an idea out of The Lab’s work with young adults in Newport. That original home grown resource was shared with the StreetSpace Community of Practice in 2011 where it was trialled with several groups exploring practical spirituality with young people. Out of this trial, StreetSpace and The Lab worked together to shape the accessible and innovative resource most recently launched.
In modernising the Beatitudes, we translated ‘Blessed are…’ as ‘God is with…’, giving each of the values a different set of experiments. By experiencing, or standing in solidarity with those who experience, each of the conditions in the original text, the resource invites young people to experiment with the spirituality it offers. For example, to explore ‘God is with the poor’ The Experiments encourage young people to fast for a day, give away something important to them, or sleep on the floor for a week.
Jon To, a Youth Worker in Chelmsford Diocese, was one of the first to run the updated version of The Experiments with a group. He says, ‘It’s going really well, and all of the young people have been heavily engaging in the activities. The make up of the group is mostly boys and a few girls, mostly agnostic, a few churched and a few atheists. What I’m finding is that those that are heavily engaging are encouraging the others to get more involved and are often doing 2 or 3, sometimes 4 of the activities during the week. Something really cool that has come out of it was the week when we were experimenting with God is with those who choose to control their strength. It asked the participant to let somebody win in an argument. An atheist who didn’t really get the point of that asked “What if they’re wrong?” and we started to get to the root of some of her feelings. She was adamant that people needed to be corrected if they were wrong, but I talked about winning the argument, but losing a friend. The following meeting we talked a bit more, and her views had completely softened.’
The Experiments are presented as a deck of 10 cards, one for each session that participants collect throughout the programme. Young people can keep these cards as a reminder and provocation for each experiment, building a rhythm of spiritual practices and reflections. These cards are available to order on the Frontier Youth Trust website. The leaders guide is available as a free download so you can try it out for yourself first; or chop, change and adapt it to your local context.