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SPEAK event hosted by York Chaplaincy
08 September 2012

SPEAK is an Evangelical Christian network for students and young people that prays and campaigns against global injustice. This national charity encourages and equips the rising generation to bring about spiritual, social, economic, political and environmental transformation in the world, working to establish God's Kingdom in all its different facets.

Every September SPEAK holds a 'Vocal Training' weekend that connects its members and develops their skills in campaigning for justice, peace and the integrity of Creation. The 2012 'Vocal Training' event is being hosted at More House, the Catholic Chaplaincy at the University of York, entrusted by Middlesbrough Diocese to the care of the Carmelite friar community in the city.

More House Catholic Chaplaincy and Carmelite Friar community

On Friday 7th September the students taking part in the SPEAK gathering came to More House to set up a yurt (tent) in the spacious garden.

Setting-up the yurt in More House garden

The Prior of York, Fr. Tony Lester, watches as the yurt is erected

The national weekend is being held in York at the invitation of the local SPEAK group that meets regularly at More House Catholic Chaplaincy. Some participants come in pairs or small delegations from their local SPEAK groups and others come on their own. Approximately forty young people are taking part in the Vocal Training weekend which takes as its theme "Watering Cans and Gardening Gloves", inspired by the Bible phrase "The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose ... For we are co-workers in God's service; you are God's field" (1 Corinthians 3:8-90).

Setting-up the yurt is a hard-hat affair

The long weekend will celebrate God’s creation, tending the green shoots of peace, and unearthing how Christian young people can blossom into powerful, rooted voices for change on the campuses, churches and communities where they live.

The finished yurt

Preparing for the new academic year which begins at universities and colleges this autumn, SPEAK's annual training gathering allows young people to meet others in the network, share experiences and skills, and grow in understanding of the Bible's call to justice.

Inside the yurt

The September gathering of SPEAK is normally held in a rural setting, taking place in the SPEAK yurt (dubbed "our little big dress") alongside indoor facilities. Many of the students taking part are camping in the yurt (which has its own wood-fired stove) or sleeping in nearby Heslington Church. The event is very community minded, with people taking turns to cook and wash up as they eat together.

A justice and peace quilt inside the yurt

The aim of the weekend is to equip people with the skills and inspiration needed to be able to campaign effectively, to pray and to share faith wherever they are. Sessions include skills-based training for communicating the Christian faith and campaigns, practical workshops on everything from holding a prayer event to lobbying a Member of Parliament, tips for running a SPEAK group or for getting churches or community groups more involved in justice issues. The group considers the theology of justice, and how to campaign for justice creatively.

Jordan Walters, a member of the SPEAK network and Co-President of the University of York Catholic Student Society CaSSoC, helping to decorate the yurt.

Relaxation and discussion inside the yurt

Creative campaigning

Free time can be used for drinking cups of tea with new friends, exploring the surrounding fields or woods, spending time with God out in the open air or in the prayer room, playing games and soaking up the sunshine, or even going scavenging for edible fruit and berries to make pudding. The cabaret evening gives people in the SPEAK network a space to perform songs, poems, stories or comedy, both familiar classics and trying out new material they’ve written themselves.

Games in the garden

Faith mixed with fun

Sharing together

Sunshine and song

Saturday lunch was inspired by the idea of sustainability. It included local products, such as honey produced by the More House bees. After lunch the Prior of the Carmelite Friars in York and Catholic Chaplain to the University of York, Fr. Antony Lester, gave the SPEAK group a tour of the beehives at the bottom of More House garden.

Off to see the bees

Delicious local produce

Over the weekend the group also visited a local allotment.

A SPEAK member visiting the allotment

More House was a beautiful and inspiring venue

Camping in More House garden

SPEAK-ing loudly to those passing by More House

Photography: Johan Bergström-Allen & Sarah Henderson