God calls the young

Published on: 1 May 2017

On our recent Diocesan Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, our Palestinian guide reminded us that 2,000 years ago the usual age for betrothal was fourteen. So Mary would probably have been a young teenager when she gave birth to Jesus.

Paintings of the nativity and even crib figures often depict Joseph as an older man though it is not at all unlikely that he was a teenager too. We have very little idea how old the disciples were but James and John still had parents alive (and in their father Zebedee’s case still working as a fisherman) so they may well have been teenagers also. In any case, average life expectancy was no more than 40 at the time.

In the gospels we read a story featuring many young people. We tend to imagine the main participants are of mature years, wise and venerable. Yet God calls the young to be witnesses to him as the story of our salvation unfolds.

Jesus Christ still needs young witnesses to him. The passage of years does not in itself bring spiritual wisdom and maturity. This edition of The Magazine illustrates beautifully the depth, courage, imagination and curiosity within the faith of young Christians in this Diocese. They are a huge blessing to us.

Sometimes the image of the Church is of a venerable institution. In our diocese, with a Cathedral more than 900 years old and many church buildings inherited from centuries past, that’s inevitable. But the good news of God’s saving love in Jesus Christ is ageless. Read the Sermon on the Mount and you do not think it is an antique address. ‘Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth’ challenges a culture of power politics. ‘Blessed are the poor for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs’ reminds us that those with the least in this life are specially favoured by God.

Those of us mature in years and faith sometimes forget the radical edge of the gospel and the way it should provoke us to rethink our priorities. That’s why I always find encounters with teenagers in school refreshing because I am often asked questions people of my own age rarely think to ask their bishop. For example, in one sixth-form group I was asked what I thought I was doing when I prayed, and what image of God I carried in my mind. These are often the sort of questions which fascinate the young. It is that sort of curiosity which leads to faith in Christ.

There are many images of God. In the Bible he is called ‘the ancient of days’. However, at a festival in a northern cathedral I once saw a banner produced by some young people which proclaimed ‘God is forever young’. So he is.

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Articles in this issue...

Face to faith – Florence Toplis

Hello, I am Florence, member of Aylsham Parish Church and I'm ten years old. I am a server for my church and I am a part of the youth group there. I am also very proud to be confirmed and write this article for The Magazine.


A changing world, a changing church and a new generation

Each generation has to cope with changes in technology and culture but how is life really experiences by young people today? How has the church changed to help young people through these current challenging times and will it be enough to keep faith part of English culture? James Dawes has discussed these issues with leaders and fellow young people to discover their thoughts.


A pilgrim’s progress in high school

The world is becoming a scary place for young people. With everything going on – Brexit, a new Prime Minister, tuition fees rising – it is even more difficult for those with a Christian faith (I have learnt from experience!).


By Your Side: a short story

I have a great friend. He’s always there for me. When I’m having trouble with my work or something like that he’ll help me. If I’m being bullied he’ll get rid of the bully. If I get upset, he’ll comfort me. We’re best friends. He’s the kind of friend everyone would want.


My cathedral life: Lucy Thalange

My parents started taking me to Norwich Cathedral when I was three years old so naturally Sunday school was the highlight for me. I also enjoyed people-watching, and at communion I noticed that it was only the people that put their hands out who got the bread.


A student in search of a church

I am a first year Occupational Therapy student at the University of East Anglia. My family is from London and I have been part of my home church, The Bear, for around 11 years. I was very sad to leave back in September.


One Day with Charlotte Snell – Member of Youth Parliament

The alarm goes off at 8am. I sit up, open the curtains and thank God for the day ahead. Today I have a busy day with the Norfolk Youth Parliament as I will be meeting with my local MP, Chloe Smith, attending the Shelf Help Launch and a meeting about the Make Your Mark Ballot.


Young Vocations – called to ministry

It all started shortly after my nineteenth birthday. I was in the pub listening to a friend who was having a tough time when he said something very strange to me, ‘Jack, you would make a great vicar!’


A young photographer’s journey around a church

Lucy Thomas, aged 11, has two passions, drumming and photography. Here she shares her shots of a first-time visit to St Mary's, Burgh-next-Aylsham.


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