Gill James was apprehensive about helping with SHEEPDIP. She came away with prayer and faith renewed

WHAT IS IT you’re helping on? Something called SHEEPDIP?? These comments rang in my ears as I rushed to Birmingham from London on Friday evening. I arrived (earlier than I expected) at S.Alban’s school to find a noisy group of teenagers besieging the registration desk. Happily, no-one took any notice of me as I slipped in the door – for which I was profoundly grateful since it gave me a chance to get my breath back. This was the last time such an opportunity was afforded me!

So what was the weekend like from the perspective of an adult helper? It began on Friday night with a beetle drive which was intended to get everyone to know everyone else. I discovered that I was the unluckiest dice thrower in Christendom and consequently got stuck to my seat for the entire game! Saturday (after a noisy evening during which the youthful participants seemed reluctant to go to bed and the adults wished for either a hefty gin or the whole bottle) started with a choice of workshops (art, music or quilling) although some people

opted for a quiet morning in the coffee bar. Mass was followed by lunch and then, on Saturday afternoon there was a choice of either abseiling or swimming to occupy the time. Most people went swimming but the abseiling (whilst not quite up to SAS standards) caused a great deal of hilarity especially since photographs had to betaken during the descent.

After a pause for tea, the real business began getting ready for the disco. Our room at one point was reminiscent of a perfumery counter as the teenagers changed (some of them several times) and the adults leafed around saying “this is as good as it gets” when it was suggested we should dress up.

On Sunday everyone seemed rather tired but we all got to breakfast and workshops before mass at 1pm followed by lunch, a time to pack and Benediction. After this we left and scattered to the four winds in preparation for a new week.

So what was this weekend like? The participants generated incredible energy and they all appeared to enjoy themselves, judging by the

noise levels. It was essentially a week, rooted in orthodox faith and practice, and this was reflected in both the activities and the worship. A community was formed which prayed, sung, ate and laughed together.

I will always remember the mass on the Saturday as being particularly moving. It was a privilege to worship in such a beautiful church with such kind acoustics for singing. It is an odd reflection that one of the songs we sang was also included in the order of service at S.Paul’s’ the week before. “We are marching in the light of the Lord” was sung with rather more enthusiasm by everyone in Birmingham than in S.Paul’s!

Christianity in this context was certainly not dreary and reminded of me of times spent at Taize. To quote Fr Crane “fun is compulsory” – and we certainly had fun!

Jill James is on the Committee of London Diocesan Forward in Faith