King’s Lynn opens arms to Church Army officer
For young people in King's Lynn already facing challenges, the pandemic has been the last straw. Church Army officer James Hawksworth has found a way to respond where the need is most acute.
Nearly three years ago James Hawksworth arrived in Norfolk, tasked with developing a Centre of Mission – a hub within the community that would encourage people to engage with the Christian faith.
Having settled in King’s Lynn, James, who is a Captain in the Church Army, was very keen to learn about the area and the people. He spent the first six months getting to know the churches and their members. He learned about the various existing projects so as to ascertain what was already happening. He visited local schools and community groups, as well as wandering around the town talking to lots of different people, from coffee shop owners to those who simply got involved in the conversations he was having.
The one thing that kept coming up was the need for something that would support secondary-school-age young people. James went back to three secondary schools - Springwood High School, King Edward the 7th Academy and Kings Lynn Academy - and is now in the process of developing strong links with them and with the young people there. He also has met with the YMCA West Norfolk team.
James says he been blown away by how the schools have responded to his presence. He has been given freedom to take young people out of class to work with them on a one-to-one basis.
He has met with 11- and 12-year olds who have developed eating disorders due to bullying. One of them in particular was losing weight very fast and suffering immensely because of this. He spent a considerable amount of time talking about body image, health and societal expectations. The student said that what really helped was being given time to talk it all out without interruption and without someone trying to fix him.
“Our young people can feel very lost and misunderstood at times,” said James. “Anxiety and other mental health problems are on the rise in many young lives.” His position within the schools has begun to allow many young people to open up and find some meaning in their lives. “Even the teachers are noticing the changes,” he said.
“Lockdown has had a massive effect on schools. We know that many young people, especially those with more difficult backgrounds, have had to live in hostile environments, locked down with those that are less capable of giving the right kind of support.”
As schools have reopened, it has become clear that many young people have struggled to find care and support. Since being back at school James has been working with young people who have been bereaved or have developed a poorer mental state because of lockdown.
“Encouraging young people to have a voice and to speak positively into their own lives and into their friends’ lives is so important, especially at the moment,” said James.
He is seeking to develop partnerships with the local churches within the catchment areas of the schools to try and link schools and churches together, an initiative which has been welcomed by all the churches involved.
He has shared his vision especially with St Faith’s Church in Gaywood, as it is within the Springwood High school catchment area. Some of the members of the congregation there are keen to start the application process to become a volunteer within the school.
“This is a long-term strategy,” said James. “I would like this work to carry on beyond my employment. I would hate to think that if anything happened to me the whole thing would collapse. God willing these bridges will last a long time after I have gone.”
If you would like to find out more about James’ work or to support him in prayer or financially please contact him on email@example.com
Pictured above are James and Laura Hawksworth