I have fallen behind with my blogging but my brain is going to burst if I don’t start writing some down soon, so I thought I would start with the most important one first:
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On Friday 18 November I attended the funeral of Kathryn Copsey at Church of the Ascension in Custom House. Kathryn died on 11th November having fought a brain tumour for 1 year. Having had a long term presence in East London with her husband Nigel for many years Kathryn was a natural person to connect with as we began the work of Urban Expression back in 1997. I am no good at remembering dates, but early on Kathryn became a member of our founding steering group and helped to formulate an initiative which has grown out of East London to other inner cities. When new steering groups formed in other cities Kathryn chose to remain on the London Steering Group in order to retain a local focus.
Not only was she interested in the mechanics of Urban Expression but at her core she wanted to spend time with children and was interested in helping us establish some meaningful work with some of the most marginalised children in Tower Hamlets
It was beautiful to hear tributes from people who told stories from many aspects of her life. Throughout her life Kathryn has maintained a passion for people to know God and has focussed that passion especially on children in inner-city neighbourhoods. This led her to develop numerous resources and the establishment of CURBS. Kathryn believed that every child was made in the image of God and as such in every child there was a ‘God-spark’ that could be discovered – she wrote about this spirituality in her highly acclaimed book From the Ground Up. Kathryn contributed to the fledgling work of E1 Community Church (Cable Street Community Church as it was when it started) and tested out some of her materials on the energetic, beautiful, diverse children of Shadwell, Stepney and Wapping, allowing her passion and informal teaching style to rub off on to us.
I remember fondly the evenings spent in our kitchen in Shadwell with Kathryn as we ran ad-hoc ‘clubs’ for local children. So often these felt like nothing particularly special and certainly incomparible to many well-resourced youth programmes, but looking back I can see without doubt how these affected so many childrens’ lives – children who are growing up knowing that there is a God-spark within them still.
One of the things that made me cry was when someone said that Kathryn had commented only some time before her diagnosis that she wished she had made more of a difference. It is tempting to feel that unless our work gets public accolade that it is not significant or does not make much of a difference. It hit a chord with me because I recognise a similar trait in myself – always wanting what I do to make a difference but convinced there is always more to do. I hope Kathryn came to realise how valuable her ministry was and I pray that in years to come she will rejoice with the angels as she sees the fruit.
And I pray for those who take up the mantle in CURBS that they will continue to provide much need resources for children in urban situations for whom standard materials, often written from a middle-class, suburban, churched perspective, don’t relate. CURBS are being prophetic, for one day soon there will be hardly any children in the UK who grow up in churches and then these resources will come into their own.
Along with many others I give thanks for Kathryn, a creative, incarnational prophet and value deeply the foundations she has laid in East London that others have the privilege of building upon. On Saturday at our Urban Expression Community day we reflected on one of our values which says:
We respect others working alongside us in the inner city and are grateful for the foundations laid by the many who have gone before us.
In response we wrote on bricks the names of those who have laid foundations in our neighbourhoods and gave thanks for them, adding our own fingerprints and DNA in the concrete as we seek to play our part in laying foundations too.