26 August 2023

Enabled Summer School 2023: People of power!

Chris Stringer

A photo shows the whole school outside, singing with their arms in the air.

Learning Disability Inclusion Manager Chris Stringer reports from this year’s Enabled Summer School.

People of Power was the theme for the 2023 Enabled Summer School.

Essential maintenance to the sports hall – which is usually the main venue for our activities – meant that some, such as a brass band and a final festival, were not possible.

The tradition of having two joint leaders for the week continued with Alex Phillips (Croydon Citadel) alongside Lieut-Colonel Ray Irving.

Following the success of the online Enabled events during the Covid-19 lockdowns – which have continued at Christmas and Easter – we decided to broadcast livestreams from the Summer School, as well as record and broadcast activities so people could join us, even if they were not there in person. We are grateful to Justin Gibson (Bromley Temple) for taking the lead on these.

The welcome session included a quiz, during which we considered some of the most powerful things in the world, from cars and animals to countries. We were reminded that, as powerful as these things are, nothing is more powerful than God. A repeated theme throughout the week was that we are all ‘wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139:14) in the image of God (see Genesis 1:27), that God has plans for us (see Jeremiah 29:11) and that each of us has gifts, skills, talents and qualities that can be used for the power of God.

A time of worship started each day. On Sunday morning we followed a trail around the college grounds, stopping at seven points to consider and reflect on God’s power in our lives. In the afternoon James Pask (THQ) shared his moving testimony.

A photo shows three people smiling at the camera as they relax before the final celebration.

As well as a whole school choral group, everyone had opportunities to take part in two activities, be it musical theatre, choral, dance, drama, timbrels or the Music Man Project, which replaced the brass band. We trialled a contemporary band at the 2022 Summer School and continued it this year.

Fellowship is an important part of our week. A prayer room set up by Captain Georgina Symons (Histon) offered people the opportunity to explore the week’s theme at their own pace. Georgina also headed up a pastoral care team, offering times of supported prayer and one-to-one support.

We had four fellowship groups for members and supporters to choose from: discussion group, Bible study, Godly Play and sensory group. The fellowship groups explored examples of people of power, such as David, Paul and Catherine Booth.

A wide range of optional activities included art, crafts, mindfulness, a magic show, exercise, sport and more.

Tuesday was a time for day trips to Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens, or Swindon – either to the Museum of the Great Western Railway or a retail outlet – or Bath, with some going to the city’s Roman Baths. For the first time ever, we sourced coaches that were wheelchair accessible, which meant the groups could travel together rather than in separate vehicles.

Everyone had a great time with many memories made and photos taken.

On Tuesday evening we enjoyed Paddington 2 in the theatre. With popcorn, drinks, snacks and the ability to dim the theatre lights, we felt as though we were at the cinema. The evening was enhanced by people dressing up as Paddington!

A photo shows people moving through a dimly lit tunnel-like area that is ablaze with streaks of white, red, yellow and blue light.

On Wednesday evening we enjoyed karaoke. The theme for the evening was an Enabled Rave with people dressed up in bright clothing and lots of glow sticks on display.

Thursday evening’s Spotlight was an opportunity for members and supporters to show off their talents and skills, including singing, poetry, dance, comedy, sign language and playing keyboard.

Territorial leaders Commissioners Anthony and Gill Cotterill joined us on Friday. Members were delighted to receive certificates of attendance from them, as well as certificates for members who had demonstrated skills during the week.

Following this, the Friday celebration comprised members and supporters performing what they had learnt and practised during the week. We enjoyed performances from the Music Man Project, contemporary band, choral, musical theatre, dance, drama and timbrel groups, all based on the theme People of Power.

Following the performances was an opportunity to listen to a brass band on the sports field. We are grateful to Carl Gunn (Cheltenham Citadel) for organising it. People also enjoyed the play equipment and percussion instruments along the edge of the sports field that the National Star College provides for students.

After a buffet, we concluded with whole school choral singing on the lawn – the first time that Enabled has held an outside concert.

shows a Karaoke night; the lights are low and a dispersed group of people sing and wave their arms in the air.

During the concert we made some presentations to supporters. The first was flowers, a card and a gift card to Cerys Jones (Wrexham), who – although getting married the weekend after – led sessions on communication and art as well as the drama group.

The second was to Majors Barbara and Bob Davies, who are retiring from the Enabled Summer School after many years of service, including leading drama and as treasurer. They received a card, flowers, photographs and a plaque. Barbara spoke about the joy of being part of the Enabled Summer School.

The final presentation was to Ira Thomas (Sutton), who was retiring after many years of leading the choral group. Ira also received a card, flowers, photographs and a plaque. She spoke about the skills and talents of people that are so often overlooked.

On Saturday, the Enabled Summer School left the National Star College for the final time. Due to the demand for 52-week-a-year placements, the college is no longer able to accommodate the Summer School. We hope to move to a new venue for 2024 and will confirm the details in the autumn.

Written by

Chris Stringer

Chris Stringer

Learning Disability Inclusion Development Manager, THQ

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