Hello, my name is Hannah Bartlett and I’m currently in my second year volunteering at the Youth Ministry Team (YMT) and working alongside CAFOD in their Step into the Gap programme. This is my second consecutive year living in community, and needless to say it’s far from what I expected! Living in community is challenging at the best of times, as it requires you to be fully present and open to both being challenged and having the courage to challenge others in the hope it will inspire growth within the group. However, these fruitful conversations create a culture of honesty and authenticity, which is imperative in our ministry. I was on the team last year when we were all sent home in March in anticipation of the first national lockdown, and I remember feeling saddened to be leaving the community I loved so much. It was during this lockdown that I had the opportunity to reflect, and it was during this time of reflection and discernment that I decided to come back to YMT for another year. Perhaps naively expecting things would be back to “normal” by September, I was shocked to learn that YMT would not be hosting any young people coming here on retreat for the foreseeable future, but that the gap year programme was still running. However, the promise of living in community once again fuelled my desire to return and be a part of navigating the new ways we, both YMT and the wider Church, can minister to young people in a time of such uncertainty.
Now we are in a second lockdown, the community at YMT are still living in Consett near the beautiful landscape of Derwent Valley. We have a daily rhythm of prayer and structure to our day, where we start and end the day with prayer in the form of the divine office, and pray the angelus at 12 noon if it is possible to do so. The prayer life and structure of the community helps me greatly in my own individual prayer life – something I missed whilst at home in the first lockdown. In the scriptures, we are reminded that “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20). For me, this is community; coming together and helping each other to see Jesus more clearly in our individual lives. Whilst lockdown is certainly challenging, and whilst community can also be challenging, the fruits of community and community prayer have been and continue to be invaluable to me and allow me to deepen my faith and grow ever deeper in my relationship with God.