Sixteen ladies were present- a good turnout- to hear what Jo Hartley had to tell us about Pilots here at Longcauseway church.  Jo brought all her own equipment ( David's in reality!) and by providing her own PowerPoint was able to illustrate her talk and entertain us with slides of past activities at Pilots. Some activities had been supported by our members and they were both pleased and horrified to see themselves on screen from former times.

Jo began with a historical narrative. John Williams, a 19th century English missionary, was indirectly responsible for the founding of Pilots which is a non-uniform Christian organisation for children and young people aged 5 to 18 years.  John Williams had needed a boat or ship for his work around islands of the South Pacific and so that this work could continue for many years afterwards children used to collect pennies and half-pennies in a box or "ship", so in 1936 the London Missionary Society decided to give something back to the children and Pilots was formed. A nautical theme seemed the obvious one with the idea of the pilot bringing his ship to harbour.  Then in 1944 the Congregational Union of England and Wales asked if they could join with the LMS, thereby adopting Pilots.  When in 1972 the United Reformed Church was formed the head office at Tavistock Place in London became HQ for PiIots.  Then other denominations introduced Pilots so the organisation is now non-denominational.

Jo proceeded to tell us something about the structure of Pilots.  Four colours denote age groups.  Green is for Deckhands, the youngest children who start at the age of 5 or 6.  They progress to Adventurers, blue, where they remain until the age of 11 when they finish Pilots at our church. In other places some young people go through to Voyagers-red- then Navigators-yellow.  These colours are shown on a badge.  When our Pilots meet it is one gathering and it is not always easy to manage but the older ones help the younger ones.

The Pilot badge is a circle depicting a boat on the sea.  There is a cross in the centre and fish in the sea.  The circle reminds us that God's love surrounds us no matterhow rough life can be (the sea).  The boat, a symbol of the church, reminds us that Jesus taught his disciples to be "fishers of men". The cross is at the centre of our Christian lives and the fish is a traditional Christian symbol.  ( Greek word for fish is ichthus-Jesus Christ, of God, son, saviour). This last bit is mine!

When a Pilot is enrolled he/she receives a badge to wear on Wednesdays and Sundays.  At our church nan extra reward is given for attendance at church-the Gold award- but this is not generally given.

What is the aim of Pilots? It is to enable children and young people to work physically, mentally and spiritually and to feel part of the local and worldwide church.  Each session begins with everyone forming a circle. Games are played then the Pilots' promise is made. Then everyone takes part in craft or activity sessions.  Afterwards there is some teaching and a booklet is provided to help with this.  Christian festivals are followed and other festivals such as Father's Day.  The Pilots work towards Crests when they become Adventurers.  The various sections are taken from the letters of the word Pilots- praying, interest, learning, overseas, talents, service.

Jo became involved in Pilots 11 years ago when Valerie jenkinson asked her to "come and help". She soon realised that that meant taking over!   Jo says she has such fun with her Pilots and she appreciates the opportunity to impart something of God's love to them.  She emphasised that the sessions are not like school.  She encourages the young people to use the church building and its facilities so that they realise that they are not just premises to be used on Sundays only.

Each Pilots session lasts one and a quarter hours and time flies by.  They start at 6:15 on Wednesdays. The Pilots like to have visitors, especially from our church.
We all enjoyed every moment of Jo's talk. Her enthusiasm for Pilots is boundless and her commitment total.  Our church Pilots are privileged to have such a vibrant and dedicated leader and we appreciate all that Jo does for them and for our church in general. She gives her time so willingly.  Jo, we thank you for all that you do.


The speaker at our November meeting is Mrs Susan Field, the daughter of Mavis May.  Her topic is Dementia Friends. Susan is coming over from Manchester and we hope that as many people as possible (male, female, young, old) will come to listen to this important topic.

Elaine Heard


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