PACE, the final frontier?
My connection with PACE began during my time as a student at Elizabeth College, where I attended a Christian Union which was run by PACE’s first schools’ worker, Keith Le Cheminant. As I got older I saw the value in the work being done and seeds were sown in me, which grew into a passion for youth work during my time at university and as a volunteer youth worker. As a result I applied for a job with PACE when one became available (around 1998) but was not successful. However Mark Le Tissier (the chairman of PACE) soon realised his mistake… (no, actually it was more a question of God’s timing!) and when another vacancy appeared in 2002 I jumped at the chance to get onboard with PACE. The extra experience I’d had as a youth worker and teacher set me up well for the demands of working with children and teenagers in schools across the island.
I have many fond memories and have made many friends during the last sixteen years. Perhaps the most memorable thing I did was to become a superhero for a month every year and visit primary schools wearing my underpants over my trousers and a golden cape as part of my Lightning Lee outfit. This chapter of my PACE life ended several years ago, just in time to spare the blushes of my daughter as she started school, but I am still reminded of it occasionally by students, now well into their High School years, who call out “Hello Lightning Lee!” as I make my way to an assembly or club, or just walk by in town!
One memorable alter-ego who has stayed with me to the end though, is Oscar the puppet, a favourite among primary-age children, who helped teach many life lessons and stories from the Bible, ably supported by his puppet colleagues.
But the last sixteen years has not just been about the 2000 or so assemblies I have done with the team. It has also been a great privilege to spend time with students in lunch clubs and lessons and get stuck into discussions on serious (and sometimes not so serious) topics. In recent years I have thoroughly enjoyed PACE’s increased focus on lesson support and the way we have brought a creative, interactive and Bible-based approach to R.E. lessons. I have realised that we don’t need to have all the answers to be a good Christian witness in these situations, but we need to be honest about our faith, including the questions that we might still have. This is where the Church in Guernsey can have a massive impact; just being real with people, showing we care enough to engage with schools and taking opportunities to serve and share our faith in appropriate ways.
When I look back at my time with PACE I can see that much has been achieved. The work has developed and expanded, in both volume and variety, and we have sought to plan strategically in line with our mission statement. I have seen team members come and go; I have had twenty-three PACE colleagues if my memory is accurate! But despite all of these changes the heart of PACE has remained: a desire to faithfully represent Christ in Guernsey schools, sowing seeds wherever we go, much like that seed that was sown in me back in the early 90s when PACE started out. I pray that PACE will continue to sow into the lives of young people for many years to come, supported more and more by local churches and individuals.
So as my adventure with PACE draws to an end and I begin a teaching role at Elizabeth College I will take some great memories (and hopefully some transferable skills) with me. It could take some time to get used to being called ‘Sir’ rather than ‘Lee from PACE’ and it will feel strange, but I trust that in this new chapter I will be able to make a positive difference in the lives of many young people. I believe God has plans for each of us, even if he leads us into unexpected places.