In the training sessions I run I occasionally show the above image and ask people to tell me the colour of square ‘A’ and the colour of square ‘B’. In every session so far, each member of the group answers confidently that ‘A’ is a black square and ‘B’ is white. And why shouldn’t that be the answer? We know that chess boards are made up of two opposing colours, typically black and white, and even if we’re unsure what those colours are, it is possible to work out which is which based on the arrangement of the squares on the board. And yet, despite our confidence that our prior knowledge has enabled us to come to the ‘correct’ conclusion, we find that due to factors we hadn’t initially considered, we are wrong.
But on closer inspection, it becomes clear that the shadow cast by the cylinder means that both squares ‘A’ and ‘B’ are the same colour. Check out this image:
This generally leads to several minutes of discussion and checking that I haven’t somehow doctored the second image, followed by a realisation that we had all been drawn towards a conclusion that seemed certain, yet was based on misconception.
It is this same ability to be led so easily by our own prior understanding that sometimes we even fail to see what is really going on in our own communities.
I work in Kinver, and to some, the idea of doing youth work here can seem fairly quaint: a beautiful historic high street in a lovely village, surrounded by greenbelt land and situated at the base of Kinver Edge, a National Trust site and tourist attraction. It appears to be an idyllic setting for young people to grow up in. This is why members of our church family, on occasion, ask us why it is necessary to provide free food and drink for children attending our weekly after-school club given the middle-class background of many attendees? Looking past this first impression reveals a different picture: we know that for some of our children, the food we provide may be the only thing they’ll eat that evening.
Many of Jesus’ parables were designed to challenge misconceptions, and it is a constant challenge for us as a church, and especially to those of us in children’s, youth and families’ ministry, to look beyond our own world views and see what is really there. As Mother Theresa famously said, ‘Calcuttas are everywhere if only we have eyes to see. Find your Calcutta.’
Jon Pedley is the Youth Pastor at AD33 in Kinver. He may look 12 years old and bear a passing resemblance to spider-man, but before becoming AD33’s Youth Pastor, Jon was a primary school teacher in Stourbridge. When he’s not working, you’ll probably find him watching or playing sport, plugged into his iPod or enjoying a big cup of tea and a massive book.