We have been speaking to Gill Morgan, one of our longest-serving Crusaders, having clocked 68 years as a member of Crusaders-turned-Urban Saints. Gill shares her journey, recalling the highlights, the ‘outrageous fun’, constant reinvention and her passion for ‘youth stuff’.
That passion continues. Just the week before our chat, Gill and her husband Ken (a former Chair of Crusaders) hosted various events that brought around 200 young people in their garden, including a group of boys from Urban Saints Guildford asking questions around the firepit. The week before, at a diamond wedding anniversary of two former Crusader leaders, guests included lifelong friends from Crusader days. And the week before that involved a trip to London to meet with two fellow Crusaders from her school year – both coming to Christ when Gill was baptised. And so on... Crusaders is in her blood.
In all you do, keep your eye on Jesus
How long have you been involved in Crusaders/Urban Saints?
I joined 68 years ago – taken by a friend to the Sutton Girl Crusader class. This, for me, was a complete outlet where I could be myself and think outside the box in which I grew up. When I was 16, I joined the Wellesley Fellowship, which was 200-strong, drawn from 20 or so local Crusader classes. It was mixed! It was my lifeline – young people on a journey together, exploring faith.
I became a leader at Sutton girls, which was a very formative experience and I owe a lot to the wonderful women who nurtured me in leadership. Later I joined in the girl’s national camp programme. One of the great strengths of Crusaders is trusting people to do the job.
I met Ken through Crusaders. He was the leader of Winchester class. Together we launched the Virginia Water class.
Are you still passionate and involved?
Absolutely! Last week on Friday night we were joined at the Narnia firepit by a group of young guys from Guildford Urban Saints. There’s nothing quite like a roaring fire and S’mores to provoke a good discussion about life.
We contribute as we can mentoring and serving the national Urban Saints family on a couple of committees, but locally we now provide a venue for everyone to share. We are totally blessed (and slightly crazy) to have Narnia in the garden. It was our lockdown project. Two acres of wild woods where we cut the paths ourselves and as restrictions lifted people started to join in with loads of enthusiasm and creativity.
What makes Urban Saints special?
It’s the simplicity of ‘Looking to Jesus‘. What a life motto.
And it’s the sense of team, always counting people in, together with a freedom to innovate and be creative. Being stretched, learning, and changing, flexibility on every level.
Ken is a chartered accountant, and my career was in the Inland Revenue – we took rather opposite views on tax and a lot else! But we are both committed to a ‘long obedience in the same direction’ (Eugene Petersen), Looking to Jesus. Bringing hope to young lives through several different charities but Crusaders/ Urban Saints has been at the core of everything.
Lifelong friendships are created through shared memories of sacrificial commitments, scary moments and outrageous fun, so, there were hosts of Crusader friends amongst the 600 at my 80th birthday in the garden and Narnia.
(above: Gill and Ken in their Narnia garden.)
What were some of the highlights?
So, so many stunning memories, it’s difficult to choose.
From early years when Cliff Richard came to Wellesley Fellowship, I was playing the piano!
And the start of Virginia Waters Crusaders, it was a God moment when at the awareness evening for potential leaders, all 13 committed to every Friday, and then the first night when 137 young people turned up. We had a lovely Christian band, but the kids wanted to sing one they knew…. 10 green bottles!! The class grew and for 20 years we always had around 300 on the books supported by over 30 committed leaders, mostly home grown.
It was a Lifestyle.
What message do you have for the Urban Saints community?
Urban Saints’ specific calling is sowing seeds. It’s a missionary job. As Vincent Donavan says, we are working with an ‘exotic tribe ‘ - ‘you must have the courage to go with them to a place where neither you nor they have been before ‘
'Hope is hearing the music of the future. Faith is having the courage to dance to it today. Love makes it beautiful’.
The key is Looking to Jesus. Leaders who do so are inspirational.
And finally, ride the change. Change is wonderful and you learn when you change.
"This is the real secret of life... to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realise that it is fun." Alan Watts, The Essence of Alan Watts, Celestial Arts Publishing Company