Welcome to the coloured glass classroom! We hope to provide you with lots of creative ideas and resource links to help you engage the young people in your religious and Christian education classes. This blog is sponsored by the Anglican Schools Commission of the Anglican Church Southern Queensland.

27 October 2019

What are you thinking about?

Teaching religious education is about encouraging your students to think. A wise friend of mine says it is about opening the window and seeing what the breeze blows in.
Using videos can be a wonderful and powerful way to start a conversation.
Here are some 'oldies but goldies' - great videos to open a conversation about concepts such as kindness, compassion, help, love, support, attitude  and purpose. 

Simply share these stories - 2 are true stories - and see where the conversation leads!

Because kindness keeps the world afloat.

TWC NEWS- Austin - Apollos Hester

Derek Redmond

24 October 2019

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas ...

Photo by Gareth Harper on Unsplash

I know that many teachers are already planning their Christmas lessons, so I have a few very interesting videos for you.

I wonder what you will think of  The Adventures of Mary & Joseph from the Bible Reading Fellowship? While these videos are not new, perhaps they will spark lots of discussion with your  students. 

Enjoy the story! There are 9 videos - I have just uploaded the first few so you get the idea.
Episode One

Episode Two

Episode Three

Episode Four

4 September 2019

Climate Change and More

If you haven't watched 2040 yet - then at least watch this preview!
It is an amazing film. 
So why not talk Climate Change in your Religious Education classes! What does the Bible say about looking after the Earth?
Here is a TED Ed talk - and it comes with lesson ideas too! Beware - you will be exploring Evolution!! 
Now today - you get even more exciting stuff! A fabulous resource is Cool Australia. Click on this website for excellent lessons and resources.
How do we explore all environmental issues with an ethical gaze? Do Christians have a different view of the importance of caring for the environment than other people? You could develop some great debates and inquiries around this topic while teaching your students to argue and debate with respect and dignity.
If you want to open up your discussions a little more, have a look at ARRCC - Australian Religious Response to Climate Change. 

25 August 2019

What do you think you were put on Earth to do?

Photo by Duncan Kidd on Unsplash
This question comes straight from one of my favourite websites, Barnabas in Schools. Have a look at their wonderful lesson. I have used their lesson ideas here and then added some ideas and resources. 

Imagine using Circle Time and starting with this question - 
What do you think you were put on Earth for? 
Allow students time to think and then do a Think Pair Share activity. In some classes, Triads work – one student talks, one student repeats what was said in their own words and one student interprets, reflects and reports back to the group.

Ask students to then consider their own gifts, skills or talents and ask them to be a little more specific about the reason they are on the earth.

Introduce the story of Antoni Gaudi. If you are working at an IB school – you might like to plan this with a transdisciplinary focus and work with the Art teacher, the Design and Technology teacher and the History teacher!
Photo by Greg Nunes on Unsplash
Note for your students that Gaudi’s teachers did not know what to do with him – he was bright but so shy. He missed a lot of school due to illness. He loved nature and was fascinated by design.
Photo by Zidonito McBrain on Unsplash
By the time he was at university, Gaudi confused people with his questions.
              Why do some buildings look better covered in ivy?
 If you are going to have a door handle, 
why not make a door handle that feels good to hold?
Gaudi was a devout Christian and he also asked the question, “What was I put on Earth to do?”
Well – as you know – the rest is history – literally. Gaudi designed the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Maybe introduce the Parable of the Talents and see how the students interpret this story in light of our purpose on Earth? Max7 is definitely worth looking at if you haven't been on that website recently. 

Have a look around Bible Theatre also. 

So how can you help your students discover their purpose in life?
This video from the Greater Good Science Centre might help you in planning your classes.

Just as another idea – you could choose the story of Gaudi to introduce a unit on 
Sacred Spaces – Churches and Cathedrals
What makes a space Sacred? 
Where do you find Sacred Spaces? 
Do we need Sacred Spaces?

Also - the pictures I use usually come from one of my all time favourite places called Unsplash. You can use the most fabulous images from this website. Have an explore if you haven't already discovered this great resource for all teachers.

13 August 2019

What’s the point in reading the Bible? How does it affect my life? Am I supposed to ‘feel’ something every time I read the Bible?

As educators, we love questions. These questions come to us from the Bible Society’s book, The Field Guide to the Bible.

We feel very blessed to be supported in all we do by the Bible Society. They create amazing resources that we think all schools will find extremely useful, as they explore the big questions of life and faith with students.

Not only have we enjoyed their brilliant Masterclass recently, but Dr Paula Gooder also spoke about the Bible Society at the Anglican Schools Australia conference in Hobart.

Today I am going to focus on just ONE great resource for you - The Field Guide to The Bible: Making some sense of an ancient book with really tiny font.

I just love this book! It feels nice! Chances are you are a teacher – and like me you love stationery and all sorts of pens and paper. Well, this book just has that lovely natural paper feel.

Ok – so when you open the book – it gets even better!
It really looks like a Field Guide. Great icons, excellent definitions, helpful information and all presented in such a reader friendly way. This book will bring clarity and understanding to all students - teachers too!!!
I would suggest that you do your best to get a copy of this book in to the hands of every student you teach.

This great little book includes:
o   What is the Bible?
o   Reading the Bible
o   The Story
o   Book Guide
o   Help Along the Way

I love it all – but the section on “Hearing God Through the Bible” is fabulous. Can God really speak to me through a book? There is a great section on praying the Bible and a step by step guide to the Lectio Divina. This book is an absolute treasure trove and just a great way to connect your students with the Bible. If you can’t get one copy of this book for each student – perhaps go to Koorong and buy a class set?

“I am the Lord your God. I am holding your hand, so don’t be afraid.
 I am here to help you.”
Isaiah 41:3 (CEV)

31 July 2019

What do they know of England, who only England know? Rudyard Kipling.

Here is a great idea for your World Religions Unit. Perhaps call it “Holy Envy” and let the students explore faiths of their choice and look for what they envy about other religions. It is such a thought provoking topic and could make up a brilliant inquiry unit. Now before I go on – you need to know that this is not my idea! I stumbled upon this wonderful book which I really enjoyed reading – called “Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others” by Barbara Brown Taylor. I heard Dr Paula Gooder interview Barbara Brown Taylor about this book and thought how inspirational this might prove for our religious educators.
If you have been trying to decide about introducing field trips to your classes, then read this book and explore the idea further.
This book is not a book of lessons but it has so many ideas for religious educators. It is a walk down memory lane with a wonderful teacher who poses questions and will help you challenge your thinking along the way.

W  Is it better to read about a religion in a textbook than to risk actual contact with it?
W  How would I feel if a group of students visited my church and treated the holiest things inside it like oddities?
W  Can anyone who visits a sacred space remain an observer, or does one become a participant simply by entering in?
W  Does taking part in a ritual of another faith automatically make you a traitor to your own?
W  Do Christians welcome non-believers to participate at the altar?
W  Can Anglicans take Communion in a Catholic Church?
W  Do people of other faiths perceive Christian love as charitable condescension?
W  Are you ever ashamed of your faith?
W  Do you ever envy an aspect of another person’s faith?
W  How can we define God?
W  What do Buddhists believe about ‘god’? Can ‘Gods’ bring an end to human suffering?
W  Buddhism – the path to peace does not involve divine mediators; people need to take responsibility. Do we need ‘gods’?
W  Is life ever pain-free?
W  Did Buddha claim to be a ‘god’?
W  Can you have a religion without a ‘god’?
W  Is it a religion if there is no deity to run the world, forgive sin, punish evil and grant eternal life?
W  Why might Buddhism be very attractive to Christians? (Concepts of suffering, peace, compassion?)
W  Do you think Jesus gets mad if we like things about another religion?

The big question to think about with your students is – “What do you envy about other religions?”
Is it the nonviolence of Buddhism?
Is it the prayer life of Islam?
Is it the sacred debate of Judaism?
Is it the inclusiveness of Hindusim?

Krister Stendahl, a Biblical scholar referred to in this book is famous for proposing three rules for religious understanding:

1.    When trying to understand another religions, you should ask the adherents of that religions and not its enemies.
2.    Don’t compare your best to their worst.
3.    Leave room for holy envy.
There is so much for religious educators to think about in this book.
If you don’t have time to read the book – here is a great clip!

17 July 2019

Awe, the Moon and Apollo 11. What is the connection?

Photo by Ganapathy Kumar on Unsplash

Two extraordinary, creative and brilliant teachers at Churchie, Steph and David, were discussing the anniversary of the landing on the moon and a connection to a spiritual sense of ‘awe’.
So here are some ideas for religious educators to help you and your students celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing while teaching Religious Education.
You may need to brush up on the whole story with your classes first, so here is a great website suggested by Alison, the librarian at Churchie. Thank you Alison!

Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

Ideas to link the Moon Landing to Religious Education

1.    Comparisons

One way to link Religious Education to the Anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s first moonwalk might be to look at similarities between the Moon Landing and Jesus coming to Earth. This is fun thinking activity, to encourage students to think deeply about the life of Jesus.
The idea for this activity comes from an article on the Creation Research website

Encourage your students to brainstorm any differences or similarities they can find between the Apollo 11 Mission and the story of Jesus. I would suggest getting students to work in pairs at first, and then join  together to share ideas. I have listed some ideas taken from the article.
Think about what the Moon landing had in common with Jesus.

Years of Preparation
o   Years of intensive preparation
o   Many preliminary programmes such as Mercury, Gemini, Ranger, Surveyor and Orbiter
o   Prophecy of His coming
o   Preparation by John the Baptist
Great wisdom and power
o   Required intelligence of thousands of people – highly trained scientists, pilots, engineers etc
o   Great wisdom
Great cost
o   $30 billion
o   Paid a price – gave his Son for us
Precise Timing
o   Precise timing was essential
o   All things are in His time
o   God has a schedule – Acts 1:7
Three in One
o   3 men went to the moon in Apollo 11
o   2 went to the moon while one remained in orbit
o   Trinity – idea that Jesus and Holy Spirit came to earth – while God is in ‘orbit’ – all around us all the time
Unspectacular Landing Spot
o   Drab, lifeless, no air, no oceans, no blue sky,  no clouds, dust, rocks, craters
o   Jesus left heavenly home to descend to a ‘dark’ planet where there was sin, bullies, sickness, injustice – born in an unremarkable town of Bethlehem
Onlookers cheered the arrival
o   Mission Control – and the whole world cheered when the Eagle landed
o   Jesus was greeted by Angles singing, shepherds.
Constant Communication
o   Astronauts in contact with Mission Control
o   Taught us to pray – to pray continually
Brief Stay
o   The astronauts only stayed for a short time
o   Only stayed 33 years – but His ministry was only about 3 years
Memorial – what was left behind
o   Plaque with signed names – Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Edwin Aldrin Jr and Richard Nixon
o   Still celebrating and remembering those astronauts.
o   Cross
o   disciples
Safely Home
o   Astronauts returned safely home after completing their mission.
o   Returned to His heavenly home after completing His redemptive mission for us

2. Holy Communion in Space

Did you know that Buzz Aldrin took Holy Communion in space?
There is a theory that NASA did not want the world to know this fact. Research the veracity of this story and then discuss some of the big ideas with your class.
*  Religious freedom – should Buzz Aldrin be allowed to openly take Communion on the space trip?
*     Why do you think an astronaut might want to take Communion in space?

Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

3. The Overview Effect

Watch this extraordinary video and think about what it means to look back at the earth from space. Use this to introduce a discussion on ‘awe’ and what it is to be really amazed and overwhelmed.
The Overview website states that “the film, available for free on Vimeo and YouTube, documents astronauts’ life-changing stories of seeing the Earth from the outside – a perspective-altering experience often described as the Overview Effect. Common features of the experience are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment.” 

Ask your students what resonates with them about the movie? What do they consider the key ideas? Discuss the idea that the self and the world are connected. The ‘overview effect’ is linked to spiritual or meditative effects. What do you think this means? Is this story about religion or science or both? Can it be about both? What does this video have to do with the environmental issues? What are the implications for peace?

4. Awe

As we remember the astonishing achievements in space travel, there seems to be a common theme around “awe”.
The Greater Good Science Centre at UC Berkeley is doing wonderful work researching ‘awe’. I must admit that I am a huge fan of the Greater Good Science Centre. I spent a fabulous week at UC Berkeley, attending the Summer Institute for Educators, which was by far the  best professional learning experience of my life. Anyway – why not teach a Unit on Awe? There are plenty of resources available.
Perhaps begin by listening to Dacher Keltner.

Here is a great summary and definition of 'awe' for the teacher – or senior students – from the Greater Good for Science – Berkeley. - 
Have a look at – “How do I Cultivate It?” So many resources here. Remember to look at the video too! 
Find a video you think will cultivate 'awe'. Maybe ask your students to suggest their favourites!

Project Yosemite might be useful in your classroom. I would encourage your students to create their own "Awe Videos" to share. They could consider what inspires them. You might even have an "Awe" photo competition? 

The Greater Good website has so many resources for you to use.

Awe and Christianity are often explored together. An article by Andrew Tix, from the Biola University Centre for Christian Thought,  notes that awe may be one of the most spiritually significant emotions that humans can experience. Tix goes on to explain that understanding and cultivating awe may be one of the keys to Christian formation. Tix explains that today we may ‘water down’ the true power of the word ‘awe’. Originally, a word to suggest ‘fright’ or ‘terror’, ‘awe’ had a sense of trembling from being in the presences of something uncanny, overpowering or vibrantly alive. It implied a mystery mixed with feeling or being astonished or transfixed.
The Bible has plenty to say about ‘awe’. There are many truly ‘awesome’ events in the Bible. When people are in the presence of angels there is a sense of awe. Rabbi Heschel translates Psalm 111:10, saying “the awe of God is the beginning of wisdom”.
If you haven’t felt ‘awe’ lately – take a walk on the wild side – look at trees, go whale watching or grab a copy of “Planet Earth”.
According to Tix, awe lies at the heart of traditional Christian experience and formation. “Science is increasingly documenting the connection between awe and spiritual virtues and behaviours, including patience, generosity, compassion, humility, belief and wisdom.”

In Space, John Glenn saw the face of God: “It just strengthens my faith.”
Read about John Glenn in the Washington Post and then reflect on the power of awe and its connection with faith. What do you think?

5. Indescribable

Don’t forget to listen to Louis Giglio for some inspiration. Maybe enjoy the song too!
Again, just use the snippets you think will help your students to develop their understanding of ‘awe’.
The Song
The Book

I love the introduction to this wonderful book! The books opens with - "What was the last time you said the word 'awesome'? This is a stunning book! Definitely worth a trip to Koorong or look online. I think this would be a fabulous resource for every teacher to have on their desk! Enjoy!

Image result for indescribable book

May your teaching be awe inspiring!