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.

30 July 2013

Chasing God

Chasing God  is by no means a new resources but it is a valuable one for exploring topics like world religions or the philosophy of religion. In essence it is a documentary exploring a range of question about God from the perspectives of people from many different religions. The website for it can be found here:

The blurb  says:

"In times of upheaval, people seek solace in a higher power. Three quarters of the world's population has faith in a God. If they are right, who is this higher power? This film tackles the eternal question: Why do humans believe? Narrated by Dawn French and starring an Atheist (Australia's Phillip Adams), a Sikh, a Buddhist, a Pastor, a Scientist, a Muslim, a Rabbi, a Guru, a Sufi, a Researcher, a Spiritual Elder and a Cardinal."

The video can probably still be bought from the website but it can also be watched online.

There is a study guide which may be of some use in the classroom. 

17 July 2013

God and Music

“I play the notes as they are written, but it is God who makes the music.”
― Johann Sebastian Bach

“The final aim and reason of all music is nothing other than the glorification of God 
and the refreshment of the spirit.”
― Johann Sebastian Bach

Music is an important part of the life of many young people.

Research released by Philip Hughes last year had young people listing music as the top way they deal with the challenges of life and one of their top ways for achieving peace and happiness.

Much of the best music ever written in the West has deep roots in Christian spirituality and even today many “secular” bands continue to incorporate spiritual and Christian themes throughout their music.

So why wouldn't we be using this obvious resource for religious and Christian education.

What might a unit based around God, spirituality and music look like?
There are three approaches that come to mind for me, depending on what you hope to achieve. A blend of all of them might be most desirable and would allow students not only to learn about Christianity but also from it.

Approach 1: The development of Christian music

In this approach a survey might be done of Christian music throughout the ages. A unit like this might explore some of the following questions:
  • what is sacred/religious music?
  • are there different types?
  • why is it important?
  • what it is used for?
  • how does the artists perceive God’s involvement?
  • does sacred music differ to music with spiritual themes?
  • what impact does sacred or spiritual music have on Christians and people in general?
  • what does the importance of music in Christianity tell us about how they perceive God?

Throughout this exploration use the music to help answer the questions above.

You could explore:
  • Gregorian and other types of chant
  • Classical Music with Christian themes
  • Hymns and Psalmody
  • Christian rock and roll and hip hop
  • Modern worship music

Approach 2:  Music and Spirituality

A second approach would be to listen to, discuss and analyse modern or ancient songs that deal with issues affecting the live of students. The songs chosen should be ones that seek to reference the Christian faith or Christian themes in some way. These songs don’t need to put a positive spin on everything but should somehow draw on the stories, motivations or beliefs of Christianity.
In this unit some of the following questions might be explored:
  • Why is music so deeply connected with spirituality?
  • Why do secular artists incorporate Christian or spiritual themes into their music?
  • How can music help people deal with problems?
  • Is there a difference between Christian music and music written by Christians?
  • How does music influence peoples thinking?

Approach 3: Exploring Christianity through Music

With this approach some of the key themes of Christianity could be explored through music either ancient or modern. These themes could include:
  • creation
  • Jesus
  • sin
  • redemption
  • community
  • love 
  • service
  • justice
  • forgiveness

Use music to explore what different people have to say about these topics through their music. Investigate how these ideas are similar or different to Christian theologies.

Just thinking about the idea of a unit relating to God and music made the following songs pop into my limited imagination. Some of these draw on Christian tradition and some on the beliefs of other religions or on popular spirituality. There are a million songs that could be helpful, many more modern than these.
  • The Outlaw - Larry Norman
  • Audience with the Devil - Hilltop Hoods
  • Highwayman - Johnny Cash
  • Take my life - Garage Hymnal

8 July 2013

Islam in the media

I am always interested in the way that the media portrays religion and religious belief. This being the case I was interested to read: Rachel Woodlock tells how her conversion to Islam was a personal awakening.

The article on news.com.au is promoting the book: For God's Sake: An Atheist, A Jew, A Christian and a Muslim Debate Religion by Jane Caro, Antony Loewenstein, Simon Smart and Rachel Woodlock. A review of it can be found here in the Australian

A few weeks ago on this blog there was a post about the way that different religious groups are trying to shape the way society perceives them. Islam as a religion certainly has a battle on its hands overcoming years of negative press if it seeks to do the same. The question may be asked if this article fits in to this category. While the article is to help promote the book, it focuses primarily on Rachel Woodlock's conversion to Islam and how it has changed her life. The intention of the article is certainly to make Islam seem quite normal and ordinary to everyday Australians.

It is fascinating that in a media landscape often drenched in negativity towards religion an article like this can still make an appearance.

This article might be helpful in exploring perceptions of  religion on Australia or the media's treatment of religious groups. The book may be useful in exploring religion and non religious world-views.

3 July 2013

Bible Genres – Exploring Psalms

Strand(s):  The Bible and Theology

Year level: Upper Primary

Phase: Entire Lesson

Time:  40 minutes +

Summary: This is a lesson for exploring genres in the Bible, specifically that of Psalms.

In an earlier blog post we discussed one way of exploring genres in the Bible. Here is a lesson looking at the genre of Psalms. Psalms might be compared to poetry or song in their function and intention.

Poetry is one of the best ways of expressing ideas and feelings that cannot be put into ordinary language. Often it uses metaphor, simile and imagery to describe the focus on the poem.

  • Have students discuss what poetry is like.
  • Read a favourite poem and ask students what the feeling of the poem is. 
There is much writing that is similar to poetry throughout the whole Bible. In particular the book of Psalms contains writing about God and the experience of God’s people that is in a somewhat poetic form. Psalms may be understood more effectively if we treat them like poems or songs that are trying to express deep emotion and thought.

  • Have students read Psalm 23.
  • Ask them what they notice and what the features of the psalm are?
(Alternatively you could have them watch some Psalm presentations through Youtube such as Psalm 23 or Psalm 139 . There are many more available with a little searching.)
  • Invite students to find a psalm in the Bible and answer the following questions. 
  • Have students share with one another or the rest of the class what they discovered.

 (Students might need some guidance in the Book of Psalms as the referencing for them is slightly different to other sections of the Bible.)

  • Which Psalm did you choose?
  • What is the mood of the Psalm? Is the Psalm happy, sad, angry, scared?
  • How intense is the feeling of the Psalm on a scale of one to ten:

One:                                                                                                                Ten:
Not Very emotional                                                                            Very emotional
  • What are some of the images in the Psalm? (Word pictures such as “the Lord is my Shepherd”)
  • What is the writer of the Psalm trying to say to God or about God?
  • Did anything surprise you about the Psalm?

  • Have students write their own Psalm.