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.

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!

10 July 2019

How do we connect our students with God?

Imaginative Prayer may be an answer to your prayers!

I understand that religious educators and teachers in general are extremely busy. In my observations, (no data as such – just plenty of chats), if you are the sort of teacher who loves to do the extra preparation, make the fabulous resources and create amazing learning experiences – then you are also quite likely to be stressed and overworked. There are so many extra layers of surveillance and accountability for teachers now that many teachers do not have the time they wish for to devote to the development of creative, innovative learning experiences. So – when I find a great resource that I think could be wonderful for busy teachers – I just love to share.

Today’s tip comes from a super interesting podcast that I am currently listening to called The Deconstructionists. Definitely worth listening to this great show. Wonderful guests!
The podcast Episode 77, hosted by Adam Narloch and John Williamson, featured Jared Patrick Boyd, who has written an extremely helpful book that I think could transform your classroom! “Imaginative Prayer: A Yearlong Guide for your Child’s Spiritual Formation” could be just the resource you need.

Written more with parents in mind – I can so easily see how this could work brilliantly  in the classroom. The book has six sections - God’s Love, Loving Others, Forgiveness, Jesus is King, The Good News of God and The Mission of God. Each section has seven prayer ‘lessons’ or experiences. As a teacher, use the book with your own professional discernment, considering the needs of your students, always remembering that in Anglican schools, faith formation is invitational. Nevertheless, contemplative prayer is part of our syllabus and certainly worth exploring with your students.
The author explains his programme as something that will allow children to experience the nearness, kindness and generosity of God. It will encourage critical thinking, reflection and interpreting metaphors and symbolism. Listen to the author’s ideas here

It might be helpful to start this programme by sharing with you students the story of Inigo Lopez de Loyola, who was wounded in a battle in Spain and how he read about Saints during his convalescence. He would imagine himself in the stories and this led to a type of contemplative prayer. (That is a very brief version – an appropriate children’s version would be great to share with students! Some parts are not suitable for younger students!) Check out the Ignatian Spirituality website   for resources.

In the beginning of the book, “Imaginative Prayer”, the author talks about slowing down. What a great idea. The book invites parents to slow down and take time to connect with their children. I think most teachers I know would like to have more time to meaningfully connect with their students – so why not slow down and look at some “Imaginative Prayer” with your students? It might be just what you and your students need!

If you are not sure – here is a video to give you some ideas. Of course – you might use the resource differently with your classes.

If you think you would like to buy the book – and I have bought it – check out the very helpful Google preview here!

I like these quotes from  Imaginative Prayer. Something to think about!

 “What if education … is not primarily about ideas and information, but about the formation of hearts and desires? The education of desire … requires the pedagogical formation of our imagination.” 
James K A Smith, Desiring the Kingdom.

 “The Christian imagination plays a great role in the spiritual development of the soul.”
 St John of the Cross

2 July 2019

Why not Try Praying?

Teaching your students the Lord's Prayer may be a special time of connecting with faith for everyone in your class. One way of making the prayer a little more accessible is to teach your students to 'sign' the prayer. Many years ago, when I was teaching students who had a wide range of learning needs, every teacher in the school was taught Makaton, and we all 'signed' as we taught every lesson. I am not sure that I can remember how to sign anything anymore - but I think it is worth learning how to sign the Lord's Prayer.
There are plenty of options on-line for you to discover. I have used this Auslan version and I really love it. Maybe encourage your students to find a version that appeals to them?
Here is a tutorial and then a song to use with your classes, or in Chapel or Assembly perhaps?

For wonderful resources to use with younger students, one of my favourite websites is Ministry to Children. They have a fabulous colouring-in book as well as plenty of lesson ideas for you.
Max7 also has plenty of Prayer Ideas! Download their ideas here.
Here is one of their lessons.
This activity can be done as a whole group, in small groups, or divided so that each group has their own activity/section to complete.

Equipment you will need:
 Cardboard with words from the Bible written on it. 
 Small print out of words for children to have their own copy. 
 Crayons/pencils/textas/paint. 


Read through the Lord’s prayer together.
Have the Lord’s prayer divided into smaller sections  and stuck onto larger sheets of cardboard or paper. 
For each section then complete these three steps:  

  • Re-write each section of the Lord’s Prayer in own words. Write the new words below the original words from the Bible. 
  • Use movement to act out each section. 
  • Illustrate or visually represent each section drawing it below the words on the cardboard/sheet. 
At the completion of each step, children can present and perform their work and pray through the Lord’s Prayer in their own meaningful way.

Finally, why not TRY PRAYING?
If you are keen to develop prayer in your school, then I would also recommend you have a look at Try Praying. This is a fabulous campaign from the UK and there are plenty of resources and ideas on the websites. Have a look at http://www.thereishope.co.uk/youth-kids/
or just go to the Try Praying website.

Explore Try Praying Youth with your students and see what they think.
Explore ideas such as 
  • What is praying anyway?
  • How do I pray?
  • What do I have to say I'm sorry for?
  • Who is Jesus?
  • How do I get a new life?
  • What is the Lord's Prayer?

There is so much to look at on this website. Really worth spending some time and seeing how this might help your students explore prayer!