I’m all about finding connections. These days, I’m focused on the never-ending links between Christianity and the other faith traditions.
In 2008, I became the Nurture Coordinator and Curriculum Specialist at Jubilee! Community, a progressive-type Christian church that is also grounded in Matthew Fox’s Creation Spirituality. As an alumna of both a Lutheran grade school and a Catholic high school, I definitely learned my Bible stories! And I used that knowledge base to develop a Bible-centered interfaith curriculum for kids in preschool through 8th grade.
Our work is grounded in the idea that children, over the course of development, need to discover their own paths to the Divine. So, we start with the Christian Bible and take off from there. Using the stories, sacred texts, and ritual practices of both Christianity and the other religious traditions, the kids explore our various themes (e.g., Peace, Embracing the Darkness, Creation Stories, Compassion). Using crafts and additional experiential learning techniques, we help the kids realize their creative natures. And along the way, the kids (and the teachers, too!) learn to move beyond simple “tolerance” toward a deeper appreciation of the way children from around the world talk about and connect with God.
It’s all way more fun than being a full-time psychology professor, which I did for 11 years. Part of my training was in neuroscience, and I do miss talking about the brain, but at least the cognitive development training comes in handy. Plus, working with kids means I have the easiest interfaith job in the world. We just tap into their open-hearted, open-minded dispositions and let the adventure begin.
To find more than you ever wanted to know about me and our work, check out faithseekerkids.com.
HELPING KIDS TO EMBRACE THE DARKNESS: LESSONS FROM ORIGINAL BLESSING, CREATION SPIRITUALITY, AND OTHER FAITH TRADITIONS
Fear. Pride. Anger. Greed. Dishonesty. These are among the emotions we often view as sinful, undesirable, and destructive. As parents, we work hard to eliminate them from our children’s behavioral repertoires. As teachers, we develop complex behavior modification schemes to keep them at bay in our classrooms. But clearly these emotions are part and parcel of human nature, and even the earliest written texts refer to them.
In this presentation, we will explore alternative ways of viewing these so-called “negative” emotions. More specifically, I will share our efforts to draw from ancient times and far-away places to offer kids in preschool through 8th grade a different perspective. Some of the points I will address include:
- If God beheld the world and declared it good, then these emotions are included; moreover, certain aspects of these emotions are actually valuable.
- Humans from time immemorial have struggled with these very same emotions, so perhaps we can learn from their decisions.
- While some religious narratives support the traditional view of these emotions, some faith traditions offer a slightly different view.
- Creation Spirituality (a là Matthew Fox) offers an additional vantage point, particularly through the concept of the Via Negativa.
Examples of how we implement these ideas in our Sunday school classrooms will be drawn from the Embracing the Darkness unit of our Bible-based interfaith curriculum. I will share some of the stories we read, the crafts we make, and the activities we do as both teachers and students delve into the adventures of animals, humans, and deities who dealt with these emotions in both conventional and unique ways.
Current global policy debates surrounding the world’s refugee crises routinely highlight our lack of awareness about the beliefs and practices of the world’s faith traditions as well as our poor understanding of the intra-faith differences found in those traditions. We have developed a Bible-based interfaith Sunday School curriculum for kids in preschool through 8th grade that uses a thematic approach (e.g., Peace, World Creation Stories, Embracing the Darkness, Awe & Wonder).
In this workshop, I will show how we use narratives from the faith traditions themselves to promote both an understanding of the Christian Bible, as well as an understanding of how others think about and stay connected to the Sacred. A general overview of the curriculum will be followed-up with kid-friendly narratives, ritual practices, and songs from our Compassion unit.