As part of their pre-NQT enrichment week, RE PGCE trainees visited Bradford as part of an interfaith visit to a number of places of worship.
The day began with a visit to the Gurdwara Singh Sabha where trainees were given a tour of the worship hall and able to see the rituals and practices associated with the Sikh Holy Book, the Guru Granth Sahib. Trainees enjoyed asking questions and experiencing some of the sounds of Sikh worship.
Next it was onto the Shree Laxmi Narayan Hindu Temple where trainees were able to observe the daily Aarti worship and meet with Seema, who discussed her experiences and beliefs as a Hindu. Ready for a rest, we thoroughly enjoyed our vegetarian lunch!
Before making our way back to Ormskirk, we ended the day with an insight into Reform Judaism at the Bradford Reform Synagogue, learning about the history of the Jewish community in Bradford and some of the differences between reform and orthodox practice.
A wonderful (very hot!) day and a lovely end to the PGCE course.
From this trip we hoped to improve our understanding of these two religions; from an insider point of view and appreciate the methods of worship and practice within these traditions. This was a great opportunity for everyone to deepen their subject knowledge, in preparation for our new roles in school.
We arrived at the temple eager to experience Hindu worship first hand, we were politely asked to partake in the cleansing rituals that everyone (even the Queen!) would complete before entering a Hindu temple. After completing the absolution process; of removing our shoes and washing our hands, we were taken into the main room of worship. The main temple really was a beautiful sight, a long row of colourful deities surround by a pristine white structure in the style of a mandir.
Our host Seema explained her work in the community, highlighting the importance of how to educate young learners about Hinduism without causing confusion. After explanations of the various beautiful deities within the temple, we had the option to ask our own questions and experience the temple further. It was the first day of the festival of Diwali during our visit. This meant we got to experience families coming to place offering to the deities to mark the beginning of the festival.
Guru Gobind Singh Gurdwara
The next stop of the day was the Guru Gobind Singh Gurdwara, here we were greeted by Narrinder with refreshments and enjoyed these whilst learning about the langar room and the importance of this room in a Gurdwara. This is a key Sikh practice and anyone visiting a Gurdwara would be greeted by free food or drink upon entering the temple, the refreshments offered are donated by the community. This is because of the Sikh belief in helping everyone (Sewa).
After our introductions and extra biscuits we were led upstairs to the main room of worship. Here, we sat and observed Narrinder recite the hymns around opening the sacred text and learnt about the process of laying the text to rest at dawn and waking the text from its bedroom, at the far corner of the room. After asking questions about how they would carry out different types of ceremonies such as weddings and funerals we moved into a separate room and talk about Sikhism away from the Gurdwara.
Narrinder gave us a talk through the 5 K’s of Sikhism, allowing for you to experience these objects first hand whilst learning about the spiritual meaning from an insider view. At the end of our visit Narrinder was kind enough to play the sitar for us ending our Sikh experience nicely with an opportunity to appreciate the music of the Sikh faith which is so central to their worship.
After our lunch in a room of the Interfaith Centre in Bradford, we popped into Bombay Stores, UK’s largest Asian department store. Here we got to explore both ladies and gentlemen’s traditional dress, staring longingly at the large selection of jewelry and pick up some little bits and pieces that we could incorporate into our teaching. This was a great end to an enjoyable trip.
Our subject knowledge trip to places of worship in Bradford is now becoming an annual feature of the RE PGCE giving trainees an invaluable insight into the dharmic traditions within our communities through experiential learning. This year was no exception and we were warmly welcomed by our colleagues in the Hindu and the Sikh communities.
Our first visit took place at the imposing and impressive Shree Laxmi Narayan Mandir, visible from Leeds road by its distinctive Om symbol. Our faith tutor Seema welcomed us with the traditional Hindu Namaste greeting. Seema talked about the Hindu beliefs by sharing with us what Hindu dharma meant to her and we were able to explore the symbolism of the murtis through discussion. There were also rich opportunities to observe puja taking place and to meet the Brahmins based at the Mandir. Seema concluded the session with the sweet offerings of prashad.
After a visit to Bombay stores to buy artefacts and resources, lunch at the interfaith centre, we moved on to the Gurdwara Singh Sabha where we were greeted by our faith tutor, Narrinder. We explored the religious significance of the five ‘K’s through Narrinder’s exposition of what living as a Khalsa Sikh meant for him.
We continued our enquiry into the significance of the Gurdwara by exploring the prayer hall and the central feature, the living Guru, the Guru Granth Sahib with a beautiful display of the symbolism of Sikhism, the kirpan, and the khanda. Narrinder created a beautiful meditative atmosphere and treated us to prayerful ragas, playing his electronic sitar. Trainees gained a rich ethnographic experience and came away with a deeper understanding of Sikh dharma. Hospitality was, as always perfect and we were treated to biscuits and a drink before we left for the M62 and back to Edge Hill.
As always, trainee comments speak for themselves about the impact of the experience:
“I really enjoyed this trip. I thought the visit to the Hindu Mandir was excellent and the talk was fascinating. The Gurdwara was equally excellent, providing us with some rare opportunities to delve into our curiosities and queries. I thought our guide was very friendly and informative, most certainly would like to visit again. The chance to shop in Bombay stores was another highlight of the trip. We could identify various symbolic artefacts and buy them, an excellent resource to use in potential lessons. Overall, I really enjoyed it and would love to return!”
“The trip to Bradford was superb. We got to visit a Hindu Mandir, a Sikh Gurdwara, and Bombay stores – were we all got to buy religious artefacts to use in school! It was great to experience different religions and cultures, and visit their different places of worship. The experience enhanced my knowledge of different religions and I have used many pictures from the day in lessons since, which the pupils have really enjoyed!”
Enjoy the video and thanks again to Rob Duffy for his excellent pictures!
On Friday 28th September, PGCE trainees braved the long hike up the M62 and over the Pennines to enjoy a memorable day meeting faith representatives of the dharmic traditions in Bradford. Our first visit was to the highly impressive Shree Laxmi Narayan Mandir on Leeds road where our faith tutor, Seema, provided us with a brilliant, lucid overview of what she considered the five main principles of Hindu dharma. Seema has a real gift in making very complex ideas down to earth and accessible. We all felt this was the perfect refresher of our subject knowledge. We were also able to enjoy prashad and to participate in the morning service led by the priest. Hearing the hymns and witnessing the fire blessing made this a very special experience for all of us.
Next stop was Bombay stores shopping for artefacts and then on to the Gurdwara Singh Sabha. We were greeted enthusiastically by our Sikh faith tutors,a husband and wife team, who led us through to the prayer hall. We enjoyed a peaceful moment of quiet meditation before our tutors explained the significance of the Guru Granth Sahib to us and the meaning of Sikh Dharma in their lives. I was particularly impressed by the teaching of Guru Nanak to always ‘retain your humanity’, a beautiful teaching explained by our faith tutor. Seeing the kirpan and ther khanda and hearing the readings of the Granth Sahib and the kirtan were real high points of the visit. Trainees were also treated to some authentic Sikh musicianship and we learnt about the role of music in the tradition.
RE Postgraduates are now equipped with stories to tell and some excellent photographs to use in their RE teaching.