Today, as part of the new “Abrahamic Traditions” module, the first year students from both Secondary Religious Education + QTS and Education and Religion programmes participated in a roleplaying game reenacting different major religious groups that were current during the Second Temple period (roughly around 0 C.E.).
The students were stunningly dressed in makeshift costumes and props from the RE storage cabinets while delivering short fiery speeches summarising the teachings of Pharisees, Zealots, Gnostics and Messianic Jews, against the Powerpoint backdrop of the old Western wall of the temple. The speakers did splendidly in spite of the presence of a strange heckler.
“Roman authorities and Jewish city elders are said to have been interested in the outcome of these discussions, and rumours have it that there might be arrest warrants for some of the speakers!”
This summer I spent around ten days as a visiting lecturer at Centre for Islamic Theology the University of Tübingen, located on the edge of the beautiful and mysterious Black Forest in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. The University of Tübingen, now also known as Eberhard Karls University, was founded in 1477, and has a long-standing history in the fields of theology and philosophy.
I delivered a series of lectures on classical Islamic philosophy, beginning with the definition of “wisdom” (sophia in Greek, hikma in Arabic), then exploring different key foundational philosophers up to the Grand Master of Islamic Philosopher Ibn Sina, known in the Latin West as Avicenna.
As part of the visit, I met local scholars and visited a number of historical locations around the city, including the Stiftskirche (the university church and one of the earliest to convert to Protestantism) and the Bebenhausen monastery on the outskirts of the city.It was exciting to walk around the streets that were once frequented by likes of Lessing, Holderlin, Hegel, Karl Barth, and Rudolf Bultmann! On the final day, I was able to attend a stunning performance by the university’s Philharmonic orchestra of Tchaikovsky’s Liturgy of St. John Crysostom and Mozart’s Coronation Mass. Still, it was chilling to learn from the signs outside that the concert hall used to be a gathering place for Nazi officers during the Second World War, and the city’s once thriving Jewish community no longer exist.
I would like to thank the assistant director of the centre, Professor Lejla Demiri, for inviting me, as well as all of those who made me feel very welcome as well intellectually/spiritually energised from the visit.
– Harith Ramli, Senior Lecturer in Theology and World Religions
The group took a trip to Liverpool as part of their ongoing subject knowledge development course to look at the differences between the Jewish and Christian places of worship.
First stop was the very grand and ornate OrthodoxJewish Synagogue. Trainees were able to hear about the history of the Jewish community in Liverpool, the features of the synagogue and the way an Orthodox synagogue would differ from the Reform. Our host was able to share with us a number of Jewish artefacts and demonstrate the significance of the Torah Scrolls in worship.
After a quick bite to eat, we moved onto the Anglican Cathedral, just down the road from the Synagogue and made from the same sandstone. After outlining the role of the Cathedral in Christian worship and the extensive outreach programmes the church runs, trainees were taken on a tour, learning all about the building and development of the Cathedral, enjoying the Whispering galley and finding the Derby Mouse.
On Friday 15th September the RE PGCE trainees visited Liverpool Anglican Cathedral to help develop their subject knowledge around Christianity and places of worship. We had a great tour from Helen, who told us about the history of the Cathedral and that without a ‘cathedra’ a Cathedral is just a big church! Trainees thoroughly enjoyed the ‘whispering arch’ – some claimed it was better than vodafone!
For Inter-faith week, the University’s Chaplaincy team organised a trip to visit the three Abrahamic faiths’ places of worship in Liverpool. Thre years of Undergraduate students and the PGCE students came together for this fantastic trip.
First year Undergraduate Hailey wrote this about the day:
Arriving at the Cathedral I thought that we had turned up at the wrong place. I had never been to a Cathedral before but this wasn’t the picture that I had in my head as to what it was meant to look like. In my head it was meant to look exactly like a church with an old brown building just much much bigger. I was in for a shock with a white building which resembled that of a large tent. Everything about this Cathedral is very modern. Going inside I was in awe.
The whole place was lit blue and I really couldn’t understand why until our very nice tour guide explained to us that this was due to the architect of the building and that the stain glass windows make the whole place change colour throughout the day symbolising that Jesus is the light. The next thing to catch my eye was a large silver sculpture just hanging from the ceiling, usually going into a church you would never see anything like this which just made this Cathedral much more interesting. This actually symbolises Jesus’ crown he wore when he was crucified. Our guide talked to us a lot about the different roles you can take within the Roman Catholic Church and also about the difference in the different types of Christians explaining why and how they were all so different.
Arriving at the synagogue I was surprised. Walking into the little hallway for some reason I imagined that when he opened the door it would look very similar to inside a Church. How naïve of me. As soon as the two men opened the doors everyone in our group all made a very similar ‘wow’ noise.
It was a lot bigger than I thought it would be and I was completely surprised at how grand the whole place was, also how different it was to a church. Straight away the man started to tell us all of the different things that a Jew would believe in and do within his/her life.
He explained the whole synagogue to us, even down to explaining how the Torah was made and telling us about a fire they had in the late ‘60s. During our trip to the synagogue the university rabbi joined us and he didn’t shy away from telling us everything from marriage in Judaism to the decline that has faced its followers following World War 2. I would personally say that the synagogue was the building I was most in awe at during the trip.
Finally we arrived at the mosque (the first university group that has been allowed in to view it), this being the shortest of the three but they didn’t lack to tell us any information. While they didn’t go into depth with the beliefs involved in Islam they told us all about the building we were in and the founder of the whole thing.
Abdullah Qwilliam was the founder of this mosque, more interestingly this was the first mosque in England. Abdullah Qwilliam was an English convert who wanted to spread his faith among other people within his culture at home. The mosque was closed for a while after Abdullah’s death and Liverpool council opened it as a registry office but more recently has been reopened and they are now working on making it a fully working mosque again and replacing the old traditional things that were there at the beginning such as the organ which Abdullah used to play.
After being there a short while we were asked to move to a different room as it was time to do the call for prayer, I had never heard this before and thought that it was amazing. I would to go back again soon when they have finished restoring it back to the way it used to be.
Year 3 Secondary RE undergraduates recently visited the Preston England Temple as part of their Religion in the 21st Century module.
One of the students, Sadie Parish, wrote this blog post:
As soon as we approached the centre we were immediately taken back by its beauty! It almost felt as if we were in another world. We started the morning by meeting Sister Hunt in a chapel, who gave us a brief introduction to Mormon beliefs, such as their belief in their founder/prophet Joseph Smith. who lived in the early 19th Century in North America. He discovered the text of the Book of Mormon, buried in New York state, where he was directed to by the Angel Moroni.
Sister Hunt also introduced us to the Mormon belief in serving a mission and we actually got to see some real life missionaries! there are around 85,000 missionaries serving at any time, mostly males aged between 18 and 26. We got to explore their quarters and training centre, were we learnt that missionaries can come from all over the world and have to spend two years away from their families. I was taken away by the devotion and commitment of the missionaries.
Sadly as the temple is only exclusive to Latter Day Saints (even at weddings!) we were unable to enter the temple. However, we did get to take a walk around the temple. We were all certainly taken back by how breath taking it was.
As a result of the trip we have now developed a new understanding of Mormonism. Something that previously most of us had very little knowledge of. I myself now feel prepared to answer basic questions about Mormonism if presented with one in the classroom. As a whole the visits to the Mormon temple has been my favourite so far and I look forward to learning more about other 21st century expressions of religion.
Today was a good opportunity to visit various churches in the Leyland area with the chance to speak to various pastors and priests. It has truly given me a deeper insight into similarities and differences of a few different Christian denominations and how they practice their faith in the eyes of God.
Leyland Baptist Church
Pastor Tony Crawford began the day at a Baptist Church with a speech on the history of Baptism and how it emerged as a separatist movement due to the fact that the ecclesial church had stepped to far away from the true word of God. Moreover Baptists believe that only an adult should be Baptised (in water similar to that of John the Baptist, we were also able to view the Baptism facilities at Leyland Baptist Church)due to the fact that a child can not consciously make a decision to make a commitment to God. Baptists have also stepped away from the idea of a priesthood by allowing pastors to lead services and perform Baptisms and other priestly duties. This is due to the fact that they believe in the concept of the ‘Priesthood of all believers’ so that everyone gets a say in church life. Furthermore so that priests do not hold complete authority over church decions making. Overall there are two main distinctive features about the Baptist denomination which include a ‘gathered church’ where everyone is gathered to praise God and his son Jesus Christ. Secondly ‘believers baptism’ where you make a commitment to God with a new start and a new beginning with God, it’s a declaration of ones faith.
St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church
A valuable opportunity to view the magnificent architecture of a Catholic Church with the facilities to seat 1000 worshippers for a church service. Also an interesting aspect inside of the church was the fact that the book written by the renound Humanist Dawkins (2006) ‘The God Delusion’ was openly available on a book stand which could be viewed as controversial. However I think it is a good example of interfaith dialogue and pluralism with religious and non religious groups in contemporary society.
The Orthodox Church of The Holy Apostles
Being my first time visiting an Orthodox Church I can say that this experience has truly assisted me with my knowledge on the Orthodox Christian faith. Due to Fr Dionysios (James Higgs) I have learnt how the Orthodox Church was formed due to the fact that they saw the Roman Catholic Church as giving to much presence to the Pope and Rome. Orthodox Christians believe that everything should be decided in unity. Moreover I had the opportunity to have a tour of the church to view the icons and learn how a Church service is performed. An interesting point I have learnt is how each service begins with the statement “Blessed to the Lord, in peace let us pray”. I think this raises the point of how Orthodox Christians main focus is to give thanks to the Lord in his divine peace that he wishes us to act upon.
St James Church of England
A wonderful example of a Victorian era Anglican Church. Moreover the point was made how much the Catholic and Church of England service are similar. Overall a good tour and a valuable experience of the history of the church in the local area.
Overall a very educational experience that has definitely assisted my understanding of the similarities and differences of various Christian denominations. The knowledge learnt today will surely assist me in my training to become a secondary school RE teacher and how valuable it would be to bring students to visit various churches to increase their understanding of Christianity.
– DAWKINS, R, 2006. The God Delusion. Black Swan: United Kingdom.
Arguably the best way to learn about a religion is to experience it for yourself. The secondary PGCE group were given the opportunity to visit Liverpool Cathedral on the 11th September 2014. We were not only given a tour of the wonderful gothic style building, but we were also told about the various outreach activities which the church is involved in, or their ‘faith in action’.
It is impossible not to feel overwhelmed by the vastness of the building when you arrive at Liverpool Cathedral. The Cathedral sits on a hill, towering over Liverpool at an incredible 101m. It is the biggest Cathedral in the UK, the fifth largest in the World, and standing by the entrance nearest Hope Street, you really do get a sense of why for so many religious people a building like this truly gives them a sense of the awesomeness of God and the smallness of humanity.
When you walk through the entrance, you arrive into the very aptly named ‘Great Space’. The simplicity of the building adds to the vastness, and I think it’s fair to say that the whole group couldn’t help but gasp in amazement at the huge space we had entered. Here we met our guide, a lovely lady who works for and is dedicated to the mission of the Cathedral in Liverpool.
First we were given a brief introduction to the building and learnt some new facts. The Cathedral was designed by architect Giles Gilbert Scott in 1904. Until 1880, Liverpool had been under the Diocese of Cheshire, and with the creation of the Diocese of Liverpool, a new Cathedral had to be built. Upon reflection, it seems that the time and context in which the Cathedral was built has had a great impact upon its design and ethos. It was very much built by the people of Liverpool, for the people of Liverpool, and a great example of this is the fact that the Bee Gees played there in 1965!
Our guide also pointed out that Liverpool is a city of two Cathedrals. Liverpool Cathedral, which is Church of England and Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, which is Roman Catholic. The two are linked by the aptly named ‘Hope Street’, highlighting the plurality and the ecumenical nature of the religious scene in Liverpool today.
After this we were shown the key features of the building. We were shown the World’s highest and widest gothic arches, the entrance to the tower, the font, the organ, the beautiful stained glass windows, the altarpiece, and the stunningly intimate Lady Chapel.
Each of these are key features of any Cathedral, and it was interesting to that in one sense the Cathedral is very typical, yet in another it is very particular to Liverpool. For example, the Great West Window at first glance is a beautiful, but no means unique, stained glass window. Pictured in the glass are important Biblical stories, representations of the apostles, and of course a representation of the Christ at the top of the window. However, upon closer inspection, at the foot of the window is an image of the Liverpool skyline. The city is encapsulated within the sacred, and you really do sense that the city is as much a part of the Cathedral as the Cathedral is a part of the city.
Underneath the Great West Window is the thought provoking Tracey Emin sculpture. In pink neon in the artist’s handwriting it says “I felt you and I knew you loved me”. It is impossible not to notice, and stands out against the relative simplicity of the rest of the building. We were told that the piece of art is somewhat controversial; some people love it, and others think that the church is simply better off without it.
Next, we saw the font, where infants are ‘baptised’ into the church community. Our guide pointed out that the font is a very similar shape to the Cathedral tower. Whether this was purposeful or not, she did not know. Around the bottom of the font are images of the twelve Apostles complete with their traditional symbols; Peter with the keys to the kingdom, Andrew with the Fish and St. Andrews cross, and each of the Apostles respectively. Aimee noticed that the foot of one apostle was standing on a head. Our guide could not offer an explanation as to why this was, or which apostle it represented, so if anybody knows please do tell us!
We were then shown the Cathedral’s organ – the largest pipe organ in Europe. We were shown the altar piece which shows the passion of Christ and his resurrection, and were also shown the Cathedra, the Bishops seat, which every Cathedral must have to be a Cathedral. This was something I did not know before visiting the church; our PGCE days out certainly are useful in broadening our subject knowledge!
Of course I can’t speak for the rest of the PGCE group, but by far the highlight of the visit for myself was the beautiful, intimate Lady Chapel. The Lady Chapel feels like it is worlds away from Liverpool Cathedral; it is much smaller (that’s a given!) and has a very different feel to the rest of the building. It is far more intricate and intimate. All around you are the words of Jesus’ disciple John which encapsulates the heart of the Christian message in a single sentence; “For God so loved the World that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Finally we learnt that there is more to the Liverpool Cathedral than a ‘great space’. We were given the opportunity to hear the way in which the Cathedral embodies a living faith – it is not simply a beautiful empty shell, devoid of any humanity. Those who are a members of the Cathedral have a very clear ethos of reaching out to the community, and loving as Christ loved the church. We were told about the work of the street pastors, who aim to reach out to people on nights out in the City. We were told about their interfaith work and the Cathedral’s links with Liverpool’s Jewish and Muslim community. We were also told about the ‘People’s Path’, which gives members of the community the opportunity to make their mark on the Cathedral by having their name, an important date, or message inscribed on a brick on the path which will stretch from the Cathedral’s entrance to the Lady Chapel
On the way out I was able to take some of the leaflets for events and services in the Cathedral. It is very clearly a vibrant and forward thinking place which is not as some would imagine a cathedral to be. The word ‘cathedral’ often conjures up images of dark, dreary buildings, old men in robes and solemn worshippers. The reality in Liverpool Cathedral is very different. On offer are various children’s groups, Cafe Church, an Alpha course for those wanting to explore the claims of Christ for themselves, as well as traditional worship services. There is a living dialogue, not only with other Christian traditions in Liverpool, but also with other faiths. All in all it was a second to none experience. No doubt each of us will visit the Cathedral again and make use of all it has to offer throughout the course of this year.
Taking the pulse of Christianity in the Lancashire Town of Leyland has become an annual Pilgrimage for our Year One Undergraduate Trainee RE Teachers. As part of the Module on the History of Christian thought and culture we visited four Christian Churches beginning with St Mary’s a Roman Catholic Church were we joined the community for the week day celebration of Mass and then for breakfast. Fr Jonathan Cotton then gave us a tour of the Church and answered questions. The Church has recently won an award as one of the best modern church buildings in Britain. Christie commented that how the altar was positioned in the centre of the building gave it a really different feel to more traditional churches.
The second Church we visited was the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Apostles. We were welcomed warmly by Fr Dionysius who gave us a very entertaining overview of the Greek Orthodox Church.
After lunch we moved onto Leyland Baptist Church were we met Pastor Tony. Pastor Tony shared his beliefs and described the ministry of the Church in detail. Becky commented that she hadn’t realised that the Baptist Church did not have a hierarchical system and thought that this was a real positive !
Finally we were welcomed at St James Church Of England by Fr Mark
Two members of the production team from BBC Religion and Ethics, Nick Holden Sim and Charlotte Hindle, recently came and spoke to Undergraduate Secondary RE students at Edge Hill.
The BBC is making a series of 10 minute films for the Learning Zone for use in KS4 RE classes. The films will follow a group of six modern day pilgrims as they explore the 5 common RE themes of revelation, evil and suffering, life after death, marriage and divorce and human sexuality/sexual relationships through three perspectives – Christianity, Islam and non religious world views. This enables us to look in depth at the issues in a way that is most relevant to the syllabus and exam criteria.
The six students who will go on a voyage of enquiry on behalf of the audience. The group will be made up of two Christians two Muslims and two non believers who will witness a series of religious events, question the participants, and afterwards discuss the diversity of opinions held with in the group. Charlotte and Nic discussed the themes and talked to the students about the work of BBC Religion and Ethics generally. It might be that some of our students end up taking part in the films.