As part of the Subject Knowledge Enhancement course for PGCE RE and UG RE, students visited the Quwwat Ul Islam Mosque in Deepdale, Preston . They were treated to an educative and engaging day which in addition to helping them understand Islamic beliefs and the importance of the mosque, saw them witnessing a Nikah (wedding) ceremony and juma (Friday) prayers. The day ended with them considering the role of the mosque in the community and a chance to construct their own mosque from pasta and marshmallows!
Year 1 Undergraduates at Edge Hill study a module on Islam and as part of that spend a day in the Muslim community in Preston. One of the Year 1 students, Katie, reflected on the day.
We began the day with a talk about the aims of the day, and identifying what we already know, and what we would like to have found out by the end of the day. Everyone was so warm and inviting, I felt really comfortable asking questions, knowing that I would get a thorough response that would help me in my Islam module in university.
The highlight of the day for me, was crossing the road to Preston Muslim High School for Girls and being able to speak to actual students about Islam. I felt that speaking to a ‘normal’ person as opposed to someone who was extremely educated allowed me to identify basic points on which to develop my knowledge. All the girls I spoke to were really polite and answered any questions I had to the best of their abilities.
I also really enjoyed visiting the local Mosque and being able to sit and observe one of the daily prayers. It was such an amazing experience seeing a community come together to pray as one. It was also a good chance to see the diversity of Muslims that were in one small area. Their style of dress tended to show their heritage, and our speaker and guide was able to tell us where they were from based on their clothes.
After the prayer was finished, the Imam came to speak to us and answer anymore questions we had. He told us a little bit about what is was like for a child in Islam, and how they can attend a madrassa to help them learn more about Islam. The whole session was extremely informative and useful for me, as I am in the middle of writing my Islam assignment about Salah (the five daily prayers).
We were also lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to observe a man perform Wudu – the ritual cleansing and purifying a Muslim must do before praying. Again, this was more useful information to use in my assignment, as well as just being really interesting to witness.
All in all, the trip was really eye-opening, and gave a great insight into Islam as both a religion, but also as how it is a way of life for its followers. It was such a worthwhile trip, I’m so glad I got the opportunity to go on it!
Once we had all gathered, our guide, David, took us into the schule, the Hebrew word for synagogue. He explained the features of the room, with men’s and women’s seating, the bimah and the ner tamid. He talked a little about what might happen in a Shabbat service.
David explained the concept of Pikuach Nefesh, which means that the sanctity of life takes precedence over any other rule or commandment. There are 613 commandment, and the opportunity to fulfil a commandment is seen as a very positive aspect of the Jewish way of life.David explained that Maimonides’ 13 principles of faith, developed in the 11th Century, are central to a Jewish way of life for ordinary people. Being the chosen people does not imply that Jews are better than others, but they have been chosen by G-d for a particular task. The focus of Judaism moved from the Temple (destroyed in 70CE) to the home.
David showed us a copy of a Torah scroll, and explained some of the differences and similarities with the Christian Old Testament. Looking at the first few verses of Beresheit, we noted that day’s start in the evening, which led on to a discussion of Shabbat, the day of rest. Through looking at the Shema, we investigated the tzitzit, tallit and tefillin, the ritual clothing worm by Jewish men.
After a brief consideration of the importance of Jerusalem, we turned our attention to food, and the rules around kosher.
Then it was time to eat! We went to a local kosher restaurant, which was a ‘meaty’ restaurant so no milk products. Many of us had the traditional chicken soup, although the garlic mushrooms were a popular starter too, with fish and chips, burgers and pastas being the popular choices for mains.
After a filling lunch, we returned to the Schule and considered inter faith issues, majoring on the work of Jules Isaac.
The kamma appeared to be working against us as we battled against the gods of the M6. A few of the hardy year 2 undergraduates made it on the coach to the Coniston Priory and Manjushri meditation centre where we met our guide, Geoff.
We walked around the old house, a fantastic piece of 19th Century architecture, before rounding the corner to see the temple itself, a very simple, modern building. We removed our shoes and felt the warmth of the underfloor heating.
There are two foci of the temple, Buddha shakyamuni, and Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Shakyamuni is pictured at the moment in India, when he achieved enlightenment. He is sitting in meditation pose, with the touching the ground mudra, Either side of him are two Rupas of his disciples, but they too are Buddhas.
Geoff explained how the movement started in the 1960s as people encountered Buddhism in the East and brought it back over to the West. We heard the story of how Geshe-la became the teacher and leader of the movement. He is now 83 and still completing his 22 volumes of Buddhist teaching. Over time the group, the New Kadampa Tradition became less Tibetan and Modern Buddhism developed. There are 1200 centres worldwide and Ulverston is the worldwide centre. At the summer festival around 3,000 believers speaking 52 languages gathered here, but there are larger gatherings in other centres.
Geoff spoke about his own practice, his life of meditation and study. And then we were able to join in with the 15 minute meditation class that takes place everyday at 12.30.
Geoff then spoke about the Lam-rim which are stages on the path to becoming a Buddha and how to overcome negative minds. They are part of the Mahayana tradition and so like to help others. After a few more questions, we looked at more detail at the statues, and Geoff talked about offerings, the seven traditional offerings which are represented by the bowls in front of the rupas.
To finish the trip, we headed off to the cafe for a little late lunch!
Our latest cohort of Year 3 Undergraduates spent a day in Manchester as part of their Sikhism and Jainism Module.
At the Jain Samaj Manchester, our host Suresh explained about the beliefs, history and practices of the faith, and allowed us to explore their fantastic temple, handmade in Indian Marble.
We then journeyed across the City to the Guru Harkrishan Sahib Gurdwara. As it was Guru Nanak’s Birthday it was a very busy Temple. We were treated to a fantastic langar, before entering the diwan hall where the female granthi was singing beautifully.
Our host CJ talked us through the basics of Sikhism, but really the best part was being able to experience the community worshipping at first hand. CJ accompanied us on the accordian and help us to joyfully recite the name of Waheguru! Happ Birthday Guru Nanak Ji!
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.
You can read the rest of Hailey’s blogs here: https://haileyhill14.wordpress.com/
Life in places of learning tends to follow a seasonal pattern and each year in late summer just prior to the new academic year commencing the RE team at Edge Hill along with eminent visiting tutors delivers a subject knowledge enhancement course . The course is designed to give our new PGCE students a refresher in the basic beliefs and practises of the main world religions and an opportunity to visit local faith communities.
For me, this aspect of the enhancement course really brings what we try to do as RE teachers to life. It puts flesh on the bones of our classroom teaching and allows for honest inquiry and genuine human interaction with living, breathing people of faith communities.
Undergraduate Third year students are currently learning about two Dharmic religions: Jainism and Sikhism. As part of this we visited two temples in Manchester, the Jain Samaj and the Sikh Gurdwara.
The first visit of the day was to the Jain temple. Housed in converted building the main room is a sports hall, which is used for a variety of activities. Next to this is the actual Temple itself – sculpted from white Indian granite it features statues of Mahavira and two of the other tirthinkaras. It really was a beautiful sight.
Suresh spoke to us about the history, beliefs and ethics of the Jains, and how the community in Manchester practise their faith in the 21st Century.
In the afternoon we went to the Gurdwara to hear about the Sikh faith. After washing our hands and covering our heads we went into the Diwan Hall. Here, Reeti talked about the background to the religion and then we heard a portion of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji read. We also got to see the Guru’s bedroom.
Finally, the highlight was to go into the Langar Hall and sample some of the wonderful food that they had prepared for us.
Thanks to Phil Tragen for the photos!
Year 1 Undergraduates recently had the privilege to go and not only see what a Hindu temple looks like, but were lucky enough as a class to witness how worship happens in the Hindu Mandir.
Mary wrote this on her blog page:
It doesn’t matter how many books you read or how many assignments you can do on a religion like Hinduism, nothing compares to actually visually seeing what happens. I felt extremely lucky to have been given the opportunity to expand my understanding on the Hindu culture, and I feel like it has widened and developed my passion for finding out more about the religion as a whole.
As soon as we entered the Mandir we were able to be taught and have a lesson with a regular Hindu of the temple. This was brilliant because he didn’t just give us information on his religion, but he actually gave us the opportunity to share what we have learnt so far on the course. I felt like I contributed well in this discussion, and I believe it really helped me in widening my knowledge as every answer that I shared with the group he expanded on it and gave examples from his own experiences within the Hindu community. For example he shared with us that he prefers to perform puja in his home in the morning as it makes him feel ready to tackle the day ahead of him. Not only did he share his own knowledge but he also showed us how to perform Yoga worship by repeating the sacred chant oum. This was extremely interesting to see up close as it is something I have never experienced before. Although I am by no means Hindu, or in fact religious in any way, by taking part in this chant it did create an emotion I haven’t felt before. Somehow the vibration of the chant made me feel somehow connected to the religion.
You can read more of Mary’s blog posts here
As part of their Module on Buddhism with Francis, Year 2 Undergraduate students tke part in two field-trips. Here is Dominic’s thoughts about the recent visit to the Triratna Buddhist Sangha in Manchester:
Today was an insightful opportunity to learn more about a very much westernised branch of Buddhism. Our ordained Buddhist speaker began our tour by explaining about the key aspects of Triratna Buddhism and how it differs from many other Buddhist traditions. This is mainly due to the fact it has moved away from monastic, Asian traditions of clothing and not promoting the word of Dharma to people of the world. This therefore laid the foundations for my understanding of actually how far westernised Triratna Buddhism is. As you enter the Buddhist centre it is clearly apparent that opposed to just a place of worship this is a community centre which promotes spiritail along with health sessions to assist every aspect of your well being.
When speaking to the ordained Buddhist we covered various points regarding male and female communities, Triratna views on monogamy, marriage, Right Livelihood and even mental health. However one quote intrigued me greatly,
“give what you can, take what you need.”
This quote for me summed up the ethos of Buddhism and of the Triratna movement as a spirituality that wants to live a life of peace following the middle way.
We also learnt much about how the Triratna Buddhists practised Right Livelihood in a unique way compared to other Buddhist traditions. This was through opening various cafés and ethical businesses that seek to make a modest income and contribute to Post-modern Britain. Furthermore they run a lot of meditation sessions to provide social work and benefit those with mental health problems through mindfulness and loving kindness which were two key teachings of the Buddha.
To return back to the key aspects of Triratna Buddhism, it is useful to know that some members live in single sex communities in order to avoid distraction. Moreover, in terms of what attracts people to Triratna Buddhism in post-modern Britain, it is very much focused on rational questioning with a more rational attitude towards Dharma. This therefore fits more with modernity. Moreover they don’t present Dharma as a set of beliefs but infact present it as an enquiry which actually fits with the UK education system as we encourage children to question and enquire in their studies, especially in GCSE RE. Overall it encourages people to think for themselves and not just mindlessly follow as it is not a belief orientated path. The Buddha even asks us to look and see if things are true for ourselves.
Overall today was a very educational experience to learn more about a prevalent Buddhist tradition in our society. Moverover I very much look forward to carry on learning more about the Triratna tradition and Buddhism as a whole.