In Neighboring Faiths, the participants learn about the religions of the world and gain cultural competency. It’s one of the highlights of our RE program and one that students remember for the rest of their lives.
What’s special about this program is learning through visiting local houses of worship. The first weeks of Sunday school, teachers will be working with the children so that they come to see themselves as a group of respectful and curious religious people. In the months that follow, the group will learn about a particular religion one session; they visit their house of worship or host a guest the next session; and the following session they process what they have learned and experienced. They may take a couple of weeks to prepare or to process, but basically the curriculum works in units.
This program is an opportunity for the group to act out our Unitarian Universalist values of respect, tolerance and the fee and responsible search for truth and meaning.
In addition to working to understanding the wisdom of various religions, the group will discuss and engage in activities to develop their cultural competency. The goals include
- Fostering an awareness of one’s own biases and cultural assumptions
- Developing an understanding of what cultural norms are and the ability to articulate them
- Fostering self-awareness that helps participants listen without using their own values and assumptions as the norm or the ideal
- Develop the ability to carry an attitude of respect when approaching people of different cultures
This program requires a different commitment from families than other RE curricula.
As well as having a sense of being a member of a religious group, your child must have an understanding of the tenants and customs of each religion before the visit. Of course, the best way to gain that understanding is for your child to attend the Sunday school session that focuses on that religion. However, I understand that this is not always possible. So I will prepare packets of information for you and your child to review. I can send you whatever ones you need if let me know when you need them. Sometime in October, the teaching team will create a schedule of visits, at least for the first few months.
The second commitment relates to the logistics of the visits. When the group visits another house of worship, it’s like a field trip. I’ll help the RE volunteers make arrangements with the leaders of the other houses of worship. Parents volunteer to carpool. The field trips are usually longer than the time of Sunday school – most of the places the group visits are in Albany, but some are further away. And the time of their services might start a little earlier or later than ours. Some houses of worship have their services on Friday evening or Saturday morning. The teachers and I will work to ensure that as many children as possible to be able to come to each visits. I’ll need help from parents and caretakers; firstly I’ll need commitment from parents and caretakers to respond to emails that relate to the field trips. I’d also like a parent volunteer to coordinate the carpooling – that means contacting the families to see who is coming on each trip and recruiting drivers.