Introduction to Christian Education
EL1515, Luther Seminary, Fall 2012
This cluster of questions focuses on ways to engage ritual practices in learning.
We always learn in at least three modes Δ through our ideas, through our feelings, and through our actions. Educators tend to speak about this as the “cognitive, the affective, and the psychomotor” elements of learning. Religious community is generally particularly rich in weaving these elements together through our ritual practices. Liturgy is one very specific form of ritual, but there are many other rituals Δ large and small Δ to be found in religious community. Think about the ways in which people gather for coffee after liturgy, or the specific pews they tend to sit in.
One of the key teaching challenges religious educators often face is that of preparing people for initiation into specific rituals of the community. In the Lutheran context, churches often prepare children for first communion, which is a sacrament, and for confirmation, which is not (in the Lutheran tradition). In the Catholic context there is specific sacramental instruction for reconciliation, for marriage, and so on. In this class Δ and for this cluster of questions Δ I want you to be aware of both the “big” rituals of sacramental life (communion, for instance) as well as the “little” rituals such as preparing to begin a Sunday School class, or gathering for coffee.
We learn best when our “ideas, feelings and action” are all engaged congruently, in a coherent fashion. That is, when we do what we believe, when we say what we do, when we feel within that action, and so on. This cluster of questions about ritual invites you to observe the rituals that are present in the focus situation, and to consider how learning is happening within them, and whether are other, additional pieces you would bring to the task.
- Start with simply paying attention to any rituals you might observe or employ in this situation. They could be deliberate attempts to “make ritual,” they could be elements of liturgical ritual, or they might simply be something you routinely do when confronted with a particular challenge.
- Next, sort through that list and identify those rituals that seem most explicitly Christian to you. Perhaps there’s an obvious ritual — like communion Δ being portrayed. Or perhaps someone offers a prayer in the situation. Or perhaps you always go to the WorkingPreacher site whenever you think about the bible.
- Once your group has brainstormed these two lists (all of the rituals, and then those that are more explicitly Christian), pick just one of the rituals and think about what people experiencing that ritual, or that routine practice, or that liturgical moment, are learning within or from it. What might you, as a leader of learning in that context, want to reinforce? What might you want to draw away from?
- Finally, compose a summary of your deliberation and post it to the course blog for this week’s focus.
- For extra credit, if you like, search out a few additional resources that offer useful materials that relate in some way to the ritual learning challenge(s) you identified. You can find such materials in the assigned books for this class. You can look for additional resources online. You can ask your trusted colleagues and church mentors for ideas. You can go to a resource center for ideas. The point is to find and share with your colleagues additional resources that would assist in leading learning around this focus situation.
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