Wednesday, 23 July 2014

"Spirituality" - Weasel word or glittering generality

I love the word "spirituality". I am also kind of uncomfortable with it.

I am uncomfortable for two reasons. Firstly I feel like it is the word I use to talk about religious and faith stuff in a way that is palatable to people who don't really like religion (the r word). I don't feel guilty about this, after all I am just trying to keep lines of communication open. But when this is combined with my second reason for feeling uncomfortable, I have some questions. 

My second  discomfort has to do with defining spirituality. Spirituality is one of those words that can mean a lot of stuff. It is a warm word that people have some vague positive feelings about (or do they?). We often talk about and around its territory but rarely do we tie it down. Even when we do, we tie it to more fuzzy or unclear concepts. One popular way of describing it, is to say it is about the relationships we have with God, others, our self and creation. But what about these relationships? How we feel about them?  How important they are? What we think about them? I guess the answer would be yes! 

A list of things covered by a definition of spirituality might include:
  • Beliefs and ideas about existential questions – including purpose of life, human identity
  • Self-view /personal identity/self-knowledge
  • Inner feelings
  • Feelings of awe, wonder, mystery, transcendence
  • Relationships/community
  • Creativity – imagination, inspiration, intuition, insight etc.
  • Personal values
  • Understanding of self, society – a sense of self awareness.

I love all of these things. I think they are important. I think we should explore them with young people. But are they the sum of spirituality?

Let me change tack here. What if by using the word spirituality we are not communicating what we think we are? Ten or more years ago everyone in my 'religious' world seemed pretty excited by the idea that people said: I am spiritual but not religious. This seemed ok with us. We didn't want to be 'religious' either (depending on how you define the word) and we thought we had a lot of stuff about spirituality to share. But what if "I am spiritual but not religious" actually meant "I want to find my own path, please go away person with religious agenda". Could people representing organised religion using the word spirituality a lot change the meaning of the word or how people feel about it? 

In 2010 (and for eight years prior)  the Mission Australia Youth Survey had a question asking young people to rank what they valued from a list of ten things. They were: family relationships, friendships, physical and mental health, school or study satisfaction, being independent, feeling needed and valued, getting a job, spirituality/faith, financial security, making a difference in the community.

The data (which apparently was pretty consistent for nine years) was aggregated and included items ranked one, two or three by respondents.

Only 13.6% of young people in 2010 had spirituality/faith in the top three positions. Below it were financial security at 13.5% and making a difference in the community at 6.2%. Getting a job was above it at 16%.

I am sure there are lots of ways to look at this data but it certainly didn't seem to indicate that young people valued spirituality. Or did it? What if they just don't like the word? Or know what it means? 

I  do think spirituality is an inherent part of human beings. While I don't think we will ever define it well, I do think we need to think about how we engage young people with what spirituality is about. Using spirituality effectively as a 'weasel word' or 'glittering generality' may have a limited life. I don't think there is any research on can you do some for me?

Ask the young people around you what they think about the word spirituality? Is it a positive word? Do they like it or not? Ask them if they are spiritual? And what this means?

What do you think they will say?

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Are Australians spiritually hungry?

A lot of different ideas about spirituality in this article in the Sydney Morning Herald last December.

I love this quote from David Tacey:

"We are such a radically secular culture, so materialist, that to talk about the transcendent is almost un-Australian"

Do you agree with this?

Read more:

Friday, 18 July 2014

Formed Faith: Education for Everyone

'The Formed Faith website is a place to share ideas, resources, events, programs and anything else that will support parishes and individuals in the growth of their Christian faith.  It's been developed by the good people at Ministry Education for the Anglican Church Southern Queensland but if you're from elsewhere feel free to stop by and have a look around!'

Faith education for staff in Anglican schools is an important element in the development of Christian ethos. The resources and opportunities being created and promoted by Jonathan Sargeant, the new lay education officer for the Anglican Church Southern Queensland, will provide another source of support for chaplains in this area. Check it out!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Christian values in schools

The National Society which is responsible for resourcing and supporting Church of England and Church of Wales schools identified 15 values they see as important in Christian education. Their Christian Values for Schools website outlines these values and provides a range of resources for exploring them in schools.

Each value is outlined and has a theological background with Biblical references to support its meaning. Their are accompanying questions, cameos and videos to further assist those wishing to instil the value in the areas of ethos, worship, curriculum and leadership.''

In the resources section there are training units to help school introduce the values and implement them in their context.These includes notes and well made powerpoint presentations.

Although this material all comes from a British perspective much of it could very easily be adapted and used for not only Anglican schools but Christian schools in Australia.

This is a best of "a few smallish fish" originally posted by Stephen Harrison

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

What's in the Bible?

Another great resource suggestion by Andrew L! 

What's in the Bible a DVD series comes from the creator of  VeggieTales®, Phil Vischer. It is designed to walk kids and families through the entire Bible. At this stage DVDs 1-6 go from Genesis through to 2 Chronicles with more to come. There is also a curriculum attached to the videos.

This material is clearly geared for young students, but just like Veggie Tales, older students may also find it amusing if presented in the right way. The videos are certainly well made, engaging and fun.

There is a blog attached to the website with lots of interesting content. Of particular note (for next year)  are the posts about doing Lent with children. 

This is a best of "a few smallish fish" originally posted by Stephen Harrison