Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Inter-faith facilitation

So, I haven’t quite managed to enter the world of Twitter since my last post, but I have done something else or the first time, which is facilitate for the Three Faiths Forum’s education programme.  I’ve worked for the 3FF a few times over the last year, running Drama workshops for their School Linking ‘Shared Futures’ projects, where they pair up two schools (they work with both faith and non-denominational schools), and the students get to know each other through joint activities throughout the year, giving pupils from different cultural and faith backgrounds opportunities to learn more about student who have beliefs and backgrounds different to their own.  The first workshop I ran for students on this programme (I had previously worked with their teachers) was for ten 15 year old girls, five from a Muslim school and five from a Christian school.  I remember vividly that when I arrived they were all sitting in a circle in painfully shy silence, in two distinct groups, and that by the time I left after lunch they were all sitting eating as one group, talking and laughing.  It was amazing to see such a difference in such a small amount of time.  I remember being struck by it, as although I have often seen how working together in the performing arts has broken down barriers, built confidence and inspired many different groups in a variety of projects – most notably working in HMP Winchester with Playing for Time Theatre Company, staging plays in the prison on nine week projects – it was the short amount of time this change in atmosphere had taken place in, and how dramatic the difference was in the girls' interactions with each other which was striking.  My most recent workshop for young people taking part in a Shared Futures programme had a very different atmosphere; however this was because it was with 43 Yr.2s (6-7 year ols)!  This time I was taken aback by how much they wanted to contribute (a lot!), and also how when I asked them to get into a circle they all held hands and walked backwards – which I can’t see happening with any of the other groups I work with!

Yesterday, however, I was not working for the Shared Futures programme, but for another section of the education department at the 3FF, and this time without my Drama hat on, but as one of their interfaith facilitators.  I’d had a training day for this in September and observed a couple of sessions in different schools in the last few weeks in preparation, but these were the first 2 classes I had facilitated myself.  The sessions I ran yesterday were called ‘Encountering Faiths and Beliefs’, and the format was that there were a panel of speakers – this time a Catholic, a Jewish, and a Humanist speaker – and they each spoke briefly about their own beliefs, and then I chaired a discussion with the audience.  Although they were a bit Monday morning-y (that well-known adjective) at the start of the day, I think most of the students were really engaged, and they asked some really interesting and thoughtful questions.  For me, the best thing was that I was learning lots too.  I come from a non-religious background and, although I did do Religious Studies GCSE (although my over-riding memory of that was that in the exam they asked questions to which the answers could mostly be found in Christmas carols, like ‘Where was Jesus born?’, and that to ‘Who baptised Jesus?’ one of my very intelligent friends wrote Moses, another wrote Abraham, and another just wrote The Baptist) and learnt quite a lot about different religions at primary school, my knowledge of religion is very patchy.  I was particularly interested to learn more about Humanism, and will definitely go away and read some more about it.

On another note, I also had my first Krispy Kreme doughnut, erected my first shower rail (once we’d been back to Homebase and asked the man there to show us how – stupid, vague instructions), did a yoga DVD with my housemate, and watched my first London firework display which wasn’t on Jools Holland.   

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