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Author Topic: Education in Religious Communities  (Read 559 times)

Juni

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Education in Religious Communities
« on: June 02, 2014, 05:48:01 pm »
Nay's comment in Jack's Religion with Homework thread has got me thinking, specifically this bit:

Quote from: Naomi J;149160
I had Bible studies a-plenty, as a Christian, where the Bible was taken slowly, one bit at a time, and discussed in a way that I could access. That's when I fell in love with theology.


I've not been a part of an Abrahamic religion, but it's my understanding that they all have some methodology or system of educating their new members, whether those are children being raised in the faith, or adults converting. One of my childhood friends, who was Christian, went to CCD, and another friend who was Jewish was educated prior to his mitzvah. What I have gathered is that in Abrahamic faiths, even those who do not proselytize, it is a duty of at least part of the community to educate their new members.

I don't see much of this when it comes to pagan religions. I believe Traditional Wiccans do this, though the dynamic is a bit different (in that the 'community' is much smaller and also the regular working group, so a lack of education would be more immediately and widely problematic). I don't know a lot about non-Abrahamic, non-pagan faiths like Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.

Does a religious community have a duty to educate its new members? Does that potential responsibility change if, as is the case for many pagan communities, the group congregates only in online spaces? What about the lack of a central authority or singular text? (Please feel free to add your own questions and run off on tangents- I'm well aware I've only hit a few of the interesting questions worth exploring on the subject.)
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Jack

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Re: Education in Religious Communities
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2014, 06:08:04 pm »
Quote from: Juni;149209
Does a religious community have a duty to educate its new members?


If the community values education, or believes that there is a set of core "correct" beliefs, I think it does.

Quote
Does that potential responsibility change if, as is the case for many pagan communities, the group congregates only in online spaces?


I don't think so, if it's a homogeneous group. The standards are different if it's a space like TC with many different POVs. (And yet we all point people to Jenett's Seeking site anyway, don't we...?)

Quote
What about the lack of a central authority or singular text?

 
That certainly makes it more difficult, since there will be disagreements about what is correct and what should be taught to new members. I personally would take that as a call for more information, though, not less... let new members make their own decisions about contentious topics.
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Jenett

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Re: Education in Religious Communities
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2014, 07:10:49 pm »
Quote from: Juni;149209
What I have gathered is that in Abrahamic faiths, even those who do not proselytize, it is a duty of at least part of the community to educate their new members.


This is true, though it's worth noting that it's mostly on an immediate physical level - many other religions don't have a lot of great material for people who, say, find them online. (Or, rather, one hits the same problems as with Pagan religions and paths: lots of basic summaries for people not in the the religion who want a few basics and lots of in-depth stuff for people who are committed, and not so much in the middle ground.)

I'm familiar with religious education in the Episcopal Church, the Catholic Church (US, which I specify because I understand there's a lot more variation internationally), and in Wiccan-based practice.

Fundamentally, I think there's three different core kinds of education: education for children (for paths that include children, where 'children' is defined as 'until they make an adult commitment to the religion, whatever that religion defines that as'), education for adults coming to the religion as adults, and continuining education for adults who are members of the community.

When I was Episcopalian, that was Sunday School for children, followed by more involved confirmation classes if you got that far and wanted to. The same pattern was true when I became Catholic.

I actually went through the adult process, albeit at the age of 13, and that involved about 10 months of weekly classes. (If I hadn't already been baptised and familiar with a very similar Christian tradition, it would have been longer.)

Because I was under my parish's age for confirmation, I then went and did weekly school-year CCD classes until the confirmation years (a two year sequence in my parish: the first was on ethics and related topics, the second was more theology and specific practices, as relevant to the Catholic layperson.) I found them - mm. I got a lot out of the *event* bits of my confirmation years (retreats and such), but I was one of a very small cluster of the smartest people in my confirmation year, and I kept wanting to go deeper than the scope or length of the classes allowed, which also got frustrating. Even at the time, I knew I was a way-geeky outlier of outliers, but.

(I was part of a very big parish - about 2000 households - and we had something like 60+ people in my confirmation year, so we had some things (movies for discussion, presentations to everyone) together and then smaller 10ish person discussion rooms.)

Adults in both cases had the chance to do ongoing education both through short-term sequences (a set of four lectures/events during Advent or Lent, say) or longer term discussions - everything from bible study type things to looking at a particular topic in more depth.

Anyway, back to Paganism:

Initiatory Wicca (or related paths) has nothing to do with the first one as a group (because children can't initiate: individuals may do family or small community religious education, but it is, by definition, not the full initiatory path.).

The second is generally handled by something like Dedicant classes or pre-initiatory classes (that provide enough information for someone to make a reasonably informed decision about whether to go through with initiation. (I've got a page on my website about a possible Dedicant year that is basically what my training included, though a few things are moved around. That was about 8 hours of class a month plus pretty extensive assignments between times, plus attendance at and participation in ritual as we learned pieces.)

The attentive who are familiar with the scope of my Seeking website will realise fairly quickly that the Seeking site covers the 'Seeker' classes and maybe a combined total of another 4-5 classes out of 21 - that's because training toward first degree initiation in my trad is very clearly "stand on your own feet before the Gods and be able to handle your own personal ritual needs in most cases."

That simply takes a lot more education (and experience, and practice) than a religion where there's the presumption that you show up and someone with more training (or experience) keeps things running.

Quote

Does a religious community have a duty to educate its new members? Does that potential responsibility change if, as is the case for many pagan communities, the group congregates only in online spaces? What about the lack of a central authority or singular text? (Please feel free to add your own questions and run off on tangents- I'm well aware I've only hit a few of the interesting questions worth exploring on the subject.)


I think I have an obligation to be open to and train *people interested in my tradition* who are a good potential fit for it. That's what my religious commitments actually oblige me to.

The fact I do a lot of other general education about Paganism (see also the Seeking site) is very specific to me personally, to my commitments to M'Lady, and the fact that I'm a librarian and I sort of have to be *stopped* providing info more than encouraged to provide it.

I don't think most people should feel they need to do it. I don't think most people are necessarily competent at doing it (lots of days, I'm not sure I'm competent either, mind you, and I certainly have had stretches of a year or more at a time where it's mostly just hanging out online and commenting when I have the spoons for it.)

The Seeking site was specifically a project I did both for personal reasons of my own (to rewire my brain into doing complex info management work after the health crash) and that I knew would save me time and energy if/when I teach in person again: that it is also useful to people in other ways is an intentional benefit, but sort of a side one from my original goals. (Or rather, if it had only ever done my original goals, that'd have been great. The fact other people find it useful is just a lovely bonus.)

I note, btw, that the Seeking site is *not* a full and accuate portrayal of my practice. To the extent that I say "I have done X in ritual" or whatever, it certainly is an accurate statement, but there's tons of stuff I leave out for all sorts of reasons (while generally at least gesturing at what I'm leaving out).

Sometimes because something is directly oathbound, sometimes because the oathbound bits and the not oathbound bits are too tangled to unweave easily, sometimes because there's a lot of dependent bits that I'm not going into in a pure-text context (you note I don't talk in detail about, say, the precise mechanism of my circle casting: in my training, that's something that took 4-5 months to lay all the pieces for.) And sometimes just because it's personal, and I'm not putting it online in that context.

And sometimes just because there's 24 hours in a day, and I want to do other things with some of them :)
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HeartShadow

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Re: Education in Religious Communities
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2014, 08:29:44 pm »
Quote from: Juni;149209


 
FlameKeeping is ... hmm.  The ideals haven't been reached yet, so I'm going to discuss the goals, with the understanding that, y'know, nowhere NEAR there yet.

There SHOULD be education, for children and adults.  (aimed at age at comprehension, ideally, not one big lump).  And not just "read this book" - that's pretty much backwards for what I see.

Basically, the /community/ should be accessible to EVERYONE - the very idea is that we reach, hand to hand, to raise each other.  You can't reach hand-to-hand to raise everyone if you leave people out for not being good enough.  The idea of a bar to admittance is SO against everything FK is about.

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