Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Some Thoughts on Lesson Planning for Quakerism 101
Last fall I started teaching adult religious education at Perry City Monthly Meeting and opened it up to Ithaca Monthly Meeting as well.
A need that had been voiced by Perry City for a Introduction to Quakerism class that would be good for newcomers but would also hold the attention of longtime Friends. Faced with not an easy task I hit the internet and researched FGC's introduction to Quakerism lesson plans as well as others.
The issue I kept running across was the the lesson plans either looked a Quakerism historically or topically: a week or month spent of on each of the Testimonies and so on. Not that I think either way is bad. I am a historian by trade after all, but Friends have a tendency to portray Quakerism as something that happened "back then." We spend a lot of time glorying in the old days of the underground railroad. When it comes right down to it I'm not convinced this is the most important part of Quakerism we can be imparting to new folks. I'm not sold on the Testimonies as being the first things we want to teach new attenders either. After all Testimonies are outward signs of an inward transformation so that transformation should be where we start. So I determined early on that the over arching theme for the class was going to be "what do Quaker's believe and why?"
Considering the theme what I ended up doing was very simple. We read Silence and Witness by Michael Birkel, and Essays on a Quaker Vision of Gospel Order by Lloyd Lee Wilson together. We met for an hour every Firstday morning and read one chapter every week. We started with Michael's book and then after a short break went on to Lloyd Lee's. I felt that Michael's book gave a nice solid foundation on the nuts and bolts of Quakerism while Lloyd Lee offered a more in-depth look at some of the concepts that have been most important to Quaker thought.
Most classes were simply group discussion about the reading which turned out to be very rich for all of us. Friends at Perry City were particularly inspired and challenged by Lloyd Lee's chapter on Meetings for worship with a concern for business. The only times I really had to facilitate and move the class along was during our reading of Essays on a Quaker Vision of Gospel Order where Friends often got upset, bogged down, and confused by the Christian language. However that language is the same I use so the conversation's we had gave us an opportunity to build understanding and community. On average that class had about eight Friends in attendance although who those eight Friends were varied from week to week.