The Pilgrimage and Worship Inter-Faith study day was a great success, being attended by 173 children from five local Oxfordshire schools, with over 20 teachers and adults accompanying them. The Bishop of Dorchester even dropped in for an afternoon visit to see us in action!
We represented the four world faiths of Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity, arranging them into four individual areas of focus, with each session being presented by members of the relevant faith community. It was a fantastic demonstration of co-operative faith in action! The four faith sessions took place simultaneously, with schools subdivided into small groups enabling them to meet and interact with pupils from other schools. At the beginning and end of each session we rang a bell to signal the end of the session and to create a moment of reflection for the children before moving on to the next faith presentation. Three sessions took place before lunch and the final one after lunch, with a final plenary where some children were able to contribute their thoughts about what they had learned during the day.
Judaism was located in the St. Birinus chapel, Christianity used the high altar and the Shrine Chapel, Hinduism was located at the west end of the nave and Islam was accommodated in the Abbey Guest House. Both Hinduism and Islam incorporated Powerpoint presentations, as well as demonstrations. Hinduism had two faith providers with a focus on worship at a shrine and the role of food as part of puja, with a shrine set up and demonstrated to the children. The children were given small packets of sweets and dates to take away with them. Islam had three faith providers with a focus on the role of prayer, the impact on genders, the mosque, fasting and the Hajj pilgrimage.
Judaism had two faith providers with a focus on the festival of Shavuot, the celebration of Sabbath and the role of the synagogue, with children being given challah. The Christianity session examined the High Altar before going to a mock up of an altar, where the Eucharist was re-enacted.
Some of the children were able to dress up as medieval pilgrims and take part in a ‘Medieval Pilgrim Hot Seating’ session where they could ask questions about pilgrimage. The children were each given a shell brooch to take away with them as a memento of the day. In addition, as part of the day each child was given a pilgrim’s passport that was then endorsed by each faith area after the children had visited each one.
We had a range of very positive responses from both pupils and teachers. Here are some of the comments they made:
‘Thank you for showing us about the different religions. I really enjoyed it. I learnt about pilgrimages.’
‘We all loved the day trip to Dorchester Abbey. Thank you for letting us come. It was lovely. I really enjoyed it because I have not been there [before]. It was fun. I liked the bit where we said Om. I learnt about different religions. It was fun.’
‘Thank you for arranging the trip to Dorchester Abbey. I would really like to go to Dorchester Abbey again for another day. I learnt that in March at springtime they splat paint at each other. I really liked the Islam because it was interesting and very good.’
‘Thank you for arranging the trip. I really enjoyed it. I liked learning about Hinduism.’
‘Thank you for arranging the trip, it was so good. I really enjoyed it. The Christianity part and the pilgrimages were good. I learnt that pilgrims have shells on their tops and hats. Also I learnt that Christian’s wine was grape juice for the children.’
‘We learnt a lot about each religion – the practical parts were most enjoyed.’
‘The chance to compare the four faiths in a day was fantastic and really helped the children to see the similarities rather than just think about the differences.’
‘The Christian workshop was by far the most interactive which was very motivating...’
‘The organisation was very good and the day flowed well. The contributors of all faiths were very welcoming, warm and friendly… All the children said their favourite part of the day was the 'Christian' presentation - the children liked the dressing up, getting up and moving around and found [the] hot-seating both interesting and fun.’
Blogged by Margaret Craig, Education Officer for Dorchester Abbey