UTS Cornerstone - A Newsletter for the UTS Alumni Association - March 2005
Letter from the Field: Developing a Relevant Sunday School Program
by William Haines
We have Sunday school classes in North London for about 150 or so blessed children. I have been involved in an ad hoc committee that meets occasionally, usually late on Saturday nights to develop a Sunday school program. My basic view was that as Sunday school was a bit of a shambles, it was better to do it ourselves before someone did it to us!
Much as I hate meetings, I also participate in a National Education Committee where we do this and that. We have some good workshops for 2nd generation. We also have youth clubs, monthly Sunday Service for about 200 2nd generation at Lancaster Gate, (HQ), monthly witnessing and a variety of community service projects. Apart from spiritual education the main focus is on fostering friendships so that their best friends are blessed children and they develop the desire to only marry another blessed child. The general atmosphere is quite free and inclusive, encouraging them to develop their original mind so that they have the inner resources and mutual support to lead conscientious lives.
We try to build up what we already have, and resist attempts to suggest that what we do should conform to some model. I'm tired of permanent revolution. So what we have is rather eclectic but has integrity. A working knowledge of contemporary youth culture is necessary if one is to sensitively address issues that crop up and not appear to be a dinosaur.
Anyway, I don't want to ramble on. Instead, I enclose the preamble to a document I have been working on for your perusal.
Sunday School Draft
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." Deuteronomy 6:4-9
"Listen, my people, to my teaching, and pay attention to what I say. I am going to use wise sayings and explain mysteries from the past, things we have heard and known, things that our ancestors told us. We will not keep them from our children; we will tell the next generation about the Lord's power and his great deeds and the wonderful things he has done. He gave laws to the people of Israel and commandments to the descendants of Jacob. He instructed our ancestors to teach his laws to their children, so that the next generation might learn them and in turn tell their children. In this way they also would put their trust in God and not forget what he has done, but always obey his commandments." Psalm 78:1-7
"What we should stress from now on in the field of education is tradition, education and practice. You must know the tradition. You must respect our tradition. You must set the tradition of the new nation. You must educate focusing on the tradition." ( True Father, 1991)
"Practice enables the tradition to extend itself. What is the extension of tradition? Not me as a person. But in the tradition, you can find God's providence of restoration and providence of salvation. You should clearly understand this. You should educate people about it clearly." (True Father, 1992)
"The tradition is God and True Parents tradition. We must educate people with the tradition of True Parents. If people go through their education correctly, then they will reach the God of providential history." (True Father, 1992)
"People can never find the path that leads to life without understanding the particulars of the providence of restoration. Herein lies the reason why we must study the Principle of Restoration in detail." (Divine Principle p.187)
Purpose of Sunday school
The goal of our life is to become one with God, so that God lives in and through us and we live in God. Such a person would feel God's feelings, think God's thoughts and do God's will. Such a person would be fully human and fully divine. Such a person is the messiah and knows how to live.
Due to the fall people have never been able to achieve this. God has been working through his providence to restore the world. That is the story that is told in the Bible and Christian history. It is the story of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, Moses, the prophets and the Jewish people up until the time of Jesus. It continues through Paul and other Christian saints and martyrs, Muhammad and Islam, and the Abel-type Christian democratic tradition that developed in Britain and expanded to America. Parents and children are the fruit of that history and indemnity. The story of God's providence is our story, it is our history and it is by understanding our history that we come to understand who we are, the historical "I", and what we ought to do.
People created the world we live in.
This world has different dimensions. There is the inner or sung sang world of beliefs, traditions, rituals, feelings, understandings, visions, skills and ways of behaving etc., which are expressed through a corresponding external or hyung sang world of buildings, tools, technology, books, paintings, music and the landscape. Education is what goes on between the generations when children are initiated into the world they are to inhabit so that they understand it, appreciate it and are at home in it.
The aim of Sunday school is to foster the spiritual formation of our children so that they have a clear sense of identity. We aim to do this by initiating them into their inheritance as God's children, by letting them know the history of God's providence so that they can find their place in that story. If they know who they are, they will know how they should be, how they should live and what they should do.
• To develop their identity as sons and daughters of God
• To continue and deepen the initiation of youth into the tradition of True Parents
• To help them to understand their position in the providence of God
• To develop their original minds and foster the formation of a God centered conscience
• To know, understand and internalize the Principle
• To be able to apply the Principle in their daily lives
• To see the world through the eyes of the Principle
• To inherit God and True Parents heart so that they want to witness and participate in the providence
I suggest that an important part of education should be a deep knowledge of the Principle. This needs to come on the foundation of a deep understanding of the Bible. Even the most cursory glance at Father's speeches as well as those of Church elders shows that they are based on and assume a deep knowledge of the Bible.
From a pedagogical point of view stories are the best medium for teaching children. Stories have always been the way that religions have passed on their wisdom from generation to generation to people of all ages. Good stories have many different levels of meaning and interpretation. The stories of the Bible are a vehicle for teaching pretty much everything people need to know.
The existing Principle books and study guides contain only enough material for a few months of Sunday school. So as to avoid going over the same things again and again it is necessary to expand the topics that are covered.
The following is an outline of a draft syllabus. All 150 or so topics can be fleshed out in the way that the first few have been. Obviously this is an on-going project that has barely started.
The first step is to give children a solid knowledge of the Bible, the Principle and True Parent's tradition.
As time goes on their understanding of these should develop so that they can see how it applies to everything and they can apply it in their own lives.
Eventually they should live in the Principle and the Principle should live in them so that they are the embodiment of the Principle, the incarnation of the Word of God.
William Haines (UTS'92)
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