In its 21 years of operation, the Scarboro Missions Interfaith Office sought to educate and inform teachers and students about interfaith dialogue. Some of the many resources developed were a Teacher Training Workshop and a World Religions Retreat Day.
In the fall of 2000, Scarboro Missions sponsored a workshop to train world religion teachers. In those years, there were no organizations, schools or university programs for teacher training in this field throughout North America. Scarboro Missions collaborated with the Dufferin-Peel Catholic school Board in sponsoring two training days. Teachers spent the day working in small groups with representatives of various faiths. Scarboro Missions has also consulted with religious department heads in various boards on the subject of world religions and interfaith.
WORLD RELIGIONS RETREAT DAY — HIGH SCHOOL LEVEL
Through its Mission Centre team led by Kathy Murtha, Scarboro Missions facilitated world religion retreat days for about 5,000 high school students each year. The retreat day included the participation of four to six members of various world faiths, which made the day a powerfully effective learning experience. One of the many goals of the retreat day was to enable the students to get a taste of the spirituality and culture of the various religions. An ideal group size is 40 to 60 students.
Outline of the day:
- Welcome and orientation
- Facilitator leads the entire group in a prayer experience that prepares everyone to partake of the various spiritualities to be presented that day
- Following introductions, each faith representative shares a symbol or prayer from her/his tradition. And speaks of its meaning in her/his life
- Students divide into small groups. Through the use of co-op games, they are invited to interact in a non-threatening way
- First workshop (length 30 to 40 minutes) — each student group is resourced by a faith group representative who speaks about their tradition and how it has personally enriched their lives. The world faiths representatives are invited to share their traditions on more than just an intellectual level. They are free to use song, story, dance, ritual , prayer, chant or meditation in their presentations. They are also encouraged to share visuals, sacred objects, symbols and scripture from their traditions. An interactive, storytelling approach, rather than a lecture approach, is encouraged.
- Second Workshop (same length as above) — student groups rotate so that they repeat the experience of the first workshop but with a speaker from another tradition
- Each student group meets without a resource person to discuss what they heard and experienced in the two workshops. What did they find interesting? challenging? perplexing? Each group prepares a presentation and questions for all the speakers. One student in eachgroup is chosen as spokesperson for the group (5 to 10 min)
- All students and speakers now form a plenary in which student groups give their presentations. Speakers panel responds to the student presentations and to student questions (15 min)
- Lunch ( during the last 15 minutes of the lunch break students have the option to experience a Buddhist meditation or a yoga exercise if any of the speakers would like to provide such) Afternoon Session
- Focusing game
- This session seeks to emphasize the experiential. Here are some options. The afternoon session could include two of these. Each of the following are done in plenary a) Native person conducts sweetgrass ceremony (purification ritual) and gives a teaching on the sacred circle (with all students gathered in a circle), followed by questions b) Hindu classical Indian dancer performs a dance and then reflects with the students on how this dance routine is an expression of Hindu spirituality c) Taoist speaks about the ancient Taoist tradition of China and then performs a tai chi set. Discusses tai chi as an expression of Taoism. Leads the students in a tai chi routine, questions d) other options could include a meditation led by a Buddhist or a yoga experience led by a Hindu e) Paul McKenna sometimes uses brief video clips depicting the prayer and meditation experiences of world faith communities all over the planet. Also a group reflection on the Golden Rule as found in the scriptures of the world religions
- Closing Service — Global Prayer
Note — this model has also proven to be effective with adult audiences.