Saturday, 18 June 2011

Streamlined Unitarian Education

Unitarians have a humorously named Joined Up Education Panel. I'm not quite sure how it is joined up, and what possibly wasn't beforehand.

It offers two courses to anyone, at different levels. These reflect the apparent need to train people to take services and also to inform the Unitarian tradition. The Education people have streamlined two courses for these purposes.

The Worship Studies Course (WSC) (good job it is not simply the Worship Course) starts at a lower level than the Unitarian Studies Course (USC). The Worship Foundation Step is for students to take services in their own or neighbouring congregations. I wonder how many who do this have taken the course?

Foundation students look at What is worship? Speech and Communication, Elements of the service (readings, prayers/ meditation/ silence, hymns, music, sermon/ address, stories/ children), Practicalities and Precautions. Sources and Resources.

Then both the WSC and the USC have the Preliminary Step, being four modules each.

The four modules for both are:

  1. Unitarian theology/ thought.
  2. Unitarian history - local/ broader.
  3. Biblical studies.
  4. World religions and worship including new age/ earth spirit spirituality.

THe USC students present 4 short essays to each of these, and WSC students submit four services to each of these and in addition deliver two of the services for assessment by an appropriate person, e.g. a minister or recognised lay leader/ preacher/ pastor. Funnily enough, I was asked if I could assess one service, and I'm none of these.

Personally I am concerned at the prominence given to biblical studies. This should extend out to other scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita, Buddhist Sutras and the Qur'an. It would then be more consistent with the fourth module. This is not very joined up!

At the Preliminary Step Study Skills are offered to both sets of students.

Only the Advanced Step leads on to Lay Preacher recognition by the General Assembly. After that the WSC leads on to Lay Pastor or Ministerial training.

The four modules remain the same but this time WSC students submit six services with appropriate readings and hymns for each of the modules at a higher level than at the Preliminary Step. Six services are presented from the twenty four, assessed by someone appropriate like a minister or recognised lay leader/ preacher/ pastor.

USC students submit six essays for each of the four modules at a higher level than in the Preliminary Step. These are between 1500-2000 words each.

Each module should take six months.

In addition to holding a portfolio, WSC students in particular would find it useful to keep records of attendance at the likes of Hucklow Summer School, Unitarian Experience Week and other conferences, courses or meetings. It would help in applying for Lay Pastor or Ministerial training.

I just wonder how many will take these courses. First of all, 2000 words limit per essay would frustrate me. I don't want to be funny, but I reckon I am well up on Unitarian theology/ thought, and I have written papers on Unitarian history both local and broader. I might have to do more for Biblical studies, but my scriptural use goes further, and as a trained RE teacher I passed a knowledge base for world religions and the experiential and I have looked into new age/ earth spirit spirituality at some depth.

In fact, I'd go so far to suggest that, in a few areas and specialities, I probably am better read and have produced more than a number of the tutors. Plus as well as the RE PGCE I have a Sociology of Religion Ph.D and a Contemporary Theology MA for which my dissertation was on the theologies within Unitarian Universalism. I have presented on Unitarian history local and broader to the Hull and District Theological Society. I also spent a year getting bored at Unitarian College where the initial University of Manchester MA course was deemed too repetitive and low level given my Ph.D overlap and I went on instead to do a psychology of adult education course (wrongly interpreted by some at the time as a lack of commitment to ministry training and backing a different horse). Oh and I have written study skills materials as I have both supported study skills and taught literacy in HE and FE respectively.

My more in depth services that I present - all of which use liturgical principles many others do not consider - often leave people saying that my sermons lose them at some point. I'd like to see quite a broad extension of Unitarian knowledge and identity so that some people understand better the basics. For example, I remember it took a while to get some people to realise that the 1672 date of starting the congregation was not the Unitarian kick off date. If it has a date then in Hull it is 1802. The founders were quite the opposite of Unitarians - demanding liberty of worship is not the same as being liberal. Even then the suggestion was made that they were in some way 'like us' when it was a wholly different period of time and understanding. Nor do many people realise how there were two camps of Unitarians, and in Hull both were evident and represented throughout the nineteenth century. But not a lot of people know this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here's an idea. Why not put together a portfolio of your work and submit it to see if the panel will give you "credit for prior learning" in any of the modules.

The panel's response to such an application would be very interesting.

Are they flexible enough to recognise previous effort or does it have to be "our way or else"?