Study Guides for Living with the Neighbour who is Different
Living with the Neighbour who is Different: Christian Faith in a Multi Religious World
INTRODUCTORY NOTES FOR LEADERS AND STUDY GUIDES
A supplemental resource to be used with the booklet Living with the Neighbour who is Different: Christian Faith in a Multi Religious World
(This version is for web viewing only. If you plan to use this study guide in a group, we recommend that you download and print the pdf version.)
Introductory Notes for Leaders
Living with the Neighbour who is Different is the title of a book published recently by the Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia. The book was first presented as a Report to the Uniting Church in Australia's Ninth Assembly (July 2000). Written by Rev Dr Keith Rowe, this Report was compiled in consultation with the Relations with Other Faiths Reference Group and on behalf of the Doctrine Working Group of Theology and Discipleship - national agencies of the Uniting Church in Australia. This book was distributed to every congregation early in 2002. The Assembly requested some studies be prepared to assist congregations to explore the book. The studies are available only from the web site of the Uniting Church in Australia National Assembly Working Group on Relations with Other Faiths (www.assembly.uca.org.au/rof/), and have been formatted as PDF files. They can be downloaded for use and are available free of charge.
The purpose of the book is to provide 'an initial attempt to explore what it might mean for us as part of the Church of Jesus Christ to live alongside the neighbour who believes differently.'
The Study Guides
The purpose of the five studies is:
- to provide an opportunity for people of various ages and life experience with a congregation to explore what it might mean for us as part of the Church of Jesus Christ to live alongside the neighbour who believes differently
- to give guidance to those who might prepare and lead discussion about Living with the Neighbour who is Different
- to raise awareness of the daily experiences of Christians who encounter people of many faiths and who seek opportunities for interfaith dialogue and to act in neighbourly love towards those of other religions (see Living with the Neighbour who is Different, pages 6-13)
- to encourage and equip Christians to share their faith in a context of dialogue (see Living with the Neighbour who is Different, page 56)
2. Some operating assumptions
The study guides make several assumptions about the studies themselves and those who participate. These include:
- Books and reading: Everyone involved in the study sessions will have a copy or have access to a copy of Living with the Neighbour who is Different. These can be purchased through MediaCom Education Inc at www.mediacom.org.au
- Leader preparation: The leader of the study sessions will have read the book before preparing the studies. The suggestion is that the person leading the study sessions will have spent at least two hours preparing for each study session. This includes time researching and drawing on resources for prayer, devotions, story telling and the sharing of experiences. Remember, your story and experiences are important and can be shared. Remember too that you can be both leader and learner and that your preparation is essential for the quality of the study session.
- Participants: The people participating in the study sessions will most likely be adults and I or young adults. The studies are not intended for use by young people of secondary school age or younger. The educational style of the study guides assumes preparation for adult learners. Participants will attend each of the five studies with a copy of Living with the Neighbour who is Different and their Bible. Leaders may also devise and offer an act of covenanting with the group as a whole, committing themselves seriously to the five week program.
- Time required: Each study session will provide sufficient material for around one and half to two hours of meeting time
- Participants preparation: Each study will give guidance as to preparation participants might undertake prior to the session and in readiness for the next session.
- Outcomes: The results or outcomes of the studies will be greatly influenced by the life experience and stories of people participating in the study sessions - both those stories and experience brought into the study by individuals, and those pursued by the groups' members during and following the study sessions.
- Adult learning: adults learn autonomously. That is, adult learn what they want to, when the want to, the way they want to. Your study sessions will be more effective when they:
- offer opportunity to shape the goals and objectives of the session
- make use of personal stories and experience
- connect strongly with participants stated goals and objectives
- are offered options in terms of activities, topics and themes for learning
- are assisted to identify a problem to be solved or a task to be accomplished experience teaching and learning methods that closely connect with their goals and objectives
- are able to recognise what they have learnt and are given an opportunity to express that learning in new ways
- can interact as a group as well as undertake individual learning quests. Each of these characteristics calls for some design of the study sessions by the leader. They also imply that each of sessions should be a little different in some significant way. Look out for predictability!
3. Study Guide layout
Each of the study guides follows a standard layout, providing a simple educational process. At the heart of these studies is the hope that the ways in which those participating in the study sessions live their lives will deepen both their understandings of and commitment to the practices of Christian faith discovered during the studies.
The Study guides have four main sections:
- Purpose of the Study session - these notes set out in general terms the topics and sections of Living with the Neighbour who is Different to be covered and engaged during each study. We encourage leaders to add their own goals and objectives for the session, and to include the objectives of the participants in that exercise as well. This section will also include the preparation assumed of the participants prior to attending the study session.
- Getting Started - these notes provide guidance for beginning the study sessions. Essentially they can be used to assist participants to reflect on their recent experiences, names the realities as they encounter them and recall details from Living with the Neighbour who is Different that have caught their attention in the time since the previous study. The activities suggested are a good place to introduce personal experience and stories as well as prayers and devotional activities.
- Thinking and reflecting - these notes provide a sequence of activities for exploring Living with the Neighbour who is Different and responding to the issues raised or questions posed by the text. It is not the purpose of the activities to add to the text, but rather to focus on the text of the book. However, if personal stories and experiences can assist participants to make significant connections between themselves and the content of Living with the Neighbour who is Different, then by all means make use of these.
- Moving On - these notes provide a way to help participants move from the more detached study of Living with the Neighbour who is Different to beginning to apply the learning and insights to their own understandings and practices of daily living. For many people, this will be the most difficult aspect of the studies because, for most adults, such learning and insight remains a private matter. However, we encourage those leading the study sessions to persist in seeking application and evaluation of feelings, attitudes, behaviours and ideas. The author of Living with the Neighbour who is Different and the agencies of the Church commissioned this work to help people in Uniting Church congregations think deeply and act differently as a significant contribution to Australia's future (see page 4).
- Information and courses in other religions are available from Coolamon College as well as some of the other Uniting Church Theological Colleges. Your minister will know how to contact Coolamon and the Colleges.
- For the next session - gives advice about the reading required for the next session and has some suggestions about a devotion to end the session.
4. The study setting
Attention to the setting in which the studies will take place is critical to the quality of the experience for the participants. Participants need:
- To feel welcome: make sure each person has received the correct information and a copy of Living with the Neighbour who is Different well before they arrive at the first session. Directions about the meeting place, details of dates and times, some simple outline of the commitment expected will help participants to prepare.
- To be comfortable: arrange furniture and space to ensure easy conversation, access to resources, natural focus points for displays and so on.
- Confidence in the leader: your preparation, attention to hospitality and welcome, and clarity about the relevant details of the sessions will greatly assist participants to feel confident in your leadership of the study sessions.
- To feel valued for their contribution: make use of their stories and experiences, photographs and other materials that add a personal touch to the sessions. Where possible, give opportunity to address personal questions, needs, insights and issues. When using small groups with the session, allow time for reporting back to the group as a whole. If possible, find a way to record the learning, insights, ideas and new course for action that arise from each session.