31 October, 2023, Gillian Georgiou
Moving to Lincolnshire from a diverse area, things seemed much more monocultural than what I was used to. However, I came to appreciate that diversity is there, just not as visibly. I also came to see that this impression of lack of diversity was having a negative impact on RE teaching. Teachers felt worried about teaching religious worldviews because of strongly negative feeling within the local community. Our REConnecting Lincolnshire project was a response; seeking to bring people together through sharing stories from Christianity and Islam.
You can find out about REConnecting Lincolnshire here.
The Empowering Voices project is a development of this wider work, particularly in aiming to represent lived, authentic worldviews.
We decided on podcasts as the medium for Empowering Voices inspired by Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Explorations in Theology (1961). He notes the significance of hearing to build understanding of the world. We cannot but hear what is spoken, even if it places us in a space of discomfort. This struck me quite deeply: our evaluation of the initial phase of REConnecting Lincolnshire had shown that although we had had a significant impact on challenging misconceptions and prejudice, there were some who chose not to engage and whose misconceptions consequently remained unchallenged. We were inspired by von Balthasar to pursue an audio medium for this piece of work to see if this widened engagement and therefore increased impact.
We were lucky enough to work with a fabulous team of creative professionals; David Lambert (Cultural Solutions UK) and Leanne Taylor (Taylor Made Arts) and Emily Bignell (Artistic Director of Shooting Fish Theatre Company). It was a fantastic opportunity for pupils involved to develop creative and digital skills.
We began by considering what worldviews might alight tensions in local communities if they were included in the Primary or Secondary curriculum. We started with people: we went to local communities to find inspiration for the stories at the heart of each podcast. Through education packs we support teachers to move from the particular to a bigger, often global, picture.
Finding time to bring people together in a busy school day was tricky. However, a bigger challenge was taking the time to ensure that everyone felt that their voices and concerns were heard. Just as challenging was the need to unpick some assumptions and misconceptions we encountered.
However, it was a real joy to watch new relationships forming and flourishing. We know that several schools have connected through this process and now regularly working together. It has been brilliant to find the ‘hidden voices’ in worldview communities and provide a platform for them.
Explore the full Empowering Voices resource here, and see what topics and voices are coming up.
Hans Urs von Balthasar, Explorations in Theology II: Spouse of the Word (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, first edition, 1961, this edition 1991), 475-6