How I… want to tell the world about ‘Email a Believer’ – David Rees

Being born in the Midlands I was aware of and very comfortable with diversity from a young age. I was interested in particular by the different foods and colourful cultures which just seemed so vibrant and celebratory. This early interest has stayed with me throughout my life. So, when I moved down to the Bournemouth area aged 13, I was surprised to find a much more monocultural situation. However, being 13 I had plenty of other things to concern me, so I just got on with being awkward and trying to work out who I was and what I wanted to be.

Fast forward 10 years and I began teaching at a secondary school in Poole in a department of 1 and trying to introduce seriously apathetic students to the faith of Islam. I realised that what I really needed was a ‘wow’ factor or a connected human factor.

Could I visit a mosque? No, the nearest one was over 30 miles away and with no budget or likelihood of gaining permission for a trip this clearly wasn’t going to happen. Add to that the absence of any nearby Muslims I felt rather stuck…

So, when three years ago the opportunity arose to be involved with RE:ONLINE I was thrilled. Not only because of the teaching resources but because of ‘Email a Believer’.

Here you will find 10 believers from the following religions and worldviews

  • Baha’i
  • Buddhism
  • Christianity
  • Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter-Day Saints
  • Hinduism
  • Humanism
  • Islam
  • Judaism
  • Paganism
  • Sikhism

Each believer is available for you to ask questions about their faith or worldview.

These answers are all quality controlled and the service is completely free.

This would have helped me when I was teaching so much. Let me give you an example:

When I was teaching GCSE Islam, I was totally comfortable with the knowledge aspect of the hajj pilgrimage but I would never be able to say how it would feel as a Muslim to walk around the Kab’ah or stand on the Mount of Mercy.

As a non-Muslim I would not even be allowed anywhere near Makkah however our Muslim believer has performed the hajj and can give that personal connection. So, if you live in an area without many opportunities to connect with different faith communities personally ‘Email a Believer ‘ can help provide some missing answers and personal insights.

Our believers have already answered many questions on a variety of topics, these can be found on the webpage. Some are now also being turned into resources which can be accessed in the RE:ONLINE teaching resources, just select the theme ‘lived experience’ to see them all.

Sometimes teachers use ‘Email a Believer’ to set a homework task.

The homework could be ‘ think of 5 questions each that you would ask a believer about an aspect of their faith’. Then bring all the questions back and have a class discussion before submitting some to the believer. We aim to get the questions answered within a few days. I would always suggest asking a question that would involve the impact on daily life or lived experience. If you also mention the age of your class, we will try to answer in age appropriate language.

I hope this will encourage you to engage with ‘Email a Believer’. Personally, I know that reading the answers has helped me develop my personal understanding of the faiths and worldviews. I hope it will help many others too.

 

 

David Rees

David was the Head of RE in departments of 1 for 25 years and an Advanced Skills Teacher for 12 years.

He now advises some SACREs as an RE adviser and feels phenomenally fortunate to be Lead Consultant with RE:ONLINE.

 

 

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