Connecting with religions and worldviews

When I was teaching, I realised that I really needed to give my students access to people from different faith and belief communities. Teaching knowledge was not a problem but explaining how beliefs impacted on daily life and showing personal connections to worship and pilgrimage was more challenging.

So how do you get in touch with faith and belief communities, especially if you live in an area that isn’t particularly diverse?

Below are a few ideas to help you make some steps – these are not a definitive list but a few suggestions.

1.Get to know your local area

First of all, it is vital to see if there is anything happening nearby; you might think you know your local areas well, but would you really know if there was a range of religions and worldviews nearby? Sometimes places of worship are tucked away, you may not walk or drive past a synagogue or Mosque however it doesn’t mean that there aren’t Muslims and Jewish believers nearby. Some faith and belief communities meet in people’s homes, in schools or community centres. Check out notice boards and talk to local people. If you are new to an area it is helpful to talk to other members of staff and/or parents.

2.Check locally for places of worship

Using the internet type in ‘places of worship near me’ – this may not be a comprehensive list, but you may get lucky. Often these will link to a website and contact details. When I did this in my area, I discovered there was a small Buddhist centre which had recently opened. Make sure you check regularly as often place of worship do not advertise widely.

3.Check with your local SACRE

Each authority has a SACRE (Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education) – this council should include member of different faith communities – contacting them will give you a personal connection and they may be able to help you link to a community, a speaker or a place of worship. They may also know where best to find affordable resources for use in the classroom. If you look online, you should find information about your local SACRE and an email address for the clerk. Some SACREs have already been compiling lists of places of worship and contact details (for example the Pan Berkshire ‘Crossing the Bridges project’). If your SACRE is not particularly representative please do ask what efforts are being made to fill the vacancies, SACRE has a responsibility to fill the different committees and gain representation form faith community groups. You can also contact key personnel for your local SACRE through the following website https://nasacre.org.uk/database The Westhill Foundation and the National Association of SACREs (NASACRE) Awards are a collection on innovative projects which aim to faith and belief communities together with schools. Find out more here https://nasacre.org.uk/westhill-nasacre-awards

4.Use existing free online resources

Over the last few years we have collated responses to questions about religion and worldviews from ten different perspectives. These responses are available in a new format in our REONLINE resources section Voices from religions and worldviews. They provide personal answers to questions from lived experience and are written directly by believers. We have plans to increase the diversity of responses and adapt the resource to be more user friendly for teachers in the future.

5.Social Media and Local RE groups

Some areas have local groups and/or social media groups – some of these are run by NATRE regional ambassadors (for more information of the ambassadors and to find which one covers your area check out the NATRE website https://www.natre.org.uk/about-natre/re-in-your-region/) – these groups are often a support network for sharing ideas and resources however people may also know of good local speakers. If you join these groups, you will gain access to a support network and be notified of new developments like teacher network groups (face to face or virtual) and CPD opportunities locally. For example, Learn Teach Lead RE https://www.ltlre.org

6.Look for interfaith organisations

There are many examples of interfaith networking including

interfaith week (8th-15th November 2020) – the website highlights activities and how to get involved – https://www.interfaithweek.org/

Nisa-Nashim – this group brings Jewish and Muslim communities in Britain closer together by setting up groups of women who build personal friendships, grow as leaders and benefit wider society through our programmes and initiatives. https://www.nisanashim.org/

The Interfaith network – The Inter Faith Network works to promote understanding, cooperation and good relations between organisations and persons of different faiths in the UK. There is a link to help you find your local group https://www.interfaith.org.uk/involved/groups

The RE Council has a document signposting ways of linking to interfaith groups https://www.religiouseducationcouncil.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/cre_inter_faith_groups.pdf

Some areas have ‘faith communities’ websites – a brief online search resulted in finding such groups in Waltham Forest, Manchester, Harrow, Kensington and Chelsea

The Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme pursues academic research and debate in this field https://www.interfaith.cam.ac.uk

7.Contact national organisations of Religions and Worldviews

Sometimes you may have no obvious local connections available – reaching out to a national organisation may enable them to furnish you with a contact

Some examples include:

David Rees

Lead Consultant for RE:ONLINE

August 2020