Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Can't believe I missed these...

I'm doing a bit of work on the difference between religious imagery and kitsch (there be a thin line let me tell you) but there is very little debate surrounding what category the Ten Plagues Finger Puppets fall into.
Available from Amazon and several other stores what Pentateuch class could survive without these? All credit to the designer Yitzy Erps.

EABS Annual Meeting-Blog

If you're attending the EABS International meeting during the summer in Thessaloniki (more info here) make sure to check out the meeting's blog with lots of helpful info regarding accommodation, the weather and cultural info and excursion options.

Teaching Resources-The Seder Plate

As part of my teaching on Exodus I talk about the Passover and have blogged on the resources I have used here.

One thing I always wanted was a Seder plate to bring into class (and here I include second and third level teaching) so that I can show my students. Now Seder plates are not the easiest thing to pick up in Ireland and any ones I found were very beautiful but prohibitively expensive for my salary (or lack of). The same with online as postage on a large ceramic plate from the US to Ireland always made it difficult-that was until I found ChocolateGelt and their Plastic Seder Plates for a mere €2.25 each. (Glet is slang for money)

They offer very reasonable shipping-here’s the copy from my invoice for shipping to Ireland

2 x Plastic Seder Plate Jerusalem (EACH) (Item #1237) = $5.50
Sub-Total: $5.50
United States Postal Service (1 x 0.78lbs) (First-Class Mail International Package): $9.04
Total: $14.54

They arrived super fast too-though it gave my Dad something to puzzle over and he was very disappointed that there was no chocolate in the massive box that arrived for me!

I only wish I’d ordered some Chocolate Seder Plates at the same time :)

Some more resources since I last blogged:
The Virtual Seder Plate
How to Prepare the Seder Plate
Guide for Jewish Children: Contains Hebrew but also lots of bright and colourful illustrations that can be used in an Irish classroom
Colouring Page
BBC activities for the Passover (with info on the Seder Plate) Note the videos are only available in the UK.
Make your own Seder Plate (young children)

FaithConenct Website Review-for Second Level Teachers

Review of FaithConnect website for second level RE teachers in Ireland as published in the ever brilliant Intercom :)

The FaithConnect website is an interactive website for second level Senior Cycle non-exam Religious Education which was developed by a team from Mater Dei and Veritas, lead by Enda Donlon and Orla Walsh. The website centres on the ‘Search for Meaning’ segment of the curriculum framework for the subject, and the topic is presented in three separate sections that can be used with Transition Year, Fifth Year and/or Sixth Year students. These sections are A) Searching, B) Symbol and C) Religious Faith – a response to life’s search for meaning. One section is ample to make up an entire Senior Cycle Module or a full TY RE programme.

FaithConnect is an interactive website so each student needs to have their own personal account and an individual computer in front of them to use this resource successfully. A student licence provides access to the FaithConnect body of content, a personal profile page, online workbook, journal and blog (an option that the teacher must turn on). This licence is valid for the school year and the website can be accessed as many times as a student wishes from any computer. Student work can be downloaded and saved at the end of the year. For every 25 student licences purchased a school is entitled to receive a complimentary teacher licence (minimum purchase of 10 is required). This features all the management tools and support they will need to use this resource with your class. It is easy to set up and use. The teacher site also includes access to the virtual staffroom where teacher can ‘connect’ with other teachers to discuss and share ideas. The price for the school year is €10.00 per student per section.

Each theme is presented in three sections that are divided into three stages, for example Section A is “Searching” and is split into “The Search for Meaning in Today’s World”, “Sources for Meaningless” and “Questioning as part of the Search for Meaning”. Each section has three set Outcomes for the students to complete and it is here that the pedagogical benefits can shine.

Outcome One is presented in a creative web format that will enable the students to complete an online workbook, journal and blog. For students who are so familiar with these forms of communication and self expression in a more secular setting, it is fantastic to see these media being used to aid their religious and spiritual growth. This outcome also contains a variety of interactive content, which includes online texts, images, streamed videos and “just for fun” exercises. There are also lots of links to external websites for more information and additional material for debate.

Outcome Two empowers the students to take responsibility for the content explored in the first outcome of each section. This is achieved by students creating digital resources that may be shared with their own school community and uploaded to the FaithConnect website for use with the FaithConnect online community. The students develop their filming, editing, and production skills within this section, as well as expanding their own individual understanding of the importance of the search for meaning in their lives.

Outcome Three is parish based and proves that a good online resource does not mean that you are stuck in front of a glowing computer screen all day. This section requires the students to choose a specific topic from the sections studied and then to connect with people in their local area in order to explore how such an issue has affected, impacted upon, or transformed these people’s lives in various ways. The interview is recorded and uploaded to FaithConnect as a podcast.

In addition to these sections, there are also a number of features and resources which enhance the interactive learning experience for students and teachers. Each student can create their own “Profile”, working in much the same way as a social networking site such as Facebook. “Moments of Prayer” invite students to take time out of their day, either alone, or within their own class group, to establish an online prayer routine. There is a huge library of prayers that both teachers and pupils can use. The Words of Wisdom section contains inspirational and motivational quotations which can serve as a link between different sections, or allowing the student to engage at a more thoughtful level with the material discussed. There is also a workbook and a blog, where students can answer specific questions relating to the outcomes above. The student Journal is an online resource whereby they can record their thoughts and answers in relation to the different outcomes. Very usefully, teachers can view these journal entries and leave comments for the students.

For further information please contact Ailís Travers.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Resources for Ministers of the Word

I've been working a bit on resources for Ministers of the Word lately and thought I would share what I had already collected:

For anyone who wishes to offer more resources to their Liturgy groups, there are ample websites containing lots of resources for various groups, including Ministers of the Word. The Archdiocese of Dublin website  is an excellent starting point, particularly for those who are starting a group or who wish to begin formal training of the Ministers of the Word in their parish. The site contains three main pages devoted to the Ministry of the word, including guidelines for those involved, reflections for those participating and a blessing that may be used at the commissioning of a group of ministers.

Looking further afield, the Liturgy Commission in England and Wales has produced a range of materials to help those who have a ministerial role in the celebration of the Liturgy of the Word understand their responsibilities. Worksheets are used to address subjects such as the “role of the reader”, for example, the skills and abilities they need or the assistance they might find helpful. The site includes a brief consideration of why the readings are read at Mass; the language of the scriptures; encouragement for readers to practice how to read the different types of readings which feature in the Lectionary – poetry, narrative, discourse, letters etc; a list of resources for developing practical skills. These skills are treated thoroughly such as why should a reader prepare a reading? How might they do this? What are their other responsibilities? How might they deepen their love for the scriptures? There is also a check list to help give feedback to readers: Do they read audibly, clearly, expressively etc? Do they stand well at the ambo and make good use of the microphone, etc?

In conjunction with this online resource, there is a PDF document available for download from the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales that would be excellent for discussion by any group of readers. This contains factual information which is clearly explained (such as the Vatican’s pronouncements on the participation of Ministers of the Word during the Liturgy) with suggested further reading for those who are interested. There is advice for the Coordinator of the readers and how to select people to serve, as well as how to offer support for those involved in the group.

Thanks to one of my students, Phillip Lough for recommending Lector Notes (which is full of usefulnotes and links). Finally, St Benedict’s Parish in Canada’s website has some beautiful prayers for Ministers of the Word for personal reflection and for use at meetings of this important Liturgy group.

I recently gave a short presentation on the Reading for the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday that you might find helpful.

Readings for Easter

Readings for Easter

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Some light relief...

I started my lectures of Images of God in prophetic Literature course with a cartoon and have since been under pressure to provide light entertainment at each lecture....here's some for "Creator" :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Church "wins" Court Case over Banned Bible Ad

As someone who is teaching Leviticus next week, I've just printed out the BBC Northern Ireland report quoted below to give to my students:

A High Court judge has overturned a decision by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that an advertisement by a Belfast church was homophobic.

Sandown Free Presbyterian Church launched judicial review proceedings against the ASA after being found to be in breach of its code of practice.

The judge ruled the ASA's decision interfered with the church's rights to freedom of expression.

Rev David McIlveen described it as a landmark ruling.

The case centred on a full-page advert taken out in the News Letter ahead of a Gay Pride parade in Belfast in August 2008.

It was headlined 'The word of God against sodomy' and invited people to meet for a peaceful gospel witness against the act.

After receiving seven complaints that the notice was homophobic, the ASA ruled it could not appear again in the same form.

Freedom of expression

It also told the church to take more care in future to avoid causing serious offence.

Sandown Free Presbyterian Church's legal team argued its rights to religious belief and freedom of expression under European law had been breached.

They also claimed the church was not offered the chance to offer an explanation before the ban was imposed.

The church argued the ASA misinterpreted a quotation from the Book of Leviticus which branded homosexual acts an abomination.

According to the church the description applied to sodomy itself rather than any individuals.

In his ruling on Tuesday, Mr Justice Treacy stressed the context of the advertisement was important.

"Bible scripture"

The judge noted that the advertisement contained no exhortation to violence and that it also made clear how violent antagonism towards homosexuals was unacceptable and unjustifiable.

He said: "The applicant's religious views and the biblical scripture which underpins those views no doubt cause offence, even serious offence, to those of a certain sexual orientation.

"Likewise, the practice of homosexuality may have a similar effect on those of a particular religious faith.

"But Article 10 (of the European Convention on Human Rights) protects expressive rights which offend, shock or disturb.

"Moreover, Article 10 protects not only the content and substance of information but also the means of dissemination since any restriction on the means necessarily interferes with the right to receive and impart information."

Mr Justice Treacy emphasised that his assessment took into account the very particular context in which the advertisement was placed.

He noted: "The fact that the advertisement did not condone and was not likely to provoke violence, (it) contained no exhortation to other improper or illegal activity, (and) constituted a genuine attempt to stand up for their religious beliefs and to encourage others to similarly bear witness."

He said this had been done by citing well-known portions of scripture which underpinned the church's religious faith and its call to bear witness.

"Whilst such views and scriptural references may be strongly disdained and considered seriously offensive by some, this does not justify the full scope of the restrictions contained in the impugned determination," the judge added.

Rev McIlveen expressed delight with the outcome outside the court.

Flanked by the Rev Ian Paisley, he said: "We want to make it clear we had nothing against the seven people who objected to the advertisement.

"This is a landmark now for future decisions. People can quote the Bible and that's a freedom that we have sought."
I teach Leviticus as part of my Pentateuch course and for ages couldn't find a useful "secondary reading" to go along with the text that was at a level suitable for my students and could give them a "way into" the text. So I composed the following based on the "Dr Laura Letter". I give my students a handout with the biblical texts that are referenced and we start from there! There's rather a lot in the above news article (the impact of the phrase "Flanked by Rev Ian Paisley" cannot be ignored, nor the use of "Bible Scripture" in inverted commas. And you could teach a whole course on "People can quote the Bible and that's a freedom that we have sought". In fact I smell an essay question!)

Dr Laura Letter

Must Watch TV-Bible's Buried Secrets on BBC 2 Tuesday 21:00

Now I have to admit that I haven't seen the BBC 2 documentary "The Bible's Buried Secrets" which began last week and airs again tonight in the second of three parts but as one of my friends declared "any excuse". Meaning, isn't it fantastic that we actually have something "Bible" to watch (that isn't on the History Channel).

The host is Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou (who I met only very briefly at SOTS where she is secretary) who is Senior Lecturer in Theology and Religous Studies in the University of Exeter. She blogs here on the BBC website about making the programme.

I teach on Tuesday evenings and have yet to reach the dizzy heights of a salary that would allow me a Sky+ box so I shall have to await a rerun. Meanwhile I have benn entertained with the reviews of it. I offer a reward to anyone who can find me a review of programme based on the Bible with a male presenter that features so much focus on the presenter's makeup and clothes. Though I suspect you'd be hard-pressed to find a programme that would feature bible archeology and a black cocktail dress (SEE, I told you you *had* to watch it).

The Daily Telegraph and here. Daily Mail readers doubt the ability of a Senior Lecturer ("She looks awful young!"-read "She's wearing knee high boots!") to know anything about anything (look at comments below the article). There's also an interesting article in TIME magazine on Asherah.
Tonight's episode is "Did God have a wife?" Let me know what you think!

Website Reviews: Bible Study Group Resources

Published with kind permission of the Editor of Intercom.

Many parishes are setting up Bible study groups for interested parishioners. There are plenty of general resources for Bible study on the Internet but here are some that are specific to Catholic group work.
The Scripture School site has been developed to help make resources better known, both to individual Catholics and to diocesan and parish staff involved in adult faith formation. The site contains descriptions and evaluations of Bible study resources of various types and levels (from the complete beginner to those who wish to consult more advanced material. Advice on when to use each resource, depending on where you are in your knowledge of the Bible and ideas for parish (or other) study groups for each level of Bible study that is discussed. There are also links and information about Catholic publishers with a range of books for all levels of study.

The website of the Catholic Biblical Association of Canada offers a wealth of resources for setting up a bible study group and for beginning personal study. The link from the home page to resources includes plenty of resources to begin explorations of the sacred texts. There are links to online bibles (Word on Web), information on biblical archeology and video resources. The sections on “Jewish roots” and “Greek language” offer fantastic insights on biblical themes from the area of their original contexts and language. Lots of the resources are by Fr Murray Watson who recently graduated with his PhD from Trinity College, Dublin.

The St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology is a non-profit research and educational institute that promotes life-transforming Scripture study in the Catholic tradition. The Centre serves clergy and laity, students and scholars, with research and study tools, from books and publications to multimedia and on-line programming. The site contains some excellent resources such as podcasts, reflections on the readings from Sunday Mass, audio resources, “homily helps”, and study aids. There are endless PDF files on various biblical topics and will offer information and inspiration to any size and level of group. Registration is needed for Bible Study notes but this is free, secure and well worth doing.

Bibledex is a project by the University of Nottingham’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies in conjunction with video journalist Brady Haran. These video resources (hosted on YouTube) make an excellent starting point for any group discussion as they give a broad and informative guide to each book of the Bible with excellent commentaries from biblical theologians.

Spring Meeting of the Irish Biblical Association

Mark the Date in your Diary!

Dr Wendy Sproston-North (Durham) will give a paper entitled, "Points and Stars: John and the Synoptics" on Wednesday April 6th 2011.

This public lecture will take place at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, (Braemor Park, Dublin 14) from 7.30pm with registration from 7.00pm. (Get Directions)

There is a fee of €10 per person (€5 concessions).

Wendy North is an Honorary Research Fellow in Theology at the University of Durham, where she is currently teaching a course on John’s Gospel.

Her first degree was in Divinity and Music at Newcastle University, where she also gained a teaching qualification. Thereafter she moved to Hull, where she acquired post-graduate qualifications in the Theology Department there, and also taught courses for the Department. She gained her PhD at the University of Wales, Bangor, during that time. In 1999, she and her husband Lionel moved to Darlington where they continue their research interests and maintain strong links with the Durham Theology Department. Wendy’s publications include articles and essays in the area of Johannine studies and also a book, entitled The Lazarus Story in the Johannine Tradition (Sheffield Academic Press, 2001). This paper, she hopes, will become the kernel of a major study on John and the Synoptics.