Saturday, 5 December 2009

Christian history at KT - confessions, divisions ... and chance of unity?

I've spent part of today teaching KT. It's always good for me, helps me centre on people outside myself. Compared with the UK there is very little teaching about religion or the differences between religions at state schools in France. So we decided that with the vote about the minarets in Switzerland last weekend, and the interest that the young people had shown at the beginning of the year in learning about other religions we would try to do some of that today.
We began with Christianity before going on to look at Judaism and Islam.
In everyday French it's fairly difficult to trace the fairly key nuance between a different confession and a different religion. I was shocked at my first Week of Prayer for Christian Unity meetings in France to have people from the Catholic Church come up to me and say "we must do more inter-religious dialogue like this".
Today we started by looking at the different Christian confessions and by tracing where each of the many branches of Protestantism came from and then going back to what had preceded the Reformation and the great schism of 1054.
So we moved from the complex diversity of Christianity to looking briefly at Judaism and Islam. I was impressed by how genuinely the coung people voiced their concern that all people should be allowed to worship as they see fit. There is also an enormous ignorance of what the beliefs and practices of other religions are and part of me felt that we should try in local churches to offer an opportunity to discover other religions - not just for young people but for their parents and grandparents.
After lunch we did some remembered Bible of Christ's nativity with them. Fascinating to remember the story and then to read first Matthew and then Luke. I was struck by the different kind of Messiah each evangelist seemed to be expecting - in Matthew the baby is portrayed as the equal of kings and great Eastern intelectuals; in Luke this birth brings hope to excluded shepherds on the hillside. The beginnings of Christian diversity are right there in the way the gospels each tell their story of Christ. Christian unity and reconciled diversity are perhaps only possible if we dare - across our confessional differences - to go on telling our own and Christ's story to one another.