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Developments in Church life and religion classes

We are happy to be able to announce to parents, families and students that from the start of the 2010-2011 school year, there will be some new developments in how we integrate the Church life of our students and families into the education in religion that they receive in the classroom.

One of our aims at St. John's is to foster in our students a love for the life of the Church, including a spirit of joy in the services that leads each child to desire participation in the services, to know the mysteries in which they are privileged to participate, and to integrate their experiences there into the whole of life.

Our religion program has always been strong in instilling in students a knowledge of the Church's life and teachings, of the mercies of God and the guidance the Church brings to their lives. We have also always fostered the active attendance and participation in the divine services of the Church amongst our families - with all our students attending the Divine Liturgy at their parish each Sunday, as well as the twelve Great Feasts and regular celebrations of the Church's year.

In the new school year, we will be laying new emphasis on helping our students integrate their participation in the services to their classroom studies and whole of their life. In-school religion classes will take the materials students are learning (e.g. the Law of God, traditions of worship, the life of Christ) and use them to prepare students actively for the services in which they will participate each weekend (the Divine Liturgy). For example, younger students might be prepared for the weekend's services by being asked on Friday to pay particular attention to the Little Entrance at the Sunday Liturgy: who is carrying what? Where to they stand? What do they do? Older children will be prepared for the service with more probing tasks: listen to the Gospel and the homily - how do they connect? What is the spiritual meaning of the priest bowing to the people, and how should this 'icon' shape our relationships to one another? etc. The specific preparation for each Sunday will depend on the age group and level of spiritual development, but the end result will be that each and every student's worshipping life with their family on Sunday will be an integral part of their education and spiritual life at St. John's.

Classroom studies in religion will, in this way, become a more intentional means of provoking active participation in the Sunday services amongst our students: preparing them for what they will see, hear, say and do, and inviting them to become more active participants in the life of the Church. Our aim is to have each student's studies in religion promote and provoke a love, joy and desire for the services that overflows into their parish life, so that the school becomes a means of developing the hearts of children who want to go to Church, who crave and need the experience of worship, and who know and reflect on what they do there.

When students return to the classroom on Monday, their experiences and reflections on the weekend services will form an integral part of the new week's religion class. Students will reflect on and discuss their experiences of worship, will learn how to apply its lessons and blessings to every day of life, etc. In this manner, their weekly experience of the Divine Liturgy will inform and shape their studies also: it will give shape and substance to their reflections on the Orthodox faith and life, and be integrated into their lives in the school.

We trust that parents will be as enthusiastic as we are about further integrating Church and classroom life in this manner, and we look forward to the spiritual growth and development that will come from this additional emphasis in our program in the Autumn.