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Christian Faith, the Bible, and Public Schools

My mother began her teaching career in the public schools in the early 1970s. Over the years, she has recounted the times when she was expected to read the Bible to students. She remembers lovingly sharing Bible stories and even praying with her elementary-aged students. However, as the years passed, those expectations changed, and by the time she retired a few years ago, she no longer read—and wonders if she would have been allowed to read—Bible stories to students.

There is no question that the role of the Bible and Christian faith in the public schools has changed dramatically over the last half century. Some of these changes have been for the better; others have been less positive. Still, it has left some wondering, “Is there a place for the Bible and Christian faith in American public schools today? And, if so, what is it?”

The attached paper seeks to find an appropriate role for teaching the Bible in today’s public school system, but not with the goal of proselytizing, converting, or condemning. Instead, it seeks to honor the Bible for its role in inspiring great minds and encourage students to find something powerful that motivates them to pursue truth, justice, and beauty in the world.

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Andrea Hall, Greenville, PA

Andrea Hall is a recent graduate of the Doctor of Educational Ministry Program at Columbia Theological Seminary. The attached paper won the Abdullah Award for the best paper setting forth a plan for teaching the Bible in the public schools.

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The Village

Our story is so common, a 125 year old congregation, inner-city, wants to minister to the community around it, I’m sure you have heard it all before.

The Facts:
Our average attendance: 170ish
Average Sunday school was: 30ish (all in, all ages)
Most families attended once a month
We have a separate family chapel, attended by substantially more persons than Sunday school hour.

Our take away was that families are interested, but not in our traditional model.
We kept coming back to the old adage “it takes a village…”

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Make Room: A Big Picture View of Lent

When my children were very young I always looked forward to the changing seasons. Inside and outside the church, the turning of the circle brought new colors and sights and smells—plenty of opportunity to explore and create.

My little library of activity books kept us busy. But when it came to Lent I was never satisfied. The kids and I ironed grated crayon on to waxed paper to make stained glass crosses; we made purple paper chains, and hot crossed buns; we even blended and burned our own incense. But something was missing. Continue reading

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A Lord’s Supper Series for Grades 3-5

I created this lesson series to fulfill my Educational Design requirement for educator certification in the Presbyterian Church (USA). I focused on scripture and liturgy together, in the context of biblical miracle narratives.

The first lesson focuses on the Lord’s Supper in its Passover context. Lessons 2-6 incorporate the miracle narratives: The Wilderness Miracles in Exodus 15-16, The Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12), Feeding the Multitudes (Matt 14:13-21), Cast Your Nets in the Deep Waters (Luke 5:1-11 and The Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). Students experienced the miracle narratives and learned the Words of Institution while handling the elements. Continue reading

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Christmas Participation Story

I wrote the Christmas Participation Story over 20 years ago. When I was a student at The Presbyterian School of Christian Education, one of my textbooks was A Guide to Recreation, by Glenn Bannerman and Robert Fakkema. One of the activities in that book was a participation story with a “cowboy setting.” It was a popular activity but written in a period where inclusive language and political correctness had yet to develop. I really enjoyed the format, however and began to write similar stories based on biblical texts. I paraphrased the text into a storytelling format in which I repeated words and phrases throughout and assigned groups to respond with certain words, actions, inflections, volume etc. Continue reading

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Spiritual Disciplines

Amidst the busy lifestyles we Christians often lead in society, I can’t help but wonder what it looks likes to have our faith formed and grow. Yes, we have Sunday School and worship, and maybe even a Bible Study coupled with a mission opportunity or two. Some of us may be chaperones on youth trips or church officers, but in the middle of that, where is the Holy Spirit forming us and molding us? Are we even attuned to it? Continue reading