Editing Shap

Owen Cole (1978—82)

The exercise of editing the Shap bulletin was challenging, exciting and frustrating. There is a popular philosophy of encouraging enterprise in the Working Party. in practical terms that means, ‘Good on yer. mate. Get on with it’. Consequently as the March deadline for copy passed so more and more articles and book reviews were written by a small select band of members and friends. Now an editorial committee has replaced the one-man band and the attempts to produce thematic editions which I was asked to undertake have begun to be successful. Perhaps there is a danger now that there will be less space or even none, for the kinds of articles which pose questions about the nature of R.E. and where the frontiers of the subject should be fixed, if at all. One of the joys of editing the Bulletin was that it gave me an opportunity to be provocative and to invite others to poke sticks into sacred alligators, too.

Mary Hayward (1982—85)

Taking on the role of editor of ‘Shap Mailing’ more or less coincided with my moving from Peterborough to York. Peterborough then was growing, expanding, developing; its community multiethnic. Hindus, Irish and Italian Catholics, Ukrainian Orthodox, Sunni and Shi’ a Muslims, Sikhs, Jews. Rastafarians, Vietnamese of Buddhist or Catholic persuasion could all be met within ten minutes walk of school, whilst at Water Newton, a few miles away, evidence of the early presence of Christianity in Britain had been discovered (and, of course, moved to London!). But by and large Peterborough expressed a ‘now’ and ‘future’ perspective. York, full of its own riches, by contrast, a ‘past’ perspective. Both places have their vitality, but it is consequently of a different quality and the orientation is different. Appropriately — from a religions’ perspective — ends, beginnings, futures even, were picked up in the first Mailing I edited (jointly with Owen Cole) on Death (1982).

In the same edition Ninian Smart commented ‘One of the excellences of the world of religious education and more broadly of the study of religion is the way we are in constant movement and debate’. Such a samsaric world has certainly been the recent lot of R.E. teachers, but, paradoxically, the foci of their studies may more often convey order, stability and changelessness to young people in school. This is in itself an interesting reflection on a danger in RE., that the ‘themes’ we select — note, for example, those of Shap Mailings: Pilgrimage (1983), Sacred Writings (1984), Worship (1985) — can too easily be divorced from the material and act al world which adherent and non-adherent share. When we selected these topics we were meeting pragmatic concerns of teachers as world religions came of age in many syllabuses — the topics w~ re not then frequent in published materials and hopefully Shap met a need. More importantly, Shap attempted where possible to draw on direct experience of an adherent’s Weltanschauung and where this wasn’t possible on those who struggled in study with this. When this happens past. present, future (now and ‘then’) interact and R.E. is exciting and immediate.

By 1986 the question had been raised of ‘When is a Mailing not a Mailing?’ or ‘When is it more than a Mailing?’ and World Religions in Education was born. It being the year of (the?) Swann, Religions in Britain was felt to be an appropriate theme. A significant feature was a series of articles on nurture within faith communities. These witnessed to the vitality of religions, to a concern to hand on religious belief and practice to new generations, combined with a sensitivity to the difficulties of being a minority community. of being removed very often from a ‘parent community’, of cultural roots once established in another place now taking root here. Change in R.E? Yes, it’s there. But the excitement of the study — for this editor anyway — lies in living traditions now, whose dynamic relates them to a past and a future and provides personal meaning — and struggle! — in the present.

Clive Erricker (1986—89)

The place of World Religions within Religious Education has changed a great deal since the Shap Mailing was first issued. We have tried to meet the needs inherent in these changes. Firstly. a more discriminating awareness of the plurality of different traditions: secondly, an emphasis on how we should teach about world religions as well as what; thirdly, a questioning of the relationship between teaching world religions and social and moral issues with which they overlap (such as women in religion and the 1989 theme of humankind and the environment); fourthly. a need to teach children with the more overtly expressive and communal aspects of religious traditions. such as festivals, which lead into the heart of religious teachings.

If the teaching of world religions is to stay at the centre of religious education — which implies specific educational aims before it implies specific content — then it must progress by investigating the salient issues and features in this manner. We hope that over the last three years World Religions in Education has made some impact in this respect.

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