I wonder if you have ever been engaged in the educational
‘game’ of tipping out the contents of your pocket
or bag to be analysed by your peers — in the manner of hypothetical
archaeologists — for what they reveal of your life-style,
your value systems or even your deeply held beliefs . . . Or perhaps
you have given a farewell speech for a dear colleague and you
have trembled at the prospect of summing up their achievements
and experiences . . . Some of these sensations infused the initial
task of selecting for a retrospective volume articles from the
annual Journal (which began formally in 1978).
Among Working Party members, the project quickly became known
as “The Best of Shap” and we certainly knew which
articles had been most in demand over the years. A small survey
of cross-phase teachers who had been looking at the way religion
is portrayed in print revealed other pieces of rare reflection.
Many colleagues also felt that some items should be included which
indicated the development in R.E. over the twenty year period
— a development in which the Working Party has had a guiding
hand. Still there were some glaring omissions in the anthology
so two articles were especially commissioned for this volume.
So we began to talk about “The Shape of Shap” —
when we could pronounce it, that is!
A lively collection has resulted. It focuses on some aspects
of religion which have not been written about elsewhere or which
are generally inaccessible; it permits a healthy tension between
contributions within some of the sections on religions; it offers
academic rigour and child’s-eye viewpoints, both sensitivity
and dynamism. No attempt has been made to impose a house style
and while this may have produced some idiosyncrasies, it has also
given individual writers a great deal of scope. This had made
for some very authentic writing. Indeed, all the contributors
whose original work was selected were invited to revisit it and
some made substantial changes. R.E. has long been understood as
a process not a product and this book bears witness to the fact
that we never arrive; we are always arriving
In only one aspect of the material has there been an editorial
stamp — that concerning ‘technical terms’. In
some publications religious vocabulary from a non- English language
is italicised or slipped between inverted commas or perhaps bolded.
The result is that by and large Christian words — which
are usually in English — are treated as matter-of-fact while
others are made into a special case. It is an artificial state
of affairs in the history of religions and I suggest a norm-and-deviation
model which is offensive in the language of world religions today.
In this publication all terms are ‘normal’ and italics
are used only to emphasise meaning.
Another unifying factor is the art work. The illustrator has
used the same basic style throughout and has connected the sections
with certain running motifs. She has tried to balance this commonality
by eliciting the particular qualities of each tradition or each
educational aspect. The intention is a theme of diversity within
unity. In the case of the illustrations of religious traditions,
she has selected a central image and embedded it in contextualised
details drawn from the articles she is depicting. To be fully
appreciated, the art belongs with the words.
Shap has been Working very
hard for twenty years; this book is a bit of the Party.
by the Editor Angela Wood