Sacred spaces: church and school explore together
“School students should be able to learn about different faiths and their sacred spaces so in the future they can interact with other people from different faiths respectfully,” says Fraser Coast Anglican College student Callum, in this special joint reflection written by three FCAC students and the school’s dedicated RE Coordinator
Introduction – Lana Priebbenow, FCAC Coordinator of Religious Education
St John’s Anglican Church at Hervey Bay recently hosted Year 7 students from Fraser Coast Anglican College. This was a ‘hands-on’ experience for students as part of a unit of learning on ‘Sacred Spaces’. Whilst there, students explored the different aspects of St John’s Church, including the spiritual space of the sanctuary; the significance of Baptism and Communion; prayer; church fixtures, vessels and implements; architecture; the gardens; and, more. It was a wonderful opportunity for parishioners to share some of the jewels of the Anglican tradition with our students.
In the ‘Sacred Spaces’ unit, students explore the common features of sacred spaces across a variety of different faiths and spiritualities, including Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto and that of our First Nations peoples, particularly symbols, smells, sounds and sights. As a culminating activity, the students will plan, design, and produce their own ‘sacred space’ using different formats, such as drawings, paintings, dioramas and Lego and Minecraft models.
The students and I sincerely appreciate the assistance of Lauren Loumeau, Children’s Ministry Coordinator at St John’s Anglican Church, who helped us in the organisation of the excursion logistics. We also wish to thank Bev McClelland, Helen Jarvis, Lyle Gronow, Jill Crane, Bill Skyner and Rima Skyner who guided us around the church building and grounds and explained to us the meaning behind the church’s symbols, architecture and liturgical items. It is always a blessing to build on the existing connections that our school and the people of St John’s Anglican Church, Hervey Bay share.
Aiden, Year 7 Fraser Coast Anglican College student
The walk around the peaceful garden was my favourite activity from our awesome excursion to St John’s Anglican Church. I felt the church garden helped give a sense of peacefulness. I’m also curious to see what’s inside the church’s time capsule when it’s opened. Another highlight on our visit around the inside of the church was being shown the various religious symbols and architectural features of the church, such as the high ceiling symbolising heaven, the crosses and the fabric banners.
I believe that going on excursions like this is vital for students our age because we need to explore different beliefs and religions so that when we reach adulthood, we have information and beliefs for our own spiritual journey. Visiting sacred spaces such as St John’s Anglican Church helps us build our spiritual journey with Christianity. During our excursion, we also learnt how to make a Bible verse ‘chatterbox’ and a memory wrist-band, which we could take home to remember our visit.
I’ve discovered that sacred spaces amongst different religions have many similarities, even though their beliefs vary. High ceilings, altars, music and greenery are some of the common elements. The overall goal for all these religions is to achieve peace and happiness for everyone that chooses to follow that religion.
The reason I would encourage other school students to have this experience is so they can connect to their spirituality. Exploring our beliefs and finding our spiritual path are vital for us to experience.
Callum, Year 7 Fraser Coast Anglican College student
In the visit to St John’s Anglican Church, I particularly enjoyed the sanctuary because of the warm presence around the altar, which was surrounded by the sanctuary rails. The stained-glass window of Jesus the shepherd looking after the lambs let a rainbow flood of colours illuminate the sanctuary. I especially liked the symmetrical candles flickering on the altar and the wooden cross in the centre. The throne [presider’s chair] behind it looked grand.
School students should be able to learn about different faiths and their sacred spaces so in the future they can interact with other people from different faiths respectfully. A sacred space is a place where a person feels safe and calm. Some people’s sacred space may be the local church or at the beach – anywhere they feel themselves. It is important that we know where we feel safe and ourselves because it means that we can be free to believe what we believe, and follow a faith or religion.
What I have learned is that all sacred spaces are somewhere you can pray and feel close to God. All sacred spaces are gigantic, such as the beautiful beaches, the dynamic churches and the sacred lands of Indigenous peoples in all countries. Any place people are in awe of the impressive structure of a church or temple or mosque or the calm relaxing space of the sandy beaches.
Knowing where your sacred space is can be useful when you want to calm down or relax. Following Christianity is a faith that will help you along your way because God is always with all of us, and we need to follow his path.
During our visit to St John’s Anglican Church we learned new things, experienced how things are in an Anglican church and most importantly we had fun doing all sorts of activities. From learning prayers to walking through the gardens outside to sitting near the altar, we did everything. However, I believe my personal favourite highlight of the church visit was when we learned how priests baptise someone and why they do it. It was really cool to learn all sorts of ‘practices’ that they do in St John’s Anglican Church.
Moath, Year 7 Fraser Coast Anglican College student
Visiting St John’s Church teaches you about different faiths and beliefs. It’s a good way to educate young people about what happens in a church and what you do there. Learning about various sacred spaces gives you a different perspective and broadens your knowledge; that’s why learning about different beliefs and different sacred spaces is important.
Almost all religions have a holy book or books, including Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism. All these religions have similarities and differences, and that’s what I learnt doing our sacred spaces lessons.
I would 100 per cent recommend other schools learning about different sacred spaces and different faiths. It’s not only fun to learn, but it also gives you a different understanding of all religions and their sacred spaces.Jump to next article