Not teaching, but still doing religious education

One in a series of entries in my teaching diary. First 2009 entry.

Sunday 27 December 2009

There was no Sunday school today, so I got to go to church to hear the sermon. I arrived a little bit late, and sat down just before the opening words. I could see Marco and Natalie sitting on the other side of the Main Hall with their godmother; I tried to catch Marco’s eye, but I don’t think he noticed me. Roger Jones, the visiting preacher, gave an excellent sermon — I was glad our church brought in a really good guest preacher on this low-attendance Sunday. Marco and Natalie stayed in for the whole worship service, and Roger’s sermon was good enough that I suspect Marco (and maybe Natalie) could pick up something from it; at the very least, the children got to hear the speech rhythms of a good preacher, rhythms which can be hypnotic and entrancing in their own right. I wanted to try to talk to Marco and Natalie after the service to see what they thought about it, but unfortunately I had to leave immediately; but I will make a point of asking them about it the next time I see them.

Later in the afternoon, I took a break and went over to the Baylands Nature Preserve, to go for a walk, and to do some birding. There were hundreds of wintering ducks in the marshlands, and I was standing on one of the dikes looking through my binoculars at a pair of Gadwall when I heard a familiar voice saying, “I don’t know if Dan wants to be disturbed.” It was Lucy, standing there talking to her daughter Dorit, who is in my Sunday school class.

I said hello to both of them. Lucy said she didn’t want to bother me, but I told her (truthfully) that I was pleased to see them both. Dorit is now six and three-quarters. I began talking to her about birds, and quickly figured out that she was interested in birds, and had some basic knowledge of how to tell different kinds of birds apart. “Would you like to look through my binoculars?” I said. Dorit nodded, and we went over to a nearby bench so I could sit next to her (when you’re six foot five, you either have to kneel down or sit beside a child when you’re going to let them use your binoculars, and it was too damp for me to want to kneel). The three of us sat on a bench looking out at tidal flats with American Avocets, various kinds of ducks, and lots of shorebirds. I asked Dorit if she knew how to use binoculars, and she did — she held them up, managed to hold them steady, and used the focusing knob. They were kind of heavy for her, though, and not much fun to use. So we just sat there looking at the birds without binoculars. It was a little chilly, and after we talked for about five minutes, Lucy and Dorit went off one way, and I went off the other way.

Strictly speaking, birds have nothing to do with religious education. But I remember that I liked it when the adults in my childhood church shared their interests and passions with me — it was nice to be treated by adults as a person instead of a child. So talking to Dorit about birding may have nothing to do with religion, but it has everything to do with being human; which I suppose is just another way of saying that it has everything to do with religion.