2019 Religious Education Symposium

Sandra Cullen

My colleagues and I were fortunate to attend and be a sponsor at the 2019 Religious Education Symposium in Darling Harbour last week. Attending the symposium allowed us the opportunity to exhibit our product, the Understanding Faith resource, and also to attend keynote presentations and workshops which were both informative and formative.

The conference spanned over two days, with keynotes and workshops occurring on both days. After setting up our sponsor stall, we headed to the main auditorium to listen to the first keynote speaker, Dr Sandra Cullen. Dr Cullen is the Director of the Irish Centre for Religious Education and was presenting a key note titled, ‘Religious Education in the Classroom: Let’s talk about God.’

Dr Cullen is an engaging and entertaining speaker. She gave the audience a clear message of how ‘God Talk’ can be promoted and supported in the classroom. From her explanation of the detraditionalisation of religion, to her support of the many ways of living in fidelity to God, Dr Cullen was able to share her knowledge of modern day religious education in the classroom.

Morning tea saw the team extremely busy talking to symposium attendees. We had the opportunity to introduce ourselves to teachers and consultants who had not yet had the pleasure of using our resource, and were pleased to accept the many compliments from our current subscribers.

After morning tea, we headed back to the main hall for the second keynote speaker, Professor Brendan Hyde, from Deakin University. Professor Hyde spoke about Religious Education in the Classroom: The child, theology and the early years.’ Professor Hyde shared valuable knowledge and insight that all teachers can take back to the classroom.

After lunch, the workshops began. I attended a workshop from the stream; Special Topics in Education and a second workshop from the stream; Religious Education in Primary Schools.

Workshop A was titled, ‘Deeper Learning in religious Education’ and was presented by Professor Chris Hackett and Doctor Christine Robinson. In summary, the presenters spoke about two types of capabilities; spiritual capabilities and religious capabilities and how they relate to religious education in the classroom.

Workshop B was titled, ‘Building Understanding: pathways and by-ways in to the Sydney Religious Education Curriculum.’ Having taught from the Sydney Religious Education Curriculum for most of my teaching career, I was excited to hear about the direction of the curriculum. It was pleasing to find out that the curriculum still focuses on storytelling and is based around the four Emmaus principles. In line with the National Curriculum and NESA, the Sydney Curriculum also incorporates critical thinking opportunities.

Again, my colleagues and I (along with our parish priest, Fr Paul Gooley) were pleased to attend to the symposium dinner. Not only was the food amazing, the dinner gave us the opportunity to talk informally with other symposium attendees and make those crucial connections, both personally and professionally.

Day two kicked off with the celebration of the Eucharist presided by Bishop Brian Mascord. After morning tea, we listened to keynote speaker, Reverend Andrew Pinsent, present, ‘Making a god of science: Implications for Religious Education.’ Rev Pinsent was incredibly engaging and had so much information to share. It was quite clear he was passionate about his topic, as he presented the ‘proofs’ for God’s existence.

With just two workshops to go, the mental fatigue was setting in and the brain was madly trying to process everything it had heard so far.

Both my colleague and I chose to attend the same workshops on day two. A workshop from the stream, Religious Education in Schools and a workshop from the stream, Science and Religion.

Workshop C was titled, ‘Strategies in teaching Studies in Catholic Thought’, presented by Ms Janina Starkey and Professor Renee Kohler. This workshop was particularly pertinent to us, as our general manager and theologian has written substantive support material for this syllabus. The information presented reaffirmed the direction we have taken with our support material is in alignment with the curriculum. It was an excellent opportunity to ensure we are supporting the introduction of the syllabus with comprehensive material.

The final workshop of the day was titled, ‘Science and Religion’ presented by Doctor John Honner. Again, it was inspiring to listen to a presenter so clearly passionate about his work and field of expertise as he presented an indisputable argument about how religion and science work together.

The conclusion of this workshop bought the symposium to an end. We were bursting with valuable knowledge, and feeling absolutely confident that the work we are doing with Understanding Faith is relevant, respected and, for our current users, essential.

Janita, Shelley, Pat