The Rev. Peter Luckey, senior pastor, Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.:
We humans are meaning-seeking creatures. Every child wants to know: Why am I here? What happens after you die? Is the world a good place? Can it be trusted? Is there a God?
Religious education, at its best, passes on a tradition, offered through stories, rituals, celebrations and sacraments. All of these give our children a place to “anchor” their deep questions about life.
At Plymouth, we believe that “hands on” activity, from bread baking to singing, from art to helping at the soup kitchen, is the best way to immerse children in the Christian narrative and a faith that is grounded in love and justice.
For the non-religious parent considering religious education for their child I offer both a warning and encouragement.
First the warning. Remember that children are very impressionable. The messages our young ones receive at an early age will be carried into their adult years. Before you enroll a child in a religious program, find out what is being taught. Are children allowed to think for themselves? Are they being taught to fear the world, or feel ashamed? Not all religious education is alike.
Now the encouragement. The significant question is not whether or not our children will receive an education, but of what kind? Our 24/7 world is teaching them lessons all the time. Our young people are being taught that what counts in life are things that can be counted, our possessions.
At its best, religious education, teaches our young an alternative lesson. Life’s greatest joy comes through serving others.
— Send e-mail to Peter Luckey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rev. Kara Eidson, associate pastor, First United Methodist Church, 946 Vt.:
Statistics vary depending on which source you turn to, but most seem to agree that a vast majority of people around the world adhere to a religious tradition of some sort.
That said, a basic education in religion is important to raising a well-rounded child, regardless of what faith a family does or does not adhere to. Although people who claim the same religion can espouse vastly different belief and moral understandings of that particular faith, a basic understanding of religion offers insight into relating with others. Furthermore, religion is pervasive in a variety of culture: music, literature, art, etc.
Understanding religious implications can be important to interpreting the world around us. This is why a basic course in Religion 101 or World Religions is commonly a part of an undergraduate education. To understand where another person is coming from, it is vital to have some basic understanding of the basic tenets of his or her most deeply held beliefs.
Ignorance breeds intolerance, and this holds true just as much for religion as it does for race or ethnicity. Providing children with the basics of religious belief systems can help them to function with others who may believe differently than they do throughout their adult lives.
— Send e-mail to Kara Eidson at email@example.com.