Religious Education Corner
Lights, Camera, Action! And the movie starts to roll… Oh, sorry, I’m dating myself. I should say that the video starts to play. If you’ve stopped in our middle school class (grades 6, 7, 8) in the Yellow Rooms (#7-8) on a Sunday morning, you’ll find our younger youth on bean bag chairs scattered around the floor totally focused on what is playing out on the screen. Our new middle school curriculum is called Popcorn Theology. Popcorn Theology takes the concept and popularity of movie night to explore issues of theology and ethics for Unitarian Universalists. This curriculum is versatile and flexible, with a myriad of ways congregations can use this format in their programs. We are using it as part of our Sunday Religious Education (RE) morning program.
Today’s youth have grown up in a world of cable and satellite television offering hundreds of channels for viewing at any given moment. As visual resolution from computer games has increased over the years, our youth have also used their visual minds to solve complex problems and achieve predetermined goals. Recent improvements in video distribution via the internet have only increased our youth’s desire to learn through visual medium.
Popcorn Theology takes this interest in learning through the visual arts and channels it into specific learning opportunities which examine issues of theological and ethical importance to our world. By using this visual medium to explore relevant issues, this curriculum seeks to help participants:
examine how the choices we make affect our lives and the lives of others
explore how concepts such as truth and meaning are related to perspective and point of view
understand ways in which the right of conscience calls us to do what is right despite possible negative consequences
consider ways in which our faith can help us understand our questions
seek answers and deal with the trials of life
learn about other faith traditions and their responses to important theological and ethical issues (from the Popcorn Theology handbook).
"Who is Forrest Gump?" "I never even heard of Michael J Fox or the Back to the Future movies." These were just a few of the comments I heard when we got this program going. This curriculum was written in 2007. Movies that we adults thought everyone would know are totally unfamiliar to these young people. The intention is to watch only a selected snippet (15-20 minutes) of the movie, but we’ve found that our students have never seen these films before. They always want to watch the whole movie, so sometimes we stretch out the viewing over more than one session. The movie selections (with the themes they inspire) include shows like "Forrest Gump" (cultivating an attitude of gratitude), "Bruce Almighty" (things we have control over and things we don’t), and "Field of Dreams" (achieving our dreams).
Youth at this age have a high need for acceptance and attachment with their peers. We are intentionally creating a safe environment for all youth to share ideas and express their opinions. This is important for building community. In the future, we may even add an overnight to watch and enjoy a whole movie and get a more complete experience. For parents of youth who have not been attending regularly, ask them to come back. The curriculum is fun and engaging. As an adult member of the congregation who may or may not be involved in the Religious Education program, feel free to engage our youth in conversation. Ask them what they’ve been watching and talking about. I promise you will both walk away from the conversation with a better understanding about the other’s generation.
Gretta Johnson-Sally, Director of Religious Education
•Sun. Nov. 17, 3:00-4:15 p.m. Yellow room
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