RI in state schools: going where the need is
Religious Instruction in State Schools (commonly known as RI) has been around, off and on, for over 100 years. Within the RI system, parents or caregivers elect for students to learn about a faith, and religious community representatives then instruct those children in that faith. The RI that occurs in Queensland is overwhelmingly Christian, but also now includes Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, and Bahai’i faiths. (at least, there may be more!)
There’s been an ongoing debate since 1875 about whether RI should take place in State Schools, and what the content should be. After a gap of about 35 years, a referendum across Queensland led to RI being reinstated in 1910. Rev. Canon Garland (who also was the prime mover behind recognising ANZAC Day) established the Bible in State Schools League, and travelled across the state, arguing for RI in state schools. RI has quietly remained in the life of local schools where local churches and the parent community have made a commitment to it.
You may have mixed memories of RI lessons from your own school days!
Today, RI is delivered across about 750 State Primary Schools, to about 150 000 young people every week, by about 3 000 volunteer instructors. These instructors are trained and supported in their ministry by local networks and a State-wide body, Christian RI Alliance. 14 denominations (including the LCA) are members of this alliance. And the demand for RI is greater than the resources available: In addition to the 150,000 young people mentioned above, about 100 000 children have been “signed into” RI by their parents and caregivers in places where RI is not at present delivered.
In the vast majority of situations RI is delivered cooperatively, with all the churches involved sharing a curriculum and delivering RI to class-based cohorts. Instructors are trained and supported, and have very user-friendly lessons to teach. No real experience beyond being in good relationship with your church is needed. Volunteer instructors commit to teaching the age level(s) they prefer.
RI is, by a country mile, the most extensive ecumenical ministry of the churches in Queensland.
With only about 6 percent of Australian children going to Sunday School type activities, RI is reaching a generation of children who will never go near a church, never hear about Jesus, unless the church goes to them. Through RI, the church is responding to parents and caregivers who want their children to know about the Christian faith.
Thinking about teaching RI yourself? My encouragement would be that one gets to understand one’s faith so much more when one is asked to teach RI! RI is not only about opening up the wonderful story of God’s love for us all in Christ to children who would otherwise never hear it, it is also about the joy of exploring it again for oneself!
Check out our website: www.christianri.org.au for more information.
As Christian RI is a local ministry carried out quietly and humbly, we don’t always know which LCAQD members currently teach RI. If you teach RI please compete this brief survey. Or if you prefer you can send your details to email@example.com. If you know of someone else within the LCAQD who teaches RI, please share this post with them.
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