Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
No, this isn’t an essay on the scarcity of clean water or natural resources. Rather, let me reflect here on how to rethink the availability of resources necessary for communicating about and teaching of faith and science basics to all ages.
This month as we read about Clint Schnekloth’s Faith & Science VBS experience this summer, it is clear that it takes lots of resources to pull off a distinctive summer program such as this. To create and distribute a top-notch curriculum or faith-and-science oriented program, people, processes and careful forethought are musts. But possibly the greatest stumbling block at the moment is the lack of access to fully vetted and time-tested materials that can be used in congregations, Sunday schools or in other public settings to open up a forward-moving dialogue in the arena of faith and science.
Sure the web is home to a number of free resources that have been developed by a number of groups over the years. We at the Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology have such a section on our website as well and recently have been discussing what it takes to put together a more comprehensive repository of information. As a group we are in the early stages, but perhaps there is something to be learned just in the process of gathering online and print information.
What’s important? This is always up for debate. Breaking it down into categories of information related to people across the faith/science dialogue is tricky. Of course curricula, essays and even educational videos are all of interest. What it comes down to though, is determining how such material can be adequately used. Going back to our Coleridge allusion, everyone is thirsty, but perhaps each water glass differs in size and what satisfies others thirst only mildly quenches other.
For our purposes today, let’s hypothetically break it down into three types of people with an interest in using religion and science resources — the educator, the couch scholar and the community builder/member.
The educator may be a Sunday School teacher, a pastor or even a deaconess. In fact, it was a deaconess I know who got me thinking about the versatility of the materials out there and the difficulty in some instances to adapt them to various audiences. It is great to have a bunch of ideas on a website, but actually applying them to differing age groups, educational levels and interests can be a challenge. For pastors, many whom lead adult education forums or confirmation, it is tricky as well. This is because while some congregations may be mostly made up of college-educated members, others perhaps outside of college towns or metropolitan areas may have a real interest in just what science is and how it works rather than the intricacies of physics or new technological implications.
The couch scholar is representative of a lot of passionate religion and science audience members. Some are science teachers and others seminarians. Others may just have an affinity for both theological and scientific matters. While they are often well read on a variety of topics, for this group it is all about finding new sources for the latest ideas on new scientific discoveries as well as historical information related to the faith and science dialogue. Scholarly papers on transhumanism, may be of interest but for the most part this group is interested in complex topics boiled down in layman’s terminology with footnotes for further reading.
Last but not least, the community builder/member. Some folks are just looking to join something larger than themselves and work on a project within a group. Just knowing that there is a dialogue provides enough excitement and material for learning that this group can easily be enriched. Still what they may need is a feel for uncovering the whole scope of religion and science in its entirety. Today many groups specialize on set topics or a grouping of topics at any one point in time — which can be off-putting if it isn’t a topic of interest.
So back to the drawing board. How can groups, such as the Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology, serve the broad needs of church communities? What materials already exist that can be combined and used for the greatest impact?
Is there a need for more development in the gathering of resources? Certainly. Are the resources available? Yes, for the most part. Where can one find them? All over the web, but a number of good offline materials are available too.
As with anything that is worth doing, it is a process. With enough interested parties in gathering and creating faith and science educational resources the job is likely getting easier.