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MacLean Religious Education Special Collection: Six Eras of RE Guide

Four Eras Guide

Synopsis of the Religious Education Eras by the Rev. Dr. Elizabeth M. Strong

Catechetical: 1700s to late 1800s

Method: Rote memorization, didactic

Content: Biblical exclusively

Writers: Male ministers (Judith Sargent Murray’s is the first by a woman)

Led by: Father in the home and later by the minister in the church

Focus: Catechisms for children seen in the mid-1700s

Cultural and theological challenges: Higher Biblical Criticism and Evolutionary theory, Progressive education theories and geological discoveries begin to impact at the end of this time period

Primary Resource(s) Various Catechisms from Unitarianism and Universalism

Early Curricula: late 1800s to 1930s

Method: Memorization with critical thinking components

Content: Biblical with extra secular resources and Unitarian and Unitarian Helpers


Led by: Trained teachers in the International Uniform Lesson System

Focus: Book centered but with graded lessons attempting to be more child friendly

Cultural and theological challenges: The impact of Higher Biblical Criticism, Evolutionary theories, geological discoveries and progressive education becomes significant.  The formation of the Unitarian Education Directors’ Association in 1949– UEDA (later to become LREDA) began the professional development of our educators.

Resource(s) The Children Were My Teachers by the Rev. Dr. David Park; The Larger Message: Universalist Religious Education’s Response to Cultural and Theological Challenges: 1790 to 1930 by the Rev. Dr. Elizabeth M. Strong

The New Beacon Series/Fahs/MacLean Era: 1930s to 1965

Method: Stories and experiential exercises

Content: Biblical, the sciences, stories of ethical and moral exemplars- Unitarian, Universalist and others and included pamphlet and booklet guides for teachers

Writers: Women, men, laity, educators as well as ministers and professors

Focus: Graded lessons with Child centered focus, but still centered around books

Cultural and theological challenges: advances in educational theory, humanist impact on Unitarian Universalism in the 1930s, world religions more influential, WW II,

Primary Resources: Today’s Children, Yesterday’s Heritage by the Rev. Dr. Sophia Lyon Fahs; The Method is the Message by the Rev. Dr. Angus H. MacLean

Multi-Media Kit: 1965-1980

Method: Guided Discovery and Inquiry

Content: Life Skills

Writers: Women, men, laity, educators as well as ministers and professors

Focus: Multiple learning styles of children and youth.  Adult courses developed

Cultural and theological challenges: Major movements in Civil Rights: blacks, feminism, gay and lesbian rights, the Vietnam War, youth empowerment within Unitarian Universalism, divorce rates increase single parent families, situation ethics and the sexual revolution.  The Accreditation of Directors of Religious Education program began that morphed into the Independent Study Program for Ministers of Religious Education increased RE professionalism.

Primary Resource: A Philosophy for the Multi-Media Kits by the Rev. Dr. Hugo Hollororth

RE Futures/Anastos Era: 1980 to 2000

Method: Praxis

Content: Centered on the Unitarian Universalist Principles

Writers: Women, men, ministers, laity, educators and experts in various fields

Focus: Child and experience centered/ graded with some multiple-age programs for small RE programs, child development characteristics included in the curricula, adult education programs, social action and OWL (Our Whole Lives Human Sexuality), Chalice Time/worship components

Cultural and theological challenges: intentional addressing of racism and homophobia within the context of Unitarian Universalism, cult incursions into society, the need to articulate our own faith, the rise of fundamentalism, the beginning impact of the technological age. The Ministry of Religious Education impact on religious education and the degree granting for that ministry at Meadville Lombard again increased the professional level of religious educators.

Primary Resource: The RE Futures Report

Tapestry of Faith/Essex Conversations: 2000 to present

Method: Praxis, guided discovery, inquiry, experiential, multi-modal, on-line courses, templates, instilling the experience of teaching as faith development by our volunteer teachers.

Content: Faith Based within Unitarian Universalism

Writers: women, men, ministers, laity educators and experts in various fields

Focus: child, youth, young adult, adult, elder centered in the context of faith development

Cultural and Theological Challenges: Safe Congregations needs, Iraq war and unrest within the nation, fundamentalism and rising religious intolerance, the need to articulate our faith, the need to re-examine our Principles.  The RE Credentialing Program to train professional religious educators focused on the non-ordained educators and again promises to have a positive impact.

Primary Resource: Essex Conversations

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