Illustration: Jane Thornton
This September, Sunday school teachers in the Anglican Church of Canada will have a comprehensive new online resource to teach the gospel to children.
Designed in recognition of the shortage of Sunday school teachers, the curriculum takes a one-room-schoolhouse approach, in which youngsters from five to 11 can be taught by one teacher. Importantly, it fulfills two of the Anglican Communion’s Five Marks of Mission: to proclaim the good news of the kingdom; and to teach, baptize and nurture new believers.
The new curriculum grew out of last year’s Sunday school contest, an initiative of General Synod launched in August 2011. It offers detailed and layered lesson plans for Sundays from September to June with a working title of The Compendium of the Church Mouse.
Teachers across Canada were asked to submit their ideas for bringing the Marks of Mission to life in their Sunday classes. The four winners-one from each ecclesiastical province-were brought to Toronto last November to attend a weekend workshop led by a top facilitator.
Kate Newman, principal developer of the curriculum, is a veteran teacher in British Columbia’s secular education system, and for 12 years a Sunday school teacher at Vancouver’s Christ Church Cathedral. “Teachers can choose to follow the curriculum closely or select themes and activity ideas to complement their own lesson plans,” she explains.
Enter the Mouse compendium-so called because it uses hand-knitted or sewn church mice. The mice enter the Sunday school room through a paper door printed out from the curriculum and pasted to a baseboard. The mouse then leads the lessons’ questions in a way that helps children discover the gospel by relating their own experiences to the stories in the New Testament.
The plan follows the liturgy of the adult church service. “Each lesson explores the same reading from the New Testament that’s used for that Sunday in the main worship service,” says Newman.
The curriculum also promotes youth apprenticeship. Once a month, the Sunday school is encouraged to attend the entire service and participate in all activities, from greeting the congregation at the door to bringing up donations of food and following the sidespeople bearing the offertory. At Christ Church, this inclusive approach has tripled attendance at Sunday school, Newman says.
The compendium will be available online in early September and a printed version may follow.