Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the U.K.’s former chief rabbi.
“One of the wonderful things about spending time with people completely unlike you is you discover how much you have in common. The same fears, the same hopes, the same concerns.”
Vacation Culture School at a Glance
to familiarize ourselves with the variety of religious and cultural experiences of people living in our immediate community;
to make space for building relationships with individuals we might not otherwise encounter;
to learn some basic information about major world religions, including tenets; prayers; geographic distribution; language(s); foods; history; music; games;
to normalize and humanize people who may seem “other” to us by building relationships and shared experiences.
Who: all ages 2-102
What: Each evening for 5 nights, we gather to learn about the cultures associated with the 5 major world religions. Using religion as a jumping-off point, we explore the rich diversity of rituals, food, games, and stories in our world. We work with individuals from each of these communities, in order to accurately represent them. It is truly our hope that we families from these groups join us for the whole week, so that we can begin to tear down some of the walls that divide us as we build new relationships.
When: 5 sessions; this could be 5 evenings, afternoons, or mornings in one week (traditional VBS model); 5 evenings in 5 weeks; 5 Sundays after church; or whatever works best in your context. We chose an evening schedule so that the entire family could participate, from the littlest littles to the oldest great-great-grandma. We know that talking about religion and culture is difficult, and we want families to have the opportunity to learn together and discuss how these other faiths compare and relate to what they practice at home. We also wanted individuals who are working during the day to join us, whether they are bringing kids or not.
Where: We used our church building. Suggestions we heard were to have it at an outside public venue like a city auditorium, or to have a round-robin between local congregations or even between different faith’s gathering spaces. It worked well for us to have it in our lower level, where we could have one room set up as the large-group session, another set up for snacks, and separate areas for crafts, games, and other activities. We steered clear of our sanctuary, so as not to make anyone uncomfortable (either within the congregation or guests). And we used the outdoors area as much as possible, given weather and light restrictions.
Why: Martin Luther in his Small Catechism explains the 8th Commandment (“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor”) by saying that not only are we not to lie about or slander our neighbor, but that we are also to speak well of her, defend her, and explain her actions in the kindest possible way. In order to do this, we have to know our neighbor and understand something of her culture and traditions. With the more vocal voice of Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and isolationism that has made itself heard in America over the past several months and years, now is the time for Christians to take this commandment seriously and learn all we can to counter ignorance and hatred.
EXPERIENCE VACATION CULTURE SCHOOL
A week with the cultures of the world through the lens of the five major world religions.
Our goal is to explore the different experiences and beliefs of the people in our community in order to foster understanding and connection.