EurECA Conference 2014

EurECA Conference, May 29 - June 1, 2014

Experience and Expertise in Christian Pedagogy  

by Kirsti Paterson                

The  venue  for  the Conference this year was  Pilgrim  Hall,  East  Sussex, near   to  the  sunshine  coast  of  Eastbourne.

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From  the  91  delegates present, there  were representatives  from  21  different  European  nations,  all  contributing to  the  Workshop  Sessions which  was  the main  format  of  the  Conference.  Workshops    were interactive  and  informative,  offering   different  educational  interests, stages and  approaches  within  the Christian  Education  context.  The  high  quality  of  the  workshops  gave  opportunity  for  concepts, even  controversial  ones, e.g. teaching  Christianity using celebrity  culture,  to  be worked  through  discussion, along  with relevant  materials, reference  to research and current  methodology in different countries.   Access the EurECA website  to  read  a  follow-up  from  one  of  the  workshops -  Praise,  Reward and  Esteem  by  Gill  Robins. Networking with colleagues featured throughout workshop sessions.

Our  daily  sessions   on  Friday  and  Saturday began  with  Morning  Worship  taken    by  Paul  Bate  and Liviu Caprar,  members  of  EurECA  Board.  Paul’s   theme reminded us about peace as given by God – ‘the peace that passes all understanding’. In the setting of Pilgrim Hall’s scenic environs, further meditation on this was enhanced.  Liviu   presented an  instructional  account  of  John 21, prompting  our thoughts  about:  ‘our  mission’, ‘real success  with  Jesus  requires  obedience’;  ‘the  work  is  ours but  the  results  belong  to  God’; ‘God  will  supply  all  our  needs’.

DSC05825.JPG  DSC05960.JPG         Paul Bate                                               Morning Worship

The  keynote  speakers  for  the  Conference  were  Trevor  Cooling, Professor  of Christian  Education   at  Canterbury  Christ  Church University  and John  Shortt, Professional Fellow in  Christian  Education at  Liverpool  Hope  University. Both speakers are well known as Christian educators, authors and conference speakers. Conference   participants’ anticipation was well rewarded.  Trevor’s  topic, ‘Experience and  Expertise in Christian  Pedagogy, enabled  us  to  be  introduced to  the  What  if  Learning  concept (an  online  educational   approach) through  searching  questions: What  am  I  achieving as  a  Christian? What are our aspirations for our pupils? What  do  our  pupils  imagine  they  are  doing  in  our  classrooms?  When  introducing  the  What  if  Learning  concept   the importance  of  the  need for this to be a  whole  school  culture was emphasised. Mike  Simmonds   Director &  Education Consultant of  ‘Go Ministries’   assisted  Trevor in  his  presentation,  focusing  on  using  this  approach  to improve governance. A more detailed description of these sessions can be viewed on www.whatiflearning.com

DSC05846.JPG      Trevor Cooling

John  Shortt   delivered  an engaging  presentation  on  Relational Pedagogy, pointing  us  to  our  relational  teacher – Jesus.  His delivery of Mat. 18 vs1 -14 from memory was riveting.  John recounted how, as Christian educators, ‘everything we do, we do in the presence of God. Without Him, we can do nothing’.  I  would  not  do  justice  to  John’s presentation  to  be   selective in  my  report  so  I  would  encourage readers  to  access  a  more  detailed  account  following the link below https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/33494980/Relational%20Pedagogy%20EurECA%20Conference%201%20June%202014.pdf

 DSC05816.JPG                    Matt Kaegi addressing the conference participants


Conference impressions by Gill Robins

The venue for the 2014 EurECA conference was Pilgrim Hall, a Christian conference centre set in spacious grounds in the south east of England. As with the 2010 conference in Germany, it was held in a congress format. A wide range of workshops were on offer, led by Christian teachers across the age range, lecturers, and representatives of Christian education organisations.

As a first time attendee at a EurECA conference, I wondered what to expect. So, coming with an open mind and ready for a new experience, I was thrilled to find a vibrant conference full of Christian educators from all over Europe, all united in a single task that superseded cultures and contexts: to share their pedagogic experience and to develop their expertise. And the ways in which this was achieved were manifold.

Firstly, there were the workshops themselves. They covered topics as diverse as worship in schools, family and sex education in Europe today, motivational teaching and learning, and how to avoid conflict in the classroom. But despite the diversity of topic, many of the workshops shared a common thread – consideration of what it really means in an increasingly secular age to educate Christianly and to teach from a Christian worldview. And these were no theoretical views. They were practical, inspirational examples; the sort of workshops that make you want to rush back to your classroom to try out the ideas.

Then there were the keynote addresses. Professor Trevor Cooling and Mike Simmonds gave an overview of What If Learning, a way of teaching that reshapes our thinking and explores what teaching and learning could look like when rooted in Christian faith, hope and love. Dr John Shortt considered a biblical basis for relational pedagogy and our need for relationship not only with those whom we teach, but also with what we teach them. We are, he reminded us, in relationship with God, with others and with a wonderful created world.

But the sharing of ideas didn’t stop there. Mealtimes, coffee breaks and snatched moments between workshops buzzed with conversation. One evening was filled with brief snapshots of various organisations, and Christian education across Europe and even into Australia. Special interest groups on another evening afforded an opportunity to get a first hand insight into how powerfully God is working. We listened, we shared, we prayed and we were, for just a few days, an example of the shalom-ful relationships that should typify Christian educators.

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Saturday afternoon saw trips to Beachy Head and Eastbourne, and a rare opportunity to enjoy a typically British afternoon at the seaside. Communion on Sunday morning was a moving conclusion to a very special conference. I left with my head buzzing with new ideas, new thoughts and new encouragement. I left with a better understanding of Christian pedagogy. And above all, I left rejoicing at the great work of the Holy Spirit in schools the length and breadth of Europe.

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Beachy Head