Faculty blog – Contextualising religious education in London

Within our social science faculty, together with lessons in the classroom, we enjoy getting out with students and solidify what they are learning by seeing it in context. In our religious studies lessons, we have explored the ways different religions worship and to enrich our learning, we went on a residential trip to London to visit places of worship.

We invited Emily and Freya, two of our year 10 students, to give us their summary of this fabulous curriculum trip:
“The first place we visited was the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir which is a Hindu temple in Neasden. The beauty and tranquility of the temple was astounding. We were fortunate enough to be allowed to watch worshippers say their prayers which further enhanced our understanding of the religion. The Mandir itself was stunning as it was made of Italian marble, and the intricate design inside and out was breath-taking. After looking inside the prayer hall, we were spoken to by a member of the Hindu community about Hindu beliefs and the ways in which they practice.

After that we visited the immense Westminster Cathedral, a Catholic church. The way in which tiles had been used to create the elegant mosaics was enchanting. The contrast between the two houses of worship was fascinating as they were both remarkable but in their own way. Inside the Cathedral is still being designed and added to as the years go on, which explains the initially strange bare black brick ceiling, which is currently waiting for the additions that future generations of Catholics will make.

On the second day we visited the Bevis Marks Synagogue – the oldest synagogue still in continuous use in the United Kingdom. Despite only being tiny, it had a functional beauty to it that the other places of worship didn’t quite have. Inside, the Rabbi spoke to us about the history of the synagogue and basic Jewish beliefs and was very keen on helping us further understand their religion.

The next place we visited was St Paul’s Cathedral. It was beautiful. The sheer artistry that went into constructing it is astounding. We were able to look around the church itself and the catacombs. Those who were brave enough were able to go right up to the dome to the golden galleries! I (Emily) faced my fears and went up to the top and it was so worth it. The views from up at the top are something I’ll never forget. You can see London for miles and it feels like you’re on top of the world. I’m so glad I did it and I recommend it to anyone who gets the chance.

The final place of worship that we visited was Central London Mosque. Here we were able to go inside the prayer hall and witness the worshippers performing the mahgrib prayer (which is the prayer done at sunset/late afternooon).This was a privilege to watch and it massively enriched our learning to be able to see the way Muslims pray in real life rather than in a video. After watching the prayer we were taken downstairs and a man from the mosques education team told us about his life as a Muslim and allowed us to ask him questions. He was really interesting to talk to, especially since he was raised Catholic then converted to Islam when he was older.

On our final day in London, we visited the Holocaust exhibition at the Imperial War Museum. The way in which the exhibition is done means that you can learn so much about the way people felt during that time which makes the whole event seem so much more real – a hard-hitting but worthwhile end to the trip.

We were even able to meet a holocaust survivor who was a child at the time and she told us her family’s story and how they lived during the Holocaust. It really opened our eyes and we were extremely grateful to be able to understand it from a survivor’s point of view.

Overall, the trip was a greatly enjoyable and riveting experience and we learnt a lot while being in London. Visiting the different places of worship and witnessing the practices first-hand really developed our knowledge. Undoubtedly we recommend the residential to anyone who has the opportunity.”

This is just one of the opportunities we provide to students throughout their time at National to enrich their learning and personal development experiences.

For more information about our social sciences faculty or curriculum, contact Mrs Halfpenny via email: rhalfpenny@nationalce-ac.org.uk

National Church of England Academy