… and a faith informed and awed by science
The Edmund Network of Schools in South Africa and Zimbabwe embraces 15 schools: 9 Colleges founded by the Christian Brothers (including two that have amalgamated with Dominican sister schools) and another 6 that retain an historical association with the network. These schools’ leaders meet several times a year, and their Religious Education Co-ordinators (RECs) meet annually.
The RE Co-ordinators of the Edmund Rice schools in Southern Africa gathered over the last weekend of July 2010 to explore the theme of God and Science. Mount Edmund CBC in Pretoria hosted an intellectually stimulating conference with several opportunities for meaningful reflection. In an extension of the theme, we were also challenged to explore ways of becoming sustainable learning communities.
The Astronomical Society of Pretoria treated us to a magnificent display of the heavens on the Friday evening. For many of us it was the first time we had surveyed the Southern Cross, Alpha Centuri, and the rings of Saturn through a telescope. This astronomical delight infused us with a deep sense of awe and wonder and set the tone for the rest of the conference.
Father Anthony Egan, a well-known Jesuit moral theologian and ethicist, engaged us in a meaningful presentation and discussion on the topic God and Evolution – a real battle of misunderstanding. This session afforded teachers the opportunity to grapple with the tensions they experience between the arrogant certitudes of the past and the new vision of an unfolding cosmos resplendent with the magnificence of God.
Brother Terry Dowling, who holds a Masters in Sustainable Development, gave a powerful visual presentation on the causes of the degradation that our planet is experiencing. He exposed us to the work of some of the great thinkers in this field – folk like Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme, and Annie Leonard. Not only were we challenged on a practical level to become sustainable communities but we also began to realise that we need to foster a spirituality that is going to honour the earth. He left us with the powerful words of de Chardin, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience”.
Our hosts Peter Ross (Head), Father Peter Switala (Chaplain), and Sherelle Myburgh also led us in some beautiful prayer experiences where we experienced God in nature, in art, and Celtic tradition. It was a precious time of spiritual renewal.
The annual RE Co-ordinators’ Conference was introduced five years ago and is a valuable forum for formation and networking amongst our schools. Our schools take it in turn to host the conference which allows each school community to colour the gathering with their distinctive expression of the Edmund Rice charism. The RE Co-ordinators Conference is a way of affirming the role of RE in the school and also the role of the Co-ordinator. It is also a valuable vehicle for sharing the Congregation’s vision with our schools. This conference particularly embraced the 2008 Congregation Chapter’s call to deepen our awareness of the mystery of God in creation and to embrace a loving co-existence with our mother, the earth.
ERN Co-ordinator for Southern Africa
Photographs by Sherelle Myburgh