Providing a spiritual vocabulary enables soul conversations

The problem of students not having the language to describe their spiritual experience prompted one chaplain to develop special cards to enable soul conversations. This profile is from Term 3 2013 and was contributed by the Rev’d Lynette Neil who was Chaplain at Matthew Flinders Anglican College

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What was the need being addressed?

In the process of simplifying life, postmodernity created a language gap that has lead to spiritual illiteracy. From this came the awareness that there was a need to re-claim what had been lost and to teach the vocabulary of our spiritual “mother tongue”. Many young people appeared not to have the words to describe their spiritual nature, its richness or poverty. They needed a way to get back to their ‘true north’. My challenge then was to find a vocabulary that enabled conversations about wholeness, faith, soul and spirit, and purpose and fullness of life.

What was the response to the need?

I addressed this need at several levels. I read widely among current spiritual literacy leaders. Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat’s work in creating a basic alphabet of spiritual literacy was of immense value. We used these words along with school logos to create a small wallet sized card to be used as a ready reminder of what it takes to find one’s way back to a good place within God’s love. Each classroom has an A3 laminated copy displayed and all teachers from Pre-school have their own wallet size card. Our registrar gives copies to all families at the inquiry stage. Students from Year Four have their own card. These words are part of our every day life in the classroom and in Chapel.

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What was the impact?

The impact has been powerful and thoughtful. When these cards are read there is a respectful awed awareness of what is important in life. The year sixes for example were asked to identify words they liked and to give examples of when they have seen their word in action. Currently we are working on several concepts including peace, beauty, connections, transformation and mystery. The Compass project is holistic and inclusive and has a timeless quality about it. Because the whole College has embraced it, I am hopeful that we will have a generation who is more attuned to the language of hope and of the divine in their own and others‘ lives.

What were the greatest challenges?

Time is always a challenge but has been made easier by the cooperative quality of this project. Many people have been involved. Challenges have included communicating existential concepts and making them concrete without being too prescriptive. Open ended questions are always helpful. I am forever reminded of the lessons learned in inclusion and the challenges found in working with gifted students. The teaching approach that works best for those challenged when learning a new language are those that work for all students.

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