At a dramatic pace, more and more regions of the world are becoming environments of multi-culture and multi-faith. This trend is having a profound effect upon public education, religious education, ethical education and education for social justice. Growing numbers of educators are discovering that religious and ethical education can no longer be conducted from the perspective of only one religion or culture. Indeed, religious educators of the future will call upon the wisdom and teachings of numerous religious and humanist traditions.
These guidelines are meant to be a small step toward this now-and-future direction. In this proposed workshop or group discussion experience, participants will be invited to reflect from the perspective of a universal moral principle – the Golden Rule – in its many and various expressions across the world’s religions.
People are often surprised and pleased to discover versions of the Golden Rule in so many religions and secular philosophies. In this workshop, you will be working with 13 expressions of the Golden Rule. It should be noted, however, that researchers have discovered versions in numerous other religious traditions. Because the Golden Rule crosses so many traditions and philosophies, it possesses tremendous moral authority and indicates a profound human unity.
This workshop has been tested in a number of environments and has consistently generated great enthusiasm, reflection and discussion. Any group or individual who decides to sponsor it can expect rich and varied responses. This workshop also aims to provide tools for reflection and action in terms of the great ethical and social issues of our time.
This is a do-it-yourself workshop. The guidelines that follow are meant to equip an individual or group to sponsor, create and facilitate a Golden Rule Across the World’s Religions workshop. Any group interested in sponsoring this workshop would benefit by first forming a planning group.
The planning group can review the range of choices and options outlined in these detailed guidelines. Again, these are just guidelines. The planning group may want to change, adapt or shorten the proposed program. For example, the guidelines contain suggested time frames for various sections of the program. But these are just suggestions and can be varied.
You will note that there is a good deal of time allotted for the participants to do private reflection during the workshop. The developers of these guidelines have learned that the process of individual reflection deepens the experience of the participants. Again, the planning group may want to vary this component of the process.
The target audience for this workshop is both adults and youth. It is hoped, for example, that this program will be utilized in adult and youth education programs in mosques, temples, gurdwaras, synagogues, churches, meditation centres, spiritual fellowships, etc. In fact, on a given day, an adult workshop and a children’s workshop can be offered simultaneously in the same locale.
Please note that the constituency for this workshop can be a single-faith or a multi-faith audience. This workshop is also relevant to audiences that do not define themselves as “religious” or “spiritual” because the workshop content deals largely with ethics.
Here follows a framework of 13 steps to guide the planning group in developing and presenting its workshop. As an aid to the planning group and facilitator, these steps are listed in both short form and long form:
Facilitator welcomes the participants and outlines the program and process of the workshop. If the group is not too large, participants can be asked to introduce themselves and comment on what attracted them to this workshop.
Facilitator provides each participant with a sheet containing the
13 written versions of the Golden Rule.
All participants are invited to spend a few minutes in silence, reading and reflecting on the 13 Sacred Writings. Facilitator can explain that the practice of reflection and meditation on sacred texts in silence is common to many religious traditions.
Suggested time frame: 5 to 7 minutes
Workshop participants continue their private and silent reflection in response to two or three questions provided them by the facilitator. The questions can also be listed on a flipchart. Participants may wish to journal their reflections. Suggested time frame: 7 to 12 minutes.
Prior to the workshop, the planning group prepares two or three questions appropriate to its audience, to stimulate private reflection and group discussion. The planners may want to provide just one question. On the other hand, they may choose more than two or three questions, perhaps as many as five or six. By increasing the number of questions, the planners are able to provide more rich material for reflection. However, more questions may lead to overstimulation of the individual reflections and of the subsequent small group process and plenary. So again, this is a decision for the planning group.
If the constituency is a specialized group (e.g. hospital chaplains, teachers, teenagers, social justice activists), questions can be geared to its specific needs. If the constituency wants to deal with a specific issue (e.g. ecology, social justice, violence, compassion), the questions can likewise be oriented to such.
Numerous sample questions are listed below, by clicking each of the three categories:
a) the message of the Golden Rule,
b) the message of the Golden Rule for you,
c) the Golden Rule and its implications for society
Each participant prepares for the small group discussion by quietly reflecting for a few minutes on the fruit of her/his meditation in Step 4. To stimulate this reflection, the facilitator provides each participant with the following questions (please note that the purpose here is not to repeat or rehash the reflection of the previous step but to prepare the participant for the small group discussion.):
What new insights, thoughts, questions or good ideas do I have
as a result of my reflection on these Sacred Writings?
What feelings surfaced in me as I perused these writings?
What would I like to share with my small group?
How will I share, briefly, but completely?
Journaling is optional. Suggested time frame: 3 to 5 minutes
Participants break into discussion groups (4 to 7 persons per group). The planning group may want to designate group leaders in advance. Suggested time frame: 20 to 45 minutes
Facilitator convenes all participants into a plenary. Participants are invited to give feedback by way of either group reports or spontaneous comments. It may be helpful to record key elements of the feedback content on flip chart paper. Following the feedback, the facilitator stimulates discussion within the plenary. Suggested time frame: 20 to 45 minutes
Facilitator asks each participant to take some quiet time (4 to 7 minutes) to reflect on her/his experience of and learnings from the program (journalling is optional). Some of the following questions can be used to stimulate private reflection:
What have I learned during this workshop?
What new insights have surfaced for me?
What is coming clearer to me, now?
As a result of this workshop, I feel moved to……
Facilitator asks some or all of the participants to share one learning from the program. These could be recorded on a flip chart. Alternatively, these learnings could also be shared in groups of two.
At this point, the facilitator may want to share some specific or general comments on the notion of The Golden Rule Across The World’s Religions. The facilitator may also want to comment on the feedback reports and plenary discussion and make a summary statement
Participants are invited to evaluate the workshop process. The planning group may design evaluation forms in advance.
The facilitator and participants take some time to determine if they want to do any follow-up to this workshop. For example, would it be helpful to organize additional workshops? Or to integrate the themes and learnings of this workshop into other projects that the participants or planning group are involved in?
Workshop could close with an experience of prayer/meditation/liturgy/song/poetry/chant related to the theme. One option is to have people meditate quietly for a minute on the Sacred Writings. Following this, 13 individuals can recite, one-by-one, in a rotation fashion, the individual sacred texts.