When Jess Moran was growing up, her faith education came from two places: primary school Scripture classes and the musical Jesus Christ Superstar.
“I was in Year 3 when I realised the Scripture teacher was telling me a story I already knew [from the musical],” she laughs.
“I went, wait a minute – I know this story! You’re telling me that this is for real?”
Although her family didn’t have an active faith, they enrolled Jess into Protestant Scripture. When her teacher saw how interested she was in learning about Jesus, she connected her with a kids’ club ministry run by a local church.
“I kept learning about God, learning how much bigger this story is [than the musical], learning from God in the beginning to Jesus at the end and what it means for me,” Mrs Moran says.
From there, she joined a youth group and Bible study, and eventually spent time overseas doing cross-cultural mission work before becoming children’s minister at St Luke’s, Miranda. She attributes the direction of her life to that day in Year 3 when her Scripture teacher helped her explore her interest in God. “That Scripture teacher completely turned my life around,” she says.
Mrs Moran’s experience is not an isolated one. For years, Special Religious Education (SRE) classes have been helping young people to explore faith, playing a major role in their spiritual development.
Protestant Scripture in 1300 schools
This year, there are about 5000 classes of Protestant Scripture across 1000 primary schools and 300 high schools in NSW.
The Sydney Diocese, which stretches from the Hawkesbury River to Ulladulla and from Bondi to Lithgow, has 300 Scripture co-ordinators and 2000 SRE teachers. There are more than 10,000 SRE teachers of all faiths across NSW, with Protestant teachers accounting for almost a third of these.
Those numbers demonstrate the enthusiasm and commitment to Scripture from volunteers and schools, according to Andy Stevenson, the head of ministry support at the Anglican SRE Office.
“This is the second-largest volunteer organisation in NSW, behind surf life saving,”
“Sure, teaching SRE over the past 10 years has not been easy. With COVID still around but not as big an issue for the first time in three years, we are praying for an uninterrupted year of SRE in schools. With COVID came more flexible working hours and locations for so many... I have heard that this has meant a rise in ‘workers’ in the SRE teacher ranks – so good!”
Last month, more than 1300 SRE teachers and co-ordinators gathered in person and online for the annual Scripture teaching conference, making it the biggest SRE conference in many years.
Says the Rev Canon Craig Roberts, CEO of Youthworks: “Nurturing faith in young people is good for them. It’s good for communities, it’s good for society and it’s good for families”.
Pray for SRE in 2023
Mr Stevenson asks people to pray for SRE in two key ways.
“Pray that schools will be organised, that churches will be mobilised and well resourced with many new teachers and students to teach in all schools and year groups,” he says.
“And pray for the health, time and energy of all SRE teachers for the amazing task at hand – to be able to to teach children and young people the Bible in educationally helpful ways using the wonderful curriculum from Youthworks.”