Crossing Paths

by Andrea Kalb

How do we as Unitarian Universalists address the problem of separation from each other? How do Jewish people address the problem of exile? And how do Christians of all denominations address the problem of sin? Ask one of our current 6th- or 7th-graders taking part in this year’s Crossing Paths class and they might be able to give you an answer. If they can’t give an exact theological answer to these big questions, they will definitely be able to tell you about visits to a Jewish synagogue in Yardley, a Presbyterian church in Pennington, or to an evangelical mega-church in Princeton.

Crossing Paths is the name of the curriculum used with the 6th and 7th grade Religious Education class. Formerly known as Neighboring Faiths, CP allows our 11- and 12-year olds to explore the religious traditions of Unitarian Universalism, Mainline Protestantism, Buddhism, Judaism, Evangelical Christianity, Islam, the Black Church Tradition, Roman Catholicism, Historic Christian Peace Churches, Hinduism, and Wiccan. Each religion has a four-week lesson plan for the teachers and students to work with.

As the curriculum states: “Crossing Paths is rooted in religious pluralism. Put simply, this is a view that sees every religion as unique. Some models of interfaith engagement emphasize the unity or commonality of all religions. This view might be summed up by the phrase “One Mountain; Many Paths.” Basically, this perspective argues that there is a fundamental shared goal behind all the diverse forms of religions. They are simply different “paths” toward the same goal or purpose. This is not the perspective of Crossing Paths.

Crossing Paths celebrates the values that religions share, but it emphasizes their uniqueness. Every world faith tradition was born in response to a distinct human struggle. We honor religions best when we work to understand the particular challenge and aspiration each religion has devoted itself to. So instead of using the metaphor of “One Mountain; Many Paths,” Crossing Paths invites us to see the religious landscape as “Many Mountains, Many Paths.”

The students wrestle with these challenges and solutions through discussions, video viewings, and group games. The highlight of the Crossing Paths’ curriculum is the opportunity to visit to the religious houses of worship. Crossing Path students and their chaperones attend services at mega-churches, Hindu temples, Muslim mosques and Roman Catholic churches, among others. This exploration of other faith traditions allows students to vividly experience different spiritual practices, and also achieve a greater understanding of their own Unitarian Universalist home church’s expression of UU values.

Hey, why should the kids have all the fun? Let’s see if this curriculum could be adjusted for adults. Who’s interested?

Andrea Kalb is a mother of two boys currently involved in RE classes. She has a difficult time deciding which teaching assignment she has enjoyed more — teaching Crossing Paths or teaching OWL to the 8th and 9th graders.