Last month cohorts of young Belarusians began a new school year. This blog entry, however, discusses other types of ‘schools’ in Belarus – religious, known as the Sunday schools. Below more about those run by Protestant congregations.
But before that – it has been a while since my last blog post. A few reasons were behind this inactivity – mainly the preparation for the upgrade and other academic commitments. Eventually, I managed to deal with it and now can continue my usual PhD-related activities as well as try to engage others in my research through blogging.
Protestant Sunday schools: smoothly run even in villages
I remember how impressed I was by the Sunday school in the Pentecostal congregation in the Belarusian village, Alshany, last year. The local Pentecostal community is substantial (around 2000 adult members), with around 1800 children. Younger children do not attend the service with their parents, but only when they acquire certain age they can come along. Instead of participating in the Sunday service, they get together to study the Bible.
What astonished me the most in this congregation, was almost perfect organisation of this religious education; there are more than 20 classes suited for different age groups.
The congregation prepared the necessary infrastructure to cater such large number of children – lectures take place in classrooms, located on three floors. They can learn the basics of religious faith as well as read the Bible, and engage with some ‘fun’ activities too. I have heard from some children that they ‘could not wait to attend the Sunday school’. They sincerely enjoy attending the weekly lectures!
Interestingly, the members of congregation are teachers themselves and they must undertake training in teaching before hand.
I have also seen a similar Sunday school in a small rural Baptist congregation near Baranovičy.
Not just studying the Bible: pupils socialise and internalise norms
Originally, Protestants started Sunday schools to teach reading to the poor and further they pressed governments to fund mass education.
Today, such Sunday schools play an important role for Protestant congregations in Belarus too, although their presence in the society is limited. Through such regular religious education, the Protestant congregations secure their own life cycle. For example, children socialise and so do their parents, which contributes to cohesion of the whole community.
Belarusian schools provide no religious education and the society, in general, remains largely not religious, children can acquire religious basics at home and internalise specific norms and values in Sunday schools.