Buies Creek , N.C. – How does one talk to a Muslim about Islam or a Jew about Judaism? A Teacher Trainer certification Campbell University offers through its World Religions and Global Cultures Center (WRGCC) teaches students how to go into the community and facilitate a better understanding between cultures and faith traditions. With this certification, students teach a particular faith-Hindu to New Age-to church leaders or organizations desiring to reach out to believers in the multicultural world.
“Multiculturalism and pluralism are all around us now and a lot of people in the church are still coming to grips with that,” said Master of Divinity student Heather Webb, a facilitator for the certification program. “Many Christians struggle to reach out to people of other faiths.”
According to Dr. George Braswell, Senior Professor of World Religions and director of the WRGCC, there isn’t another institution of its kind that offers such a comprehensive global outreach program.
“Since the World Religion and Global Cultures Center was founded two years ago, my dream has been to teach students to go back into their churches to help leaders and members understand pluralism today,” Braswell said. “This Teacher Trainer program is exciting. Nobody has put it together like this. Other schools offer bits and pieces of the program, but we do it consistently and regularly.”
A total of 50 students have become certified since the Teacher Trainer program began in 2007. Students working towards the certification last semester offered over 50 hours of instruction in 26 area churches. To become certified, students must conduct an independent study that involves research and the development of outlines and teaching materials. The student must also interview a person of the particular faith he or she wishes to teach, as well as conduct two teaching workshops in a community venue such as a church, synagogue, mosque or other organization. Churches across the state have benefitted from attending these seminars and workshops, Braswell said.
The Rev. Daryl Trexler, Minister of Administration and Senior Adults for First Baptist Church of Wilmington, said many church members are involved in nonprofit civic organizations in which multi-faiths are represented.
“I think this is where we’ve been able to apply the knowledge and skills we received from our training workshop,” Trexler said. “It has been very helpful working side by side with our Jewish friends, with our Muslim friends. The Campbell students were very capable and very knowledgeable.”
The Rev. Julia Ledford, associate pastor for Christian Discipleship for Hayes-Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh , said the workshop was one of the most exciting programs the church has offered. “We had a huge turnout,” Ledford said. “It has been very helpful to our members, knowing what other religions believe and how that relates to their Christian faith. It helps our members better communicate with people of other faiths.”
Webb pointed out that the Teacher Trainer certification wasn’t specifically designed for witnessing to other faiths. “The primary goal of the Center’s Teacher Trainer program is to help people learn how to reach out to their religious neighbors with love rather than fear,” she said.
An extension of the Campbell Divinity School , the WRGCC provides teaching and learning experiences about global cultures and religions through classes for credit, seminars, workshops and conferences. Participants include Divinity School students, churches, church leaders, missionaries, leaders of missionary agencies and members of the community. In addition to other educational opportunities, the center provides instruction for students who desire to follow a vocational calling to understand the cultures and religions of the world from a Christian perspective.
Photo Copy: Campbell Divinity Student Heather Webb teaches about outreach to people of other faiths at a Campbell University student worship service.