Exciting plenary sessions announced

We are beginning to roll out more information about this meeting, including the speakers (with bios) of the planned plenary sessions. Please check back here frequently (or subscribe to our posts) to get regular updates. July 10-14 is fast approaching!

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July 13 plenary 2

“Responses to adolescence”

A panel of youth spirituality experts discussing the religious education needs of adolescents and responsible ways of meeting those needs

Annie Lockhart-Gilroy

Annie A. Lockhart-Gilroy is a womanist Christian educator and practical theologian that focuses on liberative educational practices, adolescent spirituality, and youth culture. She is Associate Professor of Christian Education and Practical Theology at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, OK. Annie is an ordained UMC deacon in full connection with the Northern Illinois conference, author of Nurturing the Sanctified Imagination of Urban Youth. and co-editor of From Lament to Advocacy: Black Religious Education and Public Theology.

Carmichael Crutchfield

Carmichael D. Crutchfield is Chair of Church and Ministry Professor of Christian Education, Spiritual Formation and Youth Ministry at Memphis Theological Seminary (MTS) General Secretary of Department of Christian Education and Formation for the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church. Also, he is pastor of Mother Liberty CME Church in Jackson, TN.

He holds the B.S. Degree in Business Administration (Accounting) from the University of Tennessee Martin and the Master of Science Degree in Operations Management from the University of Arkansas Fayetteville. He earned his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from MTS and a Ph.D. in Christian Education and Congregational Studies from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary (GETS). Crutchfield is an ordained elder in the CME Church and has served in church ministry for over 30 years in the denomination.

Elsa Lau

Dr. Lau has served as a secondary school teacher, on the subject panel of Ethics and Religion, Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, and EDD co-supervisor at the Education University of Hong Kong, part-time Assistant Professor and MA theses supervisor, member of the Curriculum Development Institute of Hong Kong Education Bureau, and the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority. Dr. Lau received the Certificate of Appreciation of School-based Curriculum Project Scheme of Education Department, HKSAR (2000), the Inaugural Caring Teaching Award of Faculty of Education and Human Development (2021), Award for Excellent FE Supervision (2021-22 Semester I) at the Education University of Hong Kong. Her courses include Structure and process of Schooling, Values education, Teachers’ ethics, Positive education, mindfulness education, General studies and Liberal studies, etc.

Her research interests include transnational meditation in Chinese communities, religious education, spiritual health, values education, mindfulness education, moral and ethics education, and inclusive education, etc. Dr. Lau has started teaching and research projects on mindfulness, mind-body-spirit health and positive education for undergraduates, pre-service teachers, and in-service teachers since 2007. She publishes academic papers in international journals and academic publishers. She also reviews academic papers for numerous academic journals, including Mindfulness, Religions, International Journal of Children’s Spirituality, etc.

Mubina Kirmani

Dr. Mubina Hassanali Kirmani is professor of education and an award winning author. She brings multicultural perspectives with her unique background being born in Kenya, East Africa with an ancestry from India. She studied at the University of Nairobi and at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was consultant with the World Bank, Washington D.C. in the Women and Development department where she worked to address issues on gender inequities in education in Sub-Saharan Africa. Since she joined academia in 1994, she has worked and written vastly to promote multicultural education, and is also author and co-author of several publications and books, including two recently published children’s books, Wandering Wind and Bundle of Secrets: Savita Returns Home that won the Children’s Africana Book Award for Best Children’s Book 2014. Her children’s books are beginning to be used as literacy examples for National Core Curriculum Standards. Her book, Oral Literature of Asians in East Africa, is a recommended text for elementary and secondary schools in Kenya. She recently retired from Towson University, Maryland where she trained pre-service and in-service teachers and students across all disciplines to prepare them for diverse professional settings. She has been Chair of the College of Education Diversity Committee and co-directed the University-wide Multicultural Conference. She is often invited to conferences in the United States and internationally to present on the subject of teaching and learning in diverse societies. She was awarded 2015 President’s Diversity Award.

Moderated by Sarah Farmer

For the most recent updates, please refer to the REA schedule on the website

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Thursday, July 13 plenary 1

“The role of parents and caregivers”

A panel exploring the roles of parents/grandparents/caregivers in tending children’s spirituality and nurturing religious identity/formation. Includes researchers and practitioners from multiple traditions.

Duaa Haggag

Duaa Haggag, LPC is a Community Educator with The Family & Youth Institute. She holds a Master’s degree in counseling, with a dual certificate in school and community counseling. She currently works in private practice as a child, adolescent, and family therapist at Silent Sunlight Counseling. Her interests include group, play, and art therapy. At both the local and national level, Duaa uses her love of storytelling to integrate Islamic psychotherapy in her parent and youth development workshops. She served as the content editor for the first comprehensive Islamic Health curriculum for adolescents and has also authored a number of discussion guides to help parents use movies as powerful education and mentorship tools. Duaa has been a community organizer for more than 15 years. Her passion is working with parents, mentors, and schools to create safe, affirming spaces for youth to discover and establish their identity. She actively mentors Muslim youth and families through the Muslim American Society.

Rabbi Aaron Weininger

Rabbi Aaron Weininger joined Adath Jeshurun Congregation in 2012 upon receiving rabbinic ordination and an MA in Hebrew Letters from the Jewish Theological Seminary. He holds the Berman Family Chair in Jewish Learning. Aaron earned his BA in Anthropology and Jewish Near Eastern Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. In 2007 he became the first openly gay person admitted to rabbinical school in the Conservative movement of Judaism. That experience taught him the power of listening at the margins rather than pulling people into whatever the center is at that moment. He is attuned to the spark each person brings to the Torah, prayer, and acts of kindness in the warmth of the community. During rabbinical school, he was welcomed into communities as a teacher and prayer leader in Statesville, NC, Portland, ME, Sag Harbor, White Plains, NY, and across New York City. He trained as a chaplain in Clinical Pastoral Education for two summers at Bellevue Hospital Center and a third with the Educational Alliance at a Kosher soup kitchen for older adults on the Lower East Side. He studied as a Schusterman Fellow at JTS. From 2018-2021 Aaron served as co-chair of the Minnesota Rabbinical Association and joined Honeymoon Israel as rabbi for the MSP cohort in January 2020. A product of pluralistic Jewish camping and USY, he is the chair of the Herzl Camp Clergy and Educator Council. He serves on the Editorial Committee of Siddur Lev Shalem for Weekdays and the JTS Chancellor’s Rabbinic Cabinet, as a board member of JFCS Minneapolis, and on the Advisory Board for the Multi-Religious Fellows Program at the Collegeville Institute.

Brad Wigger

J. Bradley Wigger (PhD, Princeton Seminary) is a professor of religious education and childhood studies at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary. Much of his writing and research has revolved around the world of home and children, including The Power of God at Home, part of the Families and Faith book series (Jossey-Bass), which he co-edited. Other works include, Together We Pray: A Prayer Book for Families (Chalice), the children’s picture book, Thank You, God (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers), as well as numerous articles for general and academic audiences alike. His most recent publication, Invisible Companions: Encounters with Imaginary Friends, Gods, Angels, and Ancestors (Stanford University Press) explores the wild, yet sophisticated, world of children’s imaginations, based upon interviews with over five hundred children across five countries (US, Kenya, Nepal, Dominican Republic, and Malawi).

In 2018, Wigger was named a Luce Fellow in Theology which initiated the Religious Imagination of Children project that involves interviewing children, parents, and grandparents across North America about their religious beliefs and practices. He has been a frequent consultant to churches and foundations regarding their initiatives and programs for children and parents. At various points Wigger has served as a pastor, stay-at-home parent, journal editor, and a school social worker.

Elaine Champagne

Elaine Champagne holds the Religion, Spirituality and Health Chair, and is professor of spirituality and spiritual theology at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies (Laval University). Her research in practical theology focuses on spiritual and pastorale care in pediatric contexts. Her recent projects examine relational dynamics linked agency, vulnerability and hope of children in the context of serious illness.

Moderated by Karen-Marie Yust

For the most recent updates, please refer to the REA schedule on the website

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Wednesday, July 12 plenary

“Responses of early childhood educators”

A panel of Early Childhood educators and researchers discussing specific preschool and nursery-based approaches to nurturing children’s spirituality and religious identity, as well as the principles and frameworks that others might consider when selecting appropriate ways of being responsible for young children’s religious and spiritual well-being.

Japjit Kaur Pnaiser

Japjit Kaur Pnaiser is an Early Years Educator in a faith-based nursery setting situated in the Midlands, UK which is part of a larger group of educational institutes providing education for 0-18 years of age. The foundation of education is primarily based on teaching moral values to build the identity of future citizens. Their research looked at “The influence of Kirtan on the early years foundation of spirituality” emphasizing the importance of traditional music, Kirtan, as a core method of teaching and children learning lessons around self, relationality, and faith practices. More specifically their interest in spirituality expressed through Sikh faith practices and Kirtan whilst developing the role of the educator especially in early years education are all areas of great interest to them.

Rabbi Michael Shire

Rabbi Michael Shire grew up in the UK in the Liberal Jewish Movement and studied for a BA Hons in Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London. He subsequently enrolled at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York for a Master’s in Religious Education and then a PhD in Jewish Education at HUC-JIR and University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Concurrently he served as Director of Education at Temple Beth Hillel, a large Reform Temple in the San Fernando Valley. He returned to the UK to become Director of the newly established Centre for Jewish Education and studied for rabbinic ordination at Leo Baeck College in London. Working as a Jewish educational leader, he served a number of part-time and High Holy Day pulpits in Britain and Ireland and he is currently the High Holy Day rabbi for the Oxford Jewish Centre in the UK. In 2005 he became the fulltime Sabbatical replacement for the senior rabbi of Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, VA, one of the largest Reform synagogues in the United States.

In 2011 Rabbi Shire and his family relocated back to the United States to take up the position of Dean of the School of Jewish Education and Chief Academic Officer at Hebrew College in Boston. In 2022 Rabbi Shire will assume the position of Professor of Jewish Education at Hebrew College as he takes on the part-time spiritual leadership of Central Reform Temple. He continues as the founder director of Torah Godly Play, a Torah pedagogy based on his research on the spiritual life of children and as a trustee of The Pursuit of History which sponsors History Camp Boston and other programs for history lovers.

Rabbi Shire is married to Rabbi Marcia Plumb, Senior rabbi of Congregation Mishkan Tefila in Brookline. They have two adult children, Anya is a senior at Brandeis University majoring in Studio Art and Psychology and Micah is a 2nd year Chemical Engineering student at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Jennifer Mata McMahon

Jennifer Mata McMahon is Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education and Director of the Sherman Center for Early Learning in Urban Communities at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). Her inquiry lines are children’s spirituality and bilingual education. She is the co-author of Ambiente en Acción (Environment in Action) (Unimet, 2006), author of Spiritual Experiences in Early Childhood Education (Routledge, 2015), coeditor of Spirituality: An Interdisciplinary View (Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2016), and co-editor of The Bloomsbury Handbook of Culture and Identity from Early Childhood to Early Adulthood: Perceptions and Implications (Bloomsbury Academic, 2021). As well as the author and co-author of several book chapters and journal articles on children’s spirituality. Her most recent book Children’s Spirituality in Early Childhood Education: Theory to Practice is coming soon (Routledge, 2023).

Moderated by Rode Molla

For the most recent updates, please refer to the REA schedule on the website

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Tuesday, July 11 plenary

“Irresponsible answers”

Many discussions of children’s religious education focus on the ‘nuts and bolts’ of children’s ministry approaches and practices or the intersections of development and faith formation. However, there’s another area that needs our attention: the historical and continuing malformation of children’s lives by religious institutions because of intentional or implicit bias. An example of such malformation can be seen in the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report released by the U.S. Department of the Interior in May 2022.

Our opening plenary in the 2023 Annual Meeting will focus on times and ways that religious education has been irresponsible in its interactions with children. Panelists will reflect – from the perspective of their specific research interests and more broadly – on the reasons for such presumptive claims and actions, the particular kinds of damage to children’s spirituality and religious identities, and ways of preventing such egregious practices from being repeated in similar and new forms.

Henry Zonio

Dr. Henry Zonio is passionate about the church more intentionally being the light Christ calls it to be rather than contributing to the darkness. Henry is a sociologist and expert on how children’s religious education contributes to race and gender inequities in society. His research focuses on children/adolescence, social inequalities, religion, and education. Henry brings 25+ years of practical children’s ministry to his research. He also has written articles for a variety of children’s ministry trade magazines and has authored book chapters on child research methodology and children’s spirituality. In addition to writing and speaking on issues of diversity in the church, Henry is the Director of the Center for Academic Excellence at Asbury University and teaches sociology courses at the university. Henry is also on the board of the Children’s Spirituality Summit and serves on the Equity Audit team for Godly Play Foundation.

Christine Diindiisi McCleave

Christine Diindiisi McCleave is an Indigenous scholar and activist. She is an enrolled citizen of the Turtle Mountain Ojibwe Nation. She is a past CEO of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition and is currently a doctoral student in Indigenous Studies at University of Alaska Fairbanks with a focus on using entheogenic plant medicines to heal Indigenous historical trauma. Her master’s thesis on Native spirituality and Christianity and the spectrum of Native spiritual practices today. She has pioneered an unprecedented national research scope, spoken at the UN in Geneva, and helped write a bill for a truth commission in the U.S. Her work continues to concentrate on the intersection of cultural, political, and spiritual agency for global Indigenous Rights and the neuroscience of Indigenous historical trauma as a generational survivor of U.S. Indian Boarding Schools.

Ramona Grad

Ramona I. Grad, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and Counseling at UT Tyler and received her doctoral degree in Counselor Education and Practice from Georgia State University. She is originally from Romania and has lived in the U.S. for the last 10 years. She has an ongoing program of research and scholarship that focuses on the experiences of individuals with a history of religious and childhood interpersonal trauma (i.e., abuse, neglect) as well as on therapeutic relationship aspects in counseling, counseling training, and supervision. Her scholarly work includes numerous peer-reviewed articles and presentations focusing on topics such as post-traumatic growth and diversity issues in the counseling process and counselor education. She has more than 15 years of clinical experience, having worked as a mental health counselor, psychologist, and clinical supervisor in Romania and the United States in community mental health clinics, treatment facilities, college counseling centers, and private practice.

Moderated by Theresa O’Keefe

For the most recent updates, please refer to the REA schedule on our website

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Special journal forum now available

We are less than two months away from our annual meeting! We are looking forward to exploring “Whose children are they?” with you.

Did you know there was a pre-conference issue with the theme?

If you are a member, go check out the submissions by logging into our member site and heading over to Taylor and Francis. There you will find submissions by:

  • Karen-Marie Yust, “Whose children are they? Talking about responsibility for children’s religious education”
  • Jerome Berryman, “Wondering about whose children they are”
  • Amy Castle, “In transit: Shared motions of responsibility and belonging”
  • Tony Eaude, ‘Reflections from an English perspective on nurturing young children’s spiritual growth and implications for religious education:
  • Brendan Hyde, “Children of the ‘now’: Dispelling some neoliberal assumptions in Christian religious education”
  • James D. Kirylo and Meir Muller, “To serve and unite children within a world of diversity is to recognize the presence of God”
  • Rode Molla, “Children’s experiences matter: An interdisciplinary approach”
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Tulsa regional gathering

The REA Board is seeking to support people gathering in person in more regional meetings, and one that will happen during our annual meeting is in Tulsa, OK. VP Anne Walker has helped to plan this event, and people are welcome from anywhere in the world to join in this gathering. Details are available online.

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Many Voices, Many Languages

In recent years, REA’s online annual gatherings have emphasized its global membership and the global impact of our guild. Part of how we continue to lean into making global perspectives the place from which we operate, is to explore and implement language accessibility when we gather. Many of our members speak more than one language, yet we still (like many other peer organizations) operate primarily by writing, reading, and presenting in English. I’ve often wondered, what is lost when members work to translate their work and research outside of their primary language and context?

Our varied languages have embedded within them the different ways we understand and transmit religious education in and across our different contexts and cultures. Our different languages are culturally bound and reflect specific cultural values. For instance, when I am working in the Korean language, I am struck by how often we use communal words like woori to speak about our daily lives and activities. When I switch to working in English, the individual perspective is much more pronounced. Even the way we text in shorthand using acronyms like IMHO (In my humble opinion), showcases this perspective. Both linguistic approaches reveal much about the different values upheld among different people. What if we could bring the multiplicity of lingual diversity together to our gatherings beyond performative practice?

Working together towards our shared commitment to global participation means making room for multiple languages, the cultures embedded within them, and the people who claim those languages and cultures. Such efforts invite us to recognize and experience the nuance and cultural specificity each language brings. As we prepare for our 2023 annual conference, we are examining how best we might experiment with translation through subtitling and live translation in the most used languages across our guild. Part of the call for proposals asks members to let the conference committee know what languages they would prefer to utilize in their presenting and other interactions. Please engage with us by sharing what languages you would like to see and hear as part of our gathering, and we will see what new ways we might explore multilingual conferencing together.

Christine Hong, REA JEDI officer

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Help us collect artwork for this conference

As an extension of our conference theme, “Whose Children Are They?” the REA will share children’s art on our conference webpage. You are invited to share your own artwork or the artwork of children known to you, from whom you can obtain permission. If you have personal art you would like to share, or if there is a child in your life who would like to share their art with our conference, please fill out this form to submit it to REA. We will share the images as collages or banners on the conference website. 

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CFP deadline pushed to February 28

Given the range of issues associated with moving entirely online, we are pushing the deadline to receive proposals for REA2023 to February 28th. Notification of acceptance will be by March 31st, and final papers will be due May 31st.

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