Example #10 Loving a City

What if history could inspire students to love their city?

Beth taught history in a Secondary school and wanted to encourage students to love their city, to seek its well-being, through their study of the industrial revolution.

"For me this is an exciting opportunity within the history curriculum to show that we too can love the places where we live. In the 19th Century, a number of UK industrialists were inspired to improve the living and working conditions of employees in the cities. The Rowntrees of York (Quaker), Cadburys of Birmingham (Quaker), Colmans of Norwich (Baptist) and Titus Salt of Bradford (Congregationalist) significantly enhanced their cities. They were motivated by their Christian faith to put something back into the communities from which they came. They were people who loved their cities. As our school is in Bradford, I focused on Titus Salt.
"I showed the students images of 19th Century Bradford and explained that between 1801 and 1851 the population of Bradford rose from 13,000 to 104,000. Its density of factories made it the most polluted town in England. Water was fouled, disease was rampant and life expectancy was among the lowest in the country. Could anyone have loved Bradford in the 19th Century? Titus Salt did. He discovered a burner that created less pollution and used it in his factories and tried to get other factory owners to do the same. He built a model village at Saltaire for his workers, with good housing.
"We went on to use Bradford as a case study for the wider industrial revolution. I created a fictitious family with information about their life and looked at Titus Salt’s contribution and how it would have changed the experience of that family. We explored Titus Salt’s motivation and discussed and critiqued Christian belief and action. I ended by showing some images of Bradford now and asked students to reflect on what they loved about their city, what it might mean to 'love' a city in the face of its negative features, and how we could show that in some way."

What’s going on here?

Beth saw the industrial revolution as a chance to explore the difference between liking a city and loving it in the sense of seeking its wellbeing, and invited students to consider what it would mean to love a city and bring healing to a community. She also affirmed the role of faith and helped students to see faith at work in history.
She engaged students in focusing on particular people rather than just large trends (Titus Salt, one family and one city), encouraged students to connect on a personal level (empathising with a family), and helped students to connect past events to present choices.
She reshaped her practice by combining statistics with hopeful stories, creating and using a family narrative, and using a faith example.

How do I do this myself?

What does this have to do with faith, hope and love?

The Bible encourages people to love their city, to pray for it and to work for its wellbeing. The New Testament encourages Christians to be good citizens, ready and willing to do good to others. It also encourages believers to remember what God’s love looked like through past generations, celebrate it and build on it in their own times. This is a new way of perceiving the past, framed by what God’s vision is for the good of the city. It says that we can all play a part in bringing hope by loving our city.

What difference does it make?

Beth comments: "I wanted my students to be enthused by the industrial revolution. I had to accept it was difficult to expect them to be excited when I thought this was the dullest unit that I had to teach. I was well aware of how distant the whole era can seem and how difficult it is to appreciate the depth of the changes people lived through. I think the changes I made helped students to relate to the people who lived through it and helped them to realise the difference people can make to their communities."

Where do we go from here?

Today Saltaire is preserved as a Victorian industrial village, and includes a gallery which displays David Hockney’s work. Hockney was born in Bradford. Drawing on this combination of history and art, students could think about the changes they would like to make in order to improve the lives of people who live near them and then make a photomontage of their city illustrating the issues they have identified. They could also investigate what local organisations are working to make a difference in these areas.

Digging deeper

Within the Trinity there is a relationship of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit which puts love at the heart of the Godhead (Luke 3:21-22). Christianity connects God's love with the call for us to love God and to love others.
The words 'God is love' have no real meaning unless God contains at least two persons. Love is something that one person has for another person. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, He was not love. C. S. Lewis
Love is central to Christianity as the defining character of God. It is not just a feeling that may come and go. It is a deep attachment to God and others but it is also a choice and a commitment to a particular way of life. It includes faithfulness, mercy, compassion and the long list of characteristics that St Paul gave in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. It therefore goes beyond liking something or responding to its attractiveness – it is the kind of love that reflects a commitment to the other's wellbeing. It is in this sense that the Bible tells us that God loves the world (John 3:16). Our love for the world around us can echo God's love.

Explore similar examples:

What if history were about different types of riches and poverty?
What if geography looked at the spiritual dimension of people and places?
What if design and technology were about serving communities?
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1For fifteen years Emperor Tiberius had ruled that part of the world. Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was the ruler of Galilee. Herod's brother, Philip, was the ruler in the countries of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was the ruler of Abilene. 2Annas and Caiaphas were the Jewish high priests. At that time God spoke to Zechariah's son John, who was living in the desert. 3So John went along the Jordan Valley, telling the people, Turn back to God and be baptized! Then your sins will be forgiven. 4Isaiah the prophet wrote about John when he said, In the desert someone is shouting, Get the road ready for the Lord! Make a straight path for him. 5Fill up every valley and level every mountain and hill. Straighten the crooked paths and smooth out the rough roads. 6Then everyone will see the saving power of God. 7Crowds of people came out to be baptized, but John said to them, You snakes! Who warned you to run from the coming judgment? 8Do something to show that you really have given up your sins. Don't start saying that you belong to Abraham's family. God can turn these stones into children for Abraham. 9An axe is ready to cut the trees down at their roots. Any tree that doesn't produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into a fire. 10The crowds asked John, What should we do? 11John told them, If you have two coats, give one to someone who doesn't have any. If you have food, share it with someone else. 12When tax collectors came to be baptized, they asked John, Teacher, what should we do? 13John told them, Don't make people pay more than they owe. 14Some soldiers asked him, And what about us? What do we have to do? John told them, Don't force people to pay money to make you leave them alone. Be satisfied with your pay. 15Everyone became excited and wondered, Could John be the Messiah? 16John said, I am just baptizing with water. But someone more powerful is going to come, and I am not good enough even to untie his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17His threshing fork is in his hand, and he is ready to separate the wheat from the husks. He will store the wheat in his barn and burn the husks with a fire that never goes out. 18In many different ways John preached the good news to the people. 19But to Herod the ruler, he said, It was wrong for you to take Herodias, your brother's wife. John also said that Herod had done many other bad things. 20Finally, Herod put John in jail, and this was the worst thing he had done. The baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3.13-17; Mark 1.9-11) 21While everyone else was being baptized, Jesus himself was baptized. Then as he prayed, the sky opened up, 22and the Holy Spirit came down upon him in the form of a dove. A voice from heaven said, You are my own dear Son, and I am pleased with you. The ancestors of Jesus (Matthew 1.1-17) 23When Jesus began to preach, he was about thirty years old. Everyone thought he was the son of Joseph. But his family went back through Heli, 24Matthat, Levi, Melchi, Jannai, Joseph, 25Mattathias, Amos, Nahum, Esli, Naggai, 26Maath, Mattathias, Semein, Josech, Joda; 27Joanan, Rhesa, Zerubbabel, Shealtiel, Neri, 28Melchi, Addi, Cosam, Elmadam, Er, 29Joshua, Eliezer, Jorim, Matthat, Levi; 30Simeon, Judah, Joseph, Jonam, Eliakim, 31Melea, Menna, Mattatha, Nathan, David, 32Jesse, Obed, Boaz, Salmon, Nahshon; 33Amminadab, Admin, Arni, Hezron, Perez, Judah, 34Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Terah, Nahor, 35Serug, Reu, Peleg, Eber, Shelah; 36Cainan, Arphaxad, Shem, Noah, Lamech, 37Methuselah, Enoch, Jared, Mahalaleel, Kenan, 38Enosh, and Seth. The family of Jesus went all the way back to Adam and then to God. Jesus and the devil (Matthew 4.1-11; Mark 1.12,13)
1What if I could speak all languages of humans and of angels? If I did not love others, I would be nothing more than a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2What if I could prophesy and understand all secrets and all knowledge? And what if I had faith that moved mountains? I would be nothing, unless I loved others. 3What if I gave away all that I owned and let myself be burnt alive? I would gain nothing, unless I loved others. 4Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or 5rude. Love isn't selfish or quick-tempered. It doesn't keep a record of wrongs that others do. 6Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil. 7Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. 8Love never fails! Everyone who prophesies will stop, and unknown languages will no longer be spoken. All that we know will be forgotten. 9We don't know everything, and our prophecies are not complete. 10But what is perfect will some day appear, and what isn't perfect will then disappear. 11When we were children, we thought and reasoned as children do. But when we grew up, we stopped our childish ways. 12Now all we can see of God is like a cloudy picture in a mirror. Later we will see him face to face. We don't know everything, but then we will, just as God completely understands us. 13For now there are faith, hope, and love. But of these three, the greatest is love. Speaking unknown languages and prophesying
1There was a man named Nicodemus who was a Pharisee and a Jewish leader. 2One night he went to Jesus and said, Sir, we know that God has sent you to teach us. You could not perform these miracles, unless God were with you. 3Jesus replied, I tell you for certain that you must be born from above before you can see God's kingdom! 4Nicodemus asked, How can a grown man ever be born a second time? 5Jesus answered: I tell you for certain that before you can get into God's kingdom, you must be born not only by water, but by the Spirit. 6Humans give life to their children. Yet only God's Spirit can change you into a child of God. 7Don't be surprised when I say that you must be born from above. 8Only God's Spirit gives new life. The Spirit is like the wind that blows wherever it wants to. You can hear the wind, but you don't know where it comes from or where it is going. 9How can this be? Nicodemus asked. 10Jesus replied: How can you be a teacher of Israel and not know these things? 11I tell you for certain that we know what we are talking about because we have seen it ourselves. But none of you will accept what we say. 12If you don't believe when I talk to you about things on earth, how can you possibly believe if I talk to you about things in heaven? 13No one has gone up to heaven except the Son of Man, who came down from there. 14And the Son of Man must be lifted up, just as that metal snake was lifted up by Moses in the desert. 15Then everyone who has faith in the Son of Man will have eternal life. 16God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die. 17God did not send his Son into the world to condemn its people. He sent him to save them! 18No one who has faith in God's Son will be condemned. But everyone who doesn't have faith in him has already been condemned for not having faith in God's only Son. 19The light has come into the world, and people who do evil things are judged guilty because they love the dark more than the light. 20People who do evil hate the light and won't come to the light, because it clearly shows what they have done. 21But everyone who lives by the truth will come to the light, because they want others to know that God is really the one doing what they do. Jesus and John the Baptist 22Later, Jesus and his disciples went to Judea, where he stayed with them for a while and was baptizing people. 23John had not yet been put in jail. He was at Aenon near Salim, where there was a lot of water, and people were coming there for John to baptize them. 25John's followers got into an argument with a Jewish man about a ceremony of washing. 26They went to John and said, Rabbi, you spoke about a man when you were with him east of the Jordan. He is now baptizing people, and everyone is going to him. 27John replied: No one can do anything unless God in heaven allows it. 28Surely you remember how I told you that I am not the Messiah. I am only the one sent ahead of him. 29At a wedding the groom is the one who gets married. The best man is glad just to be there and to hear the groom's voice. That's why I am so glad. 30Jesus must become more important, while I become less important. The one who comes from heaven John continued: 31God's Son comes from heaven and is above all others. Everyone who comes from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all others. 32He speaks about what he has seen and heard, and yet no one believes him. 33But everyone who does believe him has shown that God is truthful. 34The Son was sent to speak God's message, and he has been given the full power of God's Spirit. 35The Father loves the Son and has given him everything. 36Everyone who has faith in the Son has eternal life. But no one who rejects him will ever share in that life, and God will be angry with them for ever.