The Boniuk Institute’s Sacred Sites Quest (SSQ) is one of our signature educational outreach programs for high school students. Its two main aims are to:
• Nurture interfaith relationships among a multifaith group of 8th – 12th graders
(including some who subscribe to no particular religious tradition)
• And enhance the religious and interfaith literacy of these participants.
There are two main parts of the SSQ experience:
• A series of site visits to various places of worship in and
around Houston (mostly to observe religious services in process)
• A collaborative, capstone art and service project that enables SSQ’ers to
leave a permanent legacy of their service, as well as a creative public
expression of their adventures and learning together.
The first four SSQs have been co-sponsored by the Boniuk Institute for Religious Tolerance and the Museum of Cultural Arts Houston (MOCAH). Rice University’s Boniuk Institute is dedicated to nurturing tolerance among people of all and no faiths, especially youth, and to studying the conditions in which tolerance and intolerance flourish. MOCAH’s mission is to use public art and creativity as tools for educational enrichment, social awareness, and community development.
SSQ3 in 2012-2013 culminated with the students’ designing, creating and installing a 7’ x 60’ foot mural at the Bread of Life shelter in Houston, associated with St. John’s Downtown Methodist Church.
The capstone art/service project for SSQ4 in 2013-2014 will entail enhancing the Prayer Garden of the Mt. Carmel Church in Freedman’s Town (in Houston’s 4th Ward). Among these various enhancements to that sacred space, SSQ’ers will also design, create, and install a labyrinth to become the focal point of the Mt. Carmel Prayer Garden.
“Our SSQ’ers thus develop a keen appreciation of—perhaps even a reverence for—what makes a space sacred,” explains Boniuk Institute associate director Mike Pardee. But the learning for SSQ’ers participating in the quest transcends merely increasing their religious, theological or architectural knowledge.
It also produces some less tangible benefits—including fun and an expanded sense of community, Pardee notes. “For the students return from their SSQ with entirely new eyes and cross-cultural understandings. And they also build relationships and even forge some enduring friendships with people they probably wouldn’t otherwise have met.”
for some comments by students who have participated in the first 3 SSQs. Photo albums of selected site visits and some brief video clips of SSQers in action are also available on:
Our Boniuk Institute Flickr
Boniuk Institute YouTube
& Our Boniuk Institute Facebook
Reginald Adams, the President and CEO of MOCAH, has co-directed the first four SSQs with Mike Pardee. “We seek—and achieve—some truly transformational, carefully targeted spiritual and aesthetic outcomes from this unique program,” Adams observes. So “both the process and the product of the SSQ yield distinctive rewards of their own.”