By now you must be used to my frequent boasts about Meadville Lombard’s amazing students and the equally exceptional faculty who guide them on their vocational paths. I am ever impressed by the qualities of intellect and spirit they bring to our treasured Unitarian Universalism. But Meadville Lombard is also providing innovative and effective education for a wider world of Unitarianism Universalism and others who share our values. Let me give you just two of our most recent examples:
Global Fellowship for Multifaith and Multicultural Engagement
Last month, six religious leaders from three different faith traditions in six countries arrived in Chicago for a month of classroom studies, workshops and informal conversations. Along with Meadville Lombard students, faculty, and staff, they took up the topics of religious practices in Kalkota and Japan, interfaith challenges in Azerbaijan, children’s rights in Uganda, the on-going armed conflict in Central African Republic, and women empowerment in Bangladesh
Barwende Sane from Central Africa Republic, Nageeba Hassan from Uganda, Rafiz Manafov from Azerbaijan, Rashida Khanam from Bangladesh, Suman Barua from India, and Tetsuya Higuchi from Japan came into Meadville Lombard’s “global classroom” to hone the skills and tools needed to form interfaith partnerships, and thereby become most effective in leading social change and peacebuilding in their home countries. During the first week of July, Professors Nicole Kirk and Mike Hogue guided them in the classroom, where they explored the global religious landscape through theology, practice, space, and objects. The following week, they learned with Dean of Students Darrick Jackson how the art of improvisation can enhance ministry and social engagement. Their time in Chicago ended with a weeklong workshop in Interfaith Dialogue and Engagement.
Matriculated Meadville Lombard students Robert LaVallee and Jenny Peek joined the group for structured conversations and exercises that allowed them to examine the role of religious leaders in promoting equality, justice, and compassion, and to explore how spiritually grounded projects help to build peace.
|Baha’i House of Worship
Front Row: Rafiz Manafov, Rashida Khanam, Baha’i Temple guide, Barwende Sane, Jenny Peek Middle row: Tetsuya Higuchi, Karen Hernandez, Facilitator of Interfaith Dialogue Workshop, Claudia Espinel, Director of International Faith Formation, Suman Barua Back Row: Nageeba Hassan, Bob LaValle
I am grateful to the individual donors whose expansive worldview and generous contributions helped to nurture this program from its inception several years ago and have grown it into one of our educational staples. During their time here, this group made an impact on every one of us who had them in class or had the opportunity to talk with them. It was a July in which Meadville Lombard greatly enhanced the education of our own students AND took our Unitarian Universalist values to the larger world!
Crossing Boundaries: Multi-faith Leadership in the New America
Then, in early August, thirteen lay leaders from around the United States, 11 Unitarian Universalists, a Presbyterian and an Episcopalian, joined Roger Doebke, MAR ’14, and me for our first ever laity-only class, an intense, weeklong course held on the program-packed
|Roger Doebke and Lee Barker
campus of The Chautauqua Institution, located in western New York. Predicated on the Meadville Lombard understanding that we “act our way into new ways of thinking,” Roger and I designed this course to allow each participant to begin to acquire the skills, resources and perspectives necessary for she or he [sic] to become a leader in interfaith engagement in his or her own community.
During five days of rigorous study, our intrepid students were immersed in a variety of worship experiences from the traditions of Islam, Judaism, Catholicism, Unitarian Universalism and so many others, while attending special lectures from leaders of diverse faith traditions who are deeply engaged in multi-faith leadership, and, finally, working on their specific plans to create interfaith partnerships back home.
|Crossing Borders at the Chautauqua Institution
In all our work, Meadville Lombard continues to find innovative ways of widening the impact of our life-changing Unitarian Universalist education and this week was just one more example. (Crossing Borders was offered as a for-credit course to seminarians last summer and will be offered again to M.Div. and M.A. students in 2016.)
All our students understand how Meadville Lombard is shaping the future of Unitarian Universalism and the larger world – and, as a result, greater and greater numbers of them are joining our learning community. This fall 33 people will become first year students. On Monday, 31 of them will arrive in Chicago as we launch our Community Studies cohort for 2015-16. I am very pleased to report that 23% of our new class identify as people of color.
The global perception of boarders is changing. In this age of burgeoning technology, heightened political tensions, stressed congregations, and religious and racial violence, all of our students, whether new or returning, are aspiring to lead Unitarian Universalism across the borders that separate people and communities. They hope to lead UUism to a new future and they know that no school is as effective in training them to do so as Meadville Lombard.
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