Hartford Seminary Receives Grant for Religious Diversity Leadership Workshop

HARTFORD, CT (March 13, 2012) — Hartford Seminary has received a $30,000 grant from Shinnyo-En Foundation to support a new Religious Diversity Leadership Workshop in June.

The workshop, which will take place from Sunday, June 3 through Friday, June 8, will be an annual religiously and otherwise diverse gathering of experienced and emerging leaders who are eager to share their own expertise and to learn new leadership practices, engage case studies of religious diversity issues in the public square, and define strategies for raising up and training young leaders in the changing American religious landscape.

Participants will learn methods for encouraging productive dialogue and collaboration between religious groups at the intersection of religious and public life, and in the context of multifaith civic gatherings ? thus improving their ability to build community around common concerns.

?In a culture marked by religious diversity, effective religious leadership must include awareness of, and engagement with, faith traditions other than one’s own. I am delighted that Hartford Seminary is offering this special workshop that reflects our mission and underscores the importance of interfaith dialogue in today?s plural world,? President Heidi Hadsell said. ?We?re grateful to Shinnyo-En Foundation for its support.?

A year ago, in June 2011, more than 30 people participated in a seminar at Hartford Seminary titled “Religious Leadership in an Interfaith World.”

The seminar provided religious leaders of all faiths ? clergy, educators, administrators, chaplains, and others ? an opportunity for deeper study of America?s religious diversity, sharing of methodologies for interfaith engagement, and resources for further exploration.

Participating in the seminar were Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Quakers, Unitarians, and Wiccans. The geographic range was broad ? from California to New York, with one pastor coming from Switzerland.

This initial offering showed that there is hunger among leaders in the arena of religious diversity for opportunities to share with and learn from people doing similar work.

?Nichelle Blanco, a reverend of Shinnyo-en USA?s Los Angeles Temple, had an opportunity to participate in the ?Religious Leadership in an Interfaith World? workshop last year. From her first-hand experience and subsequent meetings with the faculty of Hartford Seminary, we were encouraged by the workshop?s design of promoting much needed authentic interfaith dialogues across a wide variety of religious and spiritual traditions around the world,? Tsutomu Ben Takagi, Vice President of the Shinnyo-en Foundation, said.

?In addition, we recognized that one of the strengths of the workshop was that it encouraged every participant to put the theories into practice in their leadership roles as their actions reverberated beyond themselves, thereby widening the impact on others. We are inspired by our relationship with Hartford Seminary through our support of this year?s workshop, and are honored to be a part of this important work,? Ben Takagi said.

The 2012 workshop will incorporate learnings from the 2011 experience to offer an enhanced program:

  • The workshop will give significant time to models of leadership and development of specific skills useful for effective leadership.
  • Experiential learning will be a prominent feature of the program, and will be complemented by use of case-study methods and collaborative conversation.
  • Communal meals will provide extended opportunities for sharing and learning about each other?s religions and leadership practices.

The workshop will be of benefit to administrators of not-for-profit agencies, clergy, teachers, chaplains, researchers, healthcare providers, and others who are leaders in the field of religious diversity or who work in multifaith contexts.

The workshop will be offered concurrently with a course, ?Understanding and Engaging Religious Diversity,? for students in the Seminary?s new Graduate Certificate in Chaplaincy in Multifaith Contexts.

?Hartford Seminary is known for offering opportunities for collegial study in a multifaith setting,? said Faculty Associate Lucinda Mosher, who will be the program director and lead instructor for the workshop. ?This Religious Leadership Diversity Workshop and our new Graduate Certificate take full advantage of that.?

?Once again, Hartford Seminary is a pioneer in theological education,? Hadsell said. ?For more than 100 years we have offered education in Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations. In the last decade we have launched Islamic Chaplaincy and Building Abrahamic Partnerships programs. Now we are meeting the educational needs of all those seeking leadership training to serve in multifaith contexts.?

The workshop begins on Sunday afternoon with an overview of the week?s activities, a review of America?s multi-religious culture, and dinner with a keynote speaker, who will take up the issue of leadership in the multifaith context. Participants will be able to share information with each other about the locus of their own leadership during the opening session and throughout the week.

Sessions during the week will address such topics as models and methods of leadership generally; leading youth in the multifaith context and in interfaith activities; formation of emerging young leaders; meeting the challenge of bullying; theologies and philosophies of religious difference; philosophies and models of dialogue; and multifaith efforts for the common good, as well as the identification and sharing of resources for organizing local interfaith projects and activities.

The week will include site visits to houses of worship illustrative of the changing religious landscape of Connecticut and New York.

Hartford Seminary is a laboratory for this type of innovative project. The Seminary is dedicated to preparing peacemakers and promoting vital faith communities. It offers unique programs within an interfaith setting, focusing on deepening knowledge of one?s own tradition balanced with developing skills in interfaith dialogue. Students enjoy a lived experience, in the classroom and on campus.

About Shinnyo-En Foundation

Shinnyo-en Foundation, based in San Francisco, CA, is a secular, philanthropic arm of the Shinnyo-en Buddhist Order and supports educational programs that engage and inspire young people in meaningful acts of service.

The mission of Shinnyo-en Foundation is to promote global peace through service by nurturing future generations.

The Shinnyo-en Order was established in 1936 by Shinjo Ito, a master of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism, one of Japan?s oldest forms of Buddhism. It teaches lay people how to use each day as an opportunity to reflect, connect with their awakened nature, and find enlightenment by being a vehicle for the happiness of others.

Today, the Shinnyo-en Order and its leader Her Holiness Shinso Ito – daughter of Shinjo Ito – are widely recognized for their contributions to contemporary Buddhist practiceand philanthropic activities inJapan and around the world.

Founded on the commitment to universal truth, compassion and service, Shinnyo-en teaches that all people carry the seed of enlightenment within them and that by acting with sincerity and kindness, they each may bring that seed to fruition.

About Hartford Seminary

Hartford Seminary engages leaders in international inter-religious initiatives; prepares leaders, students, scholars and religious institutions to understand and live faithfully in today’s multi-faith world; engages a diverse array of people in dialogue; and affirms the particularities of faith and social context while openly exploring differences and commonalities.

The Seminary provides educational opportunities that enable participants to understand themselves and their faith traditions better and to contribute more fully to a culture of dialogue and creative leadership in their civic and faith communities locally, nationally and abroad.

For further information, please contact David S. Barrett, Director of Public and Institutional Affairs, at (860) 509-9519 or dbarrett@hartsem.edu.

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