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News from the Hill November 11, 2014 | back to index

Andover Newton, Boston U, Hebrew College share grant for interfaith work

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NEWTON CENTRE, Mass. (Nov. 6, 2014) — Andover Newton Theological School, the United States’ first theological seminary and North America’s first graduate school of any kind, is one of three schools to share a $60,000 planning grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation in a collaboration that will let the schools review, extend, and propose new directions for interreligious theological education.

The grant will be based at the Boston University School of Theology, which will serve as fiscal agent, and also includes Hebrew College.

During the grant period of Jan. 1, 2015, to Dec. 31, 2016, each school will start one seed project; sponsor a collaborative sharing of interreligious theological education with an eye toward publishing case studies, commentary, and best practices; and evaluate the state of the field, the success of the joint initiative, and next steps.

The principal investigators for the grant will be Mary Elizabeth Moore, Dean and Professor of Theology and Education at the Boston University School of Theology; Jennifer Howe Peace, Associate Professor of Interreligious Studies at Andover Newton; and Or Rose, Executive Director of the Center for Global Judaism at Hebrew College.

Andover Newton and Interreligious Education

Andover Newton and Hebrew College created the Center for Inter-Religious Leadership and Communal Education (CIRCLE) in 2008, a collaboration that today supports a dozen CIRCLE fellows drawn from Christian, Jewish, and Unitarian Universalist seminarians at the two schools and Muslim community fellows.

CIRCLE also operates two online publications, the peer-reviewed Journal of Inter-Religious Studies and State of Formation, a blog open to current and recent seminary students across the United States and beyond.

The organization’s co-directors are Jennifer Howe Peace, Or Rose, and Celene Ayat Lizzio-Ibrahim, a Muslim scholar-in-residence at both Andover Newton and Hebrew College.

Seed Projects

imageAndover Newton will use its portion of the Davis grant to help transform its former presidential residence into CIRCLE House, with a specific focus on outreach to the Muslim community. The refurbished building will contain meeting and programming spaces, offices for rent by organizations whose missions align with CIRCLE, and dormitory rentals for graduate students and young professionals interested in living in a multifaith environment.

Boston University School of Theology will use its funds to develop work in interreligious spiritual life, inside and outside the classroom, and to enrich curricular offerings and interreligious discourse in the classroom. This will support the school’s new MDiv Chaplaincy track and will include work with the Interfaith Youth Core and other Boston-area schools.

Hebrew College will use its funds to convene Jewish educators and scholars working in the seminary context to discuss the state of the field and future possibilities. This initiative builds upon CIRCLE’s 2010 national conference. Participants in the gathering would develop a set of reflections and resources to be published through the Journal of Inter-Religious Studies.

Collaborative Research & Guidance

For the second phase of the grant, the researchers will conduct case studies of interreligious theological education as practiced at 12 institutions in the United States and Canada. The schools will convene a conference in which delegates from those institutions will present and reflect on those case studies. An analysis of the findings will be used to map the trends exhibited by the diverse schools, identify best practices, and produce a written volume of findings and commentary. This effort could lay the groundwork for future collaboration between the schools to broaden and deepen the knowledge base.

Andover Newton Theological School, founded in 1807, is the first graduate school of any kind in America. Always an innovator in religious education, Andover Newton is internationally recognized as a leader in interfaith learning.

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