Friday, June 1, 2012 (All day) to Thursday, June 14, 2012 (All day)
Cambridge, MA, USA
During the first two weeks of June 2012, the Pluralism Project at Harvard University and Andover Newton Theological School hosted an intensive summer seminar in Greater Boston that challenged participants to grow in their leadership capacity by discussing case studies, making site visits to local religious communities, and learning how to be effective in public narrative. Twenty-two students from the Boston-area theological schools and two Pluralism Project undergraduate interns participated in the “Building an Interfaith Community and Leadership: The Boston Workshop," a seminar made possible by generous support from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. Guest instructors from local Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish communities introduced participants to their houses of worship and religious practices. Case studies and discussion, led by co-instructors Dr. Diana Eck and Dr. Jennifer Peace, invited the cohort to explore the challenges and opportunities that arise when building an interfaith community. Participants also attended a day-long training on the use of public narrative, led by Dr. Marshall Ganz of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Course OverviewThrough case discussion, public narrative, and site visits to local religious communities, this seminar invites theological school students from Greater Boston to develop skills for interfaith organizing and community-building. Case studies offer participants the opportunity to explore together the dilemmas at the intersection of religious and civic life and to reflect theologically on the implications of leadership in a multi-religious society. Site visits and integrative sessions with guest lecturers from the Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish traditions increase multi-religious literacy. Public Narrative training sessions leverage personal experience as a tool for translating values into action. The Building an Interfaith Community and Leadership Seminar was generously funded by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. A special thanks to guest lecturers and faith communities of Greater Boston who served as hosts, guides, and conversation partners throughout this seminar.
Primary TextsMy Neighbor’s Faith: Stories of Interreligious Encounter, Growth and Transformation. Peace, Rose, & Mobley eds. (Orbis 2012) On Common Ground: World Religions in America. CD-ROM/Website. Diana Eck, The Pluralism Project, Harvard University. Pluralism Project Case Studies (provided by instructors)
Additional ResourcesBuilding an Interfaith Community and Leadership Seminar Syllabus with Bibliography Selected list of programs and resources for training religious leaders for today’s multi-religious world.
Case StudiesThe Pluralism Project develops case studies and explores new ways to creatively apply them to teaching and learning in the theological and religious studies classroom. The primary texts are the issues that arise in the contexts of our civil society, public life, and religious communities. In addition to discussing case studies and thereby building religious literacy, leadership capacity, and critical thinking skills, several participants crafted original case studies or “seed cases” for their final project.
Select Case StudiesSign of Division | Before a joint worship service is about to begin in Sharon, Massachusetts, an interfaith leader asks the rabbi if they can remove a sign supporting Israel from the synagogue’s lobby. Trouble in Troy | In Troy, Michigan, a Hindu resident challenges the city’s “Judeo-Christian” observance of the National Day of Prayer. Invocation or Provocation? | A local resident who identifies as a witch asks to deliver an invocation at the Board of Supervisors meeting in Chesterfield County, Virginia. Center of Dispute | Daisy Khan navigates the dispute over a planned Muslim Community Center in Lower Manhattan, which opponents call “the Ground Zero Mosque.” Fliers at the Peace Parade | A pastor distributes fliers at a Sikh parade in California: to him, it is an expression of his Evangelical faith; to the Sikhs, and some other local citizens, it is an affront.
- “The Case Method in Practice,” Harvard Business School
- “Participant-Centered Learning and the Case Method: A Case Study Teacher in Action,” Harvard Business School
- “Strategies for Reading a Case Study”
- Pluralism Project Case Studies Online
Public NarrativeMarshall Ganz, Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, describes public narrative as “the art of translating values into action.” He explains: “Leaders use public narrative to interpret themselves to others, engage others in a sense of shared community, and inspire others to act on challenges that community must face. It is learning to tell a story of self, a story of us, and a story of now.” Ganz and his team trained participants in public narrative through modeling, coaching, and reflective practice.  See PAL 154 Public Narrative: Identity, Agency, and Action.
- “Why Stories Matter” in Sojourners Magazine (2009)
- What is Public Narrative?
- Hillel’s Questions: A Call for Leadership in Sh’ma: A Journal of Jewish Ideas (2007)
- Public Narrative Participant Guide for Building an Interfaith Community and Leadership Seminar (2012)
Site VisitsSite visits to local religious communities included integrative sessions led by guest lecturers who addressed the group’s questions as well as placed the local community into broader historical and contemporary context. Participants prepared for site visits using tradition sections from On Common Ground: World Religions in America. Check out the Pluralism Project’s Guidelines to Field Research. Islam | Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (Roxbury, MA) Student Reflection: Mark Kharas Harvard Divinity School Judaism | Temple Beth Zion (Brookline, MA) Student Reflection: Najira Ahmed, Wellesley College & The Pluralism Project Christianity | Christian communities visited individually by students (Greater Boston) Student Reflection: Nancy Rottman, Andover Newton Theological School Buddhism | Buddhist communities visited individually by students (Greater Boston) Student Reflection: Joshua Mugler, Harvard Divinity School Hinduism | Sri Lakshmi Temple (Ashland, MA) Student Reflection: Betsy Tabor, Andover Newton Theological School Sikhism | Milford Gurdwara Sahib/New England Sikh Study Circle (Milford, MA) Student Reflection: Jason Smith, Harvard Divinity School
Additional Seminar OpportunitiesIn addition to site visits to local religious communities, seminar participants had the opportunity to reflect on leadership at the Harvard Art Museums and to hear first-hand accounts from leaders engaged in interfaith work in Greater Boston.
Museum Field Trip | Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard Art MuseumsGuided by staff in the Sackler Museum’s Education Department, participants were invited to reflect—as a group and as individuals—on questions of leadership, identity, and narrative by engaging with the collections and the gallery space at the Harvard Art Museums. Student Reflection: Chris Alburger, Harvard Divinity School
Panel Discussion: Models of Interfaith Cooperation | Harvard UniversityLeaders from key interfaith groups in the Greater Boston Area offered insights about their work in a panel discussion at Harvard University. Each panelist, with varied backgrounds in youth, college, and community interfaith work, described the challenges and opportunities of grassroots interfaith engagement. After the formal session and lunch, panelists and participants chose to reconvene in order to continue the rich conversation. Panelists included:
- Janet Penn | Executive Director, YouthLEAD
- Victor Kazanjian | Dean of Intercultural Education and Religious and Spiritual Life, Wellesley College
- Latifa Ali | President of the Board of Directors, Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries