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CIRCLE gathering this April to “carry the torch of interfaith understanding”


by Jennifer Peace, Center for Interreligious Leadership Education (CIRCLE)


As educators at Andover Newton, it is our responsibility and privilege to train the next generation of religious leaders. Periodically, we have the opportunity to step back and think about the bigger picture. What kind of religious leaders is the world calling for in 2010? What are we doing to respond to the needs of the day?

This April Andover Newton and Hebrew College, under the auspices of our joint Center for Interreligious and Communal Leadership Education (CIRCLE), and in partnership with the Boston Theological Institute (BIT), are hosting a unique national gathering of veteran academics, new scholars, students, activists, entrepreneurs, and community members who carry the torch of interfaith understanding.

From April 14-16, 2010, we will gather to discuss the success and challenges of: "Educating Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Leaders for Service in a Multi-Religious World – The American Seminary Context." The conference is made possible by the Fetzer Institute and the Henry Luce Foundation.

A calling for religious leaders, posing the questions

Increasingly, the world is calling for leaders who can speak authentically to their own faith communities while also forging bonds of mutual regard across faith lines. Here at CIRCLE we are committed to posing questions about how seminaries and rabbinical schools can best prepare future religious leaders for this dual role.


CIRCLE’s approach is “co-formation in relationship” based on chevruta – a model of paired learning from the Jewish tradition. We have seen how this co-learning, co-formation process deepens rather than waters down faith identities.

As co-director and Andover Newton Professor Greg Mobley describes it, “The testimony of this Baptist is, interfaith learning has allowed me to love Judaism for the first time, and Christianity for the second time….Judaism and Christianity are like biological twins. I am a twin so I know what I am talking about…. Interfaith dialogue can be a tikkun, a retrieval of some of the broken pieces of creation, as we recover the lost fragments of our respective faiths that the sibling preserved; initially for themselves but also, as it turns out, for us too.”

Taking out the "irony" when speaking of faith


One of our student fellows from ANTS, Tim Trussell-Smith, also finds a renewed appreciation for his own faith through dialogue with others. He says he is, learning to take the irony out of his voice when speaking of his faith and focuses instead on what he finds beautiful about Christianity – a theo-esthetics of faith.

A second fellow, Tamar Grimm , articulates her sense that just as we are impacting each other’s formation as individuals, we are also impacting the institutions. “As I described the CIRCLE program to the prospective students, it occurred to me that Hebrew College and Andover Newton are themselves a kind of chevrutah, challenging each other and supporting each other's continued growth. Interfaith work on the campus of these two theology schools is about much more than just increasing our understanding of each other.

The coming together of "two solid, strong people"


"The Talmud describes a good chevrutah as "iron on iron" -- the coming together of two solid, strong people who can spark new ideas and sharpen each other. As institutions that train religious leaders, the collaboration and dialogue between the two seminaries has this effect of "iron on iron"-- both on the institutions themselves and on the individual students within them, placing Hebrew College and Andover Newton on the cutting-edge of religious leadership training.”

The conference in April is not only an opportunity to share our model but to join in conversation with others who are doing this work from multiple vantage points for the sake of a common goal: preparing creative, visionary religious leaders who can work across divides to lead our respective communities towards greater peace and justice.

PeaceDr. JENNIFER PEACE is managing director of the Center for Interreligious and Communal Leadership Education (CIRCLE)at Andover Newton Theological School and Hebrew College and an adjunct faculty member at Andover Newton. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Educating Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Leaders for Service in a Multi-Religious World – The American Seminary Context is free and open to the public, though space is limited and registration is required.


For registration information and a complete schedule, please click on the yellow square .