Graduate Theological & Religious Programs | Hartford Seminary

EXPLORING DIFFERENCES, DEEPENING FAITH

Hartford Seminary draws Muslim, Christian, Jewish and other students from around the world. Explore our website to learn more. International Peacemaking students visiting the United Nations

The Leader in Graduate Interfaith Education

With roots that go back to 1834, Hartford Seminary is a non-denominational graduate school for religious and theological studies. What makes us unique is our multi-faith environment and our proven ability to prepare leaders for the complex world that surrounds us.

News & Events

Professor Deena Grant to Speak at Interfaith Conference
Deena Grant, Associate Professor of Jewish Studies, will be one of the speakers at the New Britain Area Interfaith Conference. The topic of the conference is Undocumented Immigrants: Faith Perspective and Legal Rights. Questions include: How do Jews, Christians and Muslims address the issue of undocumented immigrants? What are the legal rights of undocumented immigrants? Who are the undocumented immigrants in Connecticut? The conference is free and take place at 7 p.m., Monday, March 25, at First Lutheran Church, 77 Franklin Square, New Britain, CT.  
Interim Academic Dean David D. Grafton to Present Series on Islam
The Rev. Dr. David D. Grafton, Hartford Seminary's Interim Academic Dean and Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations, will present a five-part series on Islam at the John P. Webster Library at First Church, West Hartford, in March and April. "North American Christians and Islam: Reframing the Views of a Dominant Culture" will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday evenings during Lent, starting March 14 and ending April 11. The series is described this way: "Islam is highly controversial in a polarized American society, and disputes about it seem to be stuck across the political aisles. Some argue that Islam is inherently a violent religion bent on destroying America, and that it is un-American. Others say that it is a religion of peace that is simply misunderstood. Meanwhile, social media fans the flames of debate. "These sessions will assist American Christians to critically engage resources and provide opportunities to re-think how a dominant American culture frames our view of Islam." Sessions can be attended a la carte or as a whole. MARCH 14: Session I The Context of Christian-Muslim Relations in America Post-9/11: Islamophobia, Immigration and Racism  This introductory session will explore the current atmosphere of American Christian “interest” in Islam and the general views of Muslims. MARCH 21: Session II Who are American Muslims? American Muslims are often viewed as being Middle Eastern immigrants. Yet the largest group of American Muslims are African-Americans. This session will look at the incredible diversity of American Muslim communities and our assumptions of just who a Muslim is and what they believe. MARCH 28: Session III Who Speaks for Islam? Islamic Authority When Osama Bin Laden issued his infamous fatwa in 1998 calling for the death of American citizens, what was the basis of his authority in the Muslim world? This session will look at the concept of authority in Islam, and explore the built-in diversity of religious opinions among traditional religious scholars and lay activists. APRIL 4: Session IV Reading the Qur’an American Christians who read through the Qur’an often find it bewildering and confusing. This session will explore the concept of the Qur’an as Scripture, and how non-Arabic speaking non-Muslims approach English translations. APRIL 11: Session V Evangelical and Mainline views of Islam This final session will examine the various ways in which North American Christians have viewed Islam, either as a fulfillment of the End Times or as an Abrahamic partner in interreligious dialogue. First Church is located at 12 S. Main St., West Hartford.
Malaysian Alum Writes about Impact of Hartford Seminary Experience
Thirteen years after attending Hartford Seminary for one semester, David Bok wrote about the seminal experience in an article titled "Dialogue Is Key to Understanding Differences." Bok discovered Hartford Seminary through MUIS, or the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, where he took a weeklong series of courses on interfaith relations in 2006. One of the teachers in Singapore was a Muslim who encouraged Bok to study at the Seminary later that year. His experience in taking courses such as "Dialogue in a World of Difference" was eye-opening, including visiting a synagogue, which he had never done before. His article then turns to how this experience can help Malaysia with its "fractured racial and religious discourse. He writes: Firstly, dialogue is the opposite of debate. In a debate, you try to persuade the other fellow to your point of view. It seldom happens because we all have egos, whether personal, cultural, religious or political. Like in a court of law, where there is one winner and one loser, debate in a country is finally decided at the polls where there is also one winner and one loser. Dialogue, on the other hand, is not about persuading someone. It is about understanding the other person, why he thinks what he thinks or says what he says. Dialogue, of course, can degenerate into a debate in a politically and religiously charged atmosphere like our beloved Malaysia, especially in the peninsula. Secondly, we all create straw men. In discourse, this means that we invent a caricature of our real opponent, then we proceed to attack and defeat him piecemeal in his absence. This is easy to do because a straw man cannot talk back. He has no life and is not real. He is a figment of our imagination, created by our prejudices. In contrast, when we talk to a real person, he usually doesn’t fit our presuppositions. You say something about what he said, then he says “that’s not what I said.” It’s always better to talk to someone than to talk about someone, especially when it’s negative. Thirdly, it’s extremely difficult to understand people. I have been married to one wife for over 40 years, and we still misunderstand each other. We still say to each other, sometimes with great emphasis, “that’s not what I meant!” Some wag said, “I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realise that what you heard was not what I meant.” Think of the barriers we have to cross. With my wife, it’s gender, race and culture. Then there’s religion, and politics, which can even split families. See Guat Kwee from Singapore, a fellow alumnus, shared Bok's article and passes along his best wishes to Hartford Seminary staff and faculty.  
Faculty Associate Donna Schaper Interviewed for New York Times Article
The Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper, Faculty Associate in Religious Leadership, had the last word in a lengthy New York Times article about churches and development in New York City. The full article, "The Church with the $6 Billion Portfolio" can be read at this link. Much of the piece focused on Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan and how it has become a developer itself, even as other churches "struggle to hold on to their congregations and buildings." The final section of the article is devoted to the interview with the Rev. Dr. Schaper: Could big, muscular churches become the new normal in New York as smaller churches vanish? The Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper, of Judson Memorial Church in the West Village, certainly hopes not. Smaller houses of worship provide not only the beauty of their historic structures, she argued, but also crucial social services as well: soup kitchens, food pantries, art programs and gathering places for community meetings. We need help — technical assistance, policy relief,” Dr. Schaper said. She maintains it is a mistake when churches get into the real estate game on their own. The sale of air rights, she pointed out, has led to “gentrification and its partner, racism,” as demolished religious institutions are replaced by luxury housing, often resulting in the displacement of longtime neighborhood residents. Judson Memorial, designed by Stanford White in the Romanesque style, with stained glass by John La Farge, is a designated city landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The church is putting on a new roof after a $3 million fund-raising campaign, but it must turn around and raise $4 million more because it has heating issues and a broken elevator. The elevator is a serious concern since worship takes place on the second floor. The church has removed the pews in the sanctuary allowing for “hyperuse,” as Dr. Schaper put it, by a variety of groups. (Rentals yield important revenue, making up over a third of Judson’s $1 million annual budget.) Judson provides services to 150 undocumented immigrants a week, among others. Dr. Schaper has started a movement called Bricks and Mortals, with the goal of coming up with collective solutions so that no church has to go it alone. One idea is for the city to create an air-rights bank that would allow the rights “to be monetized, but not abused” — put into a bank for the development of affordable housing, for example. “My fear is that the very thing that makes New York so lovely and interesting — the variety of our culture — is threatened by congregations becoming restaurants and high-end apartments. It’s almost as tragic as losing the beautiful buildings.” The Rev. Dr. Schaper will be teaching a workshop at Hartford Seminary called "Bricks and Mortals" along with President Joel N. Lohr, from 2-4 p.m., Monday, March 11. For more information, or to register, please visit this link.
Professor Scott Thumma Cited in Article about the Evolution of Local Churches
The website Inlander (America's Best Read Urban Weekly) cited Professor Scott Thumma and the work of the Hartford Institution for Religion Research in an extensive article on "The Evolution of Local Churches and What It Says about the State of Religion in America." The article describes the phenomenon of nondenominational or independent churches re-purposing rundown or abandoned retail space. Professor Thumma studied these congregations in a 2010 report. "It's almost a kind of user-friendly, easy way to slip back into church," he said in the article. "They have more contemporary music, they use screens, often their buildings don't look anything like what one would think would be a church and they have names like Willow Brook. ... So it does lower the barrier." These churches often drop any references that might have negative connotations for people. "They can't really anticipate what it's going to be because it doesn't have the label, which carries some sort of identity baggage, and so the only way they can really learn about it is going inside," Professor Thumma said. "And once they go inside, they feel the community and excitement of worship."
Student Amy Langston Educates on Autism and Religious Environments
Amy Langston, a student in Hartford Seminary's Master of Arts in Religious Studies program, gave a fascinating talk on Tuesday, Jan. 29, about how autism affects the religious experience and how religious communities can better embrace people with autism. Langston said she was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum at age 10. Since autism encompasses a wide range of diagnoses, she cautioned that she could never speak for everyone. She described many of the common characteristics of autism, particularly difficulties with social interaction, and said, "It's like you've been dropped into a foreign country." In terms of religious experience, those with autism tend to seem themselves at "outsiders," she said, which creates challenges. Often, she said, parents of autistic children are "politely told not to go to that church [or other religious community] anymore" because their child doesn't fit in or can't make friends. She advised that religious communities: Educate their congregations about autism Engage congregants with expertise Train staff and volunteers Practice patience, gentleness and compassion Create inclusion committees Establish a buddy system Provide transportation for those who need it The full video of the presentation can be viewed here:      
The Folk Religion of White Middle America with Arthur E. Farnsley II
Adam and Eve were real people.  Humans were created some time in the past 10,000 years.  The Book of Revelation foretells the future. We often associate such beliefs with fundamentalist churches, imagining these ideas correspond to a rigid ideology about race, gender, and politics. But in fact, folk religion often floats free from institutions or from any religious participation at all. Drawing from decades of personal experience and dozens of structured interviews with flea market dealers, Art Farnsley reflects on the ways people use folk religion to frame their experience and to locate their chaotic lives in a complex world. He considers the difficulties in building a civil society among citizens who have such different views about very basic concepts of truth or morality. Please join us for this special opportunity to hear the author of Flea Market Jesus. About the Speaker Arthur E. Farnsley II is research professor and Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at IUPUI.  He was research director of the $8 million Project on Religion and Urban Culture, has held two teaching grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and was Executive Officer of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion from 2007-2016. His first book was Southern Baptist Politics.   Subsequent books include Rising Expectations: Urban Congregations, Welfare Reform, and Civic Life and Sacred Circles, Public Squares: The Multicentering of American Religion. In 2012 he published Flea Market Jesus about religious individualism.  His stories about flea markets appeared on the cover of both Christianity Today and Christian Century magazines.  He was also co-editor of the 2017 volume, The Bible in American Life, published by Oxford University Press. Art’s degrees are from Wabash College, Yale Divinity School, and Emory University.  
Autism Inclusion in Religious Environments
Autism is a challenging and often misunderstood condition, affecting many aspects of a person’s social and community life. Those without much exposure to autistic people might not know how to make their religious communities places where autistic people can thrive, grow, and be loved and accepted. Amy Langston will present her research on autistic children and adults who have participated in a variety of religious settings, analyzing the specific patterns of behavior and challenges common to the autistic religious experience, and addressing solutions for how religious leaders can create spaces of inclusion and hope for autistic people. This event will be interpreted for the deaf and hard of hearing community. About the Speaker Amy Langston is a North Carolina native. She was diagnosed on the autism spectrum at 10 years old. She holds a B.A. in religion from Meredith College and is a second-year Master of Arts student at Hartford Seminary. She is a graduate of Hartford Seminary's International Peacemaking Program. Her research interests are in the sociological and psychological dimensions of religious observance and behavior. Her research Autism Inclusion in Religious Environments was most recently presented at the Parliament of World's Religions in Toronto, Ontario. Note: Hartford Seminary is committed to providing accessibility for all. Please contact Susan Schoenberger at sschoenberger@hartsem.edu or 860-509-9519 at least 3 days in advance if you have questions about our accessibility or need reasonable accommodations for this event.
Lunch and Learn: Watch 'Finding Dory' in the Context of Disability and Inclusion
Join us for a Lunch and Learn as we watch the movie Finding Dory and discuss the impact of movies about disability on the disability community. Pizza will be served during the movie, which is 97 minutes long. A discussion will follow, facilitated by Hartford Seminary alumna Candace Low and interpreted for the deaf and hard of hearing community. We will also explore how this movie and movies in general portray disability; what makes this movie a landmark movie in shattering stereotypes about disabilitie; what Finding Dory teaches us about acceptance and inclusion; what is collective access; what did they get wrong and what did they get right in writing this movie; and how can we increase disability representation in the media. About the Workshop Leader Candace Low is the principal of Candace Low Consulting Services, helping faith communities become inclusive to the disability community. Candace is the former Executive Director of Independence Unlimited, a non-profit providing advocacy and support services to persons with disabilities and their families in Hartford, CT. She is chair of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church, UCC, Accessibility Task Force and a member of the CT statewide UCC Disabilities Ministries. Candace has been an advocate for disability rights and a trainer on disability legislation and independent living related issues for over 35 years. She has provided congregations with technical assistance on disability issues for over 35 years and worked with a variety of Christian, Islamic and Jewish congregations. Candace is a graduate of Hartford Seminary with an emphasis on spirituality and worship. She is a survivor of an acquired brain injury which caused multiple disabilities including deafness.  Candace is committed to social justice and full inclusion for everyone. Note: Hartford Seminary is committed to providing accessibility for all. Please contact Susan Schoenberger at sschoenberger@hartsem.edu or 860-509-9519 if you need accommodations.  
DID YOU KNOW...
Hartford Seminary became the first seminary in America to open its doors to women in 1889.
In 1902, Hartford Seminary was a founding member of the American Association of Schools of Religious Education.
The first American center for the study of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations opened at Hartford Seminary in 1973.
In 1990, Hartford Seminary became the first nondenominational theological institution in North America to name a female president.
Naming a Muslim to the core faculty was a first for nondenominational theological institutions in North America in 1991.
Hartford Seminary established the first Islamic Chaplaincy Program in America in 2001.
The first chair of Shi’i Studies in North America launched at Hartford Seminary in 2015.

Join Our Mailing List

SIGN UP NOW!

Hartford Seminary

Chaplaincy in the Military - Virtual Information Session, 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 19 Register Here
+ +