This Week: Sept. 26 - Oct. 2

Published: September 26, 2011


Christian Hospitality and Pastoral Practices in a Multifaith Society

The School of Divinity was recently awarded a grant from the Association of Theological Schools to fund a spring 2012 project focused on “Christian Hospitality and Pastoral Practices in a Multifaith Society.” 

How are religious leaders being equipped to guide communities as they journey our society’s increasingly multifaith terrain? This question is the energizing force behind a grant initiative supported by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), one of Wake Forest University School of Divinity’s accrediting bodies. Leaders of ATS have concluded that religious leaders today can be more effective “if their education incorporates some study . . . to establish a level of familiarity with faith traditions outside of Christianity.”  The overarching theme of the grant initiative is “Christian Hospitality and Pastoral Practices in a Multifaith Society.”


The Wake Forest University School of Divinity identifies expertise in the multi-faith contexts of ministry as one of its foundational educational goals:  “Through theological reflection, critical inquiry, and ministry formation, the divinity school encourages students to explore diverse religious, cultural, and ethnic perspectives within both national and international contexts” (from the School’s guiding principles).  To ensure the fulfillment of this goal, all M.Div. students are required to take at least one course in a non-Christian religion.  We are fortunate to have the resources of the University, especially the Department of Religion, that enable us to offer a rich curriculum in this area.  This area of ministerial formation is so central to the School’s understanding of M.Div. education that this year it created a new faculty position in Theology and Culture, and called Dr. Michelle Voss Roberts, an expert in comparative theology (especially Christianity and Hinduism) to fill that position.

Funds from the ATS grant will allow the School to explore structured opportunities for students to practice ministry in multifaith contexts and so to engage in practice and reflection on the Christian ideal of love of the stranger. A pivotal question for ministerial formation and a life of ministry is how one exercises the core theological and pastoral values of Christian hospitality in a multi-faith world.  How does the diverse range of religious particularities shape the way hospitality is offered?  How do students learn the practices of creating spaces that are thoroughly welcoming to stories and ways of engaging the sacred that are not their own?


In this project, Wake Forest University School of Divinity (WFUSD) will focus on two pastoral practices—pastoral care and worship—as focal points for exploring these questions.  Two M.Div. courses—multi-cultural clinical pastoral education and a worship course on liturgy and sacred time—are being designed to attend specifically to the questions of how we conceive and practice Christian ministry, and so offer Christian hospitality in multifaith contexts.   These courses are being designed and will be taught in collaboration with three sets of strategic partners: faculty who are expert in non-Christian traditions; Christian, Jewish, and Muslim chaplains at Wake Forest University; and local community leaders of various religious traditions. 


 Course Offerings

Multi-Cultural Clinical Pastoral Education (Fall and Spring 2011-2012)

  • For the past five years WFUSD, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center (WFUBMC), and Hood Theological Seminary have collaborated in a two-semester program of Level 1 Clinical Pastoral Education with an explicit focus on building cultural sensitivity and competency for pastoral ministry.  WFUBMC is an academic medical center that draws patients from across the region who reflect the diversities of their communities.  The CPE unit is a diverse student group:   the 2011-12 student cohort will include a Zen Buddhist who is seeking chaplaincy skills to work in a palliative care setting.  Hospital chaplaincy acutely raises the issue of Christian hospitality and pastoral practice: what kind of prayer is appropriate to offer to a sick patient or the family members of someone who is dying; how does the hospital chaplain offer worship that speaks to the diverse spirituality of patients; what do spiritual distress and spiritual comfort look like among varied religious understandings of life and death?  These questions have been explored in the multi-cultural CPE unit in prior years (e.g., a local rabbi has come to the hospital and led a Sukkoth service that was optional for CPE students), but this grant will enable these issues to be studied and taught more intentionally and consistently.

Preaching and Worship in Sacred Time: A Multi-Faith Perspective (Spring 2012)

  • Pastoral leaders today prepare for weekly worship in contexts where worshippers regularly encounter people in their workplaces, schools, and communities who observe contrasting religious calendars. Because the Christian calendar remains dominant throughout the U.S. (e.g. Christmas is a national holiday and many school vacations are coordinated with Holy Week and Easter), pastoral leaders have an opportunity and responsibility to encourage their communities to understand when and how other religious traditions observe and celebrate their holy days. This course invites students into a greater awareness of the Christian calendar as it exists alongside other religious calendars, particularly the Jewish and Muslim religious calendars. The course will enable students to experience non-Christian faith traditions as guests in local non-Christian worship contexts. To experience the hospitality of other communities and to reflect on that experience is an important dimension of learning what it means to extend Christian hospitality.  This is a new course for WFUSD.  There will be opportunities for students in the multi-cultural CPE and this worship course to meet together and to share some course activities.

Along with these two courses, the grant is also funding guest presentations and a year-long faculty working group that will engage broader curricular implications of the project. The Spring 2012 Term will also include some additional courses and events with a multifaith perspective.  The Department of Religion is offering a graduate level course on the topic “Jewish-Christian Relations in the New Testament.”  Also, a School of Divinity multicultural contexts course with an interfaith emphasis includes travel to the Holy Land.


News from the Office of the Academic Dean

  • The last day to drop a course with permission is October 5.
  • Incomplete work from the spring and summer terms is due to the instructor by September 30.


Blessings on your week,

  Jill Crainshaw
  Associate Dean for Academic Affairs