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Unity in Diversity

At the Unification Theological Seminary’s Student Convocation yesterday (March 27th), Dr. Spurgin’s talk reminded me again of the diversity at UTS.

Dr. Spurgin carries the UTS mission statement in his wallet and he shared it with us. The key phrase “bridge religious and cultural divides” is at its heart. 

The Unification Theological Seminary offers educational programs in an interfaith context, which cultivate the heart, mind and spirit; bridge religious and cultural divides; promote leadership, service and engagement with the world; and provide tools for success in ministry and professional life. UTS is committed to the Unification vision of one global family under God.

Such was yesterday’s theme, for indeed, the room was filled with people of different faiths, and different denominations.

The sermon was given by Roeline Ramirez, Master of Religious Education student, a Methodist, who narrated her experience at the seminary and she gave a message of love, hope and faith.

Needless to say, I have my own narratives.  I am wholeheartedly enjoying my studies at the seminary and the professors keep my mind thinking, nurtured and fed.  Bishop Rene Ballenas (a Seventh Day Adventist pastor) gave his insights and he addresses the professors as ‘Doctors’ and no less, for indeed we get the best and highest degree of professional learning. Analytical, rational, and thorough is the understanding of the subjects to give us the greatest clarity when we scrutinize and investigate divine principles of humanity from a diversity of faiths.

Though I may not be pastoral material, the exegesis and hermeneutics we learn from Dr. Jacob David gives me insight into the discipline of the pastor and how strenuous a vocation it can be.  

As I told Dr. Mickler in Church History, the only time I get historical is when I debate with my husband after which I get hysterical.  True enough in the early part of the semester when taking his class, I got a B minus, which to me meant I wasn’t grasping much at all. So, I did try to understand church history—even going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and looking at history from a different perspective. That didn’t help. So I read more and even tuned in to the “University of You Tube.”  And yes, I did read more and re-visited Dr. Mickler’s class via online (UTS is technologically savvy – we can review our past class discussions online). And it paid off for after the finals, I did get the grade I wanted and the icing on the cake was a letter from Dr. Mickler for a job well done. (Smiles galore)

Then there’s Dr. Chuck Chesnavage, who is our Catholic professor fashionista of the seminary.  Depending on the season, his tie will remind you of it. And when he discusses about world religions while clasping his hands, his ‘blings’ also convey an open approach about the rational understanding of differing thoughts in a religious context. But mind you, he is also known for his ‘precis’ assignments, as they are extensions of the learning process. Isn’t that why we are in a Master’s class–to learn more than what we already know?

No one can pass the seminary without going through Dr. Noda, Academic Dean and teacher of our humanities class. He keeps our brains loosely entangled. Before I took his class, I had so many questions about human nature… Now, I can understand and comprehend why I had those questions. Were they answered? Sign up and join his class, and you’ll experience an adventure of being philosophically attuned and out of this world (literally and figuratively, as I am enjoying the discourse).

Then we have our phen-nohhh-menal Dr. Carolina who teaches business based on non-profit organizations (churches are perfect examples). And equally interesting to study are gender issues of the bible, and peacebuilding with Dr. Wilson. He is always a delight as he leads us through human conflicts with an eye-opening discussion in relation to different beliefs. Solutions and how to deal with issues are key in his course. Let us not fear the 6-footer Dr. Drissa Kone, who teaches Islam and is the Director of Enrollment for UTS; behind that big build is also a huge heart, soft spoken in his ways.  And still, there are many classes whose professors are other peoples’ ‘favorites’, and I still have to take those classes.

A few days ago, a classmate was so concerned that her way of thinking was leaning towards being ‘fanatical’.  She was even more concerned for her ‘flock’ because if it were so, then she was making them fanatical too.  I had only one thing to tell her:

“Studying at an INTERFAITH seminary is very challenging, with intelligent minds competing in their faith. Sure enough, there will be more questions than answers, more debates than one can imagine.” 

Weren’t wars started based on ideologies? It is not so much religion that we need, it is empathy. 

Understanding the other.

Having religious tolerance.

Being ONE amid the diversities. 

We do not stop learning

We do not stop LOVING

-that is the key to our education.