The Master of Religious Education (MRE) program at the Unification Theological Seminary (UTS) is a prime example of how religious studies are pioneering new roads in the implementation and practice of both teaching and learning and also interfaith peace building.

I was born in the Netherlands, stereotypically known as the land of windmills, tulips, bicycles and cheese. Among intellectual types, the Netherlands is also known as the land of Rembrandt and Van Gogh, of Erasmus and Spinoza.

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“The opposite of faith is not reason; but fear,” U.S. Army Chaplain Glen David Lightfoot told the UTS community at the Interfaith Chapel Service on February 20.

Speaking of his 50 weeks in Iraq, Lightfoot testified “God gave me a blanket of peace warming me all over.” Separated from his wife and daughter, his unit attacked 42 times with mortars and rockets, Lightfoot “let go and let God,” and went through deployment “calm and collected” not once being anxious or afraid.

Chaplain Lightfoot’s chapel message was part of the UTS Second Annual Commemoration of the Four Chaplains, killed in action February 3, 1943. In the Commemoration, UTS students read short biographies of Clark Poling, George Fox, Alexander D. Goode, John P. Washington, and then lit a candle in their memory.

Dr. Mark Isaacs, Lutheran Pastor and Professor of Ministry at UTS, connected the heroic sacrifice of the chaplains to scripture with a reading from John, reminding us “There is no greater love than he who lays down his life for his friends.”

The “Four Immortal Chaplains”, as they have come to be known, demonstrated “interfaith in action”, cooperating across religious boundaries, sacrificing their lives so that others could live. The U.S. Congress declared February 3 “Four Chaplains Day” in 1948.

Earlier this month, a UTS faculty member joined a panel with a Jewish War Veteran and a Catholic Priest in the American Legion Commemoration of the Four Chaplain in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Lightfoot, endorsed to the chaplaincy by the Episcopal Missionary Church, was a part of a multi-faith chaplain team in Iraq and served as chaplain to his battalion to everyone regardless of religious affiliation. The women and men of the Armed Forces represent more than 700 different faith groups.

The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (HSA-UWC) is recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense as one of more than 200 religious bodies qualified to endorse seminarians into the chaplain candidate program and chaplains into the military.

Students who enroll in UTS full time and meet army criteria have the option of entering the chaplain candidate program, which provides seminarians with tuition assistance, paid training, and career options as a military chaplain after graduation.

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