During the last two centuries, the intelligentsia predicted that religion, the “opiate of the people,” would wither away and die. The last decade has opened our eyes, if they were ever closed, to the reality that, far from vanishing, faith and religion are raising their heads once again all over the world.
To be honest, religion is not always a pretty sight. Those of us who believe in the God of Love often find ourselves in the position of having to justify religious faith in a skeptical and even hostile world. In several countries, and sometimes here in the U.S., the free exercise of religion runs into the heavy hand of government, reminding us that practicing our faith may require sacrifices reminiscent of a forgotten past. This may also be an opportunity for those from different faiths to work together to preserve the freedom to worship the Creator in diverse ways.
Another reality that must be faced is that the fastest growing religious affiliation in the U.S. is “no church at all.” Many are searching, but not always in the same places they did a generation ago. The younger generation is less interested in religious theories than in seeing a lived faith.
In this context, what shall those who feel called to ministry do? How can we rise to the challenges of our chaotically secular age? How can we reach out to the very people who feel let down in their previous experiences with religious leaders and institutions, or even closer to home, by their own families? How can we be effective when a new generation is more familiar with tweets and facebook than they are with scripture and preaching of the Word of God?
Whether you are a Christian or come from another religious tradition, Unification Theological Seminary seeks to be a resource for your personal spiritual development, where you can ground your faith in its historical roots and position it in the context of the world’s great religious traditions. UTS is also a place to develop your skills for effective ministry, whether it be in the area of counseling, church growth and leadership, youth and young adult ministries, or interfaith and social justice.
This year we are expanding course offerings with more continuing online education courses as well as degree-based courses including the area of marriage and family, as well as the use of internet and social networks, in ministry.
Our Barrytown campus is undergoing extensive renovations in preparation for the addition of a new Bachelor of Arts degree program. We will also continue to expand locations for satellite courses in the New York City/Northern New Jersey area as well as internationally, such as in Chennai, India.
I believe this is an auspicious moment in the history of UTS, which will allow it to achieve sharp growth in new programs, offered in innovative ways, so that UTS can fulfill the Founder’s dream that it would train future leaders in America and in the world. We are very excited about the future of interfaith ministry, and about UTS’ role in equipping its students to be innovative leaders in their communities. 2012-2013 is going to be a great year for UTS, and I hope that you will be part of it.
Richard A. Panzer, Ph.D.