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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Chief Priest Sashidhara explains about Hindu WorshipChief Priest Sashidhara explains about Hindu WorshipTo learn spiritual truth and participate in the devotions of every religion, seminarians invite local spiritual leaders to lead chapel worship. Hindu Pundit Shashidhara Somayaji, the chief priest from Hindu Samaj Temple, Wappingers Falls, New York, graced the UTS chapel service on November 12, 2008, with Hindu ritual worship (pooja). He is from an orthodox traditional Hindu priestly family in south India and serves an American Hindu community of 400 families.

Seminarians, the faculty and local community observed the pooja, which Pundit Somayaji conducted, chanting in Sanskrit and later explaining in English. He made numerous offerings to God representing various aspects of human and natural life. He beseeched the devotees to reach out to God and leave behind our worldly bondage to our carnal desires.

One seminarian commented, "We realized that the pooja is an enactment that reflects the values of our seminary in the form of a different religious ritual." Another remarked, "It was exotic, colorful, unique and exciting. It was great to have this traditional worship experience." The seminarians felt a new closeness to God and were grateful that a Hindu priest could be part of our seminary for worship and a fellowship meal afterwards.

 

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