“The Chaplaincy Institute (“CHI ”) offered me, and so many others like me, the opportunity to engage in the Interfaith dialogue in ways that most of us never imagined. CHI ’s curriculum is unique, in that students who are interested in Interfaith Ordination not only read, reflect, and engage with literature and liturgy from a wide scope of faith traditions, it also insists upon first-hand experience. This Nice Jewish Girl found herself genuflecting in embodied Muslim prayer, meditating with a Buddhist nun, kneeling in a Catholic mass, and sweating in a lodge with a Lakota guide. The insistence upon empathy and the invitation to compassionate sharing offered a clerical formation unlike anything I could have imagined.
CHI envisions as many different types of ministers, chaplains, and spiritual directors as individuals striving towards those ends. It is often repeated that people of all faiths, no faith, and everything in between are welcome both at the seminary and at the Interfaith services and workshops. There is an emphasis on the arts, inviting people to bring their authentic voice to their service. We sing, we dance, we eat, we pray, and we sit in silence while holding sacred space for each other.
CHI ’s Ministers, Spiritual Directors, and Chaplains are spiritually, emotionally, and academically ready to support the journeys of those whom they serve. With creativity and the remarkable talents of their dedicated staff and faculty, they offer so much more than a seminary; they have created their own community as well, one where inclusion and integrity are paramount. I feel blessed by my calling to service, but I feel that call answered by my experience at CHI .”
Our modular program features hybrid distance learning in order to serve students from near and far. Our goal is to join the best features of classroom teaching with independent learning to serve the needs of people who cannot spend a great deal of time on a campus and regularly attend classes. Courses are not available solely on-line.
Students travel to Berkeley, California, to attend Thematic Learning Modules that focus on world religions as well as practical theological and ministry competencies. Modules are taught throughout the year in the same month of each year, which enables students to attend in any order they wish. Each module starts on a Wednesday and ends on a Sunday and has a distinct theme—either a world religion or a particular aspect of interfaith ministry.
During each module, a team of core and guest faculty guides students in an integral learning experience, incorporating theological, academic, creative and experiential elements. Class content includes didactic and experiential, theological and psychological, artistic and reflective modalities. Although each module is different, each offers opportunities to explore prayer, meditation and ritual through the lens of a particular faith tradition and all contain elements of ministry, chaplaincy and spiritual care skill-building, including:
- Study of a World Faith Tradition
- Classes incorporating the Five Threads of Interfaith Studies Curriculum
- Student Sermon Presentations
- Group Visit to a Place of Worship
- Interfaith Worship Service
In order to graduate, all students must complete each of the twelve (12) required modules. With the exception of Spiritual Psychology (parts I and II), students do not need to take the modules sequentially; they can be taken in any order. Still, each of the twelve modules must be completed to fulfill program requirements, or to be considered for ordination. Required reading, a reflection paper, and an expressive arts project are due prior to each module.
Students have up to three years to complete the coursework. While it may seem technically possible to complete the program in one year, a more realistic time frame is 18 months to 2 years. A two-year process allows for greater continuity and a deeper engagement with both the material and with The CHI Community.
In addition to Thematic Learning Modules, students work independently on requirements that include:
Each student is required to complete once-monthly Spiritual Direction/Spiritual Counseling sessions with an approved director, to commence after the student’s first module, and completing a minimum of 1 session per month for every month prior to graduation (or ordination), unless otherwise agreed upon between the student and CHI . [Note: Minimally this means 15 sessions, typically closer to 22.]
The options for a personal spiritual practice are multiple and flexible. Examples include attendance at a weekly worship service, daily meditation, prayer based on a primary faith tradition, yoga, art or journaling, and so on. Practice should be discussed and tended in spiritual direction as well as in the Core Competencies Self-Assessment review.
As part of the Community Ministry and Social Transformation (CMST) coursework, students are also expected to attend and participate in the life and activities of an organized spiritual community. The community may be your long-standing religious home, but may as readily be a church temple, zendo, mosque, ashram or other community you feel called to meet more intimately for the period of time you are enrolled at CHI .
Each Interfaith Studies Program student is expected to visit and experience worship at a variety of houses of worship or spiritual centers in several faiths in his or her local community. The intent of this contextual learning requirement is to have the student engage with different faith traditions/expressions of spirituality beyond just observation (and, especially, to avoid “spiritual tourism.”) Site visit reports should contain evidence of both personal and contextual/cultural examination.
The student should pick a second tradition beyond their personal spiritual practice to delve into more deeply, and find a mentor to give guidance in that tradition. This second tradition should be explored formally for at least 6 months through regular study.
Each student is required to complete a written self-reflection assessment and assessment interview, which are to be completed about two-thirds of the way through the program.
Contextual learning gives each student the opportunity to integrate theological concepts and intellectual constructs into the flow of lived experience. Students are required to complete a 200-hour-supervised practicum (400 hours for those wishing to be ordained) in an area of interest relating to their desired focus of ministry or spiritual care. This is where each student can test their wings and begin to grow their ministry within the supportive structure of our learning community.
*Students pursuing ordination will have additional requirements for these elements.
CERTIFICATES & TITLES BESTOWED
All graduates of the Interfaith Studies Certificate Program receive a Certificate of Completion from The Chaplaincy Institute. All students who successfully complete the Interfaith Studies Program also receive an official transcript from The Chaplaincy Institute, which lists the student’s program start date and graduation date, and assigns a passing grade for all academic requirements. The CHI Seminary bestows Certificates of Completion and issues transcripts.
The CHI Interfaith Community bestows Interfaith Ordination and Clergy In Good Standing status.