Vocational Exploration in Multi-Faith Contexts

Today’s undergraduate students live in a diverse and confusing world. These challenges are made more difficult by only tentative attachments to traditional faith communities and instant access to real-time information. Many undergraduates find themselves understandably overwhelmed by the world in which they already live––not to mention the world that might lie ahead. They experience skepticism about the metanarratives and worldviews that were sometimes posited as giving their lives a degree of order and meaning. On a number of college and university campuses, efforts are being made to address these challenges with programs focused on the idea of vocation.

Scholars in the seminar on Vocation in Multi-Faith Contexts enjoyed a meal together during their January 2017 gathering to review one another’s essay drafts

Scholars in this seminar thought deeply about how vocational discernment and vocation-related practices can be advanced in a multi-faith world. This seminar considered theological frameworks in diverse religious traditions in relation to vocation. It considered how to educate undergraduates from diverse backgrounds to move beyond mere tolerance of diversity to develop deeper interconnections with one another. Many faith traditions have underlying assumptions about the nature of humanity and about human identity; sacred texts often reflect on the nature of character, work, and rest, including questions about the nature and purpose of service to others. The aim of this seminar was to produce resources from multiple traditions of belief and practice that enrich the theological understanding of calling with and among undergraduate students while enhancing their fluency about multiple faith traditions of meaning and purpose.

The NetVUE Scholarly Resources Seminar on multi-faith contexts—the third in a series—explored what it means to use the language of vocation and vocational discernment in a pluralistic context. These questions are no longer merely ecumenical among various Christian circles, but now concern deeply-felt distinctions across more varied traditions. Whatever their own faith commitments, faculty and students are more regularly encountering people whose faith and religious practices differ—sometimes radically—from their own not only in higher education, but in cities, community organizations, and workplaces. What ideas about being, character and virtue, rhythms of life and frameworks for action are shared across multiple traditions of belief? How do we welcome and engage purposefully with students, faculty, and staff from many belief traditions as they consider their sense of calling? How might we find vocational language to consider what is held in common amid differences and teach student effective strategies for peace, justice, and conflict resolution?

The work of the seminar was disseminated in a variety of forms. First among these was the publication of a book, Hearing Vocation Differently: Meaning, Purpose, and Identity in the Multi-Faith Academy (Oxford University Press, 2019). Seminar members continue to contribute articles, syllabi, grant reports, and other resources for the use of faculty members and students at the undergraduate level. 

Vocation in Multi-Faith Contexts: Scholars

Florence D. Amamoto – Professor (now Emerita) in Japanese Studies and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, Gustavus Adolphus College
(During the project: also Raymond and Florence Sponberg Chair in Ethics)

Jacqueline A. Bussie – Executive Director, The Collegeville Institute, Collegeville, MN
(During the project: Professor of Religion and Director, Forum on Faith and Life, Concordia College (MN))

Jeffrey D. Carlson – Professor of Theology, Dominican University (IL)
(During the project: also Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs)

Rahuldeep Singh Gill (1979–2021) – Associate Professor of Religion, California Lutheran University

Katherine (Trina) Janiec Jones – Professor and Chair of Religion, Wofford College 
(During the project: also and Associate Provost for Curriculum & Co-Curriculum)

Rachel S. Mikva – Herman E. Schaalman Professor of Jewish Studies and InterReligious Institute Senior Faculty Fellow, Chicago Theological Seminary
(During the project: Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and Director, Center for Jewish, Christian and Islamic Studies, also at CTS)

Younus Y. Mirza – Project Director, Barzinji Project for International Collaboration to Advance Higher Education, Shenandoah University
(During the Project: Assistant Professor of Islam, Allegheny College)

Anantanand (Anant) Rambachan – Professor (now Emeritus) of Religion, Philosophy, and Asian Studies, St. Olaf College

Tracy W. Sadd – Formerly Chaplain and Executive Director for Purposeful Life Work and Ethical Leadership, Elizabethtown College

Matthew R. Sayers – Professor of Religion and Philosophy, Lebanon Valley College

Noah J. Silverman – Senior Director of Learning, Interfaith America
(During the project: Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships, Interfaith Youth Core)

Homayra Ziad – Senior Lecturer in Islamic Studies, Johns Hopkins University
(During the project: Scholar of Islam, Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies )

Contact Information

For additional information about the NetVUE Scholarly Resources Project, please contact Erin VanLaningham, the project’s director, by email at evanlaningham@cic.edu or by phone at (563) 588-7200.