Video: Information Session for Religious Resources for Living Beyond Crisis Program

April 29, 2021
Religious Resources for Living Beyond Crisis
Religious Resources for Living Beyond Crisis begins June 6.

This session is of interest to anyone considering attending the HDS Executive Education Program—Religious Resources for Living Beyond Crisis—being held virtually June 6 through June 10.

Our Faculty Director, Charlie Hallisey, walked through the program’s themes and Laura Tuach explained the purpose and goals of the Meaning Making sessions.


ALISON HARVEY: All right. Well, why don't we get started. So welcome, everyone. I'm Alison Harvey, and I will be your host really for today, as we go through an information session and overview of our program coming out, Religious Resources for Living Beyond Crisis. So I'll say good morning, good afternoon, good evening wherever you are. My job as the program manager is to ensure that all participants are prepared and have a terrific experience attending our program.

I'll be your primary contact, your point of contact from the beginning to the end. And I just want to make sure that you feel very comfortable when you're getting ready to attend the program. And you may have seen Amie Montemurro. She's our senior communications officer, and she's our Zoom host today. And if you like what you hear today, I encourage you to apply soon. Our deadline is Friday, May 28th, but we accept participants on a rolling basis. And I anticipate that we'll have a wait list at that point.

This session's being recorded, and we're providing closed captioning. You should have a button on your screen. You can turn it on, if you wish to have captioning on. And now I'm going to introduce our faculty director, Charlie Hallisey and Laura Tuach. Charlie is the Yehan Numata Senior Lecturer on Buddhist Literatures at HDS and at HDS MDiv. That's master's in divinity graduate.

This academic year, he's been lecturing on Buddhist ethics, Buddhist literature, and theravada, which means way of the elders. That's theravada Buddhism, which is practiced in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. His most recent book is Theravada: Poems of the First Buddhist Women.

Reverend Laura Tuach is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ and also an HDS MDiv graduate. You'll see a theme here. She has served in parish ministry, nonprofits, and now the Assistant Director of Field Education and a lecturer of ministry at HDS. She works closely with the MDiv students to help them find and excel in their field study assignments, which can take them far beyond the HDS campus. She's also the instructor of the course called Meaning Making, where she helps students learn to serve according to their highest ideals, ethics, values, and faith commitments.

So now I'd like to turn it over to Charlie who will walk us through the program design and the themes for each day.

CHARLIE HALLISEY: Thank you, Alison. When we look back to a year ago, we can't help but remember how the world and our world seemed to shut down. The Covid-19 pandemic forced each of us to change our lives and livelihoods in ways both small and profound. Now as vaccines are distributed and we slowly start to reopen, we should and can ask ourselves, what have we learned. What have we lost? What will life look like on the other side of the pandemic?

These are questions that might best be addressed with others to help each of us to live up to the challenges that are ahead. It's with this in mind that we invite you to join us online this June for our new program at Harvard Divinity School, Religious Resources for Living Beyond Crisis. In this four-day workshop, we will explore together some of the possible religious resources to help us learn from what has happened and to prepare to make meaning of the many injustices the pandemic revealed. We will also turn our attention to the interlocking and ongoing issues of climate change and global inequality and explore ways to personally integrate and respond to these challenges.

We will start with a short introductory session on Sunday night. Monday through Thursday will consist of half day sessions, where some of our faculty will introduce ways how the spiritual, moral, and historical lessons of the world's religious traditions can help us both to understand our global predicament and to create new ways of responding to it.

Professor David Carrasco on Monday will ask us to explore the significance of the intentional act of remembering and the human necessity and importance of such remembering in these times of ours. This exploration will focus on remembering the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas in 2019. And Professor Carrasco will do this session together with the artist Ellen Elmes, who has painted large murals remembering the victims of this mass shooting.

Professor Terry Tempest Williams will give us an opportunity to explore how bearing witness is not a passive act, but one of conscience and consequence. To not avert our gaze from all that is breaking our hearts can become a generative practice that invites us to engage with hard things, rather than withdraw from them. Writing is another form of bearing witness. Participants in this session with Professor Williams will be given time to write and share a short piece, as we bear witness to the pause of this pandemic that is now taking place.

Dean Melissa Bartholomew will turn our attention to how we can contribute to restorative justice, to heal the wounds of the world that we inherit. Restorative justice is a pathway to racial justice that operationalizes values of love, empathy, compassion, and interdependence and can create conditions for healing and forgiveness to manifest. One of the main concerns of this session on Wednesday, will be exploring together what it means to live restoratively.

In the last session on Thursday, Professor John Brown and myself will ask us to explore together how we can open ourselves to new possibilities. And we can turn our individual and collective attention to find and perhaps even to create unexpected breakthroughs, the ones that we need for the change and innovation that these times demand.

These presentations and large group discussions will be followed by small facilitating meaning making breakout sessions, where participants will discuss what they heard and reflect on what it means to them personally. And my colleague, Laura Tuach, will introduce these next.

LAURA TUACH: Well, thank you, Charlie. And thank you, Alison. A warm welcome to you. We're excited for you to explore our program, Religious Resources for Living Beyond Crisis. And we hope if this appeals to you, that you'll apply and join us in June. Throughout this program, participants engage in what we like to call meaning making sessions. These small group meetings are integral to the program. It really sets this program apart from other educational executive education programs.

They are designed to be a time to process the course content and integrate it with your personal reasons and intentions for enrolling in a program at Harvard Divinity School. It's an opportunity to share what's on your heart and minds in relationship to the content that you hear in the lectures early in the afternoon. It's also an opportunity to engage in respectful conversation with a smaller subset of the participants. It's the same group of people throughout the week, so bonds can tend to develop and go deeper with each day.

So this time in the program is a time of integration, and as Charlie said, it's a time to reflect, a time to process the content and discover how it's impacting you personally. So it's a time to experience it, how you feel about it, what you think about it, and what's stirring in your heart and mind, spirit and imagination related to the topics.

The meaning making group sessions are facilitated by experts, who are graduates of the HDS Master of Divinity program. Each facilitator has extensive experience working with small groups in this way and really finds it a privilege to sit with people in these small groups. So we hope you will find it a time to find ways to bring what you learn in the program back into your lives, once you've completed the program.

So that's a little bit about the meaning making sessions, and Alison also asked me to speak about what we call the optional spiritual practices, which start each day at 12:30. And while I say optional, I think we had 99% attendance in the last couple of programs. People really committed to coming to these half an hour practices at the start of each day. It's a time of grounding, a time to shut down all the other windows that are open on the screen, turn off the phone and really engage in a practice that helps you to be more open and present to learning and to listen to your own spirit throughout the program.

So you'll see on the schedule that our first practice is on movement. So it'll be in body practice. We move through a contemplative prayer, a Buddhist meditation practice. And on Thursday, we celebrate with an Afro Cuban folklore dance practice before the lecture on innovating and changing. You're welcome to turn your camera off at any time during these practices. But really encourage folks to attend, especially since they're led by some of our best Master of Divinity and Master of Theological Studies students.

So that's a special treat for the participants in this program. Alison, back to you.

ALISON HARVEY: Thank you, Laura. I want to make sure that you had some important information, if you don't already have it. As I had mentioned before, applications are due. The deadline is Friday, May 28, but I anticipate that if you wait that long, you'll be on the wait list. Once you start the program, it begins on Sunday evening on June 6 for an hour. This is more of an icebreaker to get to know one another and know what's coming up for the week ahead.

And then the daily programs run, if you want to attend the optional extra practices, those start at 12:30. But you can come in a little bit early. And then we go up until 4 o'clock, where we wrap up and just plan for the next day. And that goes from Monday to Thursday. It's the same layout and plan for each day, however the topics vary. And once you're accepted, you'll be receive-- you would receive a invite to what's called Canvas, that's our course site. And that would provide all the readings that you will ideally complete before you start the program. If you wait and try to do them day by day, it will be difficult for you to keep up and enjoy your the experience. So I highly recommend that you do all the readings ahead of time and then just go back and refresh your memory for each day as it comes.

So my contact information is what Amie just posted in chat and my email address. And you can visit our website, which is And you can click on academics and go to the continuing executive ed link. One thing I also wanted to share with you, Amie, if you just want to move to the next slide. One of the past participants, this is Christopher Kennedy, shortly after he finished the program last year, he sat down and wrote an article about what his experience was like. And it was terrific. He did a fantastic job, I thought, describing what the experience is like. And he called it Listening: a Harvard Divinity Moment. And he said, how can I listen to you without thinking about me. And that resonated. I got a lot out of that. I thought that was amazing.

And this picture here is a picture of the journal that we mailed out. Each participant will get a copy or get a journal, a Harvard Divinity journal, with some pens and a note welcoming you to the program. This will be mailed to your home. And this is a key part of the meeting making session, as Laura had talked about. After you hear these lectures, you may be familiar with some of the content and may be the first time you've ever heard of any of this. We encourage you to write and document your thoughts and then keep on going. And maybe this is a simple thing for you, but we've had participants who have never done any journaling before or any sharing in a small group conversation. And so it's a very powerful time for them to carve out four days out of their busy lives to invest in yourself and in your future.

So I think at this point, Amie just put in the link to that article by Christopher Kennedy that's out on LinkedIn. And I think we have time now, we can just open it up to for Q&A. So let's take a look and see what we've got.

OK. What will be the cost of the course? It's $1,600. And we also get-- often get a question on whether we offer financial assistance. And for our executive education programs, we don't. We do for our graduate school students, but we don't provide it for executive ed. And so that's $1,600.

And, let's see, will it be only in person or also on Zoom? So this is going to be virtual. We would love to have you back on campus, and we plan to do that for 2022. But this will be fully virtual. So you will, in the course site that you receive the invitation to, not only will you receive your readings, but you'll see the links to the Zoom sessions. And there will be one for the optional spiritual exercises and then one for the lectures. And then you'll break out into breakout rooms for your meaning making sessions.

We typically have about 27 people. It might be a little bit larger this year. We break out into groups of no more than nine participants in those meaning making groups.

Oh, I saw a note, a question about, is there certificate of completion. Yes. You'll receive-- I wish I had a copy here of one-- but you would receive in the mail, a nice, suitable for framing certificate of completion.

Is the cost due in one payment and when? We would need the full payment before the program starts. And you can pay that in multiple payments up until that point. We accept credit card, transfer from a checking account. But all the full payment is required before the program starts.

There is a question here. Do you have a profile of the participant most likely to benefit from the program? I like to think we fall into four categories of the typical participants. And they come from all walks of life. But they're usually the first type of participant would be one who's meant to senior level in an organization, and they're looking to be a more purposeful leader with perspective.

The second would be what I call the rewirer. They have had a fantastic career. They're looking for something to do different. They have enough energy and interest to start another career, but they're not sure what that's going to be. They know it's not what they've just been doing. So they're on a journey.

The third is our ministers. Of course, we have a number of alumni who have attended in the past our various programs. But there are ministers who are looking for a respite or a place to reenergize.

And then I'd like to think we have the lifelong learner. These are just people who are perpetually curious, and they would love to come for our program. And they do. We've-- I think our ages have ranged from 28 to 81 and 1/2. But who's counting that half? And we've had real estate developers. We've had attorneys, physicians. Of course, we do get the ministers. But it's a pretty wide-- authors, artists-- a wide variety.

So last year when we went remote, that was our first time. And there's a question about what was that experience like. I think it worked out really well. First of all, it was a lot easier for people to attend. Our other program if you're not familiar, is called Making Change. And that's a four day on campus program, full time, eight to seven, eight to eight, for four days. But you have to pay for your room accommodations and your travel to get to Cambridge. When we have the virtual, obviously, that's not an issue. And so I think that made it-- we had a really interesting group of people who attended last year.

And even though we were disappointed we couldn't run Making Change, I think it turned out to be really terrific. I don't know if Laura, you experienced it, if you'd like to add anything.

LAURA TUACH: I was hoping that you'd call on me, because I was going to jump in and say that it was fantastic. It was really rich learning and content, but also the bonds that were formed over the four days were really deep and really meaningful. It's amazing what good facilitation can do for creating what feels like a very intimate experience. And I think given the state of the world last June, and even this June coming, more and more people are hungry for spaces where they can begin to process and make sense of where we've been and where we're headed.

And as we all know, making meaning takes time and is a process that we'll be engaged in for many years to come. But this is a chance to start sharing with others what you've been thinking about and feeling since the beginning of the pandemic and the racial reckoning that's been happening in this country. This program enables the space have some of those conversations. So it's amazing what we can do online. So I would say it was really fantastic.

ALISON HARVEY: Those meaning making groups that form, the seven to nine people in each one of the groups, have continued their conversations past the end of our program and have remained. Some of them are still going, still connected to one another.

So is there an application fee? No. There's no application fee. It's just a $1,600, and that covers all the sessions and majority of the readings. There are probably going to be a few books that you'll need to purchase, just because of the amount of reading. We can't provide a subset of it for you for copyright reasons. So you'll need to purchase it. But there will only be a few of those, if they fall into that category. We're still finalizing that, and it'll be clear on the Canvas site in the course site, once you have access to that.

I think there's a question about the size, and we've touched on that a little bit, but I'd say probably be around 27 people. And we'll have the three facilitators. Their names and photos are included on our website. And once you get into the Canvas site, you'll see the bios of them. But Laura has handpicked them. And so we are really looking forward to them joining us.

All right. So here's someone who is saying, in person 2019, Making Change was the most transformative four days she's ever, he or she, has ever experienced, especially with the small groups. Have made friends for life from that experience, and it changed my life. But the online program last year was really well done and also exceedingly meaningful.

So thank you. Thank you for that, for those kind words.

And I just saw another question coming up. How soon would you hear whether you've accepted. Typically, we turn the review-- so Charlie, Laura, and I each review each application and make a decision together on acceptance. And once that's-- typically, that takes about a week for it to cycle through, for us to meet and make a decision. So you can anticipate an answer no further out than two weeks. And so I saw I do have some applications that have been submitted, and we'll be reviewing those tomorrow. And you can anticipate an acknowledgment and decision communicated at the end of this week.

We do have days for Making Change next year. It will be this first week of, full week of June, 5th through the 9th, I believe it is. And we will be on campus for that. If as God is my witness.

LAURA TUACH: God willing.

ALISON HARVEY: God willing. So the creek don't rise. I think we'll all be here.

CHARLIE HALLISEY: The program is not only meant for people who wish to work on the American racial issues. It's a broad spectrum of preparing for the future ahead us. And so racial issues is just one of the things that will be taken up. And people can bring other issues that they want to invite other people to think together with, in terms of addressing for the future.

ALISON HARVEY: I see the comment, God and Dr. Fauci. Yes. I think I would say one thing about attention. When you attend the program, really we do require your focus. And there are so many other distractions, especially when you're at home. So I encourage you, if you have intentions to attend, apply now and then think about how you're going to be creating that sacred space for yourself in your current environment to be able to make the most of the program, to be fully attentive, to be listening, contribute to the conversations, do your journaling and sharing and your meaning making, and also attend those optional spiritual exercises.

If anyone else has any other questions, you know how to reach me. You've got my contact information. Happy to talk with you more about the program, answer any questions that you have. And I look forward to seeing your application and wish you well for the rest of the day. And thank you for your time. I appreciate it.

LAURA TUACH: Thank you very much.