Rev. Arvid Straube – 2013 Recipient of Doctor of Divinity Honorary Degree

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Born in Nebraska, Arvid Straube earned a B.A. degree from Ball State University in 1975, an M.A. in Divinity from the University of Chicago Divinity School in 1978, and a Doctor of Ministry Degree from Meadville Lombard Theological School in 1979.  The title of his dissertation was Transcendentalism and the New Age:  The Inseparability of Spiritual Growth and Social Action.  The intersection between spiritual development and working for social change has been an abiding passion throughout his ministry.  Rev. Straube was ordained to the Unitarian Universalist ministry by the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, British Columbia in 1979.

Rev. Straube served as Associate Minister at the East Shore Unitarian Church in Bellevue, Washington for three years, before beginning a 21 year ministry at the Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Durham, North Carolina in 1983 .  He was that congregation’s first full time minister.  During that ministry, the congregation grew from 170 to over 700 members, built three new buildings, and helped found two new congregations.  During the 1980s Rev. Straube made three trips to Central America with the inter-faith group Witness For Peace, a group that witnessed and reported on the human cost of the U. S. sponsored wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador. He was active in a number of social justice causes, including working with an inter-faith coalition opposing a state constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage.

Rev. Straube has served as Lead Minister at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, a 725 member church founded in 1873.  During his ministry there, the church built a new community building and established a bi-lingual ministry at a second campus in Chula Vista, near the border with Mexico.  The church is very active as well in the struggle for marriage equality in California and for immigrant rights.

Rev. Straube has had a Buddhist meditation practice for 30 years.  He describes himself as well as a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth.

Commenting on what has motivated his long ministry, Rev. Straube said, “It breaks my heart that people have a chance to live a life of fulfillment, happiness, wisdom, and service and don’t take advantage of this precious opportunity.  I strongly believe that a full life is best lived in a religious community.  Our congregations heal lives so we can help heal the world.”

Meet Our 2013 Commencement Preacher

Riffat Hassan

Every year Meadville Lombard graduates and their families have the honor of hearing an amazing preacher –

and this year is no different. Meadville Lombard Theological School is thrilled to announce that the 2013 Commencement Preacher will be the inspiring Dr. Riffat Hassan. Dr. Hassan retired from a 33 year long career at the University of Louisville in 2009 where she taught Islamic Studies. However, Dr. Hassan taught the Quran in a way that shocked most Muslim and non-Muslim students – as a human rights document that calls for women’s equality. Even after her retirement, Dr. Hassan continues to spread this message through her organization the International Network for the Rights of Female Victims of Violence in Pakistan.

Dr. Riffat Hassan was born in Lahore in present-day Pakistan. She was educated at Cathedral High School, Anglican missionary school  and later attended St. Mary’s College at Durham University, where she studied philosophy and English. Dr. Hassan also received her PhD from Durham and her thesis on Muhammad Iqbal, one of the most important figures in Urdu Literature, became a catalyst for her life-long work.

After her schooling, Dr. Hassan returned home to Pakistan, where she found limited opportunities for women to teach in academic institutions. She then traveled to the United States and taught in a variety of American Institutions until she came to settle at the University of Louisville in 1976.

Dr. Hassan started her intensive study of the Quran in the 1970s. After a decade long research process she saw that, unlike Christian and Jewish texts, the Quran does not have a creation story that supports the concept of original sin. It also lacks the Adam and Eve rib story, which in the Judeo-Christian text is often used to symbolize a woman’s inferiority to men. Dr. Hassan’s studies have led her to the conclusion that the passages justifying the oppression of women are misinterpretations of Islamic words that have multiple roots and other meanings.

In her deep study of the Quran, Dr. Hassan saw another version of God, which she later reflected on in an essay: “The more I saw the justice and compassion of God reflected in the Quranic teachings regarding women, the more anguished and angry I became, seeing the injustice and inhumanity to which Muslim women, in general, are subjected in actual life.” It was this discovery that inspired Hassan to share her studies with Islamic scholars and has inspired many women around the world to see the Muslim faith differently – to feel empowered.

Dr. Riffat Hassan continues to work around the globe to educate activists, teachers, clerics, and many others to empower Muslim women.

Rissho Kosei-Kai Coming to Meadville Lombard!

Rev. Kosho Niwano, President-Designate of Rissho Kosei-Kai

Over the years, Meadville Lombard has developed a deep relationship with the Buddhist organization Rissho Kosei-Kai (RKK). RKK is a Buddhist tradition that combines the teachings of the Lotus Sutra and Shakyamuni Buddha.The principles of RKK are very close to those of our own UU ideals, RKK believes that “… Because everything is interconnected, when people devote themselves to benefiting all beings through harmony, they create awareness and develop a better world.” Founded in 1938 with only 30 members, RKK now has over 2 million member households worldwide. This is a partnership that truly helps the future of our faith.

For years we have been welcoming RKK students to campus and into community, with the hope of deepening our understanding and expanding our interfaith work. Earlier this year we welcomed Yoshiko Murakami, RKK Chicago Branch Leader, and Rev. Shoko Mizutani, Director of RKK International Dharma Missions Bureau, for a tour of our facility. This April, we have the honor of welcoming president-designate Rev. Kosho Niwano to the school.

Rev. Kosho Niwano recently published the book, The Buddha in Everyone’s Heart; Seeking the World of the Lotus Sutra (Purchase online). On April 24, Rev. Kosho will discuss her book at 5:30 PM, conduct a book signing, and then be available for questions and conversations at a reception hosted by Meadville Lombard. Register for this amazing event today!