OneSpirit Interfaith Foundation History
Diverse religious leaders uniting to serve humanity
The impulse for this specific work began in the 1970’s, arising in tandem with other world-wide movements to inspire compassionate expressions of human and all sentient life. The catalyst for this particular field of work was the Holocaust during the Second World War. In facing this atrocity, a group of diverse religious leaders in the USA – including a Rabbi Gelberman – enquired into what it was that they might do if they united their leadership influence. From the start the impulse was therefore not so much centred on dialogue between different faith paths. Instead the focus was on the power and usefulness that their shared leadership influence could bring to attend to the suffering of the world, were they to face in the same direction.
Out of this Rabbi Gelberman, with the support of other religious and spiritual leaders, opened a school in New York in 1979, The New Seminary, with the pioneering purpose of training and ordaining interfaith ministers.
THE FIRST TEN YEARS:
Pioneering the existence of interfaith ministry in the UK
In the mid 1990’s the founder of our UK organisation, Miranda Macpherson (then Holden) undertook the USA training. With the support of the USA school and others, Miranda was inspired to open The New Seminary in the United Kingdom. The first two year programme to train interfaith ministers and spiritual counsellors was launched in October 1996 in London, initiating a process of spiritual enquiry and healing that continues today, leading its candidates into their own unique expression of ‘facing the world’ in service.
With support Miranda pioneered the development of the first ten years of our organisation’s work, formally and bravely establishing the new concept of interfaith training and ministry in the UK and Europe, whilst deepening the teaching curriculum in powerful ways. In 2002 we changed our name to The Interfaith Seminary, echoing changes taking place within our colleagues in the USA. In 2004 we became a registered charity, operating under English law as an educational trust. Miranda left the organisation in 2006, emigrating to the USA, successfully evolving her teaching work both there and in other parts of the world.
THE NEXT TEN YEARS:
Evolving philosophical concepts of ‘the teacher’ and ‘the ordination’
When the founder leaves change is inevitable as the organisation wobbles and recalibrates its position and potential. This period could be described as the democratising of our organisation: the leadership base widened, most clearly evidenced in the training being offered now not only in London but in Manchester, Edinburgh and near Gloucester too. This meant, most significantly, that the teaching was now led by more than one central teacher. In this period we learnt – literally and symbolically – that the essence of the teaching that this training was expressing was not dependent on any one person, and that it could be delivered authentically and in ever-evolving ways by a cohesive faculty working in different parts of the UK. In parallel the conceptual underpinnings of ordination made a significant shift. In essence the ordination was no longer conferred by the single central teacher. Instead the individual ordinand steps forward into a period of silence, receiving their ordination as an inner and self-directed movement.
During this second half of our history, in 2011, we changed our name to One Spirit Interfaith Foundation, indicating our wish to maintain connection with our USA colleagues as they too evolved their identity. It also signalled that we no longer saw ourselves as only a seminary given that our organisation now included a growing community of graduate ministers.
Opening our doors and crossing the threshold as one ‘school’
The OneSpirit Interfaith Foundation is now a living field of circles within circles including faculty, trustees, mentors, staff, supervisors, students, post-graduate students, all our ministers, resonant fellow colleagues in similar organisations, clients of our ministers, and the family and friends of all our ministers.
The Foundation is developing its expression of being one ‘school’, stewarding a field of inspiration that expresses itself in different ways:
- the ever evolving development of the two year training and its credibility and profound purpose
- an evolving post graduate programme
- the development of supportive conditions to inspire our graduate ministers in the grounding and living expression of their service
- the evolution of a learning organisation that develops internally in ways that are congruent with what it teaches
- the presence of an organisation in the world that is welcoming of collaboration and development with partners in the wider world, building an ever-growing capacity for the evolution of consciousness at this time
Read more about the training offered here