The View From Holy Hill
The Graduate Theological Union’s multiple centers of learning give it the resources to face an interfaith future
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The phone rang just as Susan Hoganson, chair of the board of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley, California, was dashing out the door to a Palm Sunday service. It was one of her dearest friends, a Jewish woman with whom Hoganson has traveled the world.
During their brief conversation, Hoganson realized her highly educated friend, who was immersed in literature and art, had no idea what Palm Sunday was. “I said, ‘I’ll have to explain it to you,’” she remembers. And that became another chapter in ongoing interfaith conversations Hoganson regularly has.
“It’s more than learning about other religions,” she says. “It’s having the opportunity to talk with someone who practices a different faith and really understand what is important to them. And in some way it strengthens your own faith by understanding them.” That is the kind of dialogue that is at the heart of the Graduate Theological Union, a consortium of eight theological schools and more than a dozen research centers representing a variety of traditions, including Jewish, Hindu, Islamic, and Buddhist, among others. The consortium and most of its individual schools occupy Holy Hill, a neighborhood just north of the University of California’s flagship campus in Berkeley.