Seminary president envisions expanded role for church

In The Lively Morningside Heights Section of New York City, Union Theological Seminary, founded in 1836 and in its present location since 1910, rises like an incongruous Gothic fortress in the dank drizzle of the early morning on the last day of January. Inside the chilly, gray lobby, paned-glass windows look out onto a vast central courtyard, surprisingly verdant amid the imposing architecture and dark, labyrinthine halls and stairways.

If the medieval-style buildings seem incongruous in the middle of modern-day New York City, inside the walls of Union Theological Seminary a breath of fresh air is blowing. My first indication of this comes, when in the waiting area, I discover fliers inviting visitors and students to Zen Mediation courses, and to a workshop for a Muslim, Christian, and Jewish Trialogue.

Dr. Joseph Hough, president of the seminary, chats about the architecture and leads me into a spacious office. The gray rain underscores the feeling of being in the inner santum of an Oxford don. But any impressions of Old World atmosphere quickly dissipate once the conversation get rolling. It's clear that this is present-day New York City, as our topic turns to the state of the 21st century Church and its future.

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In her true light...
March 4, 2002

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