The development and impact of interfaith organizations and networks in the United States has become increasingly evident in the latter half of the twentieth century. Interfaith bodies color the landscapes of many of the nation’s largest cities, as well as suburban and rural areas, and they are varied in their make-up and purpose. With interfaith organizations or networks, it is crucial to recognize that each has a unique nature that both separates it from and joins it with other interfaith organizations, whether it is related to other interfaith organizations or not.
Through her research Lori Calmbacher, a student at Barnard College, hoped to identify the characteristics—the commonalities and differences—of these organizations in order to better classify them, with the long-term hope of better relating them to one another and strengthening the overall interfaith movement. At the time of this research, there was no systematic way for determining what constitutes an “interfaith” body, nor popularly understood centralized source(s) for finding or relating them to one another. “Worse yet,” Calmbacher wrote, “the vital energies of a rich plenitude of emerging interfaith bodies are often lost upon the lack of communication with and relationship to existing interfaith organizations.”
Through her research, Calmbacher intended to locate and categorize distinct characteristics of these bodies to add to the existing database of the Pluralism Project. Although there was a state-by-state map of the religious centers in given states, she sought to enhance the database through the consideration of categorizations of interfaith organizations, so as to guide the addition of new interfaith organizations and networks. Through analyzing existing data sources, conducting interviews, and creating a typological chart, Calmbacher hope to develop a framework for the informed development of a detailed list of interfaith organizations on a national scale.
Dr. Rachel McDermott was the faculty sponsor for this research.
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