About World Religions in Greater Boston

World Religions in Greater Boston (WRGB) is an orientation to diverse local faith communities. Its fifth edition was released online in 2009, making the resource is more inclusive and comprehensive than ever before. By integrating extensive maps and directory listings, introductory materials on religious traditions, and new multimedia elements, World Religions in Greater Boston is designed to educate and engage. In 2016, World Religions in Greater Boston was fully integrated into the Landscape section of the Pluralism Project’s website, pluralism.org.

Acknowledgements

Our sincere thanks to those who provided funding for World Religions in Greater Boston, including: the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; the Louisville Institute; the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation; and the Ford Foundation.

The fifth edition of this guide included the research and writing of interns in the summers of 2009 and 2007, as well as contributions by students and current senior staff. Each edition of World Religions in Boston builds on the work of previous researchers and contributors. The acknowledgments in the fourth edition includes a more extensive listing of key staff and students over the years. The 5th edition online version of World Religions in Greater Boston was designed by Sarabjot Kaur of Creative Stride, Inc. and was programmed by our Webmaster Ryan Overbey.

Finally, and most significantly, we would like to acknowledge the sustained and ongoing generosity of the religious communities of the Greater Boston area. Our sincere thanks to the countless individuals who have been our gracious hosts, learned teachers, and informed contributors. We also wish to recognize the leaders and members of interfaith organizations in Greater Boston who have provided us with both assistance and inspiration: you provide powerful examples of the value of education and engagement across the lines of difference.

History

From the beginning, Boston has been at the heart of the work of the Pluralism Project. In 1990, some 25 students joined Diana Eck for a course at Harvard University on “World Religions in New England.” By then, the increasing cultural diversity of the U.S. resulting from the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 had become noteworthy, but the religious dimension of that diversity often went unexamined. Each week, the class would divide into teams to visit religious communities in the Boston area and then meet to discuss what had been learned. From Sri Lakshmi Temple, located close to the starting point of the Boston Marathon, to New England’s first mosque, established in the shadows of the cranes of Quincy’s shipyards, we began to discover and document a religious landscape being transformed before our eyes. Out of this early research, the Pluralism Project was born; soon thereafter, the first edition of World Religions in Boston: A Guide to Communities and Resources was printed.

Based on our initial findings in Boston, we set out to investigate more broadly the changing religious landscape of other American cities, and to consider the implications of this more complex religious landscape for American public life. While this research led to the development of the CD-ROM On Common Ground: World Religions in America, the award-winning pluralism.org, and Diana Eck’s book A New Religious America, we also continued our study of Greater Boston. Here, in our own backyard, the religions of the world are in evidence. In Boston, we find innovative examples of interfaith engagement and challenging episodes of inter-religious conflict. Here, as elsewhere, it is clear that diversity alone does not constitute pluralism. Pluralism requires a degree of engagement with our diversity and the knowledge—both of others and of ourselves—that such engagement brings.

The next three editions of World Religions in Boston: A Guide to Communities and Resources were printed in the 1990s. By 1998, the first web version of World Religions in Boston was launched. In 2000, an updated and expanded guide was released as a complement to the International Institute of Boston’s photo exhibit on “Faithful Boston.” From 2000-2009, the interface remained largely unchanged; however, regular updates were made to the content of World Religions in Boston online.

The fifth edition, entitled World Religions in Greater Boston, was launched in the summer of 2009. This version included updated and expanded content, an elegant interface, and new maps and media elements. New content and regular updates will be ongoing. Rather than presenting a series of selective portraits of religious centers and communities, this version–and its directories and maps–aims to be more comprehensive.

Creating a more comprehensive resource raised the challenging question of how to define the outer limits of Greater Boston, an area that has expanded rapidly in recent decades, and that will only continue to grow. After much research into the range of definitions, we decided to use the Boston Globe’s subscription list of cities and towns of Greater Boston as a guide, supplemented by a list of Boston’s neighborhoods as found on Boston.gov. Centers outside of this geographic area may be found in our main directory on pluralism.org.

While the 2009 version is not available as a printed guide, this interface provided for ease of printing selected materials. To augment the educational value of this resource, introductory essays about each tradition from On Common Ground: World Religions in America (originally published by Columbia University Press in 1997) have been integrated as links into World Religions in Greater Boston.

In the religious landscape of Greater Boston, the only constant is change. We invite you to contribute to this resource by adding a new center or indicating an update to a center listing. We hope you find World Religions in Greater Boston to be a valuable resource. If you have comments or questions, please email us at staff@pluralism.org.


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