Founded as a PuritanThe Puritans were Christians who, in the sixteenth century, called for the purification of the Church of England from what they considered the vestiges of Roman Catholic hierarchy and practice. Like other Reformers, they stressed the authority of the Bibl... colony in 1636, Hartford, Connecticut is today home to over ten Buddhist templesBuddhist temples differ considerably from one another depending upon culture and particular school, but most are associated with the residence of the sangha of monks. Theravada temples focus on one or more images of Sakyamuni Buddha. In Mahayana and Vajra..., nearly fifteen synagoguesSynagogue, shul in Yiddish, is the most widely used term for a Jewish house of worship. Meaning a “place of gathering,” it is the central institution of Jewish communal life. The structure and role of synagogues has changed through the centuries, but ..., five Islamic centersAn Islamic center will typically include a mosque, school, and area for social and cultural activities. When a new Islamic center is being organized in the United States, attention is paid to community needs, including a weekend or full-time school, indic..., two Hindu templesA Hindu temple will be called a mandir in northern parts of India or a koyil in the south. There are many styles of temples and temple-complexes, but most temples are laid out according to precise dimensions and proportions and erected to be the symbolic ..., and one of the nation’s premier centers for Christian-Muslim relations: Hartford Seminary. A Christian seminary with Congregationalist roots, Hartford Seminary has made news in recent decades for becoming the first Christian seminary to name a Muslim to its core faculty. Just a few decades after its establishment in the mid-nineteenth century, Hartford Seminary became interested in Islamic culture as it sought to equip Christian missionaries for global encounters in the field. A century later, the Seminary is home to the Duncan Black MacDonald Center for the Study of IslamIslam in Arabic literally means “submitting” or “submission.” One who submits or surrenders his or her will to God is called a Muslim. While the whole of God’s creation is described as being inherently Muslim, human beings must choose whether to... and Christian-Muslim Relations and is nationally renowned for its training of Muslim chaplainsA chaplain is a member of the clergy who serves in a prison, a hospital, a college, or some other institution outside the context of the normal congregational life of a religious community. and for its interfaith programming that attracts students from around the world.
Around the same time the initial vision for the Seminary was taking shape, Jewish immigrants began arriving in the Hartford area. The first congregation, Beth IsraelLiterally “Wrestler with God”, Israel is the name given to the Jewish patriarch Jacob and came to refer to the entire nation, bound in an eternal covenant to God. Historically, Jews have continued to regard themselves as the continuation of the ancien..., was formed in 1843, although a synagogueSynagogue, shul in Yiddish, is the most widely used term for a Jewish house of worship. Meaning a “place of gathering,” it is the central institution of Jewish communal life. The structure and role of synagogues has changed through the centuries, but ... was not built until 1876 and only after the growing Jewish community petitioned for the right to do so. The community continued to grow throughout the early to mid-twentieth century as many Jews fled Russia and Nazi-held Germany and settled in West Hartford which remains a hub for many of the area’s diverse synagogues and Jewish organizations. Today, Congregation Beth Israel is one of the largest Reform templesA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... in the Northeast, with over 900 member families.
Members of Hartford’s PaganThe term “pagan” (from the Latin paganus) originally meant “peasant” or “country dweller.” For many Pagans, the term suggests a life lived close to the land. Today, nature spirituality is an important thread in contemporary Paganism. Some Paga... community have undertaken more recent lobbying efforts. In 2008, a group began petitioning the state legislature to acknowledge and pardon their ancestors who were put to death for practicing witchcraft long before the infamous Salem Witch Trials. These requests for posthumous pardons in Connecticut have largely gone answered. The Connecticut Witch and Pagan Network has been a public voice in this struggle, despite the fact that many Pagan groups, both in Hartford and around the nation, still face concerns over discrimination, often preferring to meet privately and remain unlisted. In February 2013, however, members of the Connecticut Witch and Pagan Network joined more than 40,000 others across the nation in demanding an apology from Tucker Carlson, editor in chief of Fox News’ The Daily Caller, for the disparaging remarks about WiccaWicca is the name of one of the major streams of contemporary American Paganism. It is a form of religious witchcraft, sometimes simply called the Craft. Many Wiccans in America today call themselves “witches,” claiming the name under which women and ... Carlson made on air. A few days later, Carlson issued an apology.
Diversity, both ethnic and religious, has grown exponentially and “bubbled to the surface” in recent decades as newcomers have made their home in Hartford. Vietnamese immigrants established the Hai An PagodaPagoda was originally the Portuguese term used to refer to Buddhist stupas, or reliquary towers. Such towers may contain a relic of the Buddha, or some other treasured item, such as sutras. Buddhist center in 1979. Hartford KarmaKarma means action and the consequences of action, both in the world and for oneself. It is important in the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain traditions where rebirth is presupposed and karma shapes one’s ongoing life. Every action leaves an imprint. In the Ja... Thegsum Choling, a center within the Karma KagyuThe Kagyu School is one of four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu, and Gelug. Durin. the 11th century, the Kagyu school emerged, founded by the great Indian tantric master Naropa, brought to Tibet by the translator Marpa, and solidi... Tibetan Buddhist lineage, was established in 1997. In 2013, Dae Yen Sa International Buddhist TempleBuddhist temples differ considerably from one another depending upon culture and particular school, but most are associated with the residence of the sangha of monks. Theravada temples focus on one or more images of Sakyamuni Buddha. In Mahayana and Vajra... and MeditationMeditation is the disciplined practice of quieting and focusing the mind or cultivating the heart’s attention. Different meditation practices commend focusing attention on a word, a prayer, a form, or the breath as a way of practice. Meditation is commo... Center celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in New Hartford, an event that included the ordinationOrdination means consecration to a priestly or monastic life. The term is used in the Buddhist tradition for the rites of becoming a monk (bhikkhu) or nun (bhikkhuni); in the Jewish tradition for the rites of becoming a rabbi; and in the Christian traditi... of two Buddhist monksA monk is a man who renounces worldly life and is ordinarily a member of a monastic order or community, thereby undertaking a special commitment to study, service, asceticism, prayer, or disciplined spiritual practice. In the Buddhist tradition, fully ord.... Hartford is also home to Sun-do DaoistThe Daoist tradition incorporates a highly diverse range of philosophical, religious, and folk values and practices, all of which share a concern for realigning human life so that it is in better accord with the natural rhythms of the universe. Symbols of... Center and a Spanish-speaking Shin Buddhist community, Asamblea de la Fe Budista.
Bosnian refugees began arriving to the area in the 1990s and, by 2004, had founded the Bosnian-American Islamic Society. That same year, several of the Hartford mosquesMasjid (plural masajid) in Arabic means “place of prostration,” or the place where Muslims bow in prayer; in English, this word has become “mosque.” A masjid contains a prayer hall in which there is a mihrab or prayer niche, and a minbar or pulpit... joined with Muslims in Waterbury and Berlin, Connecticut to form the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut, a non-profit dedicated to providing quality education about Islam, involving youth in the community, promoting social action, and working with communities of different faiths. In 2012, the Coalition hosted “In the Footsteps of Abraham” event in nearby Glastonbury to foster conversation among Christians, Jews, and Muslims.
Today, Hartford’s Puritan founders would no doubt be surprised by the city’s visible religious diversity and shocked by the ways in which Hartford Seminary, a Christian institution and one of the city’s oldest residents, is finding innovative ways to promote understanding between residents and a multireligious and global student body. Perhaps they would find even more striking the ways in which the presence—and leadership—of Buddhist, Jewish, Pagan, and Muslim communities, in particular, are shaping the religious and civic landscape of the city.