Teaching Lived Interreligious Encounter in a Virtual COVID-19 World

Image from (Inter)Religious Literacy & Encounter in a COVID19 World site

Passengers stretched, yawned, and rustled in their seats as we taxied to the jetway at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. My flight just landed. The sounds of mobile phones toggling out of airplane mode with rings, dings, and clicks filling the stale cabin air. My phone buzzed. One text message caught my eye: “UST ALERT: St. Thomas announces it will start online classes on Monday, March 16th. Campus operations remain open. See e-mail from President Sullivan for details.”

Several days prior, on the last day of class before our spring break, I bid my students farewell and told them to consider preparing themselves for the possibility that we may not see each other after spring break and perhaps much longer. Our class moved and remained online for the duration of the spring semester.

For the looming summer and fall terms that were to come, I was scheduled to teach a handful of courses called “Interreligious Encounter.” The central learning experience in this course requires students to journey beyond the classroom, off-campus, and into the community to engage the lived religious diversity of our region. Indeed, it seemed that much of the world had moved online, including public encounters across diverse religious perspectives. Religious communities, houses of worship, and public spaces of encounter were now closed. Of course, as the world migrated to online mode, religion didn’t cease being lived nor did interreligious encounters stop cold. Major components of religious practice and interreligious encounter moved with the world to online spaces.

My students pivoted from engaging lived religious diversity in our local metro area to virtual opportunities for interreligious encounter in the United States and around the globe. The concrete outcome of their experiences culminated in the creation of an online public StoryMap that documents their public narratives and stories of encounter as they relate to interfaith leadership and virtues, appreciation and knowledge, and global dialogue.

By clicking the hyperlinked title below, you may browse this story-mapped collection of brief narratives and their accompanying links, images, videos, and audio.

“Inter(Religious) Literacy and Encounter in a COVID19 World”

Public Narratives & Stories from students at the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota)

Summer & Fall 2020

#Interfaith is a self-paced, online learning opportunity designed to equip a new generation of leaders with the awareness and skills to promote interfaith cooperation online. The curriculum is free to Interfaith America readers; please use the scholarship code #Interfaith100. #Interfaith is presented by IFYC in collaboration with ReligionAndPublicLife.org.


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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.