What is the Local Religion Project?
The Local Religion Project (LRP) supports teaching and research on the many and diverse religions in Silicon Valley. Established in 2003, LRP is a program of the Religious Studies Department at Santa Clara University.
San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin
LRP was designed to:
Establish relationships with religious and civic leaders in the region;
Document an estimated 1,500 local faith communities and organizations;
Study the ways in which religion’s intersections with distinctive features in the Valley—e.g. globalization, immigration, and religious diversity—make this region’s religious landscape unique;
Develop curriculum and pedagogy to engage students in the study of religion through community-based learning.
What is LRP currently doing?
LRP is in a start up phase, developing research strategies and opportunities, sponsoring programs, establishing relationships with religious and civic leaders in the region, assessing needs in the community, and exploring ways to collaborate with others within Santa Clara University and at institutions in the wider Bay Area. Santa Clara University grants supported initial documentation on local congregations and organizations, LRP course development, and the Spring 2008 series, Valley of the Gods: Religious Encounters in the Bay Area. We have an undergraduate research program that since 2004 has engaged students in field work in more than sixty local congregations and organizations.
During 2007-2008 academic year LRP is developing grant proposals to foundations to provide funding to develop these explorations and first steps, and to begin work on collaboration with universities in the region as well as nationally. Among our interests is collaboration with institutions in other regions of the country on research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students as well as a post-doctoral fellows program.
LRP Research Programs
LRP sponsors research programs on the local area. Three are underway: a study of religious diversity in faith-based secondary education, a Diaspora studies project focused on African communities, and a comparative study of contemplative practices in the region.
LRP Campus Programs
LRP works with local congregations and organizations and Santa Clara faculty to develop campus programs. The 2005-06 academic year, for example, included these offerings: Ramadan/Tishri, a series tied to the convergence of Muslim and Jewish holy days (Fall); The Hajj in Comparative Perspective: Pilgrimage around the Globe panel (Winter); Hold Your Breath, a film screening and panel on religious diversity and medical institutions, and Comparative Contemplative Practice: Buddhist-Catholic Dialogue on Meditation and the Transformation of Suffering, which emerged from a research program now underway (Spring).
Why Santa Clara University?
As the oldest university in California, Santa Clara's roots are intertwined with the Valley's history. The University's professional schools, academic departments, and centers engage the community through partnerships with local leaders and organizations. Alumni hold positions locally in corporate, government, non-profit, and education sectors. Echoing Jesuit Superior General Kolvenbach's call for "education of whole persons of solidarity in the real world," the university's mission promotes community-based learning. More than twenty full-time faculty in the department of religious studies provide the disciplinary and methodological expertise necessary to study the region's complex religious landscape.
What makes LRP unique?
Research centers have been established along similar lines at universities across the country in recent years, and several have grown into important resources for the study of religion-e.g. Harvard University's Pluralism Project, USC's Center for Religion and Civic Culture, and Boston College's Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life. LRP will grow along similar lines, offering local communities and schools understanding the varied and rich religious life of our area, and providing colleagues across the nation a model for studying religion in their local communities.
To learn more about LRP, please contact David Gray, LRP Director, Religious Studies Dept., Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA 95053 (408 554 4343; )