Alt*Div is...

In 2016 a group of artists, activists, entrepreneurs, and community organizers came together to build a community-centered, self-directed alternative to divinity school.

It's an alternative in several ways. First, it's been formed at the grassroots and is not tied to one institution. Second, it's for the religiously nonaffiliated, the devout, as well as those who draw from multiple wisdom traditions. Third, it's up to us, and the outside communities and mentors we bring together, to plan what our learning looks like, to hold ourselves accountable to doing it, and to harvest the lessons learned and celebrate milestones with others. 

Through all this, we're uncovering a rich learning landscape for the people, communities, and institutions interested in re-imagining spiritual formation in a changing world.

We're here because...

New generations of leaders need relevant learning communities.
Spiritual leadership, community building, and care are being done by a lot of people who aren't what you'd expect― they aren't rabbis, nuns, ministers, or yoga teachers.

As the nones on the rise phenomenon continues, many religiously unaffiliated individuals are creating new ways of community and meaning-making. These leaders are essentially ministers and chaplains by another name, but what does training for them look like?

We've got one foot in the ancient, and one in the emergent.
To build a healthy ecosystem of theological education in the 21st century, we need the wisdom of both traditional institutions and innovators at the edges. Alt*Div is seeding a learning exchange across these different communities.

Our world is in moral and spiritual crisis.
There is a deep rupture in American society, and it's not because of politics or ideology. We're more alone and less connected to what matters (and to each other) than ever. It's the root of our many accelerating crises―social, political, economic, ecological. But none of these divides will heal if we don't start with ourselves.

We need to build communities that can hold the weight of difference, the pain of oppression, and the depth of humanity―and we don't think there's a shortcut.

Authentic, human-rooted leadership will get us there; but we need to build a better leadership pipeline.

If you're building a world in which:

"Community ministry" can look like many things...
The thread that seems to run through everything you do is a quest for human connection and belonging. You have worked hard to create ways for this to happen, and you are yearning to find ways to support your own learning and growth on this journey. Perhaps you have thought about actually going to divinity school, formal ministry, or counseling, but you are not sure these are the right paths for you.

Spiritual pluralism is a core value...
Many don't identify with just one spiritual home. Whether raised in multiple faiths, distanced from their own tradition, or drawn to the cracks between affiliations; alt*divvers view such non-traditional identities as a strength, not an add-on.

Pursuit of justice = spiritual leadership...
We live in a world built on intersecting systems of oppression. In order to build cultures of courage, care, and wholeness, we must see the direct relationship between spiritual formation and the pursuit of justice.

Practical learning is in the books and on the ground...
There are artists, entrepreneurs, and movement builders who are already doing work in the world. They are seeking to integrate that work fully into their learning journey, instead of adding isolated "coursework" on top.

...then Alt*Div might be for you.

 

Meet the Alt*Div crew of '16-17

Our inaugural group are already powerful as soulful community builders in their respective communities—whether through movement, improv, music, counseling, learning, or more.

Stephanie Ryan Johnstone

Composer, Sex Educator,
Queer Rights Lover-Fighter

Adam Horowitz

Chief Instigator, U.S. Department of Arts and Culture

Ashleigh Shepherd

Movement teacher, exploring what it means to be human through dance, yoga, and play. Student of children.

David Bronstein

Cultural healer through music and counseling. David's Open Master's Learning Plan.

Cole Parke

Tender-hearted organizer, activist, dreamer, and schemer, fighting for collective liberation and revolutionary grace.

Brittany Koteles

Soulful improviser & script-flipper, dabbling filmmaker, writer, host.

David Sievers

Exploring existential dread by way of climate activism, cycling, and dad jokes. 

Mildred Williams

Carrying forward the hopes and struggles of her ancestors.

Lily Padilla

Learner, Writer, Healer, Organizer.

Devin Karbowicz

Social psychologist turned community builder using art and play to connect strangers in novel ways.

Neha Misra

Artist, Poet, Social Entrepreneur connecting dots across inner and outer geographies. 

Marien Baerveldt

Social entrepreneur, learner, facilitator in meaning making and way finding, gardener. More.

Alan Webb

Co-founder and steward of the Open Master’s Community. More.

Mojdeh Rezaeipour

Artist, Writer, Storyteller. Instigator of Creative Communities. More.

Priya Parrotta

Writer, Singer, Lifelong Learner. More.

Veena Vasista

Scribe, Storyteller, Bridge, Mirror. Co-Creating Love, Beauty and Play.

Ruth Moir

Community Creator, Questioner, Kindness champion, Learner, Deep Listener & Belly Laugher. 

Riley Teahan

Designer, Director, and Producer, interested in the tactile and the ephemeral.

Sarah Jane Bradley

Co-founder, creative director, and steward of the Open Master's. Plays with design, words, songs, cities.

 

 
Use Open Master's tools to invite big questions and self-listening as a foundation. Engage in curated conversations with peer mentors from the alt*div community. A series of welcome calls in July introduce the participants, centering on purpose, questions, and community norms.

Use Open Master's tools to invite big questions and self-listening as a foundation. Engage in curated conversations with peer mentors from the alt*div community. A series of welcome calls in July introduce the participants, centering on purpose, questions, and community norms.

Participants launch their year with the support, celebration, and accountability of the group. Major touchstones include monthly all-community meetings, theme-specific meetups and projects, and ongoing publication through our Medium page.

Participants launch their year with the support, celebration, and accountability of the group. Major touchstones include monthly all-community meetings, theme-specific meetups and projects, and ongoing publication through our Medium page.

 
AUGUST: A one-week process of translating purpose to action; goals to plans. Because we recognize this community to be a major source of support and accountability, significant time is invested into the relationships, shared interests, and common values of the group.

AUGUST: A one-week process of translating purpose to action; goals to plans. Because we recognize this community to be a major source of support and accountability, significant time is invested into the relationships, shared interests, and common values of the group.

Harvesting learnings as a gift for the larger community. Ritual to acknowledge the year, support and tools to sustain the learning, and opportunity to welcome the next cohort of leaders.

Harvesting learnings as a gift for the larger community. Ritual to acknowledge the year, support and tools to sustain the learning, and opportunity to welcome the next cohort of leaders.

Our year together will be bookended by a closing and opening gathering, sustained through a rhythm of monthly meetings, peer-led workshops, guest interviews, mentor circles, and more.

Together

  • Opening + Closing Gathering
  • Monthly Family Calls and "Harvests"
  • "On-Being"-style guest interviews
  • Smaller groups and teams self-organized for specific projects or topics

Individually

  • Learning Plans
  • Sacred Texts & other reading
  • Mentorship
  • Solo Journey

 

Who Is Responsible?

While The Open Master's provides a frame for people to adapt and build upon together, such as some organizing principles, resources, partnerships, and experience in self-directed learning; each person has the power to determine their own experience, as well as equity in what we create together and how we work, play, and make decisions.

Read more about the year:

From forward-looking theologians on the margins, to the long-standing institutions who are building (and searching for) new models, to people who want a world with spiritually-grounded leaders―the future of theological education needs all of us.

You can help us connect the dots.

  1. Support our storytelling efforts, helping us both share our learnings and contribute to the conversation at large. Sponsor our Medium page, our end-of-year publication, or a public event in your area around a theme we're exploring.
  2. Sponsor current and future Alt*Div leaders by funding scholarships, travel support, and emergency support for basic needs, to offer this experience to all―regardless of means.
  3. Help us map the broader landscape of alternative theological education. Connect us with like-minded residences, trainings, or apprenticeships.
  4. Offer your support and mentorship to the group through a guest seminar, one-on-one time, or by sharing resources from syllabi to poetry.

 

What would it look like if we could establish a new kind of school for soulful community builders (or ministers, theologians, etc.) today? We believe it would have pluralism, love and acceptance, and multiculturalism at its heart.

On the Name. In the U.S., many theological schools and seminaries are called "Divinity School," and hence our name.

Yet the asterisk is also in our name to help remind us that, just like the names of God in different languages and traditions, this group, our year together, and how we talk about it, will be perhaps be given many different names by each of us to best communicate what it means. Our name itself may even change with the group, as we change.

On Religion. We come from many religious traditions, including Islam, Judaism, Protestant Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, as well as secular families and childhoods. Most of us are exploring multiple faiths as adults, ranging from buddhism to humanism. We are sensitive to cultural appropriation and careful not to borrow from traditions lightly or in ways that are colonial or offensive, but we are curious seekers who want to be challenged by the perspective of many traditions. So it is important to us from the outset to state that pluralism is at the very heart of Alt*Div from our beginning.

Whatever the spiritual background, each person is invited to shape the way this group works, according to the gifts and wisdom they carry because of it.

On Race and Culture. We wish for this group to represent the rich multicultural diversity that we all come from and which surrounds us in our communities.

We think a great deal of work is needed—and most of us are already actively engaged in this work, in our local communities—to heal the wounds of many generations of segregation and violence between different groups of people—for example, between Black and White Americans, between Jews and Muslims, and between Queer and Straight communities, among many.

We aim for this group to represent a wide variety of backgrounds and faces, so that we can be part of the healing we hope to see between these groups and many others.

On Gender and Sexual Orientation. We are not a gender-binary-conforming group. We are LGBTQ+, and LGBTQ+ welcoming, and strive to always be learning and growing in our practice and understanding of how to create loving, healing, and inclusive spaces.