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“Talking Dialogue”: Jenkin Lloyd Jones and the 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions

22 December 2014

Maryam Mouzzouri is a Belgian student from the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes of Paris who, as part of KAICIID’s “Talking Dialogue” project, has been conducting archival work in Chicago, USA. Her research for the Talking Dialogue project was centred on the 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions, widely recognised today as the birth of worldwide formal interreligious dialogue. Held in Chicago in parallel with the World Columbian Exposition, an early precursor of the Universal Exposition, the Parliament was attended by representatives of Eastern and Western spiritual traditions, the first ever encounter of this kind.  

 

My archival research on the World’s Parliament of Religions from 1893 is like detective work, where I have to find and regroup scattered information and documents. I have enjoyed the experience, and the people I have met have been very helpful!

After collecting the documents on the 1893 Parliament, which were in the Special Collections and Archives Department at DePaul University and in the University of Chicago’s library, I organized my findings.

On 23rd July 2014, I called Allison Stokes, the executive director of the ‘Women’s Interfaith Institute’. Mary Nelson from the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago had suggested that I contact her, as she had also done research on the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions. Our conversation was very interesting and she sent me a paper she had written on the 1893 Parliament, entitled: “Global Feminism and Inclusion in Anna Howard Shaw’s 1893 Sermon”. I asked her for more information about Jenkin Lloyd Jones, a figure of the Unitarian Church whose name was sometimes mentioned in the books I read. She said he had a wide vision for the parliament and equality between the religions.

Wanting to know more about him, I asked Mary Nelson if she had some contacts who could help me. She suggested I call Rev. Hilary Landau Krivchemin, a Unitarian Universalist Church pastor. Rev. Krivchemin suggested that I visit Meadville, a Theological School, who have most of the existing archival material regarding Jenkin Lloyd Jones, the rest being in the Special Collection Research Center in the University of Chicago Library. In Meadville, I found some really interesting documents, but the main difficulty reading letters which had been written by hand. I worked there for one week and I found letters written by Jones to John Henry Barrow, organising president of the first Parliament. Of particular interest were planning suggestions he proposed to Barrow regarding the Parliament.

After collecting first hand documents, I moved to the Special Collections and Archives Department at DePaul University for a few days to focus on the more recent documents written about the World’s Parliament of Religion from 1893. On the 4th of August, I went to the Special Collection Research Center at the University of Chicago Library to complement my research on the papers regarding Jenkin Lloyd Jones, but I couldn’t find any new information.

On Friday the 25th of July, Janna and I then had the chance to meet Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, who gave me some interesting suggestions on books to read regarding the 1893 Parliament. A week later (1st of August), the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions invited us to visit the Baha’i Temple in Chicago. The director of the Baha’i House of Worship’s Activities Office, Chris Vodden, gave us an interesting tour of the Temple and explained to us the Baha’i faith is and its history.