The History of ChIME

The founder of the first Interfaith school in the U.S. was Rabbi Joseph Gelberman, a Hassidic Jew  from Hungary who lost his whole family including his 3-year-old daughter in the Holocaust.  His response to such an overwhelming tragedy was to found The New Seminary (TNS) in New York. His vision was that these teachings would promote understanding between spiritual traditions and thus help prevent another holocaust. ChIME’s Abbess, Patricia Ellen, is a graduate of TNS, and has been with ChIME since its founding.

ChIME was founded by Rev. Jacob Watson, D.Min. and incorporated as a non-profit educational organization in 2002. Jacob graduated from Matthew Fox’s University of Creation Spirituality and was ordained by the California-based Chaplaincy Institute for the Arts (ChI). With the help of a number of colleagues and artists, including Abbess Patricia Ellen, ChIME developed its two-year curriculum. The first ten ChIME enrollees began their studies in Portland in 2002, and from 2004 to 2011, with the help of Rev. Joel Grossman, ChIME also offered weekly classes in Amesbury, Massachusetts. Today we serve 20-40 students annually, who receive instruction from our Core Faculty, comprised of Abbess Patricia Ellen and Dean Katie Payson, as well as a host of local, regional and national presenters. View Faculty.

During ChIME’s tenth anniversary celebration in 2013, Founding Abbott Jacob Watson was honored by the Council of Interfaith Communities with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to professional interfaith education.

To welcome our fifteenth class in the fall of 2016, ChIME needed more space, and left the Center for Grieving Children building in Portland, our home for ten years, to create an office and classroom within the Portland New Church building, 302 Stevens Avenue in Portland.

We remain dedicated to offering quality programming to enhance our students’ and graduates’ spiritual journeys and to deepen their professional lives.  Our graduates are currently forming an Alumni Association, to support one another and ChIME. Many are members and organizers of the Interfaith Ministers of New England (IMNE) professional association, and some have also joined and now provide leadership to A World Alliance of Interfaith Clergy (AWAIC).