Arts / Faith and Humanities

A Faith-based Response

Written by Ashley Bartel

April 20, 2017

people gathered to discuss homelessness and the affordable housing crisis

Image credit: Winston O'Neil

The Center for Religious Wisdom and World Affairs will host an inaugural symposium on homelessness.

The Center for Religious Wisdom and World Affairs is hosting its Inaugural Symposium on Homelessness on April 25-27, 2017, at Seattle University. The symposium brings together 15 Center scholars from North America and Asia to explore the religious, spiritual and ethical dimensions of homelessness, in conversation with local faith leaders and other community partners, with the goal of generating more effective faith-based action.

During the first two days of the symposium, scholars will define the frame of reference for their year-long research projects through a series of collaborative exploratory sessions. These sessions will delve into the challenges to understanding and addressing homelessness, the implications of reframing it through the wisdom of religious traditions, ways to leverage faith-based resources and mechanisms for keeping scholarship grounded in and connected to the concerns of those closest to the issue – faith-based and secular service providers, policymakers, advocates and people experiencing homelessness.

Center scholars will also have an opportunity to meet the faculty, staff and students of the School of Theology and Ministry as well as faculty from across Seattle University specializing in the area of religion or working on homelessness issues.

On the third day of the symposium, scholars will participate in a forum with religious leaders and other community partners from the greater Seattle area.

This forum is an opportunity for: 1) local faith leaders and other stakeholders to learn about the Center, share and connect around their ministries, direct service, policy and advocacy work; 2) Center scholars to learn about local realities, challenges and best practices for faith communities and faith-based organizations addressing homelessness in order to create the grounding for a solid scholarship-praxis loop; and for 3) the Center to begin to learn about the specific needs of local faith leaders, with an eye to developing capacity-building programming going forward.

Activities include an interfaith liturgy and a “fishbowl” panel, Confronting Homelessness: Toward More Effective Faith-Based Action, followed by small group table discussion and sharing with the larger group about lessons learned and best practices for building and sustaining effective partnerships.

The “fishbowl” panel will include Hamdi Abdulle, Executive Director of Somali Youth & Family Club; Kathleen Hosfeld, Executive Director of Homestead Community Land Trust and School of Theology and Ministry alumna (Master of Arts in Transforming Spirituality 2016); Terry Pallas, Chief Program Officer at Union Gospel Mission; Michael Ramos, Executive Director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle and School of Theology and Ministry alumnus (Master of Divinity 1993, Post-Master’s Certificate of Pastoral Leadership 2010); Tina Walha, Director of the Mayor’s Innovation Team, City of Seattle; and Maggie Breen, Executive Director of Renton Ecumenical Association of Churches and School of Theology and Ministry alumna (Master of Divinity 2013).

During the forum, the Center will also launch the Puget Sound Interfaith Network for Public Theology. From May 2017 to April 2018, this pilot network will meet and interface regularly with Center scholars via videoconferencing as they explore a new method of public theology that integrates theological reflection with local faith-based activism.

In April 2018, scholars will return to Seattle University in April 2018 to present their research at a second symposium. Ultimately, this scholarly initiative aims to produce an anthology that captures the best interfaith thinking about the religious, spiritual and ethical dimensions of homelessness.

Look for updates following the symposium on the Center’s webpage.