Listening as a Practice of the Heart

September 21, 2021

Listen to the Director's Column


A Year Ahead – Active Listening as a Practice of the Heart


I’m Michael Reid Trice, and I serve as Director and hold the Professorship at the Center for Ecumenical and Interreligious Engagement at Seattle University. 


In the Center this academic year, we will focus upon paying attention, as a practice of the heart.  Here’s what I mean: 


Of old – prophets and artists, drafters of poetry and prose, those who chant a canticle or who recite verse that predate even their written form in sacred text, these and more are all participating in the artful and specific need to articulate depth of meaning within a given religious or spiritual community.  Often enough that articulation is seen to be reciprocated between the human being and the transcendent – the person and the divine – and these too are rich and varied across religious and spiritual traditions.   The divine mystery speaks.  We pay attention through hearing, through touch, through solitude and prayer, through meditation, through giving, and more.  Often, we refer to such attention in our lives as “active listening.”  Over a lifetime, such a deep way of paying attention, or listening, becomes a practice of the heart.  


This year the Center has a practice of the heart as well.  We will listen to the challenges and opportunities emerging now within society, to which religious and spiritual traditions bring a richness of needed responses.  We will be attentive to our colleagues in university committees, friends in communities, and allies in organizations with whom we regularly engage; and we will listen to the Center’s Advisory Council and Interreligious Network of partners – from Cairo to Adelaide, and from New York to Seattle – who are dedicating their time and talent alongside the Core Center Team in the years ahead. 


At the Center we are committed in this academic year to active listening a practice of the heart.  We do so as this year provides the Team with a precious gift – of time – for discerning the future of the Center. In the arc of this academic year and the gift of time ahead, the Center Team will create alongside all of these friends a strategic and robust direction for the years ahead.  So, this year we will be considering methods, modalities, programs, outcomes, resources, and educational opportunities for classroom and community.  I will also continue building relationships with other centers in the world that are also dedicated to public theology engaging the needs of the world today.  


As we build for years to come, we are also actively listening for our programming this year.  The Center continues to fulfill a Luce Foundation Grant that is committed to public theology for the next generation.  I’ll be saying more about the work of our Center Scholars on a major project currently underway.  But for the moment, here’s what I want you to know about our monthly themes. 


Each month in this academic year the Center is practicing a heart for listening.  


For September, we signal the precipitous rise of hate speech of which national and international agencies are warning us.  Religious and spiritual traditions have a role in speaking to, and responding to, hate speech.  The Center will interview Holly Huffnagle, who serves as the American Jewish Committee’s U.S. Director for Combating Antisemitism.  Huffnagle served as policy advisor for the Special Envoy at the U.S. Department of State in Washington D.C. to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism.  


We will likewise listen to Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on these themes amid her interaction with her own national religious colleagues, and how local communities can best respond today, as we acknowledge 20 years since the attack of 9/11. 


Then – in October, the Center will be focused upon the religious response to the environment and the rich biodiversity of the natural world of which we are an intricate part.  Year after year we see the calamitous impact of our activity upon this living planet.  And this fall, there are an unprecedented number of international convenings between September 20th and mid-November for commitments on protecting biological diversity, religions responding at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, and even a groundbreaking guiding document forthcoming from a major religious community in October as well. 


In addition, in the month of October the Center will unveil a user-friendly online multi-media resource it created for a new international text developed by colleagues at the United Nations Environmental Program Faith-for-Earth Initiative and the Parliament of the World’s Religions.  As part of its commitment to resourcing a new generation for public theological engagement, in October the Center will highlight the voices of individuals from religions around the world on care for our common home. 


Our listening is a practice of the heart – as we consider a strategic future further off, and as we engage theyear ahead.  In all cases, I encourage you to share your suggestions with me as the Director.  Please reach out to me at –  I am pleased to be in conversation with you. 


On behalf of the entire Center Team – Thank you! 



Peace & Justice Center: Ecumenical, Interfaith, Earth-Focused


Mindful: Deep Listening for the 21st Century



The Religica Theolab serves as the Center’s Laboratory, with a commitment to public theological engagement for a new generation. In the month of September, as we acknowledge 20 years since the attacks on 9/11, we are speaking with Holly Huffnagle of the American Jewish Committee about rising hate speech and anti-Semitism in “our pandemic age.”  We engage the conversation further with Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, where discuss a new study on “empathy exhaustion.”  Take a listen by clicking the images below!  


The methods and resources tested and refined in the Religica Theolab assist the Center’s engagement in classroom & community. 


Engage the Religica Theolab


Listen Now on Soundcloud


Listen Now on Soundcloud




Faith & Leadership – Protecting the Freedom to Practice all Faiths without Fear  


Pew Research Study – 20 Years Since 9/11.


United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: A Message -- Living with Faith and Hope


Living Well – The Effects of 9/11 on Faith and Religious Beliefs


Popular Guardian Article – 9/11 and Impact on Religion  


Associated Press – Don’t Focus Upon Hate   



Religious traditions, Spiritual pathways, and Indigenous wisdom are active in communities around the world.  Each month we’ll provide some highlights! 


Parliament of the World’s Religions – Virtual International Convening! Student Rates.                            October 16-18, 2021 – Still Time to Register!  


World Council of Churches – The 11th International Assembly will take place in Karlsruhe, Germany Summer, 2022.  Present a Workshop on diverse arrays of religious topics.  Must apply by October 31, 2021!


World Council of Churches – Applications Open for the Global Ecumenical Theological Institute.  Adult leader aged 21-35?  Apply Today!



September Engagement


 4 – Jains’ Holy Season in September – Purifying the Soul and Burning Karma   


14 – Orthodox Christianity – Feast of the Holy Cross


15 – What is Yom Kippur?  We thought you’d never ask.  Read beautiful treatments at National Today and National Geographic


21 – The Moon Festival – Beautiful Tradition, Innovation, and Mooncakes 


22 – Mabon and the Autumn Equinox


21-27 – The Seven Days of Sukkot  


27 – The Ethiopian Meskal Festival – Celebrating Every Year 


28 -29 – Shemini Atzeret  & Simchat Torah   


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