Director's Column November 2021

Center Director's Column

November 3, 2021

November 2021 Director's Column

Gratitude and Listening to the Lessons of a Pandemic Age


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This is Michael Reid Trice, Director at the Center for Ecumenical and Interreligious Engagement at Seattle University.  Our November newsletter is focused upon a few things I’d like to draw to your attention. 


First, we continue our inaugural listening year in which the Center is meeting with friends near and far in order to discuss the future of the Center in the university.  If I, John Malcomson our Program Coordinator, or another member of Our Core Team has not spoken with you, and you’d like to talk about the core offerings of the Center in the years to come, now is the time to reach out.  This is an excellent academic year for these conversations. 


Did you know -- Ecumenical and Interreligious efforts in this university have included hosting international dialogues with the Lutheran World Federation, convening discussions with the National Council of Churches in the US, meeting with local religious communities and students at the School of Theology and Ministry each quarter for over ten years, and meeting one-on-one with religious leaders throughout the region?   


Today the Center is creating plans for the future, as input from our listening year comes in, that will be shared.  These exciting announcements will be coming! 


Second, in this newsletter we highlight our new Center Study Guide in collaboration with the United Nations Environmental Program Faith for Earth Initiative and the Parliament of the World’s Religions.  The guide focuses on how religious communities can engage on the topics of climate change and environmental crises.  Students, staff, and our Advisory Council of religious leaders from around the region and world, participated in this guide – for use in your community.  We know from last month how many people are using this new guide, and the team is grateful for your trust in the Center.  Please visit and use the guide, and tell us what you think and how it can be improved. 


Third, our Center Scholars, which include faculty from national and international universities, met for our second symposium on the topic of Gratitude, Injury and Restoration in a Pandemic Age.  Papers were delivered through a virtual summit last week, which included an interdisciplinary effort on the theme.  We discussed the ontology of injury and how our age of a pandemic is not reducible to a viral pandemic, and thus includes moral injury, societal injury, prolonged injuries to and trauma for marginalized communities.  Understanding how repair is never about returning, but rather learning how to reinvest in shared although particularized stories of our humanity in the present, in the now, is our work. Within ourselves, in our families, alongside friends and strangers, and amid professions – the sinews of civic life require repair that must take seriously what “a pandemic age” is.  As one scholar identified it – gratitude for one another will emerge somewhat like moss did, buried as it was in the stump of a tree after the explosion of Mount St. Helens.  Life finds a way even amid so much loss and grief.  A resource will be developed by the Center team for use in local contexts.  And a book produced by these thoughtful scholars is forthcoming arising out of our writing processes, reading each other’s work, and our fruitful conversations.  As one scholar shared, After meeting with you, my paper is writing itself!”  Seattle University is embedded within the Ignatian tradition of discernment, where a premium is always placed on how truth arrives in the dialogue. 


Fourth, the Center’s laboratory – the Religica Theolab – interviewed Elder Vernon Masayeseva on a Hopi understanding of cherishing water.  We also interviewed Michael Murphy from Loyola University Chicago - on Laudato Si - and the nature of hope that Pope Francis has in mind.  These podcasts get a broad hearing, and you can engage them in the lab as well.  I encourage you to take a listen. 


There is more in the Newsletter to engage, from our monthly Sparking our Imagination Question Video Prompt by Genevieve Kennebrae, to recognizing the work of another Student Affiliate, Divya Ramesh.   


The last item for your consideration includes our existential concern over climate degradation and our ongoing natural crises.  This month, the United Nations COP 26 is convening in Glasgow, Scotland.  Humanity from across the world is gathering and I encourage you to pay close attention to outcomes for carbon reduction targets in the next two decades, and for practical ways in which international religious and values-based Non-Governmental Organizations are showing up and leading the effort.  The Center is interviewing numerous leaders who are now in Glasgow, and I encourage you to look for those podcast interviews in the coming month.   


Until we meet in person again, it is a gift to send these words to you today. 


Michael Reid Trice, PhD 

Spehar-Halligan Professor and Director 

Center for Ecumenical and Interreligious Engagement   



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The Religica Theolab

The Center for Ecumenical and Interreligious Engagement includes our own theological laboratory: The Religica Theolab.  Visit today.