Director's Column September 2021

Center Director's Column

September 20, 2021

September 2021 Director's Column


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 the year 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! 

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