Category Archives: School of Theology and Ministry

‘One Human Race’ – an interfaith event


“One Human Race”  was an interfaith event organized by Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Seattle.

OHR attendees

Attendees of the “One Human Race” Event

The event was held on Feb 23rd, 2014 at Garfield Community Center in Seattle and was attended by 140 attendees. Congressman Adam Smith also attended and spoke at this event. The event included representatives from Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Sikhism.

OHR Trice Remarks

Dr. Trice, giving opening remarks at “One Human Race”

Dr. Michael Trice, Assistant Dean of the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University kicked off the event with opening remarks. Maulana Azhar Hanif Sb represented Islam and gave a wonderful discourse on what it meant to live like one human race. Azhar Hanif’s talk was very well received and many guests wanted him to speak longer than he could due to time constraints. All other speakers did a wonderful job in showing the rich humanistic teachings of their religions.

It was an event which left everyone informed and inspired.




Sardines don’t do interfaith, people do…

By: Rabbi Anson Laytner


Sardines don’t do interfaith…..


 but a capacity crowd crammed the Casey Commons to commemorate Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry’s second annual observance of Interfaith Harmony Week with a banquet, talk and discussion.

Interfaith Harmony Week was unanimously adopted by the United Nations in 2010 at the initiative of King Abdullah of Jordan to be observed during the first week of February around the world.  It provides a platform annually for people of good will, both religious and spiritual, who recognize and demonstrate that the common values they hold far outweigh the differences they have.

Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, Spehar-Halligan Visiting Professor of Ecumenical Collaboration and Interreligious Dialogue was the guest speaker. In addition to his academic credentials, Rev. Dr. Kinnamon is a past General Secretary of the National Council of Churches and he brought his vast experience to bear on the topic of the challenges about doing successful interfaith dialogue.

He first called our attention to the challenges we may confront in our communities:

1.   There is often resistance within our own religious communities.  The more committed we are to constructive relations with other religious communities, the more difficult it is to have constructive relations with more conservative parts of our own faiths.

2.   We need to know when and where to draw the line between religious diversities that are morally “acceptable” and those that are not.  Saying yes to neighbors of another faith means saying no to those things that harm or diminish people, including things done in the name of religion.

3.   The question of religious identity in our post-modern context blurs boundaries, which may threaten–or at least appear to threaten–the integrity of our communities.

Too often, people engaged in interfaith dialogue fail to realize that there are stages to the emerging relationships.  Prior to dialogue, faith communities exist in a state of competition, in which a faith community sees itself as basically self-sufficient and in a state of rivalry with other communities which it regards as wrong in their religious claims.  Gradually, a religious community moves into a state of co-existence, in which it agrees to live alongside others but has little interest in dialogues or in structured relationships.  As the relationship builds, a faith community recognizes others with sufficient warmth to cooperate with other faiths in order to undertake certain tasks in a real, if limited, partnership.  Lastly, the parties move into the state of commitment, in which the degree of mutual recognition felt between the religious communities has led to existence of lasting bonds greater than expedient collaboration.

Dr. Kinnamon closed by dwelling on the qualities of the committed relationship, the better to focus our sights on the ultimate and desired stage:

1. A relationship of commitment would go beyond trading information, beyond getting to know one another better, to a willingness to learn from one another in ways that potentially enrich, even expand, our own faiths.

2. A relationship of commitment would go beyond periodic acts of cooperation to sustained collaboration, based on a conviction that our work for justice and reconciliation require the participation of the other.

3. A relationship of commitment would involve staying together even in the face of significant disagreement about matters of real importance.

4. A relationship of commitment would recognize that we face common challenges that demand shared responses.

Thus challenged, each table of participants—arranged so that each had people of different faiths at it—convened its own discussion and concluded by offering suggestions to the School of Theology and Ministry about how the School could assist with interfaith dialogue in the community in the years ahead.

Speaking personally, any interfaith gathering that doesn’t end in a food fight leaves me hopeful for the future.


Anson 2012


Rabbi Anson Laytner is program manager of Seattle University School of Theology & Ministry’s Interreligious Initiative.

Interfaith Prayer for Peace

By: Brendan Busse, SJ

A prayer written for the Interfaith Prayer for Peace service held in the St. Ignatius Chapel on the Seattle University campus, February 6th, 2014.

You are justice and peace.  You are freedom and love.

You who put the darkness in its place and filled the heavens with light.  You who gave direction to the lost and comfort to the lonely.

You are justice and peace.  You are freedom and love.

You who made a promise to Abraham and Sarah and Moses and Miriam and Ruth.  You who led the slaves out of Egypt and delivered water from the rock and bread from the sky.

You are justice and peace.  You are freedom and love.

You who ask us to care for the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner.  You who demand that we turn our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks.  You who heard our songs by the rivers of Babylon where we sat down and wept.

You are justice and peace.  You are freedom and love.

You who look upon our humiliation in kindness, who give breath to the poets and the prophets.  You who created us from a single soul then separated us into nations and tribes that we might know who another.  (Quran 49:13) You who want us to know one another.

You are justice and peace.  You are freedom and love.

We come before you now, for a moment, in prayer, for a break, in our work.  We come before you always and forever, longing…for justice and peace…for freedom and love.

We ask you now to guide us, to hear our prayers, to open our hearts, to inspire our works, that we may come to know you more and more…as we come to know these beloved friends and dear ones with whom we stand today.  For we know that when we sit together in mindfulness and compassion we stand together for justice and peace, for freedom and love.

We come from many roads.  We make these prayers in many languages, from diverse traditions, teachings and tribes, but we make them here together in a community of courage and of hope…For we know that you are justice and peace.  you are freedom and love.


Brendan Busse


Brendan Busse, SJ currently teaches in the Matteo Ricci College of Seattle University.

Nostra Aetate: At Fifty, Why Does It Matter

By: Dr. Michael Reid Trice

In 2014 the Second Vatican Council reached mid-life. In infancy, Vatican II (1962-1965) inspired soul-searching by Catholics around the globe.  It invited additional Christian communities to go and do likewise. In the late 1960’s and 70’s, an infectious confidence for liberation swept through ecumenical and interreligious circles around the world.  For its part, the Christian imagination was inspired in the hope for deeper unity unseen since before the dawn of the Reformation.  At this same moment, the Church was awakening to its own historical complicity toward additional communities of culture and faith, in particular, the Jewish people.

Vatican II took place in a global environment that had been dramatically altered by two world wars.  In general terms, the second half of the 20th century responded to the atrocities of the first fifty years by creating organizations (i.e., The United Nations, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) and documents (i.e., The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Nostra Aetate) that were the results of serious study and reassessment.  These documents were crafted as both treaty and embargo: A treaty from the hostilities within the modern human soul that opened our eyes to the utter banality of cruelty and evil; and, an embargo on human activity that aimed to deter us from the reenactment of these hostilities in the form of tomorrow’s genocide.  At the dawn of the 21st century, we forget that we live in the shadow of the forces that shaped these institutions and documents.  In fact, the world’s high ambitions for a new age were not unalloyed by a latent fear about our conduct in the age previous.  The absence of millions upon millions of voices on the planet, testify to this truth.

This introduction to Nostra Aetate is the first part of a publication on Vatican II that will be published later in 2014.

Trice75Author, Michael Reid Trice, is Assistant Dean for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue, and Assistant Professor of Ecumenical and Practical Theology at the Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry.

The Holocaust: A Reflection

By: Rabbi Anson Laytner

Rabbi Anson Laytner shares this reflection with us as we celebrate International Holocaust Commemoration Day, January 27th, 2014.

Imre Kertész, a Hungarian Jewish survivor of the Holocaust and Stalinist oppression, and a 2002 Nobel Prize winning author, wrote that “before Auschwitz, Auschwitz was unimaginable. That is no longer so today. Because Auschwitz in fact occurred, it has now been established in our imaginations as a firm possibility. What we are able to imagine, especially because it once was, can be again.”

Created by AccuSoft Corp.It is a grim prediction and one that, sadly, has been proven true time and again since World War II in so many parts of the world.  It could make one despair of human nature but for the fact that most of humanity doesn’t engage in mass murder and genocide—we just more-or-less condone it.

But Kertész’s statement bothers me for a much deeper reason: Because we have experienced Auschwitz, and witnessed so many other “Auschwitzes” since that terrible first, we have become inured to their existence.

A school shooting in ______?  Didn’t that just happen somewhere else?  A mass grave in Syria?  Seen that before.  Rape and murder in Sudan?  That happens all the time.  A terrorist attack on a building?  Can’t compare that to 9/11!  Annihilation of an entire population?  Well, we saw films of that in high school, so nothing new here either.

Auschwitz 2

Where once Auschwitz could shock, today it bores.  We’ve heard it all so many times.  Isn’t it time the Jews moved on?  And they aren’t blameless anymore.   And don’t we have more important things—issues concerning living people—to command our attention?  Why dwell on the past?

And in the meantime, Auschwitzes large and small happen the world over.

What will it take to jar us all out of our complacency?  The Holocaust didn’t happen in a vacuum; it advanced by baby-steps; Nazism grew from being a squashable bug of a political movement to a horror of monstrous—and nearly unstoppable—size. 

And all it takes “for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

The Anglo-Irish statesman Edmund Burke said that in the late 18th century, long before Auschwitz could even be imagined.

For more information about International Holocaust Commemoration Day visit the Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry webpage.

For more information about speakers, education tools, and other Holocaust related events visit the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center.


Anson 2012Rabbi Anson Laytner is program manager of Seattle University School of Theology & Ministry’s Interreligious Initiative.

Some Thoughts On Communion

By: Tamara Roberts

God has been present to me in so many ways—in moments of prayer, in the natural beauty all around me in my North Bend home, and sometimes, in the rituals of the church.  God shows up in surprising places and in surprising ways, and in God’s wake there is love, healing and transformation!  Traditionally Christians have experienced the Mystery in communion.  But for me, communion has historically been problematic.  Growing up unchurched in the Bible Belt I often was invited to attend church with friends who were genuinely concerned for the state of my immortal soul.  I attended several churches, but I was bewildered by the people and the services.  What stays with me even now is the distinct memory of being excluded from communion.  It was like being invited to a birthday party, then being told I couldn’t have a piece of the cake.  Going to church just highlighted the fact that somehow I didn’t belong to God.

Years later, when my husband and I started attending church, I was terrified of communion.  Once I figured out the schedule—communion on the first Sunday of the month—I overslept or came up with excuses to skip church on those Sundays.  But sometimes I forgot to pay attention to the date and arrived at church on a communion Sunday.  Upon entering the sanctuary and seeing the bread and the wine, I would think, “Sh*t!”  My stomach would churn, and my body would vibrate with anxious energy.  I could not listen to the service, I could not enjoy the community, all I could do was try to plot my escape.

Finally, one Sunday I figured out that communion happened after the Passing of the Peace.  Halleluiah.  Now my escape route was clear.  I would simply exchange signs of the peace, moving ever closer to the exit, and then listen to the rest of the service from the narthex.  I was so stealthy that my husband didn’t even notice that skipping out on communion was my regular pattern.  I was able to come to every service, and I would even “force” myself to try to partake a couple of times a year.  This continued for a couple of years, and might have continued to this day, had it not been for my girls.

At family church camp, we celebrate communion with the whole community together.  On that Sunday during camp, there was fresh baked bread, and the delicious smell added to the general joy and excitement of everyone there, especially of the little kids.  Our kids are usually in church school during communion, so for them this was a very special treat.  My little girls grabbed my hands, almost jumping up and down with excitement.  They practically danced up the aisle.  I was clearly not going to be able to escape this time, so I started to steel myself for what was to come.  And then, something happened.  I looked at my happy daughters, and around at the smiling faces of this community I had come to love very much, and I thought, “What if I could do this in the same spirit as my girls?”  We got to the front of the line and following their lead I took a generous hunk of the fresh bread, dipped it in the wine, and I ate, flooded with joy instead of fear.  My youngest daughter turned to me and asked, “Are there seconds on the Bread of Life?”  I threw back my head and laughed and told her yes, indeed, there are seconds on the Bread of Life.

Over the years my comfort with communion increased, but it remained a source of mixed emotions until my internship at St. Paul’s in 2003.  When I got to St. Paul’s, I meant to talk to Tim, the minister at St. Paul’s, about my shaky relationship with communion.  Really I did.  But what with one thing and another, the topic never came up.  Then, one Sunday morning—first Sunday in October—I arrived, practiced with the choir, then came down to get ready to give my first sermon ever.  Tim said, “Tamara, I forgot to talk to you about communion.  You and I will serve.  I will do the bread so you can hear everyone’s name, and then you do the wine.”  I managed a nod.  But inside I was cringing.  This was clearly not the time to mention that I was allergic to receiving communion and probably wasn’t a good choice to be offering it!  I might have gotten myself all worked up, but just then the organ sounded and it was time for the opening hymn.   I started to sing and I started to pray and I said, “Okay, look what You’ve gotten me into NOW.  I hope You know what You’re doing!”

And you know what?  God did know what She was up to.  Because I fell in love with communion that day.  And I fell in love all over again with God and with God’s people.  As I had the privilege of serving, offering the cup of blessing, I was healed and transformed by the sheer love of it all.  God’s love.  My love.  St. Paul’s love.   God was present to me in communion, and that presence loved, healed and transformed me.  Long ago I wrote in my journal:

What I want most is to be at home in God’s loving arms and to be of good heart and cheer, and to go out into the world and do what Love would have me do.  I want to follow my first calling to make a family, to make a home and I want to let God make more of me, let that calling make more of me than I would have made of myself.  Let that call keep working it’s transformation—not get scared, sit down, and say “this is far enough, God, can’t go any farther.”  I want to keep going even when I say I want to quit.  I want to let God keep expanding my definition of love, home, family, generosity.

This prayer has been answered.  And it is my prayer today as well, as I move forward toward ordained ministry.  Because I still get scared.  And I often want to quit.  But I also want to be healed.  I want to be transformed.  I want to be radically available to God.  I want to live in God’s love, now and forevermore.   I want to say YES to God with my life.  I want to see where this journey with God goes next.


Tamara RobertsTamara Roberts is on the path to ordination in the United Church of Christ, currently seeking a call to parish ministry.  She has served as a minister in several churches in the greater Seattle Area, and is currently working with her home congregation, University Congregational UCC, to revamp revitalize and reimagine Young Adult Ministry.  She graduated with her Master of Divinity degree in 2008, and has returned to the School of Theology and Ministry to pursue a post-master’s certificate in pastoral counseling.  She loves running and cycling, reading and writing, cooking and eating.  She and her husband recently launched their daughters to college and are newly empty-nesters in North Bend.  She currently blogs at A Live Coal in the Sea and would love to see you there.

The Truth Told Slant

By: Jan Vallone

Every winter I plunge into darkness.

As Seattle days shorten to eight hours with clouds covering most of them and the city readies for ten months of showers, my inner world becomes as bleak as the world outside. I burrow through three seasons like a shrew mole through the mud, tunneling deeper to cry, surfacing only to complain.

Born and raised in New York, I’ve not adjusted in twenty-seven years.

I suppose this isn’t surprising. All my grandparents were natives of Sicily, a place where even in winter daylight persists for ten hours with nary a cloud in the sky. The people of Palermo wake to sun 228 days per year.

When my grandparents immigrated to the US, they did well to settle in Manhattan, where the sun shines over Central Park 235 days. The Space Needle basks in sunrays only fifty-eight.

My doctor calls my melancholy SAD, a depression caused by lack of sunlight resulting in low serotonin. Those who experience it suffer desolation, petulance, anxiety and social strain.

Since evolution has optimized humans for equatorial light, SAD is common in northern latitudes and climates with cloudy skies. Dark-eyed people like me are genetically predisposed. Blue eyes take in more light. Seattle is simply insufferable for someone with my genes.

I can’t, though, blame my darkness solely on the weather. The past six years have been tough. Just as my children left for college, I lost my full-time job, and I can’t seem to find a new one, thirty years of résumé be damned.

Since I’ve desperately tried to fill the void with a grab bag of pursuits not always suited to me—part-time, volunteer and temp jobs, housework, classes here and there—I’m left feeling frantic, lonely, worthless, bored, and more so every year.

This winter SAD struck hard. I could barely rouse myself mornings, sometimes didn’t bother dressing, cried if my cat crossed my path, overate, skipped the gym, ignored my friends. Every evening I pleaded with my husband, “Get me out of here! There’s nothing for me in Seattle, nothing at all but rain.”

But, in truth, I knew my husband couldn’t leave. He’s worked decades to grow his business and it’s not portable.

Once, I met an American woman vacationing in Tuscany. She told me that although she was married, she always travelled solo and lived alone too. Her husband preferred Boston and she Cos Cob, so they had separate homes.

When I asked the woman if she was ever lonely, she shrugged, “Why should I be? I’m never by myself. My favorite companion is me.”

At this, I remember passing judgment. How selfish. What’s the point of such a marriage? I could never be like her.

Still, in the bleak of winter, I determined that I could. If my husband couldn’t leave Seattle, I’d move by myself.

The idea was so radical and bewildering that my mind could scarcely comprehend it. I’d buy a tiny house. A house in North Carolina, where there are 220 days of sun. I turned on my computer, began to search online, and after ten minutes on Trulia, there my dream home was.

2026 Sycamore.

This classic 1929 cottage was one-third the size of our Seattle house. See the lovely lemon shingles, the cheerful side veranda, the steep pitched roof and sun-drenched lawn.  Note the cozy rooms, the quaint divided windows, the sunbeams angling through the panes lighting the honey hardwood floors.

What relief this house would bring me, so tiny, simple, bright. I’d leave my tattered furnishings behind, discard my old books, not need very much. I’d spend my time reading Kindle on the porch or planting a garden in the sun—azaleas, honeysuckles, witch hazels, asters, bee balms, goldenrods.

The inside of my cottage would be an uncluttered haven just for me, the outside an ebullient sight for the community.

This would be the home of my heart. Thrice daily I ogled it on Trulia, walked around the block on Google Earth. How apt that it was located on Sycamore, for I was sick in love.

One rainy spring morning after dreaming of the house, I came across a poem by Emily Dickinson, as quoted in a Parker Palmer essay:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant,

Success in circuit lies,

Too bright for our infirm delight

The truth’s superb surprise.

Palmer was pondering depression, a state he claims is caused when we disrespect the true self, the person God created us to be.

When we honor the true self, we choose pursuits that employ our inborn talents, resist pursuits that don’t and heed our natural limitations. Doing so brings us joy and enables us to serve those around us. Doing otherwise causes depression and burdens the community.

To honor the true self, we must listen to the promptings of its voice, which Palmer calls the inner teacher, others call the soul, and others the still, small voice of God. But this voice can often challenge the resistant ego, so to make acceptance easier, it sometimes tells the truth slant, using metaphor.

Could it be that the Carolina cottage was a trope composed by my true self? Not the dwelling I should buy, but the person I should be?

Rather than welcome less square footage, should I embrace my diminished role in the professional world? Instead of shedding tattered furnishings, should I drop unfulfilling work, like teaching basic grammar and dusting the church pews?

Rather than throw out old books, should I discard worn sob stories, like those about my SAD and unemployment? Instead of planting a new garden, should I cultivate pursuits I have and love, like writing and, yes, gardening, and caring for family and friends?

Who would I be if I did these things? Inside, an uncluttered, tranquil person; outside, ebullient, generous.

Perhaps the brilliant sunlight angling through the Carolina windows is simply the truth told slant by the voice of my true self.



Jan Vallone headshot

Jan Vallone is the author of Pieces of Someday: One Woman’s Search for Meaning in Lawyering Family, Italy, Church, and a Tiny Jewish High School, which was released in November, 2013 and won the Reader Views Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her stories have appeared in Good Letters,The Seattle TimesCatholic DigestGuideposts MagazineEnglish JournalChicken Soup for the SoulWriting it Real, and Curriculum in Context. Once a lawyer at a large law firm, and later an English teacher at a tiny yeshiva high school, she now teaches writing and literature at Seattle Pacific University.