Listening to Other Voices

The Glastonbury Abbey lecture series was established in the Fall of 1999 to foster interfaith dialog under the overall theme of “Listening to Other Voices.” Each year a different general topic is presented and speakers are engaged to address it from the perspective of their own faith tradition. The topic for the series year 2016-2017 is Living in a Polarized World: Can the Wolf and the Lamb Dwell Together? Please join us to hear the below listed speakers. 

Lectures are held in the Morcone Conference Center at 7:15 p.m.

No registration required. Seating is on a first-come, first-seated basis. Parking is also limited. Therefore, we advise that you carpool where possible. Lectures are free. Donations gratefully accepted.


October 20, 2016: James Carroll, author and former column-ist, The Boston Globe — Us Against Them – Disarming the Polarized Imagination of the West


The tap root of Western Civilization extends deep into the ancient world, but the Biblical imagination was central, and it was transformed when Jesus was understood to have been in mortal conflict with his own people, the Jews. This resulted not from the will of God but from the accident of the Roman War against the Jewish People (the First Holocaust), which sparked an intra-Jewish civil war. The resulting positive-negative bi-polarity of Christian thinking (Church v. Synagogue; Grace v. Law; New v. Old; Mercy v. Judgment, etc.) morphed into religious anti-Judaism, racial anti-Semitism - and ultimately into white supremacy, and the permanent need of an enemy to demonize. A reckoning with religious roots of political hatred (especially after the Second Holocaust) is essential to peace - nowhere more so than in the United States of America.


James Carroll, a former priest, is the author of 11 novels and 8 works of non-fiction. His memoir, An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War that Came Between Us, won the National Book Award. His much-acclaimed, Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews, was the subject of a feature length documentary film. His columns have appeared in the Boston Globe and his recent essays on Pope Francis have been published in The New Yorker.



November 17, 2016: The Pursuit Of Harmony: Music and Conversation with Michael Hunter Ochs and Alaa Alshaham


Can a Palestinian Muslim and a Jewish American find a common bond through music? Is it possible to turn an enemy into a friend? Is it possible to feel compassion for someone you have always feared? The Pursuit of Harmony takes you to a place of hope and possibility.


History and culture might peg a Jewish American and a Muslim Palestinian as enemies. But when Michael Hunter Ochs and Alaa Alshaham met in the West Bank in 2009 they discovered friendship. Being musicians and composers they also discovered that their voices blended beautifully and they decided vocal harmony just might be a bridge to political harmony. They have performed throughout the Middle East, at the United Nations, and at Shabbat services across the United States.


Michael Hunter Ochs has also had his music featured in motion pictures and has written for international pop stars Josh Groban and Helene Fischer. Songwriter and commentator Alaa Alshaham is the founder of the Big Dream Initiative Children’s Choir, which has had more than 400 members singing for peace. Join Mr. Ochs and Mr. Alshaham for an intimate evening of music and conversation. As they like to put it: “Hear the story, hear the songs, and feel the hope.”


January 19, 2017: Fred Small — Kairos and Climate


There is chronos, the clock time, which too often rules our lives, and then there is kairos, the time of possibility, the supreme moment when everything can change – God’s time. The climate crisis is a mortal threat, but it is also an unprecedented moment of opportunity to learn profound lessons about interdependence, humility, and the power of love – and to act upon them. With the planet warming, species dying and our neighbors in peril, what is our calling as people of faith?


Frederick Emerson Small began his career as a lawyer and later became a Unitarian Universalist minister. In September 2015, he began to work full time for climate justice as the founder of the Creation Coalition, an education and advocacy organization that inspires and empowers people of faith to respond to the climate crisis through political engagement.



February 16, 2017: Diane Moore, PhD
Human Dignity and Religious Tolerance

The 2016 election cycle saw a rise in hate speech, Islamophobia and religious discrimination. How can we respond effectively to foster interfaith understanding and tolerance? Why is religious literacy of the beliefs of others needed in a democratic society? Together, we will explore the pressing concerns of religious tolerance that have become so acute.


Diane L. Moore focuses her research on enhancing the public understanding of religion through education from the lens of critical theory. She is the director of the Religious Literacy Project at Harvard University. Her current project is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) through HarvardX entitled Religious Literacy: Traditions and Scriptures.


March 16, 2017: Sr. Kathleen Erickson, RSM – Reflection on Immigration, Detention of Mothers and Children
The experience of being with immigrants in detention situations in Texas as well as time spent in Honduras has triggered reflection on the root causes of immigration as well as the response by our government and by ourselves. Our broken immigration system is one of many structures which call us to go deeper as we examine what it means to be human beings in a polarized world.
Kathleen Erickson, RSM, has a background in education and administration. She spent 18 years at the US/Mexican border, after Spanish study in Latin America. She is co-founder of the Women’s Intercultural Center in Anthony, NM, a place for immigrant women, where she also coordinated immersion trips into Juarez, Mexico. For over two years Sr. Kathleen provided spiritual counseling to undocumented women in the Federal Detention in El Paso, Texas. Upon return to Omaha, NE, she initiated the immigrant Detainee Accompaniment Program at Douglas County Corrections. She was an international observer for the Honduran election of November, 2013, spent 5 weeks in San Pedro Sula, Honduras in spring of 2014 and the months of April and May, 2015 as interim chaplain at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, TX.
April 27, 2017: Louise Burnham Packard
Building Bridges in Boston

How can we change the odds for Boston youth? That’s the question behind the work of the Trinity Boston Foundation, mission arm of historic Trinity Episcopal Church in Boston’s Copley Square. Louise Packard, founding executive director of the foundation, is the determined coordinator of programs designed to answer that question by providing young people with opportunities to grow and develop leadership skills. She will share the stories of changing lives, the building of relationships, and building of community. “When we know each other’s stories,” she says, “when there is trust and love, profound change is possible.


Louise Burnham Packard is the founding executive director of the Trinity Boston Foundation, having previously held senior development roles at Trinity Church, Harvard Business School, Stanford Business School and the Central Park Conservancy (NY).