Dr. Russell joined IPS in 2008. She holds an M.Div from Washington Theological Union and a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Marquette University. She also served for six years as Director of Christian Formation for a parish.
In addition to a number of peer-reviewed articles, conference papers and parish presentations, she has written two books, the most recent of which is Quantum Shift: Theological and Pastoral Implications of Contemporary Developments in Science.
While the field of science has made incredible advances in the past century, and more and more scientists have gone to great lengths to make these developments accessible to the public, we still rarely hear ministers and communities of faith discussing the implications of these developments for the life of faith. Quantum Shift explores recent developments in science from relativity to quantum mechanics to cosmology and then suggests ways in which people of faith might engage these scientific developments to foster their understanding of God and what it means to be part of the world we believe God created. Heidi Ann Russell demonstrates how these scientific developments offer us new and exciting images that spark our theological imaginations and reinvigorate our spiritual lives.
When describing her motivation for writing this book, Heidi talks with passion and a sense of discovery:
“I find the developments in contemporary science fascinating. When I first read about the double slit experiment in quantum physics, it made me realize that everything I had learned about science growing up and what I thought of as reality was not really the case at the most fundamental levels. It seemed to me that if theology is going to be relevant in today’s world, we must engage this shifting view of reality,” said Dr. Russell.
Though she loves learning about new scientific developments, Dr. Russell said writing this book was just as challenging as it was rewarding.
“Each chapter opened up a whole new world of science, and I was really starting from scratch each time. It was exciting, but also overwhelming at times,” commented Dr. Russell. “Karl Rahner has a great phrase he uses – ‘gnoseological concupiscence’ – in a nutshell, it means that we live in a world in which there is too much for us to possibly know everything. There has been such an explosion of information across so many fields, no one can possibly learn it all. I felt that challenge in writing this book.”
After reading this book, Dr. Russell hopes that “people walk away seeing developments in science as exciting rather than threatening.”
She added, “Too often people view theology and science as pitted against one another. I hope people read the book and stand in awe at the mystery of the created world and the God we believe created it.”
Dr. Russell has another recent accomplishment – she has been promoted to Associate Professor with tenure.
She was first hired as a Clinical Instructor for IPS. Two years later after a national search, she was hired as a tenure-track Assistant Professor, and has developed a well-earned reputation as a gifted teacher. Dr. Russell brings solid scholarship and pastoral experience to the classroom, whether in Chicago or overseas, having taught with IPS in Kenya and in Rome, Italy.
Receiving the promotion, especially tenure, “was a tremendous relief” to Dr. Russell.
“I love IPS and teaching here, and I truly had no desire to go somewhere else.”
When asked what her proudest moment at IPS has been, she did not hesitate to say it is seeing her students succeed.
“Every year at graduation, I feel like a proud mother watching my children leave the nest. I am so proud of our students and what they do and how they change the world and the Church on a day to day basis.”
Dr. Russell went on to describe a touching moment between her and her students:
“My most significant memory at IPS was the day I came to my Liturgy and the Christian Sacraments class following the adoption of my son. Unbeknownst to me, the class had prepared a special prayer service for me, blessing me in the adoption and baptism of my son, who had been with me for almost two years through foster care. It was a blessed moment, when I felt overwhelmed by the gift of being able to work every day with the amazing people that are our students here.”
Looking to the future now, Dr. Russell said she is excited to be able to continue teaching at IPS, witnessing how students will serve the Church and the world, and continuing her research for her current book, Source of All Love: Catholicity and the Trinity.
To conclude, Dr. Russell said, “I am so grateful to my students and colleagues who have made IPS the special place that it is to work. I’m delighted to know that I will be a part of IPS for many years to come.”