Sun July 8, 2012
Religious traditions celebrated at Chautauqua Institution
Religion is at the roots of the very founding of the Chautauqua Institution 139 years ago. Today, people of all faiths are welcome and their religious traditions are celebrated at Chautauqua. WBFO and AM 970's Mark Scott has more on this, plus a preview of Week Three.
The Chautauqua Institution was founded by Lewis Miller and John Heyl Vincent as an educational experiment where Sunday school teachers came to learn.
"Their belief was that for democracy to succeed, you had to have an informed electorate," said Joan Brown Campbell, director of Religion at Chautauqua for the past 13 years. "They felt it was the job of the church to inform people of the moral issues that played into politics."
Brown Campbell thinks of herself as the Institution's pastor.
"I do think of this place as my congregation," she said. "I'm really happier when people think of me as their pastor."
Indeed, the world's religions are celebrated, especially on Sundays, when admission to the Institution grounds is free. Individual services are held by various congregations early Sunday at their respective houses of worship on the grounds. Then, at 10:45am, the Chautauqua community gathers at the Amphitheatre for an ecumenical service followed at 8pm by a concert of sacred music.
Brown Campbell spearheads a daily program at the Hall of Philosophy where ethical, moral, humanitarian and philosophical issues are explored by religious leaders. She says her goal is to build bridges among Jews, Christians and Muslims. Brown Campbell calls it "lived religion."
"What does it mean when you say you're religious or spiritual person?" she asks. "How does it affect your everyday life?"
Her afternoon interfaith lectures are usually tied to the particular theme of the week at the Chautauqua Institution -- this week it's "Inspire. Commit. Act." Sherra Babcock, Chautauqua's director of Education, says every summer, they like to take a week to explore what she calls the "big idea."
"This is a week we designate as something we call surprise and delight," said Babcock. "The speakers have done some wonderful things. The audience may not know their names. But they have done things in their community that have changed their worlds."
One of those speakers is Freeman Hrabowski. He's the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Chautauqua President Tom Becker says Hrabowski is a prime example of someone who moved beyond the big idea to acting upon it.
"The work he is doing at this university with inner city kids on science and technology is stunning," Becker said. "And he speaks about it with passion and unrelenting commitment."
Becker says he's already inspired by what these guests have done.
"I think this week will give all of us a sense of hope," Becker continued. "At a time when we don't seem to be able to solve stuff, here's a whole week on people who are solving things. "
Other highlights include the Chautauqua Symphony performing with the North Carolina Dance Theatre Tuesday night at the Amphitheatre. 2011 American Idol winner Scotty McCreery sings Friday night. And the symphony is back Saturday night with Chautauqua Opera Young Artists for a program of opera highlights.
For details of this week's entire Chautauqua Institution schedule, check out its website at http://www.ciweb.org.