Sunday, August 01, 2010

Now a Chautauquan

Back from a great week at the Chautauqua Institution in New York State. Chautauqua was founded in 1874 as a retreat for Methodist Sunday School teachers, and became the centre of the Chautauqua movement of lectures, performances and worship services - "art, religion, music, and knowledge" ("recreation" has now been added as Chautauqua is rife with opportunities for boating, sailing, swimming and biking). There are other "Chautauquas" still operating in the summer elsewhere in the US.

Clergy Renewal Week is organized by the Christian service organization The King's Daughters and Sons and brings ministers from across the US and Canada to Chautauqua. Our group had United Church of Canada, Anglican Church of Canada, United Methodist, Presbyterian Church of the USA, and United Church of Christ clergy. Gate passes were provided by the Chautauqua Institution's Department of Religion and accommodation is provided by the IOKDS in the two houses they own.

Chautauqua is a beautiful town of Victorian cottages, many of which have been in the same family for generations. Its winter population of 300 mushrooms to 10,000 people a day in the summer. It's certainly a bastion of liberal Protestantism, with the mainline American Protestant denominations maintaining houses in the village, although there are two Jewish congregations, and a Roman Catholic presence in facilities borrowed from Protestants. I attended worship services with the Episcopal priest and renowned preacher Rev. Dr. Barbara Brown Taylor preaching (and she signed two books for me!), lectures on the week's theme of photography - the inventor of the digital camera, Steve Sasson, photographers Steve McCurry and Ed Kashi, former US poet laureate Billy Collins, and George Eastman House director Tony Bannon were among the speakers - and symphony, ballet and opera performances. It was indeed a renewal week.

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