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Interfaith Engagement

Recognizing the moral imperative of fostering deeper, more meaningful dialogue among people of different faith traditions, Chautauqua continues programs throughout 2019 that engage religious leaders and communities in public and private dialogue. We continue to build upon Chautauqua’s historic convening power and 20-year Abrahamic Program, and its growing role as a lived interfaith community, with perennial work that brings leaders and scholars into conversation — with one another and with the broader community — and challenges us all toward interfaith learning and understanding.

Week One :: June 22–29

Moments that Changed the World

How did we get to now? The answers may surprise you. In this week, Chautauqua asks five historians to each choose a little-known moment when the ground shifted beneath humanity’s feet, and examine how those moments impacted the world of today.

  • We look at unsung heroes — and villains — as well as unsung moments that altered the course of history.
  • History often offers surprises, revealing how and why certain stories are obscured, erased or lesser-known.
  • How can those surprises be instructive? How can our newfound knowledge of these moments be useful in our time?

Interfaith Lecture Theme :: Religious Moments that Changed the World

Religion is a human construct that has been evolving since humans began pondering the meaning of life and its purpose, asking questions of origin and destiny, with varying responses creating differing trajectories. In this week the Interfaith Lecture Series presents historians of the world’s religions who will shine a light on “moments” in various traditions that have impacted both the world and the evolution of religion.

Week Two :: June 29–July 6

Uncommon Ground: Communities Working Toward Solutions

In an age of divisive posturing at the national level, are communities uniquely positioned to come together on the toughest issues, to find a way forward for the common good? We recognize the role of communities in effecting real change, and present a solutions-focused week of power and promise.

  • Each day, we highlight case studies of communities at work, finding sustainable solutions to society’s most pressing problems.
  • What conditions must exist for community stakeholders to engage one another, and who needs to be at the table? What’s possible when there isn’t a shared sense of community? Do differences need to be bridged in order for solutions to be found and sustained?

Program Sponsor:

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Interfaith Lecture Theme :: Common Good Change Agents

At times when the world seems conflicted, humanity continues to find ways to be its best advocate toward its highest aspirations. In this week we welcome examples of change agents who are recognizing needs and responding in life-enhancing ways to actualize their hearts’ best intentions for the common good — and leading by powerful example.

Week Three :: July 6–13

A Planet in Balance: A Week in Partnership with National Geographic Society

In response to a rapidly changing planet, National Geographic is leveraging its legacy of exploration, innovation and vibrant storytelling to further solutions. From funding cutting-edge technologies to leading advancements in science communication, we’ll uncover how National Geographic is using 21st-century tools to shape the future of exploration and to address the greatest challenge our world has ever faced.

  • The week opens with a look at the status of the planet, and how the most advanced conservation technology is being deployed to show how nature and culture are changing in real time.
  • We study how exploration and the communication of science work in tandem to protect the environment so that all species have a shot at survival.
  • Next, we travel to Earth’s last wild places to learn about the efforts to protect and restore those habitats before it’s too late.
  • We examine life in the planet’s extreme environments, and seek clues offered there for surviving the impact of the changes we are facing.
  • Finally, we explore our own choices and discover how we can reduce our human footprint.

Week Three also features the CHQ Olympics

CHQ olympics logo final web

Interfaith Lecture Theme :: What Archaeology Tells Us about Biblical Times

Christians and all peoples of the world are drawn to the Biblical sites in Israel, tracking the historical Jesus. These sites are not only vibrant centers of pilgrimage and faith, but monuments of archeological significance as well. Through their recent work in Israel, which they titled “The Search for the Real Jesus,” National Geographic, for example, has discovered a way to help us see that the scientific and the spiritual can and do coexist.

Week Four :: July 13–20

The New Map of Life: How Longer Lives are Changing the World — A Week in Collaboration with the Stanford Center on Longevity

Do we really want to live forever? While being “forever young” may still be the stuff of dreams, longer lifespans are a reality of modern life. Living to 110 years old — at least — means new challenges for both individuals and society; how we meet those challenges will have lasting ramifications.

  • What issues do longer lifespans present? We examine the political, the financial, the biological, the emotional.
  • Where the scientific meets the ethical, we ask: We can live longer, but should we? Will longer lives exacerbate existing inequities?
  • This isn’t a question for future generations — this is a question for us, right now. How are you going to adapt in this changing reality?

Interfaith Lecture Theme :: Falling Upward: A Week with Richard Rohr, OFM

During a week focused on the increasing life span of human beings, Fr. Richard Rohr will be our guide to what he calls the “further journey,” a voyage into the mystery and beauty of healthy spiritual maturity. Revisiting thoughts from his book, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, Fr. Richard helps us to understand the tasks of the two halves of life and teaches us that what looks like “falling down” can largely be experienced as "falling upward."

Week Five :: July 20–27

The Life of the Spoken Word

As consumers, creators and critics, we are experiencing a renaissance of the spoken word. We join together the history and modernity of compelling oratory to explore broader themes of social and intergenerational connectedness and the ways that our speech, our stories, bring us together.

  • The week begins with “This American Life” host and storyteller extraordinaire Ira Glass, in a Saturday evening Amphitheater special.
  • From political rhetoric and civil discourse, to the arts of theater and poetry, to podcasts and stories told around the campfire, what is the power of the spoken word?
  • Throughout the week, as we look to the future of the spoken word, we present ways to use technology to preserve our past, our history, our stories.

Interfaith Lecture Theme :: Chautauqua: Rising from the Ashes of the Burned-Over District

We refer often to Chautauqua’s beginnings in 1874 and its history going forward, but little-known is the history that preceded Chautauqua’s founding. The Chautauqua Assembly reflected many movements that had had their genesis in what was called the “Burned-Over District” resulting from the “on fire” religious environment and culture of the early 19th century in Western New York. The Assembly synthesized the religious passion of the age with its own unique contributions to American culture, as did other religious and civic expressions of the region arising out of that epoch. In this week we will revisit that incendiary era, and then meet some other religious and civic entities that have also stood the test of time.

Week Six :: July 27–August 3

What’s Funny?

In Partnership with the National Comedy Center

Come learn and laugh with us as Chautauqua Institution again partners with the National Comedy Center for a week exploring how comedy changes us and, in turn, society.

  • Comedy can do more than hold up a mirror to our world; it can, in fact, change it. We look at the potential of comedy — particularly political comedy — to change minds and influence decision-making.
  • Among the topics to explore are: What does your sense of humor reveal about you? How can we be challenged by things we don’t find funny?
  • We look at the challenging intersection of free speech, political correctness, and humor, and what we can learn from that uncomfortable space.

Interfaith Lecture Theme :: What's So Funny About Religion?

Even religion can have its less serious side, and in this week we will look for a lighter, smiling way to lift one’s heart and mind in the human enterprise that tends to take life and its meaning and purpose very seriously. Building upon our 2018 week on “The Spirituality of Play,” we will use words to play and to discover that seeing the humorous side of religion is a delightful way of joyfully leading the human to the divine. Be prepared to smile!

Week Seven :: August 3–10

Grace: A Celebration of Extraordinary Gifts — A Week in Partnership with Krista Tippett and “On Being”

Be it emotional, physical or spiritual, grace takes many forms. It exists in the way we treat one another, the way in which we move through the world, and the way in which we use our gifts, our grace, to lift up others.

  • Grace, as defined by religious terms, is the means by which we receive an unearned gift, one we’re not worthy of. Beyond religion, what does grace look like in the secular world?
  • When is grace difficult? In talking across differences? In compromise? In the face of adversity? We look at the moments in which grace is most needed.
  • How can we go out into the world, actively moving with more grace throughout our own lives?

Interfaith Lecture Theme :Grace: A Celebration of Extraordinary Gifts

There are many ways of defining or explaining the idea of Grace. Grace is thought to be something we receive, something we give, something we are, and something we do. In this week we will hear stories from four traditions – Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Humanism – exploring how each tradition perceives, interprets, and lives Grace.

Week Eight :: August 10–17

Shifting Global Power

Power is shifting on the international stage. It always has been. In this week we focus on the geopolitical hot-spots of the moment, examining the new holders, and even the new definitions, of global power.

  • Each day, we explore one topic or definition of power, and identify the major players in that arena.
  • How is power even defined, beyond money and military might? Is it natural resources, technology, education, diplomacy and aid, culture?
  • As power shifts, so too do identities and values. Are there ways power ought to shift?

Interfaith Lecture Theme :: Soft Power

Power is often conflated with might, but increasingly faith traditions are promoting new paradigms for conflict transformation, understanding, and collaboration through shared visions and ideals, restorative practices, relationship-building, and rituals – all the components of soft power. In this week we will learn from those who are utilizing soft power for global peacemaking, reconciliation, and quality of life. 

Week Nine :: August 17–25

Exploring Race and Culture in America with Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center

The intersection of race and culture creates a unique vibrancy to American democracy, often channeling and challenging the ugly effects of racism, bigotry and inequality, past and present. In this week, we examine the different ways that race and culture shape and enrich our society, and how being responsible consumers of culture, regardless of our different backgrounds and tastes, matters to who we are as citizens and as an American community. We open and close the week with renowned trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, who explores race and culture as a testing ground for the principles of American democracy.

Week Nine also features the third annual Chautauqua Food Festival on Bestor Plaza

CHQ FoodFestival logo color


Interfaith Lecture Theme :
: Exploring Race, Religion, and Culture

It has been observed that racism is one of the most disturbing of historical cultural phenomena – speciously scientific, privileging some, and denying value to segments of the world’s populations. This week will explore how racism became enculturated, and will look for ethical realities, understanding, and cultural healing.