The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson thought he would have fun this summer, but he “didn’t know it would be this much fun.”
“I have had the best time this summer,” said Robinson, who is wrapping up his first season as Chautauqua’s vice president of religion and senior pastor. Robinson, the former Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, was the first openly gay bishop in Christendom.
Robinson will preach for the final 10:45 a.m. Sunday morning worship service in the Amphitheater on Aug. 26.
His sermon title is “Time to Get Out of the Boat!” Maureen Rovegno, director of the Department of Religion, will preside, and Institution President Michael E. Hill will read the Scripture.
“I wondered if I would, in fact, get to be senior pastor, and the answer is yes,” Robinson said. “It is one of the great joys of my first year.”
He said he has fallen in love with the Institution’s woods crew and is blown away by the Amphitheater staff.
The feedback of the worship services has been positive, Robinson said. “People have thanked me for the welcome to non-Christians, either people of other faiths or not part of a faith community,” he said. “They appreciate that we acknowledge their presence and that they are welcomed.”
People who come to worship from outside the grounds have also expressed their thanks that they are noticed and welcomed.
“They feel special and appreciated,” he said.
Robinson loved being joined by colleagues from the denominational houses for the annual Ecumenical Communion Service, held this season on July 8.
He is very aware that the denominational houses provide an economical way for people to come to Chautauqua.
“I visited every denomi- national house on Tuesdays, including the African-Amer- ican Denominational House, the Hebrew Congregation and the Everett Jewish Life Center,” he said.
Robinson said the denominational houses haven’t always been appreciated for the contribution they make to the common life at Chautauqua.
He is planning to write a Zagat guide to the denominational cookies.
“At the Unitarian Universalist House, I had a Rice Krispie Treat; I haven’t had one since I was a child,” Robinson said.
He noted that his talks with Sterling Freeman about the AADH have been good, and Robinson is expecting a name change from its board.
The Interfaith Friday Series, a new program this year on the 2 p.m. interfaith lecture platform, was as illuminating and interesting as he had hoped.
“My job here is to arrange for speakers. In other settings, I am the speaker,” Robinson said. “I liked the process for these presentations because I was in conversation with the presenter.”
His big news was that there will be a nine-DVD set available from the Chautauqua Bookstore of these presentations.
“These presentations can be the basis for adult education in any religious setting,” he said.
Looking toward the future, Robinson is excited that there is a space for an Interfaith Center on the developing master plan for space use at Chautauqua.
“We are a long way from a building, but it is the first time an interfaith space appears on the plan,” he said. “It is a symbol of the Institution’s commitment to work in an interfaith way that might result in a center.”
The hardest part of the first year?
“I have used a prayer book for 40 years. Having to write the service every week is a new experience,” he said. “But I grew up in a church like that.”