For the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, it doesn’t matter if someone has spent one day, one week or the entire summer at Chautauqua. The question, he said, is, “What do you leave wanting to do?”
“Jesus asked Bartimaeus, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ” said Robinson, vice president of religion and senior pastor at Chautauqua Institution. “The question is not as easy to answer as you think.”
Robinson will preach at the 10:45 a.m. Sunday Ecumenical Service of Worship and Sermon in the Amphitheater. His sermon title will be “Oh Say Can You See?” and the Scripture text will be Mark 10:46-52, Jesus’ encounter with Bartimaeus. Maureen Rovegno, director of the Department of Religion, will serve as liturgist and Institution President Michael E. Hill will read the Scripture.
Robinson said he felt more relaxed this summer and positive about the Department of Religion program.
“Last summer, I did not know what I did not know,” he said. “This summer, there has been good anecdotal feedback about the preachers and speakers.”
The highlight, he said, was Week One’s worship services with Rabbi Sharon Brous.
“If we are going to publicize ourselves as interfaith, we must at least have a rabbi preaching,” he said. “I am delighted we did, and many people who told me they were worried about this venture told me they were wrong. One woman told me Brous had perforated every wall she put up.”
He is already looking for a rabbi to preach next summer. Robinson was also honored by the Hebrew Congregation of Chautauqua with a work of art depicting the Hall of Philosophy — a modern photograph edited in such a way that it almost looks like a painting.
“The Congregation has made a great contribution to the Institution,” he said.
Robinson began his tenure at Chautauqua Institution on Sept. 1, 2017.
He was elected Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, becoming the first openly gay and partnered priest to be elected bishop in historic Christendom. Despite national and international opposition and efforts to derail his consecration, Robinson was consecrated bishop and served as the ninth Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire until his retirement in early 2013.
Since his retirement, Robinson has served as a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank in Washington, D.C., speaking and writing on national and international LGBTQ issues, race, poverty and immigration reform. He has been a vocal advocate for the transgender community, and in 2016 published “Transgender Welcome: A Bishop Makes the Case for Affirmation,” for the Center for American Progress, using Scripture and theology to argue for the full inclusion of transgender people in faith life and in American society.
He is also a senior fellow at the Auburn Seminary, and has been honored by every national LGBTQ organization. In 2014, Robinson was named by The Washington Post as one of the 21 most influential LGBTQ people in Washington.
Co-author of three AIDS education curricula for youth and adults, Robinson has also been an advocate for anti-racism training in the wider church. He has advocated for debt relief for the world’s most impoverished nations, lobbied for socially responsible investment within and beyond the church, and had a special ministry to those incarcerated in New Hampshire’s prisons.
He holds his Master of Divinity from General Theological Seminary, and a bachelor’s degree in American studies and history from the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee. In 2009, then-President-elect Barack Obama asked Robinson to offer the invocation at the opening inaugural event at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.