Chautauqua Institution Director of Religion Maureen Rovegno described the community’s chance to welcome back the Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor simply: as a gift.
At 2 p.m. EDT Monday, Aug. 10, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, the Interfaith Lecture Series will once again host Taylor for a presentation titled “Remember That You Are Stardust, and to Stardust You Shall Return.”
“Barbara has become beloved by the Chautauqua community over the many years that she has blessed us with her wisdom and inspiring spiritual voice,” Rovegno said. “Here at Chautauqua, Barbara is a spiritual treasure for us in every way, and we value her friendship as precious.”
Rovgeno’s description has some teeth. Taylor — an Episcopal priest, religions professor, and New York Times bestselling author — has been a staple in the Interfaith Lecture Series for years and has served as Chautauqua’s chaplain of the week five times. In 2016, the Institution awarded Taylor the President’s Medal — the highest recognition for what Rovegno describes as “exceptional service and inspiration to our community.”
Taylor is a self-described “spiritual contrarian,” who boasts about saying “things you’re not supposed to say.” In her writing and upcoming lecture, Taylor said she will acknowledge and welcome the exploration of many religions.
“My goal is to explore how a single religion may be too small all by itself to nourish spirituality that truly includes all of us — not just humans but all created beings — but in combination with other meaningful narratives, including the scientific creation narrative, we have a chance of glimpsing how deeply and truly related we really are,” Taylor said.
Taylor is familiar with keeping an open mind in religion. In March 2019, Taylor released her latest book Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others. The book began as a “classroom memoir” about her time instructing a world religions course at Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia. As she wrote, the book began to explore how teaching challenged her own faith.
Although keeping her own religion in mind while writing, Taylor believes the work can be enjoyed by someone of any religion, or no religion. Taylor explored this sentiment on her website.
“I hope it is a book that readers of any or no religious identity can enjoy, but I had Christians in mind when I wrote it — because holy envy is a difficult concept for people who have been taught there is only one way to God,” Taylor wrote. “Writing with that teaching — and others like it — is what this book is about.”
Since 1993, Taylor has written 14 books, garnering two New York Times bestselling titles and the Georgia Writers Association 2006 award for Author of the Year. Taylor was named one of TIME’s Most Influential People in 2014, and Georgia Woman of the Year in 2015.
Taylor has taught at Piedmont College, Columbia Theological Seminary, Candler School of Theology at Emory University, McAfee School of Theology at Emory University, and the Certificate in Theological Studies program at Arrendale State Prison for Women in Alto, Georgia. She holds a bachelor’s in religion from Emory University, a Master’s of Divinity from Yale, and nine honorary doctor of divinity degrees.
This program is made possible by the Nilsen Family Fund for Religious Programming.