COLUMN BY MICHAEL E. HILL
Welcome to Week Two of our 2021 Summer Assembly. It was so invigorating to be with many of you as we explored the role of China in the world. If you were with us last week, I hope you left with a greater understanding of the ways in which China in its many manifestations — politically, economically, culturally — is part of the very complex fabric of our world. From artistic expression to our various lecture platforms, Week One was an example of Chautauqua at its finest. It was made all better by having you here.
For those joining us for Week Two, you come during the exploration of a fascinating topic, as we look at “New Frontiers: Exploring Today’s Unknowns.” If COVID taught us nothing else, it was that we can’t always see what’s around the corner. In this week, we acknowledge that there is so much left to explore and discover — and the more humans explore, the more we learn how much remains undiscovered. On the Chautauqua Lecture Series platform, we consider throughout the week these new frontiers in science, health, technology and the environment, and look to where new insights are being gained every day. I’m excited that we get a chance to welcome the new explorers, the next generation of innovators, to learn what work they’re doing on the cutting edge of these fields, exploring the extraordinary and making the unknown, known.
In our companion Interfaith Lecture Series, we explore “New Frontiers: Exploring the Future of Religion in America.” Long regarded as one of the most religious countries in the world, America is showing signs of losing that distinction, as successive generations begin to claim more spirituality and less religiosity, and with greater frequency self-identifying as neither, indeed as “none of the above.” In this week we look toward what a changing religious landscape in America would look and act like.
This is also a week of traditions here at Chautauqua, as we celebrate the Fourth of July — this year with the Music School Festival Orchestra and the Chautauqua Community Band. From parades and picnics, we celebrate the founding of our nation, with all its imperfections and accomplishments. One of the reasons I love Chautauqua is that we know that loving something doesn’t mean that we don’t challenge it, and I’m excited that our speakers, preachers and artists will continue in this week to ask questions about the American ideal as we celebrate the very founding of the nation.
Speaking of using the arts to look more deeply at our society, if you haven’t seen Chautauqua Theater Company’s production of Blood at the Root, please be sure to take in a performance of it at our new Performance Pavilion on Pratt. Stori Ayers, CTC’s associate artistic director, is one of my favorite storytellers, and you won’t want to miss her direction that asks whether justice is really blind.
We welcome a great preacher to unpack our week, as well, with the Rev. Zina Jacque, the lead pastor at Community Church of Barrington in Illinois. She has served on the staffs of multicultural, urban and suburban churches, and has done extensive work in the areas of education, counseling and support programs. Rev. Jacque was the founder and first executive director of the Pastoral Counseling Center of Trinity Church (Episcopal) in Boston. In this role she implemented training on mental health issues for local pastors and led the center in the delivery of direct service hours to economically disenfranchised people across greater Boston. Now in its 18th year, it remains a unique center serving the greater Boston area. She is a prophetic voice for our time and a great guide for the week.
Elsewhere in the week, we celebrate the beginning of the Chautauqua Opera Company’s mainstage season with the premiere of Scalia/Ginsburg on Friday at the Pavilion. I commend General and Artistic Director Steven Osgood and his entire team for pulling together a creative season that will surprise and delight. This opening operatic comedy lifts up an unlikely friendship that proves that our disagreements, however deep, don’t have to define how we relate to each other. It’s a message that many of us, and many of our leaders, would do well to hear and heed.
Finally, if you’re just arriving on the grounds, I hope you’ll take time to check out our newest food and drink venue, 3 Taps and The A Truck, lakeside at the Pier Building and Miller Bell Tower. It has already proved to be a popular space for friends and family to reunite, reacquaint and reminisce. Perhaps you’ll find it to be a similarly accommodating space for you and yours this celebratory holiday week. Please also remember to tune into CHQ Assembly at 10:20 a.m. weekdays just prior to the morning lecture as host Amy Oshier previews the day’s events live on CHQ for U. If you miss the live presentation, it’s also available each day on demand through the end of the week. On Friday mornings, we present an extended version of the show, looking ahead to the week to come.
As I mentioned in my opening Three Taps address, this summer is still one of experimentation for us as we emerge from COVID-19. I want to thank all of you for your understanding as we operate Chautauqua in new and sometimes augmented ways. As we go through this second week of our season, I ask all to remember the tremendous joy of gathering in community again. When we get it right, let’s celebrate with one another. When we miss the mark, I’d ask your understanding and forgiveness, allowing frustration to be tempered by the joy of gathering in the first place. That is the best of Chautauqua shining through, and your return is the greatest sign of joy we all feel. Welcome to Week Two!