SARA TOTH – EDITOR
The Rev. Katie Givens Kime believes in the power of stories, and the power of community — now, more than ever.
Kime serves as director of religion and civic engagement at Odyssey Impact, a multi-faith media nonprofit whose mission is to drive social change through innovative media — particularly documentary film — by connecting faith-based and secular communities.
“There is absolutely an overlap between what happens to us when we commune together for worship experiences, and what happens when we commune to experience stories together,” Kime said. “A documentary film gives you the opportunity to walk in another person’s shoes, to see from their eyes. … It centers around the power of story, and the stories of our faith. The questions that these stories provoke in us have a lot of similarity to the stories that we see on film together.”
Kime will be sharing one of those stories at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 24 at the Chautauqua Women’s Club, when she’ll present a free screening of the 39-minute documentary “Stranger/Sister,” and then facilitate a discussion as the last installment of the CWC’s Chautauqua Speaks series of the summer. The program is presented in collaboration with both the Department of Religion and Chautauqua Cinema.
“Stranger/Sister” follows the story of two women — one Muslim and one Jewish — working to combat a surge of white supremacy in the United States. The women’s organization, the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, is the centerpiece of “Stranger/Sister,” which was filmed over the course of three years by Emmy Award-winners Kirsten Kelly and Katie Taber. Odyssey Impact was tasked with the film’s social impact campaign, which brought Kime back to Chautauqua. Kime first visited the grounds in 2008 as part of the Department of Religion and the International Order of the King’s Daughters and Sons’ Clergy Renewal Week. That was while she was associate pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, before she earned her Doctor of Philosophy degree at Emory University.
Now at Odyssey Impact, Kime works to connect religious and secular organizations with the stories that can help those organizations address society’s most pressing issues. Much of that work is done through documentary film.
“We’re connecting people with the tools they need to grapple with tough civic issues, through the power of film,” Kime said. “We can convene, we can watch films together, but the conversations that happen after the film ends are the most powerful. These conversations, on racial justice, on generational wealth, on mass incarceration, on gender-based violence, are brave, are healing, are transformative. That’s what we’re committed to: partnering with the faith leaders, experts and scholars to create the materials and conversations to best equip the communities that are doing this work.”
Powerful documentary work, Kime said, can both “inspire, and take something out of you,” especially when addressing difficult social issues. So part of her work, through the Odyssey Fellows Program, is to support emerging leaders, still in seminary, who are focused on social justice, or “theo-justice,” so they have the tools to convene the kind of conversations that can bring about real healing and real change.
“Watching films together is a multi-sensory, very powerful thing and then we actually have created trauma-informed practices around it,” she said. “We build trauma-informed practices around that to help these emerging faith leaders, as they launch into their careers, be even better at having those hard conversations around attending to communal trauma — whether that’s mass shootings or current pandemic — and the bumpy roads that can be encountered in that work. We can provide the support materials for that work.”
While at Chautauqua, Kime will also be presenting clips from the “Healing the Healers” film series, focused on both lay and faith leaders’ responses to domestic violence in their communities, at the 2:30 p.m. Tuesday Social Hour at the Disciples of Christ Headquarters House. Kime is one of the producers of that film series. For both of her Tuesday events, Kime hopes that Chautauquans are ready to take the films and the discussions back into their home communities — and that they bring “the wisdom of Chautauqua to these conversations.”
“We’ll reflect on (‘Stranger/Sister’) and what we’ve seen these two women learn together; and we’ll talk frankly,” she said. “It’s hard to have these conversations across lines of difference in our communities, but these are the conversations that are most needed now.”
It was “prescient and amazing” that Kime’s time at Chautauqua fell during a week on “Resilience,” and she’s excited to share the story of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom.
“We were so honored to capture this story on film, of Jewish American women and Muslim American women coming together and standing up for each other in the face of hate,” she said. “What I love about the film is that it’s not only a parade for women’s relationships and a parade for interfaith partnerships, but that it shows the bumpy parts of the road, too. … It gives rise to these conversations that we’re afraid of, that we need to have, so we can leave our time together even more resilient.”