Family of Abraham to gather for annual interfaith Sacred Song

From left, Abrahamic Program for Young Adults Christian Coordinator Emily Peterson, Jewish Coordinator David Bloom, Muslim Coordinator Safia Lakhani, and Muslim Coordinator Yasin Ahmed light three candles representing the three Abrahamic faiths — Christianity, Judaism and Islam — at a Sacred Song Service July 31, 2016, in the Amphitheater. Carolyn Brown/Daily File Photo

Mary Lee Talbot
Staff writer

“We Walk by Faith,” is the theme for the Sacred Song Service at 8 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater. The service will celebrate “The House of Faith: The Family of Abraham Gathers.”

The Abrahamic Initiative began in 1999 to establish a dialogue among the three Abrahamic faiths at Chautauqua, led by J. A. Ross Mackenzie, former director of the Department of Religion and senior pastor; Joan Brown Campbell, former senior pastor; and Maureen Rovegno, former director of religion. 

Part of the initiative was the development of the Abrahamic Program for Young Adults (APYA), begun in 2006 and put on hiatus in 2020. Each summer, four young adults – a Jew, a Christian and a male and female Muslim – lived and worked together, leading discussions, answering questions and working with former organist Jared Jacobsen to develop an interfaith Sacred Song Service. 

Each year, the APYA groups mixed the understanding of their faiths with their experience of Chautauqua. During past years’ interfaith Sacred Song Services, there were many recurring symbols. One year, water came from the Zamzam well, from the river Jordan in Israel, and from Chautauqua Lake, then were poured together into a pool on the Amp. 

Other symbols have included candles, paper banners, peebles and three-stringed bracelets. Another year, Women4Women Knitting4Peace, begun by Susan McKee, knitted prayer shawls as gifts for the APYA leaders.

At this year’s interfaith Sacred Song Service, readings will be done by Joe Lewis, host at the Everett Jewish Life Center and president of the Denominational Houses Group; Isabel Packevicz, student minister in the Department of Religion; and Khalid Rehman and Sabeeha Rehman, who teach Islam 101. The Rt. Rev. Eugene T. Sutton, senior pastor for Chautauqua, will preside.

There will be a lighting of candles, then three calls to worship in Hebrew, English and Arabic. Music and readings from sacred scriptures will round out the program. Joshua Stafford, director  of sacred music and Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist, developed the service this year with the help of Packevicz. Nicholas Stigall, organ scholar, and the Chautauqua Choir will also participate.


The author Mary Lee Talbot

Mary Lee Talbot writes the recap of the morning worship service. A life-long Chautauquan, she is a Presbyterian minister, author of Chautauqua’s Heart: 100 Years of Beauty and a history of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. She edited The Streets Where We Live and Shalom Chautauqua. She lives in Chautauqua year-round with her Stabyhoun, Sammi.