The purpose of Chautauqua Dialogues is to foster and advance the ideal of a “beloved community” by providing a forum in which people of diverse backgrounds can bring their political, religious, cultural, and social beliefs, experiences and knowledge to conversations that matter. The vision for the Dialogues builds on the idea that Chautauqua can be a resource to a larger society which seeks to embrace the reality of a pluralistic society, fostering the idea that the manner in which we articulate our ideas is just as important as the ideas themselves ~ that how we say something is just as important as what we have to say. The intention is to create a community in which “best practices” are the rule and not the exception. Each week Chautauqua’s Denominational Houses provide the venues for the discussions as part of a community effort to promote civil discourse through love and forgiveness with respect, cooperation, and compassion among all people.
Trained facilitators guide the conversations. Each facilitator has participated in off-season online training and real-time training sessions during the Season. Each week the facilitators meet to evaluate the effectiveness of their facilitation as well as to improve their facilitation skills by learning from each other’s experiences. The key to success is in the training of facilitators that will allow the program to expand in future years as well as provide a model for extending Chautauqua Dialogues to the home communities of the facilitators. Volunteers who participate in the training come from all walks of life and from across the nation. They come to Chautauqua for one week or more to join with other facilitators as a team.
New for the 2023 Season
- Friday dialogues to invite dialogue on action paths and solutions! By Friday, our participants have had the opportunity to listen to as many as twelve lectures via the Chautauqua Lecture Series, the Interfaith Lecture Series, the Contemporary Issues Forum, and the African American Heritage House Lecture series. Our hope is that each week’s culminating dialogues on Fridays will create some dedicated time and space to share ideas about how the interconnected ideas from the lecture platforms might have moved our participants to consider action paths or solutions that they might want to implement in their day-to-day and/or civic lives. We believe that hearing other people’s action strategies and ideas might create new insights and pathways for all of our participants to become more engaged citizens.
- The Red Bench Project: A space for intentional, one-on-one dialogue with other Chautauquans. Learn more here.
- Expanded dialogue offerings: This season we are piloting lunch-time discussions for those who might want to process the morning lecture shortly after hearing it!
- The Listening Journal: We will pilot a new listening journal to allow our participants to take notes during lectures and to bring ideas to the dialogue sessions. More information will be provided at the dialogue meetings.
Email Roger Doebke at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about becoming a facilitator.
History of CHQ Dialogues
From its beginnings in 2011, the Chautauqua Dialogues Program has been a work in progress. The Department of Religion created it to enhance community engagement and education. Originally participants focused on the 2:00 interfaith lectures. These lectures were initially designed to explore the Abrahamic Traditions in an effort to foster mutual understanding, appreciation and respect both among religious practitioners and non-practitioners alike.
The Department of Religion designated this program as “Interfaith Dialogues.” It has grown broader over the years. It now offers an opportunity for dialogue on all issues and ideas from all the lectures presented at Chautauqua, while welcoming religious perspectives in all its understandings and manifestations. It has evolved out of various iterations of programs that the Religion Department began at Chautauqua and fostered elsewhere.
Actually, the Community Interfaith Dialogues concept, celebrating religious diversity, has many antecedents at Chautauqua. It grew out of the Abrahamic Initiative that had had its beginning in 1998 under the Rev. Dr. Ross Mackenzie. It took programmatic form at Chautauqua in 2005 under the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell and Maureen Rovegno.
Those who developed the program at Chautauqua hoped that the participants would take the program home to their various cities around the country. One successful result was the dialogue program which the Rev. Susan McKee and Hal Simmons introduced in Denver.
By 2008 the Department of Religion refashioned the concept into a program called Communities in Conversation, led by Emilie Barnett and held during the Season. It grew into year-round programs in local libraries, primarily in the Cleveland area, but also as far as Chicago.
By 2010, the format had become a daily week-long seminar during the Season. It replicated what the Communities in Conversation Program, drawing on the Abrahamic Traditions, was doing in libraries throughout the year over a five-day period, with a different focus each day,
Communities in Conversation throughout the year was a network of community-based interfaith study and discussion groups co-sponsored by the Chautauqua Institution and local libraries. Individuals from different faith communities held informal discussions. They were based on the readings provided in a Study Guide developed in 2009 and revised annually through 2011. In this way, the participants learned about each other’s beliefs and practices.
In 2011 Roger Doebke, of the UU Fellowship, and his wife, Judy, joined with Lynn Stahl and her husband, Rabbi Samuel Stahl, of the Hebrew Congregation, and Subagh Khalsa and his wife Linda Winkelstern, of the Mystic Heart Program, to form the Chautauqua Dialogues. Roger had been involved as a group leader in 2010 and Rabbi Stahl had served as the facilitator on Jewish day for Communities in Conversation.
Ultimately, Roger Doebke and Lynn Stahl expanded the program to include far more facilitators to accommodate the increased number of dialogues offered. At this time the facilitators go through a thorough training with on-going enrichment and discussions. The meaningful discussions take place each Wed., Thursday, Friday and Saturday and the focus of the Dialogues now includes discussions of all of the programs offered each week at Chautauqua. The sponsors are the Department of Religion and the multi-faith Denominational Houses and other Chautauqua Community groups that provide the venues, which offer welcoming hospitality, enhanced community engagement, and a significantly value-added experience.