What is Quaker House? What is Chautauqua?

Blog post by Max and Jane Carter Friends of the Week-

Our Friends of the week, Max and Jane Carter had never experienced either Quaker house or Chautauqua. enjoy their perspective with “new” eyes.

What is Quaker House at Chautauqua — and for that matter, what on earth is a Chautauqua?! After a week there, it’s still hard to describe a house of hospitality that “becomes” whatever the many people who visit it weekly bring to the house — and an Institution that offers more than 50 programs daily, from which one can only reasonably take in a handful!

As Friends-in-Residence for week #8 of Chautauqua’s summer season, we were delighted to try to begin unpacking the meaning. Having never been to the Institution, let alone Quaker House, before, we had little idea of what was in store for us. Soon we learned: it’s like drinking from a fire hose! First off, the hospitality offered by our hosts at Quaker House, Kriss and Gary, made us feel wonderfully welcomed as “newbies” and “outlanders” from that realm of Quakerism so many in the North have less clue about than we did about Chautauqua: the South! It certainly helped that we shared common roots in Indiana and that Kriss’s best friend in high school was Max’s campus ministry student worker when he was at Earlham College! But beyond that, our hosts guided us through the rich array of daily offerings, accompanied us to various programs, and invited us into stimulating conversations and opportunities. Kriss even digitized many of the Quaker history slides Max had mothballed since retiring from teaching at Guilford College seven years ago!

Our offerings at Quaker House were meager in comparison with what we gained. There was a brown bag lunch discussion about Max’s spiritual journey from a circumscribed farm and evangelical Quaker background to a more expansive theology and work in multi-faith campus ministry and peace & justice service in Palestine. And there was a reflection on the week’s theme at Chautauqua, “New Profiles in Courage.” Choosing to emphasize “holy obedience” rather than “courage,” we shared the stories of Quakers who have displayed what most would call “courage,” but which those historical figures merely described as “obedience:” William Edmondson, Levi Coffin, Alice Shaffer, and Annice Carter. We also enjoyed informal conversations each day with our hosts, visitors to Quaker House, and the other guest for the week, Welling Hall.

It is harder to describe the rich smorgasbord of programs that we got to choose from. Daily worship with Kelly Brown Douglas; musical offerings; speakers ranging from Sr. Joan Chittister to Prima ballerina Misty Copeland to Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Maria Ressa — and many, many more — moved, entertained, and inspired us. It was almost more fun, enjoyment, and stimulation than Quaker propriety might allow!

Max wrote daily Facebook posts about the experiences. We’ll conclude with his summary of the talk given by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD). His comment about being informed by the “Golden Rule” espoused by Rabbi Hillel echoed a common theme of almost all the speakers during the week, whether “right,” “left,” or “center.” In our troubled times, we need to use whatever platform we have — not to promote ourselves but seek to elevate all by “doing unto others as we would have done to ourselves.”