American Civic Life

Interfaith America Partners with Chautauqua to Elevate Faith and Health 

By Suzanne Watts Henderson

How can the American health system unlock the positive potential of our nation’s religious and spiritual diversity to strengthen whole person care? That’s the question that will animate this summer’s partnership between Interfaith America’s Faith & Health Sector and the Chautauqua Institution, a community in New York State where artists, theologians, educators, and other civic leaders gather each summer to explore questions central to our shared human experience.  

Here are a few things to know about this partnership and its aims. 


What is Chautauqua? 

Chautauqua is a residential community nestled on the shores of Lake Chautauqua that features nine weeks of robust programming each summer. What began in the nineteenth century as a Methodist Sunday School Assembly quickly embraced an expansive educational, ecumenical, and ultimately interfaith mission. Today, daily programming grows out of Chautauqua’s four “pillars” (arts, education, religion, and recreation) and includes worship, mainstage lectures by prominent national voices (four sitting U.S. Presidents have been featured speakers), an afternoon Interfaith Lecture series, performances from ballet to opera to the Avett Brothers, kids’ camps, and a host of classes and recreational choices for people of all ages. Over the course of the summer, more than 100,000 people take advantage of Chautauqua’s rich offerings. 

Why is Chautauqua the perfect place to catalyze our Faith & Health efforts? 

Interfaith America’s founder and president Eboo Patel has spoken several times at Chautauqua and puts it this way: “Chautauqua is sacred ground for me, a place where people talk together in a mode of collective inquiry seeking truth and friendship. It is the best of American civilization. I am thrilled Interfaith America is able to partner with such a significant institution for this Faith and Health initiative.”  

Chautauqua provides a national platform for listening across difference to important voices on topics that affect our daily lives. What’s more Chautauqua shares IA’s conviction that our religious diversity is a civic strength to be tapped in service to our shared wellbeing. 

What will this summer’s partnership entail? 

During the week of July 8-15 (Chautauqua’s “Week 3: Can the Center Hold?—A Question for Our Moment”), this partnership will include a series of daily public lectures and a two-day convening for national leaders working at the intersection of faith and health.  

For the afternoon Interfaith Lecture Series, IA has worked with Chautauqua’s leadership to identify an array of speakers exploring the positive potential that our diverse religious identities and communities offer as we seek human thriving, including the following: 

  • Monday: Eboo Patel in conversation with Dr. Ulysses Burley, founder of UBtheCure 
  • Tuesday: Laurel Braitman, Author and Director of Stanford University Med School’s Medicine & the Muse Program  
  • Wednesday:  Wendy Cadge, founder and director of the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab  
  • Thursday: Timothy McMahan King, author of Addition Nation
  • Friday: Dr. Darshan Mehta, a Harvard-based leader in integrative medicine 


In addition to the public conversation sparked by afternoon speakers, about two dozen leaders from across the American health ecosystem will gather for focused, strategic conversation about how to catalyze the positive and proactive engagement of religious and spiritual questions as a vital part of human wellbeing. Participants will come from health system leadership, schools of public health, faith-based organizations, chaplaincy program leaders, those working to transform medical education, funders interested in bridging the faith and health divide, and others. 


What do we hope to achieve? 

Working together, we believe this partnership will advance efforts to build a movement that raises awareness, builds capacity, and shapes policy around the rich potential for faith to play a positive role in health outcomes. Specifically, we look forward to sharing a White Paper that grows out of the convening and both summarizes the state of the question on faith and health and offers specific, strategic steps to engage religious and spiritual dimensions of whole person care positively and proactively across our nation’s ecosystem.  


How can you be part of this partnership? 

Join us! Consider attending all or part of Week 3 at Chautauqua. You can learn more about accommodations and programming. If you’re unable to join us in person, many events will be livestreamed on CHQAssembly. Finally, if you want to learn more about our growing Faith & Health sector and opportunities to participate, please contact Suzanne Watts Henderson, Senior Consultant for Strategic Initiatives at Interfaith America.