Franklin begins as Chautauqua’s worship leader on Sunday



“I am wrestling with my inaugural sermon. It is a time of a divided heart, to say thanks to Joan for extending her gifts and graces and publically receive the baton. [The sermon] is a point in time to build on and extend the Campbell legacy,” the Rev. Robert Franklin said.

It was Week Three, and Franklin was sitting on the patio of the Brick Walk Cafe reflecting on his future as the incoming director of Chautauqua Institution’s Department of Religion.

Franklin will preach at the 10:45 a.m. Sunday morning worship service. He will also share his faith journey at the 5 p.m. Vespers. His sermon title is “An Open Invitation,” and the Scripture text is Luke 14:12-24. His wife, Cheryl, will read the Scripture.

Thinking a bit more about the sermon, he said, “I want to emphasize a deeper spirituality as a resource for enriching the conversation with God, to empower Chautauquans’ moral agency and their intellectual horizons and expand the interfaith emphasis here.”

Franklin wants to live into the role of preacher and worship leader at Chautauqua.

“I will aim at innovation on the faith journey [during worship] to provide a mood that will invite people to pilgrimage,” he said.

Speaking about the 2 p.m. Interfaith Lectures Series, Franklin said he wants to expand the community no matter where people are starting. “I want it to be a comfortable place for searchers and seekers, without prescribing responses to what people hear,” he said.

Although Franklin will continue to teach at least one course at Morehouse College each year, he will spend time during the off-season at the Institution and in the surrounding communities. He and his family once lived in Rochester, N.Y., and he is familiar with the region and churches there and in Buffalo.

“People are expressing concerns about interacting with the surrounding area, and I want to meet with pastors, rotary clubs, youth organizations, teenagers and college-age people to discuss their hopes for a future relationship with the Department of Religion,” he said.

“I would like the working class and poor to to experience the treasures of Chautauqua,” he continued. “I want Chautauqua and its religion department to be a user-friendly resource for refreshing and enhancing their ministries. I believe I have an ambassadorial role and a unique point of contact with local faith communities.”

Franklin said he will be using Facebook and Twitter to enhance the national appeal of the department. “I want to live into a new reality of religion and spirituality, especially with the rapidly growing ‘religious nons,’ ” he said. “I hope to have some discussion and focus groups.”

He has already felt welcomed by the denominational houses and looks forward to working with them. “They have an historic role and are pillars of Chautauqua,” he said. “I expect continuity with our relationship and want to collaborate in effective ways with them; to be a colleague.”

Change is often unsettling, Franklin said. “I want to assure people that transition and change can enrich lives,” he said. “We have got to grow, to adjust, to embrace change as it unfolds. Fear not, we will get through it together and will be a stronger, better community going forward.”