“Resonating Through Time: The Chautauqua Movement – Past, Present, and Future”

Bishop Charles Allen

By Asia Nail
The Truth Reporter

In the tapestry of faith and history, it’s a story of division, struggle and reconciliation. A tale that unfolds with the Chautauqua Movement as its vibrant backdrop, weaving threads of culture, education, and enlightenment into the very fabric of American heritage. This is a narrative of timeless significance, one that traverses the ages, resonating with the voices of generations past and present.

“We are a faith-based gated community here at Lakeside Chautauqua,” explains Charles Allen, interim president and CEO. “From Memorial Day through Labor Day we have special educational programs for community enrichment.”

Like a beacon in the night, the Chautauqua Trail shines with four radiant pillars: Arts, Education, Entertainment, and Religion.

Lakeside Chautauqua Ohio has embraced families on the banks of Lake Erie for 150 years, offering an immersive journey dedicated to nurturing mind, body and spirit.

“People are often shocked to know how old the history of the Chautauqua actually is,” says President Allen.

And how large a community the resort area is, encompassing nearly 1,000 houses, two hotels, a cinema, a 2,500 seat auditorium, movie theatre and retail stores in abundance.

Aiding The Chautauqua Movement, the Chautauqua Trail is a group of organizations and individuals committed to the communication and implementation of the chautauqua concept of building community by supporting all persons in the development of their full potential intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically.

Picture this: “Chautauqua,” (pronounced shuh·taa·kwuh) a word as mysterious as it sounds, has its roots in the land of the Iroquois. Chautauqua translates to either “two moccasins tied together” or “jumping fish,” like a riddle recited by our ancestors waiting to be reclaimed. But to be clear; it’s also a name that cradles a lake in the heart of western New York; Chautauqua Lake.

The peoples of the Iroquois Confederacy are cemented in American history. Known as the Six Nations, the Iroquois refer to themselves as the Haudenosaunee, (pronounced “hoo-dee-noh -SHAW-nee”) meaning “peoples of the longhouse,” and refers to their lengthy bark covered longhouses used to house many families.

Much has been said throughout American culture concerning the inspiration behind the ancient Iroquois “Great League of Peace” in planting the seeds that led to the formation of our United States of America and its representative democracy.

The Iroquois Confederacy, founded by the Great Peacemaker in 1142, is actually the oldest living participatory democracy on earth. Due to this, in 1988 the U.S. Senate paid tribute with a resolution stating:

“The confederation of the original 13 colonies into one republic was influenced by the political system developed by the Iroquois Confederacy, as were many of the democratic principles which were incorporated into the constitution itself.”

Now, let’s rewind back to the Civil War era, and meet two visionaries, John Heyl Vincent and Lewis Miller.

In 1874, Methodist Episcopal minister John Heyl Vincent and businessman Lewis Miller organized the New York Chautauqua Assembly at a campsite on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in New York state.  Two years earlier, Vincent, editor of the Sunday School Journal, had begun to train Sunday school teachers in an outdoor summer school format. This camp became known as the Chautauqua Institution and reflected a nation-wide interest in the professionalization of teaching.

But here’s the twist – they didn’t aim to whip up revivalist fervor. No, their grand plan was more about enlightenment than tent revivals. Instead, imagine the Chautauqua Institution as a new chapter in the book of ‘American education’.

Trust, this academic institution is a page-turner filled with a rich historic archive.

The Chautauqua Institution has played a significant role in the development of adult education in America. “The Chautauqua movement is unrivaled in its passion for professionalizing teaching,” explains Allen.

At Lakeside Chautauqua, there’s an abundance of spiritual opportunities, educational lectures, cultural arts performances and recreational activities year-round for both families and groups of all sizes.

“We hosted The Sounds of Soul this past July,” shares Allen. “These talented singers, dancers and songwriters performed a combination of Motown classics mixed with some of the greatest pop and R&B hits ever written. It was stellar.”

Religion, within the Christian tradition, encompasses both individual and communal sanctity. Fortunately, pathways of faith are as diverse as the individuals at Lakeside. “Every summer we invite preachers from across the globe to share their unique messages during our Sunday Hoover Community Worship Services,” says President Allen.

Throughout their long history the Chautauqua hasn’t conformed to a single denomination; it’s a melting pot of faith.  As a church-affiliated vacation resort and United Methodist Annual Conference site, Chautauquas across the United States and Canada are a colorful mosaic with every Christian faith group represented.

But, to be real, there is a subtle whiff of good ol’ American principles underpinning the whole show. It’s like the secret ingredient in grandma’s famous apple pie; you might not see it, but it’s what makes her dish unforgettable.

Now, let’s shift gears and time-travel a bit further. It didn’t take long for the Chautauqua Institution to start casting its net wider, like a storyteller unraveling a grand narrative.

Within a few short years, it wasn’t just Sunday school teachers coming to this educational wonderland. It became a hub for adults of many stripes, and even dished out a correspondence course, the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle. This wasn’t just any course; it was like a bridge to a college education, or a passport to knowledge.

You see, education isn’t just textbooks and classrooms; it’s a buffet of ideas, a canvas painted with the broad strokes of arts and public affairs. But Chautauqua isn’t just about attending lectures and taking notes. Oh no, it was also one of the most peaceful tickets in town for summer residents. Imagine, thousands of folks gathering for concerts that could make your heart skip a beat, and social activities that turn strangers into lifelong friends.

By the time we hit the last stretch of the 19th century, Chautauqua had become a household name; a real rockstar of high-minded activities. For Chautauquans  it’s all about the pursuit of intellectual and moral self-improvement, the grand voyage for the mind and soul. It’s a place where civic involvement is more than a duty; it’s a calling.

“We are excited for families to visit and discover all we have to offer,” says Allen.

Now, in the year 2023, Lakeside, Ohio Chautauqua’s legacy is a vital compass in the modern landscape. It’s a treasure map guiding those who seek wellness, unearthing the globe’s true history, while embracing the spirit of Theodore Roosevelt’s iconic statement: “the most American thing in America; Chautauqua.”

These words remind us of the power of open minds and the importance of unity through the pillars of arts, education, entertainment, and religion, for it’s through these elements that we illuminate the shadows of the past, understanding our world and its shared history.

For more information visit: lakesideohio.com