Three scholars, a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim, will gather to discuss breath and the way it connects body and soul.
(RNS) — Summers have long been a time for camp meetings and religious revivals, a week of preaching, singing and soul-saving in the great outdoors.
That tradition has faded some over the years, but a form of it still exists on a western North Carolina mountain off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Wildacres, a scenic retreat at an elevation of 3,300 feet, has always combined a bit of rustic Appalachia with a progressive religious streak.
This year it is breaking ground again as its Interfaith Institute, a 40-year-old summer tradition, convenes a three-day meeting beginning Monday (Aug. 1), led entirely by female scholars — a Christian, a Jew and a Muslim.
The Interfaith Institute, which has long been hosted by the Greater Carolinas Association of Rabbis, was initially intended as a summer retreat where rabbis, ministers and priests could learn more about other traditions in a relaxed setting.
Increasingly, it is attracting lay people and this year is scrapping the traditional lecture format for a more relaxed conversational workshop in which scholars interact with participants.
Wildacres Retreat, located near the Blue Ridge Parkway in Little Switzerland, North Carolina. Photo courtesy of Wildacres Retreat
The theme this year is breath, and the three scholars will explore it beginning with the Genesis creation story where “God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” (The Quran includes two related passages.)
“When we gathered on Zoom to plan it, one participant said, ‘I just want time to catch my breath,’” said Amy Laura Hall, associate professor of Christian ethics at Duke Divinity School and this year’s program director for the Interfaith Institute. “We kept gravitating back toward that as a theme.”