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On Faith in Troubled Times

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 11:56

“Leading With Hope: Faith in Challenging Times” is the title of the second annual Wagner Dialogue at Sag Harbor’s John Jermain Memorial Library on Sept. 1, featuring a scholar, a minister, and a rabbi discussing the role of religion in today’s world.

Georgette Grier-Key, executive director of the Eastville Community Historical Society, will moderate a conversation between the Rev. Kimberly Quinn Johnson of the Unitarian Uni­ver­salist Congregation of the South Fork in Bridgehampton and Rabbi David Whiman, rabbi emeritus of the North Shore Synagogue in Syosset and the rabbi at Beth Shalom in Milan.

Underwritten by the family of Paul E. Wagner, a library supporter, the series intends to provide a space for the discussion of complicated and controversial ideas and topics, said Catherine Creedon, the library’s director.

“Last year we focused on politics, and this year we thought we would take on another kind of potentially lively topic,” she said. As with the collections of books and movies at the library, she said, the discussion is meant to represent a broad spectrum of thoughts on religion in order to best serve the community.

“Public libraries are historically thought of as neutral, but in fact we make a space here for all ideas,” she said. “Everyone should come with open minds and willing to engage in conversation.”

The discussion will start off with Dr. Grier-Key asking Mr. Whiman and Ms. Johnson questions — Ms. Creedon declined to elaborate — before the floor opens up to the audience, which will be limited to 75 people. Last year, Ms. Creedon said, the audience-participation portion became the most intense part.

While candid conversations about topics like religion can be taboo, Dr. Grier-Key said, in the current political and social climate “people are looking for hope,” she said. “We have to display this kind of courage in front of the public and help them ask these kind of questions.”

“I think people sometimes price politeness over actual dialogue,” Ms. Johnson said. “This seems like an opportunity to have dialogue that would be polite and respectful but still get at the ways we are similar and the ways we are different.”

“Talking about religion and talking about politics really all get at talking about values in the world and how those values shape actions,” she said.

Preregistration is required and available through the library’s website or A reception will follow.

“They say the things that you’re not supposed to talk about in public are religion, politics, and sex,” Ms. Johnson said. “Those are the three things that we talk about here.”

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