Starting on Oct. 27, the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston will be transformed into an art gallery through Dec. 6, as it hosts the traveling art exhibition, "ABRAHAM: Out of One, Many." The exhibit's title plays off of the Latin motto "E pluribus unum" / "Out of many, one," and it is an artistic exploration of living harmoniously. For this exhibition, three Middle Eastern visual artists from the Abrahamic faith traditions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism have each created five paintings that interpret Abraham’s life and faith journey.
The exhibition is presented by Caravan, a peace-building nonprofit whose efforts are based on the belief that the arts are effective in building bridges between those of diverse faiths and cultures. The exhibition is on a 24-month global tour, primarily to heavily trafficked sacred spaces. It premiered in Rome, Italy; was then showcased at the American Cathedral in Paris; was part of the Just Festival at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland; and is now touring the United States through mid-2021.
The Very Rev. Amy E. McCreath, the dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, explained in an interview that having this exhibit at the cathedral will allow Boston faith communities to learn more about the tradition of the "other," particularly in a time of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
"Many people struggle to really understand their own tradition, let alone other people’s tradition; and my experience has been that when you’re in conversation with people of a different tradition, it causes you to learn more about your own tradition too," McCreath said. "It feels to me really, really important right now that we understand our tradition and how it’s connected both to Judaism and Islam, and that we counter that sectarianism and that violence, both intellectually by knowing the history, [as well as through] building relationships with real people in real time."
"Our hope is that parishes will bring a group to come and tour the exhibit, but even more we would hope that they would call the temple down the road and bring an interfaith group to come and experience it and talk about what they see together," McCreath said.
In that same spirit, the cathedral church has been working in conjunction with Central Reform Temple as well as with Dar Al-Islam, which hosts Jum'ah Muslim Prayer in the cathedral each Friday.
"I’m hoping out of this comes the opportunity for more conversation--bigger and wider and more people in the conversation," said Jill Silverstein, the president of Central Reform Temple. "I'm really hopeful that people will walk out of the building and find ways to walk into each other’s spaces and continue the conversation."
Rabbi Mark Shapiro serves as rabbi in residence at Christ Church Cathedral in the Diocese of Western Massachusetts, and explained in an e-mail why he plans to bring a group to the exhibit.
"Our 'interfaith experiment' is thriving in Springfield, which is why we are planning a day in Boston when we will view the Abraham exhibit," Shapiro said. "We, as an interfaith group, will learn about Abraham who truly was father to all of us. What a revelation! What an interfaith blessing!"
In a phone interview, the president and CEO of Caravan and curator of the exhibit, the Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler, explained how these exhibitions aim to serve as an encounter point, bringing people together who may not ordinarily come together, and how art can help people tackle big issues on a deeper level.
"One of the reasons I think art is so effective is there’s something transcendent about it," Chandler said. "It communicates to that deeper dimension, so when you’re looking at some of the deepest issues that we all face, issues of identity and issues of how we see the stranger and all of that, the arts have some kind of almost subliminal way of connecting and communicating."
"One thing I would say is this exhibition for us is not so much about interfaith dialogue, but largely about facilitating interfaith friendships," Chandler said. "And those are much more difficult to bring about because they involve the investment of yourself in the other."
--Bridget K. Wood
Find more information about the "ABRAHAM: Out of One, Many" exhibit here.
The exhibit will be open through Dec. 6, and the cathedral church will offer docent-led tours and other events related to the topic of Abraham and his descendants. To volunteer as a docent (training will be provided) or to schedule a group visit, contact Roger Lovejoy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-482-5800, ext. 309.
The opening program and reception for the exhibition in Boston is on Oct. 27 at 4 p.m. at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, and is open to the public. Guest speakers will include Bishop Alan M. Gates and the Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler, President/CEO of CARAVAN and exhibition curator; as well as Rabbi Howard Berman, founding rabbi of Central Reform Temple; and Sr. Khansaa Elguenaoui, a Muslim woman currently working in psychiatric research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School.
All are welcome to an interreligious book study of Hagar, Sarah, and Their Children: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives, co-sponsored by the Bishops' Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations. The book group will gather at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, on the afternoons of Nov. 10 and 17 and Dec. 1 and 8. Doors will open at 2:30 p.m. each Sunday for tea and coffee and conversation. The book study will start promptly at 3 p.m. and end at 4 p.m. For more information or to sign up, visit the cathedral's website here.
In conjunction with the exhibit, the cathedral will host a concert on Saturday, Nov. 23 by the group, et al., performing its Sacred Service that explores music of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith traditions. Tickets cost $20 and can be purchased in advance through the et al. website, or at the door. Doors will open at 7 p.m. and the concert will start at 7:30 p.m.