Taylor symposium lets you be a witness to Indy’s religious diversity

By Diane Brown, IU Communications Specialist:

If you didn’t attend the Taylor Symposium this year, or if you want to relive that exhilarating experience, your laptop can take you back.

Thanks to the on-demand video services of Indianapolis Channel 16 Government Access Television, the 26th Joseph T. Taylor Symposium is available for viewing as a three-part series in MP4 video format.

Simply click the blue on-demand button, enter “Joseph Taylor Symposium “in the Search Archives box, then pick from one of three selections from 2015.

Be prepared to go to church, mosque, and/or temple.

This year’s theme was “Encountering Religions Through Performance.” Presented by the School of Liberal Arts under the leadership of the Department of Religious Studies, the event allowed attendees to experience how various religious groups approach “worship and also inform understanding, teaching and celebrating through song, dance and performance,” Dean Bill Blomquist said in his welcome.

The symposium opened with “Feeling the Spirit,” an educational mini-concert by the Light of the World Gospel Ensemble under the direction of music and media minister John Ray.

Light of the World Gospel Ensemble performs at 2015 Taylor Symposium at IUPUI.

In another setting, the presentation would have scored a chorus of “Amens” from one community guest who exclaimed instead, “What a way to start the day!”

The symposium, a signature campus event, honors Joseph T. Taylor, a founding father of the IUPUI campus.

Taylor was known for his dedication to building community and understanding through public discourse. He would have been thoroughly delighted by the mild give-and-take between Ray and moderator Joseph Tucker Edmonds, assistant professor of Africana studies and religious studies. The discourse offered glimpses of the communication gap that often must be bridged in order for academicians and regular folks to reach common ground.

“How do you understand your sacred responsibility as it relates to the text and tradition of Christianity,” Edmonds asked.

“Can you say that again?” Ray replied.

“How do you understand your … to simplify, what is the difference between you being an entertainer and (you being) a minister? Edmonds said.

Ray offered an example: Beyonce’s rendition of Thomas Dorsey’s “Precious Lord” at the recent Grammys.

“Go home and watch Beyonce do that song, and then go and google Mahalia Jackson singing the same song and you will understand what I am talking about,” Ray said.

Songs performed traced the history of gospel music from Dorsey’s classic, to Edwin Hawkins’ 1960s arrangement of “Oh Happy Day” — which Ray says is still No. 1 in Sweden — to Kirk Franklin’s hip-hop “Stomp” and beyond.

Then the spotlight turned to first-year IU School of Medicine student Mohamad Saltagi.

Mohamad Saltagi

Mohamad Saltagi

In “Hearing Allah’s Presence,” Saltagi shares how the wisdom found through memorizing and chanting the Quran has motivated him to pursue justice, kindness and mercy.

“The Quran is meant to be chanted … chanting the Quran brings it to life,” said Saltagi, who delivered selected passages in both English and Arabic.

Saltagi has memorized the Quran — all 600 pages of the text in its original Arabic.

It took a lot of persistence, helped by 90-minute classes four times a week during high school, but memorizing new verses wasn’t the hard part.

“Keeping the old pages in your memory and continuing to review what you already know is the challenge,” Saltagi said.

Whether you binge-watch the entire symposium or take breaks between viewing sessions, don’t miss this opportunity, as Blomquist said, to “share the beauty and the passion” of Indianapolis’ religious diversity.

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