Chautauqua invites contemplation of all things Appalachia

Barbara Hootman

Chautauqua is coming to Christmount Oct. 24-28 during the religious retreat's annual Christmount Week.

Christmount Retreat and Conference Center is located at 222 Fern Way in Black Mountain.

The “Chautauqua Comes to Christmount” conference focuses on Appalachian heritage and culture. Included will be morning worship, storytelling, craft exhibitions, local tours, hiking opportunities, evening concerts by local musicians and educational lectures by area historians and authors.

On Oct. 26, the Asheville trio Freewheelin’ Mamas will bring a unique blend of harmonies and instruments to the concert hour.

“The Chautauqua event includes a mix of worship, education, art and recreation, which are considered to be the four pillars of continuing education activities,” retired Rev. JoAnne VerBurg, a co-host, said.

The event is named after Chautauqua, New York, where an experimental and successful training camp for Sunday school teachers was founded in 1874. Daily prayers for world peace have always been a centerpiece for Chautauqua and Christmount.

“The conference is designed to create a deeper appreciation of the way the hardworking, creative people of Appalachia worshiped, shared their stories, celebrated life and enjoyed the beauty of the mountains and valleys where they lived,” co-host Carol Tyler said.

“Chautauqua Comes to Christmont” begins with dinner on Monday, Oct. 24 and will be followed by a meet-and-greet that includes orientation of the week.

Mornings begin with prayers at the peace pole five minutes before breakfast. Worship begins at 9 a.m., led by Jennie Shirey and the Rev. Dr. David, senior pastor of Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Lexington, Kentucky. The morning continues with an educational lecture at 10:30 a.m.

Tuesday features Anne Chesky Smith, director of the Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center, who will lecture on the history of the Swannanoa Valley. Wednesday has folksinger Laura Boosinger presenting a lecture on shaped-note singing.

Thursday is time with Tim Barnwell, a nationally recognized photographer.  He will present his photographs that depict the natural beauty of the Appalachian area.  His photos are well known for capturing the spirit of the people.

Chautauqua afternoons are devoted to workshops with craft exhibitions, nature study and opportunities to explore the area with hikes, tours of craft studios, and time to rock on the porch and gather around the fireplace to share experiences.

Chautauqua evenings finish each day with a 7 p.m. concert, open to the public. On Tuesday, songs and stories will be presented by the duo Twice Blest – Black Mountain’s storyteller Donna Marie Todd and Andy Gwynn. On Wednesday Asheville trio Freewheelin’ Mamas will bring a unique blend of harmonies and instruments to the concert hour.  On Thursday, folksinger Laura Boosinger and her band, the Midnight Plowboys, finish out the conference during the concert hour. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door. Call 669-8977 for more.

Friday morning will have a closing worship service.

“The Chautauqua event focuses on celebrating the mind, body and spirit, and  you may even discover your own Chautauqua experience at the first Chautauqua event at Christmount,” Tyler said.  “We started talking about having a Chautauqua event at Christmount three years ago, and spent last year planning the first one.  All faiths are welcome.”

For more information about tickets and cost, call 669-8977 and visit