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Cultural Survival’s Suzanne Benally and Rothko Chapel’s David Leslie join for discussion of indigenous spirituality

November 22, 2017

Cultural Survival’s Suzanne Benally and Rothko Chapel’s David Leslie join for discussion of indigenous spirituality

“Concept of the Divine” series continues, Dec. 7

HOUSTON – Nov. 22, 2017 – The Rothko Chapel is preparing to host an event exploring the dynamic culture of indigenous people -- and one woman’s relationship with the divine.

At 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec.7, the nonprofit’s “Concept of the Divine” series continues into it’s second season with a conversation with Suzanne Benally, executive director of Cultural Survival, an organization advocating for the rights of indigenous peoples.

The Rothko Chapel is located at 3900 Yupon St., Houston, 77006. The event is free and open to the public includes a public reception, and has a suggested contribution of $20. 

Benally is the first indigenous executive director of Cultural Survival, an organization that has supported native communities’ self-determination, cultures and political resilience since 1972.

She is Navajo and Santa Clara Tewa from New Mexico. 

Prior to assuming her current post, Benally served as the associate provost for institutional planning and assessment, as well as associate vice president for academic affairs, at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. She was a core faculty member in environmental studies and a member of the president’s cabinet.

Before starting at Naropa in 1999, Benally was the deputy director and director of education programs at the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. She also worked as director of the Institute on Ethnic Diversity at the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. 

The Rothko Chapel’s executive director David Leslie said that Benally was a perfect fit for the continuation of the Chapel’s series, which provides a unique space for speakers to share how their personal concept of God has changed over time and has shaped their lives, their service to the community and their understanding of their own identity.

“An important part of our mission here at the Chapel is the notion of spirituality and interfaith relations and dialogue,” Leslie said. “For many people, their sense of spirituality changes over a lifetime. It’s not static.”

He explained the lecture series allows the Chapel to shine a light on an individual’s spiritual journeys.

“If you look at our line-up, all of our presenters show growth and change in their writing and their work,” he said. “They are always open to what the next iteration of the divine is for them.”

He added that the Concept of the Divine series is a response to conversations happening in the community. 

“The Chapel has a history of hosting this type of conversation,” he said. “It also seems like there is a lot of new thinking going on in this direction. We are hoping to spark dialogue – and to foster the discourse that is already going on.”

The series includes speakers from diverse faith backgrounds. 

“Hopefully, through these sorts of programs and dialogues, we take something that might be unfamiliar and make it familiar and personalized,” Leslie said. “We want to strengthen the fabric of relationships across borders and boundaries, both real and conceptual, to make us the best community we can be.”

The series continues with a conversation in February between Ilia Delio, a theologian and Franciscan Sister of Washington, DC, who specializes in science and religion, with interests in evolution, physics and neuroscience, and Bill Kerley, a psychological and spiritual teacher at Houston ‘s St. Paul’s United Methodist Church.

For event registration and for more information about the Rothko Chapel, the “Concept of the Divine” series and a full calendar of upcoming programs, workshops and events, visit rothkochapel.org or call 713-524-9839.

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