By Crystal R. Albers
Editor, The Torrington Telegram
TORRINGTON – This October, while most Goshen County residents are harvesting corn, decorating for Halloween, and enjoying football games – two local men will perform at a religious event boasting an attendance of approximately 10,000 people, including the Dalai Lama.
The 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions draws individuals representing 80 nations and 50 faiths from around the globe and is touted as “the oldest, the largest and the most inclusive gathering of people of all faith and traditions” according to its website (parliamentofreligions.org
Rev. Brian Kroeger of the Torrington United Methodist Church and friend and fellow Torrington resident, Dave Ernst, who acts as board president of the Prairie Vista Unitarian Universalist Church in Scottsbluff, Neb., will make the trip to Salt Lake City, Utah to perform a short play for Parliament attendees.
The pair first met at a funeral Kroeger was officiating.
“I liked the way he did it, so I introduced myself and talked to him,” Ernst said. “We became friends and colleagues.”
The men bonded over a mutual love for philosophy (they hold a philosopher’s circle every Thursday morning at 9 a.m. at Deacon’s Restaurant) and faith – so when Kroeger discovered the Parliament was being held just 500 miles away (it’s also been held in Barcelona, Spain and Melbourne, Austrailia), Ernst was one of the first people who came to his mind.
“In seminary [school] I learned about Parliament of the World’s Religions,” Kroeger said. “I always thought to myself that it would be something neat to go to, and learned serendipitously [recently] that it was in Salt Lake this year – too close to pass up. I called Dave that night, and he asked for more information. The next day, Dave called back and said, ‘Yeah, this is exciting, but instead of just being participants, let’s be presenters.’”
On Sunday, Oct. 18 at 8:15 a.m., Kroeger and Ernst will perform the story of Kwan Yin and the Dragon, a play Kroeger wrote based on an ancient fable, and guided by Ernst, who is on the Goshen Community Theatre board.
“The basic premise is that each of us have within us an angel and a demon on each of our shoulders,” he said. “The angel calls us to be better than we are and compassionate for all of creation, and the little devil says, ‘Hey, take what you can get it.’ He’s selfishly motivated, [and tells us to] benefit for our own selves only, whether it hurts anyone else or not.
“All of us have within us seeds of anger, instead of ignoring that anger, we need to dance with it,” he continued. “We can’t eliminate it, but we can accommodate it – transform rage into righteous indignation.”
Mini sermons and a question and answer session will follow the play, which includes Kroeger as the dragon, Ernst as the narrator, and two other characters.
“We’re still casting for someone to play the little girl and Kwan Yin,” Kroeger said, adding applicants should be at least 16 years of age.
Aside from performing, Kroeger and Ernst said they are also excited to make new connections in the religious community and hear some of the speakers, including the Dalai Lama, Dr. Karen Armstrong, and former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, among others.
“Primarily, the parliament works to encourage and bring about understanding between different religious traditions so that we can work towards the common goal of making the world a more peaceful and passionate place,” Kroeger said.
“We’re looking forward to connecting with people that work with justice and compassion,” Ernst added. “[We want to] communicate with people of diverse ideas, make connections and bring it back to Torrington and Scottsbluff, to connect with people here.”
For more information about the event, visit the Parliament of the World’s Religions website
or stop by Torrington United Methodist Church or Prairie Vista Unitarian Universalist Church in Scottsbluff.