Several weeks ago I was contacted by Audrey Galex, an Atlanta-based freelance producer, asking if I could help with some of her upcoming programming. She currently produces and hosts a news program called AIB Metro for the cable station Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters. In her recent episodes Audrey has included a short piece on faith and food. This October she planned to feature harvest foods and felt it was a great opportunity to incorporate a Pagan voice into the show.
For Audrey, the interfaith experience has been more than just a career path. She was raised Jewish in a predominantly Christian town. She remembers celebrating traditional religious holidays with friends of many different faiths. As an adult she lived in Egypt, attending American University in Cairo, and traveled extensively throughout the Middle East as both a student and as a journalist for CNN. She comments, ‘Interfaith has been part of my life, like the air I breathe.’
I feel obligated to engage in interfaith dialogue and initiatives because we all live on one planet. The well-being of Mother Earth is our shared destiny. We must learn to live together, to celebrate our very lives together, to survive. We need to understand each other so that we will not fear each other, because fear leads to mistrust and mistrust leads to hatred and violence.
Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters (AIB) is an excellent outlet for her work. The forty-four year old non-profit television station produces “programming that promotes interfaith and community dialogue.” The station’s history, from one man’s outlandish idea to the producers of Emmy winning programming, is explained on the AIB web site:
Determined to accommodate the ever-growing and diverse religious communities of Atlanta, [Presbyterian Minister] Rev. John H. Allen had a progressive idea to unite people from ALL communities and faiths to share their thoughts with the public. Although this idea was seen as controversial by many, three clergy members joined forces and Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters was born… [In May 1969,] Rev. Allen’s vision to promote dialogue between those of different faith, socioeconomic backgrounds and cultures was up and running.
Today Pagans are being included in that dialogue. Over the past several years Audrey has invited various Pagans to appear on her program AIB Metro as well as other shows. She recalls:
I … had a chance to interview a Pagan leader for a program I did for AIB a number of years ago on “The Mysterious Roots of Easter.” I’ll never forget that interview. “Easter bunny… ours. Easter Egg .. ours.” I believe that’s what really opened my eyes to Paganism. Plus, I always knew there had to be some meaning for the items on the Passover seder plate that pre-dated Judaism.
Since then she’s been calling on the Atlanta Pagan community to participate when appropriate. Audrey remarked:
I feel that, if someone is working for an interfaith media entity, the pagan community must be included as one among many faith traditions and spiritual paths in every project, to the extent that is possible. It is a religion. Its teachings and theology are part of the rainbow of traditions in our pluralistic culture and world.
While she openly admits to often forgetting to include a Pagan voice, she is striving to make that correction. She has done just that with her new spotlight on food and faith through which she seeks to explore how traditional foods are prepared and used within a spiritual setting.
For the October edition, she invited Holli S. Emore, the Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, to be the on-camera talent. As an active member of Interfaith Partners of South Carolina and a strong proponent of such work, Holli jumped at the opportunity to become involved with interfaith television programming, specifically in the South. Holli says:
Pagan spirituality is a beautiful path; it’s high time we let people in on the secret. No, I don’t mean recruiting; I just mean being open about who we are. Fresh air and sunlight are essential to growing a healthy garden. Why not share with others when they ask, as I was? What I have found, in the course of my interfaith work the past few years, is that all kinds of people are curious and very supportive. In the spirit of interfaith, we accept that we simply want to get to know each other. Shows like AIB Metro help us do that. … This is how we build a peaceful world, one person at a time.
When Holli arrived in Atlanta, she joined Audrey and cameraman, Nick Bach for an on-location shoot in Audrey’s own kitchen. During the first portion of the filming, Holli shared a family recipe for Pumpkin Pudding. While preparing the dish for the camera, she interjected information about the meaning of the harvest within her own Pagan Tradition, Osireion.
After placing the pudding in the oven, the shoot and the conversation moved outdoors. With the camera rolling and the smell of cinnamon wafting from the kitchen, Holli and Audrey discussed Paganism, Wicca, Witchcraft and all things in between. Audrey remarked:
[Holli] is deeply committed to the spirit and scholarship of Paganism. She is knowledgeable about a variety of traditions beyond Paganism, personally and professionally, and expresses thoughtfully and engagingly.
Holli was a natural in front of the camera showing a graceful ability to answer complex questions with sensitivity and openness. Her experience in interfaith circles has given her the language to communicate the beauty of Paganism within a framework understood by people of any faith. Holli noted:
Many Pagans mistakenly think that the purpose of interfaith work is to educate others about Paganism to dispel the ugly myths about us. That certainly happens, but there is so much more! There are other religions who feel the same way – they want us to understand and accept them.… Pagans are not the only minority religion in America. My Muslim friends want me to know that they have fun and are not offended by my liberal attitudes even if they don’t share them. My Sikh friends empathize with Pagan fears of bias and discrimination. My Christian friends are glad for me to see that not everyone is a literalist or evangelical. The Unitarian Universalists and I just high-five each other! There is a rich world out there and Pagans are part of it. We have just as much to learn from those on different paths as we do from each other.
After a few laughs during the shoot, Audrey echoed her own passionate commitment to interfaith work by adding: “I love miniature golf and would like, someday, to create a miniature golf course in which each hole represents a different faith tradition. At the end, the ball goes to the same place …” She hopes to continue weaving Pagan voices “as a regular part of programming” at AIB.
October’s edition of AIB Metro is now in post-production. Audrey confirmed that Holli’s segment will be one of the “featured” pieces for the upcoming show. It will debut Thursday, Oct. 3 at 6:30p and then re-air over the entire month on Tuesdays at 10:00am, Thursday at 6:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 12:00pm. The show can be watched on local Atlanta cable channels. For those outside the Atlanta Metro area, the show will be available via internet streaming directly from AIB’s website.