Oprah Winfrey’s seven-part documentary titled “Belief” hit TV screens this week, but several Minnesotans got to preview the series as Winfrey’s special guests in California.

Peg Chemberlin, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches, watched parts of the series with about 100 guests at a Santa Barbara theater, followed by an evening of dinner and discussion at Winfrey’s estate.

As guests dined on the likes of curry shrimp, apricot chicken and golden cauliflower purée, the discussion moved to the content of a series that introduces viewers to the faces and philosophy of religious practices around the globe.

The series will be the centerpiece of educational forums in Minnesota starting next week, Chemberlin said. “The storytelling and cinematic beauty take you to places where most of us will never go,” she said.

“We meet a young woman becoming a Jain nun in the Middle East,” she said. “We meet a young Hindu woman from Manhattan who makes a pilgrimage to the Ganges [river in India]. We meet a Jewish boy in Eastern Europe going through his bar mitzvah. We meet a Native American woman in the United States going through a coming-of-age ceremony of her tribe. …”

When Chemberlin raised her hand to make a comment during a post-dinner discussion, it was none other than one of the richest self-made women in America who held the microphone.

“It was a lovely evening,” said Chemberlin, who paid for her trip.

Two other Minnesotans attended, she said: the Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and Krista Tippett, creator of the public radio program and podcast “On Being.”

The “Belief” series, being broadcast on the Oprah Winfrey Network this week, will be the focus of educational forums Sunday at St. John’s Episcopal Church in St. Cloud, Monday at the Islamic Center of Minnesota in Fridley and next Thursday, Oct. 22, at the Minnesota Council of Churches in Minneapolis.

Chemberlin said the series introduces viewers to the “sheer diversity of religious experiences.’’


Jean Hopfensperger 612 673-4511