The Rev. Dr. Brian A. Brown

 

  Brian Arthur Brown is a minister of the United Church of Canada who has previously preached at First Baptist Church on occasion in 2012 and 2013. He is also one of Canada's more prolific authors. His best known books are Separatism (1976) with his friend, Quebec Premier René Levesque, followed by The New Confederation (1977) with Premier Bennett of British Columbia. For his American readers he wrote Your Neighbor as Yourself, with a foreword by John Kenneth Galbraith (1996), a Canadian at Harvard who served as economic advisor to Presidents Roosevelt, Kennedy and Johnson.


    Dr. Brown has accepted an appointment as Scholar-in-Residence at First Baptist Church as a base for his American activities, and to preach on occasion. Most of his books are in our church library. He believes his best work was one of his first books, The Burning Bush, a narrative analysis of northern resource development, written during the 1975 Burger Inquiry into an oil pipeline between Alberta and the Arctic, yet to be built. His current (16th) book is Three Testaments: Torah, Gospel and Quran, a compendium following the popular prequels, Noah's Other Son and Forensic Scriptures.


Along with his appointment to First Baptist, an honorary position established by our Trustees specifically for Dr. Brown, he has just been named to the Oxford Roundtable on International Affairs at Jesus College in England's Oxford University. With his lovely wife, Jenny, Brian lives in Niagara Falls, Ontario, less than ten minutes from our church. Their rambling old house is often filled with grandchildren, and the Browns will celebrate fifty years of marriage early in 2014.

They were first attracted to First Baptist by its architecture, came to hear the excellent music during worship, and look forward to a future association with this "warm, historic and progressive" congregation.

 

Read what a critic says about Dr. Brown's new play, Some Year in Jerusalem.

Play Compared to Fiddler and Roots

After a fall run at First Baptist Church in Niagara Falls, NY, and a Dec. 11 presentation at the YMCA in St. Catharines, Ontario, a noted critic offered this script review for the media. Playwright Brian Arthur Brown, a United Church minister in Niagara Falls, Ontario, works as Scholar-in-Residence at First Baptist Church in Niagara Falls, NY.

Reviewed by Ellen Frankel

In his recent book, Three Testaments: Torah, Gospel and Quran, Brian Arthur Brown bound together for the first time the foundational scriptures of three world religions, all heirs to the family of Abraham. This play, based upon that book and subtitled Some Year in Jerusalem, dramatizes the shared story of these three faith communities, separated by conflict and competing truth claims, but ultimately bound together by their common story and by their interwoven sacred texts.

This play addresses some of the thorniest political and religious issues of our time in a manner that engages the imagination and the heart. Populated by familiar characters drawn from scripture-the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah, Queen Esther, Jesus, Muhammad and his daughter Fatima-as well as exotic figures, both historic and imagined, such as the Persian prophet Zoroaster, the 10th century Caliph Abd Al-Rahman III, and a trio of talking birds-the play brings to life many of the scholarly controversies that have led to much bloodshed throughout history: Is the Bible the true word of God? Which of these three Scriptures holds the ultimate truth? Which faith has legitimate claim to the land of Israel? Where did such radical theological concepts as Satan, the Messiah, and Judgment Day originally come from? Can the Children of Abraham ever live together in peace?

Just as the musical Fiddler on the Roof helped American Jews move into the American mainstream and the novel Roots restored to its community the lost African-American story, so too this drama, with its focus on the roots and influence of the Quran, may open the door to and for North American Muslims. Although that is not the point of this play, it may be an unintended and fortunate consequence.

One of the strengths of the play is to draw parallels between pivotal religious turning points in the ancient world-5th century Jerusalem and 7th century Persia before the Common Era; Tyre in the 1st century, Medina in the 7th century and Cordoba in the 10th-and our own times, awakening us to unknown or forgotten connections that may yet help the Children of Abraham realize our common humanity. In its inspiring conclusion, the play imagines a day, not far off, when a peace accord is reached between Palestinians and Israelis, and when the world gathers to celebrate this long-awaited event at a United Nations meeting in Jerusalem.

Perhaps the greatest challenge to the success of this play is its audacious ambition to translate a work of sacred scripture and scholarship into a work of imagination. According to playwright Brian Brown, Three Testaments: Shalom, Peace and Salam dramatizes the argument that "Jews, Christians and Muslims have entered a new interfaith era in which they are able to help each other to understand their own and each other's scriptures in the quest for peace." But can an argument be effectively dramatized? Can polemics work as theater? William Butler Yeats once astutely observed that "'Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry." That will be the ultimate test for this play: whether an interfaith project, which began as rhetoric, by binding together rival scriptures in a symbolic act of reconciliation, can now lead to poetry, to an experience of catharsis that constitutes successful theatre?

On January 22, 2014, Three Testaments: Shalom, Peace and Salam will be presented in a staged reading Off Off Broadway in New York City. I intend to be there to see if this play can pass the test.


[Ellen Frankel is Editor Emerita, The Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia, which she headed for nearly 20 years as CEO and Editor-in-Chief, author of ten books, noted opera librettist, and well qualified theatre critic.]

 

Rev. Dr. Brian A. Brown, Scholar-in-Residence at First Baptist Church, receives
the IPPY award from the Independent Publishers Association in the Catagory of Religion
for his book Three Testaments.

Rev. Dr. Brown lectures at Oxford University.

 

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