[by Cynthia Clegg Canada]
For 17 years, the Louisville Festival of Faiths has sought to promote interfaith understanding and cooperation. Its mission is “to celebrate the diversity of our faiths, be grateful for our unity and strengthen the role of religion in society” – a mission best attained by exploring the ways in which various faith communities approach and come together over common issues facing our society as a whole.
The focus of the 2012 Festival of Faiths is “Sacred Fire: Light of Compassion.” The festival, which takes place November 14-18, will examine compassion in neighborhoods, communities of faith and the Metro area. On another level, the theme is extended to encompass stewardship of natural resources and the effects of that seemingly less personal level of care on the health and wellbeing of everyone involved.
Among the highlights of the Festival is the Seder of Sacred Fire at 6 p.m. on Sunday, November 11, at The Temple Klein Center. This environmentally inspired Seder emphasizes the images of light and compassion in the Bible and in Jewish worship. Seder meals are traditionally observed on Passover and for Tu B’Shvat – the Festival of Trees – at the end of winter. Rather than a full meal, this special Seder, created as part of the Festival of Faiths, incorporates the “sweets of the earth” – fruit, nuts and chocolate, as well as soup and bread. Rabbi Joe Rooks Rapport and Rabbi Gaylia R. Rooks will lead this event as all take part in the prayers, poems, and songs of the Seder. Children are welcome to attend. There is no charge for the Seder, but seating is limited so reservations are required. Call 423-1818 to reserve a seat at the table.
The Children of Abraham Dinner, an interfaith Thanksgiving-style program traditionally incorporated into the closing activities of the Festival, is being rescheduled this year due to calendar conflicts. Community will publish more information as it becomes available.
Topics relating to social justice run throughout the four days, from Thursday morning through Sunday afternoon. A workshop on Thursday, November 15, offers opportunities to create motivating symbols for social justice action, and keynote addresses and panel discussions on Thursday and Friday take on issues from homelessness to compassion in congregations. Speakers include Professor Larry Rasmussen, the Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary; the Rev. Ben Guess, executive director of Local Church Ministries for the United Church of Christ; James Doty, M.D., founder and director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University; and the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, co-author of the national Charter for Compassion and Director of the Department of Religion at the Chautauqua Institution.
Environmental stewardship events include a Rotary luncheon on Thursday with solar energy expert and “Solar Roadway” co-inventor Scott Brusaw, who will discuss the environmental and economic benefits of renewable energy.
In an address on Friday, November 16, the Rev. Canon Sally Bingham will address the morality of energy efficiency, as well as its environmental, social, and practical benefits. Following will be a facilitated discussion with all attendees invited to participate, to talk about practical measures for implementing stewardship of natural resources.
Friday’s lunchtime keynote speaker, Thomas Graham, Jr., a former senior U.S. diplomat and the executive chairman of the Lightbridge Corporation, will talk about Nuclear Weapons and the Future of Civilization.
Programming for children, youth, and families includes a youth program on Friday, which will incorporate a presentation of the “Solar Roadway,” discussions on racism, homelessness, and anti-smoking, and a presentation on Bernheim Arboretum’s use of controlled burns in forest management, among other topics.
On Saturday, November 17, a Hindu Havan Ceremony will use music, dancing, and other activities to engage children and families in the ongoing conversation about Sacred Fire. And at noon on Sunday, November 18, choirs and choral groups from across all age ranges and civic and religious affiliations will join in a choral competition.
The Festival of Faiths has provided a forum for nearly two full decades of interfaith thought and action, and this year promises to be continue that tradition. These and other events – including pre-festival activities – offer opportunities for individuals and families to become involved in the Metro-wide community of faith, and in doing so, to deepen their ties to their own communities of faith.
Please note that many events are free, but most require tickets for planning purposes. Visit the Festival’s website, www.FestivalofFaiths.org, for a complete schedule and event tickets.