I had the great privilege of being able to attend the gala soiree at the Festival of Faiths here in downtown Louisville recently (see Ben Adkin’s report on the event at SHC Daily News blog) and I was struck almost speechless by the sheer magnitude of the affair.
The event was held at the Henry Clay, an old turn-of-the-century building which was been restored in recent years to it’s former glory, and there were three floors of business and faith exhibitors nestled throughout the elegant rooms and hallways.
The gala event was a place for fine food and drink, sushi and champagne and beautiful people milling around in perfectly-pressed suits and elegant evening wear. What I thought was remarkable, though, was the mutual respect that seemed to be particulate in the air that night.
This was a civic event of high order, although it was not necessarily billed as such. The mayor was there, and I also spotted our local US Representative as well, along with the current and previous local Catholic Archbishops. There were local college and university academics as well as executives from major local corporations, and yes, there were representatives there from all the local charitable organizations as well. (The attendees may have been ladies and gentlemen, but it can be said that those in need were indeed represented and given voice.)
And all of them, as diverse and different as possible in many meaningful ways, were all there for one reason – because they believed.
Everyone there believed in something or someone greater than themselves – and all were respected, and quite honestly loved, for that very quality.
The blessing of the food was a multi-faith event, given by three female religious leaders – a Jewish rabbi, an Episcopalian minister and a Muslim teacher. And no matter what faith tradition anyone was – they all stopped and paid respectful attention as they spoke of bounty and giftedness.
I’ve heard it said in interfaith settings that we all have far more in common with each other than we have differences, and this event certainly put that into practice. This was the 16th Annual Festival here in Louisville and it has become so well respected in interfaith circles around the nation that it is being looked at as a model by other cities as a means for bringing all faiths together. Along with civic and business leaders, events like this one is indeed fruitful as a means for open, frank and productive dialogue among all levels of society.
In what appears to be an increasingly polarized national debate on so many issues, it is indeed refreshing to find a place where everyone can stand together. I was indeed honored to be a part of it.