Salt Lake City, UT October 14, 2015
The folks here in Salt Lake City have been organizing for a whole year now, for this event. This time last year the rumors around town were finally confirmed when some of the board members of the Parliament came to one of the local Interfaith Roundtable Luncheons. The lunch appointment is on my schedule, once a month without fail. It is always a lively lunch catching up on all the activities happening at all the houses of worship around the valley, and greeting friends I haven’t seen. Though I am well past what most would consider “youth,” inquiries are always made as to how the young people are doing. Back to the rumors… They board members arrived at our humble lunch to announce that they would like us to host the Parliament of the World’s Religions. The room came alive with excitement. Folks could hardly contain the questions and their eagerness to be a part of whatever it would take to show how religiously diverse the Salt Lake Valley really was.
My role in the local organization is rather unofficially the “Young Adult Chair.” This afforded me the opportunity to have a seat at the table. The meeting of two non-profit organizations is quite the dance. The meeting of two non-profit interfaith organizations is a sight to behold! I can’t relate everything I saw or heard for privacy reasons, of course, but as I related in posts in the past, I again feel as though I’m standing on the shoulders of giants. The negotiations, conversations, and debates have been invaluable to my real life interfaith education. I’ve seen how difficult it is to want with every fiber of your being to be able to say yes, but know that your true capacity requires a ‘no’. I’ve seen people give their time, their efforts, their homes, meals, their cell phone plans, anything and everything that can be laid at the feet of the interfaith movement has been offered by the folks of the Salt Lake Valley.
My role in the organization of the Parliament has happened in a multitude of capacities. I have helped develop the local Fellows program. The Fellows has been spearheaded by Brian Birch of Utah Valley University. Who, again, has given an incredible amount to the Parliament. I did have the opportunity to train and develop the Fellows attending from institutions of higher education around the state, but mainly Salt Lake Community College. I can’t express how influential the Parliament has been in forwarding conversation at Salt Lake Community College. I will continue to encourage and empower students there to keep the interfaith cooperation in motion at an institution with such incredible potential.
A few months back I stopped trying to keep track of the committees on which I served. I had approved conference proposals, fundraised for the Fellows program, trained “youth”, and was then being asked to help organize an “Interfaith” Space. I’ve been especially honored to be a part this process. I’ve gotten to work with my friends Karla Mendez and Jan Saeed to decide what this space will look like and what people will do there. We tried for weeks to get soft welcoming seating in the space. We couldn’t find a local sponsor, donors, or reasonable prices. Despite the setback, we were determined to have inviting dialogue in the space, so we reached out to other interfaith organizations for conversation starters. We are looking forward to seeing what they will contribute to the space. In the morning, I go to set up the space with my friends. We are also greatly honored to have in the Interfaith Space the paintings of Peggy Fletcher Stack from the book A World of Faith published for the 2002 Olympics hosted here in Salt Lake City.
Well, that is the plan. Tomorrow, we will see all the plans finally come to fruition. I stopped in the Salt Palace (the local convention center) this morning just to drop off some boxes, and all my exhaustion in all the planning began turn to anticipation. I have so many friends coming to town! To me, that is what all this is really about, friendships built; to look forward, wherever the next parliament is hosted, to meeting up with a whole new host of friendships I will make over the next four days.
Image courtesy of the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions.