Festival of Faiths encourages conversation, learning

The National Geographic Sacred Journeys exhibit is located at the Mayborn Museum. The Festival of Faiths will incorporate this display into its event Sunday. Photo credit: Timothy Hong

By Megan Rule | Staff Writer

The longstanding Festival of Faiths will take place from 2-5 p.m. on Sunday at the Mayborn Museum Complex, in conjunction with the National Geographic Sacred Journeys exhibit.

“I just hope that lots of people will be able to come out and celebrate our diversity and learn from one another and perhaps want to support the work of the Interfaith Conference,” said Rabbi Laura Harari, president of the Greater Waco Interfaith Conference.

The festival will include food samplings from a variety of cultures, tables exhibiting various faith traditions and tours of the Sacred Journeys exhibit for the first hour and a half. At 3:30 p.m., a demonstration in Mayborn’s theatre will feature various interactive presentations from the faith groups represented at the festival.

“In some cases, there will be people leading the group in something like a meditation or a chant, in some cases a question and answer and in one case, I believe, we will be teaching a folk dance,” Harari said.

Rebecca Nall, assistant director of exhibits, communications and visitor services at the Mayborn Museum, said the Sacred Journeys exhibit was developed by the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis in partnership with National Geographic. The exhibit focuses on the sacred journeys and pilgrimages of five young adults who represent the five major world religions: Christianity, Islam, Hindu, Buddhism, and Judaism.

“There are some pretty interesting and high-level artifacts in the exhibit, so there aren’t more than one traveling around,” Nall said. “We have two fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a leaf of the Gutenberg Bible and Martin Luther’s signature.”

Nall said helping to host the event is a great way to highlight the exhibit currently at the Mayborn Museum. Harari said she was appointed to be part of a clergy committee for when the festival would come to Mayborn Museum. She reached out to various clergy to make sure as many people as possible could take advantage of the exhibit and suggested the festival be held jointly with the museum for the exhibit.

“As the president and representative of the Jewish tradition, it is critical in my way of thinking that those who live in our community understand that we are a diverse community, and we have many people of different backgrounds living here and working together,” Harari said. “The more we learn about each other, the more it can be something to bring us together and share and appreciate the common denominator.”

The Greater Waco Interfaith Conference began in February 1980 and was founded by a priest and a rabbi. It was originally called The Conference of Christians and Jews in the Waco Area. As the community became more diverse, the conference expanded to include the growing variety of faiths in Waco. According to the Greater Waco Interfaith Conference website, the name officially changed in 2002, and members representing Islam, Hindu and the Baha’i faith joined the Board of Directors.

“As a member of the museum, I’m excited about new partnerships, partnering with the Greater Waco Interfaith Conference and then also introducing the museum to new people,” Nall said. “I would suggest just stopping at all the tables and attending the demonstrations and being open to engaging conversation.”

Admission to the Mayborn Museum is free for all Baylor students, and the exhibit is open seven days a week through Dec. 31. Entrance to the festival is free, but there is a charge for non-students and non-members of the museum to see the exhibit. Other events for the Greater Waco Interfaith Conference throughout the year include the Interfaith Service of Thanksgiving at 7 p.m. on Nov. 14 at Seventh and James Baptist Church, and the World Religion Day Panel Discussion in January, which will feature representatives of different faith traditions where the community can come to ask questions and learn about different faiths.