Thanks to the outstanding contributions of 2012 Festival of Faiths event chairs, the programs offered were broadly inclusive of religious and cultural traditions and appealed to all age groups, with broad ranges of interest. The success of the Festival derives from the rich diversity of its programs, that draw upon traditions held sacred by millions of people over thousands of years. Just think of it! These traditions originated in the lives and works of holy persons unknown to us, and they have attracted the poetry, music, sacred writing and scholarship that are the foundations of our current faith traditions.
The Hindus presented an elaborate program centered upon the sacred fire of the Havan, but included much more; the Jews presented a Seder of Sacred Fire, featuring “sweets of the earth,” prayer and sacred music; the Festival was anticipated by programs as varied as an Evensong in the Anglican Tradition, held at Christ Church Cathedral, and a Sweat Lodge, an Indigenous ceremony of purification. The Interfaith Thanksgiving Service began with the People’s Procession from the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage to the George Garvin Brown Garden, where Indigenous persons conducted a sacred fire ceremony, recalling values and practices preserved from time immemorial. This fire was transported to the Cathedral of the Assumption for an interfaith thanksgiving service with Father Jeff Nicolas as presider and Bishop Terry White of the Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky, as the keynote speaker. The Macedonian Ministers of the Presbyterian Church organized an event for youth at Camp Cedar Ridge, and the Pakistani-American physicians presented a Sufi music and meditation program, honoring the mystical tradition of Islam.
Festival event chairs were also responsible for presenting a number of programs on Compassion, the outward witness to the sacred fire of the heart, that is nurtured in all of the world’s religions. Some of these chairs began meeting as early as March and continued doing so on a regular basis from that time until the Festival. No effort proved to be too much for our fearless event chairs. They recruited committees of experts when necessary, assembled panels, created videos, attracted partners and did whatever it took to create exceptional programs. It is now time to name these outstanding event chairs and acknowledge their generous and efficacious contributions. In so doing, we remain mindful of the contributions of every single volunteer who served on a committee, introduced a speaker, created an exhibit, or served in any other capacity. You are the unnamed honorees of this party which says “thank you” to one and all alike.
Marie Geary – Chair of Volunteers. In this role, Marie assumed responsibility for recruiting around 75 volunteers; for staffing every event, including pre-Festival events; updating the Handbook for Volunteers; conducting training sessions; taking care of all details such as creating appropriate lanyards and providing snacks, some of which were stored in a refrigerator which is her gift to the Festival and to the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage; and being on hand herself everyday, from the first event of the day to the last.
The Macedonian Ministers of the Presbyterian Community. These outstanding volunteers provided the facilities at Cedar Ridge Camp for an experience that the roughly 100 young people who attended will never forget. The experience included food, a hayride, storytelling, a drum corps and singing, all adding up to an inspiring evening.
Theresa van der Palen – Chair of Indigenous Participation. Indigenous programming began with the pre-Festival Sweat Lodge at her home, over which she presided. She did, in fact, preside over all of the Indigenous events, which began with the opening Blessing of Sacred Fire, and continued all day every day with the Teaching Circles, concluding with the impressive Extinguishing of the Fire ceremony on Saturday of the Festival.
Dr. Alex Gerassimides – Chair of the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service and with her husband, Mayor Greg Fischer, host of the Reception in the Undercroft which followed the Service.
Canon Robert Bozeman, Music Minister at Christ Church Cathedral – Chair of the Evensong at Christ Church Cathedral. The event included performing on the Harpsichord which memorializes Owsley Brown II, selecting choral music which focused on fire and light, and directing the Cathedral Choir. He also served on the Music Committee for the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service and directed the Christ Church Cathedral Choir at this event.
Dr. Philip Brisson, Music Minister at the Cathedral of the Assumption – Served on the Music Committee for the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, where he was organist and accompanist, and directed the Cathedral of the Assumption Choir.
Pat Mathison, Spiritual Contemporary Gospel Singer – Served on the Music Committee for the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, sang at the Service and organized the Keep the Fire Burning Gospel Explosion program that concluded the 2012 Festival of Faiths.
Maggie Cyphers – Chair of the Interfaith Prayer Breakfast, which included promotion, overseeing the menu, the décor, entertainment, and the seating arrangement.
Gray Henry, Member of the CIR Board of Directors and longtime Festival volunteer. Gray brought Dr. Larry Rasmussen to the Festival as keynoter at the Interfaith Prayer Breakfast and offered him hospitality in her home, along with Dr. James Doty, another Festival keynoter.
Natalie Harris, Executive Director of the Coalition for the Homeless. Assembled a Committee of professionals who serve the complex needs of homeless persons in their journey toward permanent housing. She played a leading role in designing the program on Homeward Bound through Compassion, on creating the video entitled “Voices of the Homeless,” and in producing the impressive Exhibit on homelessness.
Dr. Gordon Tobin, Plastic Surgeon, Professor and Former Director of Plastic Surgery at the University of Louisville. Served as Co-chair of the Committee on Homeward Bound through Compassion. His interest is primarily in the relationship between addictions and homelessness, a subject that he continues to pursue with Dr. James O’Connell of Boston, an authority on this subject who made a recent visit to Louisville at the invitation of the Coalition for the Homeless and related organizations.
Sister Robbie Pentecost and Father John Rausch. Together, Sister Robbie and Father John presented a workshop on crafting symbols that stimulate compassionate action. They obtained funding for this workshop, so that it could be presented, with lunch included, at no charge to participants. Enrollment in this popular program closed early.
Tom Williams, Attorney at Stoll Keenon Ogden Law Firm and Chair of the Compassionate City Committee for Louisville. Tom worked cooperatively with Festival staff, particularly on the Compassion and Community and the Compassion in Business programs. He helped to strengthen the partnership between the 2012 Festival of Faiths and the City of Louisville in promoting a culture of compassion.
Lisa Dettlinger, Director, Center for Neighborhoods. Organized the program bringing together neighborhood and religious leaders to assess and meet the needs for compassion in their areas. In addition, she presided over the graduation exercises for those who had completed the 12-week Green program presented by local bioneers.
Kevin Lynch, Certified Financial Planner at ARGI Financial Group. Organized and coordinated with the Mayor’s office the program entitled Compassion in Business. This program was presented in two sessions, one open to the public and another by special invitation of the Mayor. Kevin obtained funding from his company toward the reception closing the invitation-only session.
Maryanne Honeycutt Elliott, Certified Coach in Executive Leadership Development, served as facilitator in the Compassion in Business program offered to local CEOs who were invited to the program by Mayor Fischer.
Deborah Greenwald chaired the Youth Program for the second year and amazingly, managed to build upon her outstanding previous success. The program was offered to 400 middle and high school students from local public and private schools and drew upon the services of a host of expert presenters as well as 40 facilitators for a dialogue on racism. Papa John’s provided pizza for this event, and Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory in Prospect donated “fire balls” for snacking.
Sister Claire McGowan, O.P. founder of New Pioneers for a Sustainable Future, which is a ministry that she carries out in St. Catherine, KY. Her Festival program, entitled “Our Land Cries Out: Communities of Faith Address the Call to Stewardship,” is an extension of her ministry of stewardship for the planet. Begun last year, this program proposes to reach out to all faith communities and engage them in the sustainable use of their land. The program will be a part of the Festival agenda for the foreseeable future.
Dr. Muhammad Babar, Gerontologist; Dr. Syed Raza, Cardiologist. These two physicians determined that the greatest contribution that they could make to the Festival of Faiths and to interfaith understanding would be a Sufi Concert. Impelled by this determination, they undertook the daunting task of bringing to the Festival an event which involved singing, Rumi poetry, and whirling dervishes. They also raised the major part of the funding for this ambitious program largely from other Pakistani-American physicians who shared their goals. The efforts and the generosity of all were gratified in an appreciative capacity crowd of around 400 persons.
Lisa Holt chaired the Night of 1000 Stars alone this year, having co-chaired the event last year. In keeping with the wide diversity embraced by the Festival of Faiths, she selected food, entertainment and décor that reflected the riches of cuisines around the world. Each aspect of this event represented a triumph, but the entire production was indeed a many-splendored affair.
Lisa Miller is widely accomplished in her field, holding, among other credentials, certification by the Chopra Center as a Meditation Instructor and an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Coach. It is in her capacity as an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Coach that she offered a yoga workshop at the 2012 Festival of Faiths. The Festival is indeed privileged to benefit from the vast experience and knowledge of Lisa Miller.
Sujata Chugh and Lopa Mehrotra spent many hours over the months leading up to the Festival putting together a complex program that truly delighted as it instructed attendees about many phases of Hinduism. The program included a havan, storytelling of the Ramayana, arts and crafts, and a beautiful dance demonstration, along with traditional Indian snacks. In addition to a complex program, involving the participation of a large number of people, these chairs provided an elaborate décor that virtually transformed Russell Hall.
Gregory Chaney organized the first People’s Procession, mentioned before, a diversified group of 28 persons who walked from the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage to the George Garvin Brown Garden as prelude to the Festival. This was no ordinary procession by any means, involving as it did bagpipes and song, a kind of police escort, and all the embellishments that Greg, a man steeped in the language of Thomas Merton, Shakespeare and Walt Whitman, could bestow upon it.
Ellyn Crutcher is the volunteer who is a one-woman committee. In the early months she attended committee meetings on the Hindu and Indigenous events, but later devoted all of her efforts to the art exhibit, pulling together the Art Rendezvous in record time. This event featured the work of local artists, including Russell Hulsey, Guy Tedesco and Rex Lagerstrom, as well as the black-and-white photography of Thomas Merton and the Zen signatures. She also identified the artist who produced the Lifetime Achievement Award for the Rev. Canon Sally Bingham This, appropriately was a piece of art glass, fired in sacred fire, in the shape of a flame, which is green in color, to reflect Rev. Bingham’s work for and devotion to a green planet.
The leadership of Tim Tomes was apparent in the House of Worship exhibits generally, but in particular in the Cathedral of the Assumption/Archdiocese of Louisville exhibit, for which he was largely responsible. Tim has been a longtime contributor to the Festival, and his devotion to its purpose inspired a dedicated and most capable volunteer effort as chair of the House of Worship exhibits.
Tim’s counterpart, Jack Will, chaired the non-House of Worship exhibits, which yielded a number of memorable exhibits provided by people who are in attendance here this evening. We dare not attempt to mention names, but please know that all of you are much appreciated. Center for Interfaith Relations Board member and Honorary of the 2012 Festival of Faiths Christy Brown has referred to the exhibitors as the “face of the Festival.”
In a touching gesture of compassion, Surekha Kulkarni brought the Beaded Treasures Project to the Festival. This Project benefits women refugees from third-world countries around the globe. The goal is to progress from refugee to entrepreneur, a goal that is also an expression of hope.
And last, but certainly not least, Gary Loeser and the Event Company worked tirelessly to transform the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage into the home of the 2012 Festival of Faiths. Behind the scenes, Gary and his crew ensured a smooth transition between the Festival’s many programs, which is no easy task.
Once again, our thanks to all who made the 2012 Festival of Faiths an event to remember.