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Speedfaithing is a quick introduction into faith

Published: Monday, Nov. 18 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

“They want to get the training to involve more of the faith organizations,” Asif said.

Such was the case at Dominican University in River Forest, Ill., which is about 20 minutes outside of downtown Chicago. Jeff Carlson, a professor at the school, said in 2011 the school consulted IFYC to help it develop an interfaith activity for the school after Dominican signed a three-year agreement with IFYC to spread knowledge on different faiths. At the same time, Eboo Patel, founder and president of IFYC, was the endowed chairman for the liberal arts and helped teach interfaith literacy at the school through lectures.

Dominican’s method of speedfaithing was a little different than IFYC’s normal form, Carlson said. Like meeting a friend for lunch, students sat down at tables and openly discussed their faiths for five minutes. After time expired, the students moved to other tables and opened up new discussions with others.

More than two years later, Carlson said the school still uses IFYC’s teachings to build interfaith literacy for its students. Freshmen at the school are required to take a seminar that has religious themes for more than one faith, he said.

Understanding values

But speedfaithing is a quick process to introduce a religious tradition, which Carlson said doesn’t allow participants to obtain a total understanding of different faiths.

“It’s definitely not enough,” he said. “Speedfaithing is just a quick way of getting a sense of other people’s main values, ways they live them in their lives (and) big questions they’re intrigued by. So it’s a sense of getting a quick smattering of other people’s answers to those questions.”

Carlson said if speedfaithers want to gain a better understanding of different faiths, they'll have to do individual research.

Hamilton said UCI had the student speakers make up a list of websites and locations that other students could go to to learn more about different religions in case they didn't learn enough during their speedy info sessions.

The quickness of speedfaithing, though, is part of its charm, Asif said. It’s less about understanding a faith and its theology and more about understanding the values religions share, Asif said.

“Students can kind of quickly have that light bulb moment where they learn of somebody’s tradition and how it connects to others,” he said.

Carlson said speedfaithing is a way to extend the religious experience. Instead of only attending church on the weekends, this opens doors to meeting fellow churchgoers and building relationships with members of other faiths outside of the pews, he said. It enlightens and teaches, Carlson said, and it’s a “valuable engaging, fun, interesting experience. … It’s a thoroughly enjoyable and illuminating activity that you can do.”

Building bridges

Asif said speedfaithing is a gateway to more religious learning and should inspire deeper conversations between peers. “People come together and voice their beliefs,” he said, adding that students can use this activity to get better involved with religious activities.

Carlson said speedfaithing has given students a better way to build religious activity.

Hamilton said UCI students were interested in learning about different religions, which led to the success of the event. It was so successful, Hamilton said, that UCI is planning to host another round of speedfaithing in early 2014 — and it may even be opened to the public.

“I think adults should have it just as much as students do,” she said. “Everyone would benefit from this kind of exposure to different cultures and ideas and religions.”

Carlson said students might decide to attend religious classes, retreats or service projects because of those quick five-minute conversations they had during speedfaithing.

“Hopefully,” Carlson said, “it inspires people to take some other next step.”

Email: hscribner@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @hscribner

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