OGDEN "Are you ready to go back in time?" asked the women of the United Church of Christ Congregational, handing out large clear bags and a paper time line at the entrance to the fourth annual Interfaith Fall Festival on Saturday night at Mount Ogden Park.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which spearheaded the event, and five other churches the Buddhist Church of Ogden, St. Joseph's Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, the United Church of Christ Congregational and the Second Baptist Church participated in this effort to promote positive interfaith relationships.
With a theme of "A Moment in Time," festivalgoers had their choice of 24 booths, most covering a specific era. For example, participants could walk on the moon in a bounce house, pan for gold during a mock Gold Rush, pound in "golden spikes," sip 10-cent root beer floats near a 1950s Cadillac or even shoot paintballs at wooden turkeys in celebration of the first Thanksgiving.
Nine-year-old Blake Beesley of Ogden looked excitedly from one booth to another.
"I've come every time," he said. "I really liked the Golden Spike."
Three of the churches had booths providing a historical glimpse at their denomination. People marveled over the pictorial history of the Japanese in Ogden put together by the Buddhist Church. A few feet away, one could learn about the upcoming renovations to both the St. Joseph's Cathedral and the Episcopalian Church in Ogden.
"Interacting with one another, you realize we are all brothers and sisters with the same goals and aspirations," said Morris Sterrett, festival chairman from the Ogden East Stake. "We just approach things differently."
A humanitarian project was one of the main purposes of the festival. The churches came together to donate various items to assemble dignity kits for the Ogden Rescue Mission and St. Ann's Homeless Program. St. Joseph's Catholic Church donated $1,230 to the effort, with churchgoers counseled to give no more than a dollar. More than 1,200 people donated, according to Frank Bernal of St. Joseph's.
"I love the camaraderie," Bernal said. "Very seldom can you have so many religions come together."
Other booths highlighted family activities in and around Ogden. One could grab a brochure on the Weber County Pathways, learn more about Union Station or win passes to Dinosaur Park.
And the dinner was free. Hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, cookies and watermelon were offered on the north side of the park. Last year, the festival fed more than 2,500 people. This year, they had more than 2,000 hamburgers ready and waiting as the lines became longer and longer.
Diners could then bring their full plastic plates and sit back to enjoy live entertainment. Participants included the Buddhist Church taiko drummers, the Second Baptist choir and folk dancers from the Jefferson 2nd Spanish Branch.
LDS Church missionaries were not allowed to proselyte at the festival.
"It fosters a lot of community unity, getting all the religions here, not arguing," said Elder Joseph Davis, a missionary from Lompoc, Calif., as he sat eating and enjoying the taiko drummers.
Elder Peter Boyle of Sydney, Australia, added: "It just seems like everybody has come together nice. Everyone's happy to be here. That's sweet."
"It fosters relationships with the churches within our area," said Reed Richards, president of the Ogden East Stake and originator of the Interfaith Fall Festival. Richards came away with the idea for a festival more than four years ago after attending a meeting in Salt Lake City where Elder Merrill J. Bateman, now an emeritus general authority, issued a challenge to interact with other churches.
"The best thing about it is the new people you meet on the committee, and it amazes you how it comes together," said Mike Koga, of the Buddhist Church of Ogden. For the past six months, the committee of 13 would meet monthly, going to a different denomination each time. After the planning session concluded, host church members would walk the committee around their building and explain their beliefs.
"I knew we would work together, but I would not have guessed we would love each other," said Jan Sterrett, festival chairman from the Ogden East Stake. As she took a break from cutting watermelon to wash her hands, she looked around at everyone working together and smiled. The festival would be "A Moment in Time" she would not soon forget.
Similar sentiments echoed in the friendly fellowship seen across the park throughout the evening. They were perhaps best expressed in Episcopalian Rev. Adam Linton's interfaith prayer, that everyone would "evermore see you more perfectly in and through one another. Amen."