SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable leaders adopted a new approach this year when planning their annual interfaith month. Rather than worry about the amount of events offered, they stayed focused on a key message: Faith inspires service to others.
This shift produced an event lineup that's shorter than last year's, but no less meaningful, said Janet Healy, chair of the roundtable's planning committee. Participants will discover how religiously motivated generosity makes Utah a better place.
"So many services are being provided to the community that we don't know about. This is an opportunity to learn," she said.
At the Generosity of Faith Fair on Feb. 19, attendees will meet with leaders of local service organizations and faith communities. They'll also hear a discussion of religious teachings that call for caring for the underprivileged.
Later that week, Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable has arranged for a group service project at UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Both events are family-friendly and meant to nurture a lifelong interest in lending a helping hand.
These are two of the handful of events bringing a generous spirit to Interfaith Month 2018, Healy said, noting that this year's focus on giving still allows religious diversity to shine.
Religion and generosity
In surveys and other research, people of faith stand out from other Americans for their willingness to help people in need. Religion promotes generosity in many forms, including donations of money and time.
"Charitable effort correlates strongly with the frequency with which a person attends religious services," reports "The Almanac of American Philanthropy," published in 2016.
In Utah, faith-based service organizations and houses of worship lead clothing drives, distribute food and help settle new immigrants and refugees. Interfaith Month's Generosity of Faith Fair is designed to celebrate this work, Healy said.
"We're getting congregations together to showcase what services they offer," she said.
So far, nearly 20 groups will be represented at the fair, such as Catholic Community Services of Utah, the Sikh Temple of Utah and Calvary Baptist Church. Organization or church leaders will be on hand to discuss recent outreach programs and explain how their faith inspires their service.
The event on Feb. 19 starts with a panel discussion at 4 p.m. and then transitions to an open house from 5 to 7 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to bring nonperishable food items to support Hildegard's Food Pantry, a service run by the Cathedral Church of St. Mark.
Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable's young adult members will set the tone for the fair earlier in the month when they lead a conversation on "the generosity of time." The goal is to reflect on how faith affects people's relationship to their daily schedule, pulling them toward one activity or another.
Although not every faith-based service organization will be on display during Interfaith Month 2018, attendees will have a chance to discuss their own religious communities in conversations with other participants, said Josie Stone, chair of Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable.
"We can promote our own faith out in the community by going to other houses of worship. It creates an opportunity to talk," she said.
Although Interfaith Month 2018 features fewer events than last year, the schedule still includes offerings from a variety of faiths. Participants can visit a local Hindu temple or attend a discussion on the similarities between the teachings of Islam and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The annual interfaith bus tour will take place Feb. 27 and includes presentations at Chabad Lubavitch of Utah, which is a Jewish synagogue, and the Islamic Society of Bosniaks in Utah, a mosque that got a makeover in 2016.
This tour, like the month in general, was designed to push members of Utah's majority Christian population to explore something new, Healy said.
"It's an opportunity to hear presentations … and get out of your bubble," she said.
For non-Christians hosting open houses, Interfaith Month is a chance to form new friendships with neighbors, said Prit Palsingh, a member of the Sikh Temple of Utah.
Members of minority faiths are sometimes met with suspicion or fear, he said, noting that upcoming events are a reminder that "curiosity is better."
Following tradition, Interfaith Month 2018 will conclude with an interfaith concert at the Tabernacle on Temple Square on March 18. Performers from a variety of local faith communities will sing, dance and drum, celebrating the role music plays in religious practice.
Interfaith Month 2018 begins Feb. 3. For a full calendar of events, visit interfaithroundtable.org.
If you go ...
Here are several Interfaith Month events. For updates and additional information, see interfaithroundtable.org.
• "Two Faiths, One Common Base: LDS & Islam" by George Cannon and Ayse Durmus, Feb. 3, 3-5 p.m., Salt Lake Main Library auditorium, 210 E. 400 South
• “Aristides de Sousa Mendes: the Portuguese Schindler,”Feb 4, 9:30 a.m.-noon, Congregation Kol Ami, 2425 E. Heritage Way
• Salt Lake Interfaith Rountable Young Adults: Generosity of Time, Feb 10, 4-6 p.m., Church & State, 370 S. 300 East
• Generosity of Faith Fair, Feb. 19, 4-7 p.m., panel at 4 p.m., fair at 5 p.m., 332 Bugatti Ave., South Salt LakeComment on this story
• Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple, Feb. 22, 6-8 p.m., 1142 W. So. Jordan Parkway, South Jordan
• United Methodist Committee on Relief Generosity of Service Project, Feb 23, 9 a.m.–4 p.m., 1479 S. 700 West
• Heritage Musical, Feb. 25, 5 p.m., Calvary Baptist Church, 1090 S. State St.
• Interfaith Bus Tour, Chabad Lubavitch of Utah (Jewish) and Islamic Bosnian Mosque, Feb 27, 6-9 p.m., Park at Chabad Lubavitch of Utah, 1760 S. 1100 East; reservations are required
• Sacred Music Evening, March 18, 6 p.m., Tabernacle on Temple Square, tickets are free and required