It’s billed as the first “TriFaith Fourth of July” celebration in the Twin Cities, featuring entertainment and education from Twin Cities Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities.
Visitors can check out tents focused on each religion, listen to musicians from each faith — from hip-hop artist Brother Ali to jazz artist Mark Bloom and singer Regina Marie Williams — and mingle with folks who don’t typically socialize on Independence Day.
Behind the festivities at St. James Episcopal Church in Minneapolis on Tuesday is a serious mission. It is testing whether the Twin Cities might become home to a TriFaith Center that would nurture deeper cooperation among the religions.
“We’ve created this as a public demonstration that these three faiths can work together,” said Ruth Anne Olson, an organizer from St. James, which is exploring a renovation of its building to house a center for religious leaders to cooperate closely on community and faith issues.
Olson said she is aware of only one other such center in the country, in Omaha. The July 4 celebration will be a litmus test to gauge public interest in such cooperation, she said.
Nausheena Hussain is among the Muslim organizers of the “This is America” celebration. She’s intrigued by the prospect of a permanent center. And July 4 is the perfect day to put the spotlight on the concept, she said.
“Independence Day is a great day to show this is what America looks like,” said Hussain, founder of Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment (RISE).
“We are different cultures, different faiths,” she said. “Given today’s political climate, with all the hate rhetoric on the rise, people should see what it looks like when we come together.”
The Twin Cities has long been a center of interfaith outreach, but such a center would take it to a new level, said Rabbi Alan Shavit-Lonstein, founder of By the Rivers learning center in St. Paul. He is also an organizer of the celebration.
“It gives us an opportunity for a physical location and a constant connection,” said Shavit-Lonstein.
Church leaders exploring the concept say they are taking it slowly and steadily.
They’ve recently hired a consultant to gauge the cost of renovating the church that was first built in the 1920s on Minnehaha Parkway.
“We feel like we’re in some uncharted territory,” said church organizer Max Athorn.
Both the center and the July 4th celebration indeed are breaking new ground. While the celebration will look like many — with musicians on stage, food trucks parked along the road — walk into one of the tents and get a crash course in the religion.
The Jewish tent, for example, will have dreidel games, an opportunity to make tzedakah boxes for saving charity donations and some Jewish worship objects that people can ask questions about, said Beth Gendler, executive director of the National Council of Jewish Women, Minnesota chapter, another partner in the event.
Visitors can get their names written in Hebrew, Arabic and Greek as they visit the different religions.
It’s a big festival for a relatively small church of about 80 families. The multifaith idea came about as the church pondered a direction for the future.
It’s also looking at tighter cooperation with neighboring Lutheran and United Methodist churches, Olson said.
“This is very much the beginning,” said Olson. “What we hope will come out of [Tuesday] is the identification of other people interested in this idea. In the fall, we hope to convene people to determine what this center might actually look like.”
The celebration runs from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday.