A quick hike from the live music, ski hill and celebrity Super Bowl parties, football and faith found common ground Sunday.
Nearly a thousand faithful celebrated at an official Super Bowl event that put the spotlight on one of Minnesota’s less glitzy claims to fame — its national leadership in multifaith cooperation.
While Minnesota’s Christians, Muslims and Jews have been forging alliances for years, the influx of a zillion downtown visitors prompted faith leaders to tap the Super Bowl spirit to remind the world that people of different faiths can unite — though not always when choosing their Super Bowl favorites.
They approached the Super Bowl Host Committee with the idea. Soon they were filming a goofy football team video featuring ministers, rabbis, imams and a Catholic bishop, and planning a Sunday afternoon of inspiration and entertainment to raise money for the homeless.
“This is a different angle, or aspect, to the Super Bowl,” said Dana Nelson, vice president of legacy and community relations for the Super Bowl Host Committee, watching the event at Westminster Presbyterian Church. “I don’t know if something like this has been part of the Super Bowl in other places. That’s what makes it so special.”
Busloads of people from several large churches and a mosque began pulling up to Westminister in the early afternoon, as did a steady stream of lucky folks who found nearby parking. The 100-year-old church stood in stark contrast to the shimmering arched gateway to Super Bowl Live events steps away.
What followed was an ecumenical extravaganza featuring an Arab music ensemble, a Klezmer cabaret, Twin Cities gospel legends J.D. and Fred Steele and words of inspiration from Twin Cities faith leaders of a dozen traditions.
“Bold Hope in the North” showcased a choir of homeless people and their allies, and two women diverted from homelessness by the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The event was a fundraiser for the program.
Visitors were welcomed to the sanctuary by the Rev. Tim Hart-Andersen of Westminster Presbyterian and Mark Mullaney, former defensive end for the Vikings. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey moderated the two-hour event.
“During Super Bowl week, under the eyes of the nation, we want to highlight Minnesota’s unique interfaith spirit,” said Hart-Andersen, “and the willingness of leaders of a variety of faith traditions to come together on the same team.’’
‘Acceptance of all faiths’
Former Vikings punter Greg Coleman, an ordained minister and member of the Vikings radio broadcast team, was among the speakers. He said he’s long been aware of Minnesota’s unusual place in the world of faith.
“The culture of Minnesota, even back in the day, has been one of acceptance of all faiths,” said Coleman. “Same church, different pews. We’re all trying to get to the same place.”
The faithful in the pews represented the many faces of interfaith work. Many were part of Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness, whose members range from Temple Israel to Masjid An-Nur to the Basilica of St. Mary.
The council is just one of many multifaith initiatives in Minnesota. The Minnesota Council of Churches has long made interfaith collaboration a priority. There’s a Joint Legislative Religious Legislative Coalition, the Twin Cities Interfaith Network, the St. Paul Interfaith Network, plus dozens of less formal examples.
For the folks trying to raise money to stop homelessness through this event, it was an unusual blessing.
‘A recipe for success’
“It really shows what is unique about Minneapolis,” said Joe Kreisman, director of Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness. “There are many cities where the faith community does advocacy work together. But we haven’t found anywhere else that does both service and advocacy like we do here.”
Frey, who moved to Minneapolis in 2009, said he had been impressed by the faith community’s joint efforts on so many issues. He said he was glad to spend several hours on a busy weekend to host the event.
Said Frey: “I believe in the power of spirituality as a guiding compass and as an organizing tool. It’s a recipe for success.”
Jim Winkler, president of the National Council of Churches, was intrigued that Minnesota was showcasing its interfaith work during Super Bowl week.
“I haven’t heard of a Super Bowl Host Committee having an event like this before,” said Winkler.