Exterior photo of the Springfield Art Museum
Springfield Art Museum. (Photo by Jackie Rehwald)

These are fractured and polarized times. A handful of community groups are coming together in Springfield to do something about it.

The Have Faith Initiative and Interfaith Alliance of the Ozarks are teaming up with the Council of Churches of the Ozarks and the Springfield Art Museum to put on the Ozarks Festival of Faiths. The event, which is free and open to the public, will be 6:30 to 9 p.m. January 28, at the museum. The theme is “Unity.”

“We have become so polarized and mean, so we want to get to the point where we’re seeing different faiths and focusing on the things we have in common and connecting with people who are different than us,” said Deanna Carpenter, community coordinator with the Have Faith Initiative. “Then we can work together to shed light on our community and start healing it.”

More than 15 faith groups have signed up to participate

The night will include informational tables from participating faith groups, a gallery of children’s artwork, musical performances and a candlelight vigil. More than 15 faith groups have already signed up to participate. The list includes several Christian denominations along with Buddhist, Hindu, Bahai, Sikh, Muslim, Jewish, Unitarian and Native American groups. With their table displays, they’ll answer three questions: what inspires us, what guides us and what unites us?

“This might help people understand these faith groups better,” Carpenter said. “There’s a lot more in common than not in common.”

Music will be provided by a pair of interfaith choirs, one for children and one for adults. They’ll perform at 7 and 8 p.m. Performances, centered around the event’s “Unity” theme, are expected to last less than 30 minutes.

“The idea is to see the artwork, see the tables and watch the musical performances in whatever order you want,” Carpenter said. “Then at 8:45, after the last performance is over, we’re ending with a candlelight vigil. The message is to take this light into the community and connect with people.”

This is the inaugural Ozarks Festival of Faiths, but organizers don’t want it to be the last.

“We want this to be an annual thing with a different theme each year,” Carpenter said. “This one is about basically trying to bring our community together in unity, finding common ground and seeing each other as people, really.”

Artwork, singers wanted

Carpenter said the public is invited to participate in the interfaith choirs or submit artwork created by children ages 18 and under. For more information email her at demaisdee@gmail.com.

“If there is a faith group that wants to get involved that is not already connected, reach out and talk to me,” Carpenter said. “It’s not too late. We will play with anybody in the sandbox who wants to come be a part of this. It’s not an exclusive club. Our goal is to bring the community together as best we can in 2023, in whatever way that looks. If somebody in the community has an idea, we want to hear it.”

Jeff Kessinger

Jeff Kessinger is the Reader Engagement Editor for the Springfield Daily Citizen, and the voice of its daily newsletter SGF A.M. He covered sports in southwest Missouri for the better part of 20 years, from young athletes to the pros. The Springfield native and Missouri State University alumnus is thrilled to be doing journalism in the Queen City, helping connect the community with important information. He and wife Jamie daily try to keep a tent on the circus that is a blended family of five kids and three cats. More by Jeff Kessinger