Calvin students attend interfaith dinner


Holland community members discussing faith over Thai food. Credit: Joshua Polanski

HOLLAND, MI — Six Calvin students shared an interfaith meal with members of the Holland community. The event took place at the Holland Arts Council on Tuesday, September 25. Participants came to the dinner from a variety of faith backgrounds, including lay Catholics, secular and humanist guests, a Protestant pastor and Islamic worshippers.

This was the third annual Interfaith Community Dinner. Interfaith Allies, a Holland-based group that promotes interfaith relations, hosted the event. The evening’s host, Jill Russell, noted that over the years the community initiatives and events have moved “beyond mere tolerance and towards understanding and complete respect.”

The evening opened with a quick round of “Speed Faithing,” a fun play on “speed dating.” The community members got in two circles. The circles faced each other and each person would be paired with a partner. The pairs would discuss a variety of faith-based questions about their own backgrounds, and then the circles would rotate for new conversation partners. This allowed the entire community to interact with each other rather than just the people at their dining table.

Manato Jansen, the interfaith coordinator for Calvin’s Service-Learning Center (S-LC), says that this type of event is special because “[we] hear about the experiences of people of various faith, spiritual and non-religious worldview and backgrounds.”

During the dinner itself, each table discussed similar faith-themed topics. The topics included personal stories about faith, tales about struggles with particular dominations and testimonies of changing religious traditions. Multiple participants noted a particular anxiety and frustration with their own faith in the midst of the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis.

Jansen said, “Interfaith dialogue is important because it tears down a lot of walls that come from fear of the unknown.”  Jansen continued, “Especially for Calvin students, who can very easily stay in our comfortable CRC bubble on campus.”

Thai Avenue, the popular Zeeland-based Thai restaurant, provided the entirely vegan dinner.

Interfaith Allies’ next event, a panel discussion, “Know Your Jewish Neighbor,” takes place Tuesday, Nov. 13 at the Herrick District Library from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Contact S-LC for more information regarding interfaith events.