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Franklin College will host an inaugural event that brings together different religious communities and artistic expressions. The event, titled ‘Interfaith Understanding Through the Art of Storytelling,’ will be held in the Branigin Room of the Napolitan Student Center on Thursday, March 19 at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

The event is the inspiration of Franklin College Professor Emeritus David Carlson, Ph.D., and Franklin College Director of Religious Life and Chaplain Hannah Adams Ingram, Ph.D., who have long been drawn to interfaith dialogue and understanding. Carlson and Ingram are active with the Center for Interfaith Cooperation based in Indianapolis and have represented Franklin College at various interfaith celebratory events and educational workshops, including the annual Festival of Faiths.

Carlson, who will serve as moderator of the event, explains “interfaith” is more than just working to understand the significant differences and similarities between the world’s religions, but also working together for peace and healing in a world that is quick to judge, blame and distort. He hopes this event will serve as a bridge to understanding.

“While comparing beliefs and practices is important in increasing understanding about the world’s religions, this approach can often feel like information overload,” said Carlson. “Our idea for the event is to bring people of different faiths together and let them share some of the treasures and gems of their faith in the form of artistic expression. Instead of just talking about different religions, let’s listen to stories from those religions. Stories are the oldest form of human entertainment. It’s what our ancestors used to do to pass along wisdom. They’d sit around the fire and tell stories. Stories engage us, they help us relate to one another.”

Two noted storytellers have been invited to campus to entertain listeners with their engaging tales. George Kelley, education director of Congregation Beth-El Zedeck in Indianapolis, will represent the Jewish tradition, while Joanne Terrell, Ph.D., associate professor of theology, ethics and art at the Chicago Theological Seminary, will represent the Christian, Buddhist and Taoist traditions.

In addition to the evening event, both Kelley and Terrell will spend the day on campus, engaging with students who are interested in seminary education or careers in religious communities before visiting Franklin College classrooms to interact with students and professors. They will also visit with friends of the college and local interfaith leaders at a reception prior to the public event.

The event is the first in what Carlson and Adams Ingram hope will become a yearly occurrence at the college, highlighting different faith traditions through various expressions of the arts and the humanities – such as dance, visual arts, music, poetry and film making.

“This type of event is especially important for Franklin College and the city of Franklin because while religious diversity is increasing nationwide, religious expression is predominantly Christian on campus and in the community,” said Adams Ingram. “As Franklin College seeks to prepare students as global leaders, it is essential that they learn about traditions that differ from their own. Interfaith Understanding Through the Arts offers a way to build this cultural competency through the shared joy of performance and art.”

The program is being underwritten through the generous financial contributions of alumni Bill Brown ’61 and his wife Sue Ann, Sandra Hinshaw ’66 and her husband Tom, and Bob Epstein ’67 and his wife Louise.

For more information, please contact the Franklin College Office of Communications at (317) 738-8185.

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