The 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto marked many firsts and one of the most exciting new elements was the introduction of The Interfaith Family Festival, which for the very first time brought interfaith programming and education for families and kids of all ages to the convention halls. Parliament commissioned Spiritual Playdate, an interfaith educational program for kids and families to deliver 5 days of fun, interactive and uplifting programming for littles, middle schoolers, tweens, teens, parents, and grandparents, to all enjoy together.
Founder and Director of Spiritual Playdate, Edwina Cowell told us “Our goal was to create a safe and welcoming space for anyone to come learn about all sorts of different faith practices and inspirational activities that often spring from those traditions. Every activity had to meet three criteria... It had to be interactive, it had to have positive messaging directly or indirectly coming from a faith-based teaching and it had to appeal to both kids and adults. Our bold hope was to create something along the lines of an Interfaith Family Museum and we were thrilled with the outcome and feedback.”
Our theme for the 2018 Parliament IFF was Plant an Interfaith Garden, so of course, garden metaphors were everywhere! There were Learning Patches which were hosted by different faith groups and featured an activity that demonstrated something important to their faith. Some highlights were experiential and informational sessions on Turban Tying by a Sikh group and What’s in your Pocket?, a Zoroastrian activity that showcased the faith teaching of filling your pocket with good deeds. Another Learning Patch was The Bee Garden hosted by a Muslim organization who created a fun garden path where kids had to get “pollen” from a huge flower to a giant honeycomb without disturbing anything. This was based on the Hadeeth, “A believer is like a bee who eats what is pure & wholesome and makes what is pure and wholesome. When she lands on something, she does not break or ruin it.” Kids and adults came away with a new understanding of an Islamic principal.
The numerous Learning Patches were a big hit. They were a great way for folks to gain some religious literacy and learn about traditions that might be different from theirs. They were a real win-win for parents, kids, and hosts.
There was also the huge Garden Party Stage which was to home to a variety of performances, including Beads on One String by Dennis Warner and Golden, a specially commissioned show on the Golden Rule performed by giant 3 three-man puppets from Clay and Paper Theater. Another featured performer was Move the World Dance Activism who performed a Love Letter to Refugees and another wonderful show, For You, Big Blue which shone a light on the need for reducing plastics. The dancers ranged from 8-18 and used drama, humor and even unusual props to draw attention to these important issues. Along with many other programs on the Garden Party Stage, multi-generational audiences enjoyed Indigenous Drummers and Hoop Dancers, Book Performances by Interplay and Interfaith Family Worship Sessions.
In addition to all of the shows, visitors could visit the Youth Truth Booth, play World Religions Trivia Games or kick back and read in the Storybook Nook. They could also choose from a plethora of intriguing workshops, such as Becoming Your Own Superhero or Great Friendships Change the World. There were plenty of options to slow down, as well. Guru’s taught calming themed yoga sessions for Families, Teens and even classes on All-Ability Yoga. Finally, on the Garden Path out of the Festival Hall, many stopped at the IFF selfie booth, PHOTOsynthesis to snap a pic, but also to be reminded, that when we breathe we are transformed.
All of these many thoughtful programs that were designed for the IFF were created with the intention of exposing the beauty, culture and many important messages that come from the myriad of faith traditions that live and breathe on this planet. The Parliament’s first Interfaith Family Festival played host to over 2500 kids from the youngest participant at just 6 months to masses of middle schoolers and high schoolers. Not to be left out, a multitude of spirited parents and adults joined in the fun and games. All of these diverse souls came together to be enlightened, delighted and uplifted as we supported them in joining hands across the generations to learn and play together. With the goal of promoting inclusion and understanding, the Parliament of the World’s Religions and Spiritual Playdate at the Interfaith Family Festival planted the seeds of cooperation at the Interfaith Family Festival and we are wildly optimistic that we will all reap a great harvest from our Interfaith Garden.