It is fitting that an organization of the ethos of Interfaith Philadelphia plant in this place, as the city and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania at large has been a space of relative religious liberty from the start. Founded by William Penn, a Quaker, the city from its earliest decades has been a home for those seeking to acknowledge and practice their faith or spirituality in their own special way. Early inhabitants not only came from overseas but even from other American colonies, where religious liberty was more tenuous.
That spirit bore fruit in the mid-20th century when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to study in the Philadelphia area. He writes in “Stride Toward Freedom,” “One Sunday afternoon, I traveled to Philadelphia to the
Fellowship House at Broad and Girard to hear a sermon by Dr. Mordecai Johnson, president of Howard University. Dr. Johnson had just returned from a trip to India and spoke of the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.”
Inspired by this history and the current bountiful spiritual environment, Interfaith Philadelphia facilitates programming for all ages. Youth participate in our Walking the Walk program for middle and high school students, visiting each other’s sacred spaces and learning the art of curious questions. Our Mosaic program over the summer engages students at the intersection of faith and the arts. For years, college students have been doing service projects and reflecting on the impact of their value traditions during Alternative Break.
A broader audience explores faith and the arts with the Rev. John B. Hougen in Art of Interfaith Understanding. During our inaugural session of our Dialogue: Face-to-Face series, a Jew and Muslim shared how their faith traditions hold space for disagreement and how that can inform interfaith conversations or wider discourse across society.