Center for Interfaith Relations encourages Louisville to #FindYourSacred this summer with free classes, book club and poetry

A group shot at the George Garvin Brown Garden in front of the Center for Interfaith Relations | Courtesy of Center for Interfaith Relations

The Center for Interfaith Relations is known for its yearly Festival of Faiths, which draws crowds and famous speakers every spring to form community and explore the center’s mission — “to celebrate the diversity of faith traditions, express gratitude for our unity, and strengthen the role of faith in society through common action.”

This summer, the center is hoping to spread more of that message through #FindYourSacred, a variety of community engagement programs that include the annual Poetry of the Sacred Contest, Embodied Movement + Coffee in the Garden and the #FindYourSacred Book Club.

Insider spoke with Halida Hatic, the center’s director of community relations and development, about the program’s goals.

Halida Hatic | Courtesy of Center for Interfaith Relations

“We always go into the summer and try to find ways to connect people to their contemplative lives,” says Hatic.

One new connection is the center’s virtual book club. It grew out of a relationship with the author Lynne Twist, who spoke at the 2018 Festival of Faiths on the panel about addiction. The festival focused on the “sacred feminine” and featured women speakers almost exclusively.

“She is the author of a book called ‘The Soul of Money.’ She talked about this unconscious and unexamined relationship we have with money,” says Hatic. “Money’s not good, it’s not bad, we just tend to not have a relationship with money dealing with what our soul desires.”

“She talks about, in her book, how we can consciously examine this relationship and transform it so it aligns with who we are, what our values are,” Hatic continues. “Then money goes through us in a way that aligns with those very deepest values we have.”

The topic of the Summer Book Club | Courtesy of Center for Interfaith Relations

The community is invited to read “The Soul of Money” and then participate in an online discussion guided and encouraged by the center. Staff will post questions or ideas related to the content and interact with people’s responses. The summer club culminates in a public community conversation that examines scarcity versus abundance and other main ideas from the text.

Most of the center’s summer programming is new, but one is a mainstay of the organization’s work, named for one of the center’s biggest inspirations.

“We host this annual Poetry of the Sacred Contest inspired by Thomas Merton, and it has international reach,” Hatic says. “It’s pretty beloved. Poetry is the language of the soul.”

The contest comes with a decent little prize — $500 for first place and getting published in Parabola, a well-known literary journal.

The Center for Interfaith Relations often examines the mind-body connection and the spiritual balance between the two, so its third program bridges the gap between mindfulness, poetry and movement by bringing yoga, Tai Chi and Nia to the public in a series of free morning events.

Maria Whitley, Nia teacher and owner of the movement and music studio Shine, spoke with Insider about the class she’ll teach at the center.

“In Nia, every class has a focus and an intent, which brings in the mindful element,” she says. “Even if we’re moving pretty quickly or seemingly silly, there is this underlying current of the focus and intent.”

Nia is a fusion of several disciplines, including martial arts, modern dance and yoga, that sets its movement to music and encourages an emotional and spiritual connection with the body.

Maria Whitley leads a Nia session at the 2018 Festival of Faiths. | Courtesy of Center for Interfaith Relations

Whitley also worked with the center for last year’s festival.

“When I found out the festival was focused on the sacred feminine, I was called to be there, to offer Nia as a movement practice during the festival,” says Whitley. “I met with Sarah (Reed) and Halida, and I ended up offering a 30-minute class. It was a really gentle Nia practice every day during the lunch break. It was really well-received.”

Those classes included a focus and intent chosen to dovetail with the ideas and topics being discussed during the festival. The center got great feedback on those classes, and when organizers started to imagine a physical aspect of the summer programming, they called Whitley.

Geshe Rapgyal Kalsang plays Ping-Pong in the George Garvin Brown Garden. | Courtesy of Center for Interfaith Relations

“They reached out, and I was, like, Yes! Of course I want to come and do this, absolutely,” she recalls.

While Nia progresses in difficulty, with a belt system similar to that used in martial arts, Whitley’s class at the center will be aimed at welcoming newcomers.

“They will be very gentle. It’s early in the morning, so it will be a ‘good morning body’ class,” she explains. “We’ll keep it super gentle, and it’s going to be about awakening sensation in our joints and our muscles, and how everything in our body is connected.”

For more info on the Center for Interfaith Relations’ summer programming and the rest of its Embodied Movement series, hit up the website. This summer, the center is offering these programs free of charge. You can join Whitley for her Nia class at the center, located at 415 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd., on Thursday, Aug. 2, from 8-8:45 a.m.