Courtesy Festival of Faiths

In a city full of festivals, the Festival of Faiths stands out as it draws visitors near and far to celebrate a diversity of faiths. Next Avenue called the event, now in its 24th year, one of America’s top 8 spiritual travel destinations.

The 2019 Festival of Faiths, which kicks off on Wednesday, explores “science through the lens of faith” and features a diverse lineup of speakers and performers, including a special guest appearance by Teddy Abrams and an evening curated by Ben Sollee.

But there is so much more. According to organizers, speakers for “Sacred Cosmos: Faith & Science,” include the 19th U.S. surgeon general, the only woman to have served as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, a devout Muslim who was the first scientist to connect brain cells to a computer chip, a Navajo ceremonial leader, and other profound thinkers in the realms of faith and science.

Speakers will tackle topics such as climate change, loneliness in a world dominated by technology, meditation’s effects on the brain, the nature of reality, and more, organizers say.

The festival, organized by the Center for Interfaith Relations, begins with a free interfaith celebration at the Kentucky Science Center on Wednesday, April 24. First up is a call to prayer and blessings at 5:45 p.m. followed by the opening celebration at 6:15 p.m.

The rest of the programming takes place April 25-27 at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts.

For a second year, organizers are holding a blood drive at the Kentucky Center on Thursday, from noon to 6 p.m. Donors will have access to the festival’s planetarium, bookstore and vendors, lawn games, complimentary Heine Brothers coffee, and more, organizers say. 

Here are the panelists:

  • Richard Davidson — Psychologist (and friend of the Dalai Lama) who studies emotion and the brain
  • Cynthia Bourgeault — Modern-day mystic who co-founded the Center for Action and Contemplation 
  • Lisa Miller — Psychology professor who studies the “science of spirituality across the lifespan”
  • Vivek Murthy — 19th U.S. surgeon general who talks extensively about the “epidemic of loneliness”
  • Woman Stands Shining (Pat McCabe) — Navajo mother, activist, artist and ceremonial leader
  • Naweed Syed — A devout Muslim who was the first scientist to connect brain cells to a computer chip
  • Katharine Jefferts Schori — First woman to be elected presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church

Also for a second year, the festival will feature after-hours events. They include:

“Roots of Connectedness” on Thursday, April 25, 7-9 p.m.
Kentucky musician Ben Sollee and University of Louisville Depression Center Director Jesse Wright have collaborated to curate performances and a dialogue between musicians and scientists about the power of music to create a sense of connectedness in a world struggling with loneliness.

National Sawdust Presents J. Hoard on Friday, April 26, 7-9 p.m.
National Sawdust artist-in-residence J. Hoard, who won a Grammy for his work with Chance the Rapper, will perform songs aimed at promoting faith in action. The evening will include a rendition of his MAGA Suites (“The People’s Perspective” and “Future is Female”), along with a special guest appearance by Louisville Orchestra Conductor Teddy Abrams.

In writing about the festival in 2011, The Pluralism Project at Harvard University said: “The Festival of Faiths reaches well beyond religious communities in its scope and impact. In so doing, the Festival of Faiths not only brings together various religious traditions and faiths, but also strengthens the civic fabric of Louisville through these partnerships.”

Tickets are available at the Kentucky Center box office. Single-session tickets ($25) are available, as are festival passes, which include special access to every session, pre-festival workshops and evening receptions.