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Interfaith Month in Utah offers chance to explore other faiths, 'get out of comfort zones'

SALT LAKE CITY — For some, Interfaith Month is an opportunity to learn about others' faith traditions and to examine their own beliefs.

The month of activities, Feb. 1 to March 5, includes a wide array of offerings such as a tour of the Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple in South Jordan, a Wiccan full moon rite and a Shrove Tuesday service at the Cathedral Church of St. Mark.

Father Elias Koucos, chairman of Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable, said the events are educational but also present opportunities to forge new associations.

"It helps to build some friendship, camaraderie and understanding, obviously, a lot of respect and acceptance, too. We don’t have to accept everything everyone professes to believe in, but we do respect and admire those traditions," said Father Koucos, assistant priest at Holy Trinity Cathedral and Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church.

Events are scheduled in places of worship, at a museum and even at the Utah State Capitol, where Lacee Harris of the Northern Ute and Paiute tribes will offer a Native American blessing upon Interfaith Month activities at 3 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 5. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is expected to offer remarks.

One event gives people who are not religious an opportunity to engage in conversation with religious people. "Call to Convene" will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, in the Wasatch Retreat Center at 75 S. 200 East.

"That’s the beauty of it, everyone learning about each other, getting us out of our own comfort zones," said Janet Healy, Interfaith Month chairwoman.

Healy, who is a Catholic, grew up in Utah. As such, she was most familiar with Catholicism and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before becoming part of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable.

"It's so much bigger than that," said Healy, director of community and volunteer relations for Catholic Community Services of Utah.

The Roundtable, formed in advance of the 2002 Winter Games to help tend to the religious needs of athletes and other attached to the Games, has endured and has expanded significantly in the succeeding years, Father Koucos said.

"It's tremendous how much this organization itself has grown. Our membership has almost doubled. It's a great variety of traditions and faiths that are here. We're a quite diverse population," he said.

That diversity is reflected in the varied events of the month, some of which are musical celebrations and presentations on faith traditions, such as an introductory course on Zen Buddhism.

"I just think it’s a great opportunity to be educated, to learn about other faith communities, what our differences and similarities are. It is amazing what the similarities are among us," Healy said.

All events are open to the public, she said.

Scheduled events, as of press time, include:

• Feb. 4, Prayer Breakfast, 8 a.m., Greek Cultural Center, 300 S. 300 West

• Feb. 5, Native American blessing upon Interfaith Month activities, 3 p.m., Utah State Capitol; Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is expected to offer remarks

• Feb. 8 — Gospel Extravaganza celebrating Crossroads Urban Center's 50th anniversary, 6 p.m., 1090 S. State.

• Feb. 9 — Shrove Tuesday service, 5 p.m., the Cathedral Church of St. Mark, 231 E. 100 South.

• Feb. 11 — LDS Church History Museum tour, 6:30 p.m., 45 N. West Temple

• Feb. 12 – Pacifica Institute presentation, 6:30 p.m., 3780 S. West Temple, Suite 201.

• Feb. 16 — Interfaith Leaders Luncheon, noon, Juan Diego High School, 300 E. 11800 South, Draper.

• Feb. 18 — Men of Faith, Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, 7 p.m., 1969 View Street (1345 East).

• Feb. 19 — Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple Tour, 1142 S. Jordan River Parkway (10400 South), South Jordan.

• Feb. 20 — Islamic Society Open House, 5 p.m.

• Feb. 21 — Salt Lake City Baha'i Devotional Gathering, 10 a.m., 2358 E. 1700 South.

• Feb. 21 — Wiccan Full Moon Rite of Freyja, Salt Lake Pagan Society, 132 S. 800 West.

• Feb. 23 — Refugee Day of Interfaith Prayer, 11 a.m., MOSAIC Interfaith Ministries, 4392 S. 900 East.

• Feb. 24 — Bus tour, 6 p.m.- 8 p.m.

• Feb. 25 — Introduction to Zen Buddhism, 6 p.m., Two Arrows Zen Meditation Center, 230 S. 500 West, Artspace Suites 145-155

• Feb. 27 — A Call to Religious and Non-Religious to Convene in Conversation, 1 p.m., Wasatch Retreat Center, 75 S. 200 East.

• Feb. 28 — Kol Ami Poetry Reading with Jacqueline Osherow, 10 a.m., Congregation Kol Ami., 2425 E. Heritage Way

• Feb. 28 — Calvary Church Annual Baptist Heritage Musical, 5 p.m., 1090 S. State Street

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