Joplin Interfaith Coalition resumes tradition of multicultural dinner

Oct. 27—The Joplin Interfaith Coalition will soon resume its multicultural dinner.

It will be the first dinner since 2019, when COVID-19 delayed the annual community tradition.

"Joplin Interfaith has been able to do some service projects during those years, but we haven't been able to fulfill our main purpose, which is to have members of our community from different religious traditions come together and get to know each other better," Paul Teverow, member of the Joplin Interfaith Coalition, said.

The coalition will hold the multicultural dinner at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, at South Joplin Christian Church, 1901 S. Pearl Ave.

The Interfaith Coalition came together because its members agreed that even though they represent different faiths, they live in the same community, Teverow said. Part of their mission is sponsoring community service projects, both local, like assisting Bright Futures in assembling snack packs for Joplin students, and global, like hurricane relief in Puerto Rico.

Another goal of the coalition is to provide opportunities for people of different faiths to come together, socialize and learn about each other's religions. That's what the multicultural dinner is all about.

Everybody in the community is invited to the dinner. The coalition asks people to bring dishes from their own cultural background or a food they like. They also request that principal ingredients in the dishes are listed clearly because of dietary restrictions or food allergies.

Before the meal, everyone will have the opportunity to offer prayers or blessings from each of their religions. Teverow said they want to respect and learn from each other's modes of prayer. They also hope everyone will offer a few words on the importance of fellowship and community in their religion.

Small tables of six to eight people will allow members of the community to get to know each other and each religious tradition.

"If you want to get to know your neighbor, sitting down with them and eating together is one of the best ways to do that," Teverow said. "It's one of the easiest ways to facilitate conversation among people."

Teverow has found that over a meal, people are often curious about a religious tradition or practice at a different Joplin place of worship. Very often, in a community this size, they find out they have common acquaintances and common interests, he said.

"We expect the conversations to cover a broad range of topics," Teverow said. "Some of which may involve religion, some may involve other things, but they will all increase the awareness that we're all members of the same community. We can each hold to our distinctive faiths but also work together for the good of the community."

The Joplin Interfaith Coalition is also planning several panel sessions that will address topics while seeking the perspective of each religious community. More information on these sessions will be available at the dinner.