Three distinct ice cream flavors — mango, apple and honey, and Christmas candy canes and Easter chocolate — were served at the annual Tri-Faith Initiative Picnic on Sunday.
The flavors, created and donated by eCreamery, represented the Muslim, Jewish and Christian congregations at the Tri-Faith Initiative campus near 132nd and Pacific Streets.
For Sunday’s more adventurous eaters, all three flavors were combined into one in a “trifecta” dish.
The trifecta ice cream experiment was a tasty way to sum up the Tri-Faith Initiative, a bit of a bet several years ago that three distinct communities of faith, which share Abraham as a common ancestor, could be neighbors on the same property and join in endeavors of peace, education and fun — like Sunday’s picnic.
The picnic was the first since Countryside Community Church moved onto the property in April, physically completing the trifecta of faith and joining Temple Israel and the American Muslim Institute on the grounds.
Sunday’s gathering brought together 400 to 500 people and included members of the Tri-Faith congregations and members of the general public, said Wendy Goldberg, interim executive director of the initiative.
Interest in the picnic and the Tri-Faith Initiative continues to grow each year, which Goldberg sees as a sign of success.
Fundraising is well underway for a Tri-Faith Center, which will serve as a welcome center and offer space for conferences, educational series and exhibits, she said.
The Tri-Faith Initiative is the “answer to a plague of global bigotry,” Goldberg said, and a “celebration of religious diversity.”
Dr. Maryanne Stevens, president of College of St. Mary, a Catholic Sister of Mercy and chair of the Tri-Faith Initiative board, said the initiative is a sign of hope, “a symbol of how we need to further religious understanding.”
For the Rev. Eric Elnes, senior minister at Countryside, the Tri-Faith community feels like home.
“I felt more at home in this building after a week than in 11 years at our old building,” Elnes said inside the church building.
Just outside, soloists strummed and sang peaceful songs from a church balcony, as people below feasted on halal burgers, kosher hot dogs, potluck dishes, the ice cream and other treats.
Children had their faces painted and created humongous bubbles, which other children then popped with glee.
Logan McNemar blew smaller bubbles at her table outside. The 17-year-old senior at Millard North High School joined Countryside’s congregation and the larger Tri-Faith community with a friend and classmate, Naomi Harrison-Carlson, a couple of months ago.
“I really love it,” McNemar said.
And though her mom isn’t a member, she approves of her daughter’s new faith community, the teenager said. “She thinks it’s a good thing that I’ve found.”
John Griffin and his wife, Rachida Atarmal, also are new to the Tri-Faith Initiative after moving to Omaha from Georgia about a year ago and joining in worship at the American Muslim Institute.
They pushed their 8-month-old daughter, Sarah, in a stroller toward the activities outside.
“It’s been really inviting,’ Griffin said of the picnic and his new faith home.