The Parliament of the World’s Religions Returns to Chicago

World’s first Parliament of Religions, held in Chicago in connection with the Columbian Exposition of 1893. Image from public domain, via Princeton Theological Seminary Library.

The first time I heard about the Parliament of the World’s Religions, I was attending college at DePaul. It was 1993, and one of my professors, Dr. Jeffrey Carlson, was actively involved in that Parliament in Chicago, the first to be held in 100 years. (The very first convening of the World’s Parliament of Religions was held during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.)

A facilitator of “interfaith encounter, dialogue, and cooperative common action,” the Parliament was created to “cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.”

I almost went down the path of Divinity School because of how much I loved those comparative religion classes and interfaith dialog. They got me thinking about how communities seek to understand life’s mysteries and find meaning in the stories and practices of their faith traditions. Instead I chose the path of storytelling. They are not so different, and myth and spirituality are still a part of my life and work.

In 2004, we were living in Frankfurt, Germany, and the Parliament was in Barcelona, so we brought our one-year-old to mingle with priests, teachers, monks, and mystics. It was pretty amazing. One of my fondest memories was watching her dance in the middle of a circle of participants from all over the world. There were many moving and transformational moments.

I didn’t anticipate that it would be 19 years before I had another opportunity.

Next week, the Parliament returns to Chicago, and I am excited to be attending. I will be participating in a morning observance, as well as a ritual performance, “Goddess Speaks: Our Earth Has a Voice” on Tuesday afternoon, August 15, 3-4:30pm in room E353c (which will feature the culinary artistry of my aunt Katia Hrynewycz). I will write more about that next week.

I also wanted to share a link to a segment NPR did about the upcoming gathering. It will be attended by 10,000 participants from more than 80 countries and 200 religious traditions. This year’s theme is the “A Call to Conscience: Defending Freedom & Human Rights.” I will also include a link to the Parliament website if anyone wants to learn more:

“When people come to the Parliament they get to experience something that everybody longs for. They get to experience the world as we all long for it to be: peaceful, curious, open-hearted, and not just tolerant but grateful for our diversity.”

–Rev. HPs. Phyllis Curott, Program Chair for the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions,