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Louisville’s 23rd Annual Festival of Faiths Explores “Sacred Insight – Feminine Wisdom” in Five-Day Celebration of Music, Poetry, Art, Film and Dialogue (April 24–28)

Described as “one of America’s top eight spiritual travel destinations” (Huffington Post), the annual Festival of Faiths in Louisville, KY, has, over the past 22 years, gained an international reputation for its provocative and engaging discourse on some of the most significant issues of the day. This year’s festival, “Sacred Insight – Feminine Wisdom,” promises to be no exception, for it explores a theme that could hardly be more timely, urgent or important. The immersive five-day presentation of music, poetry, art, film and dialogue will take place on April 24–28 in and around Louisville’s Kentucky Center for the Arts, and most events will be webcast live at

Led by the Center for Interfaith Relations, festival organizers have agreed not to shy away from any hard or painful issues that may arise, but to see them through a spiritual lens, as an opportunity for healing, growth and empowerment. In the week leading up to the Kentucky Derby, the world’s most famous two minutes of horse racing, the festival creates an alternative Louisville space for reflection and harmony.

The 2018 festival will explore practices, teachings, and insight rooted in feminine wisdom. Speakers and artists from diverse backgrounds and spiritual traditions from around the globe will examine themes including the feminine aspects of the Divine; gender, value, and power; non-dual thinking; the wisdom and harmony of the natural world; addiction, suffering, and healing; and emotional intelligence, presence, and creativity. As in previous years, these talks and panel sessions will be interspersed throughout the five days with grounding spiritual practice sessions, music, art, spoken word, and performance. A list of each day’s events is available here.

What do we mean when we call something “feminine?” How would our institutions and society look with a true realignment of values, and the reinfusion of the feminine? Understanding, lifting up, and integrating the feminine may result in a new understanding and re-spiritualization of how we look at the world and ourselves. These themes will be explored at the festival through dialogue, workshops, and discussion circles.

Among the internationally renowned speakers and panelists at this year’s festival are:

  • Diane Rehm, author and Peabody Award-winning American public broadcaster;
  • Ruby Sales, civil rights activist, preacher, and founder of SpiritHouse Project, which works for racial justice;
  • Cemâlnur Sargut, renowned Sufi teacher and President of the Turkish Women’s Cultural Association;
  • Becca Stevens, author, speaker, priest, social entrepreneur, and founder of Thistle Farms, which offers sanctuary for survivors of violence against women;
  • Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, who was among the first class of women ordained as Conservative rabbis, and embraces the unconventional path of a “community pulpit” by founding healing centers and creating new ways to approach miscarriage and loss;
  • Tsoknyi Rinpoche, one of the most renowned teachers of Tibetan Buddhism in the West;
  • Lynne Twist, founder of Soul of Money Institute and co-founder of the Pachamama Alliance;
  • Mary Berry Smith, founder of the Berry Center in New Castle, Kentucky;
  • Christopher Pramuk, Director of Ignatian Thought and Imagination at Regis College and Thomas Merton scholar, who is an expert on the influence of Sophia of Merton and the profoundly important Feminine Aspect of the Divine;
  • Monica A. Coleman, Professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religions, who is known both for the depth of her scholarship into the roots of the “womanist” theological movement, and for her experiences as a community organizer, a survivor of sexual violence, and an individual who lives with mental health challenges;
  • Omid Safi, Director of the Duke Islamic Studies Center and columnist for OnBeing with Krista Tippett;
  • Sharon Salzberg, a world-renowned teacher and New York Times best-selling author;
  • Prāvrajika Brahmaprāṇa, a Hindu nun with the Vedanta Convent in Santa Barbara.


It was longtime Louisville native and community activist Christina (Christy) Lee Brown who co-founded the Center for Interfaith Relations in 1985 and went on to launch the first Festival of Faiths. She comments:

“The topic of this year’s Festival of Faiths is particularly important for Louisville, indeed for every city in the world. Honoring and raising the importance of the sacred and the feminine, and both together, is crucially important to the long-term health of our world. Many are realizing that what has been missing in our conversations and recorded history is that quite often the sacredness of the woman is overlooked. Women have been leaders, inspirers, and loving caregivers from the beginning, so it’s heartwarming that we are now beginning to say, wait a minute, what role have women really been playing, and what role do they need to be playing in all aspects of our society? Women are holistic thinkers. Unlike their male counterparts, they are more likely to see our various human needs and the interconnectedness of all parts of our society. Women intuitively understand the interrelationships between the various aspects of our health – economic, spiritual, financial, psychological, etc. – and the need for balance between ourselves and the natural world. Awareness of the need for this balance is their sacred wisdom. It’s the ultimate in inspiration, as it enables us to understand the total ecosystem of the human being and of Mother Earth. As Prince Charles says, ‘We are Nature!’”

Brown is an International Trustee of Religions for Peace, the world’s largest International Interfaith organization. She believes passionately in the potential of faith communities to effect positive change by working together, while celebrating both their commonalities and their differences.

The 2018 Festival of Faiths will open on Tuesday, April 24 with a joyful evening of music, song and soul at Louisville’s historic Cathedral of the Assumption (433 S. 5th Street). This celebration of the diverse faiths found within the local community, and the wisdom, humanity and beauty that unites them, will be free and open to the public with no ticket required. Fast-rising Irish singer/actress Naomi Louisa O’Connell will perform at the event, and will also sing songs by Bernstein, Blitzstein, and Bolcolm the following morning. She observes:

“Too often we can find ourselves shying away from the ‘hot-button’ topics of religion and gender bias in our daily conversation. Yet in this unique festival, we have people from all different backgrounds and beliefs coming together to discuss these very issues in a constructive, positive way. It’s inspiring. In the light of the #MeToo movement, this year’s topic could not be more timely and I am honored to be a part of it.”

O’Connell recently debuted a sold-out cabaret set at New York’s Neue Galerie. Over the last two years, she played the part of Mélisande with the Cincinnati Symphony, both in Debussy’s opera, Pelléas & Mélisande, and in the Maeterlinck play on which it was based. She looks forward to performing Martucci’s song cycle La canzone dei Ricordi with the Peoria Symphony on April 28.

Among the other musicians participating in the festival are the “precociously gifted” (Gramophone) 25-year-old violin virtuoso Caroline Goulding. She will be joined by other female musicians in the Wednesday evening session, “Listen! Feminine Wisdom,” which focuses on various spiritual practices, meditation, praise, and activism.

Following its motto of “Many Faiths. One Heart. Common Action,” this year’s festival will also include a multi-faith, citywide blood drive. With a wide spectrum of local mosques, synagogues, and churches participating, the drive will take place during the five days of the festival. As the festival’s Managing Director, Sarah Harris, puts it, “No matter what race, religion, or ethnicity we are, blood is a reflection of our common humanity. Only humans can provide this source of healing to other humans.” More details about this ambitious and important addition to the program will be coming soon.

For press credentials, speaker interviews, high-resolution images, and more, contact Louisville’s Center for Interfaith Relations, which organizes the annual Festival of Faiths.

For more information about speakers and programs, visit

For tickets, visit or, or call the Kentucky Center box office on (502) 584-7777.

Click here to download high-resolution photos.


The Festival of Faiths is an annual event that celebrates the religious diversity of our community, promotes unity, and strengthens the role of faith in society. It is sponsored by the Center for Interfaith Relations, a nonsectarian 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting interfaith understanding and cooperation.

More information is available at


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© 21C Media Group, April 2018

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