By LINDA M. LINONIS
Samples of greens and cornbread, potato pirogi, cabbage rolls, black-eyed pea salad, Hawaiian nut cake and sweet-potato tarts tempted the taste buds of the 100 or so people at the Taste of the Faiths Festival on Monday in St. Charles Borromeo Church hall, 7345 Westview Drive.
The event, sponsored by Mahoning Valley Association of Churches, lived up to its name with an array of signature recipes from about 16 participating Valley congregations. But more than food was shared at the annual event. It also provided an opportunity for people of different faiths to gather in fellowship and break bread together.
The Rev. Robbin Del Nagro, MVAC executive director, said she appreciated the diversity of the food offerings that demonstrated the religious community. She noted the festival reflected the suggestion of Pope Francis to reach out to people of different faiths.
The Rev. Mrs. Del Nagro said proceeds from the event go into the MVAC’s general fund. “The money is for ongoing expenses and any outreach we do,” she said. That includes MVAC joining with Catholic-Lutheran Covenant Commission and ACTION (Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods) to sponsor a lecture June 6 with Bishop George Murry and Bishop Marcus Miller, interim bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Judy Camp of Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Canfield and Bill Cooper of Wycliffe Presbyterian Church in Austintown were co-chairmen. “The challenge is in the details,” Camp said. “It’s such a treat to taste everything.”
Cooper, who is on the MVAC board, said he was “in training” to take over the event chairmanship next year. His wife, Donna, who introduced herself as Queen Elizabeth, said she does that as her inroad to tell people she met the royal personage during her diamond jubilee in 2012 after an event at Salisbury Castle. “I knew we were standing in the right place when they rolled out a red carpet,” she said.
Mary Ann Bromley of First Presbyterian Church in Warren, a new MVAC board member, said she was attending for the first time. “I’ll certainly be back, ” she said.
Tom Sauline, MVAC board president, said, “The festival is an opportunity for people to share faith and traditions.”
Mary Lou Finesilver, president of Temple El Emeth in Liberty, said the Sisterhood brought noodle kugel, mundel bread (somewhat like biscotti) and challah, bread for the Sabbath and holidays. “It’s our first time,” she said of participation. “It sounded like an interesting thing to do.”
Waymer Martin, member, and the Rev. Gena Thornton, pastor of Grace African Methodist Episcopal Church in Warren, passed out samples of black-eyed pea salad, chicken salad and punch-bowl cake. “The fellowship is a way to understand one another,” the Rev. Mrs. Thornton said.
Randa Shabayek, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Youngstown, offered feta and spinach pies and baklava to those attending. She noted food naturally brings people together, and the event was a good opportunity for people of various faiths to mingle.