By Kelly Huth

Campus and community came together recently to celebrate a Festival of Faiths.

Volunteers from Lafayette College joined local religious centers and groups from across Northampton County for a Festival of Faiths held July 10 during Easton Heritage Day. The event allowed visitors to learn about the culture and values of the 13 participating groups.

Blue tents line a street in Easton“Each table offered an explanation, art, or music from their community,” says Alex Hendrickson, chaplain and director of religious and spiritual life at Lafayette College. “It was a way to meet people of different backgrounds without any pressure.”

Sikhs taught 60 visitors to tie turbans. Other faith communities offered art displays, cultural food offerings, and information about particular faith practices. 

“We want people to feel welcome—you belong,” she says. “We want to share our heritage and history, but we also want to include you and learn about yours.”

The event was made possible by funding from the Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to Chautauqua at the Forks of the Delaware. Chautauqua assemblies gained popularity in the 19th century as a way to get people of different backgrounds and religions together for cultural events and bridge differences, Hendrickson says. The Forks of the Delaware group includes members from Lafayette and Easton-area churches, synagogues, and mosques.

“We really value the diversity of our community, and that’s what makes Easton so strong,” Hendrickson says. “Lafayette and Easton share those values.”

People stand around a tent set up at Festival of FaithsJasmeet Bansal, co-owner of Aman’s Artisan Indian Cuisine in Easton, was on-site demonstrating how to tie turbans on behalf of the Sikh community.

“People are afraid to ask questions, and just talking and breaking the ice can lead to some great conversations and learning for all,” Bansal says. “We are proud to call the Lehigh Valley home, and Easton being the host to such a multi-faith and cultural festival is something I personally am proud of as an Eastonian.”

It was the first Festival of Faiths, and Hendrickson was proud to see 13 faculty and staff, and eight students volunteering at the College’s table. 

Hendrickson noted Heritage Day—which celebrates Easton being chosen as one of three places where the Declaration of Independence was first read aloud in 1776—offered students a chance to explore the history of the town they’re living in.

“I saw it as an opportunity to interact and be positively involved with local people,” says Chikomborero Dhire ’23. “I was surprised and very much admired the contributions and collaboration within the community.”

Lafayette College materials sit on a table.It was also an opportunity to share Lafayette’s story, and Hendrickson is grateful to departments across campus for providing materials. Williams Center for the Arts provided brochures, the library offered totes, the College Store donated hats, and athletics gave away free tickets for football games. Visitors also could pick up info from admissions, the Landis Center for Community Engagement, and other campus offices.

Hendrickson says the event provided a chance to connect with the community in new and meaningful ways. Not only did faculty, staff, and students get to learn about Easton, but prospective students and families approached the table to learn about a future at the College.