Communities of Faith

By Luke Elzinga

Communications Manager, Des Moines Area Religious Council

There are over 400 congregations of a wide variety of faith traditions in Polk County. Adherents of these different faiths surely have a number of disagreements, but every religion shares some common values. We all know we must provide food for the hungry, and shelter for those without a roof above their head. The Des Moines Area Religious Council is a local interfaith organization, uniting faith communities to meet these basic human needs in Greater Des Moines.

In 1952, the Des Moines Area Council of Churches formed as an interdenominational agency for cooperation amongst area churches seeking to promote the spiritual, moral, social and civic welfare of the Greater Des Moines community. 20 years later, the organization became the Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC), welcoming in non-Christian congregations into its membership.

DMARC currently consists of over 130 member congregations representing four faith traditions: Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Unitarian. We also have forged relationships with local members of the Bahá’í, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Wiccan, and Native American faith traditions.

Although many diverse views are represented across these faith traditions, one thing we all agree on is providing for those who do not have enough.

The DMARC Food Pantry Network began in 1976 as a collaboration of church food pantries. It has since expanded to its place as the largest food pantry network in the state of Iowa. Consisting of 11 partner food pantries throughout Greater Des Moines, families can receive a once-a- month food box of healthy items, and may also receive supplemental food every day at DMARC pantries.

While the majority of our focus is on the Food Pantry Network, DMARC does lead interfaith dialogue, prayers for peace and other interfaith events.

DMARC hosted its first annual Iowa Interfaith Exchange on January 31, 2016. The theme of this event was “Exploring Our Religious Landscape.” Peter Manseau, author of One Nation, Under Gods, provided a keynote address. Six breakout sessions were also available, with the religions of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Orthodox Christianity, Wicca and Mormonism featured.

Drake University, The Comparison Project, and the Drake Community Press were all sponsors of the Iowa Interfaith Exchange. Photography and text from the Religions of Des Moines photobook project were exhibited during the event, and were very well received.

DMARC is proud to partner with The Comparison Project and the Drake Community Press in the Religions of Des Moines photobook project. We believe that sharing these types of stories and photographs with Greater Des Moines will help build interfaith connections and a stronger sense of community for everyone involved.

The religious diversity of central Iowa is truly awe-inspiring. As more people realize the amount of diversity we have here, we hope to help encourage ongoing interfaith dialogue and sharing. This book could be the first step in fostering lasting relationships between communities of faith in Greater Des Moines.