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Local Religious Groups Partake in Expo ‘74’s 50th Anniversary

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Local Religious Groups Partake in Expo ‘74’s 50th Anniversary

News Story By Matthew Kincanon | FāVS News

Spokane is gearing up to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Expo ’74 world’s fair with a series of celebratory events kicking off Saturday. Many community organizations, including faith groups, are taking part in the festivities.

Two of them, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and St. John’s Cathedral, will be hosting and taking part in events throughout the month to celebrate their legacy with the expo as well as explore their values and spirituality. 

LDS choir to perform, reflecting church’s 50-year growth

Original LDS choir from Expo 74/Contributed

For the anniversary of the world’s fair, a 130-voice LDS choir led by Karlyn Brett, who conducted the original choir, will perform in the Pavilion at Riverfront Park on Saturday, as well as at the Rotary Fountain there on again on May 18.

Jennifer Hicks, regional communication director for the church, said the anniversary is an opportunity to look back and appreciate those who came together in city and in their church to make the event happen.

“Expo literally transformed our community in so many positive ways. Now, to see how far we have come as a city is impressive,” she said.

In an article Hicks wrote about the 1974 expo, Brett explained she thought a LDS choir would be a wonderful way to shine the light of the Gospel to the world. Eventually, the 144-voice Mormon Expo Choir was created and they helped open and close the world’s fair. They also served as its official choir, performed multiple times per week and recorded an LP of some of their songs. Hicks said the album is being digitized.

Contributed

“Those who selflessly gave of their time and talents to participate in the Mormon Expo Choir did so because of their faith in the Savior Jesus Christ and their belief in the importance of sharing the light of the gospel with the world,” Hicks wrote in the article.

This year’s choir is made up of volunteers and includes 14 singers who performed at the world’s fair in 1974, along with children and grandchildren of the original choir. Hicks said they have been rehearsing since March on Saturday mornings in the same church building on Indiana Avenue in Spokane where the original choir rehearsed. The songs they will perform this month were all performed at Expo ‘74. 

“There is a wonderful feeling of friendship and love among the choir members, and all have so much appreciation and respect for Karlyn Brett, who is now 90 years old and still going strong,” Hicks said.

The amount of growth Hicks described the church in Spokane has seen over the past 50 years has been astonishing, she said. The expo marked the beginning of incredible growth in membership and Spokane’s transformation into a place known around the world.

“We now have over 52,000 members in the region and a beautiful temple in Spokane Valley, which we could have never imagined back in 1974,” she said.

Also, at Expo ‘74, Hicks said the church had a large pavilion and was able to make many friends and build bridges with other organizations in the region, the country and the world.

Hicks added that the church seeks to be good citizens and contribute to the communities in which its members live. The Mormon Expo Choir and creation of the Mormon pavilion were a demonstration of this value, she noted.

“The uplifting music of the choir was a rewarding way to bring joy to visitors who came from all around the world,” she said. “And now, this year it is an honor to perform once again after all these years, to spark those positive feelings and help people feel hope and strength in unity. Music is one of the best ways to touch hearts.”

More information about performances can be found on Spokane Stake Sentinel’s website.

St. John’s Cathedral to hold Hope for Creation Conference

Not only will The Church of Latter Day Saints be involved in Expo ‘74, but St. John’s Cathedral will be involved as well with its third Hope for Creation Conference, which will run May 29 to June 2.

John Wallingford, a parishioner at the cathedral and the event’s organizer, said the conference will focus on the spirituality of environmental care.

The cathedral’s history with the expo goes back to 1974. During the world’s fair, Wallingford described how the cathedral had guest preachers every Sunday for several months, as well as guest organists. He said the cathedral put in a lot of effort to offer its presence and its own space by bringing in many people to talk about spirituality and environmental care.

There will be a number of events during this year’s conference that are all linked together, he said.

The keystone event, which will be held on May 29 at the cathedral, is a joint offering of the Environmental Stewardship and Tribal Culture pillars of the world’s fair. The event was derived from discussion groups that they held in the two previous conferences that saw a lot of engagement.

“People were able to share their thoughts in a respectful way,” he said. “We had trouble stopping the conversation last year. It was just so engaging.”

At the event, leaders from five spiritual traditions across the country will discuss their thoughts on creation care and answer questions. These leaders include Page Checketts (Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance), Marqus Cole (Georgia Interfaith Power and Light), Yoshi Silverstein (Mitsui Collective), Barry Moses (Spokane Tribe) and Melanie Mullen (National Episcopal Church). Warren Seyler from the Spokane Tribe and Wallingford will be moderating it.

“The spirituality of environmental care recurs throughout human history, but may be more important today than ever,” the cathedral’s website said about the event. “Spirituality grounded in wonder has existed since the beginning of human civilization. Indigenous peoples the world over have always included the natural world in their spiritual practices, and elements of eco-spirituality can be found in most religions today.”

Wallingford described how, in the Episcopal church, there’s a Latin phrase called “via media,” which translates to “middle way,” and has been one of the principles the church uses to engage with people with different points-of-view.

One of the challenges Wallingford described was practicing being in the middle, so the church made an effort to invite people who they did not usually work with and try to broaden the participation.

They managed to find speakers from many points-of-view including Evangelical, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Judaism, Salish spirituality and the Episcopal church. Each speaker will give a 20-minute presentation, and then there will be time set aside for the audience to participate.

Aside from the keystone event, another event Wallingford described was one that will take place at Temple Beth Shalom on May 30. Speakers will join Adam Bartholomew, a religious studies professor at Gonzaga University, to discuss the meaning of jubilee.

Wallingford said the word is often associated within the context of the Queen’s 50th year on the throne. He said the word has an Old Testament origin that comes from a passage of seven sabbatical years. In Leviticus, jubilee talks about the ownership of the land being reestablished to its rightful owners. For the upcoming event, jubilee will be about setting things right.

Aside from the jubilee event, there will be several other events held throughout the conference that can be found on the cathedral’s website.

The conference brings to conclusion multiple years of effort, he said. While the past two conferences focused on part of the expo’s theme of land, water and air, the church decided to focus on spirituality.

Wallingford hopes participants of the conference will learn that environmental care is an important contributor to spirituality and spirituality “is one of the best ways to be informed about environmental care.”

“It works in both directions,” he said. “If you feed the trees, then the trees feed you.”

Matthew Kincanon
Matthew Kincanon
Matthew Kincanon is a communications coordinator with a journalism and political science degree from Gonzaga University. His journalism experience includes the Gonzaga Bulletin, The Spokesman-Review, Art Chowder, Trending Northwest, Religion Unplugged and FāVS News. He loves being a freelancer for FāVS because, having been born and raised in Spokane, he wants to learn more about the various religious communities and cultures in his hometown, especially Indigenous communities.

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