Triennial Years

Every three years, we hold a year long initiative designed to foster connections among local faith communities centered around an interfaith theme. You might think of the development in these past years as involving the head (understanding, 2012), then the hands (service, 2015), and the heart (friendship, 2018). 


The 2018 Year of Interfaith Friendship built on the efforts of past years to make connections among Jewish, Christian, and Muslim congregations to stand together and learn from each other in times of anxiety, distrust, and polarization.  

Jerusalem screening

Jerusalem screening

In 2018, we developed interfaith friendship groups which brought families and individuals together around common interests in ways that developed personal relationships and friendships. They were organized around such interests as cinema, book reading, fitness, scriptural reading, knitting, art, medicine, and contemplative traditions.  These groups are continuing after the Year of Interfaith Friendship as well. To attend an event, visit our interfaith friendship group page.

For those from other cities or communities who would be interested in participating in developing interfaith friendships in your area, contact us at

Interfaith Service Day Camp

Interfaith Service Day Camp

Interfaith Imagination

Interfaith Imagination

Interfaith Interwoven

Interfaith Foodies

Interfaith Imagination

Interfaith Imagination at GRAM


The 2015 Year of Interfaith Service was a unique partnership combining community organizations, student groups and congregations to promote interfaith service in West Michigan.

East Paris food bank

East Paris Food Bank

On September 11, 2014, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell issued a proclamation that 2015 would be the Year of Interfaith Service. Dozens of events and programs later, the year has officially ended but its impact in West Michigan is leaving a lasting effect. Our interfaith community has been strong for several years, and there is a lot of energy to continue to get to know one another and our diverse traditions. We were able to harness that positive energy and put it into concrete actions that contributed toward the common good.

Together these community members participated in interfaith builds with Habitat for Humanity, volunteered at food pantries, knitted goods for local and national organizations with Interfaith & Interwoven, participated in a beautification service project at local Islamic Center Masjid At-Tawheed, facilitated an Interfaith Memorial Service hosted by area Hospice organizations, and hosted interfaith lectures and workshops by Interfaith Youth Core director Eboo Patel.

habitat collage

Habitat for Humanity


Habitat for Humanity

The Year of Interfaith Service also gained attention from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation in the form of a $50,000 grant. The institute has been utilizing the grant to provide students with opportunities to expand their interfaith leadership skills and then apply them on their own campuses, and in the broader community.

While 2015 is over, interfaith service continues to be a primary focus for the Kaufman Interfaith Institute. People are very excited to continue building upon this first year, and we expect interfaith service will continue to grow in West Michigan.

Plaster creek

Plaster Creek Restoration

Highlights of kickoff event

Eboo Patel lecture

Full kickoff event


The 2012 Year of Interfaith Understanding was a year-long effort to cultivate community interest and engagement of all faith traditions in West Michigan.

GR Press kickoff

Heartwell proclamation

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell declared 2012 the “Grand Rapids Year of Interfaith Understanding,” and the project was formally announced in a press conference on Monday September 12, 2011 (Read his proclamation here)

A unique partnership led by Grand Valley State University’s Kaufman Interfaith Institute, the Grand Rapids Press, WGVU Public Media, the Mayor’s office, and three organizing councils sought to promote a yearlong engagement of the topic of interfaith understanding.

The Year of Interfaith Understanding  led to over 300 events throughout the community. Churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques hosted educational and other events seeking better understanding of the religious diversity in our community. The colleges, universities, and seminaries all had events with the same goal.  Community organizations including museums, the symphony, the Economic Club, and theatre groups all had events that related to the theme. The Grand Rapids Community Foundation awarded the “Year of Interfaith Understanding” a $50,000 grant to help more churches, synagogues, mosques and other groups fund related programs.

2012 Interfaith Thanksgiving collage