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Teen organizes event at Knoxville’s oldest sacred space

  harrison hughes
Harrison Hughes, a local teenager, encourages youth and adults to better understand each other by participating in and organizing interfaith events.

KNOXVILLE — While many teenagers are thinking about sports, dating or music, Harrison Hughes has taken an interest in religion. The local teenager is encouraging youth and adults to better understand each other by participating in and organizing interfaith events. On Thursday, November 16th at 7 p.m., the public is invited to attend “The Importance of Sacred Spaces in Society” held at First Presbyterian Church at 620 State Street in downtown Knoxville. Religious leaders from numerous faith traditions will gather to share their thoughts on the importance of sacred spaces. Members of the community will learn more about the religious diversity around them and gain greater insight to the purpose, symbols and dress codes required in these sacred spaces for their believers.

Founded in 1792, Knoxville’s first church was erected on the site of a turnip patch donated by James White, the founder of Knoxville. James White, established his home here in 1786 as a fort and cluster of cabins. By 1791, the community was renamed to Knoxville and First Presbyterian is the city’s oldest congregation. Meredith Loftis, the associate pastor at First Presbyterian, will be one of the panelists for the event. Other panelists include: Nadeem Siddiqi from Muslim Community of Knoxville, Rabbi Erin Boxt of Temple Beth El, Father Tim Sullivan of Immaculate Conception Church, Tommy Dahl from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Tony Richie from New Harvest Church of God.

Earlier this year, Harrison organized an interfaith series in which individuals could tour local houses of worship and get an introduction to their beliefs. He has also created an online community “Youth 4 Religion” (@youth4religion) with social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. His goal is to help young people unite with those around them by learning about their beliefs, building interfaith relationships and advocating for religious freedom. Harrison says, “We can’t protect religious freedom for ourselves if we aren’t willing to protect the rights of others to worship as they wish. My opinions have changed from visiting local churches and I have learned a lot by meeting with people of different faiths rather than forming opinions based on others and the media. We have more in common with others than we might think. The religious diversity is one aspect of what makes America a unique place.”

Religious leaders and churches who wish to participate in a future event can e-mail

Published November 9, 2017

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