The Center for Religious Experience and Study (CRES), founded in 1982 by the Reverend Vern Barnet, DMn, is the oldest remaining interfaith organization in Kansas City. Over the years, Barnet has taught at Ottawa University, St. Paul School of Theology, Unity Seminary, and Central Baptist Theological Seminary, which indicates the academic legitimacy of the organization. The mission of CRES is “To honor the sacred wherever it appears and to support its appearance everywhere, especially by promoting understanding among peoples of all faiths in greater Kansas City and beyond.” CRES may be the only organization in the country which articulates a research program to deal with what Barnet identifies as, “the three great crises of secularistic culture.” CRES offers a specific mission to address the issues of “environment,” “personhood” and “society.” **[1]

In addition to addressing the three great crises of our time, CRES also sought to build relationships with, and direct its focus towards, the idea of the sacred in the arts, sports, business, science, bioethics, international relations, and various other areas.[2] The all-volunteer CRES staff includes Barnet, now minister emeritus; the Reverend David E Nelson, DMin, senior assoc. minister; Margaretha K Finefrock, chief learning officer; the Reverend Josef Walker, community chaplain; Ed Chasteen, PhD, amity shaman; Geneva Blackmer, 2016-2017 intern; and Paul Haughey, scholar in residence. [3]

In 1985, CRES began the annual Thanksgiving Sunday Interfaith Ritual Meal, a tradition which continues today in altered format. Since 1999, CRES presented yearly awards to leaders from the arts, government, media and religion at the annual dinner. In 2009, following the 25th annual Thanksgiving observance, the dinner was absorbed by the Heartland Chapter of the Alliance of Divine Love. The yearly award, now known as the “Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award,” is still presented, recognizing influential members of the interfaith community.[4]

Other achievements include the 2001 Gifts of Pluralism conference, the day-long observance of the 9/11 anniversary, a follow-up 2002 half hour CBS-TV special, the 2007 Interfaith Academies, Barnet’s 947 Kansas City Star weekly columns, and a full schedule of programs and advice to media, educational, religious, and other organizations. Many Paths, the 12-page monthly color CRES magazine, combined essays with reports and announcements to advance other groups in all areas of civic life to enhance spiritual development. [5]  The CRES website, with considerable archival materials, remains active online. [6]

**See chart:

[1] Barnet, Vern, interview by Geneva Blackmer. 2019. CRES. (February 18).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Barnet, Vern. n.d. About CRES. Accessed December 21, 2018.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Barnet, Vern, interview by Geneva Blackmer. 2019. CRES. (February 18).