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. In 1978, Barnet began teaching a course on World Religions at Ottawa College. To further engage students, he began inviting religious leaders from the community to speak on their faiths. These lectures eventually developed into small gatherings among friends of various faiths at Barnet’s home, leading to the formation of an official 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 is an all-volunteer staff founded by The Reverend Vern Barnet, DMn, minister emeritus. Other members include The Reverend David E Nelson, DMin, senior assoc. minister, Margaretha K Finefrock, CRES 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. [1]

In 1985, CRES began the annual Interfaith Thanksgiving, a tradition which continues today. 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, so CRES could focus on teaching, writing, and consultation. The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council co-sponsors the event. The yearly award, now known as the “Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award,” is still presented, recognizing influential members in the community.[2]

Other achievements of CRES include the formation of the Kansas City Interfaith Council, the 2001 Gifts of Pluralism conference, the day-long observance following the first anniversary of 9/11, a half hour CBS-TV special on the work done by CRES in 2002, the 2007 Interfaith Academies, and 947 columns published by Barnet in the Kansas City Star. Many Paths, a 12-page monthly magazine published by CRES, provided essays, history, and other tools to aid interfaith work in Kansas City.[3]



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

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.