See more of the story

Stop reading if you’ve heard this one before: a priest, a rabbi and an imam step onto a football field in search of a pickup game.

Only this time, there’s no punchline.

As part of an effort to combat homelessness, the leaders of more than a dozen local houses of worship gathered on the campus of Augsburg University Friday to film a football-themed video promoting unity across faiths, races and politics.

Members of the Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jewish and Unitarian faith communities attended the hourlong shoot, hosted by the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda, clad in white and purple robes, a purple bishop’s biretta on his head, stood in one corner of the cramped locker room, carefully applying eye-black on his cheekbones, with only partial success. Maybe he was just out of practice, he joked.

Asked whether he had any kind of football experience, he responded, “on the streets of Pittsburgh.”

Standing a few lockers away, Imam Adnan Khan chuckled as he struggled to pull a pair of shoulder pads over his flowing white tunic, while a camera operator filmed him. After several failed attempts, Khan, who played intramural flag football as a student at the University of Minnesota and still hosts regular pickup games at Masjid At-Taqwa, the St. Paul mosque where he serves as a youth imam, finally got his pads on.

With a sheepish smile, he turned and mugged for the camera.

When someone’s cellphone went off during rehearsal, former Vikings punter Greg Coleman (playing the part of the team’s coach) looked up from his clipboard and, without skipping a beat, quipped: “That better be God.”

As the cameras rolled, more passes were dropped than caught. Organizers will likely have to heavily edit the footage.

For Pastor David Shinn, the gathering represented a “sense of unity, sense of solidarity, that together we can do so much more than we can do alone.”

Given the reality of the times, Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman saw it as an opportunity to open an “interfaith dialogue” — the best “antidote to religious violence.”

“Deciding that everybody has to believe as I do is not at all helpful,” she said, as she wandered the turf field at Augsburg’s sports dome.

A video of the group “scrimmaging” — featuring a rousing locker room speech from Coleman and a voice-over by the team’s radio announcer Paul Allen — is expected to be released early next week. A fundraiser to benefit the area’s homeless population will follow on Jan. 28.

The group, which included members of the Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness, was brought together by former U.S. Sen. Al Franken in response to last year’s violent rally of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va.

Yet the leaders felt their work shouldn’t end there, said Rabbi Alexander Davis, adding that the need for unity was at an all-time high after the conflicts that embroiled Charlottesville and other communities across the country.

With the world’s gaze on Minneapolis because of the upcoming Super Bowl, it was important for leaders to take a strong stand, he said. “We needed to respond to show what Minnesota really stands for.”

Libor Jany • 612-673-4064 Twitter:@StribJany