A Brief History
Interfaith Works evolved from the Thurston County Council of Churches, which was founded in 1969. The first president of that council was Dr. Paul Ellis, a United Methodist Minister and retired Professor of Seattle University.
A letter dated 1973 shows that Pastor Paul Davidson of Lacey Community Church was one of the first to recommend a new cooperative form of ministry in Thurston County, which could take the lead in stronger ecumenical programming. August 13, 1973, the Council chose 'Associated Ministries of Thurston County' as the name for this new organization. The work of identifying goals and objectives, and of writing new bylaws began soon after, and in March 1974, articles of incorporation were filed with the Secretary of State.
Davidson was the first executive administrator of Associated Ministries of Thurston County, but served less than a year, to be followed by Nancy Hoff, a member of St. Michael Parish. Nancy was Executive Director until 1989. Succeeding Executive Directors were Keturah Brown, 1989 to 1991; Ken Schwilk, 1991 to 1994; Cheri Gonyaw, 1994 to 2000; and Kathy Erlandson, 2000 to 2010; followed by Danny Kadden, 2010 to the present.
The first member faith communities of Associated Ministries were Community for Christian Celebration, Evergreen Christian Reformed Church, First Baptist Church of Olympia, First Christian Church, First United Methodist Church of Olympia, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Lacey Community Church, St. Andrews United Methodist Church, St. Michael’s Catholic Parish, Tumwater United Methodist Church, The United Churches, and Westminster Presbyterian Church. Since then, new members have joined and some have withdrawn, and membership has increased to 30 faith communities. A number of organizations and individuals participate as affiliate members.
Although Associated Ministries called itself an interfaith organization, its membership remained entirely Christian until 1981, at which time Temple Beth Hatfiloh applied for membership and became the first non-Christian member faith community. Since that time other faith traditions have joined including Buddhist, Baha’i, Unitarian, and Muslim.
For many years, Associated Ministries' slogan was 'Communicator, Catalyst and Celebrant'. Since its beginning, the organization has indeed been a catalyst for the formation of many community programs, and has assisted in the development or perpetuation in our community of many others. By no means complete, the following is a list of some of those programs:
Apple Jam Coffee House
Bread & Roses
Capitol Rotunda Easter Sunrise Service
Community Care Clinic
Community Kitchen, 2003
Community Meditation for Global Peace
Community Prayer Breakfast
CROP Hunger Walk
Days of Awareness
Divorce Life Line
Dispute Resolution Center, 1991
Emergency Overflow Shelter, begun 1990
Emergency Shelter Network
Genesis Study Project
God at 2000 Discussion Series
The Housing Task Force ||
Habitat for Humanity
Housing Assistance Fund
Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration
Jail Ministries, 1981
Literacy Task Force
Ministry of Presence
Off Campus School
Religious ed. for developmentally disabled persons
Samaritan Counseling Center
Scheduling for Perspectives
Singles Support Group
Spiritual Leaders’ Luncheon
Study Circles for Interfaith Dialogue
Thurston County Food Bank, 1976
Violent Toy Turn-in/Toys for Peace
World Sacred Music Festival |
April 20, 2004, the organization chose to change its name once again, this time to Interfaith Works. Its staff and members strive to be inclusive and inviting to all Faith Communities, and to find ways to serve the greater community together.
From its early beginnings as a Christian ministerial organization, Interfaith Works has continued to grow and expand in the community. Its members and leaders continually struggle to learn what it means to be an interfaith organization.