Our History

Serving Greater Richmond for Over 50 Years

Prior to 1900, community responsibilities for public welfare were assumed by volunteers from various religious groups. However, with the development of the profession of social work in the 1920s, many city governments began to employ public welfare workers. The need for communication among the public and private organizations, professionals, and volunteers in Richmond led to the formation of the Richmond Council of Social Agencies in the early 1920s, and, subsequently, the Richmond Community Fund in 1924. Dr. Arthur Guild was the Executive Director of both groups.

There was confusion between the new social work professionals and the church members who traditionally had been responsible for helping those in need. The Council of Social Agencies, along with the Richmond Ministerial Union, saw a need for understanding and cooperation between the religious community and the social agencies. To address this need, Rev. Dr. James C. Faw, a member of the Board of Directors for both agencies, turned to the women of the churches and synagogues who were already organized. A recommendation passed that a subcommittee of the Council be established. Dr. Faw and Dr. Guild assisted women from three faiths, Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish, to organize the Council of Church Women in 1929 as a sub-council of the Council of Social Agencies. This Council of Church Women was the first name of the Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond. Mrs. McLean Whittet became the first chairwoman.

In 1940, the name of the Council of Church Women was changed to the Interfaith Council of the Richmond Area Church Women to avoid confusion with The Women’s Council of Churches, an existing Protestant group. The purpose of the Interfaith Council was to study the health, welfare, and recreational needs of the Richmond community; to discuss those needs, suggesting appropriate action to the religious organizations; to interpret the social problems of the community to religious groups so that these groups and social agencies–both public and private–might coordinate their efforts against crime, poverty and disease. Dr. Guild served as liaison between the Council of Church Women and the Richmond Council of Social Agencies until 1937. In that year, Dr. Faw was employed as the Executive Secretary of the Richmond Council of Social Agencies and was assigned responsibility for serving as liaison between the Richmond Council and the Interfaith Council. He served as a devoted adviser to the women’s group for approximately 18 years, authoring a beautiful interfaith prayer which was adopted as the pledge until 2001.

The Interfaith Council works with other groups with similar objectives. In 1979 the Council accepted an invitation to affiliate with the National Conference of Christians and Jews (NCCJ) now known as the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (VCIC). Others who network with us include the Virginia Council of Churches (VCC), the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (1991-92), and the Council for America’s First Freedom (CAFF) (1997). In 1998 the Interfaith Council became a member of the North American Interfaith Network (NAIN). VCIC and CAFF contributed to the program offerings at the NAINConnect 2007 hosted by ICGR. In 1986, the Interfaith Council changed its name to the Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond (ICGR) to reflect the expansion of its membership. Since that time the Bahá’í, Buddhist, Eckankar, Hindu, Islam, Jain, Sikh, and Zoroastrian faiths became members of the Interfaith Council.

The basic purpose of ICGR has remained the same over the years, but in 1991, a clarification was added to the statement of purpose: “The aim of the Council is not to worship together but to work together in cooperative community service among religious organizations in metropolitan Richmond.” A new logo was adopted in 1991–a circle formed by emblems from the member religious groups surrounding the earlier logo showing two clasped hands. A banner was designed for the front of the meeting hall, and the extended logo was incorporated into all printed materials. In June 1991, the Board provided for the extended membership by enacting the following guidelines:

  • that interfaith consideration be given to all procedures, programs, practices, and dialogues, to be adapted as needed;
  • that prayer in Interfaith Council meetings be a moment of silent prayer and meditation;
  • that the place for meetings be given interfaith consideration and rotated on a regular basis;
  • that the words “church/synagogue” be changed to “religious organization/congregation and “Christmas/Hanukkah” to “holiday.”

During its more than 75-year life, the Interfaith Council has received numerous commendations for service from local service agencies including Meals-on-Wheels, The Virginia Council of Social Welfare, The Richmond Area Community Council, The United Givers’ Funds, the United Way, and the Volunteer Service Bureau. The Council was the recipient of the Second Annual Brotherhood Award of the Virginia Chapter of NCCJ. The ICGR has performed significant long-term service to the community, but its purpose and activities have not been well known. Greater visibility, therefore, became a focus in 1991-92. In addition to the February Brotherhood/Sisterhood Youth Awards Program, ICGR formed the first Interfaith Choir, and held the first January Open House. ICGR logo products were developed including an interfaith cookbook; Delicious Diversity, greeting/holiday cards, and ICGR mugs to foster public recognition of the Council.

Monthly meetings of the Council often feature representatives from the community who tell of the needs of fellow citizens. Members of the religious organizations carry this information to their groups for further action. Since the Visions workshops of 2000, ICGR members continue to work to build respect and understanding among Richmond’s diverse religious communities. Although the organization does not worship together, members and representatives are encouraged to participate in visitations to houses of worship not of their own faith. Interfaith prayer services for peace and brotherhood have been organized especially since September 11, 2001; calling upon ICGR representatives to pray in the custom and manner of their faith. The Visions 2006 and Beyond outlines a need to provide education about the religious practices of the Richmond Community.

ICGR has expanded its influence into the Family Peace Festival and co-hosting the Azim Kamiza forums (March 2006) to help reduce youth gang violence in the Richmond area. The 2006-2007 ICGR year began with the International Day of Peace prayer service at the Carillon and a proclamation by Governor Tim Kaine. ICGR was also privileged to co-host the Whirling Dervishes of Turkey with the Intercultural Dialogue Club of VCU in a fellowship hall of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, October 2006. Visions 2006 now becomes the Visions of 2007. Visions shared by ICGR leaders who attended NAIN Connects since 1998 was to host a NAIN (North American Interfaith Network) Connect in conjunction with the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Jamestown settlement. Six years of ideas and two years of intense planning brought about the realization of the vision. Seventy guests from the United States and Canada and fifty local guests gathered to “Embrace Religious Freedom”, network, dialogue and reconnect with old friends. Twenty eight workshops, four prominent keynote speakers, and three panel discussions produced a very successful grassroots program. Local Program Highlights of the NAINConnect 2007:

  • Eight Interfaith Council Teams totaling 25 people representing 13 religions, planned and executed a multi-national conference.
  • Interfaith Prayer Service & Visit from Thomas Jefferson
  • Operation Iraqi Children – People to People International NAINConnect Service Project
  • $16,700 School supplies/ cash & donated transportation to Kansas City.
  • 1562 school kits assembled
  • 400 contributed man hours
  • Langar Picnic Luncheon provided by the Central Virginia Sikh community
  • Vegetarian Banquet hosted by River Road Church Baptist & Served by the Jain Community
  • Interfaith Concert featuring 11 faith groups and 400 guests in attendance.

Following the successful NAIN Connect 2007, organizers began the process of creating a program to highlight the faith practices in the Greater Richmond area. Thus in January 2008 ICGR presented its first series called “Discovering Many Faiths-Richmond’s Hidden Treasure”. The first series was held in the community room of a local grocery store, Ukrops. In the fall of 2008, the DMF committee began collaborating with the Office of the Chaplaincy at the University of Richmond. Since 2008 the DMF committee has presented 14 of the 19 faith traditions represented on the council.

ICGR’s affiliate organizations and NAIN membership has brought about opportunities to present timely and thought provoking programs such as current films, dialogues, and panel discussions related to current issues involving interfaith relations. In order to reach out and introduce more faith communities to the Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond, a breakfast was organized in May of 2009 for the Clergy /spiritual leaders. The first Clergy Breakfast was held at the University of Richmond with Mayor Dwight Jones as keynote speaker. After the success of this event, the ICGR board voted to adopt the Clergy Breakfast as an annual event. The Clergy Breakfast of 2010 featured Lt. Governor Bill Bolling as the keynote speaker held at the Wingate Hotel. The 2009-2010 program year strengthened affiliation with First Freedom Center and developed a partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University’s Religious Studies Department. Created to answer a need in the community, the Interfaith Council has been working to respond to community concerns since 1929. In an atmosphere of economic distress and racial and religious tensions, the Interfaith Council is a group with compassion for individuals, understanding of community problems, and plans for future activities.

 

RESEARCH CONDUCTED BY:
REFERENCES:
Mrs. Anne McKenney, ICGR President, 1971-1972

  • VCU James Cabell Library Archives and Special Collections:
  • United Way Files
  • Council of Social Agencies Minutes for February 1929-39, 1943, 1949
  • Interfaith Council Histories and Files
ADDITIONS AND EDITING BY:
  • Lynn Johnston & Sharon Clayton, 2007;
  • Sharon Clayton & Sandy Willis, 2010

Past Presidents

1929-30   Mrs. McLean Whittet  – Presbyterian

1930-32   Mrs. Franklin Johnson – Baptist

1932-34   Mrs. James A. Richardson – Methodist

1934-36   Mrs. Raphael Levy – Jewish

1936-38   Mrs. J. McC. C. Greathead – Episcopal

1938-40   Mrs. Carroll C. Roberts – Christian

1940-42   Miss Henrietta Knightly – Catholic

1942-44   Mrs. T. W. Smith – Baptist

1944-45   Mrs. James E. Gardner – Lutheran

1945-46   Mrs. John 0. MacKinnon – Unitarian

1946-47   Mrs. John L. Fairly – Presbyterian

1947-48   Mrs. Henry Fine – Jewish

1948-49   Mrs. Dalton Flanagan – Methodist

1949-50   Mrs. Cyrus M. Bache – Episcopal

1950-51   Mrs. Bernard W. Glass – Christian

1951-52   Mrs. W. J. Burlee, Sr. – Catholic

1952-53   Mrs. E. Harold Thompson – Baptist

1953-54   Mrs. B. V. VanHorn – Presbyterian

1954-55   Mrs. Lewis Markel, Sr. – Jewish

1955-56   Mrs. C. W. Hinchman – Methodist

1956-57   Mrs. Frank 0. Higgins – Episcopal

1957-58   Mrs. Alton C. Griffin – Christian

1958-59   Mrs. Herman F. Gallasch – Lutheran

1959-60   Mrs. Morrill M. Crowe – Catholic

1960-61   Mrs. Jack H. Baskerville – Baptist

1961-62   Mrs. Wyndham Blanton, Jr. – Presbyterian

1962-63   Mrs. Jerome Meyer – Jewish

1963-64   Mrs. Adrian Carson, Jr. – Methodist

1964-65   Mrs. V. Lee Parker – Episcopal

1965-66   Mrs. Robert Jarman – Christian

1966-67   Mrs. Herman Gundlach – Catholic

1967-68   Mrs. Karl W. Dieker – Baptist

1968-69   Mrs. Heywood R. Hartley – Presbyterian

1969-70   Mrs. Bert Mann – Jewish

1970-71   Mrs. David C. Turner Burton – Methodist

1971-72   Mrs. Carlton N. McKenney – Episcopal

1972-73   Mrs. Oscar A. Pohlig, Jr. – Lutheran

1973-74   Mrs. Edmund G. Schmitz – Catholic

1974-75   Mrs. William P. Anderson – Presbyterian

1975-76   Mrs. Max 0. Laster – Jewish

1976-77   Mrs. J. Roy Clifford – Baptist

1977-78   Mrs. Sophia U. Hodges – Methodist

1978-79   Mrs. Edward L. Hill – Episcopal

1979-80   Mrs. Louise Hawkins – Lutheran

1980-81   Mrs. Leslie C. Boze – Presbyterian

1981-82   Mrs. Leigh Budwell – Baptist

1982-83   Mrs. Earl 0. Sims – Catholic

1983-84   Mrs. James Parthemos – Greek Orthodox

1984-85   Mrs. Jerome L. Stein – Jewish

1985-86   Dr. Vivien K. Ely – Methodist

1986-87   Mrs. Louise Lipscomb – Episcopal

1987-88   Mrs. Charles M. Turner – Lutheran

1988-89   Mrs. Talbert S. Deane – Presbyterian

1989-90   Mrs. Charles M. Johnson – Baptist

1990-91   Miss Dolores Ross – Catholic

1991-92   Dr. Lee Pratt – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

1992-93   Mrs. Barni Schlein – Jewish

1993-94   Mrs. Zoa Mottley – Methodist

1994-95   Mrs. Louise Reza – Unitarian

1995-96   Mrs. Midge Falconer – Bahá’í

1996-97   Mrs. Saba Abed – Islam

1997-98   Mrs. Shobha Shenoy – Hindu

1998-99   Mrs. Joan E. v.H. Everett – Episcopal

1999-00   Mrs. Ingrid Zoll Vetter – Lutheran

2000-01   Mrs. Miriam T. Bailey – Presbyterian

2001-02   Mrs. Virginia Smith – Baptist

2002-03   Mrs. Sharon C. Clayton – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

2003-04   Mrs. Anne H. Woods – Jewish

2004-05   Mrs. Marian Agnew – Bahá’í

2005-06   Dr. Jeffrey Clark – Unitarian Universalist

2006-07   Mrs. Lynn Johnston – Unity

2007-08   Mrs. Annette Khan – Islam

2008-09   Dr. Baljit S. Sidhu – Sikh

2009-10   Mrs. Kusum Jain – Jain

2010-11   Mrs. Sandy Willis – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

2011-12   Mr. Malik Khan – Islam

2012-13   Ms. Rebecca Skinner – Unity

2013-14   Ms. Rebecca Skinner – Unity

2014-15   Ms. Sabrina Dent – Member at Large

2015-16   Ms. Sabrina Dent – Member at Large

2016-17   Ms. Ashley Pelli – Omnism