Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond

By Jon Headlee

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The Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond originated in 1929 when Dr. Arthur Guild, Executive Director of the Richmond Council of Social Agencies, recognized that there was a need for understanding and cooperation between various members of the religious community and the social agencies of Richmond. At this time, the Council of Church Women was created as a sub-council of the Council of Social Agencies. In 1940, the name of the Council was changed to the Interfaith Council of the Richmond Area Church Women. Later the title was shortened to the Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond. In the early years of the Council, the purpose of the group was to study the needs of the Richmond area, to discuss those needs (and suggest actions) with the religious organizations, and to interpret social problems of the community for religious groups so that the religious community and the social agencies could work together in creating and enacting solutions to issues, such as crime, poverty, and disease. Currently, the mission of the Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond, according to the council’s website, is to “develop understanding, respect, and cooperation among the various religious faiths.”

The main success of the Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond is its ability to network, coordinate, and affiliate with like-minded groups on a local, national, and international scale. In 1979 the Council became affiliated with the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and in the 1990s, Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond became affiliated with the Virginia Council of Churches, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, and the Council for America’s First Freedom. Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond became a member of the North American Interfaith Network in 1998.

Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond’s membership originally consisted of various Christian congregations and denominations in the Richmond area, but in 1986 the Council began expanding its membership to include the Baha’i, Buddhist, Eckankar, Hindu, Islam, Jain, Sikh, and Zoroastrian faiths. To accommodate the vast differences in faiths, the Council clarified its mission statement in 1991, adding: “The aim of the council is not to worship together, but to work together in cooperative community service among religious organizations in metropolitan Richmond.” The Council now boasts over 75 member congregations and at least 150 individual members from Baha’i, Baptist, Buddhist, Catholic, Mormon, Episcopal, Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Jewish, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Sikh, Unitarian, Unity, and Zoroastrian organizations.

Since 2006, Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond has attempted to bring a greater appreciation and knowledge of the various faiths that comprise the religious community in Richmond. The organization recognizes all religious holidays, and members of individual faiths are encouraged to lead ceremonies and rituals for their own holidays, celebrations, and festivals for the benefit and experience of the other members of the Council. Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond does not have its own building. Instead, it utilizes the facilities of various member congregations and the resources of its various affiliates. The Board of Directors is on a yearly, rotating schedule that allows each member organization to have equal participation at the various levels of organizational hierarchy.

The Council also engages in numerous community service projects and programs. Beginning in 1968, the Interfaith Council began awarding annual Brotherhood and Sisterhood Youth awards to recognize high school seniors in the Richmond area for qualities of understanding and kindness to those who members of different racial, religious, and nationality groups. The Council also participates in the Chaplaincy Service that provides prison ministry service throughout Virginia. Community service is integral to the main activities of the Council, and so Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond has created a sub-committee in the Council specifically devoted to community service projects that run throughout the year.

Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond works not only towards addressing community needs but also for faith understanding and education. For these purposes, the Council has many programs to assist in faith-related education, including a lending library of all major spiritual texts, a speaker’s bureau to provide guest speakers, as well as other programs. Finally, the Council participates and helps set-up (in association with many other groups and organizations in Richmond) the Family Peace Festival in September and the Festival of Faiths in December.

Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond
P.O. Box 25801
Richmond, Virginia 23261-5801
(804)-782-6860

Sources:
Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond website
Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond 2006-2007 Yearbook

Profile prepared by Jon Headlee
October, 2007

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