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 2018.  Beginning in June 2018, the leadership model changed to Co-Executive Directors, Lisa Gosiaco (Interfaith Relations) and Meg Martin (Homeless Services).

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 Since then, new members have joined and some have withdrawn, and membership has increased to 30 faith communities.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
• Beginning Again
• Bread & Roses
• Campus Ministries
• Capitol Hospice
• Capitol Rotunda Easter Sunrise Service
• Choir Exchange
• Choir Festivals
• 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
• Family Court
• Genesis Study Project
• God at 2000 Discussion Series
• The Housing Task Force
• Habitat for Humanity
• Homes First
• Housing Assistance Fund
• Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration
• Jail Ministries, 1981
• Legislative Chaplains
• Literacy Task Force
• Ministry of Presence
• Off Campus School
• Prison Fellowship
• Project H.A.N.D.
• Pulpit Exchange
• Religious ed. for developmentally disabled persons
• Samaritan Counseling Center
• Scheduling for Perspectives
• Singles Support Group
• Special Olympics
• Spiritual Leaders’ Luncheon
• STARS Program
• 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.