The Carbondale Interfaith Council – Serving For 50 Years
See Also: History of the Ralph Anderson Interfaith Dialogues
What is now the Carbondale Interfaith Council began as a cooperative event that would help Christian communities combine their resources for more effective ministry to the community. For instance in 1971, the first year of the council, churches worked together to bring about major savings for the individual churches. The first year of its operation, the Council worked on some economy steps for church offices. Paper supplies were brought wholesale in quality and resold to church offices at cost, resulting in major change. An inventory was made of the equipment in each church office which could be loaned or used on the premises by other churches. An inventory was also made of choir music owned by each church which could be loaned to others.
One of the issues that individual churches faced at that time, and they continue to face today, is how to deal with people in need. For the first fifteen years the Council took responsibility for Transient Aid in a variety of ways. Eventually these efforts resulted in the creation of The Women’s Center, and Good Samaritan House, which responded to the needs of those on the margins. The Council continues to have a vigorous ministry at a time when human needs are greater.
Other entities, activities or projects that came out of the collective efforts of the Interchurch Council were UNICEF, Union Thanksgiving services, and week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which are still important activities for the Interfaith Council. Thus the emphasis in those earlier years was on Christian Churches working together so they did not duplicate one another’s ministries, and to eventually create community-wide organizations. The Pastoral Care Advisory Committee also helped to coordinate ministries to hospitalized people, and resulted in the current chaplaincy program which is now a part of Southern Illinois Healthcare.
The most important change in the work of the Council came about when some larger religious issues were addressed. The name was changed from the Interchurch Council to the Carbondale Interfaith Council in 2000 when other faith groups than Christian religions were included. This was probably happening all over the country in cities the size of Carbondale and larger. The question, “What do Jewish people think?” was answered best by including Jewish people in our conversations. And “Why are Muslims different?” was best answered by talking with Muslims, person to person or in community formats. Our Council board today includes a diverse religious population. We remain open to what is referred to in a religious context as the importance of welcoming the stranger.
Recent interfaith actions have included holding Interfaith Week in 2009, sending three members of CIC to attend The Parliament of The World Religions in 2009 in Melbourne, Australia and offering opportunities to visit each other’s places of worship on the Houses of Faith Tour in 2013. All of these past and current efforts are indicative of a truly interfaith community. The leadership of the Carbondale Interfaith Council has worked to keep the religious conversation relevant and community ministries responsive to an ever changing world.
Timeline of Services Founded by the Council:
1972 Spirit of Christmas (gifts for needy families)
1975 Trick or Treat for UNICEF
1975 Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration
1975 World Wide Communion Service held at Shryock Hall, SIU
1980 Clergy Assistance Program for hospital visitation
1982 Senior Visiting Program
1983 Food Bank at University Baptist Church
1986 Public forums on diversity and social justice issues
1987 Jewish-Christian Conversations (later added Muslims)
1989 Good Samaritan House
2004 Ralph Anderson Interfaith Dialogs
2009 Sent 3 representatives to the Parliament of the World Religions, Melbourne Australia
2013 Houses of Faith Tour