Over 70 Years of History
The Interfaith Council of Southwestern Connecticut (formerly known as the Council of Churches and Synagogues) originated more than 65 years ago in Stamford and is growing stronger every year. The Council was the first local expression of a growing wave of national and international ecumenical and interfaith associations.
The original concept was simple but powerful: by working together instead of alone, churches could be more effective in reaching out to serve the community, doing God’s work of helping those in need. Norman Woodberry, who joined the council in 1941, recalled that there were pulpit exchanges and goals for bettering interfaith/and interracial understanding from the earliest days.
Learn more about the Interfaith Council's Historical Programs here.
The idea of the Stamford Council (later the Interfaith Council) was born when six Protestant ministers of downtown Stamford churches envisioned a unity of purpose and energy.
The Council underwent its first reorganization to better fit the times. The community was becoming increasingly secularized and fragmented, so four primary departments were formed to oversee the Council’s work: religious education, evangelism and worship, social concerns, and finance.
During World War II, clergy worked together on interfaith teams in hospitals while volunteers prepared supplies for foreign war relief.
Dedicated to dialogue, fellowship, and action, the Interfaith Council adopted an initial structure of committees: brotherhood and amity, social relations, religious education, race relations, and civic problems.
Rabbi David Pearlman of Temple Beth El served as treasurer. Father Early was part of the clergy speaking team that visited schools and social groups.
Affordable housing was the Council's number one social concern.
A hospital chaplaincy program started, refugee resettlement was a major issue, civil rights and legislative advocacy became an appropriate way for the Council to fulfill its mission of social welfare. Attention to physical as well as spiritual welfare was considered an important interfaith mission.
The Stamford Council of Churches added Darien to its name at this time, and a newsletter was begun. The assembly concept was born. Member congregations were each asked to designate one clergy and two lay delegates to the Council as the overall governing body of consultant/advisers.
The Stamford-Darien Council voted officially to include synagogues as part of its membership and it became the Council of Churches and Synagogues.
The Council expanded its sphere of service and membership to include Greenwich and New Canaan.
The Council marked yet another milestone by changing its name to the Interfaith Council of Southwestern Connecticut. This reflected its more inclusive nature, since it had accepted Baha’i, Muslim and Sikh congregations into its membership.