This profile was last updated in 2006
Over 120 Years of Interfaith Cooperation
“People of faith uniting to meet human needs.” (1) “Living in respectful presence of each other.” “Ascending together in joy.” (4) These and other mottos have guided the work of Inter-Faith Ministries of Wichita, active since 1885 in bringing together people of faith to make changes in the community. For over twelve decades, Inter-Faith Ministries has sought to “build inter-religious understanding, promote justice, relieve misery, and reconcile the estranged,” while adapting to the changing religious landscape of America. (1)
A Growing Circle of Inclusion
Inter-Faith Ministries of Wichita began in 1885 when a group of Protestant Christian leaders formed the Wichita Ministerial Alliance to address social issues such as jail and poor house conditions, racial tension, women’s suffrage, and the need for a hospital chaplain. (2) In 1919, the group changed its name to the Wichita Council of Churches, and by the 1930s, partnerships had been formed with Jewish, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholic congregations. The diversity of Wichita’s religious population continued to increase, and in 1978 the name was changed again to Inter-Faith Ministries to reflect this. (3) Today, the membership of Inter-Faith Ministries includes all these groups and more: Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Native American, and Unitarian Universalist congregations are all listed as members. (3) The Board of Directors reflects this population as well. (2) The inter-religious dialogue that arises out of this diversity creates “a place where those differences can be appreciated,” where one can “feel affirmed and challenged in their own faith, while helping others.” (5)
A Joint Ministry of Community Service
This model of “combining dialogue between faith groups with a joint ministry of community service” supports many award-winning programs that provide aid to the suffering, enrich the community, and defend against bigotry. (6) Inter-Faith Ministries’ programs extend into many areas of public life, following the call of its mission statement. (1)
With a history of racial justice work including “sit-ins” in the fifties and dialogue groups in the nineties, Inter-Faith Ministries continues its anti-racism work today. (6a) Using the Crossroads Ministry model (7) in congregational and organizational groups, Inter-Faith Ministries seeks to create a constantly increasing stream of anti-racist education and institutional change. This dedication to fighting bigotry extends to other arenas as well. In 2003-2004, Inter-Faith Ministries and the Muslim Public Affairs Council released “More Alike than Different,” an education project to reduce anti-Muslim bias in the greater Wichita area. Over fifty presentations were made to congregations, civic groups, businesses, and classes, and local television stations aired commercials and a thirty-minute interreligious dialogue. (4) The continuing Mother to Mother volunteer program partners women of different racial, economic, and religious backgrounds to increase understanding across these barriers. (6b)
Housing and Homelessness
Like many cities across America, Wichita is experiencing increasing rates of homelessness and housing troubles. Shelters fill every winter, and overflow shelter becomes necessary to save lives. The Inter-Faith Inn offers shelter, food, health care, and other essentials (4), and when the numbers of people seeking shelter becomes overwhelming, Inter-Faith Ministries arranges for local churches to offer sleeping space. (8) A Homeless Prevention food box distribution program is provided during times when other food pantries are unavailable. (4) The most demanding and difficult work of ending homelessness is the re-housing of people who live in shelters—“opening the back door of homelessness.” Providing permanent housing to this population is a central part of addressing homelessness (9), and Inter-Faith Ministries has taken on this challenge as well. Inter-Faith Villa and Inter-Faith Villa North provide affordable, permanent housing with supportive services, totaling 61 apartments. (6c) The Ti’Wiconi Safe Haven shelter for chronically mentally ill homeless persons provides case management, meals, and other support to 20 individuals. (6d) Its safe, non-institutional residential living model earned a Best Practice Award from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2005. (10)
Aiding Those in Need
Inter-Faith Ministries’ mission of “relieving misery and reconciling the estranged” is put into action through a variety of assistance programs, providing ongoing, seasonal, and emergency aid to many people. The Faith in Action volunteer program offers informal, non-medical care to elderly and disabled individuals to help maintain their independence. (6e) Campaign to End Childhood Hunger (CTECH) operates on a service level as well as an advocacy level, through promoting meal sites, educating policymakers, and working to reduce barriers to food stamps. (6f) The restorative justice program of Family Group Conferencing seeks to bring juvenile offenders, their families, victims, and community members together in conference, hoping to reduce recidivism and promote understanding between all parties. (4) For 44 years, Operation Holiday has offered seasonal assistance to thousands of families with food, coats, blankets, and vouchers for holiday dinners. (6g) In emergency situations, the Wichita Area Inter-Faith Disaster Response and the Inter-Faith “Critical Incident Stress Management” team respond to local and area disasters. (6h) On September 11, 2001, this group was present at the local airport to assist travelers rerouted to Wichita. (11) Inter-Faith Ministries’ assistance extends past local and area concerns into an international project as well. The ASAP Haiti project is a partnership with the town of Lambert, Haiti, and organizes multiple “work and medical mission trips” to help construct schools and medical clinics. (6i)
Stronger Communities, Stronger Congregations
Working to strengthen a community is not only a matter of addressing existing needs, but of improving infrastructure and relationships throughout a neighborhood. Some projects are characterized by their interfaith nature, such as the Congregational Cluster outreach project (6j) and regular interfaith study sessions. (12) The GoZones! partnership of Inter-Faith Ministries, congregations and community groups, and AmeriCorps enriches neighborhoods by providing activities and educational opportunities for children and youth. (6k) The intent is to create a viable program that will continue on its own through neighborhood and community support, which will offer after-school programs, tutoring, ESL classes, social service referrals, youth recreation programs, and community service events. Full-time AmeriCorps volunteers staff and develop these programs. (4) The Cowan-Haupt Communication Center (6l) and the C.A.F.E. Art Gallery (13) seek to use television and the internet to reach a wide audience. The Communication Center makes promotional films and public service announcements for non-profit organizations and congregations, helping to “amplify unheard voices” in the community. (4) The C.A.F.E. (Cultural Arts and Faith Exploration) Gallery in the main building of Inter-Faith Ministries also displays its exhibits online. (13)
A Stable Center and a Starting Place
The sheer number of these programs would be testament enough to Inter-Faith Ministries’ work in the community, but the success and stability of the programs is even more impressive. In order to administer all these projects, nearly fifty regular staff members (5) and hundreds of volunteers (14) work on the various programs. About half of the regular staff members are full time; the rest are full-time volunteers (including AmeriCorps volunteers) and part-time staff. (15) Finally, Inter-Faith Ministries has helped to found and support new institutions. Over the years, it has initiated or fostered the growth of many independent non-profit programs in Wichita, including the Care Coordination Team (serving HIV-infected individuals), the Global Learning Center, Sedgwick County Jail Ministry, and the Mid-town Community Resource Center. (15) Its adaptation to increasing diversity, the initiation of new programs, and the stability of its current programs demonstrate the great potential inherent in interfaith organization.
1—Main website of Inter-Faith Ministries. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://18.104.22.168/default.cfm.
2—World Hunger Year Community Connections. Spotlighted Community: Inter-Faith Ministries. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://www.worldhungeryear.org/comm_conn/display_ria.asp?ria_ndx=69.
3—Inter-Faith Ministries Members. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://22.214.171.124/members.cfm.
4—Inter-Faith Ministries 2003-04 Yearly Report. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://126.96.36.199/images/A.R.2003-2004.pdf.
5—Tolerance USA: Kansas. By Dana Williams, Tolerance.org. July 25, 2003. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://www.tolerance.org/news/article_tol.jsp?id=816. 6—Inter-Faith Ministries Programs. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://188.8.131.52/programs/default.cfm.
a. The Anti-Racism Program. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://184.108.40.206/programs/AntiRacism.cfm.
b. Mother to Mother. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://220.127.116.11/programs/mother_to_mother.cfm.
c. The Inter-Faith Villa and Villa North. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://18.104.22.168/programs/interfaith_villa.cfm.
d. Homeless Services. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://22.214.171.124/programs/Homeless.cfm.
e. Faith in Action. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://126.96.36.199/programs/FaithInAction.cfm.
f. CTECH (Campaign to End Childhood Hunger). Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://188.8.131.52/programs/ctech.cfm.
g. Operation Holiday Online. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://184.108.40.206/op_holiday/default.cfm.
h. Wichita Area Interfaith Disaster Response (WAIDR). Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://220.127.116.11/programs/waidr.cfm.
i. ASAP Haiti. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://18.104.22.168/programs/asaphaiti.cfm.
j. Congregational Clusters Outreach Project. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://22.214.171.124/programs/Congregational_Clusters.cfm.
k. GoZones! Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://126.96.36.199/programs/GoZones.cfm.
l. Cowan-Haupt Communication Center. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://188.8.131.52/programs/comm_center.cfm. 7—Crossroads Ministry: Education, Training, and Organizing to Dismantle Racism and Build Anti-Racist Multicultural Diversity. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://www.crossroadsministry.org/ .
8—Churches to take shelter overflow. Joe Rodriguez for The Wichita Eagle, December 1, 2005. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://www.kansas.com/mld/kansas/news/13296958.htm.
9—National Alliance to End Homelessness: Opening the Back Door. Part of NAEH’s Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://www.endhomelessness.org/pub/tenyear/opendoor.htm.
10—Best Practice Award Given to Ti’Wiconi Safe Haven. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://www.hud.gov/local/shared/news/r7/2005-08-17.cfm?state=ks.
11—Faith Communities Nationwide Join in Prayer, Assistance in Crisis. National Churches of Christ in the USA Press Release on September 11, 2001. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/behindthenews/us-us6.html.
12—Inter-Faith Ministries Calendar of Events. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://184.108.40.206/events.cfm.
13—C.A.F.E. Gallery: Cultural Arts and Faith Exploration. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://220.127.116.11/gallery.cfm.
14—Inter-Faith Ministries: Volunteering. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://18.104.22.168/volunteers.cfm.
15—NationJob: Inter-Faith Ministries Company Profile. Retrieved 12/28/05 from http://www.nationjob.com/company/infm.