History of The IFC
INTERFAITH CENTER OF GENESEO
50 YEARS, A PLACE OF FAITH AND FELLOWSHIP
As Robert T. McDonald and Murray J. Cohen convened a fund-raising committee with a goal of $300,000, their task was daunting. The late 1960’s were a time of renewed spirituality. Vatican II ended with a plea for inter-denominational cooperation. At the same time, home-churches were increasing. World peace was an issue. Nationally known TV personality and Rochester Diocese Bishop Fulton J. Sheen visited the Geneseo State College in early 1968 where he encouraged by the spirit of the times. Don Trasher gladly signed legal forms.
Forward looking Protestant clergy recently assigned to Geneseo churches also were enthusiastic: the Rev. Harold Babb at the Methodist Church, the Rev. C. Frederick Yoos at the Central Presbyterian, Father Randy Murray-Laird at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church and the Rev. Norman Moran from the local Baptist congregation. The Rev. Manfred Lassen soon would make a lasting contribution as would Father Thomas Statt, the first Newman chapin.
Emeritus faculty member B.J. Keller remembered columns of half frozen students wending their way uptown to worship at local churches on Sunday mornings. Soon clergy, town and gown, and college students combined to support an InterFaith Center on Frankin Street.
1968 – 1979: A BASE OF FAITH
The Center could not have established without assistance from the Chanler family. Gertrude Chanler initiated this with personal support and monetary donations and loans. Editors Don Sanders (Sanders Newspapers) and Ray Sherman (Livingston Republican) contributed their public relations expertise.
The beginnings brought problems along with the rewards. Newman’s Father Statt soon was worrying about a student overflow as Young people began worshipping at the Inter-Faith rather than at St. Mary’s.
The Vietnam Era reached its protest height. Demonstrations and sit-ins were held on campus. The Center was opened for long hours for programs discussing the war’s morality, for counseling, and even alternatives on avoiding the Selective Service draft. Fred Lassen made himself available at all hours to counsel students and faculty.
1980 – 1989: MATURITY TIME
The Center continued to be a home for varied faith groups under the leadership of Father Michael Mahler and Rev. Lassen, now engaged as chaplain by The Geneseo Campus United Ministry (GCUM).
Dr. Katherine Beck brought strong leadership as a Board Chairperson. The birth of the Livingston County Coalition of Churches under the guidance of Rev. C, Frederick Yoos and the Rev. Robert Booher brought creative new activities to the Center.
Bylaws were approved in January 1983. The GCUM sponsored programs bringing students and faculty together. New to the Methodist Church, the Rev. Leonard I. Sweet originated a series of student-community adult education classes on the history of religion in north western New York. “The Burned Over District.”
The discouraging news of the times was the rise of financial problems with appeal fund drives being necessary. A first walk-a-thon raised $6,000.
1990 – 1999: 25 YEARS OF SERVICE
Questions as to the Center’s financial well-being grew. Duties of a proposed business manager were briefly considered. Summer book sales helped. An open house marked the Center’s 25th anniversary in 1994. A 1996 Founders Day was a success. Important for the future was a 1993 Statement of Accord with the College. Also, several bequests plus internal and external improvements were necessary.
2000 – 2009: FAITH GROUPS CHANGE; FAITH REMAINS
Technology and a new generation of students brought “challenges” and new needs to a Center dedicated to enhancing religious faith and encouraging interfaith cooperation.” (1983 Bylaws). To meet these challenges and needs, Board Chairpersons Dr. Jim McNally, Dr. Myron Shaw, Dr. Shem Idiculla, Dr. Myrt Merritt, and the present Chair Joyce Wechsler all have been open to innovation, both in programs and financing. Faith groups changed over time but traditional activities remained the same, e.g, the College opening picnic and the popular Thanksgiving dinner.
A prudent investment plan and donations permitted the renovation of the kitchen to a state of the art condition in 2009. A new-lighted outdoor sign greeted visitors. The annual Tag Sale provided good revenue.
2009 – 2019: TWENTY FIRST CENTURY CONTINUITY AND CHANGES
These last 10 years have been full of partnering with the college, the wider community a few new programs and repair of our facility. The IFC has worked with the college’s “Geneseo Interfaith Service Project” (GISP) to present a yearly forum, discussion and dinner for students and the community. Through GISP we also enable student volunteer projects, such as Knights Day of Service and other events. In addition, through the great work of Board member Sarah McLean, we provide ways for students to recycle clothes and furnishings. The program, Geneseo Gives Back even repurposes everything, including 100s lbs. of food to shelters yearly.
Community members have utilized our facility for church events, weddings, funerals, family celebrations, blood drives, student parties and fundraisers. We have attempted with little success to draw students together with the village through other events such as “Spiritual Journeys.” We have reached out wider and have a wonderful relationship with the Rochester based Turkish Cultural Center. In addition, the outreach organization based in Rochester, Community Place, rented space from us for several years. Currently we are proud to have the Livingston County Habitat offices housed at the IFC.
Our old facility now has a new roof, a new air conditioning system, and many upgrades due to our fundraising, amazing donations, and the excellent assistance of Habitat. We also give many thanks to Campus Auxiliary Services for its help with mowing, collecting refuse and loaning us employees for other tasks.
WE MOVE ONWARDS IN FAITH AND
THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT