For many, the Interfaith House was a home away from home, whether it was through the services offered by the Common Ministry, a place for meetings for student groups, or just as a hangout in the coffee shop.
The building on the northern edge of campus at 720 NE Thatuna has served the University and its students from the time it was built in 1925.
But time and circumstance bring change. Last spring the Presbyterian Synod put the building up for sale, and sold the Interfaith House to Washington State University for $1.2 million. Citing its location and connection to campus, the Board of Regents approved the purchase.
First a home for the Alpha Chi Omega sorority, the four-story brick structure remained in the organization’s hands until it was bought for student outreach by the Presbyterian Synod in 1958. It would be seven years, however, before a Common Ministry was established and the building would become a place for campus religious groups as well as unofficial student organizations.
Known then as the Koinonia House (K-House), a Greek concept for “communion” or “community,” a number of local religious denominations created a Common Ministry council. Everything that would come out of the Interfaith House would be part of the Common Ministry, including the tradition of having a basement coffee shop.
A place for friends and colleagues to meet,the Interfaith House also served as a space for those who felt displaced.
Wilhelmina Sarai-Clark, a retired WSU professor, was at one time a campus minister at the K-House as well as a deacon at St. James Episcopal Church. She stresses the positives that came while she was involved with the K-House, including the creation of the conflict resolution center and it serving as a headquarters for the participants of the student demonstrations in 1970. The protests drew attention to racism within the University. The ministry responded by offering programs and support.
“Another thing that originated from the Common Ministry was the acceptance of people with different sexual orientation,” says Sarai-Clark. The house “was a safe place to be.”
It was also a site for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, student potlucks, and human rights task force meetings. Whenever the University struggled with an issue, whether it was about drinking or separation of church and state, says Sarai-Clark, the Common Ministry was a place where people could find help.
While the fate of the building is still undetermined, the Common Ministry has relocated into the Community Congregational United Church of Christ for the 2014–2015 academic year.
“I hope that we don’t lose the connection with the University that we’ve had as a safe place to explore,” Sarai-Clark says. “Things change, but that doesn’t mean it’s all bad. Where else are they going to have all of these different religious groups talking to each other? Listening to each other? That’s what we are. And I hope that isn’t lost.”