History in brief…
The Women’s Interfaith Institute in the Berkshires, a path-breaking undertaking, was founded in 1992 in the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Allison Stokes, Founding Director. At the time she was serving as Pastor of the West Stockbridge Congregational Church.
After Allison moved to New York to become Protestant Chaplain at Ithaca College, she organized in 2002 a separately incorporated, affiliate group—the Women’s Interfaith Institute of the Finger Lakes. Working together in partnership, the sisters groups celebrated their 20th and 10th anniversaries respectively in 2012. The governing Council of the Berkshire group chose in 2015 to move forward with a different mission and name. The Archives of the WII in the Berkshires are now in the Sophia Smith Collection of the Smith College library in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Shortly after organizing the Institute in the Finger Lakes purchased the historic (1871) Wesleyan Church next door to the Visitors’ Center of the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. The Rev. Marilyn Foster, the first ordained clergywoman to lead a Seneca Falls church, served as President of the Institute’s board. The next six years were exciting as multi-faith programs drew attention and members, college volunteers worked to improve the long-neglected building, and donations and grants came in. Then just as renovations of our Great Hall (the former sanctuary) were complete, on March 5th, 2009 the Institute suffered a devastating fire.