In 1980, a Jewish women who chaired the Interfaith Committee of her Temple Sisterhood recognized the need to find a setting in which Christian and Jewish women could talk together in some depth about their beliefs and values. She proposed an annual program,
to be planned jointly by Christian and Jewish women committed to their faiths that would offer the chance for significant dialogue.
She enlisted the aid of three other reform sisterhoods, the St. Louis of Church Women United and the Ecumenism Committee of the Arch-diocesan Council of the Laity to sponsor the first event.
A steering committee was formed comprised of Jewish, Protestant, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox women.Through out the 1980's the St. Louis steering committee was composed of women from these four faith groups and representatives from supporting organizations. By 1989, the steering committee expanded to to include Muslims and in 1995, the Baha'i Faith. Out reach efforts encouraged the attendance to women of all faiths.
Conference, held in various places of worship, open with a brief interfaith prayer followed by the morning session on the topic of the day. Speakers representing different groups address the topic, usually in the form of a panel discussion, sometimes with a keynote speaker and questions from the floor.
Participants are assigned seats for lunch in groups which have been carefully designed to include women of as many different faiths as possible. For many this is first opportunity to participate in interfaith dialogue. If time permits, an optional tour of the worship facilities follows.
At the conclusion of the conference, attendees can indicate their interest in joining a year-round small interfaith group. By providing an opportunity for continuing dialogue, Women's Interfaith Conference has made an important contribution to increasing the number of St. Louisians committed to interfaith affairs.
Since the inception of the conference, several hundred women have participated in small dialogue groups, many of which are still active. As a result of relationship nurtured through dialogue, deep-rooted prejudices have been minimized and an openness and understanding has surfaced.