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United Methodist Church
A Rich History… 1915 to
Bethany’s next pastor, Rev. William H.
Selleck, had been appointed in 1915 before consideration was finally given in 1916 to installation of a
toilet in the church. It was located in a corner of the kitchen at the foot of the basement stairs. Throughout
that year plumbing matters were a major concern for the Trustees. Sometimes cords of wood were purchased for
fuel, and sometimes they used coal. A parsonage was still needed, which would
require property. At a meeting of the Board, “Brother Selleck reported that the
two lots next south of the church may be secured by the payment of county taxes and interest at 8% from a man
who holds the tax certificate." A trustee was authorized to obtain the certificate.
Meanwhile, Mr. Whitney’s house on eye Street was rented for the pastor at $15 a month not including water and
It was also during Rev. Selleck’s
pastorate that the Epworth League was organized in 1915. From their minutes we glean
something of their activities: devotional services; buying flowers for Mother’s Day; Easter Sunrise service;
visits to the Park Avenue Christian endeavor; a Launch Party; a bowling team; giving toward the church’s debt;
and debating whether or not to contribute to an Epworth Heights cafeteria fund.
Rev. Daniel S. Kerr was thirty-seven years old when he
became Bethany’s pastor in 1917. He led a real drive to
get the old church debt paid off and raise money for the parsonage. There were over seventy names on the lists of subscriptions taken at the
In January 1918 Mrs. Hudson requested
use of the church by the women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). A chapter named for Abbie E. Danforth, a prominent Tacoma woman active in
temperance endeavors, began meeting at Bethany. We have records
that show the chapter operating at Bethany from 1914 through 1939.
Along with supporting the parent WCTU, it fostered temperance education however it could. The $1/year dues the members paid gave help to Bethany church, its missionary
groups, community charitable projects, and “sunshine” activities.
Two stained glass windows at the west end of the Bethany sanctuary’s north wall memorialize (1) Frances E.
Willard, founder of the WCTU, and (2) the Danforth WCTU.
During the summer of 1918 a loan of
$2,000 was taken out to get construction of a parsonage under way – with the intention also to: buy the
gymnasium from the Congregational Church if it can be purchased for $125, which should be torn down and moved to
the lots.: In July the Board accepted a “bid submitted by B. J. Johnson to build a parsonage complete for $2,270
plus the $125 worth of lumber included in the building being bought of the Congregational Church. By
1919, the parsonage was completed and the pastor was able to move out of the rented house. The new
parsonage was valued at $3,000 and the church building at $4,000.
It is true that after Edward H. Gebert was appointed in
1920, a clubhouse was being used in various ways by both church and community but we find no reference in any
meeting notes about its construction.
(Little information is available about the good works and times of Pastor Gebert's service to Bethany.
Additional information if found, will be posted here as it is discovered.)
Rev. Edgar J. Huston came to Bethany in 1922 and
served for seven years – a record up to that time. He was known for his active leadership in city
government. Early in his pastorate, the growing congregation was
feeling the need for larger quarters. The Trustees of
the not-totally-finished church constantly struggled. There were
plumbing problems, a leaky roof, rising sewer and street assessments, and the janitor quit – and along with
all this, there were problems with the Community House. It was
closed March 31st.
In June Pastor Huston “submitted plans
for remodeling the community House and joining to the church with a one-story addition, in order to provide
ample Church School room: and a Building committee was formed. In
October 1923 a “report was made of setting up of the range and hot water heater form the community House in the
However, things took a different turn
when, in December 1923, it was learned that there were plans “to build a new
intermediate school (Stewart) at 50th and Pacific Ave, [and] a suggestion was made that our church be
moved to about G Street.”: the lot
investigation committee reported “that 2 lots of the N.E. corner of 59th and G have been taken for
taxes by the county and are to be offered for sale about the middle of January.” The committee was authorized to $450 for the lots – but they were acquired by
another. Even though the plan hadn’t worked, the Trustees were now
on record in favor of a new church, and by October 1924 they bought “lots on the West side of Park Avenue at 57th Street”
(the current home of Bethany UMC). Plans
for a new church to be built there were accepted the following March. Ground was broken and the cornerstone laid in
1925. Building costs were $40,000, plus much donated
work. Many thought the building to be foolishly
The September 1925 minutes state that
the “Official Board met at the Alki Congregational Church; services [were] being held since September
1st when the other building was relinquished to the Norwegian Lutherans.” Along with church construction, a gymnasium was
built – financed with funds which had been donated by an active church member, Kate Coutant who
was later killed walking to an evening service in 1931 while crossing 56th Street. A stained-glass window on the south wall of the sanctuary commemorates the
large part she played in the life of Bethany.
A service of dedication
for the new church was held on August 8, 1926. Meanwhile, the pastor’s family was living in the former parsonage. The March 22 Official
Board minutes include this: “Discussed the proposition of the YMCA to take the
community house and use it as a branch of the YMCA in the south end” and “discussed trading the parsonage for one to be built on our lots.” At the same
meeting, the Board discussed sale of windows and finishing the auditorium, and a motion was carried that we
complete the [church] building immediately. By January of 1927 construction of the new parsonage
was nearing completion; the minutes reported “steps on the back
porch of the parsonage … are forthcoming soon, also shades for the windows of the clubhouse [the new
gym]”. In the summer of 1926 it was
“suggested by Mr. Huston that some of the old lumber left over from the gymnasium be used to build a shack for
a store house at Epworth Heights.”
From the very first, work
done by women played a large part in the life of Bethany. By the 1920’s, the Ladies Aid was
meeting twice a month year-round, and refreshments were served. Minutes books from 1922 to 1928 tell us that
they made jelly and pickles and sewed aprons, towels and pillowslips for bazaars; they held bake sales; and they
cooked many dinners, some at the Scottish Rite Cathedral, or the Masonic Hall. Service projects included the
Industrial Children’s Home and Cushman Hospital. They raised
money to supply dishes and silver for the dining room, a steam table for the kitchen, furnishing for the church
parlors, and to purchase a window when the new church building was erected on Park Avenue.
The first meeting of the Ladies Aid in the new church parlors at 57th and Park Avenue was on
March 3, 1926.