In 1887 a group of 26 people associated with the closed Sabbath school petitioned the Seattle Presbytery to organize a second Presbyterian church. This first attempt failed.
The second attempt to organize this church happened on January 27, 1888. Some members of the Presbytery, including George F. Whitworth (He founded Whitworth University and helped organize many Presbyterian churches in the Washington Territory because of his dream of making it a Presbyterian colony.), met with only four of the interested people who made it to the meeting. Inclement weather prevented more from attending. They re-convened the meeting on January 29, 1888 and completed the organization of the Second Presbyterian Church of Seattle.
One of the city of Seattle’s founders, David T. Denny, donated some land for our first church building (located just southeast from where the Seattle Center fountain is). At the end of July 1888 with 36 members, we dedicated this building at Harrison and Oak St (later became 3rd Ave N). We were in this building for 19 years. Four pastors and two pulpit supply pastors served us during the time.
While in our first building we got tired of being called the Second Presbyterian Church of Seattle and voted to change our name. On March 19, 1903 during the second ballot, the votes were Bethany 13, Knox 8, and Emanuel 2. With Bethany receiving the majority of the votes, it became our name, which means “home of the friends of Jesus.”
We bought land at First Ave N and Roy Street and built our second church building because with 300 members we needed a larger building. We held our first service on June 2, 1907. Two pastors served us in this building. We were in this location for 18 ½ years before we moved up to the top of Queen Anne hill in 1926 without a building.
We held worship services in two places on top of Queen Anne hill while we were without a building. From September 1926 to December 1928 we met in the Queen Anne Masonic Temple at 1608 4th Ave W. Two pastors served us at that location. With the new Queen Anne Club House opening in May 1928 on Queen Anne Ave N, we moved our worship services to its auditorium from January 1929 to April 1930. One pastor served us during this time.
In February 1929 we decided to build our third church building (current building). A pulpit supply pastor was the one who took us through the building process. Land was given to us at 1818 Queen Anne Ave N by church member, Frederick J. Davison. Our first worship service in our new building was on Easter Sunday, April 20, 1930. We have been blessed with nine pastors, nine associate pastors, and five interim pastors who have served us in this location.
In 1950 there was a call for Presbyterians to help sponsor displaced people coming out of the ravages of WWII. In December of that year, Bethany stepped up and sponsored a family from Europe who had been waiting for a few years in a deportation camp. The family—a husband, wife and nearly a four-year-old—came to Seattle to establish themselves in America. We found them a home and tried to find the husband a job. Being a soldier in the war took its toll on him and he never was able to find his footing in the work force here. His wife became our custodian for 40 years with her son (who was born here) working alongside her for the last 10 years before she retired.
In the 1960’s there was a movement to build onto the current structure a parallel section to the sanctuary (This addition would have made the building u-shaped.), but permits were never granted. Along with a difficult pastor during that time, the membership dipped down to just under 100. The remnant was determined to revive Bethany.
Following this darkest time in our history became one of the brightest with the hiring of a dynamic pastor and his wife who had five children. During his 25 years of service with us, worship became an integral part of us as a church. Bethany introduced guitar-accompanied praise songs to blend in our worship services. Jesus People were welcomed here. The church grew again as we all were encouraged to live out our faith through the aid of joining home groups, learning our individual spiritual gifts, and using them to advance God’s kingdom. At least five members left to become lifelong missionaries globally while others served full time in ministries locally.
In 1982 this pastor helped launch the Queen Anne Helpline in the community when he met in our parlor with a couple of concerned folks and Dick Rhodes, the owner of Queen Anne Thriftway who had noticed that many were struggling financially to buy food. QA Helpline still helps folks with rent, other bills, clothing, and some food. It depends on the support of churches and the community to keep it going.
We also expanded our campus during this pastor’s era by purchasing houses north of our property at 1826 Queen Anne N (the brown house) and the 3, 7 and 11 Howe St houses. (We had already bought the little white house at 1828 Queen Anne Ave N back in 1959.)
The houses were used in a variety of ways. The white and brown house served as Sunday School children’s classes on Sundays and a preschool rented from us during the week. These houses were used until they began to fall apart. Then they were torn down to make way for our new fellowship hall, kitchen, and lobby in 1994. We turned our old social hall, stage, and kitchen into four Sunday School classrooms and a family library.
The Queen Anne Foodbank was located in the 3 Howe St basement for many years. The rest of 3 Howe St was used to lodge some of the Jesus People couples for a short time, to house an Associate Pastor’s family for a while, was a place where young adults could meet each Sunday after church to eat a meal together, and in 1993 it became the church office when all the rooms were converted into offices.
7 Howe St was home for a ministry-sponsored intentional community. Bethany folks lived there who were committed to eating together and serving at Bethany individually as their outreach. In the basement are now offices for some Bethany staff and the living room/dining room/kitchen area is used for Sunday School classes and meetings. Future plans are converting upstairs bedrooms into staff offices (moving them from the basement) and possibly connecting the main floor with 3 Howe St main floor to create a large conference room and maybe a copier room.
11 Howe St has been used as a Bethany men’s house (young adults), transitional housing for New Horizons Ministries for a year or so, and the Youth House where some of the men youth leaders lived upstairs. The garage was recently converted into an inside room. The upstairs living area is being converted into Sunday School rooms.
We so thank those who have gone before us and their insight and risk to buy these houses so that we would have these buildings to grow into and/or the land to build when that time comes.
In Oct. 2011 to Aug. 2012 we took action to ensure the safety of all who step into our buildings in case of an earthquake. We retrofitted our sanctuary and education wing. The houses had been previously retrofitted earlier.
Bethany is a vibrant church that has launched many into our denomination’s pastor pool. It is not unusual for us to have at least four or more candidates at one time sponsored by Bethany as they are going through their Masters of Divinity programs. We also have some Seattle Pacific University professors who attend regularly and occasionally preach.
The Jesus People at Bethany
I think Bethany was a typical, middle-class, stable, predictable, Presbyterian Church. But with amazing openness, I thought, the leadership and congregation welcomed these young folk to the Church. Many were seen as “hippies”, and shocked some of our members with casual dress, long hair and beards, sandals or even on occasion a bare-footed brother or sister. Our services were filled to capacity, with many youth seated on the floor of the sanctuary.
One of the houses Bethany had purchased north of the church was virtually ‘turned over’ to this young army, and eating for most part two meals a day, some 60-70 would gather at 3 Howe Street for supper.”¹ “There were three couples living in the home.”²
“Teaching by established Bible teachers has been scheduled on a daily basis, and the Jesus People have been faithfully attending…These teaching sessions have been held at Bethany every morning at 10 o’clock with about forty in attendance.”³ “The Jesus People are having disciplined Bible Study each morning in the Bethany Social Hall, and witnessing in the afternoons….”²
Wednesday Night Dinner History
As it grew Bethany took it on as an outreach ministry. The founding folks believed that this outreach should not be the typical soup-kitchen-type-dinner. It would be a community made up of church members, neighbors living in the area, low income, and the homeless. It would be a caring community where all would feel safe, be known, and cared for in a physical and spiritual way (including prayers, bible study, and communion opportunities for all). An elder is assigned to the Wednesday Night Dinner community as their ministry area along with paid staff for the kitchen and director of the dinner who was also a social worker. It became a part of the outreach budget with between 100 to 250 being served every week a quality meal made and served with love by the cooks and volunteers.
WND has been going for 20 years now. Through the years many have found housing or improved housing as our social worker has walked alongside the homeless and low income to improve their standard of living. Bethany has become richer as our congregants have mixed in with others who we normally would not know and donated jackets, socks, sleeping bags, toiletries, shoes, etc. to help provide for those in need. There has been inclusion into Bethany’s Sunday community as some WND guests have joined Bethany for worship on Sundays. WND is a solid outreach to the community especially since in 2003-2004, the foodbank stopped being housed at Bethany.