Bethany United
Methodist            5634 S. Park, Tacoma, WA 98408

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Bethany United Methodist Church
A Rich History…  1915 to 1928


W. H. Selleck 1915-1917Bethany’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 light. 

 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 becamD. S. Kerr 1917-1920e 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 time.

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. 

E. H. Gebert 1920-1922It 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 – aE. J. Huston 1922-1929 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 church kitchen.” 

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 large. 

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. Our Church Home Dedicated in 1925 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.

1927 Cradle Roll 
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