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

plus Bounty Food Bank         Office 253-475-7098 
  Bethany UMC  - "Your Family Friendly Neighborhood Church"

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Bethany United Methodist Church
A Rich History…  1928 to 1942


We find little information about what was going on in Bethany during theJ. D. Lewellen 1929-1930 pastorate of Rev. John D. Lewellen, from 1929 to 1930, except for the women’s groups. A record book for 1929 and 1930 tells us about the Junior Circle, the younger women of the congregation. They put on plays, banquets for Boy Scouts, and an occasional Carnival, and did various projects in tandem with the Ladies Aid. In 1930 the Junior Circle divided into three sub-Circles named after past pastors’ wives (Ruth Gebert, Maud Huston, and Rachel Lewellen). The membership of these groups was assigned according to their areas of residence: from Fern Hill to 59th; from 59th to 58th; and from 58th to 56th. The Junior Circle continued to meet monthly and the three sub-Circles held friendly competition to see which could earn the most money during the year. 


When Rev. James T. McQueen becameJ. T. McQueen 1930-1933 Bethany’s pastor in 1930, he immediately saw to it that responsibilities were well delineated. The roll was called at Official Board meetings; the presidents of the Trustees and Ladies Aid were made custodians of kitchen property; organizations were to report to the pastor the dates wanted for meetings so he could arrange the calendar; etc. Dishes had been disappearing from the kitchen; now locks were purchased for cupboards. “Clubhouse matters were discussed to quite an extent as to the burden of upkeep and influence on church and church school attendance.” The Men’s Club was assigned supervision of clubhouse activities. 

In 1931, Mr. Evans was appointed to the Music Committee to replace Mr. Swanson.  Mrs. Evans played the pump organ and sometimes it caused her to have trouble with tired legs, so her husband attached a washing machine motor to the foot pedals.  This greatly relieved the strain on her legs, but the motor produced a very distracting sound when warming up!

1931 Cradle Roll 

As early as 1916 at Bethany, meetings of the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society (WFMS) had been held monthly in homes, and included a midday lunch. Women’s Home Missionary Society (WHMS) meetings were also held, and there were mission groups for children and youth: Mother’s Jewels, King’s Heralds, and Queen Esthers. Often women belonged to WFMS and WHMS as well as the Ladies Aid. But by the mid-20’s, the two mission groups began to meet jointly, and in 1934 they merged into a single Bethany Missionary Society. A window on the sanctuary’s north wall commemorates the ladies Society; one on the south wall, the WHMS. One balcony window remembers the Bethany Junior Circle, and the large central round one was given by the flourishing Sunday School. Other of the beautiful windows that enhance our sanctuary were memorials for individuals: Celia A. Bradley, Fred W. and Lena Perry, Harry M. Freeman, Frank O. Byrd, Mr. and Mrs. Charles F. Messner and Nellie Athow Palmer.

Rev. Ernest e. Tuck
 was appointed to Bethany in 1933.  He had Ernest E. Tuck 1933-1935been a missionary to India.  During Rev. Tuck’s watch,a 34th Anniversary was observed with a Christmas Luncheon on Wednesday, December 12, 1934.  Special guests were four members who had been present at the 1904 tent meeting that birthed the church.  They were Mrs. C. F. Whitney, Mrs. J. S. Henderson, Mrs. J. C. Reed, and Mrs. D.C. Walker.  Later, when the Tucks were leaving for a mission assignment in the Philippines, the Bethany Ladies’ Society brought them back to Bethany as special speakers in December 1936. 







In 1935 Rev. Erle Howell was appointed to Erle Howell 1935-1939Bethany. This was the year a new Methodist Hymnal was produced jointly by the ten three branches of Methodism: the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and the Methodist Protestant Church.

It was during Rev. Howell’s ministry, in 1937, that Bethany’s big debt crisis occurred. Other churches came to our aid, a helpful savings and loan company cancelled $6,000 in interest, and a loan was obtained from the Board of Church Extension. This resulted in the reduction to $10,000 of a $26,000 debt. On October 19, 1938, the News Tribune announced Bethany’s Thirty-fourth Anniversary Celebration – a weekend event which included dramatizations of a series of episodes: the tent pitched on South 56th and Eye in October 1904; the organization of the church in 1907 with 30 charter members; experiences in the second building construction in 1911; and the present building. 

We’re not sure when church bulletins were first used at Bethany.  They may well have been introduced by Rev. Howell, for the earliest one we have is for July 21, 1935, shortly after he was appointed.  Beginning in June of the following year, a scrapbook was begun in which bulletins were preserved along with many newspaper articles about the church, and other memorabilia.  A distinctive feature of these bulletins is that they carry printed ads from a wide range of Tacoma Businesses.  The advertisements were one way the church made a dollar stretch in those depression years. 

When Rev. Ernest Barber became pastor in 1939, the scrapbook was continued. Ernest Barber 1939-1943 It was filled up and a new one begun in 1940.  Bulletins were the church’s principle means of disseminating information, so they tell us much about Bethany’s activities, and the inclusion in this second scrapbook of occasional snapshots gives up glimpses of some of the people, and sometimes the church interior.  Among announcements on Rally Day, October 5, 1940, is this: 

        “We call attention to our new bulletin. The advertisers are friends of the church, enabling us to provide the bulletin service every week. Mention the bulletin when trading with them.”

The day came, in October 1942, when a newspaper headline declared: “Parsonage’s Mortgage To Be Burned.”  The article explained: 

        “Bethany Methodist congregation has been threatened at various times … since building at 57th and Park Avenue, with loss of its property.  For such a small congregation, the present adequate and beautiful premises was an ambitious undertaking … 16 years ago.  Five years ago the Methodist churches of the Seattle-Tacoma District … helped save the property.  The remaining mortgage on the church building is held by the Methodist Board of Home Missions.” 

“Last spring a successful campaign was conducted to pay the mortgage on the parsonage and the clubhouse, and this mortgage will be burned Thursday evening, Oct. 22, in the church parlors. The Ladies Society will serve dinner at 6:30. The speaker will be the new district superintendent Rev. Dr. C. K. Mahoney of Seattle. The pastor, Rev. E. Barber, will be in charge of the mortgage burning, all open to the public.” 

A 1940 Wedding
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