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

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Bethany United Methodist Church
A Rich History…  1961 to 1975

Rev. William G. Berney
 was assigned to Bethany in 1961, and the men of the William G. Berney 1961-1964church gave the parsonage a “face lift.” Virgil Ramsey did patching and plastering; Chuck Linn put new screen on three doors; Ted Cross installed new light fixtures and outlets; and a bunch of other men – and some women (including Jean Baughn) – did other tasks. 

Newly organized choirs for children, teens, and adults were active under the direction of Pat Jones, Bill Berney, and Laura Tippie; accompanists were Mabel Sommerville and Virginia Berney.  The Bethany tradition of choirs participating in Choir Festivals began with these choirs.  A Methodist Men’s group formed.  Also, Rev. Berney became pastor-advisor for a city-wide group of single young adults who met at Bethany or in homes and took many field trips for camping or visiting young adult groups in other cities.  Still-familiar names from that young adult roster include Grover and Jerry Ramsey, Thom, Steve and Judy Baughn, Fred Hanson, George Quigley. 

Under Rev. Berney the name of the church newsletter changed to "THE WINDOW" – a name he chose because through it one could look into the church as well as outward into the community and the world.

Need for improvements to the church building had been discussed ever since the mortgage was burned. In about 1959, there were proposals made for remodeling the sanctuary, and a $10,000 mortgage approved for this work. When these alterations were finished, the Tribune reported on it this way: 

        “Bethany Methodist Church will hold a ‘service of re-consecration’… as a remodeled sanctuary is open for worship… Rev. A.C. Wischmeier, superintendent… will preach… also participating will be the Rev. Harry Coates, a former pastor… the church’s four choirs will sing.”

        “The chancel has been completely rebuilt and the entire sanctuary refinished.  A new communion table, with a cross on the wall above, occupies the central place in the chancel; choir and pulpit are on either side.  The floor in the sanctuary and the narthex has been refinished and carpeting installed in the chancel and all aisles.  The pews have been refinished after being shortened to provide a wider aisle.  The worship room and exterior woodwork have been repainted.  New light fixtures have been installed in the narthex and chancel.” 

It was also during this time that Lucy Tippie was commissioned as “Lay Missionary” to Grace Methodist Church.  That involved her commitment to share in the life of that church for a year. 

Basketball teams were active in the gym and played against other church teams.  Thom Baughn, Tim Gappa, and Pat Klock were a few of the players that George Quigley coached.  Don Kitt, Ed Combs, and other men of the church worked with the many boys, ranging from junior high to college age, who played basketball there.  Girls participated as well.  Keeping track of gym users was difficult, and the treasurer, Ted Cross, had to investigate the lack of liability insurance. 

Planning for Bethany’s 60th Anniversary in October, 1964, was well under wayLloyd N Alden 1964-1967 when Rev. Berney was sent to Pullman at Conference time, and Rev. Lloyd Alden came to Bethany. (It has been learned that Rev. Berney passed in early 2017.) The anniversary celebration of October 11, 1964, consisted of a Methodist Men’s Club breakfast, Sunday School for all ages, and evening meetings of Junior and Senior High Fellowship and Single Young Adults. For the Sunday morning service, Bishop Palmer preached, Mabel Sommerville was organist, two of the church’s four choirs and a women’s chorus sang, and after the service the WSCS served refreshments in the church parlor downstairs. 

During Rev. Alden’s pastorate, robes were ordered for the growing choirs, and the men built robe cupboards in which to keep them.  Among other building tasks accomplished were improvements of Sunday School rooms, sealing of windows, installing panic bars and closers on doors, improving locks, repairing the roof, and renovating the gym – which provided new church office space. 

In June 1967, Frank Whitt 1967-November 15, 1975delivery of newly published Methodist Hymnals was being anticipated when at Conference another pastoral change was announced, bringing Rev. J. Frank Whitt to Bethany.  In his eight-year pastorate he became known affectionately as “PW” and was especially involved with youth via frequent group gatherings know as “Quest.”  He worked hard at getting to know his congregation, and in the process eliminated from the rolls a great many names of persons about whom no one in the current congregation knew anything. 

Rev. Whitt used many methods for improving both people and the church environment.  One example: early on, Board minutes reported: 

        “the Gestetner in the office has served its day.  An ABDick up-to-date mimeograph can be purchased for $350, with a $50 allowance for the old machine.  After arrangements to pay for it on time were made, Pastor Whitt announced that a ‘good angel’ had made a gift of the machine to the church.”

A lot of remodeling and renovating was done in the Friendship Room, Dining Room, and Fireplace Room in Rev. Whitt’s early years.  But, inevitably, the gym that had played such an important role in Bethany life, but also given much trouble, became an increasing liability.  As far back as 1963 it had needed remodeling.  Its construction was inadequate; vandalism was occurring; inconveniences grew into hazards; expenses out paced collection of rental fees; and insurance was out of affordable reach.  So the tough decision was made to have the beloved gym razed.  This occurred in 1973, and made way for the current parking area on the alley.  In 1970 the church purchased the house to the south.  Rental income helped with building projects.  At Rev. Whitt’s suggestion, the little-used chapel in the church was converted to the office. 

Early in the 70’s an outstanding service project was rescuing the D’Vaz family from Burma and shepherding their adjustment to life in America.  Later, Bethany would also be the temporary home for several Cambodian families.  And for a time, Bethany’s kitchen was busy providing an Asian meal site for the community. 

In 1973, the “rogue’s gallery” of former pastors’ photographs was collected, largely by means of Doris Gadley’s letter-writing.  The pictures were hung on the rear wall of the sanctuary until some years later when they were moved into the Friendship Room. 

During rev. Whitt’s pastorate, Laura Tippie gave outstanding leadership in music, with youth, and managing the office; the organ expertise of Shelley Bott and Dennis Perry was invaluable, and music activity at Bethany flourished.  Choirs had long since outgrown the designated choir space provided by the chancel remodeling of a few years earlier, so choir members simply sat in the congregation with their families  and assembled front and center when it was time for the anthem.  Neither were there enough robes (with singers sometimes numbering 40 or more) so they went without.  When later more robes were bought, they were often reserved for special occasions. 

Choir subgroups that were also active during the 70’s were the Clarions, a group of eight to eleven persons (mostly men); and the Sweet Spirit Trio.  Bethany’s music ministries were often called upon to travel – to song festivals, services in other churches, nursing homes, McNeil Island penitentiary, bowling banquets, and even a Point Defiance Salmon Bake.  Also there were the New Sound Singers, sometimes numbering Twenty-five, which grew out of the large and lively youth group.  And a Dance Choir during the 70’s included the Bolender, Aleshire, Hart and D’Vaz sisters as well as Jenny Addy, Mary Anna Short, Maxine Ray, Sandy Rose, And Deanna Webster.  Betty and Connie D’Vaz, newly arrived from Burma, taught the beautiful Candle Dance to members of the troupe. 

In 1968 the name of the church changed once more – to Bethany United Methodist Church (Bethany UMC), following the merger of the Evangelical United Brethren Church and The Methodist Church – and women’s groups changed from WSCS to United Methodist Women.  For a time at Bethany two Sunday services were held, at 9:30 and 11:00 a.m. and the Sunshine Sunday School was in full swing under the leadership of Linda Egeland and Celeste Poechhacker. 

On June 1, 1974, the News Tribune ran a picture of Denis Perry, Rev. Frank Whitt, and Sande Bolender, principle planners of a Founders Day to celebrate Bethany’s 70th year.  This event was held on June 9, with Bishop Wilbur Choy bringing the Sunday morning pulpit message.  The Singers, Clarions, and soloist Donna Rose provided special music, and a Founders Day Luncheon was held following the worship service. 

Another memorable feature of the Whitt pastorate was having Christmas Eve Service at 11 p.m. instead of at earlier hours as in former times. This candlelight service became a special time of revealing new spiritual commitments or special joys, christening an infant, or even of receiving members into the church.


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