January 15, 2019
The legacy of Seattle’s Plymouth Congregational Church was first published in 1988 as “Seeking to Serve,” by Mildred Andrews. In 2010 and 2011, we published an update, “Still Seeking to Serve,” as the church’s ongoing witness to live our legacy into the new century. Recently, I found myself drawn to the stories again and learning how time and again the congregation committed to listening to God’s still speaking voice.
With significant structural concerns and space needs and a congregation committed to remaining downtown, in 1959 the congregation chose to seriously study Plymouth’s mission and investigated many options for its future. Great transitions were happening in and around Plymouth Church in the early 1960s with the new Interstate 5 and construction and IBM building construction. Knowing that something different and life giving would emerge, the study group brought options and imagined possibilities. During a pastoral transition, the new interim minister in his 1962 annual report shared, “Wrecking equipment has leveled off buildings by the wholesale around us. The new freeway under construction is tearing up the earth in front of us, and the half block behind us is being cleared for the beautiful IMB Building.” Mildred Andrews wrote, “He [interim senior minister Dr. Vere Loper] ably perpetuated the process started by Dr. Goslin [previous senior minister and visionary, Rev. Dr. Martin Goslin], keeping members focused on rebuilding and reminding them that they could not stand still.” Robert Hildebrand would chair the new Building Committee and set forth the congregation’s vision of a “New Plymouth” at a cost of approximately $2,250,000! By 1973, just six years after moving into “New Plymouth,” the congregation would be debt free!
Having completed the Sanctuary renovation project, in late 2016 and early 2017, people began to raise questions around our mission and how we reach our community with ministry and relationship relevant into the next century. Our facilities were not designed in the 1960s for technology and security needs of today. Our facilities are not 100% accessible to all. We face challenges and opportunities to expand our hospitality, vision and questions as did our congregation 60 years ago. Listening to questions and comments, visions and dreams of the congregation, leadership engaged conversations to begin our homework. We sought development advisors who helped us understand our unique downtown location and how our property can position us for new ministry connections. 2018 brought opportunities for additional congregational conversations with leadership to develop intentional connections. Those conversations enabled us to focus time and energy with dialogue around our values and ministry priorities. Receiving positive feedback from these conversations, we discern and dare to go beyond in faith!
At the October meeting of Congregational Council, after having met with three development consulting companies that specialize in working with churches and other nonprofit companies, and receiving overwhelming recommendations from others currently in development projects, I invited Meriwether Advisors LLC to share their work and opportunity for assisting Plymouth Church UCC in “doing our homework” to engage the possibility of a Strategic Site Assessment. Their compelling presentation and significant experience led us to further discussion and the decision to share their presentation with you in our Congregational Annual Meeting for further consideration and possible action.
Their presentation gave us narratives on several relevant case studies and project timelines. We heard of development being done in profiles with many area projects, examples of what might be possible for Plymouth Church UCC should we choose to step out in faith, daring the soul to go beyond what the eyes can see.
We invite you to join in the discernment, study, dreaming and questions as you read materials that will be available to you online and in print this Sunday in preparation for our January 27 Annual Meeting. Please plan to attend and hear about possibilities. With all that God is doing in and around us, again we find that Plymouth Church UCC cannot stand still. Come share is an afternoon of possibilities!
Yours in grace and hope,
Rev. Steven Davis, Executive Minister