Our church began in 1894 with a small group of disciples meeting above a grocery store at 21st and Jefferson for bible study and prayer. When the new congregation constructed our current building in 1911, the Madrona neighborhood was considered a brand new “suburb” of Seattle, where the gospel had yet to spread. Madrona Presbyterian and the neighborhood flourished in those early years, even as another Presbyterian church called Grace was established less than a mile away to focus on the new African-American population in the city. For forty years the two congregations served the Central Area side-by-side: one was a white church and the other a black church.
In 1953 the Presbytery (our local governing body) chose to combine the two congregations into the Madrona building, well before the integration of most institutions. To put it mildly, this transition did not go well. Instead of creating an integrated church, white flight from the church and the neighborhood resulted in a predominantly black congregation. Proud, but struggling, the new combined church continued to minister to the community, playing an active role in Civil Rights era Seattle and even hosting the Black Panther Party’s community meal program. The result of this time period was that the members vowed to be the open and welcoming community that Madrona Presbyterian church had not been in 1953.
One result of this legacy was that in the 80s and 90s, when the LGBT community started coming out to the congregation, our church was ahead of our denomination in heeding God’s call for sexual inclusion and radical welcome. And today, as our neighborhood demographics continue to change through gentrification, and our church’s demographics once again change, we remain committed to hospitality, bible study, and to sharing with our neighbors the good news of God’s love for all people–straight and gay; black, brown, and white; young and old; rich and poor; housed and homeless. Together now as “Madrona Grace” we “Seek the Beloved Community through the liberating love of Jesus.”
The video below was produced over 12 years ago when our sanctuary was renovated. It tells the story of the merger between Madrona Presbyterian Church and Grace Presbyterian Church in 1953. While demographic changes in the Central Area over the last decade have changed the racial composition of our congregation, we continue to celebrate the legacy of Grace Presbyterian Church by honoring aspects of the black church tradition and cultivating an intentionally anti-racist mindset.