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100-year-old building houses church and community

Manito United Methodist


By Mary Stamp

Manito United Methodist Church will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its Italian Renaissance Kirtland Cutter building on the corner of 30th and Grand as part of its 10:45 a.m. service and at an open house from 1 to 3 p.m., Sunday, June 9, at the church, 3220 S. Grand.

"It is the only Kirtland Cutter church remaining in Spokane," said Wendy Budge, centennial committee chair.

When it was built in 1924, the goal was to use the building as a church and community center. The basement ceiling is 12 feet tall for a basketball court. Now it's the fellowship hall.

In the 1950s, the church built an education wing that now houses 14 AA groups, three scout groups and three preschools. Over the years, the space was used by Daybreak Teen Drug Treatment Center, Leadership Spokane, Good Samaritan Counseling Center and the office for The Fig Tree.

Sue Plummer and Sandy Ward discuss the life of their church modeled on St. Francis Basilica.

Sue Plummer, a member since 1978, Sandy Ward, the pastor for nearly two years, and Wendy, who has been a member since the early 1980s, shared the church's history and life today.

In 2016, Wendy, whose home is on the historic registry, put the church on the registry as a Spokane Historic Landmark.

Wendy summarized the church's history.

In 1906, a group of Baptists and Methodists started a Sunday school that met in a small, wooden schoolhouse at 37th and Hatch. In 1908, Methodists outnumbered Baptists and voted to organize a Methodist Episcopal Church, which built a white frame building in 1910 at 502 E. 33rd Ave., across the street from the present building.

By 1921, the church outgrew that building. Members Seymour and Mary Birch, who came to Spokane from Amsterdam, NY, donated $30,000 and three lots to build the present building at 33rd and Grand. From their travels in Europe, they envisioned a church like the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi and asked Cutter to build it.

"Construction began in 1923 and was completed in 1924, but Seymour and Mary did not live to see it. The large, south-facing rose window is dedicated to Mary," said Wendy.

With the post-war baby boom, Wendy said, the church continued to grow and raised funds to build its mid-century modern style education wing in the late 1950s. It is also on the historic registry.

Plans for a new sanctuary to seat 500 to 700 people ended because the church split. Some members in the John Birch Society (no relation to Seymour) thought the Methodist Church was involved in communism.

Other members said their Book of Discipline called Methodists to support widows and orphans, said Wendy. Many left the church and funds were not raised for the new sanctuary.

"Now we are an older congregation and have no Sunday school, but many people use the church and education wing. Renting rooms out helps keep us afloat. The chapel in the education wing is good for small weddings," said Wendy, who moved to Spokane when her father was at the Naval Supply Station.

She returned in 1972, trained as a medical technologist at Deaconess Hospital and served there 38 years until retiring 13 years ago. She has been Methodist since sixth grade in Boise, where she attended Boise State University and earned a bachelor's in art. After that, she earned a bachelor's degree in microbiology at the University of Idaho in Moscow. There she met her husband.

After moving to Spokane, they visited churches and chose Manito Methodist.

Sue and Greg became active while their two children were in the parent-child cooperative preschool. After moving to Spokane from Phoenix, they built a home four blocks from the church.

Sandy, who grew up in Illinois, Michigan, Iowa and Missouri, entered ministry late, studying mostly online at Iliff School of Theology in Denver and graduating in 2014.

She served a church in Girdwood, Alaska, for two years and then a church in Tumwater near Olympia for six years.

Her previous career, after earning a master's degree in business in 1988 at Loyola University in Chicago, was as a business manager for Michigan State University's College of Osteopathic Medicine. She grew up Baptist but became Methodist after marrying her husband, Paul, 33 years ago. He is a retired physicist.

Sue repeated that Manito United Methodist Church was founded not just as a church but also as a community center.

"We always have community groups using the building. We have rented to nonprofits and others who pay as they are able, even when our Sunday school rooms were packed on Sundays," Sue said. "We look for ways to connect with the community.

"Now we seek to be ecologically minded, reducing use of paper products and caring for our land by converting a portion to SpokaneScape to reduce grass, use less water and create habitat for birds and insects," she continued.

A city designer is proposing ways to make the land eco-friendly. Boy Scouts will help redo the landscape with native plants, a dry creek bed with rocks and a drip irrigation system.

"It's part of our ministry to embrace creation care and climate justice," said Sandy.

Five homes on 33rd are in the SpokaneScape program.

"It has been a learning experience for members," she said.

Sandy led a class series in December and January on the book, Wake Up World by Robert and Anita Gearheart.

For the class, Sue offered a session on SpokaneScape. She and two others reported on a three-day Global Board of Discipleship Earthkeepers class on creation care and climate justice they attended in October.

"We seek to understand about greenhouse gas, to mitigate the damage and do better for the future," she said.

"We want to be better stewards of our natural resources and protect the earth," said Sandy. "We are recycling more trash and no longer use paper plates, cups and napkins, and plastic utensils."

Sue sewed 80 napkins, which members take turns laundering.

"We invite those using the building to follow our example," said Sue.

Sandy said 400 people use the buildings weekdays.

• Manito Coop, an ECEAP program and M & M Tots use space on different floors and share an outdoor playground.

• The Spokane Youth Symphony practices there Mondays.

• AA groups use the church at different times on different days.

• The YMCA has a summer youth program.

"It's a busy place during the week," she said. "Part of our mission is to be a place where people can become whole and holy, a place where we model a culture of abiding and belonging to one another and to Christ. We seek to nourish people's bodies, minds and souls by being a place that reflects Christ's love.

"Like most churches, we seek to be fiscally responsible. We have an endowment but seek to live within our budget, so we do not deplete our reserves," Sandy said.

Sue said many but not all groups using the building pay what it costs to use the rooms as part of Manito's ministry,.

Sandy said another part of the church's outreach is its music program, offering concerts.

Gonzaga assistant professor of voice Jadrian Tarver is Manito's music director. He leads the choir of 12 that includes two Gonzaga students.

On Sunday, May 19, the church hosted a concert featuring Black United Voices of Spokane, which Jadrian started this year; the group For His Glory, accompanied by the church's pianist Ellie Tupper, and the Manitones, three church members who play guitar and sing.

The church also has art shows.

"The pandemic took a bite out of church events and attendance, but we are rebuilding that," said Sandy, who attends the Comstock Neighborhood Council with other church members to be informed on neighborhood needs.

Members attend events and take school supplies and cookies to Sacajawea Middle School next door.

Members range from age 12 to one over 100 who attends online. About 60 attend each week in person and online. Services have a sign language interpreter.

For information, call 747-4755 or visit

Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June 2024