Search PNC News for stories of people and churches in our UCC Conference:

Bellevue First moves into new building also in the downtown area to serve today

On Good Friday, First Congregational Church in Bellevue (FCCB), which at 120 years is the city’s oldest church, held its last service in their 60-year-old church building.  On Easter Sunday, March 27, they celebrated their spiritual rebirth with services in its new building at 11061 NE Second St., still in downtown Bellevue.

New sanctuary and chancel have open, light ambience.

Photo courtesy of Bellevue First Congregational UCC

“The church is the people, not the building,” said Kevin Brown, lead pastor for six years, “but now with a new building, we can become a new people as we discern how we will live out our core ministries in exciting ways.”

When he interviewed to be pastor there, he suggested addressing the 1950s-era building with pinned down pews and classrooms off long corridors.

The new space is flexible with light coming in windows in a large atrium, expressing FCCB’s belief in transparency, openness and acceptance.

The building will accommodate its core commitments to worship, the congregation, outreach, youth, music, education and downtown, as it considers ways to expand those ministries in the new location.

In 2014, after careful consideration, the church sold the property it owned at 752 108th Ave. NE for $30 million. That amount allowed the congregation of about 500 to buy an office building and convert it into a creative worship place that is “an environmentally friendly space of awe,” Kevin said.

“We wanted to create a space where we can grow together in community and be a place of discovery,” he said. “We want to know our neighbors and learn the role that our church can play in this community. We look forward to measuring our success by the energy we create.”

Architect Susan Jones designed a 50-foot-high sanctuary and bell tower.

“No one had ever said `we want you to create a space that inspires awe,’“ said Susan, who was inspired by their willingness to take risks.

The Bellevue church has served as an incubator for ideas and social action, said Lisa Clark, minister of spiritual formation.

Since its formation in 1896, the church has made its building available for others to use for worship, community meetings and social action projects.

The church was an early member of Congregations for the Homeless on the Eastside and The Sophia Way, a nonprofit helping end homelessness for women in King County.

The new church includes two office spaces for nonprofits. The Sophia Way and Catholic Community Services will use the space at below-market rent. 

The congregation planned the building design for the church to serve in today’s downtown Bellevue, where the median age of residents is 34, and 45 percent speak a language other than English at home, said Kevin. 

The church has feeding programs, services for low-income people and space for community gatherings.  Members are also involved in global outreach, CROP Walk and social justice.

“We look forward to the discovery process of what will incubate there,” said Kevin. “We are listening for God’s will for us and are willing to change.

The church celebrated its rebirth beginning with a Palm Sunday procession half a mile through downtown from the old location to the new one.  Good Friday was the last worship service at the old location, and Easter Sunday services expressed the church’s rebirth.

“The church on the corner” has ministered to the needs of a growing and changing community,” Kevin said.

Neighborly openness once meant multiple denominations shared the same rural church building.  The community focus that once meant farmers relied on one another in hard times is now represented by outreach that actively strives to address social issues locally and around the world, said Kevin.

“Our theology is that God’s world is an amazing place, full of mystery and miracles. No one has all the answers, so discussion is good,” he said.  “Together we explore, appreciate and find meaning in our own and each others’ lives through a faith journey with the Bible as our source book.”

The congregation, like others in the UCC, sees that the Bible was written in a cultural setting different from today, but its lessons, combined with increasing knowledge of the world, give a time-tested perspective on life, he said. 

The church is known as the “rainbow church,” because for years it had a God is Still Speaking UCC rainbow banner outside.  It has been open and affirming since 1994. The banner was defaced and replaced three times since Kevin came. 

Recently, they had added a “Black Lives Matter” banner.

In February after it was up four months, that sign was vandalized with the word “blue” spray painted over “black,” referring to the movement to support police officers, countering Black Lives Matter.  The church left the banner that way to encourage discussion. 

The mostly white congregation put up the banner to challenge institutionalized racism, in which churches are complicit, said Kevin, who has served nine churches in his 40 years of ministry—in Florida, Arizona, Illinois and Kansas.

For information, call 425-454-5001 or visit


Copyright © April 2016 Pacific Northwest Conference News


Share this article on your favorite social media Bookmark and Share