Fowler United Methodist Church stands on the corner of Walton and Howard at the east end of a constantly changing Garland Avenue neighborhood shopping district. Two North-South busy arterials bisect
Garland - Wall and Monroe streets. Yet, the church itself is quietly isolated from the hustle of constant nearby traffic. Half a mile away is Drumheller Springs, where the Indians once stopped to water their horses on the way north. One of our ministers, Pastor Charles Creesey, was a Methodist circuit rider in the early 1900s. In need of another horse, he went to the Springs to purchase one from the Indians who would soon be on their way north by the way of Indian Trail Road.
The original church building
Fowler United Methodist Church began as a one-room wooden building at the back of our present church site. But our church has never been just a building. Instead, it has always been lay people and pastors united together by spirit revealed in Jesus Christ.
It was on May 1, 1906, The Reverend Andrew Monroe was appointed to organize a church in Whitehouse Heights. At that time the North Hill had just begun to grow into a good residential district. The lot at the corner of Walton and Howard was chosen principally because the streetcar went up Howard Street at the time, making this location convenient to the parishioners. Much of the ground adjacent to the proposed church was still in scrub pine and brush land.
The charter membership consisted of fifteen members. But the congregation grew rapidly and soon approximately thirty members erected our first church building in just a week’s time and praised the Lord in unison the following Sunday. The first year or so the church was combined for ministerial service with the Liberty Park Methodist Episcopal Church.
In 1910, a foundation was laid to build a fairly good-sized church at the front of the lot, but it wasn’t until late
in 1912 that a meeting was held to seriously consider the building of a church. According to Mrs. E. Ben Johnson, who attended the meeting: “The mood of those present was pessimistic. No one had much money, and as this was a very sparsely settled area at that time; there would be great difficulty in supporting a church. However, several of the members who had remained silent at first began expressing more optimistic thoughts until finally their arguments induced an attitude of ‘We can do it if we will.’, which before long became ‘We CAN do it, and we WILL.’ From that time on the congregation, small as it was, had a mind to work. And work they did. The men of the church contributed some of the manual labor as well as doing
their part in soliciting financial support. Members of the Ladies Aid, as it was then known, took a concession stand at the County Fair to serve meals for the entire week. They did this for several years and with the money earned, they purchased beautiful stained glass windows.”
Help came from many sources, but Mrs. Johnson tells the story of Mrs. Amelia B. Fowler. “Mrs. Fowler had some money, very unusual for the widow of a Methodist minister, and she wanted to make a contribution to some mission field. Living in Philadelphia, she thought of the far West as wild and wooly, populated largely by savages, so she decided on a Home Mission Project and chose Spokane. Her first contribution was $25, which was spent for Sunday school song books.
Mrs. Johnson continues, “My memory may be at fault, but I think her final contribution to the building fund was $1800. Hence the name Fowler Methodist Church. There was a great controversy over the name. Some felt that it should be Whitehouse Heights Methodist Church since it was in this part of town, but the interest and generosity of Mrs. Amelia B. Fowler meant a lot to the people of the church and through a legal procedure handled by Mr. E. Ben Johnson, it came to be known as Fowler Methodist Church, as well as Whitehouse Heights Methodist Church. Dedication of the church was a joyous occasion, enhanced by the music of a large choir.”
In the April 13, 1914 issue of the Spokane Daily Chronicle, the following article was published:
The old building of the Fowler Memorial Methodist Church, which has been abandoned for church services with the dedication yesterday afternoon of the new building is to be utilized for gymnasium purposes, and will be fitted up as a club for boys of the North Hill. Boys of the community, from 14 to 18 years old, have been invited to meet tomorrow evening with a committee of the men’s club, which will take supervision of the boys’ work, to consider plans for remodeling the building. So, a new and valuable use was found for a small but unique building, a part of our Fowler heritage.
The building built in 1914.
The Church Grows
Around 1950, it became apparent that Fowler needed more church school space and a new fellowship hall. Plans were made in this direction and in 1953, work began on an addition which was named Corinthian Hall. A great deal of work was done by volunteer labor, and when it was finished it provided a hall, kitchen and church school facilities. It was not long before the attention of the congregation was turned toward the construction of a new sanctuary. Also, a remodeling of the church school facilities was needed. In 1961, the basement of both the sanctuary and Corinthian Hall were remodeled to provide classrooms of approved size with adequate lighting and electrical outlets.
The Reverend James A. Moore was instrumental in the building of a new church building. Again attention was turned to a new sanctuary and an active Building Planning Committee began in earnest. The support of the National Board of Missions of the Methodist Church was obtained. Following a successful building fund crusade in the fall of 1963, the contracts were let for construction of a new sanctuary. Included in the plans was the remodeling of the old sanctuary into a new, larger fellowship hall and additional church school facilities.
Breaking ground for the new sanctuary took place on January 19, 1964. District Superintendent Cecil Ristow delivered the sermon and offered prayer for the success of our new church. Spokane Mayor, Neal Fosseen, also attended to wish us well as did County Commissioner Ralph Umbreit. The entire structure of the old sanctuary was removed except for the basement, which was remodeled. The best-preserved stained glass windows, that had been purchased by the Ladies Aid, were removed to be placed in the new sanctuary. The new sanctuary was completed in July 1964 and the entire project was finished in November 1964.
In early April, as he saw the old church being torn down, Clarence Colby wrote:
Our Old Church Speaks - April 17, 1964
Tomorrow I shall bow to progress and be no more. Although it will be with a feeling of triumph for within my walls Christian parents have brought little children to baptism. Hundreds have proclaimed their love of God and dedicated their lives to Him. Young lovers have been united in marriage that they shall journey through life together. I have housed those who came to worship, and my mission has been fulfilled.
On November 22, 1964, our new sanctuary was consecrated. In 1968, the church underwent one last name change when the Methodist Church and Evangelical United Brethren Churches merged. Whitehouse Heights was officially dropped from the church name and we became Fowler United Methodist Church.
By June 8, 1975 our church building was paid for and we burned the mortgage. Bishop Wilbur W.Y. Choy delivered the sermon for the celebration. In the 1980s, Fowler underwent more renovations. In one phase, the north side entrance, restrooms and classrooms were remodeled. In another phase, an addition was added to the back of the sanctuary. This added a new furnace room, restrooms, sacristy and a wheelchair lift. The work was a combined effort of volunteer labor and contractors.
An architectural drawing of the 1964 church building.
For nearly fifty years, Fowler owned a two-story home at N. 4013 Howard that was our parsonage. In 1965, the church sold this house and purchased a new parsonage at W. 404 Heroy. In July 1980, the mortgage on this parsonage was paid off. A special charge conference was held in June 1983 to approve the selling of the parsonage. In the mid-1950s, Fowler received a gift of land from Mr. and Mrs. LeRoy Mustoe. This land is our current parking lot.
From Ladies Aid to United Methodist Women
Sometime between 1910 and 1914, the Ladies Aid Society at Fowler Methodist Church was organized. Their purpose was, and still is, to enlist and organize the women of Methodism on behalf of the needy and destitute of all races and nationalities. One of the earliest recorded projects of Fowler’s Ladies Aid Society was the raising of the funds to purchase the sanctuary stained glass windows.
In 1939, the Ladies Aid became the Women’s Society of Christian Service. In 1944 the first circle was created. This was a group of younger ladies, whose goal was to maintain the church parlor and kitchen. By 1948, a second circle was created. They began preparing dinners, bazaars, rummage sales and food sales to raise money for the church and community.
During the 1950s, the Women’s Society of Christian Service was quite active in the community. In 1952, they joined with Church Women United, an interdenominational women’s group, to serve coffee and sandwiches at Fowler on Sunday afternoons. They served 300 sandwiches and used 3 pounds of coffee each week. The two circles also served lunches for the Garland Kiwanis Club and Lion’s Club. Even though the ladies were active in the community, they never forgot to support Fowler. During the construction in the 1950s, the ladies earned money to buy paneling and drapes. And they helped paint walls. Some of the money raised helped pay for remodeling of the parsonage and helped pay on the mortgages of the sanctuary and Corinthian Hall.
The 15th anniversary of the Women’s Society of Christian Service was celebrated in 1956. Their membership at Fowler had increased from 40 to over 100 members!
In the 1960s their name was changed once again. The Wesleyan Service Guild was organized. The ladies also took on new responsibilities with the name change. They began to take responsibility for wedding receptions, altar flowers and coffee hour. They also bought new appliances for the kitchen and new banquet tables for Corinthian Hall. A new circle of young mothers, named ‘Alberta Lundin’, was formed during this time.
In 1973, after the church merger, the name of the Wesleyan Service Guild was changed to the United Methodist Women. The ladies supported many local charities with their pledges. It was during this time that they began to support the work of the Union Gospel Mission and Anna Ogden Hall— groups that they still support today!
During the last 25 years, the Fowler United Methodist Women have continued the traditions of the work of the early women. Other circles were formed (Mary, Martha and Rebecca, as well as a group of working women). The circles were transformed into just one local unity during the 1990s. The UMW still take care of the church kitchen by providing supplies and maintenance. They provide luncheons or receptions following memorial services, hold a yearly bazaar and most recently an annual spring tea. The current UMW supports several local charities as well as the local church with the proceeds raised in their fundraisers.
The Next 100 Years - Some Questions to Ponder
By Rev. Linda Karalfa
In his letter to us, Sam Reed, the Secretary of Washington State, pointed out that out of the 3,000 incorporations filed in 1906, only 41 are still in existence. While we are proud of the fact that we have been serving God in this place for 100 years and are among those 41, we must not spend too much time reminiscing about the past. A question to ask ourselves at this point is:
“Will Fowler United Methodist Church still be in ministry 100 years from now?”
To answer that question, it is tempting to think about how we can survive. If we adopt a “survival mentality”, we will busily organize fund-raising activities and try to find programs that people will attend. Evangelism becomes a “membership drive” or fund-raising technique. When we get too preoccupied with surviving (keeping the doors open), or maintaining or managing what we have, we lose sight of the “big picture”.
So, the answer to the question of where we will be in another 100 years will be found in the answer to another question: who are we? The answer to that question gives us the “big picture.” Are we just a charitable organization incorporated with the state? Or, do we have a larger reason to exist?
The “who are we” question could also be stated this way: What is it about our experience with Jesus that this community cannot live without? I have thought long and hard on that question since I first read it. It isn’t easy to answer.
Tom Bandy and Bill Easum, in their book Growing Spiritual Redwoods, wrote:
What is it about our experience not our dogma or doctrine,
not our historical knowledge, not our reasoned opinion -
but what is it about our heartfelt, practical,
and daily experience of Jesus,
that continually and radically changes, modifies, improves,
and redirects the course of our daily living?
Moreover, what is it about this experience of Jesus,
that is so unique, precious, and universally significant,
that unless we share it with someone else,
their lives will be impoverished and lacking—
but if we do share it with someone else,
their lives will be immeasurably enriched?
When we begin to answer the question of who we are and what we have to offer the world, we will need to refine that vision. So, the next question is: Who are the people God calls us to reach with the gospel? In other words, the “World” is too big a mission field for us, so exactly on what group of people does God want us to focus our attention and direct our energy? We can’t do everything and do it well, so where should we put our resources of time, treasure and talents?
As we move into another century of ministry in this neighborhood, we need to stop and answer these questions. The answers won’t come easily. As we seek the answers, we will learn more about ourselves and our God, and we will be motivated to be the church God is calling us to be. And, unless Jesus comes back first, Fowler United Methodist Church will still be around 100 years from now.