In 1909, when Manito United Methodist Church was founded on the South Hill, it was the end of the line – the trolley line. Its location at 33rd Avenue and Grand Boulevard could now be called the heart of the hill.
Though the building’s surroundings have changed and expanded, the church values the same foundational principles of community and service.
The original building was one room. But in 1923, after experiencing rapid growth, the church commissioned Kirtland Cutter to design a new building.
“He had just returned from a tour of Italy and built the church reflecting the basilica at Assisi,” said Pastor Joyce O’Connor-Magee. “But even then the church was built with the community in mind, with a gymnasium for the kids and even a barber shop.”
O’Connor-Magee said she has researched the church’s past this year as it celebrates its centennial. The centennial has been a yearlong theme. It was part of the vacation Bible school curriculum this summer, a fundraising fashion show, fall open house, and a car and quilt show on Saturday.
Member Ann Reinhart designed a centennial quilt for the quilt show. Its focal point is a log cabin with an oversized red heart to symbolize how the Manito United Methodist cares about people and the community.
“It is such a loving church. That’s what I love about our church,” she said.
But a larger reason to ponder the past is to inform the future, according to O’Connor-Magee.
“We have been looking back 100 years so we can move forward 100 years.”
Opening its doors to the community is part of the heritage they will take forward, she said.
“This church always had that sense of service to the community. It is one of the most active buildings around here. There is something going on almost every day.”
The church added an education wing in the 1960s. But, like many churches, attendance later declined, leaving excess space.
“Somebody should use this,” Reinhart said. “It shouldn’t sit here idle all the time. We have it and it is there to share.”
So the church shared by opening its doors to many nonprofit community groups, following its tradition as a community center.
The church houses a Boy Scouts of America troop, yoga class, bagpipe group, three cooperative preschools and a Montessori elementary school.
In addition, the church provides space to multiple service organizations such as Spokane County’s Juvenile Diversion Program and CASA Partners’ My Bag, a program that provides age-appropriate supplies to Spokane-area children entering foster care.
The common thread for all the groups as well as the church, said O’Connor-Magee, is transformation.
“We are called as Christians to a life of transformation – body, mind and spirit. All of these groups are, at their core, transformational groups.”
At least six days a week the sounds of children resonate through the hallways, not just on Sundays.
“Their willingness to make everything work for each of us is apparent. They are happy to have the kids there. There is an interaction and a real sense of community in the building,” said Lael Sheahan, director of Southside Montessori Elementary School. The school has leased space from the church for seven years and uses the fellowship hall for theater class and performances. Said Linda Barenz, project coordinator for My Bag, “It is just a happening place.”