On April 5, 1953, the Presbytery of Seattle closes the African American Grace Presbyterian Church at 22nd Avenue and E Cherry Street in Seattle to merge it with a nearby white church. The move is a response to dwindling church attendance and an effort to encourage racial integration. In 2003, the Presbytery will formally apologize for the summary decision and for breaking promises to the congregation about proceeds from the sale of the church.
In 1953, attendance at both Grace and at the nearby, all-white Madrona Presbyterian Church, located at 832 32nd Avenue, lagged. The governing body of the churches, the Presbytery of Seattle, decided, without involving church members in the decision, to close Grace and merge the congregation with that of Madrona, about one-half mile away. The last day of services at Grace was Easter Sunday.
After the merger, white members abandoned the church and Madrona became predominantly African American. The Grace pastor was promised a leadership position, but that never happened. The Grace property was sold for $6,000, but instead of giving the proceeds to Madrona as promised, the money went to build a church on Mercer Island. Other insults to the congregation -- investigations of allegations never proven, numerous pastors, meager resources for maintenance -- followed over the years.
In 2000, the long-standing complaints of the Madrona congregation came to light. Mercer Island Presbyterian, built with the funds from Grace, committed more than $80,000 for repairs to Grace. A formal apology from the Presbytery will be delivered to the 48-member congregation at Madrona on October 5, 2003. Of the original 1953 Grace congregation, only four people remained.