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Urban Grace, The Downtown Church - National Fund For Sacred Places
2016 Cohort

Urban Grace, The Downtown Church

(Interdenominational)

Tacoma, Washington

Urban Grace occupies the former First Baptist Church of New Tacoma, the oldest continuously operating location of Christian worship in Tacoma, Washington.

Urban Grace by Stuart Isett

Urban Grace by Stuart Isett

2016 Cohort

Urban Grace, The Downtown Church

(Interdenominational)

Tacoma, Washington

Urban Grace occupies the former First Baptist Church of New Tacoma, the oldest continuously operating location of Christian worship in Tacoma, Washington.

First Baptist Church was founded in 1883. Two other Baptist church buildings were located on this site prior to the construction of the current Gothic Revival building in 1925, which was designed by local architecture firm Heath, Gove and Bell to function simultaneously as a church, community center, and theater. Urban Grace was founded in 2005 and acquired this building that same year after First Baptist Church closed following decades of declining membership. The founders of Urban Grace contemplated what downtown Tacoma needed in a church, ultimately forming an ecumenical and interdenominational congregation committed to the poor, engaged with the arts, and welcoming to all.

Urban Grace sees its “building as significant to [its] role in the community and history of [its] city” and especially works towards supporting “the poor, marginalized, and oppressed.” The congregation hosts programs to feed and provide temporary housing to individuals facing housing insecurity, including a weekly community breakfast. Social service partners, such as a monthly foot care clinic at the church run by the University of Washington Tacoma, further support these programs. Exclusive of the sanctuary, Urban Grace shares 90 percent of its space with local musicians, educators, artists, dancers, therapists, activists, and nonprofits, which host classes, support groups, and performances for the community.

A National Fund grant of $250,000 with over $600,000 in matching funds raised by the congregation allowed Urban Grace to create accessible and gender-neutral restrooms, upgrade the commercial kitchen, stabilize stained-glass windows, replace the heating system, install security cameras, and complete other critical repairs. The work exceeded the congregation’s stated goal of providing a “more hospitable space for [its] tenants and guests.” Urban Grace believes that this campaign “would perhaps never have gotten off the ground in the first place” without the advocacy and support from the National Fund.

 Urban Grace by Cherish Shane Photography

 Urban Grace by Stuart Isett

A Historic Church Reaffirms Its Commitment to Downtown Tacoma, Washington

There is a kind of perfection in the name “Urban Grace” for a church located in the concrete heart of a city. In Christian theology, the concept of grace has been the subject of debate, but the overarching idea is that of undeserved divine favor and love. More secular meanings include beauty, kindness, and, if used as a verb, the act of bringing honor and credit to a location.

Urban Grace by Stuart Isett

Stories and Media Coverage

Read more about how the National Fund for Sacred Places is helping congregations around the country rehabilitate their sacred places.

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church by Luis P. Gutierrez