A historic church in downtown Yakima has become home to one of the city’s newest faith communities.
Members of Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church dedicated their new sanctuary — the former Unitarian Universalist Church of Yakima at 225 N. Second St. — with a special prayer service Friday evening, according to Pastor Craig Harris.
A work day is planned Saturday, with the church’s first regular service at 10 a.m. Sunday. That will be the time for regular Sunday services, Harris said.
Saint Andrew’s is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America denomination and is considered a church “planting,” Harris has said. Membership is about 80.
Before they bought the former Unitarian church, members had been worshipping in rented space at the historic First Baptist Church since October. Members began meeting for in-person services in Harris’ backyard in September.
Interest in the new church was clear before the pandemic. Though there’s much to do for the new church along with continuing to navigate the challenges of COVID-19, members couldn’t pass up the chance to buy the church and attached school building, Harris said. He got the keys Monday.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” he said. “We just kind of kept on going. Trials have a way of providing opportunities.”
The neoclassical structure opened in January 1921 as the First Congregational Church. Members of the Unitarian Universalist Church in downtown Yakima met there for 30 years before holding their final service at the church May 30. Unitarian Universalist members are leasing space at 407 N. First St. as they look for another home.
Harris is pleased the historic church will continue to serve its original purpose. It’s among a few other elaborate church buildings downtown, almost all of which serve other organizations.
He especially admires the expansive worship space crowned by a large stained glass skylight, though he’s not sure he’d be brave enough to access it from above. Harris also likes a welcoming office area with a fireplace, along with the large kitchen and meeting rooms downstairs.
The Unitarians took “great care of it,” he said.
“It’s so unique. ... I love historic buildings because they have so much character,” Harris said. “My first time I walked through this building, I was so overwhelmed — in a good way.”
The church has attached classroom and office space, which was added in the late 1950s. That holds opportunities for the future.
Saint Andrew’s is starting a K-8 school this fall.
“There’s 13 classrooms and two big rooms and a giant basement. ... We’ve got a ton of interest in the school,” Harris said. The church hopes to add high school grades in a few years.
A native of Sunnyside, Harris is glad to be back in the Yakima Valley and excited for the new church’s future.
“We just hope to continue to serve our community and love our community as well,” he said. “We want to be so dedicated to this area of the city that people would notice if we were gone.”