Early in March of this year after the City of Kent announced plans to develop the 125th Anniversary Celebration of our founding, the Kent Historical Society convened a six person Ad-hock Task Force to explore the role of the church in our early beginnings. Task Force members included; Bruce Homfeldt, Tom O’Connell, Nancy Simpson, Lois Stewart, Linda Stockham, and Marvin Eckfeldt.
We chose the theme: ”Our Kent pioneers brought their faith with them”. Soon after folk gathered in the valley this commitment began to take shape.
In this 1885 photo, note the size of the town and the United Methodist Church at the left, the first congregation established in town.
In this photo around 1900 note the Presbyterian Church on the left and the Lutheran Church center right.
Settlers in the White River valley began worshiping as Methodists in 1860 in the home of Thomas Alvord one year after the Post Office was established. Services were also held in the D.A. Neeley home. Ground was donated by Lewis McMillan and T.H. Titus for the building and parsonage on First Ave. In a few years the Northern Pacific Railway was built right behind the church. It was reported that “the trains would rush by roaring and screeching much to the chagrin of the preacher or a timid soloist!”
The church moved to the northeast corner of Meeker and Central in 1901.
And in 1970 followed the lead of St. James Episcopal and relocated on East Hill.
The Roman Catholic community traces its beginnings to the establishing of St. Bernard’s Parish at White River (which later became O’Brien) in 1867.
Father Sweens was Resident pastor, 1893-1899 and the first Mass was said in Kent in Redman’s Hall in 1899 (then celebrated monthly). In 1906 property was purchased on the corner of Second and Titus. The advent of the automobile brought changes and consolidation of services in Kent and St. Bernard’s closed in 1924.
1924 saw the erection of the brick sanctuary which became the parish for Kent.
In 1995, the name was changed to Holy Spirit parish and the new sanctuary dedicated. The name was changed to alleviate the continuing confusion between the Kent parish and the Renton parish of same name. Holy Spirit is now unique for the archdiocese.
Because a trip by horse and buggy took so long to travel from Kent to White River (O’Brien) a Mother Betsy Keller and her son John began collecting money and a lot was purchased from Henry Yesler at Fourth and Willis for $2,500 and First Baptist Church in Kent was born! December of 1889 their building was completed.
A second building was built on that location.
And because of the state building a potential freeway on Willis the congregation relocated to East Hill in 1971. The first service was actually Easter, April 17 1971.
The Presbyterian Church also had its beginnings in White River which was the religious, social educational enter of the thinly populated valley. In 1889 the group moved to Kent to a white building near Titus and Kennebeck. There were 12 charter members and it was a mission church.
A second church, a brick building, was constructed at the corner of State and Gowe and dedicated December 1926.
The church purchased 5 acres on East Hill and dedicated their present building in December, 1962. They used a helicopter to place the cross at the top of the building!
Eight Scandinavian immigrant families organized Kent Lutheran Church August 1889. The next year they began construction of their building on the site that became Kent Elementary School. The original building was moved to Fifth and Gowe when the school was expanded.
A white stucco building was built at Second and Saar and occupied September 1939 followed by an education building.
Services in the present brick building were first held August 1970.
St. James Episcopal Church planted roots in 1890 when Anglican services were held for 26 families. November 1981 they dedicated their building seating 200 on Meeker Street between Second and Third.
In 1921 they build a red brick English Gothic building which served as their home for 43 years. They supported a Japanese-American congregation in Taylor during 1920-1930.
In 1957 five acres were purchased on 94th Avenue and the present building constructed.
Since 1890, a multitude of religious communities have founded places of worship in Kent. The city is home to temples, mosques, churches, and parishes, from faiths the world over. We have congregations of the same faith worshiping in a multitude of languages, sometimes in different buildings, sometimes in the same building where the different traditions synthesize into something different but familiar to both!
More information on the Heritage Sunday, along with ways to celebrate pasted members of the many faith communities that now make up Kent’s culturally rich population is found in an open letter from the Ad-hock Task Force’s chairman.
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