When local author Rick Grant decided to do a photo book on local Seattle churches, he knew one he had to include. Grant lives with his wife in Montlake, but they travel each weekend to Bethany Presbyterian Church (1818 Queen Anne Ave. N.) in Queen Anne.
By chance, Grant explained, they met the former Bethany Presbyterian pastor, Dan Baumgartner, when he moved to Los Angeles, where Grant lived, to preside over Hollywood Presbyterian Church. He, of course, touted the church, and after spending several Sundays there to check it out, they became members.
Other Queen Anne churches are featured in Grant’s new book “Inspired: Churches of Seattle,” as well as those in Capitol Hill, the University District and other Seattle neighborhoods.
The idea for “Inspired” came from Grant’s experience freelance writing for religious publications over the years.
“I always thought churches were such an integral part of our national culture but weren’t really appreciated as such,” he said. “This was even more true of the ‘unchurched’ Northwest and Seattle, and so after being here for several months and seeing the dynamic churches and church culture, I wanted to tell this untold story.”
He made contact with a publisher, Documentary Media, whose work he’d seen and respected. They, in turn, introduced him to photographer Lara Swimmer.
They met and discussed certain aspects of church architecture, and once permission from each church was secured, Swimmer ventured inside with her cameras. She forwarded her work to Grant, who worked with the publisher.
Getting permissions was often the most difficult part of the work.
“I would either visit the churches or go online to try to find a suitable church contact,” Grant said. “I would then email them a solicitation letter, which would emphasize that it was cost-free to be in the book and that they could have input in vetting the text pertaining to their own organization. It helped the process that I had some of the larger churches in hand at the beginning (St. James Cathedral, Saint Mark’s Cathedral, St. Ignatius Chapel) and could communicate to the others they were on board.”
A few hoped-for churches had to be left out. Grant recalls that St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Greenwood was left out for “space considerations.”
Swimmer noted that there was to be a chapter entitled “Other Voices,” which would have included the Japanese Buddhist temple, Temple De Hirsch Sinai and an Islamic mosque, but the chapter fell through because Grant couldn’t secure their permission.
Now, Grant is working on finishing his master’s degree in pastoral counseling at Seattle University. He will then turn his focus to This Healing Ground, an Edmonds, Wash.-based group specializing in pastoral counseling.
He’s writing a play tentatively titled “House of God,” which takes place in a church. He is also considering writing coffee-table books about the churches in New York and Boston, “which, believe it or not, don’t already exist,” he said.
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